Jackson County Times

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tea Party Meeting Sponsors Candidate Forum

By Sid Riley

At the Monday evening, April 19 monthly Tea Party meeting the crowd was afforded an opportunity to meet the candidates and publicly ask them meaningful questions on issues of concern. The crowd of some 200 concerned Jackson County voters took an active part in the session.

During the first portion of the meeting, it was Dianne Barryhill and newcomer Dave Scholl, both of whom are hoping to win the Republican candidate slot in order to run against Allen Boyd for the District 2 Representative seat in Washington. Both candidates expounded their conservative beliefs and disgust with the direction our nation has taken. Barryhill stressed her beliefs that the members of Congress currently have two many costly “perks”, including special programs for medical care and retirement. She is also a strong advocate of term limits, and believes filling an elected position should be a service and honor…not a job.

Dave Scholl is a retired Air Force pilot who now pilots for Delta Air Lines. He too is very concerned about the state of our nation, and advocates following the new “Contract with America” set forth by American Solutions. He is a promoter of the “fair tax”, and immediate tax reductions for individuals and businesses in order to stimulate job growth and economic activity.

Both candidates made good impressions on the assembled voters, and both were saying what the crowd wanted to hear. The exchange of ideas in the discussions was interesting and entertaining.

Then came act two…..

Two of the four candidates currently declared as candidates for the District Four County Commission Seat, incumbent Jeremy Branch and Michael Shores addressed the crowd and then engaged in a question and answer session. Branch is a Grand Ridge resident, while Shores is an Alford resident, both in District 4.

During opening remarks Branch reviewed the accomplishments of the Board of Commissioners during the time he has served. He stated he was proud of the fact that the panel has never voted to increase the millage rate in order to meet budget requirements. He also stated that some 22 miles of roads had been resurfaced or paved in District 4 during his tenure. Shores stated that he was animatedly against building a new ten million dollar County Admin Building. He feels a meaningful evaluation should be made of the old Marianna High School facility as a possible solution to the County’s need for space. Shores also said he would have locations around the district which he would visit on a stated schedule in order to increase accessibility. Also he would be diligent about responding to calls and e-mails.

During the subsequent Q & A session the candidates gave response to a variety of issues.

● In terms of the Admin Building, Branch stated that in the existing economic environment he was against any new construction. He detailed the areas of need for space and the rent costs that are currently being experienced. He stated that he was in favor of purchasing the existing rented building for the Supervisor of Elections, and would probably favor purchase of the Jackson Street building which abuts the Commission offices, if the facility is found to be acceptable from a construction evaluation.

Shores again stated his absolute opposition to building a new building, and stressed the potential for using the old Marianna High School to meet county space needs.

● When the matter of paving of roads and determination of priorities, Shores stated that he would favor a system which evaluated several factors which then would be put into a weighted formula to set priorities between roads. These factors would include usage, number of residents on the roadway, cost of paving, and ad valorem taxes produced along the roadway.

Branch stated that he, too favored developing a meaningful and fair formula for making these decisions. He stated that in the past, prior Boards had engaged in some questionable paving priorities which had depleted available funds, but this problem was now in the past, and the funding for roads paving was at the intended level.

● Other areas of citizen concern included electic bills and county franchise fees. Branch stated that he had proposed cutting the franchise fee from 6% to 3%, but the rest of the Board had not supported his proposed change.

As the evening came to an end, all candidates were given a standing ovation for their participation. It had been a good evening of honest, open dialogue.

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