Ward 1 candidates ready to tackle street, crime, housing
Published 1:03 am Monday, April 21, 2008
NATCHEZ — All four Democratic candidates in the Ward 1 alderman election said they feel like they’ve got what it takes to address recreation concerns, dilapidated houses, poor streets and crime.
Sonya Anderson-Mars is making it a top priority to get recreation into the area.
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“Children really don’t have a lot of things to do,” she said. “A YMCA could be composed of so many different things.”
She said grant writing — something she’s done with the youth department at Pilgrim Baptist Church — could be a way to get funds for a recreation center.
To address crime, Mars said she wants to start in the neighborhoods by revamping Neighborhood Watch programs.
“We are our brother’s keeper,” she said. “If we work to have a Neighborhood Watch program, it could alleviate and cut down on some of the crime.”
She wants to get rid of dilapidated houses, with a two-fold purpose.
First Mars said getting rid of these houses would cut down on crimes because they are sometimes used for illicit behavior.
She wants to bring in affordable housing, too, especially with all the new entities coming to town.
“There’s nowhere for people to live in Natchez,” Mars said.
She also wants to improve infrastructure in Ward 1, and this can be accomplished through grant writing, getting state and federal funds.
Mars said she’s already started researching funds for infrastructure improvements and found out about community block grants that are made available through the United States Housing and Urban Development program.
Incumbent Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis has been on the board for 12 years and is running for re-election first, because she wants to see projections to completion.
Mathis said she had already secured $8 million for the Natchez Storm Water/North Natchez Drainage Project and has seen phase 1 completed, which was Canal Street.
The second phase of the project pertains to Buckners Alley, Oak, Maple and Wall streets.
“I want to make sure that phase 2 gets the same attention Canal Street got,” she said.
Mathis said she also wants to have the blowout on Marblestone Road fixed.
Mathis said she would also like to address the housing issue.
“We know we need better housing,” she said. “I am running on securing better housing.”
Mathis said she would like to see affordable housing scattered across town instead of lumped into one big area.
She would also like to take care of dilapidated houses, to try to figure out a system to contact the absentee homeowners and try to get those properties taken care of.
Like the other candidates, Mathis said the city needs to do something to address crime.
“That’s a major concern in Wards 1 and 2,” she said. “We’ve had people firing guns, homes broken into and people are just afraid for their safety.”
Mathis said she would like to look at getting more police officers.
“I’m very goal oriented and plan driven,” she said.
Paul Johnson, the retiring city fire chief, said he wants to focus on infrastructure as well.
Johnson said he feels like with the new hotels and casinos opening up this will increase the tax base, allowing allocation of funds for the overlaying of street.
Johnson said he also wants to see a recreation facility built.
“I want a facility for youth that includes swimming pools, ball fields, the works,” he said.
Johnson said he would be willing to work with the county to bring in a recreation facility.
“I believe the county should be involved with the city in building a recreation complex,” he said. “The county should play a part in financing that and making it possible.”
He also wants to focus on education.
“Right now, everybody’s hollering about the school system,” he said. “We need to take a look at education from top to bottom and make sure that we’ve got people leading our school systems that are qualified to do so and they can come up with ways to improve it and make sure that we can get the highest caliber teachers that we can for our kids.”
He would also like to see consolidation of city and county government.
“I think that consolidation would make a lot of things possible here in Natchez and Adams County,” he said.
Johnson is a lifelong resident of Natchez and is also a military veteran.
Jim Sanders said he sees the need to fix the streets in Ward 1.
“That’s been a no-brainer for years,” he said. “We certainly need better streets.”
He said having nice streets goes with being a tourist town.
“We’re a tourist town; let’s be a tourist town,” he said. “People come to the city and they view all the grandiose homes but they need to be able to walk down a safe sidewalk, move down a street without potholes while they’re looking at the homes.”
“It’s a terrible situation, streets have to be a priority, you’re judged by your appearance.”
He is also looking to improve housing in Ward 1.
“I’m all for improving housing, the dilapidated housing and grass cutting are really a blithe to the community,” he said.
He said safety in the city, especially his ward, is key.
“I want a safer community,” he said.
He feels that can be tackled by hiring more policemen and raising their pay so they don’t use Natchez as a training ground to then go somewhere else to make more money.
He said this can be done by trimming the budget in other areas to allocate funds for pay raises.
“Certainly we can find some money for them,” he said.
Sanders said he also is running strongly on a platform of open government.
“If you call me, I will answer and if not I will get back to you and that’s a promise I’m going to make,” he said. “I’m going to be available 24/7 if that’s what it takes.”
Sanders said he wants more community involvement in the political process.
“I’d like to get our community more involved in big decisions,” he said. “I think we need more public input as to how people feel about things.”
Primary elections are May 6.