Voters know what they want candidates to address in election

Published 12:05 am Sunday, April 8, 2012

Other voters were quick to say they seek openness in government, particularly pertaining to recent casino development talks.

Marilou Dennis said she believes one of the most important steps the city should take is having a stricter and more clearly defined use of closed-door executive sessions during public meetings.

“I recognize that there is an appropriate time for executive session, but I really want to know what my elected officials are discussing and what leads to their votes,” she said.

Email newsletter signup

Nancy Williams said she wants a mayor with a strong stance on helping keep all of the city’s business open.

“These executive sessions have been run into the ground,” Williams said. “We elect these people, what they discuss should be open to the public.”

Dennis said the longer the door to an open meeting is closed the less residents will trust their leaders.

“All of this casino business really makes you wonder about all of the executive sessions,” she said.

Other voters pointed to recreation and the city’s overall appearance as top issues in their minds.

What the candidates say on crime

Nearly all of the mayoral candidates are quick to say that local police officers and firefighters are underpaid. But they don’t agree on how to fund any potential increases.

Incumbent Mayor Jake Middleton and Phillip West, a previous mayor himself, said increased revenue they expect from the new casino at the foot of Roth Hill might just do the trick.

Regardless, West said, the raises need to be part of a list that city leaders work quickly to prioritize.

Independent Bill Furlow, too, said the city must begin looking for the funding for the raises.

Larry L. “Butch” Brown, a Democrat and previous multi-term mayor, said he intends to seek out federal grants available to supplement law enforcement pay.

Bob Buie, a Republican, said there is a possibility law enforcement pay should be increased, but he said a full evaluation of law enforcement is needed to determine a pay raise. Buie added that he believed the police department needs more officers to curb the city’s crime problem.

What the candidates say on open government

West said unfortunately, the mayor has very little control over whether the Natchez Board of Aldermen meets in executive decision because the vote to close the doors is made by the board.

“If the aldermen vote to go into executive session, and you can legally do it, the mayor has no power to stop (the aldermen),” he said. “But I have always believed in a narrow approach to utilizing executive sessions.”