2nd Debate Exposes Generational Differences

The candidates gathered for a mayoral forum to discuss issues for the special election.

The candidates gathered for a mayoral forum to discuss issues for the special election. Photo by Trip Burns.

— In the second forum for the Jackson mayoral race, political rivalry was still holding strong — and may be getting stronger.

Candidates fielded several rounds of questions during the NAACP-sponsored forum that focused on their plans for their first 100 days, crime reduction, abandoned property, and the metro transit system.

The older candidates emphasized their experience, while the younger candidates talked about the need for change and bringing about better leadership.

Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber, attorney Chokwe Lumumba, and Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon pointed to infrastructure as a top priority during the first 100 days of their administrations.

Lumumba said he wants to look for ways to turn the city’s infrastructure problems into development opportunities. Yarber appealed to a need for transparency, saying he has a plan for tracking the city’s progress on big development projects online.

It seemed almost everyone had a different idea about what should be done to help the Jackson Police Department and how crime can be reduced.

Johnson and Regina Quinn, an attorney and past mayoral contender, said the solution to lowering crime lies in predictive policing technologies and strategies and better equipment for JPD.

Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester believes there is a need to build more jail cells and he added that jobs and after-school programs are key to decreasing crime. Some officials have said that Jackson needs a jail of its own.

Democratic State Sen. John Horhn felt that his more recent experience with crime —Horhn was attacked and had his home burglarized — in his own neighborhood has encouraged him to look into more preventative crime-stopping measures.

Albert Wilson, a local business and former city council candidate, said his experience as “a true child of the struggle” prepared him to deal with crime.

The Rev. Francis P. Smith said he would even consider bringing the military to Jackson streets if it meant keeping people safe.

Some of the more colorful responses were given when candidates were asked about what should be done about abandoned property in Jackson. Gwendolyn Ward Osborne Chapman, another former hopeful for Jackson's top job, said that if it were up to her, all abandoned homes would be torn down. Quinn said that she is willing to go as far as putting people in jail for not taking care of property.

A bit of drama unfolded when Yarber addressed Lumumba saying, “Your dad was one of my heroes,” to which Lumumba responded with appreciation and told Yarber that if he liked his platform so much, he’d appreciate his vote.

Some of the candidates felt differently about what should be top priority when it comes to the city’s metro transit system, JATRAN. Barrett-Simon would like to see JATRAN vehicles run on alternative fuels. Priester felt the city needed better bus service for kids so that students were getting home safely and at a reasonable time.

An audience member asked the candidates to explain the meaning of the slogan late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba adopted "One city. One aim. One destiny."

Most candidates said it meant unifying the people of the city. Barrett-Simon said that an understanding that everyone has something to “bring to the table” is vital in unifying the people of Jackson, while Smith felt that diversity needs to become more acceptable within Jackson.

There will be a mayoral candidate debate tonight at 7 p.m. at Rose E. McCoy Auditorium at Jackson State University.

CORRECTION APPENDED ABOVE: Barrett-Simon called Jackson Free Press to state that she did not say Jackson needs more jail space but instead said, “What we do not need is more jails.” The reporter apologizes for the mistake.

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