March 8, 2013 11:04:18 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
In the first of a series of political forums hosted by the Columbus Exchange Club, Ward 2 incumbent councilman Joseph Mickens, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Susan Mackay discussed their platforms for the upcoming municipal election.
Each candidate was given 10 minutes to speak and then answered questions from the club members.
Mickens said his faith helped him during his first term in office.
"I'm a preacher and I have to be a preacher first and a politician second," Mickens said. "I think God has placed me on the council to try and pull people together. We need someone with a level head that can talk to the other councilmen. I have voted across party lines more than any other councilman. I don't see color -- I see what's right.
"During my term, we were able to see the soccer complex completed. I think you need a councilman who can work with others to get things done. I am currently looking for something to go in the old depot. I believe we can take the depot and turn it into a museum. We have artifacts at the police department and at the Hunt Museum. We need to bring them all together and put them in one place."
Mackay is a lifelong resident of Columbus. She is the owner of Party and Paper and is the third member of her family to serve on the city council. She was elected in March 2008 to fill the unexpired term of her husband, Doug Mackay, who died in office. Mackay's bid to retain the seat failed when Mickens defeated her by 36 votes in 2009.
"I am very proud of my hometown," Mackay said. "I want to see business growth and improve the quality of life for all Columbus residents. I would also like to bring in more tourism events to places like the soccer complex. We've seen a lot of growth in Columbus. I am glad to see work being done on the old river bridge at the Riverwalk. This could lead to more development on the island. I think it is important to work together with the county board, CVB, the Link and all of the other boards. We need to have someone that is fiscally responsible when it comes to spending the city's money."
Both candidates said failing infrastructure is a major issue in Ward 2.
"Infrastructure is a big concern," Mackay said. "It has been discussed that it would cost $80 million to fully repair the city's infrastructure. It is only getting worse. Something needs to be done. I also feel the street paving money should have been brought together. The council members need to take the politics out of this. The city engineer (Kevin Stafford) is more qualified to make these decisions. The council needs to work as a whole."
Mickens concurred with Mackay, but disputed Stafford's numbers.
"I agree the paving money should have been shared," Mickens said. "We spent over $700,00 paving the streets in Ward 2. You have to walk across party lines. Kevin Stafford came up with some figures I didn't agree with. He said it was going to cost $60 million to stop the flooding on Maple Street, I took $5,000 and stopped the flooding on Maple Street."
The deadline to qualify for the municipal election is today at 5 p.m. The primary election will be held May 7. A run-off, if necessary, will be held May 21. The general election is June 4.