October 20th, 2009, INDIANOLA, MISSISSIPPI: Indianola residents convened upon the Sunflower County Courthouse to hear the Democratic Mayoral Candidates. The mood was rather calm and the expected tension that generally surrounds most political debates was kept to a minimum. The debate began promptly at 5:30 pm with introductions by Indianola Main Street President, Maggie Barnes. The podium was then turned over to Ross Reily, Managing Editor for the Mississippi Business Journal, who explained the evening’s agenda. He introduced the questioning panel and then allowed a 2 minute opener from each candidate prior to the actual Q&A session.
Several questions were posed over the course of 2 hours. Each candidate had 90 seconds to respond. The following is my account of the evening:
1. “In lean budget times, would you favor cuts in elected officials sallaries?” Apparently, the question was posed out of concern from past raises under the current administration. There were jeers from the hall when Incumbent Mayor, Aurthur Marble, responded as he has seen almost a $40,000 increase in his yearly salary within his last 2 consecutive terms.
2. “What is Indianola’s biggest problem and how do you plan to address it?” Here the candidates had a difference of opinion. Responses captured a need for better education, youth enrichment, safety, and drug enforcement. However, there was no resolve to each concern.
3. “Allen Canning Company of Moorhead will be shutting down. 30% of it’s workforce is from Indianola. Over 200 people will soon be without jobs. How do you plan on assisting the needs of these individuals and their families?” It was said that loss of industry had been an on-going issue within the Delta. Additional responses varied from providing new learning and educational opportunities to fostering diffferent skills or trades to bringing in 10 outside, smaller businesses to each hire 20 displaced workers.
4. “What is the sales tax revenue within the last month or two?” Most of the candidates seemed at a loss and could not provide a clear definitive answer on the city’s financials.
5. “Is the Indianola Police Department overwhelmed or inefficient?” Clearly, there is a direct correlation between unemployment and crime. There is true concern for public safety in Indianola. Each candidate agreed and placed attention on the IPD Chief, Charles “Bloaty” Smith. A need for greater public involvement was raised as well.
6. “What is your first goal to accomplish when you achieve office?” Superb responses included: a shared vision, accountability, prioritizing, and downtown revitalization.
7. “What is your vision of Indianola’s future?” Again, another round of great answers that ranged from better streets, a nice hotel, more street lights, a convention center, a roller skating rink, a bowling alley, and a Red Lobster.
8. “Where does the money come from to create your vision?” This was a great follow-up question and yielded varying responses. There was discrepancy among the candidates regarding available city funds. However, there were shared responses that leaned towards securing state and federal grants.
9. “Joblessness is at the forefront. How do you propose to keep people employed?” Customer service issues were raised. Each attempted to explain the employee/employer/customer relationship. It was further mentioned that outside third-parties may need to come in and assess the quality of worker we as a city provide. In addition, it was raised that there are available facilities here that can provide training to create a better workforce.
10. “Where do you see Indianola in 4 years?” All candidates expected that they would be up for re-election, but did cite Indianola would be a better place to live, work, and raise a family under their guidance.
11. “The Blues has seemingly connected the Mississippi Delta. Several by-ways and highways have now connected these towns. How do you plan on working with neighboring cities to create and foster Regional Cooperation?” It was noted that regional unity exist throughout the state from North Mississippi to the South Coast. All agreed, in order for Indianola to be success, we all as Delta cities must work together.
The night concluded with each candidate providing a 2 minute closure and asking for the community’s vote. Each felt that they were the best man to lead Indianola’s future.
In a sense, I agree with several of the points that each candidate made. However, the human spirit itself is apolitical and will always side with that one individual whom it most closely identifies with. Honestly, I paigned not being able to add my voice. Yet, I look forward with anticipation to the results of the Democratic Mayoral Primary on November 8th.
If you would like to see a final debate with the elected Democratic candidate and myself, please contact Sherilyn M. Jones, Project Manager for Indianola Main Street, at 662-887-2170.
Let Indianola Main Street know that all candidates must be heard!