For these voters, main campaign issues include programs for children

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 17, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Economic development, it’s perhaps the biggest issue in Natchez politics right now, but parents of young children say the problem runs deeper than a lack of jobs.

&uot;We’ve gotten into an economic situation in Natchez that requires both parents to work at least one job a piece,&uot; said Tammy Coley, mother of two West Primary students. &uot;It leaves the children unsupervised.&uot;

Coley, who also has two stepchildren who attend private school, said the public schools need more community involvement in order to keep children enrolled.

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Coley said a quick fix to the problem of working parents is more supervised activities after school and in the summer. She said she’d like to see work groups for city and community cleanup.

&uot;It’s the mayor’s and aldermen’s jobs in the city,&uot; Coley said. &uot;Each needs to have a community task inserted in their job.&uot;

Coley said the elected officials should take the lead in organizing projects to get children and youth involved in community projects.

She also said the town needs some sort of children’s recreational center with adult supervision.

Mother of three Yolanda White agreed.

&uot;There aren’t a whole lot of activities for them to do,&uot; White said. &uot;We need some sort of after school program for the kids.&uot;

Long-term solutions are more in-depth, Coley said. Ultimately, Natchez needs more jobs, but preliminary steps must be taken first, she said.

&uot;It’s about reputation,&uot; Coley said. &uot;Children get to middle school age and high school age and want to drop out of school. It’s the environment in the schools. No industry wants to come to a place with that reputation.&uot;

Denise Ford, who has children at Frazier, Morgantown and Robert Lewis Middle School, said elected officials have to keep education where it should be.

&uot;They need to live up to expectations we voted for,&uot; she said. &uot;They need to be strong forces for education.&uot;

Ford and Coley agreed that it is the role of elected officials to create a community around the children.

&uot;We can’t hold our schools 100 percent responsible for the character of our children,&uot; Coley said. &uot;Everything can’t be fixed in the schools, it has to be through community involvement.&uot;

And after the early years the town has to provide jobs, Ford said.

&uot;If 10th and 11th graders can’t find part-time jobs it leaves them on the streets,&uot; she said. &uot;They could graduate but never get a job.&uot;

White agreed that something has to be done to keep young people in town.

&uot;When my children graduate from high school and go off to college there is nothing for them to come back to Natchez for,&uot; White said. &uot;I would love to have them back.&uot;