Ward 2 Columbus Councilman Joseph Mickens speaks at a community meeting at First Christian Church Monday. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
Ward 3 Columbus Councilman Charlie Box speaks to constituents from Wards 2 and 3 at a community meeting at First Christian Church on North McCrary Road Monday night. At the meeting, city officials and the public discussed topics from traffic to petty crime.
Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
October 17, 2017 11:02:46 AM
An otherwise amicable town hall meeting Monday briefly became chippy when a Columbus councilman accused a former political opponent of lying about his address.
Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens and Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box hosted the meeting at First Christian Church near Columbus High School, along with officers from Columbus Police Department. The meeting was a chance for citizens to meet police officers and discuss crime and traffic concerns with city officials.
The argument came in the midst of a discussion about the use of the East Columbus Gym in Ward 2 and whether it should host more activities for teenagers to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. Eric Thomas, who ran for councilman against Mickens earlier this year, specifically requested there be basketball goals at the gym so that teenagers would play there instead of in driveways and neighborhood streets where they could be hit by traffic.
But Mickens argued there was no way to keep an eye on the teenagers at the gym.
"I'd rather see these kids playing in my yard, you get what I'm saying?" he said. "... Then I've got eyes on them. I know where they're at."
"So you're going to put a goal in your yard?" Thomas asked.
"No, that ain't what I said," Mickens said. "I said I'd rather see it than for them to just be running free in the community. And this meeting also is for citizens of Ward 2 and 3. Is everybody here from Ward 2 and 3?"
When Thomas said he lives in Ward 2, Mickens said: "I don't think you live there. ... This meeting is for citizens of Ward 2 and 3 if I'm not mistaken."
After the meeting, Thomas said he didn't know why his address had come up.
"That's just Mickens," he said.
Thomas qualified to run for councilman in 2017 during a process which included verifying his address. He said he hasn't moved since then. A Dispatch Voter Guide printed earlier this year listed his address as 3946 Hwy. 82E, Apt. G1.
Mickens did not make himself available for comment after the meeting.
The majority of the meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour, dealt with traffic and petty crime in Ward 3, constituents of which appeared to make up most of the audience. The topics ranged from auto burglaries to the possibly of installing speed bumps in high traffic areas.
Box said the issue that stood out to him was elderly constituents being afraid to call 911 -- even about issues like speeding and rowdy parties -- because they're worried their names will get out to the people they called police about.
Box and Police Chief Oscar Lewis told constituents when they call 911 to request their names not go out over the scanner.
"We ought to really watch that," Box said. "Because I wouldn't want them giving my name out if I called. And I have people tell me that all the time."
1. SOCSD board approves administrative moves STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
3. Columbus man arrested for allegedly molesting child COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Two injured when car crashes into Subway COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Spruill stays: Judge Ford's ruling ends yearlong challenge STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY