Positions clear as April 5 draws near
If Mayor McArthur Straughter needs any reassurance that he’s been viewed by most Yazooans as an effective leader, he needs to look no further than the fact that he’s still standing after such a competitive Democratic primary.During tough times voters have a tendency to take their frustrations out on the incumbents – regardless of whether or not the circumstances were within the control of those elected officials. Hard times have certainly visited Yazoo City lately. The impact of the struggling national economy was magnified on our community when Yazoo Motor Co. folded, taking with it about 50 good jobs and the city’s largest source of tax revenue.
The city was forced to respond by cutting salaries across the board, leaving some positions unfilled and eventually cutting some positions. Cutting salaries was the most unpopular choice for obvious reasons, particularly the salaries of police officers, but city officials saw it as the only way to keep from eliminating critical positions that provide services citizens demand. When the city finally had to make cuts, officials wisely chose to eliminate the building inspection department, which was well known for its ineffectiveness.
On the heels of such difficulties, Straughter faced a strong group of challengers in the primary. Diane Delaware, who Straughter defeated in a runoff election Monday, ran the most organized campaign I have ever seen on the local level. Delaware was a formidable opponent who, like Straughter, had supporters from all areas of the city.
I suspect Straughter’s cool-headed leadership in stressful times and the fact that the city kept its eye on the goal of job creation with some admirable achievements were qualities that many voters admired. On the other hand, mostly talk and little action by the city on dealing with neglected property issues and ongoing issues with crime, particularly in the downtown business district, helped fuel the opposition.
Straughter will now face Independent candidate Johnny Staples in the general election. Staples actually gave Straughter his endorsement in the primary, but I expect that he will clearly state his vision for the city’s future as Yazooans prepare to make their final decision.
Of course Staples and Straughter won’t be the only ones trying to get their message out before April 5.
Ward 1 incumbent Charles “Mickey” O’Reilly faces challenger Steve Kaminski. The two candidates have given some very different opinions on how this city should move forward, and the residents of Ward 1 will have to choose which vision is most in line with their own.
Ward 2 incumbent Dr. Jack Varner faces Gary Haymer. It’s a matchup between a political veteran and a newcomer. Varner is the kind of guy who you never have to wonder where he stands on any issue. He would be tough to beat by any challenger, but Haymer had made a strong impression during the recent debate and has proven to be a legitimate contender.
Ward 3 Alderman Clifton Jones is unopposed. That’s speaks volumes about his strength as a candidate. He’s relatively new at the job after winning the seat in a special election following the resignation of Alderman James Magee. The fact that no one challenged him suggests that no one thought they could win.
Ward 4 is a race that may not fully take shape until Friday, if even then. Right now it’s former Alderman Aubrey Brent Jr. against Independent candidate Sir Jonathan White, but incumbent Hattie Williams’ challenge of the election results could change things. The local Democratic Executive Committee will address the challenge Friday, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the issue is ultimately decided in Circuit Court regardless of how the committee rules this week.
Yazoo voters have plenty of time to get to know the candidates and make an informed decision about this city’s future. I also hope the candidates listen to each other. All of them have brought some good ideas to the table, and no matter who wins these elections, Yazoo needs all the good ideas it can get when it comes to leading this city into the future.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 30 March 2010 10:45)