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Mayoral Forum Thursday

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This Thursday, March 11, there will be a mayoral forum between the two candidates running for Mayor of Central. Jr. Shelton and Mac Watts will both be speaking at the forum in the Central High School theater. The event is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Central Community Alliance. Bro. Ron Erickson, President of the Chas,ber, will be moderating, and members of each of the two sponsoring groups will make up the panel. Candidates will take turns answering questions and responding to each other. The forum will run from 7 to 8 PM. Doors will open at 6; however, due to the size of the venue, seating is limited to the first 350 people who arrive, so get there early!

If you cannot make it to the forum in person, there are two ways to view it from home. Cox government channel 4 and channel 21 will be airing it on television. Also, CentralSpeaks.com will be filming the forum and posting the video on this website afterward so that you can view it at your convenience.

4 Comments

  1. Just Brenda

    March 11, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    channel 4 nor 21 did not air it???? so what happened? Is it gonna be aired on a different day?

    • dave

      March 12, 2010 at 8:17 am

      It will be on tonight (Friday) at 7 PM, Saturday at 8, and Sunday at 8:30. Sorry for the confusion. However, the video is already up on Central Speaks (in an article in the News section) if you want to see it now.

  2. JBL

    March 15, 2010 at 2:34 am

    I’m not sure if this post will interest anyone but I wanted to take this opportunity to respond on the recent Mayoral debate last Wednesday. I’ve spent the greater portion of my life listening to politicians (Republicans and Democrats) on the Federal, State, and Parish levels make promises and on how things need to be and proclaim that change is what’s needed to ensure the absolute best for the people. Obviously after listening to the recent debate last Wednesday nothing has changed.

    I would like to begin with the all too familiar phrase of, “A City in need of Change”… This is a statement that I have heard through-out this campaign namely from Mr. Jr Shelton and his coalition team of candidates. I have listened and researched both camps (Watts and Shelton), have seen the lines drawn, and often wondered what change is needed. After hearing the latest debate and spending the time to research their responses, I have taken the liberty to share this information with those citizens that maybe interested..

    Let’s begin with the questions that were asked and general answers that were given…I will offer my opinion also,

    1.Since permit fees have been such a concern with the public, what are your views on the current charges and procedures being implemented?

    Jr. Shelton – Commented that he understands that EBR subsidizes through there general fund but believes that if the City of Central would contract directly through Safebuilt rather than utilizing CH2M HILL as the middle man then the City would reduce the fees’. However, he did recognize that if the city was to contract directly through Safebuilt it probably would not be able to decrease the fees’ below what EBR currently charges.

    Mayor Watts – Explained how in the beginning process a committee was created which composed of Contractors, Council members, and Citizens to review and set the current fee structure. He acknowledged that the fees’ are well below the national average. He explained how neighboring municipalities subsidize through a general fund in order to circumvent the cost to the builders and developers.

    JBL “Opinion” – I understand Jr. Shelton’s concern but agree with Mayor Watts, that it’s not fair to the citizens in Central to have to utilize tax dollars so a builder, developer or homeowner can have a reduced permit fee. We already pay through our property taxes to EBR for the subsidizing of their fees in order to reduce the cost to someone building a house in south Baton Rouge or Scotlandville. If contracting directly with Safebuilt will reduce fees enough to keep from subsidizing, then I’m all for it. However, I ask this question…Why do homeowners who are building a house hire a general contractor and then let him hire all the subs to do the work? Maybe it’s because of liability reasons, reduction in overhead cost or maybe because of headaches….The general contractor is the middle man for a reason….

    2.What is your view on continuing the contract for city services?

    Mayor Watts – Is a must in order to continue to save money to ensure that the City of Central continues to have a surplus at the end of each fiscal year. Acknowledged how CH2M HILL has performed superbly over the past two years and has become very transparent to the citizens not as CH2M HILL but as the Central City Municipal Services. He explained that he receives a report every morning of where the crews are and that the City has even hired an inspector to oversee the crews daily.

    Jr. Shelton – Agreed that CH2M HILL is a must and the decision to contract with them was wise. He acknowledged that without privatization of City Services, would have cost the City millions in revenue. He explained how he believes the City needs greater oversight and to ensure that the citizens are getting the services that we are paying for.

    JBL “Opinion” – I believe the answer is very simple…Are we the citizens of Central getting better service with CH2M HILL than we were with the City of Baton Rouge? I was instructed the other day by an elected Central Official that upon incorporation the City of Baton Rouge, Parish of East Baton rouge submitted a bid to Central for $5,000,000.00 dollars to continue to maintain the services within our city….”TO MAINTAIN THE SERVICES IN OUR CITY” – The same services that they have neglected for the last 60 years….As I said the answer is very simple!!!

    3.Are you in favor of implementing the current proposed city master plan? Why or why not?

    Jr. Shelton – Absolutely in favor of continuing and finishing the current plan…He acknowledged that since we have invested 500K in three years we would be foolish not to utilize it. Agrees that it is very important to have a plan for the city to ensure proper growth but hopes that when we receive the final plan it is fair and consistent throughout the City. Attended his first Master Plan meeting two weeks ago…

    Mayor Watts – 100% in favor…Acknowledged that we were the first City to employ a Master Planner and that it was a priority at the beginning of his term. Since the implementation of our master planner, Zachary, Ascension and even EBR has followed suit. The plan was established in 2006 and saw at least 500 citizens offer their suggestions. Through State and Federal grants the City of Central was able to collect in excess of $225,000.00 dollars to off-set a percentage of the cost.

    JBL “Opinion” – I believe that it is very important to have a plan of action as to the way our city will grow. It is very important that we are fair and consistent but also believe that no matter how hard our City leaders try, not everyone will be satisfied with the outcome. I believe that without a Master Plan you would see Central beginning to look a lot like Denham Springs in that you may have a residential area with a Grocery Store stuck right in the middle. I applaud our local leaders for their efforts in acquiring grant funding to help off-set the cost and will say that I was one of the 500 residents that offered my suggestions in beginning.

    4.What is your opinion on affordable housing as it applies to density restrictions such as apartment complexes and mobile home parks?

    Mayor Watts – Absolutely against large-scale apartment housing, multi family dwellings, and large-scale mobile home parks. However, he is for affordable housing. Pointed out that there is a fine line between affordable and low rent housing. Have established ordinances to require such developments to adhere to certain standards and specifications to necessitate approval through the Planning Commission and City Council. Such developments will place extreme pressure to our infrastructure and school system and the school system is the engine that’s driving this project.

    Jr. Shelton – Admits that both he and the Mayor agree on this particular issue. He also included that he is against low rent and/or government subsidized housing. Acknowledged that Planning and Zoning is a tool and needs to be utilized to insure that our density levels do not burden our infrastructure and schools. He believes that the City needs to utilize these tools to reduce the size of subdivision developments because eventually it will burden the infrastructure and schools.

    JBL “Opinion” – I would have to agree with both candidates on this issue. I believe that large-scale apartment housing, multi-family housing units, mobile home parks, low rent and government subsidized housing will only diminish what we have all worked so hard to get away from. I think the standards that our leaders has set to this point restricts that from happening and it pleases me to know that I want have to worry about crime filled complex’s being built next to my property. Obviously, failing infrastructure and overcrowded schools has to be a priority. I believe that our current City and School leaders know this based on the efforts that our school board have taken to construct new school buildings for our children and grand-children. I also think that steps have been taken with our infrastructure when you look at the recent efforts to hire PEC Engineering to oversee the road rehabilitation program.

    5.What plan do you have for the economic growth of our city while protecting and sustaining our current businesses?

    Jr. Shelton – The businesses in Central are the backbone of our economy. Mr. Shelton acknowledged that he is pleased with the Economic Development Foundation but disagrees with the petitioning of the large-scale box stores. He stated that such stores bring low wage employment and produces a very high turnover rate and will not place money back into the community. He looks to bring in sole proprietorship, entrepreneur, and professional businesses so that our young families can graduate college and work here in Central.

    Mayor Watts – We have created an Economic Development Foundation to bring in the businesses that are beneficial to the City. Through a $75,000 grant thru the City Parish we have hired an Economic Development Consultant who has worked in twelve different cities and eight different countries helping those entities develop economically. He acknowledged that business brings business, which results in friendly competition. He stated that being a small business owner himself, he realizes all too well how important small business development is. However, he did express how Wal-mart is the backbone of the sales tax revenue to the City.

    JBL “Opinion” – Here’s the trickery of becoming our on City. I’m not sure if most Central residents know, but the only property tax that comes back to our city is the portion that was voted upon by our citizens for our school system. We receive NO property taxes directly to our City government. The only tax revenue that we have is based through the collection of sales tax.

    Now here comes the trickery…We all want our city to maintain the small country living that we have all come to love and cherish. The problem there is, if we want to survive as a City then we have to collect as much sales tax as we possibly can, which unfortunately means bringing in businesses. This is why our Master Plan that our current leaders have devised will inevitably become priceless to our growth and way of living. Obviously our small businesses are very important and have been instrumental in the success of our City, but unless we plan to go to war with EBR for our property taxes back we have no other choice but to recruit businesses. I understand what Jr. Shelton is saying and agree with his passion, but the facts are, big businesses produce much more sales tax which in turn increases a greater portion of the cities revenue. Who’s to say we can’t have both…Big businesses and smaller sole proprietorship, entrepreneur, and professional businesses.

    6.Do you feel that the City of Central would be better served by a police department rather than the present service with the Sheriff’s Department?

    Mayor Watts – No I do not, it is simply a cause of economics…the cost to create a local police force would be extremely too expensive. According to the Lawrason Act the City is required to employee a Police Chief but not a police force. However, the city budgets $31,000.00 per year which is regulated by the Chief of Police towards extra Sheriff Deputies patrolling within our City. The Mayor went on to describe some comparison cost from other Police Departments (Baker & Mandeville) with fewer residents, fewer square miles to patrol with an excess budget of 3.1 million and 5.1 million dollars. Mayor Watts stated that he has met with Sherriff Geautreaux on many occasions to discuss the possibility of a contractual agreement so more deputies can be on the roads within the corporate limits of Central.

    Jr. Shelton – It goes without saying that it would be too costly to have our own Police Department. However, an increased budget towards the aid of crime prevention and public safety issues within our city is imperative. Mr. Shelton acknowledged that it’s important to look to the future when the day may come that the Sheriff’s department may need more money. He would like to enter into a contract with the sheriff’s department so we can keep the deputies within the city limits.

    JBL “Opinion” – Real simple…If we develop our own police force then we will have no other option but to raise taxes. I am against additional taxes in Central. I believe that due to the unbelievable efforts of our Council and Administration over the last term, we are in a position to possibly utilize some of our positive surplus towards extra sheriff patrols and/or maybe a contractual agreement with the Sheriff’s Department.

    7.Do you foresee the need to increase our current taxes for the continued operations of the City of Central?

    Jr. Shelton – It is important that our businesses flourish and we continue to grow so we can survive from the sales tax revenue. Shelton acknowledged that although taxes are a sour subject, one day we will have to possibly face the increase of taxes. He did state that he hopes it’s not in the next 4 years or even 8 years but one day we may face that issue. He believes that if our citizens can see that their tax dollars are being utilized towards what it was intended for then the citizens will gain trust, and will be more susceptive to passing future tax bills…Mr. Shelton stated that although the City has 1.3 million dollars from the franchise agreements, none of the money has been dedicated as of yet into the budget towards street, drainage, and bridge repair. He would like to see that money dedicated.

    Mayor Watts – The City has a combined surplus of $950,000.00 as well as generated revenue thru the Franchise agreements with Demco, Entergy, and Cox Communications that total 1.3 million dollars. Although the 1.3 million dollars is not part of the projected surplus it has been earmarked for Emergency Services ($450,000) drainage, street repair, and bridge repair ($850,000). The Mayor precluded by saying that his administration and Council has been very fiscally responsible and that he is very proud of that fact and he will continue to be fiscally responsible.

    JBL “Opinion” – First let me begin by saying that we have been taxed enough…My belief is that the residents in Central have been beat up enough with increased taxes over the years from the Parish. I am proud to see that our residents stood their ground and voted down the last two tax bills that kip Holden tried to pass. We all understand that taxes is what insures the survival of cities but it appears to me that we are surviving without increased property or mil tax. That’s why it is very important to recruit not only the small professional businesses but also the big businesses (Box Stores) such as a Lowe’s or Home Depot. Sales tax is our survival or it starts hitting us in the pocket book…

    I applaud our current leaders for insuring that we have a surplus as well as additional revenue through the franchise agreements. I agree, we do see an increase in our utility bills but it sure is cheaper than increased taxes. To know that we have money in the bank to help in the event that we are pounded again this year by storm equal to Gustav is incredible. To know that we have monies earmarked for street, drainage, and bridge repair is incredible. To know that all this has happened in 5 years is unbelievable. I do think it is important to start utilizing this earmarked money especially the drainage funds instead of sitting on it. I would imagine that some of this will go towards the street rehabilitation contract with PEC Engineering that was discussed in the last council meeting.

    8.During your administration, how would you collect the fines and enforce the violations of city ordinances?

    Mayor Watts – This is an issue that has been ongoing for two years. Representative Cliff Richardson was successful in passing a legislative bill allowing Central to implement a Mayor’s Court. However, it was determined thru a constitutional amendment that a Mayor’s Court was illegal. In the meanwhile we have created an Administrative Adjudicated Office that utilizes a Magistrate and he will receive and review all issues pertaining to the violation of city ordinances and the fines will be collected by a clerk from City Services (CH2M HILL). The Magistrate is a Central resident, Judge Phil Miley. The City Services will issue the notices and the Chief of Police will serve the summons to appear. The fines will be collected by a clerk and placed into the proper area of the City budget. Mayor Watts commented that they were not perfect but have continued to work very hard to insure that we have a system that will enforce the many areas of Central that have blighted property.

    Jr. Shelton – We always had the ability to collect fines and enforce violations and all they had to do is go to District Court. Although, it was understandable that we wanted to keep the fines in the city of Central. Shelton acknowledged that although he understands that there were some legal issues pertaining to the Mayor’s Court, we were always in a position to utilize an Adjudicated Office. We should have had something in place so our City ordinances could have been enforced. He commented on the ordinances and how he appreciated and understood the process of transferring the ordinances’ from EBR to Central in order to get the city running. He stated that after five years the ordinances’ that were only for EBR should have been removed and the others tailored to our city. He went on to explain that this is why we left Baton Rouge, to remove us from under their foot and give us the ability to create what is unique to Central.

    JBL ‘Opinion” – Obviously this is something that we ultimately have to have as a City. I can truly understand both sides to this issue even though both candidates agree to the importance of the court system. We should have had something earlier into to the process but let’s not forget that although we incorporated in 2005, this did not begin 5 years ago. This began 2 years ago. If you remember, CH2M HILL was not on board until March of 2008; therefore the City would have had to hire its on Code Enforcement Officer, City Clerk and budget money towards the distribution of the notices. If you spend 6 to 12 months trying to have a legislative bill passed and then find out that it’s unconstitutional, it doesn’t leave much time to start up early.

    Ordinances have been a hot topic throughout this election. I would have to agree with Mr. Shelton that our Council should have gone back to revisit what didn’t apply to us and cut it loose. Tailor what did and start enforcing…Of course much of this, at least as it pertains to nuisance ordinances’, is a moot cause considering we had no court system in place anyway.

    I wanted to revisit the all too familiar phrase, “A City in need of Change”…As I stated earlier this is a statement that has been used by Mr. Shelton and his coalition team of candidates..After listening to the debate I can’t help but notice that the majority of the issues that were discussed were agreed upon by both candidates’ (Watts and Shelton).

    •They both agreed that CH2M HILL is vital to the financial success of the City-
    •They both agreed that the implementation of the current Master Plan is a must-
    •They both agreed that they are against large-scale apartment complexes, Mobile home parks, low income and government subsidized housing.
    •They both agreed that Economic Development is key to the success of our City through increased sales tax revenue.
    •They both agree that to fund our local Police Department would mean to increase taxes. They both agree to contract with the Sheriff’s Department for increased patrol inside our city.
    •They both agree with enforcement of ordinance violations and keeping the revenue generated through the fines here in Central.

    That leaves two issues that they didn’t agree on:

    •Permitting Fee’s…
    •The need to increase our current taxes…

    Now, I’m just an old man who never received any type of formal education but I don’t think it takes a Rocket Scientist or Brain Surgeon to see that these two Mayoral candidates agree on just about every main issue that has arisen. I just don’t see where our city is in need of change.

    As I stated in an earlier post on this site, I was never a huge supporter of Mac Watts and some Council Members, but we have to give credit when credit is due…They not only kept their promises of not raising taxes, they have put our City in a position to where we have almost a $1,000,000.00 dollar surplus. The grass is getting cut, the drainage is getting fixed, the businesses are moving in, the trash is staying out…

    Why would we ever want to change this…Is everything perfect? NO….Will they make mistakes in the future? YES… Have we improved over the past 5 years? YES… Are we headed in the right direction? YES….

    Knowing now that our current Council and Mayor is 100% against raising TAXES……They haven’t done it in 5 years and are continuing on the same platform of no new TAXES……Are you willing to take the chance and elect a whole new slate of people who has proven nothing….

    Sorry, but it appears to be a no-brainer for me……

    JBL

  3. Mike Mannino

    March 19, 2010 at 11:11 am

    JBL,
    Excellent breakdown but I would like to comment on some of you assumptions:

    1- PERMIT FEES- I dont think you quoted MR. Shelton correctly. His position is that we could save up to 30% on permit fees without passing anything on the citizens in the form of subsidies. You analogy of someone using a general contractor actually makes Mr. Sheltons point quite well. Having helped to build dozens of houses for people as the contractor, most people are scared to take this on as they are not capable and are willing to pay someone to handle. Usually, a contractor will charge 10-20% for basically organizing this when in reality, they could with a little effort. The same applies here. We are certainly capable of coordinating this and saving some of the middle man fees.

    2- CITY SERVICES- No claim was made by either that Chm2hill was doing a bad job. However, they can improve with greater oversight and performance indicators to help them show where their weaknesses are. This is one area I am very familiar with as I deal with these type contracts daily. I require a monthly report of KPI’s to trend performance data. Chm2hill has to be capable of this since they are a big time national company. I suspect we have never asked the right questions. By requiring this, we can get more work for the same money. Now for the issue around the money we are saving, if we are not delivering services at the expense of providing services, we have not accomplished our goal. I can tell you that is the case because I have heard of complaint after complaint about ditches that have not been cleaned despite the Mayor and council members coming out to look, People are being told we dont have the money.
    3- MASTER PLAN- Mr. Shelton agrees and so do I that having a plan for growth is a necessity. But after watching years of the Horizon Plan in EBR being trampled on by developer after developer, I can reasonably assume its not worth the paper its written on if you don’t have a Mayor and Council committed to enforcing it. Also, I dont know if you realize but the ‘plan” has no consideration for infrastructure that must be in place before approving pieces and it also doesnt consider teh main reason we started a city, our Schools. Do you know that when the 2 new schools are finished, they will be at capacity with no consideration for the 1200 homes approved here ? What are we going to do about that except slow down development ? By the way, 500 people is less than 2% of the population. Its like your little finger controlling what your whole body does.
    4- AFFORDABLE HOUSING- Do you realize that a 1200 sq ft home costs 170K in Central ? How much smaller can you go ? Thats a lot of money for a starter home. Doesnt matter anyway. Large scale projects such as the one off Frenchtown and Lovett have as much or more impact. Both of these were approved during the current administration. So we have a picture of how this group handles these requests.
    5- ECONOMIC GROWTH- Mr Shelton is in favor of more technology business and smaller mom and pop operations. Mr Watts, for big box stores for the revenue. On this one, its been proven over and over that big box stores dont increase tax revenue as they simply run the business’s out that were collecting taxes and replace them. Now I dont totally agree with that. There are some situations such as the Walmart, where you dont hurt locals because the product doesnt currently exist or you draw from across the city line. A Home Depot would certainly run 2 business’s out and replace them without increaing revenue by any significant amount. We should be wary of this when approving new commercial.
    6- POLICE FORCE- Neither seem to be hearing the public on this one. I have heard it loud and clear. We need more police presence in Central. Traffic enforcment is does not exist and other petty crimes are increasing tremendously. We will have to address, probably by supplementing with a municipal department for minor crimes.
    7-TAXES- Nuff said. Both are against any increases at this time.
    8- FINES AND COLLECTION- Mr Shelton stated we have had the ability to collect fines where the Mayor has been working to find a way. It appears to me that the Mayor views this as a money making issue vs an enforcemnt issue. My main concern is enforcment with the fine as a means to pay for it.

    So, my conclusion is a bit different than yours. I do see one as the status quo and one as an agent of change. Is it a Grand Canyon difference between the 2 ? Probably not but these are distint differences that can sway a person on way or the other. For me, it does because I dont see any movement by the current administration to move towards the middle. If I did, I might agree with you that its not worth the disruption of new people comimg in……

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