Water was a popular topic, as you can see in these videos of the Candidates’s Forum by AAUW. Same location (VSU Continuing Education Building) as the one Chamber held, but this time the audience got to ask questions. Yes, Virginia, they do all live in their districts, and some of them have widely divergent views about what cities or school boards should do.
John Hogan pointed out that a road issue could really be a drainage issue, so it’s necessary to look at context.
Calvin Graham Sr. said he was retired military, lived in the district, and had been spending a lot of time volunteering. He indicated the Dept. of Labor and the senior citizens building moving in were signs of growth in the district. He indicated drainage problems in the Spivey Lane area.
Issues?Asked by the audience what issues the candidates thought important, John Hogan said working together to finish projects.
Calvin Graham Jr. thought the widening of Forest Street and the overpass on Hill Ave., plus the water treatment plant.
John Hogan said communications were needed between the city and the county and finishing the water treatment plant in a reasonable amount of time while considering effects on citizens of the city and county was important.
Both expect no problems.
Renewable energy?John Hogan worried about the expense of solar panels, and gave a time to recover costs far too long. Calvin Graham Jr. said he’d have to research the question. Neither of them seemed well-informed on this question.
What do you do for a business?
John Hogan owns and operates a taxicab company and says he gets to meet all sorts of people and see everything.
Calvin Graham Jr. said Matthis Auditorium and various events such as Juneteenth could be used to bring in more business.
Calvin Graham Jr. said he liked to call it one area, but parts of southside were like a ghost town, plus around the overpass was an accident waiting to happen, so money needs to be spent there.
John Hogan said people from southside don’t go downtown, so there are contrasting priorities, such as historic preservation downtown vs. drainage southside, both of which need to be priorities, along with downtown businesses.
That’s a gully there we kind of have to cross over.
Calvin Graham Jr. synopsized his opening statement about military experience and time to do the job.
John Hogan said being elected wouldn’t change him, and said:
Not only do we have veterans within our district, but also we have other heroes as well, crossing guards, police officers, convenience store workers, day care workers. They are heroes as well, and they should be acknowledged as such. So if you put John Hogan in that seat November 5th: I gotcha.Alvin Payton Jr., the incumbent, said he was the captain of the 1972 state champion Valdosta High School football team, was head of the Kiwanis, Mayor Pro Tem, and has numerous other accomplishments, including working relationships with Lowndes County Commissioners.
Junior S. Jackson is much younger, but he is on the KLVB board, among other accomplishments, and he is concerned about providing jobs for graduates here.
Junior S. Jackson said jobs for college graduates and making a strategic marketing plan to accomplish that.
Alvin Payton Jr. said relocation of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant and jobs. He talked about work being done by the Industrial Authority among others to attract businesses, including the VLCIA director heading to France soon to talk to companies there.
Colleagues on the Council?
Alvin Payton Jr. said sometimes conflict is good, since everybody needed to have a point of view, and relationship building was important.
Junior S. Jackson said he didn’t forsee a problem. He talked about city staff and getting the people of the district involved.
Junior S. Jackson said he was for it and already had been campaigning for it.
Alvin Payton Jr. talked about the LOST tax, currently back in dispute. He advocated sticking with the same percentages as previously to meet the 17 October 2013 deadline. (And that’s what’s happening.)
Safe and social neighborhoods?
Alvin Payton Jr. advocated more neighborhood watches and continued support of the Valdosta Police Department.
Junior S. Jackson advocated scare tactics in schools.
Help young males in this area who may have lost hope?Junior S. Jackson pointed to himself as a good example.
Alvin Payton Jr. also pointed at himself and talked about his ten years of public education experience and how being an example of a better way was important.
Yes, both candidates live in their district.
Junior S. Jackson thanked the AAUW and said pick the best candidate.
Alvin Payton Jr. also thanked AAUW and also everyone else for participating. He asked for support to re-elect him.
Robert Yost, the incumbent, said he loved talking to people about the city and he’d worked hard for the district and the city in his twelve years on the Council. He said the university, the mall, neighborhoods, and I-75 in district 6 made it “very unique”, and there was a lot more work to do.
Richard Miller said he was a life-long resident of the area, as well as many of his relatives and ancestors; he’s an architect with a degree from Valdosta Tech and has taught at Lowndes High and owned a business in Remerton. He has received the historic preservation award for his work in restoring historic buildings, and he understands building and zoning codes. He said he was very concerned about residents of Meadowbrook Drive who had to deal with raw sewage.
Joseph Wheeler said he was for a two-term limit and a pay-as-you-go government. He works as a heavy equipment operator for the city, and he opposes SPLOST VII.
IssuesRobert Yost said rebuilding the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant was the most important issue, and SPLOST VII was needed to fund it.
Richard Miller said the sewage treatment plant and the force main to supply that plant were among the primary issues, and he already voted for SPLOST VII in early voting. Plus what happens if SPLOST doesn’t pass?
If you don’t vote for SPLOST, you will not be giving yourself a raise because property taxes will go to the maximum. Not only that, but that’s still not going to be enough funding to pay for the projects. So there’s still going to be another tax implemented on top of that.
The money will be loaned to the city and the county, but it has to be paid back. He also advocated all new projects using permeable paving to reduce stormwater runoff: government projects should be forced to do that, and incentives should be provided for private projects.
Joseph Wheeler said the city should pay for those projects through cuts and layoffs.
We don’t need Mathis City Auditorium. Shut it down.He also advocated not hiring a meter reader.
Demolition of historic buildings?Richard Miller said a lot of them look a lot worse than they are, although some were too far gone. He said the answer is to get private money involved in the rehabilitation.
Joseph Wheeler expressed outrage that the owner couldn’t demolish a building that had become “functionally obsolete”. He said owners should be given incentives to rehabilitate: “lower his property taxes”. Also get owners on either side to donate.
Robert Yost said it was Council’s job to protect and repair Valdosta’s beautiful historic buildings and businesses when possible, but it wasn’t always possible. Sometimes rules and regulations get in the way, and sometimes they help. In addition to preservation, he advocated tearing down abandoned homes and buildings that cause safety problems.
New wastewater treatment plant and how to fund it?
Joseph Wheeler said “Cut, cut, cut” and use donations and contractors (“1099”).
Robert Yost carefully distinguished the drinking water treatment plant, and the wastewater treatment plant. He pointed out the wastewater plant was required by federal regulations to be rebuilt, not fixed. He said he believes it will be finished in two years, and the force main will also be fixed, helping alleviate wastewater overflows in district 6. How do we pay for it?
My first question to Mr. Wheeler would be: You’re an employee of the city and you’ve talked about cutting. What’s your next job when we cut yours?
Yost said every council decision has repercussions and affects people in many different ways. He noted the Valdosta City Council had not raised anybody’s taxes and kept a balanced budget, which requires funding. He said visitors don’t pay to build local roads or emergency services, so “the easiest way, the best way” to get 30% to 60% of the $55 million to pay for these projects is through SPLOST, rather than property taxes or user fees.
Richard Miller also wondered what the question was. Moderator said the audience question actually said water treatment plant. Since nobody knew of any new water treatment plant, Miller assumed the question was about the wastewater treatment plant. “It’s mandated; we’ve got to do it.” He said it didn’t matter what else was in SPLOST; the main purpose was these water projects, and otherwise property taxes would have to go up.
Colleagues?Robert Yost: “Not as long as they vote the way I want them to.” He advocated continuing to work well together.
Richard Miller said it was important to bring new ideas to the table, and listen to personnel bringing forth issues and information.
Joseph Wheeler said yes there would be disagreements, “many of them, many topics, constantly.” But he expected they’d get through them, by coming over to his side.
Live in the district?Yes, yes, and yes.
Compensate residents for sewage on their property?
Joseph Wheeler wondered how you would calculate that compensation, and then advocated two free years without property taxes.
Robert Yost said he couldn’t discuss it since the city was being sued by the residents of Meadowbrook Drive.
Richard Miller said people had been dealing with this for five years, and the least the city could have done would have been to have people out there immediately to clean it up, and they were due some compensation.
ClosingRichard Miller said he is semi-retired, has the time, pledges to work for all the citizens, has friends on the County Commission, and was ready to work on issues such as WWTP and LOST.
Joseph Wheeler said thanks for the invitation and solicited votes.
Robert Yost also said thanks and said he wasn’t retired; he’s the COO of Special Olympics Georgia, and he wants to continue to serve after 12 years. He also put in a plug to vote for SPLOST.
Valdosta School Board District 1
Edgar Cornelius Tooley was not present.
Lizzie Shumphard gave a bio, including her extended family. Her main issue was the Pre-K program, followed by students who don’t speak English. She said she’d previously worked with the Southside Recreational Facility. She is for reducing class sizes. In closing, she said she had the experience in the classroom, and she wants students to get a good foundation at an early age, even if it takes getting retired teachers into the classroom.
Valdosta School Board District 2Vanassa L. Flucas, the incumbent, said she’s a transplant who’s been on the school board for several terms.
James L. Nelson put on a cap and gown and talked about the dropout rate and how 3/4 of the dropouts are black. Also low CRCTC scores, language arts, reading, especially in science, math, and social studies. He refered to this as the achievement gap, and said it was because of Title I, which he said may need funds redirection, given a 47% dropout rate in the black community.
James L. Nelson reiterated his platform from his opening, emphasizing the achievement gap.
Vanassa L. Flucas said tackling the graduation rate “not just for black students, but for all students” including getting students interested, and increasing parent participation; parents currently don’t even go to the school board meetings, and never show up at school unless there’s a problem with their child. “It’s also a home component.”
The candidates from the smaller cities, Dasher, Hahira, Lake Park, and Remerton, did not show up.
Hahira had its own forum see at the Hahira Historical Society, which most of the Hahira candidates attended, except the incumbent Mayor; the VDT writeup by Stuart Taylor 11 October 2013.
Here’s a video playlist:
Videos, AAUW Candidates’ Forum
Political Forum, Diane Holliman, President (AAUW),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
VSU Continuing Education Building Auditorium,
903 N Patterson St., Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 15 October 2013.