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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Aldermen candidates debate Starkville issues

    At Wednesday night’s town hall meeting for candidates for aldermen, the one question asked of all three groups of candidates was whether or not the decision on where to build the justice complex was handled appropriately.
    P.C. McLaurin, a Democrat running in Ward 3, said he supports the decision. “Extensive research went into this using one of the top research firms that handles law enforcement.”
    Raymond Brooks, a Republican running in Ward 2 who works at MSU as the associate director of The Union, said he felt the Board made the right decision about where to put the new justice complex. “Out on the bypass, we have seven acres to grow.” However, he said he thought the situation could have been handled better.
    Kim Bennett, a Republican running in Ward 5, said the project was well-researched and the community needs to move on.
    Matt Cox, a Democrat in Ward 5, responded, “My question is, why move forward with a mistake?”
    Janette Self, a Democrat running in Ward 7, said she did not approve of the way the situation was handled. “It was handled not as a democracy, and we do have a democratic government, and I think that the people should have been given a right to say if the complex should go at the bypass.”
    Doug Bedsaul, an independent candidate in Ward 1, said that, location aside, the issue was not handled appropriately. “If we had been more open on the front end it could have happened more smoothly; we wouldn’t have had these lawsuits.”
    Jerry Hosford, a Republican running in Ward 7, said the justice complex situation influenced him to run for alderman. “Almost 1,500 people said they do not want it built or do not want it built on the bypass,” he said. “I’m willing to bet some of the people on that board weren’t elected by that many signatures.”
    Many candidates said they support the development of public transportation in Starkville.
    “It will help alleviate the costs of gas for students as well as parking issues,” Richard Corey, an MSU student running as a Democrat in Ward 4, said.
    Hosford said he would be willing to spend money on public transportation but since one of his goals as alderman would be to cut costs, he would like to look at other sources of funding first. He said he saw a possibility of using fines for DUI for public transit. “We could work with MSU and try to expand their system and the city could help fund it.”
    Brooks said one change that needs to be made in Starkville is an ordinance dealing with students who move into neighborhoods. He said the problem is not students but communication.
    He said the city should make landlords more responsible for what their tenants do. He said the owners of rental property should be on file with the police. If tenants make noise at 1 a.m., he said, the police should call the landlords. “I bet it wouldn’t take many phone calls at 1 a.m. before those landlords would take care of it at the front end.”
    Candidates were also asked about the moratorium on the construction of apartment complexes.
    William Starks, a Democrat running in Ward 4, said he supports the moratorium because it is only short term.
    Cox said he does not support the moratorium. “Most of the complaints that I heard about rental property were really about poor design and about zoning.”
    Marco Nicovich, a Republican running in Ward 5, said it was wrong for a moratorium to be issued on just one segment of the building industry. “I have said for 20 years that we’ve had too many apartments. I’ve been wrong for 20 years. But one day I’m going to be right.”
    Daniel Mazzei, who is running as a Republican in Ward 3, said the vacancy rate in Starkville is just under 10 percent but in a healthy city it should be 5 percent. “Even though I think it might not to have been the best way to address the issue, I think it was a fair way to deal with a problem that needs to be addressed.”
    Self said she does not support restrictions on builders. “Most of the ordinances we have, all we need to do is to enforce those ordinances.”
    Jerry Hosford also said enforcing ordinances is important. “Before adding 40 more pages, we need to make sure we can enforce the ones we have.”
    Beck said he hoped the new ordinance dealing with aggressive animals will be enforced. “I hope that we will put somebody in place who will have more power to write tickets to people who violate ordinances.”
    Brooks said he wants to beautify the town, work on ways to get traffic in and out of town more smoothly, and bring to Starkville restaurants and stores students want. “We need to work hard to make this a town where people say, ‘I want to go to Mississippi State cause it’s in Starkville,’ not, ‘I want to go to Starkville because Mississippi State is there.'”
    John Bond, a Republican running in Ward 4, said some specific needs of students that he hopes to address are trash pickup along University Drive, public transportation, and curb appeal. “They’ve made great strides toward that way and I think I’m your guy to keep it headed that way.”
    Hammett, a Republican running in Ward 1, said the city has not done a good job at taking care of problems such as sewage and drainage. “They’re only trying to make the downtown area better. They’re not focusing on the rest of Starkville.”
    Candidates from Ward 2 and Ward 7 were asked whether they think Starkville’s government is transparent enough.
    Self said she feels the city government should be more transparent. “Giving credit to our Board of Alderman and our mayor: they’ve done a good job. But they have an awesome job to do.”
    Brooks said the city should do a better job of listening to citizens and putting out information but that this is also the responsibility of citizens. “We are not really a democratic form of government. We are a representative form of government.”
    Brooks also said Starkville’s government does, in theory, fairly represent everybody. He cited the change from six wards and one alderman at large to seven wards as contributing to this. However, he said the way the city gathers information and disseminates information to its citizens is probably not fair.
    Self said the government does not fairly represent everybody. “If all of the citizens had fair representation, then we would not have had to have the redistricting.” She said she hopes representation will be fairer in the future.
    Many candidates said they support adding a non-voting student member to the Board of Aldermen. “MSU I think is the lifeblood of Starkville, but students are the lifeblood of MSU and thus of Starkville,” Bond said. He said students need to take a bigger part in the city.
    The meeting, which was sponsored by the Student Association and the Stennis-Montgomery Association, took place Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. in The Union Ballroom. Candidates were questioned in three flights divided by ward, each flight lasting one hour. Other issues addressed in the forum were annexation, the revitalization of Old Highway 82, and the growth of Starkville.

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    Aldermen candidates debate Starkville issues