Ward 1 candidates: Jobs, infrastructure among top priorities for city

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 14, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Jobs, infrastructure and recreation are among the top issues for candidates for Ward 1 alderman: incumbent Joyce Arceneaux, James Gavette, the Rev. Leon Howard and Jim Sanders.

Joyce Arceneaux

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Joyce Arceneaux, herself an educator, wants to push to recruit &uot;think tank&uot; industries that would partner with higher education.

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Natchez must find out what programs the region’s universities offer and target industries that could benefit from such programs.

Those could include research, communications and medical-related industries, Arceneaux said, adding she takes the opportunity to market Natchez on out-of-town trips.

She said the city should also explore hiring a firm to market Roth Hill and should concentrate on attracting conventioneers that don’t mind driving to get to Natchez.

She would push to erect a sign at the convention center displaying what conventions are in town in a given week, &uot;if it does nothing but make us feel better about ourselves,&uot; she said.

With regards to infrastructure, Arceneaux said she contacted the state to get a bill filed to make Canal Street a gaming road to help get money for drainage improvements.

Although a large recreation complex may not be realistic now, Arceneaux said she was instrumental in getting the Madison/Wall Street park started and would like to see another park in the Marblestone area.

James Gavette

While he agrees that Natchez needs jobs, James Gavette said he fight against bringing a chemical company into the area.

Instead, Gavette would encourage entrepreneurs in Natchez to start a variety of smaller businesses so the community would not be dependent on a single large industry for its economy.

&uot;We need to develop the (industries) we already have, like health care, and try to recruit industries like education and the arts,&uot; Gavette said. &uot;I want our citizens to have jobs that are safe.&uot;

Gavette said he would also push another clean industry, tourism, by encouraging the start of a year-round Pilgrimage to include tours of Victorian homes in addition to summer activities for children.

As far as recreation is concerned, Gavette said he would favor a recreation complex but also placing a covered or indoor pool at Duncan Park.

With regards to public safety, Gavette said he would like police to patrol more and doesn’t favor an elected police chief. Under that system, he said, &uot;people can run who don’t have qualifications.&uot;

Gavette also said he doesn’t favor annexation unless citizens of the area in question want it but favors consolidation in order to make government more efficient.

The Rev. Leon Howard

The Rev. Leon Howard said that he would push for the mayor, aldermen and supervisors to visit Washington, D.C., together repeatedly in order to gain assistance in recruiting industries and boosting tourism.

&uot;We can’t sit and wait for industries to come to us,&uot; he said, noting that he wants to seek larger industries with wages with pay above minimum wage.

Officials should be relentless in offering incentives to keep existing industries, Howard said, adding that &uot;I don’t believe enough was done to keep that (IP) paper mill here.&uot;

At the same time, Howard said he would not bow to special interest groups seeking to dictate what kind of industries come to Natchez.

And Howard said he would advocate seeking any grants possible for recreation improvements. &uot;Our people deserve what people can get in other states,&uot; he said.

Howard said the other big issue in his platform is cleaning up dilapidated buildings, overgrown grass and ditches and erosion.

&uot;If we don’t have the money, give me two or three fellow on the city payroll and I can show them how to do it,&uot; said Howard, who owns a construction business.

Jim Sanders

Jim Sanders believes that when comes to ideas on recruiting industries, the city’s best resource is its people.

&uot;We’ve got a lot of people working on different solutions, but I wonder if sometimes one doesn’t know what the other is doing,&uot; he said.

Therefore, Sanders said he would push for the creation of a &uot;think tank&uot; of locals to brainstorm ways to attract new industries.

He also favors targeting a variety of smaller industries in order to diversify Natchez’s industrial base, although he would like that base to include computer-related industries that don’t have to locate in larger cities.

At the same time, Sanders said he would advocate redoubling the city’s cleanup efforts year-round to make the city more attractive to tourists.

To attract tourists with children, Sanders would like to create a play area with games and videos or perhaps a water park for children to enjoy while their parents tour homes. &uot;You’ve got to spend money to make money,&uot; he said.