Your vote will decide the next Alderman of Wards 4 and 5 as well as which Democrat candidate for Mayor will move forward to the general election.
Parking on the Square, alcohol sales, managing future growth, and tourism were cited at the recent community forum as the major issues of the campaign.
by Newt Rayburn – From The Local Voice #179
Not sure which ward you live in? Here is a map of all the wards in Oxford, Mississippi.
Oxford’s first city election will take place on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at the Oxford Conference Center. This election will decide the next Aldermen in Wards 4 and 5, and which Democrat candidate for Mayor will face Independent candidate Todd Wade in the general election on June 4th.
Running for Alderman in Ward 4 are incumbent Ulysess “Coach” Howell, Arnold B. Pegues, and Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro. In Ward 5, incumbent Preston Taylor is running against first time candidate Carol Flemmons. The Democrat candidates for Mayor are incumbent George “Pat” Patterson and challenger Jason Plunk.
Ward 4 of Oxford is one of the most gerrymandered wards in town: part of Molly Barr Road, most of Martin Luther King Drive (and “Freedman’s Town”), the south side of some of Jefferson Avenue, the immediate North and East parts of the Square, the east section of Van Buren, and some of Bramlett, South 16th, Access Road, University Avenue, Booker Road, Highway 7, and Sisk Avenue.
Current Ward 4 Alderman Ulysses Howell was a teacher, coach, and Assistant Principle in the Oxford school system from 1972–2008. He is also Chairs the Deacon Board at the Second Baptist Church, a position he has frequently reiterated at Board of Alderman meetings. At the recent Community Forum on April 30, Howell claimed his religion is “the most important thing in his life,” and that he is a “common sense Alderman.”
Ulysses “Coach” Howell. Photograph by Newt Rayburn.
Concerning parking, Howell said that “Oxford has a parking problem, but that’s good because everyone likes to come to our Square to shop.” He cited the recent purchase of the Belk lot to add 107 spaces, and that he believes that Oxford will have to build a parking garage, but “even a parking garage won’t alleviate our problems, but that’s a good problem to have.”
Concerning alcohol and Sunday Sales, Howell exclaimed, “I’m totally against that. I’m a Christian and we should remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. I may lose votes because of this, but I am totally against alcohol sales on Sunday. I am, and I stick with that whether I’m Alderman or not.”
Ward 4 challenger Arnold B. Pegues is a lifelong Oxonian who graduated from OHS in 1979, Ole Miss in 2000, and is now a Department Manager at Home Depot. At the recent Community Forum, Pegues offered his services as Alderman to be a “voice for the people, not the moral minority,” an obvious swipe at incumbent Howell’s overly religious tone. Pegues said, “It is time to reconnect the citizens with the government of Oxford.”
Concerning parking, Pegues said the need for a parking garage has been discussed “for 16 years.” He said the current system is causing a great inconvenience to the people in the city. He went on to say, “the worst thing we want to do is have them worry about moving their car.” Pegues went on to criticize the current parking system as being unprofitable, and that businesses are without parking spaces because Oxford’s growth “has gone in the wrong direction.”
Arnold B. Pegues. Photograph by Newt Rayburn.
Pegues criticized Oxford’s no cold beer policy in convenience stores, saying that Oxford was increasing the chance of DUIs on Sunday because, “if you want it, Batesville sells it, Holly Springs sells it, New Albany sells it, you can even get it in Coffeeville.” His statement drew applause from the forum audience. Concerning Sunday Sales, Pegues believes it should be put to a vote and the people of Oxford should decide. He also said that having Sunday Sales on some days but not others has “opened up a can of worms, let’s go ahead and take the top off and stop addressing this issue.”
Concerning the promotion of tourism and the management of Double Decker Festival, Pegues said Oxford needs to do more to promote “diversified tourism,” including partnering with Ole Miss to offer and market more events to visitors, including things like “Cinco de Mayo… the Oxford Beerfest… Oxford Bluesfest, and all type of options,” to promote tourism. Pegues said that Double Decker was great, but tourism needs to grow in a more diversified direction. Pegues believes some of the burden of expanding tourism should be taken off the city government and possibly the Tourism Council.
Ron Shapiro has lived in Oxford since the mid-1970s and has owned or operated many local businesses here, including a drive-in movie theatre, Main Squeeze Smoothies and Juices, and the beloved Hoka Theatre which was as one of Oxford’s most import culture centers of the last 40 years. Shapiro is an Army Veteran who served during Vietnam, he is a board member of Oxford’s Interfaith Community that helps the homeless, and he is a member of Oxford’s Tree Board. Shapiro himself is unofficially known as Oxford’s “Minister of Culture” and has won or been nominated in several yearly polls taken by The Local Voice and Oxford Eagle as one of Oxford’s favorite local citizens.
Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro. Photograph by Newt Rayburn.
At the recent Community Forum, Shapiro said he wants citizens to be able to give feedback to the City of Oxford via the monthly electric bills that everyone receives. He also wants the bussing system to go all electric, to implement glass recycling, and he also wants more affordable housing, giving an example of how Aspen, Colorado, worked in conjunction with a major hotel chain to accomplish a similar goal.
Concerning parking, Ron Shapiro exclaimed, “We don’t have a parking problem, we have a car problem.” Shapiro believes that the people who work on the Square need to be shuttled to work every day to create more spaces. He believes this will also allow the community to get to know each other better. Shapiro criticized investing too much into parking spaces, “in a few years we may have a President who is war hungry and gasoline may go up to $10 a gallon.”
Shapiro criticized the management of Oxford’s growth saying that it is “geared towards the well-to-do.” He went on to say that he himself couldn’t afford to open a business on North Lamar due to the City’s unfair building codes. Shapiro said, “The most important thing for our future is to make sure everyone has a chance.” He went on to say that, “we have a goldmine, and I just want it to be fair. The pendulum has swung and it favors the well-to-do and I just think that’s wrong.”
Shapiro said that “the reason Oxford is at the point it is today, is because of alcohol. I’m sorry to tell you that, but it’s true.” He went on to say that Oxford’s restaurants and bars are employing some “4,000 people,” the food is better, a variety of bands are being booked in Oxford ,and that none of it would be possible without alcohol sales. He said it was wrong for the previous Board of Alderman to turn down Sunday Sales when it’s doing so much to draw people to Oxford.
Concerning promoting tourism and the management of Double Decker, Shapiro wants to keep the Oxford Tourism Council and thinks they are doing a great job. He would like to see Oxford offer more events to draw tourists, such as Bicycle Festivals, and he said the city government should do more to draw people to the Square.
Ward 5 of Oxford includes a large swath of Jackson Avenue, Hathorn Road, Anderson Road, the area around Davis Drive, the east side of West Oxford Loop, and some of Highway 6.
Incumbent Ward 5 Alderman Preston Taylor is a lifelong resident of the ward, who graduated from Oxford Training School in 1958, and Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs. Taylor is retired now, but was a classroom teacher for 35 years. Anderson said he supported and fought for sidewalks and lighting for safety in Oxford.
Preston Taylor. Photograph by Newt Rayburn.
Concerning Parking, Taylor admitted that everyone loves Oxford, the Square is where they want to go, Oxford has a parking problem, but he is working on it and is looking into a parking garage.
Concerning alcohol, Alderman Taylor said that Oxford is losing revenue because people are going to other counties to get cold beer and that he supports cold beer in Oxford stores. He went on to say that he voted for Sunday Sales as Alderman and that it went fairly well, with no problems that he is aware of.” Taylor went on to say he was willing to listen about further Sunday Sales.
Taylor went on to say that Oxford is a tourist town with many well known options and future options such as the historic Burns Church currently being renovated. He closed by saying that he knows Ward 5 and that he serves his ward and is always just a phone call away.
Ward 5 challenger Carol Flemmons started off at the Community Forum by giving honor to the “high God,” and went on to say that “she knows that each of us here are Christians,” which drew a look from Ron Shapiro, who is Jewish, sitting directly next to her. Flemmons said she has worked with the elderly in nursing homes, and with children. She believes parking should be limited around the courthouse. Flemmings said that she is “one of you; I’m for the people, and I pray that you vote for me.”
Carol Flemmons. Photograph by Newt Rayburn.
Concerning parking, Flemmons said that businesses needed more input into this issue, as well as the whole community. Flemmons said more people needed to walk to the Square saying, “we need to exercise more.” She said there are more businesses in Oxford than just what is on the Square, and reiterated that parking immediately around the Courthouse should be limited to 30 minutes.
Concerning alcohol and Sunday Sales, Carol Flemmons said, “I’m not too familiar with alcohol, but my brothers is [sic]. I think you can go one day without drinking alcohol.” She went on to say that she was willing to listen to both sides because she thinks “Christians drink beer as well as sinners.”
Concerning promoting tourism and the management of Double Decker, Flemmons deferred and said she didn’t know a lot about it. Flemmons says Oxford bicyclists need helmets and reflectors for more visibility and that Oxford needs to deal with this issue. Flemmons closed by saying she is very dependable and that “the Lord has sent her on a mission to serve you.”
The Democratic candidates for Mayor of Oxford are incumbent George “Pat” Patterson and controversial former bar owner Jason Plunk. The winner between these two candidates will face Todd Wade in the general election on June 4, 2013.
Oxford Mayor Candidates: George “Pat” Patterson, Jason Plunk, and Todd Wade. Photograph by Newt Rayburn.