March 10, 2009
Tim Pratt -
STARKVILLE -- The Starkville Young Professionals are set to hold a public forum tonight for candidates running in the upcoming Starkville municipal election.
The forum is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the new Hilton Garden Inn on Highway 12, and will give the public a chance to question the candidates running for Board of Aldermen seats in Ward 1, Ward 3 and Ward 4. The Young Professionals will hold a second forum on March 31, which will feature candidates vying for seats in Ward 2, Ward 5, Ward 6 and Ward 7. A third and final forum will take place April 14 and feature the city''s mayoral candidates.
SYP Chairman Grady Dixon said the forums will give the community an opportunity to quiz the candidates on plans and policy ideas that might not always receive a lot of attention, such as sidewalk improvements and other issues.
"What we hope to do is, since most people quickly get a feel for the candidates'' opinions on major issues, we want to go a little further and let the audience ask them specific questions that aren''t as high profile," Dixon said.
The Young Professionals recently sent out a questionnaire to candidates about what policies they would push for if elected, and received responses back from many. The few who didn''t respond will not be allowed to participate in the forums because the Young Professionals already posted the other candidates'' responses on the group''s Web site, http://starkvilleyoungprofessionals.wordpress.com.
It would be unfair to allow some candidates to view other candidates'' responses before establishing their own answers, Dixon said.
Facing off tonight
At the forum tonight, Ward 1 candidates Ben Carver and Juliette Weaver-Reese will not participate because they qualified late last week, and the Young Professionals could not reach them in time to answer the questionnaire. The group had a deadline of 5 p.m. on March 6.
But fellow Ward 1 candidates Corey Bagwell and Mark Duncan, who are both Democrats, will attend, as well as Independent Ward 1 candidate Helen Eaves.
The candidates in Ward 1 are lined up to fill the seat of Alderman Sumner Davis, who has decided not to run for reelection.
In Ward 3, where Alderman P.C. "Mac" McLaurin also has opted not to run for reelection, two candidates are waiting in the wings for the chance to fill his seat: Democrat John Gaskin and Republican Eric Parker. Gaskin and Parker will be at the forum tonight.
Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey, a Democrat, is set to defend his seat in the upcoming election and also will be on hand to answer questions tonight. Corey''s Republican challengers, Nick Papas and John Michael Van Horn, also plan to attend.
"I would just encourage everybody who''s interested in the election to show up, even if they''re not in these wards," Dixon said. "What these aldermen do affects what happens in the whole city and people need to be aware of what''s going on."
No campaigning will be allowed at the forums. No person will be admitted if they are wearing campaign material, such as shirts, buttons, stickers or other similar items.