Ward 3 candidates ready

Published 1:53 am Thursday, April 24, 2008

NATCHEZ — The two candidates for Ward 3 want to take a fine-toothed comb to such issues as public safety, infrastructure and tourism and from there come up with solutions to the age-old problems.

Gwen Ball

What Gwen Ball wants to accomplish more than anything else is having an open government.

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“I have contended that I will be a strong voice for open government,” Ball said.

She said community involvement is crucial to having an open government.

“I want to see the community involved in decisions made by myself and the board of aldermen,” she said. “I want the community to feel like they’re invited and welcomed in the decision making process.

“I want their voices to be heard.”

In the past, important decisions have been made behind closed doors and not fully presented before the public when it comes to a vote, Ball said.

Ball also said the city needs of facelift of sorts and that can only come from having a solid, long-term plan.

“We need to have a vision and the community needs to be involved in establishing that vision,” she said.

She said although the city might have pre-established plans, they have not been put into action.

These plans need to sell the city, she said.

“We’ve been successful in marketing ourselves as a tourist city,” Ball said. “We need to continue that and do a better job of that.”

She said the plans that need to be made need to improve the image of the city, such as infrastructure and the police department.

“First of all, our streets are deplorable,” she said. “”Everybody wants better streets, but no one has told us why we’ve not had the funds to repair our streets. They’ve been talking about this for five years.”

She said she wants to add more police officers to the department.

“Our police force is short five to eight police officers and city government’s first obligation to its citizens is safety,” she said.

She said money could first be found by not raising the salaries of the aldermen any higher.

She also said in the past, certain revenue has been squandered.

“We have sacrificed much needed city revenues in order to push through pet projects,” she said.

Ball said she would also like to see more businesses brought into the community.

“I like the idea of lots of small businesses because then we’re not putting all of our eggs in one basket,” she said.

Ball said as part of her platform she also plans to make informed decisions, if elected.

“Aldermen should make informed decisions,” she said. “They should educate themselves on the issue thoroughly before deciding how to cast their vote. I think that’s really important and that’s what I guarantee about myself is that I will absolutely know what the alternative are and the outcomes before voting on a decision.”

Bob Pollard

Bob Pollard has served on the board of aldermen for four years and in the next four years he wants to address public safety and infrastructure issues.

“I want to stop our police department from being a training ground by raising their salaries,” Pollard said.

He said he believes this can be done through increased tax revenues from new businesses coming to town, such as the hotels and casinos.

He said he wants to see the government funding come through to overlay the major streets in the city, and from then he hopes that the city can start working on improving residential streets.

But for now, the main arteries in town give off a bad image of Natchez to visitors.

“The first impression that tourists receive is our infrastructure,” he said. “Natchez can be as beautiful as it can be but with damaged streets, people think why can’t they do something about that.”

Pollard said he wants to see the city marketed better and knows that is possible with the additional revenue that will come from the newly passed piece of legislation — the $2 occupancy tax.

Pollard is the chairman of the tourism committee and wants to continue to work on tourism promotion.

Another major change Pollard wants to see in the city is better communication with the department heads.

“Communications is the key to success,” he said. “I have a personal relationship with all the department heads and they keep me informed with the day to day activities of the city.”

“I also think that an alderman’s job is not just part time work but a full time responsibility to the city,” he said. “I answer phone calls and I have attended every meeting since July 1 of ‘04.”