Leyens: Others misleading voters|[4/8/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 8, 2005

Mayor Laurence Leyens said Thursday his opponents in the upcoming city elections are misleading the public with their accusations and are announcing plans they cannot carry out from City Hall.

“The candidates are making statements about doing things that are simply illegal,” Leyens told members of Port City Kiwanis Club. “I just want to give you the facts.”

The club has been hearing from candidates weekly. Leyens, 40, is seeking a second term and told about 30 members of the club he is proud of his administration.

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“I think the best criticism I’ve gotten is, ‘He’s not a nice guy,'” Leyens said. “I hear that all the time, ‘but I like what he has done.'”

Leyens said that contrary to what other candidates have been saying, the city has not taken people’s homes or moved anyone out on the street. He said that although the city has demolished about 85 structures since Leyens took office, only one person was displaced and that he was moved into a Habitat for Humanity home.

Leyens also said a housing proposal from Warren County District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, 44, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, is flawed. Selmon suggested earlier this week using state Community Development Block Grant funds to redevelop dilapidated homes, but Leyens said those funds cannot be spent on housing.

He also questioned why Selmon, who has represented District 3 for nine years, would need to be elected to the office of mayor before implementing a housing plan.

“You’re a county supervisor and the county can apply for CDBG grants the same as the city, so why haven’t you applied for it?” Leyens asked.

He said that since 2001, the city has paid off about $12 million in debt borrowed by previous administrations, put about $6 million into improvements in the Kings area and made investments to attract industry, including new water wells in addition to remodeling the downtown area.

“We’ve completed more than 100 major projects that if I named anyone would easily recognize,” Leyens said.

Because Leyens is running as an independent candidate, his name will not appear on the ballot until the June 7 general election. In that contest, he will face the Democratic nominee; the Republican in that race, Shirley Newman Smollen, 69; and former Mayor Joe Loviza, 65, who is also running as an independent.

Selmon is vying with former Warren County District 2 Supervisor John Ferguson, 63; Eric Rawlings, 42, and first-time office-seeker John Shorter, 38, in the May 3 Democratic primary election. If none of the four polls a majority, a runoff will be May 17.

In the North Ward primary, incumbent Gertrude Young, 49, is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Warren County District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield, 47, and Rodney Dillamar, 45, a convenience store owner.

Independent candidates in that race are city employee Vickie Bailey, 36, and construction worker Tommie Rawlings, 41. The Republican in that race is Carl Yelverton, 58, a security officer.

In the South Ward, former Vicksburg police officer DaVon Grey, 46, and local hair dresser Pam Johnson, 39, are seeking the nomination and a chance to change incumbent Sid Beauman, 57, a Republican seeking his second term. There are no independent candidates in that race.