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The candidates’ answers: North Ward alderman

[06/01/01] In anticipation of Tuesday’s general election, The Vicksburg Post mailed all candidates 15 questions with a promise to print their full responses.

The series begins with North Ward Democratic nominee Gertrude A. Young.

Alderman Young, 45, a former nurse and a licensed real estate agent, is seeking a third consecutive term. She defeated two challengers May 1 and faces Sylvester Walker, 40, an independent.

Walker did not respond to the questionnaire.

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

Young: No. I do not favor a countywide law enforcement agency any more 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.

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

Young: No. There is a huge discrepancy in funds used for city and county recreational facilities. The city invests a significant amount of money for recreational facilities such as the swimming pool, community playgrounds, softball fields, basketball courts, two community centers, the Riverfront Park, and Sherman Avenue Park for its residents to enjoy. The county, however, only has Clear Creek and the Culkin Baseball Field. Recreation does not seem to be a priority for the county. Therefore, consolidation should not be a consideration.

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?

Young: The federal government created affirmative action and minority set-asides to provide equal opportunities to all people, and Vicksburg, with such a diverse population, should welcome such plans.