By Jennifer Lenain/Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Candidates seeking municipal office in Picayune got to have their say on Monday at a forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
Topics discussed at the event at the Southern Char Steakhouse included: Ethics and transparency in government, concerns for senior citizens, economic growth and education.
Both candidates for mayor, four candidates for councilman of Precinct One, two for Precinct Two, two for Precinct Three and two for Precinct Five participated in the forum.
Unopposed incumbent in Precinct Four, Councilman Larry E. Breland, Sr., was present for the forum but did not participate in the question and answer segment.
Candidates across the board shared opinions that favored funding for senior citizens; supporting ideas to make them more comfortable and providing a safe environment.
Each candidate was first allowed to give an introduction before responding to questions that had been submitted from the audience.
“My focus is on financial responsibility and accountability of government,” incumbent Mayor Edward Pinero Jr. said. “We haven’t had this much cash on hand since the (Woody) Spiers era.”
Moderate Conservative Democratic challenger Mark Thorman introduced himself as the “Leader of Leaders” and addressed the city’s biggest problem as being, “… socially separated, economically and racially divided.”
Pinero and Thorman maintained a calm demeanor while addressing ethics and a more open government in the city.
Thorman believes that ethics and transparency go hand-in-hand and that some of the community has lost confidence in the local government. “I would set up an ethics commission of bipartisan leaders in the community,” he said.
Pinero is opposed to creating other levels of government. “We’ve proven that we have ethics,” he said.
“There are no executive sessions, we leave everything out in the open.”
City Council candidates introduced themselves and gave statements supporting their plans.
Richard Carriere (R) said that he is “the change you need and the voice you deserve.
“It is time that we ask the people on the council to work for us,” he said, “time for someone that is not going to hold back their voice.”
“I have the willingness to work with people,” Glennis M. Neil Jr. (R) said. “We must set goals as a community and achieve them, we don’t want to have the same goals four years from now.”
Tammy Valente (R) said the city’s biggest issue is its lack of industry, “We need to grow.”
She also noted drainage and roadways being an issue in the city.
Incumbent Larry Elliot Watkins (R) said his goals are drainage, roads and a balanced budget.
“I am very happy with the way things have been going this time around,” he said. “People see where their money is going.”
Chris Carter (D) said his main focus is on children. “We need better things for our children in this community. We just need to do a lot better for our children today.”
In support of the elderly, Incumbent Lynn Bogan Bumpers (D) said, “We want a safe place for them to live.”
She also mentioned the issues with drainage in the city.
“We have such a great area at the industrial park,” Janice Miller Stevens (R) said. “I wish we could get more businesses out there.”
“We paved roads that haven’t been paved in 25 years,” Incumbent Jason Todd Lane (R) said. “Audits now cost $30,000 versus $100,000.”
“It is important to limit the size of government and to keep taxes low,” he said.
Brian Goetzmann (R) marketed himself as a man of few words. “I want industry to move in,” he said.
Focusing on transparency, Incumbent Wayne Gouguet (R) said that every audit has been done on time with no significant findings.
“We have built up about $2.5 million in cash reserves,” he said.
Every candidate said they would potentially vote yes to broadcasting council meeting via live streaming over the Internet.
Throughout the forum, candidates also spoke on whether or not they would be in favor of an elected or appointed school board and ways they would potentially suggest to reform and change the perception of the Picayune Municipal Separate District.
During the forum, Goetzmann also accused Gouguet of taking down signs.
Due to the Chamber’s rules for the structure of the forum, Gouguet was not allowed a rebuttal.
The primary election is May 7.