MUNICIPAL ELECTION Q &
ANorth Ward Democrats
[04/25/01] In anticipation of Tuesday’s party primary elections, The Vicksburg Post mailed all candidates 15 questions with a promise to print their full responses.
The series begins today with the Democrats who will be on the North Ward ballot.
Rodney Dillamar, 41, convenience store owner and neighborhood activist.
Jo Pratt, 67, retired educator and co-owner of a property management company and bed and breakfast inn.
Gertrude A. Young, 45, former nurse and licensed real estate agent who is seeking a third consecutive term.
If one of the candidates receives a majority Tuesday, that candidate advances to the general election on June 5 to face Sylvester Walker, an independent. If there is no candidate with a majority Tuesday, there will be a runoff between the top to vote-getters May 15.
Responses of independents who responded will be printed along with those of party nominees before the June 5 general election.
Question 1. During the next four years, should Vicksburg use its annexation powers to add areas to the corporate limits? If so, what areas should be added?
Dillamar: Annexation is only good if the areas involved benefit from this action by receiving the same services of those in the city. These services would include water lines, sewage, cable, natural gas, parks, fire and police departments, restaurants and family residential units.
The City of Vicksburg annexed 21.5 square miles of Warren County in 1990. City officials have planned and worked to bring services in those areas up to the same afforded residents who already lived in the city, but not all of the annexed communities have received the expected standards promised by the city, particularly the Kings community. We need to focus on improving services to these areas before we venture out and try to use Vicksburg’s annexation powers to add other areas to the corporate limits.
Pratt: While we should always be receptive to growing our city, it would seem to me that our current priorities should be to focus on providing those services necessary to bring recently annexed areas up to appropriate standards.
Young: I do not think that Vicksburg should use its annexation powers during the next four years because we as elected officials must make sure that citizens annexed in 1990 have been adequately serviced. There are some citizens under the last annexation that have not been connected to the sewer system, streets have not been paved, and other needs have not been met. Until these issues have been resolved, I cannot in good conscience support another annexation.
Question 2. Unlike many other governments, Vicksburg’s officials are empowered to raise their own compensation. Would you vote for or against an ordinance that makes any raises for elected officials approved in one administration not effective until the next administration?
Dillamar: Yes. Elections are held every four years for the offices of mayor and alderman. This method looks out for future administrations without it appearing that raises were given to themselves.
Pratt: I would definitely support such an ordinance.
Young: I would definitely support an ordinance making raises approved by elected officials in one administration not effective until the next administration. I have been North Ward alderwoman for eight years and only voted twice to receive a personal cost-of-living raise. My primary concern is that pay for the city’s labor force be increased to be more competitive with the industries and casinos in Vicksburg.
Question 3. Given what you know about the cost of living and the responsibilities of the offices you seek, what would you consider to be a fair salary for alderman? For mayor?
Dillamar: Through research, I found that the salary of the mayor is $56,531.83 and that of an alderman is $45,491.68. I feel this is a fair salary for an elected official striving to devote time to the operations of the city government.
Pratt: I feel that the current salaries and benefits are entirely adequate.
Young: A fair salary for a full-time board under the commission form of government should be competitive with the corporate market. The current salary for a full-time alderperson is $46,000 compared to the $37,343 salary of a part-time county supervisor. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen have little or no opportunity to have a second job, whereas working part-time, county officials do.
Question 4. Vicksburg now operates as a specially chartered municipal corporation with a mayor elected at large and two aldermen elected from wards as chief executive officers with specified duties including naming fire and police chiefs, among others, to four-year terms. What changes do you favor making in the form, structure or operations of Vicksburg government?
Dillamar: Vicksburg now operates with a mayor elected at large and two aldermen elected from wards. This system has been effective, but with constant growth in Vicksburg there may be a need in the future for expansion to better serve the people. I would research a system of two aldermen per ward.
Pratt: The present form of government has served successfully for many years. The conduct of the officeholders is the key. However, I would not oppose a study of alternate forms of government.
Young: The current form of government works well as a system of checks and balances. I don’t believe that any elected official should have complete power or authority. The city has a five-year plan. If we as elected officials remain focused on the goals of the five-year plan, we could accomplish more.
Question 5. Would you favor a countywide law enforcement agency through disbanding the Vicksburg Police Department or other means?
Dillamar: I do not favor the above. I do favor a more cooperative relationship between city and county law enforcement.
Pratt: Over the years, there have been many examples of cooperation and joint programs between the two departments. I strongly support and encourage this. Leadership is the key issue here.
Young: No. I do not favor a countywide law enforcement agency anymore than I favor consolidation of city and county government. There is a significant variance in the guidelines for managing city and county government. For instance, let’s consider funding. Last year, the Vicksburg Police Department received 50,000 calls for services. These calls generated 13,150 reports. These reports were filed with Uniform Crime Reports at which time VPD, based on work done, became eligible to apply for community block grants. Through community block grants, the VPD was allocated $194,000 and the county was allotted only $17,000. As you can see, citizens and the city as a whole would stand to lose more than they would gain.