Democrats host city candidates for forum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FRANKLIN—Approximately 65 people attended the Franklin Democratic Caucus’ forum for local candidates.

Ward 1 candidates CPA Barry Cheatham and Vice President of Southside Physical Therapy Dan Hoctor were in attendance, as well as Ward 2 incumbent Charles Wrenn and challenger Benny Burgess, also a CPA. Ward 4 Councilwoman and Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson, who is running opposed, was not present at the meeting.

Current Mayor Jim Councill, who will be running

for his seventh term, as well as competitors Ellis Crum and Gregory McLemore, were also on hand to answer questions asked by moderator Edna King. Questions were alternated between the ward representatives and mayoral candidates, with a final question asked of all the incumbents and candidates.

The first question was what are city council’s plans to reduce &uot;extremely high utility&uot; charges in bills to African-American households.

Councill was the first to respond.

&uot;The bills are the same across the city,&uot; he said, noting that everyone is charged per kilowatt hour and that the amount used comes off of a meter.

He noted that the need for balance exists, saying, &uot;If we lower the bills, then we have to raise the real estate rate.&uot;

Crum said that the electric fund needed to be built up, and the city needed to stop taking &uot;excessive amounts from it.&uot;

He also said that the city should only spend what has to be spent.

&uot;I think the city has skewed priorities.&uot;

McLemore said, &uot;The people are getting ripped off. The electricity isn’t that bad.

&uot;If you run 55 gallons of water in a fish tank, you’re charged for 55 gallons of sewage you never used.&uot;

He invited those present to visit his Web site for more information on his plan to reduce utility bills.

Another question for the ward candidates dealt with the city youth, asking what led to the perception that they are shiftless and lazy, and destined to a life of despair, and how the candidates intend to reverse the situation.

Cheatham said that more opportunities should be available to youth.

&uot;I don’t believe they are shiftless and lazy. I believe if we offer them trades and work with them, that perception would change if they saw a light at the end of the tunnel.&uot;

Hoctor said that education begins in the home.

&uot;I think we have to teach them values in terms of trying to get them out of these thoughts of being in the street,&uot; he said.

&uot;It begins at home and with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club.&uot;

Burgess said, &uot;I don’t think our children have been held to high enough expectations.

&uot;We need to partner with the school board and bring in all the resources together to help them excel in school.&uot;

Wrenn’s answer was twofold.

&uot;We need to support early childhood education and other organizations…(like the Boys & Girls Club).&uot;

He advocated hiring more teachers and reducing class sizes so students receive more individualized attention.

&uot;If classes were smaller, it would make all the difference in the world,&uot; he said.

Other inquiries included topics dealing with the acceptance of citizen involvement, and strategies to prepare the city in the event of a recession.

Another question, asked of all the candidates, was &uot;how will you unite city council so that decisions are not based on the north and the south?&uot;

Wrenn encouraged working on issues until a compromise could be reached, and then all supporting the compromise.

Burgess, as a northerner, said he would listen to what the citizens on the south side had to say, believing a common ground could be reached. As a commissioner of the Franklin Redevelopment & Housing Authority Board, he couldn’t recall a vote there being split by the north and south.

Hoctor said coming from Florida, he is not used to dealing with those types of issues.

&uot;It’s all about talking to one another,&uot; he said.

Cheatham said, &uot;My problems and your problems are the same problems,&uot; as he pledged to work with everyone to accomplish goals.

McLemore agreed to having more dialogue and that he would be in support of any bills or legislation that benefit the citizens.

&uot;City Council should meet more often—not just at meetings,&uot; he said. &uot;They should have each other over for dinner sometime.

&uot;We need to start (talking) as people.&uot;

Crum said the situation requires leadership, and also believed common ground could be found.

&uot;At the end of the day, we all want the same thing,&uot; he said.

Councill said he couldn’t recall racial issues among council members.

&uot;We try to look at what is the right thing to do that will benefit the most people in the city,&uot; he said.

Following the forum, Andrea Miller of Chesterfield, running for Congress in the Fourth Congressional District against Randy Forbes, spoke briefly.