Taxes dominate Advocate forum

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Greenville Advocate held its political forum at the Greenville High School Auditorium Monday night to give the people of Butler County a prime opportunity to become educated voters.

The purpose of the forum was to allow all of the candidates for the Butler County Commission as well as the District Attorney’s race a chance to address the key issues that will face them if elected.

Managing Editor Jay Thomas welcomed those in attendance for the forum, offering a quote from Sir Winston Churchill on what qualifies people for politics.

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They must know what happens, today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and tell the people that, and then explain why it didn’t.

Former Advocate publisher Gene Hardin served as moderator for the event, often interjecting humor and good sense in between questions.

The format for the event allowed each candidate a three minute introduction and two minutes to answer each question that was asked.

Those who attended left the event well informed on where their candidates stood.

In the commission race District One hopeful Margaret Pierce felt that the next commission would have many concerns with the sharing of space between industry and private landowners.

&uot;We are going to need a plan to keep us from stepping on each others toes,&uot; said Pierce. &uot;We really need to put some kind of land use control plan in place. That way we can look out for everyone’s best interest. When you have a lot of growth you have to have a plan in place.&uot;

Pierce’s opponent, Bobby DeShields, also felt that the growth would create issues for the incoming commission.

&uot;We are going to have to regulate roads and there will be issues with drainage, streets and safety issues,&uot; said DeShields. &uot;We just need to use what we have got and work together as one commission to get things done. Industry and neighborhoods don’t always work well together. We will have to take measures with zoning to keep them separated.&uot;

One major issue that has followed the new businesses to town has been taxes. The tax issues that will face Butler County in the coming years has created a great deal of buzz.

District Two hopeful Leroy Johnson did not feel higher taxes was the answer. Johnson also said he was concerned about the small businesses in the area.

&uot;We need to handle the growth carefully,&uot; said Johnson. &uot;I am concerned about the small businesses. The growth will be good, but we don’t want to hurt the businesses that are already here. We need to all work together toward the good of our community&uot;

Current District Two Commissioner Jesse McWilliams added he would like to see the close ties that the Commission and the Butler County Educational system have made continue.

&uot;The last commission was able to work very closely with the educational system,&uot; said McWilliams. &uot;I would like to see that continue. I would also like to remind people that we are a good pipeline to Montgomery. We are always trying to redirect funds from Montgomery to get things done around here. There are a lot of grants and other money that we have gotten here that other areas aren’t getting. We hope to keep that up&uot;

Candidates were also questioned on the budgeting practices that they would favor if elected.

District Three hopeful Gene Gibson said he favored a set budget.

&uot;I am a farmer so I know how to work with what I have,&uot; said Gibson. &uot;I think that we need to work with what we have first before we raise taxes.&uot;

Gibson also felt the needs of the incoming commission would be great.

&uot;As we grow we will have to be sure that the needs are met,&uot; said Gibson. &uot;There will be a need for housing, water, natural gas. We will also probably need new roads and stop lights.&uot;

Current District Three Commissioner Frank Hickman said that he felt that the incoming growth would be filled with possibilities.

&uot;Butler County’s growth will be an exciting time,&uot; said Hickman. &uot;I don’t view it as a problem.&uot;

On the issue of taxes Hickman said that the commission had little say.

&uot;The truth of the matter is the commission is quite limited,&uot; said Hickman. &uot;We have to generally get permission from Montgomery before we do anything like that.&uot;

Hickman added that when these taxes were levied they were for a good cause.

&uot;The taxes are usually used to benefit the educational system and volunteer fire departments.&uot;

The questions for the District Attorney candidates followed the same format.

These questions dealt more with substance abuse and prevention in Butler, Lowndes and Crenshaw Counties.

District Attorney John Andrews said a lot of good work had been done in the last few years.

Andrews felt that they needed to keep the momentum and initiate more programs.

&uot;We need to work closely with the young people of the community to keep them off drugs,&uot; said Andrews. &uot;We need more programs to put the young people in the community in an environment where they have mentors and positive role models.&uot;

District Attorney hopeful Charlotte Tesmer said she would like to see more aggressive prevention measures taken in the schools.

&uot;We do have a drug problem and we have one in our schools,&uot; said Tesmer. &uot;We need to educate our young people. We need to work hand in hand with our schools for education as well as enforcement.&uot;

The District attorney candidates also addressed a substance abuse problem that has been getting a lot more attention, and that is underage drinking.

The problem of underage drinking has been one that area police have made a commitment to ending. Both Andrews and Tesmer said they plan to do their part to put an end to underage drinking.

&uot;The main thing is to cut off the supply,&uot; said Andrews. &uot;If you can cut out the supply you can cut out a lot of the problem.&uot;

Tesmer agreed, but said that the problem needed to be addressed at home.

&uot;Parents need to know what their kids are doing,&uot; said Tesmer. &uot;A lot of them don’t believe that their kids are drinking. Because we are in a small town a lot of people don’t think that it happens here. But this is a very real problem.&uot;

Those who chose to come should have little trouble in making their decision when the time comes to step to the polls.

Incumbent District 1 Commissioner Gary Hanks, who seeks re-election, chose not to participate, as did Vernon S. Herring, a former commissioner who seeks the District 3 seat.

Incumbent District 5 Commissioner William Phillips was out of state for a grandchild’s graduation, while his opponent, McKenzie businessman Glenn King, sat out due to a death in his family.