March 27, 2014
Seven Jackson, Mississippi mayoral hopefuls appeared at a Leadership Jackson Alumni Association-sponsored forum today at the Mississippi Public Broadcasting auditorium. The forum was moderated by Reverend Edward OConnor, Dean of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
The format was a follows: Opening statement, respond to four questions asked individually by panelists and then a closing statement. Because of the number of candidates and the relatively short time – one hour – each response lasted from 30 – 60 seconds. Below are my notes from the forum. Comments to this post are welcome and invited, Every effort was made to present an accurate synopsis. Corrections or comments from others in attendance are welcomed, however, please note that they will be reviewed before posting.
Margaret Barrett-Simon – Stressed that she had been in office 29 years.
John Hohrn – Been involved in worker rights and politics for a long time; running because he loves Jackson and wants to move forward.
Harvey Johnson – Spent entire working life as a public servant.
Chokwe A. Lumumba – Best person to carry on his father’s vision.
Melvin Priester – I recognize no real progress unless we work together.
Regina Quinn – Move Jackson forward.
Tony Yarber – Three children and wife; we’re everyday people.
QUESTION 1: What specific, policies, actions, tools do you propose?
Margaret Barrett-Simon – Must address crime situation; must get neighborhood associations involved; touted programs and initiatives.
John Hohrn – When he got in Senate he focused on economic development; chaired the committee; negotiated with Nissan, casinos, etc.; talked just today with some businesses that want to locate in Jackson. “I put together deals.” Will leverage.
Harvey Johnson – When I was in office we stablished “Jobs for Jacksonians program; will continue it; Grants, not just loans, to small businesses; touted his programs and initiatives.
Chokwe A. Lumumba – “We” got the one percent tax; require 60 percent of labor force on projects be Jacksonians; 50 percent be minorities and women; encourage cooperative model of business ownership.
Melvin Priester – Reshapre departments; use public workers instead of outsourcing; open up the bid process to encourage economic development; training; take bid process to public; change permitting process to make more business friendly.
Regina Quinn – Make sure small businesses stay with infrastructure projects on which they win bids and “not get looped out” once project starts;
Tony Yarber – Small businesses have opportunities for City contracts; mayor needs to be connector between City and schools.
QUESTIONS 2: What will you do to increase transparency of mayoral appointees, especially school board appointees?
Margaret Barrett-Simon – Our schools are failing our children. We need to have a dialogue about school board appointees; what we have now is not working.
John Hohrn – Schools are failing. Must have accountability of all appointees. Should be legislation to remove school board members if they are not performing. Mayor must share vision for school board, etc.
Harvey Johnson – Got legislation to have seven school board members instead of five so that all of city was represented; included groups to help me set a profile; open to an improved method for selecting school board members.
Chokwe A. Lumumba – School board should be elected.
Melvin Priester – Disagree that school board is the problem with schools; I’ll be more hands-on.
Regina Quinn – Board needs to understand the vision of the mayor; we should find out what’s working and replicate it.
Tony Yarber – Selection process is flawed; set up vetting process for appointees; brought in outside group to educate Council; in favor of elected school board.
QUESTION 3: How will you transform the perceived image of Jackson, both inside and outside of the city?
Margaret Barrett-Simon – Majority of City employees do a beautiful job; “We can no longer let others define who we are.”
John Hohrn – Need to increase pay for City employees; Often, our workers are without direction.
Harvey Johnson – Customer-centered training; we trained 400, but City has 2,200 employees; we have to believe in ourselves – and we don’t.
Chokwe A. Lumumba – We need to increase pay for City employees.
Melvin Priester – Put Hinds County Tax Collector Eddie Fair in charge of training so we can have customer service like in his office; ask young people of city what they suggest.
Regina Quinn – Training – training – training; evaluate the supervisors as well as the employees.
Tony Yarber – We need to market the city. Our hospitality will be the best, and hospitality they will not forget.
QUESTION 4: What can we do to move Jackson forward? How will you as Mayor lead us?
Margaret Barrett-Simon – Appoint good people in City departments and leave them alone; bring all people to the table.
John Hohrn – It’s about relationships and consensus; I’ve been successful in legislature; I know all parts of city.
Harvey Johnson – Citizens have to think positively about the city; need to reintroduce FABRIC – For A Better Revitalized Inclusive Community.
Chokwe A. Lumumba – We need to invite people to be a part of the process; Mayor Lumumba was a disciplined listener.
Melvin Priester – What is going to save Jackson is Jacksonians; will support Jacksonians when the City needs to get out of the way.
Regina Quinn – Gave two examples of working with City – One-percent ales tax initiative and Memorial Stadium to JSU.
Tony Yarber – Take risks; call everybody to the table.
Margaret Barrett-Simon – For 29 years I’ve served; I’ve learned; I can work with all people.
John Hohrn – My experience will allow me to serve city well.
Harvey Johnson – Spent the past four decades improving cities; want to continue; build on the foundation.
Chokwe A. Lumumba – Involve the people in the process.
Melvin Priester – You can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s tools.
Regina Quinn – I have what it takes to lead the City. No new taxes.
Tony Yarber – Jackson has the opportunity to be the Mecca of the South.