City Council candidate debates centered around downtown projects and Go Forward Pine Bluff

Deltaplex Radio aired a live political debate Tuesday at Pine Bluff High School’s Little Theater with numerous local political candidates in attendance.

The event was hosted by current Ward One Councilmember Joni Alexander, and was held in front of a live audience of Pine Bluff High School students on the Pine Bluff High School campus.

The debate was moderated by 99.3 FM The Beat’s Floyd Donald and The Pine Bluff Commercial’s Ray King.

In the Ward One City Council Debate Garland Trice and Sam Whitfield participated in the debate. The Ward One debate centered around projects that are ongoing on Main Street in downtown Pine Bluff.

Whitfield said it is a disgrace that there are no black contractors working on projects around the city.

“First of all, we have the library downtown,” said Whitfield. “A tax was put on the people of Pine Bluff to build a library downtown. No blacks work at the library building the library, but we pay 90 percent of the taxes down there. No black people working there. I’m ashamed. At city council when it comes to the needs you’re constantly hearing the Merrill Center. We’re going to wave contracts, we’re going to wave competitive bidding and we’re going to give this contract to John Doe. They’re all white people. You have no black professional contractors in the City of Pine Bluff. It’s a pity and a shame. You’ve got seven blacks on the council, you’ve got one white. You’ve got a black mayor, but not one black professional contractor can they show you. It is a disgrace.”

Trice said he believed the library project was not a well thought out project.

“I’m of the opinion that those items or projects that were mentioned – I want ya’ll to understand something about city governments. Those budgetary items will take care of themselves,” said Trice. “I’m not knocking them. The only problem that I foresee is how we arrived. At the library, for instance, anyone who goes down on Main Street – it looks like a big old elephant sitting on Main Street. And from what I’m understanding they planned on taking property – somebody’s property – more than likely mine, for parking. So, it wasn’t a well thought out project.

In the Ward Two City Council debate candidates Steven Shaner and Lloyd Franklin Jr. participated in the debate. The debate centered around Go Forward Pine Bluff, with both candidates saying they are supporters.

Franklin Jr. said that Pine Bluff has a bad history of being reactive instead of proactive, and that is what eventually led to Go Forward Pine Bluff coming to fruition. He also stated that Go Forward Pine Bluff is upholding their promise to the citizens of Pine Bluff.

“I think in its initial state Pine Bluff has a bad history of being reactive instead of proactive,” said Franklin Jr. “There have been many times in the past when something could have been done, but they failed to do so, which is what led Simmons Corporation and bankers to come in with a plan to try to move Pine Bluff forward. Pine Bluff has a negative history of not getting along and not being proactive. Everything that has happened, probably up until Go Forward, has been reactive. One thing happens, Pine Bluff reacts. To go forward we need to have someone at the table that has representation for the community as far as education, school programs. Things that you hear Mr. (Ivan) Whitfield and Mr. (Steven) Mays ask for, but if you are not at the table with Go Forward you are not going to have a say so in anything. The parameters for Go Forward are already set. The money is going to be spent how it is going to be spent. There is no use in dragging your feet, or fighting, kicking, and crying. It was voted on, it is set in law, and even if you say you didn’t vote for Go Forward and it is a general sales tax it doesn’t matter. A promise was made and they are upholding their promise to the people.”

Shaner said that he is a supporter of Go Forward Pine Bluff, and that he believes that Go Forward is trying to make Pine Bluff a better town for everybody.

“I am 100 percent for Go Forward Pine Bluff,” Shaner said. “I’ve lived here since 2001 and I’ve seen the decline in population, I’ve seen where there is nothing to do in Pine Bluff. We are losing jobs every day for people moving out of town. Go Forward was brought about when they pulled together 100 citizens from this town. Men, women, black, white, everybody. There was a whole pool brought in to get everybody’s opinion on what needs to be done, and how to address all of the issues. When they put all of this together they put together a plan. I’ve been here, like I said, since 2001. I’ve not seen a plan from any other entity or organization since I’ve been here. They are trying to make this town a better place for all of us.”

Deltaplex Radio will replay Tuesday’s Mayoral and City Council debate Wednesday, February 12, on Oldies 101.3 FM from 6-8 p.m.