• 50°

Kings now the focus of city election

The six candidates for Vicksburg Mayor and the three for North Ward Aldermen faced North Ward residents Monday night at Bethlehem M.B. Church in the Kings community, with drainage and mudslides, activities for youth and the candidates’ knowledge of the Kings area topping the list.

All six candidates for mayor: Mayor George Flaggs Jr., Charles Selmon, Mitchell Dent, Jennifer Thomas, Willie Robinson and Darryl Hollingsworth, and aldermen candidates, North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, John Carroll and Troy Kimble attended the forum presented by the North Ward Community Political Forum.

And several candidates challenged the records of Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield.

Since Kings was annexed in the 1990s, present and past administrations have been criticized for a lack of action to improve that section of the North Ward, with residents citing a lack of recreational facilities, drainage problems and mud slide problems that have gone unresolved.

“You don’t want anything different up here than they want any place else in the city of Vicksburg,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said. Mayfield told the resident he has family ties in the area and has spent time talking with residents and learning what they wanted.

He said the Board of Mayor and Aldermen were working to pave streets and build a park.

Kings, Thomas said, was a place she and her friends used to go to when they were in school.

“What disappoints me about this area, is it was actually better then than it is now,” she said, adding when she returned from the military, she realized “nothing has changed here; it’s actually gotten worse.”

When she was younger, she said, there were things to do, adding she would come to Kings with her parents and had friends living in the community. “Now I come up here and there’s nothing for me to do.”

Before deciding to run for mayor she said, talked with residents in Kings.

“I want to make sure we are a Vicksburg of one,” Thomas said, “We are not separated by socio-economic standards, we’re not separated by educational standards … I want us to be a Vicksburg of opportunity, a Vicksburg of one where we can all work together, we can all have the same opportunity. Every child in Vicksburg has a right to have a quality education and every child has a right to have the same opportunities as other people in our community.”

Two candidates criticized the current administration for what they perceive as a lack of attention to Kings, while a third, Robinson, blames Kings’ demise on the city’s enforcement of the building codes.

“Kings community, how long do you have to wait?” Selmon, who is the Warren County District 2 supervisor asked. “How long did you have to listen to excuses why people are not doing the job they’re supposed to be doing? How long are you going to be second-class citizens to everybody else?

“One way to kill a community is to not put money in it; act like you don’t care. We’ve got some leaders who have come up and say, ‘I did this and I did that,’ but when it comes up to Kings, (and) actually doing something, they give excuses why we can’t do this and why we can’t do that.”

Selmon took another shot at the administration later in the forum after Flaggs said he was dedicating $1 million out of the remaining $9.2 million in the capital improvements bond issue to improve recreational facilities in Kings, and bring facilities that can be utilized by youth in the area.

“They shouldn’t have to have to go to Bazinsky to do what they want to do,” he said.

“It’s amazing, after 31/2 years now all of a sudden it (Kings recreation) becomes important,” Selmon said. “If it becomes important to those who want to give you the smoke screen. It’s amazing how 3 1/2 years went by and our children are now getting top priority. Recreation has not been a top priority to build any type of community center, any type of recreation activity.”

Kimble said he looked at future plans for the city, adding, “guess what I didn’t see? I didn’t see anything about Kings.”

“When you annex something, you want to build it up,” Kimble said. “I’ve heard excuses and I’ve heard nonsense. It’s time to stop all this; it’s time to do some action for what we need to do for this community, and it’s not separating Kings and Vicksburg.”

Kimble questioned why the community had no grocery or discount store. “You need someone who’s accountable.”

He said later a lot has been done in Kings, but more needs to be done. Referring to a comment Mayfield has said about the board voting together 97 percent of the time, Kimble said, “it appears that vote is benefitting other areas than the North Ward. Let’s get some of that 97 percent to benefit the North Ward as well, that’s what we’re asking about — being a part of the (city’s) 25-year plan and other plans that we’re doing.

“If we’re going to compromise, let’s compromise for everyone as a part of, because we (Kings) are not on a level playing field and we need to be.”

Mayfield said he had “no earthly idea what my opponent (Kimble) is speaking about. He needs to go do his homework before he starts talking.”

Mayfield said the city’s 25-year plan includes plans for Kings. He also touched on plans for the city’s Kuhn Hospital property to build homes and a park on the property.

Dent said the city should be more aggressive in getting things done for Kings.

“There has to come a time when you have to challenge the status quo. You’ve got to continue to fight for those things that will make this community more attractive,” Dent said. “This community has a lot going for it. We just have to work together.”

On the issue on flooding and slides in the area, Mayfield said the city has hired contractors to clean out drainage and ditches responsible for backwater flooding. “We’re doing what we can,” he said.

“All this mud you see over here (referring to the mud slides). It (the land) belongs to the military park, it belongs to Entergy, it belongs to about 13 different landowners. None of that belongs to the city,” he said. “We are left with the aftermath.”

Carroll said the city needs to take steps to ensure the ditches, drains and bayous in Kings needed to be cleaned more consistently, adding the community has to work as a unit to get what’s needed.

“We can’t come down here just around election time and trying to change everything. We’ve got to do it from day one.”

Looking at recreation, Carroll said he supported building recreation facilities and also recommended the city use available property to have small community centers to help young people and hold after school programs.

Thomas, however, said the main issue for Kings was education.

“If we don’t educate our youth, we’re going to miss a whole generation,” she said. “We want to build the body, but we don’t want to build the mind. We have to give all of our children an opportunity. If we don’t educate our children, give them something good to be productive. It doesn’t matter how well their bodies look, because we’re not preparing them for the future. We need to stop separating Vicksburg from Kings. Everybody needs the same opportunity.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John