Issues prominent as election looms

Friday, May 1, 2009

Unemployment, industrial development and taxes are among the topics Lewisburg Council candidates are hearing from voters, according to the men running in two ward races with competition in the election that ends Tuesday night.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Early voting ended Thursday. Leland Cardin and Ronald McRady face off in Ward 4 where Councilman Phil Sanders is retiring. Ronnie Joe Hudson is running the 2nd Ward seat held by Hershell Davis who's running for re-election.

Meanwhile, Barbara Jackson and Jerry Freeman are campaigning to succeed Bob Phillip[s who's not running for re-election. Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. is running unopposed.

Candidates for the ward races with competition were asked the same questions: What are voters telling them? What should they be told? What are the issues?

McRady focused on city land purchases for the business park along Mooresville Highway and construction of a building the city has ready for any prospective new employer. Carden endorsed steps to attract new industry and suggested downtown redevelopment will help that. Davis acknowledged disagreements over the spec building, but expressed confidence that it will be sold. Hudson said, people want change.

"Our main concern is the economy," McRady said. "We have some empty buildings in the old industrial park and we need to make places available, but in the last four months we've invested $1.9 million for the spec building" in the new business park.

"They said that would be matched 50-50 by TVA and a month and a half later, they came back and TVA wasn't matching it," he said. "Then they bought 46 acres for $250,000."

Calling that money spent on "speculation," McRady said, "The people are concerned about that."

He doesn't expect to support more spending on "spec buildings," and while he didn't know exactly what's to be done about it because he's not elected yet, but if he is, McRady said, "I assure you that I'll look into it."

Carden has also spoken about voters' financial concerns, but took a different stance on the issue.

"In these difficult times," he said, "we need to work to develop a diverse industrial base for the city and the county, and provide business and economic opportunities for the people who live here."

Carden acknowledges concerns about taxes and struck a hopeful note on the subject: "From what I've seen, we (the city) can continue to be financially viable without raising taxes.

"But I believe we need to find cooperative ways of meeting the needs of the citizens that arise," Carden said, turning to another method of economic development that he's seen successful elsewhere and hopes to provide here.

It's "to reclaim the downtown business district as a place people can shop, dine and have as a viable place," Carden said. "It would be helpful in attracting corporate development."

Business leaders scouting new locations "look at your downtown" as an indication of pride in place and the viability of the community, he said.

Carden and McRady have examined Lewisburg's latest audit.

"My concern was one finding out of the whole city," McRady said of one thing accountants found that was imperfect in what Mayor Bob Phillips saw as an otherwise spotless examination of the financial books.

A "finding" is a part of an auditor's report and it can be as serious as revealing theft by the immediate past town manager in Cornersville, or as benign as noting the city didn't have an inventory of what it owns, or a depreciation schedule that's incomplete.

Lewisburg's finding was on the Water Department and said its accountant ought to be provided more training in new accounting requirements.

"In my view," Carden said, "we have valuable and experienced city employees... who have the city's best interest at heart..."

Carden called the "finding" an "insignificant" matter.

McRady's professional life has been with two state departments, working in finance and administration, so he's reviewed audits and was interested in finding out more about how the city's audit was conducted.

"All I saw were financial statements," he said after having a copy of the city's audit since the Council meeting last month.

The other ward race with competition is between Hudson and Davis. As with calls to Carden and McRady, the Ward 2 candidates were asked what voters are telling them and what they think the voters should know.

"I've heard from a lot of people," Hudson said. "They want a change... I think I can give that to them.

"I've got good responses on the campaign trial," he said.

When he announced his bid for the seat held by Davis, Hudson said he was running for that seat on the Council and not against the incumbent.

Hudson complimented management of the city and on Thursday morning, he said that during his campaign, "I haven't heard any bad remarks about the people who are there.

"I think the people in my district want to see more things that would benefit them and more jobs in the city and the county," he said.

Hudson acknowledged the low voter turnout so far, adding, "I'm hoping that Tuesday would be better. I hope the people get out and vote this time."

Davis said, "It's kind of a quiet election this year. I haven't heard a lot of controversy... It's an off-election year."

Voters oppose new taxes, he said. "I don't see anything that's going to make a bigger budget, unless this economy picks up... We're trying to get a new budget ... without getting something going, except selling the spec building."

Garbage truck should be used more efficiently, Davis said. As for a request for another truck and dealing with recyclables' collections after trucks haul garbage, he said, "We need a clean truck for recycling. We may be able to refurbish an old truck for the recycle route.

"Everybody seems to agree... We've done a good job," he said, noting disagreements on the spec building and TVA's lack of participation. "It's been things like that that we don't have control over. We'll still fill it."