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Rawlings: City’s done little to help Kings

[04/13/01] Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Rawlings told a civic club Thursday that city officials have done little to improve living conditions in Kings since it was annexed in 1990.

The comments drew a sharp response from incumbent Mayor Robert Walker who will be in a ballot showdown one-on-one with Rawlings on May 1.

Rawlings, who lived as a child in the community along North Washington Street before joining the Marine Corps, said the area gets talk, not action.

“Every four years the politicians come to Kings and then we never see them again,” the 38-year-old Rawlings told members of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

The city needed to develop a plan for the large area of mostly low-income residents who became part of Vicksburg in an annexation approved 11 years ago.

“Nobody in their right mind can say that we haven’t done anything in that area,” Walker, 56, said this morning. “But it can’t all be done at one time.”

Rawlings pointed to promised sewer improvements. The city awarded a contract in August to connect about 75 more homes in Kings to municipal sewer lines extended to the area over the past eight years, but Rawlings said that is not enough considering the 250 area homes without connections.

“I’m the one who conceived the idea and went for that,” Walker said in response. The project is funded by a $346,943 state Community Development Block Grant at no cost to the residents.

In other annexation areas of the city, residents must pay for their own connections, regardless of their income.

Rawlings also said the city needed to move forward with announced plans for a police precinct in Kings.

“They can do the same things in Kings that they did for Marcus Bottom,” Rawlings said. The Douglas Park precinct was opened there last year.

Rawlings, executive director of North Ward Active Citizens, now lives with his wife and children in the Enchanted Hills subdivision.

“And what has the executive director (of the North Ward Active Citizens group) done for Kings?” Walker asked.

In addition to the sewer improvements, Walker lists improvements in police protection, street repaving, hook-ups to city water and natural gas, and the Kings Community Center as ways his administration has helped improve life in the area.

The Kings Community Center, which opened at the end of Walker’s 1989-93 term, has been recognized by the state as a model for juvenile programs in Mississippi. Walker also said appraisals were being taken this week for a building to be used for a new police precinct.

He said the precinct, the city’s second, could open this spring.

“It’s about time for all these political games to come to an end,” Walker said. “Candidates should stand for what they are going to do and not try to tear someone else down.”

The winner of the primary race between Rawlings and Walker will face independents Laurence Leyens, 36, Joe Loviza, 61, and Eva Marie Ford, 63, in the June 5 general election. The candidate with the most votes in the general election wins and there is no runoff.

In the North Ward, Alderman Gertrude Young, 45, will face business owner Rodney E. Dillamar, 41, and retired educator Jo Pratt, 67, on the May 1 Democratic ballot. In the South Ward primary, Pam Johnson, 35, owner of a local hair salon, will face Carl Marshall Upton, 41, a self-employed electrician.

The only Republican candidates in the primary races will be in the South Ward, where Sidney H. Beauman Jr., 52, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, and restaurant manager Sam Smith, 37, will vie for the $45,491-a-year post.

The only possible runoff is in the North Ward race. If none of the candidates gets a majority of the votes, a runoff would be on May 15. The nominee advances to face Sylvester Walker, 40, in the general election.

Both South Ward primary winners will advance to the city’s general election and face independents Ashlea Mosley, 18, and Vickie Bailey, 33, assistant director of the city’s Department of Youth Services.