March 16 Candidate Forum Summary

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by Jeanie Barnett

In a forum sponsored by the Central Community Alliance and Central City Chamber of Commerce, Ron Erickson moderated as thirteen candidates spoke to the issues of the city.  The evening began with an enjoyable half hour concert by the CHS Jazz Band led my Mr. Bordelon. The opening prayer was offered by Kenny Cutrer of Victory Harvest Church.   Eagle Scout, Josh Walker led the pledge of allegiance.  Each candidate stood before the audience in the CHS Theater, spending one minute for their opening statement and two minutes to answer each of two questions specific to their office of candidacy. 

The first to appear were Chief of Police candidates. 

Police Chief Question #1:   Do you feel that the City of Central would be better served by its own complete service police department?

First up was incumbent, Doug Browning, who, after outlining his considerable qualifications and accomplishments in office, answered yes to the first question, but that we are a long way from being able to budget a police department.  It is a goal, to work toward, supplementing with full time officers right now so that we can tailor our response to the public.

After outlining extensive qualifications, challenger Wade Welborn answered that at this time we need to work with the Sheriff, as the budget for a full force department for Central is too expensive.

Police Chief Question #2:  If elected, how would you coordinate efforts to work cooperatively with the EBR Sheriff’s Office?

Doug Browning stated that he would do as he is doing now, and has done with three consecutive substation commanders and with Lieutenant Colonel Bobby Dale Calendar, whom he praised for their efforts in Central.

Wade Welborn said that the Sheriff handles the criminal cases. He has a 31 year relationship with Sheriff Gautreau and would assist on those criminal cases, but that he would concentrate on doing what the Sheriff Office cannot do; filling in the gap with a community oriented police department.

All candidates for Central City Council answered the following questions:

City Council Question # 1:  Are you in favor of single member districts and term limits?  Why or why not?

Answering yes to both issues were all challengers Tony LoBue, Mike Mannino,  Charles Lee Hinton, Wayne Messina, and one incumbent, Ralph Washington.

Incumbents Lucky Ross and Aaron Moak were opposed to both districting and term limits, while Joan Lansing is undecided on districts and against term limits and Louis DeJohn proposes the alternatives of divisions and staggered term limits. 

City Council Question #2:  Given the current contract for city services, as a council person what would you do to assure that the citizens are getting the best services for their investment?

Most candidates sited the benefits of privatization of our city services along with accountability measures and citizen feedback.  Lucky Ross stated that the City of Central pays $187 per citizen per year for our city services, while surrounding cities of Baker, Zachary, Port Allen and Denham Springs pay amounts ranging from 3 to 6 times that figure.

Charles Lee Hinton expressed his reservations with the current arrangement, wanting more itemization and contracting services with local contractors.

Both Mayoral candidates answered the following questions:

Mayoral Question #1:  What do you see as a solution to the various traffic problems in Central?

Incumbent Mac Watts answered that the solutions to our traffic problems are “time and money.”  He and challenger Jr. Shelton agreed that the major remedies are in process of being addressed; four-laning key thoroughfares such as Sullivan and Hooper and Magnolia Bridge, traffic studies and intersection improvements with synchronization. 

Shelton said of widening Hooper from Blackwater across the river to Watson, “That is our loop…We don’t need the Baton Rouge loop.”

Mayoral Question #2:  What is your vision for the future of the City of Central?

Mac Watts said, “The city of Central is to me the greatest place in this country to live.”  He lauded the nature of the city, with its conservative character and rural values and emphasized that they should be maintained into the future for our children and grandchildren.  

Jr. Shelton likened Central to an economic engine and emphasized the addition of appropriate businesses to move the city forward and sustain our lifestyle and maintain the rural fabric of Central with its peace and tranquility.  “Central can be the model city in the United States.”

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