Candidate forum moderately attended

Published 1:21 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A crowd of about 50 people attended the recent municipal candidate forum, but only a handful of people posed questions to the 12 attending candidates.

At the beginning of the forum each candidate took their three minutes to share what they thought was important with the audience members. All incumbent candidates did not make it to the forum, a recessed council meeting was scheduled for the same day and time.

Precinct 1 candidate Jeff Lossett said now is the time to make a difference in the city with a new mayor and council. He would like to bring accountability to the city finances and put qualified people on the school board and city manager positions and allow them to do their jobs without political influence.

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“I believe the success of this great city relies solely on the success of its leaders,” Lossett said.

Precinct 2 candidate Lynn Bogan Bumpers said she will not make promises she can’t keep but will work to provide for all precincts and make the city a better place to live for children and elderly alike.

Precinct 2 candidate Kimberly Chapman said the youth need activities and the city should be allowed to grow. There should also be opportunities for children to stay in Picayune after graduation, instead of the children planning ways to leave post graduation.

Precinct 2 candidate Robert Jefferson said senior citizens have been denied of their greater needs and the local government needs to do something for them. Providing for them will help the city be successful.

Precinct 3 candidate Jason Todd Lane said he has heard the city needs new leadership in a desperate way. He said he will work to do the best he can.

Precinct 4 candidate Larry Breland said he has a new vision for the city and wants to fix the city’s financial files by holding city officials responsible for those files. Safety is also an issue for Breland since he is told by senior citizens that they are afraid to leave their homes at night.

“If you are satisfied with the way things are now then don’t vote for me, but if you want change then vote for me,” Breland said.

Precinct 5 candidate Howard Alexander said the city needs to be accountable for its finances and the drug problem needs to be resolved for children’s sake.

Precinct 5 candidate Wayne Gouget said he is not satisfied with the present council’s direction and wants transparency, stability of city hall employees and reduction of the debt with improvement of infrastructure.

Precinct 5 candidate Jeff Harrington said he would like to see a community center for the kids and handicapped citizens, and more involvement with the police department to let the community know they are not just people in cars. He fells economic development is essential to stimulate the economy.

“Every time you turn around another store on Canal Street’s for rent,” Harrington said.

Mayoral candidate Frank Egger said he wants to see professionalism in city offices and wants to do more for the seniors.

Mayoral candidate Ed Pinero said he understands the financial and infrastructure problems in the city and can fix them. He wants to bring leadership to the role of mayor and bring diversity to city employment based on hiring the best people for the job based on experience and training, not based on who they know. To promote the police and fire departments he said he will donate his salary as mayor, after taxes, to those departments. His commitment is to better the city.

“I want to receive no financial gains for doing that,” Pinero said.

Mayoral candidate Mark Thorman said he also has a vision of diversity and he will work diligently to get the job of mayor done. He said the retirement community is just as important as the youth and will work to drop partisan politics.

The forum was then opened up for questions. Of all the candidates Pinero received the most questions of any candidate running for any office, 18 of the total 53.

Topics covered spanned from economic development to fixing the financial situation of the city.

Lossett was posed the question of fixing the finances of the city. While he said he is not college educated he believes the city manager’s job is to manage the city employees, but he does understand the in intricacies of the mill by working at the tax assessor’s office and will look to produce city revenue instead of raising taxes.

Pinero was asked how he would stop the economic leakage reflected in a recent study. Pinero said one way to do that is conduct economic development. Currently people working out of the county stop on their way home from work to do their shopping. If there are jobs in Picayune then that leakage could be reduced.

Finances of the city were also posed to Pinero, based on his experience as city manager for a year and a half. He was asked to give a straight answer about what caused the financial situation, to which he answered that the high turnover in the city manager and city clerk positions led to the majority of the city’s financial problems. Tenure in those positions is essential to fix it and to do that those positions need to be free of pressure from elected officials. Reducing the deficit would entail reducing the amount of land the city owns.

Lane was asked what he thought of a recent council meeting where two similar items were handled in different ways by the current council and his outlook on the development in the Roseland Park area. Lane said the duplexes in his opinion are an improvement for the area. As far as the two issues being handled differently he said he thinks it’s “good old boy politics.”

Thorman, Egger and Pinero were all asked their view of House Bill 1441, which would make Picayune a resort area and allow the sale of liquor by the drink in restaurants. Thorman said he is supports that bill and believes everyone should have the freedom of choice. Pinero said the fate of the bill is up to the citizens and if it’s voted in then the council will need to determine how the ordinances relating to liquor sales would read. Egger said he is opposed to the bill and does not think big food chains will locate in Picayune due to the lack of population to support them.

Lossett was asked about his stance on appointments to the school board. Lossett suggested taking applications of possible board members and appointing the best ones, no matter their precinct of residency, to seat well qualified people on the board.

Gouget and Lane were asked what stance they would take on the city’s involvement with the utility department. Gouget said he would look at the current situation and see what is the best decision from a business standpoint. If that best decision would be to transfer it to the Utility Authority then he would be for it. Lane said he would have to look at the numbers first, but in the end he would choose the route that would be cheapest for the city.

Egger was asked about his stance on annexation. He said the best route for annexation would be to allow those affected by the proposed annexation to vote on it, since those new residents would not be guaranteed city services for seven years after annexation.

It was mentioned that the Picayune Chamber of Commerce and the present city government are not the best of friends, Pinero, Thorman and Bumpers were asked how they would support the chamber. Pinero said since the mayor does not possess all the power he would have to work with the council to encourage participation. Thorman said he feels it’s important to support the chamber since they are the city’s first line of economic defense. Bumpers said she would like for the two entities to work together.