South Ward Alderman

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2005

The series continues with the candidates for alderman in the South Ward.

They are:

Independent Vickie R. Bailey, 33, assistant director of youth services for the City of Vicksburg.

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Republican nominee Sidney H. Beauman Jr., 52, director of the Vicksburg Parks and Recreation Department.

Democratic nominee Pam Johnson, 35, owner of Top of the Line hair salon.

Independent Ashlea Mosley, 18.

Incumbent Sam Habeeb did not seek re-election.

A majority is not needed to win. The top vote-getter wins a four-year term.

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?

Bailey: No annexation. At this time the city cannot afford to annex additional areas. The city has not provided adequate services and facilities for the present residents it serves. We need to build up and focus on satisfying the number of service problems and problems of community living at hand before even thinking about acquiring or expanding additional areas.

Beauman: I would only answer this question after being advised by department heads as to costs and recovery of same. We still have not taken care of the last annexed area. An educated guess is not in the next four years. See Question 4.

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 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 already here. Failing that, I would want the voters to decide the issue.

Mosley: If the city is going to continue to grow, annexation is necessary; the airport is an area to consider, but then that could get a little complicated.

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?

Bailey: I would support voting for an ordinance that makes a big increase in salary of an official not effective until the next administration. However, a yearly cost of living raise will remain the same. I strongly believe that government employees and officials should not expect to become wealthy through public service. The salary and benefit package has already been established, each individual is aware of what the job pays.

Beauman: This basic concept is good, but I feel needs to be worked on somewhat. I think limits as to how much of an increase can be given should be established and adhered to. Also, what if revenues dropped by 30 percent? Should pay cuts not take place at that time? There should definitely be a system in place to address the pay, or lack thereof, for elected officials and I would vote in favor of same. Remember, city government spending can only be based on revenues. In the private sector, the CEO can be terminated the first time he fails; elected officials are in place for a term. This calls for better regulations.

Johnson: Any raises that city officials set for themselves should undergo mandatory review by 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.

Mosley: No. I think it is ridiculous and unfair that an administration has gone into office and raised their own salaries.

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?

Bailey: The salary and benefit package has already been established, each individual is aware of what the job pays.

Beauman: With the size of the present budget and the responsibilities that must be taken on, I feel that an alderman’s salary should be $49,000-$53,000 and the mayor’s $60,000 to $65,000.

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.

Mosley: For me, what it is now is extremely fair.

Question 4. Vicksburg now operates as 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?

Bailey: Our present commission form of government is working now, and has worked in the past. The best feature of our city government, in my opinion, is that it lacks an overall decision maker. No single official has the power or responsibility of deciding the overall direction of the city’s operations. All board members possess the same power. My objective is to achieve and acquire the most efficient operations possible, and to establish and maintain the services of capable people. It is my belief that the services of capable/qualified people are absolutely necessary if government is to function well.

Beauman: I feel that there are not enough people in Vicksburg and Warren County to support two governmental agencies. Our government is only as good as those we elect to serve, therefore the type of government is not what causes or solves problems. With approximately 50,000 citizens in the entire county, I cannot understand why some have to pay two and three times for the same things. Not only do we need to look at consolidating city and county government, we also need to look at the school district and its budget to see what could be done to make it more efficient. We have a great city, a great county and a great school district. But all can be better.

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.

Mosley: Change is long overdue. We need more cost efficient representation.