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South Ward Democrats

The Democrats on the South Ward ballot are:

Pam Johnson, 35, owner of Top of the Line Hair Salon.

Carl Marshall Upton, 40, self-employed electrician.

Upton did not return a questionnaire, so these responses are from the candidate who did.

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?

Johnson: During the next few years, we should be doing all we can to improve existing land areas and spaces inside the city. The last two annexations failed to bring about the promised gains. Infrastructure and city facilities are still wanting in large parts of the Kings area, likewise in the Cedars area. Before letting the city institute another annexation, I would prefer using our resources to develop what’s here already. Failing that, I would want the voters to decide the issue.

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?

Johnson: Any raises that city officials set for themselves should undergo mandatory review by both the state attorney general and state auditor. Salary raises set by one administration should not be allowed to go into effect until after the new term of office has begun. If the city commissioners are elected at one salary, then they should serve out their term at that rate. Otherwise, it will appear that those running for top office might be motivated by the chance to maximize their pay while in office. Although the cost of living is nearly as high in Vicksburg as it is in Dallas, I would have no problem passing an ordinance that would require a delay in the institution of a pay raise for the top elected officials.

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?

Johnson: The salary of aldermen should be pro-rated on the full-time salary between $58,800 and $61,000 annually. The mayor’s full-time salary should be between $75,000 and $80,000.

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?

Johnson: I think the present three-person system can work if we have honest, capable people elected to office. But I would like to see an expanded system, one that more closely represents a majority of the people of Vicksburg. The aldermen and mayor have it in their power to add two more aldermen to the commission. I would like to see that done right away.

Question 5. Would you favor a countywide law enforcement agency through disbanding the Vicksburg Police Department or other means?

Johnson: No! I am definitely opposed to eliminating the city police force. History has shown urban governments work much better than rural ones. No, let the county people keep their sheriff and constables. We want to maintain a superb and modern police force for Vicksburg.

Question 6. Would you favor a countywide public recreation agency through combining separate operations?

Johnson: Countywide recreation planning and facilities would be welcome, as long as the core activities remain within the corporate limits of Vicksburg and the facilities are primarily built in accord with the needs of the people of the city. We are the vast majority of the county. Therefore, we insist on deriving the greatest amount of benefits.

Question 7. Vicksburg now has no written affirmative action plan for hiring and no written plan for minority set-asides in contracts for city business. Should Vicksburg have such plans? Why or why not?

Johnson: Considering that Vicksburg now has a 60 percent black majority, there will probably be a great deal of confusion over determining what is meant by “minority” set-asides. The white minority already controls a disproportionate amount of the goods and services and the real capital, so we should be concerning ourselves with enfranchising the “majority” with special set-asides, business development grants and government support.