Your vote will decide the next Aldermen of Wards 1 and 2 as well as the next Mayor of Oxford. 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
Running for Alderman in Ward 1 are Jay Hughes and incumbent Ney Williams. In Ward 2, incumbent E.O. Oliver is being challenged by Robyn Tannehill.
From The Local Voice #181: http://www.thelocalvoice.net/oxford/?p=6933
Locations of the Wards
Click here for a PDF of Oxford’s Wards.
Ward 1 of Oxford comprises most of the northern part of the city, including North Lamar, the north side of East Jackson Avenue, Sisk Avenue, Park Drive, Chickasaw, Price, most of Molly Barr Road, Highway 30, Highway 7, North 9th Street, East Elm Street, Sively, Vivian, Douglas, Williams, the area around Avent Park, Bramlett Boulevard, East Jefferson, as well as McElroy Drive, parts of College Hill Road, and Highway 314 (better known as Old Sardis Road).
Ward 2 in Oxford consists of southeast part of town, including all of east South Lamar, all the way from the Square to Highway 7, as well as most of the areas inside the city around south Highway 7. Also included is the west and south parts of The Square, a section of south West Jackson Avenue, Van Buren Avenue, Tyler Avenue, South 5th Street, Harrison, Taylor, Pierce, Fillmore, Johnson, Beanland, Garfield, Ross, University Avenue, South 16th, South 18th, McLarty, Belk, Grand Oaks, Peyton Circle, Tanner Drive, Jefferson Davis, Coleman, Office Park Drive, and the areas around there.
Ward 1: Jay Hughes
vs. Ney Williams
Ward 1 candidate Jay Hughes is a longtime Oxford resident, a husband, father, Attorney, property owner, businessman, and an Army Veteran. Hughes says he is running for alderman because he wants to give back to the community that has provided so much to him. He says that there are three things he would like to bring to the local government: 1) The ability to make a decision without pushing off to committees or commissions, 2) responsible growth, and 3) a better partnership between the City of Oxford, the Oxford School District, and Ole Miss.
“Pretending that growth is not happening, is not a way of dealing with it,” Hughes said, “It is part of the problem we are confronted with daily.”
Concerning parking, Jay Hughes commented, “This is a perfect example of why I am running. We have had a problem with parking since I got here in 1987. They talk about it every four years, but nothing constructive has been done other than charging the citizens who pay the taxes to park on the Square.”
Hughes continued, “One hundred thousand dollars in consulting fees is another reason why I am running. Anyone can see that we have a parking problem … I will make a clear decision without another parking committee in order to move forward. A parking garage is what we’ve earned, what we deserve, and is what will alleviate those problems for people to come and park on the Square in safety of sun and rain, and have access to the many businesses that help us thrive. I support a parking garage and I think we need to move in a faster and forward direction.”
“The fact is we are growing, we are continuing to grow, and we are going to grow at a very fast pace,” Hughes said about future growth. “What I believe we need to do is embrace it and not chase it. There are reasonable steps that can be put in place that can control this growth which is good for a cultural standpoint, our economic standpoint, and our diversity, the things that make us good.”
“The issue of the night!” proclaimed Jay Hughes, regarding alcohol. “It’s 2013 and I am genuinely amazed that we are still having this discussion,” which drew a round of applause and laughter from the forum audience. “It is legal to drink in Oxford. The Board has already decided it’s OK to drink on Sundays. If adults want to drink responsibly, it shouldn’t matter whether the Rebels played football the day before or not.” The forum audience cheered again.
“As for ‘cold beer,’” said Hughes, “I have never heard a group of people who weren’t German ask their friends if they wanted to go out and get a ‘warm beer.’ So I would support ‘cold beer’ as well.”
Current Ward 1 Alderman Ney Williams is running for reelection. Williams was first elected to the ward’s seat in city government four years ago, after the seat was vacated by Pat Patterson. Ney is a husband and father who attended Ole Miss on a tennis scholarship and received his Bachelor of Arts in Education. Williams worked for several members of the United States Congress for 27 years in Washington, D.C. before returning to Oxford. Williams says he is a full-time, 24-7 Alderman who is fiscally responsible, has worked to maintain Oxford’s infrastructure, streets, sidewalks, bike paths, sewer, water, recycling, and vital city services.
“I’ll just be succinct on this one” Ney Williams said about the parking issue. “I have a lot of respect for our Parking Commission, who are volunteer people who give a lot of their time and diligently work without pay to find solutions. And I value their input.”
“We may very well need a parking garage, but we need spaces now,” continued Williams. “That’s why we bought the Belk property and we are going to get 100 new spaces as soon as we can.”
Concerning future growth, Williams said, “Our wonderful town is a popular destination point. Many visit and want to live here and enjoy its amenities. So Oxford must have the city services to manage this. We do. We are going to work, and I am going to work to continue to keep Oxford as one of America’s greatest and most charming small towns.”
Concerning alcohol, Williams said he likes ‘cold beer,’ but the issue never came up in the last term of office. (Although this statement seems odd, because the issue of ‘cold beer’ has been a hot topic at least since the 80s in Oxford and it comes up every four years at election time.)
Concerning extended hours at bars, Williams says, “My no votes reflect the will of the constituents who oppose this, and I think there is a significant majority of them. And by the way, my dad said, ‘Son, nothing good happens after midnight.’”
Concerning extending Sunday Sales, Ney admitted, “It is my understanding that there have been few problems, but I just don’t think we need to take it any further at this time.”
Ward 2: Robyn Tannehill
vs. E.O. Oliver
Ward 2 incumbent Alderman E.O. Oliver is a fourth generation Oxfordian, and graduate of the city schools and Ole Miss. Oliver has been a resident of Oxford for over fifty years and has been Alderman of Ward 2 for the last sixteen years. Oliver was a director of the Ole Miss Bookstore, an owner of the Oliver-Britt House Bed & Breakfast, and is currently an accountant and auditor at North Mississippi Regional Center.
About his public service, Alderman Oliver said, “I participated in the formation of the 2020 plan and its implantation, supported the economic development that has produced jobs and investment by Winchester, FNC, Baptist Hospital, and others, and have championed the growth and development of tourism as evidenced by the Oxford Conference Center. I champion quality of life issues, including parks and recreation.”
Concerning parking, Oliver said, “Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of different ways we’ve tried to handle parking. We’ve had meters, no meters. We’ve grown. Everybody wants to come to Oxford. The problem is parking on the Square. We established a commission to look at it … We’ve created 100 or so parking spaces on a temporary basis. But the subject of a parking garage … you have to fund that somehow. I don’t know if the citizens or businesses are ready to fund something of that nature.”
Oliver went on to say, “Everybody loves downtown, loves the Square and we’re trying to make it as pleasant as possible. It’s one of the things [parking] we get criticized for by the tourists.”
“As far as controlling growth, I don’t know how we control growth,” commented Oliver. “What we can do is provide the services necessary. That’s the way I look at it.”
Concerning Sunday Sales, Oliver said, “Obviously, it has worked and we’ve had few complaints. Obviously, there are a lot of people for this. I think we ought to consider a referendum…if it’s seven days a week, whatever. I think that’s the best way to handle this thing.”
Ward 2 challenger Robyn Tannehill came to Oxford in 1988 as a student and “never left.” Tannehill has worked in many different capacities in Oxford, including being a University employee, Assistant Director of the Chamber of Commerce, a City employee, and Executive Director of the Oxford Tourism Council, where she helped to create and facilitate the first Double Decker Arts Festival in 1995.
Tannehill is a founding member of a church and a business in Oxford, the Tannehill Agency, a full service marketing and public relations firm that she later sold. Robyn was also named “Mississippi Businesswoman of the Year.” She is a mother of three and married to attorney Rhea Tannehill.
Concerning parking, Tannehill said, “I think everybody agrees we have a parking problem and most would agree that a parking garage is both necessary and immanent. [The issue] then becomes, where do you put it and how do you pay for it? I think the current parking program that we have in place is a band aid for the problem. It may ease some of the woes we have, but it is not solving our ultimate parking problems that have to be addressed at some point in the very near future.”
Tannehill continued, “We are inviting visitors to come, to shop downtown, to park and spend time there and we need to make arrangements for them to be able to do that comfortably. I think the businesses and the citizens are very interested in the Board of Aldermen coming up with a creative way to build this [parking garage] that is very pleasing to the eye and is not some terrible eye sore. I think there are lots of different ways to fund this without it being a burden to the citizens.”
Concerning future growth, Tannehill said, “I feel like ‘growth’ has kind of gotten such a negative rap lately. It doesn’t have to be that way. If we would plan ahead and embrace this growth, Oxford is really blessed. Communities don’t remain in place. They are either going backwards or moving forward. A lot of towns are dying on the vine right now. We know that growth is coming, growth is inevitable, and that is what your local government is there to do, to provide the necessary infrastructure and planning as we move forward into the future.”
Concerning alcohol issues, Robyn Tannehill said, “Oxford is a tourism destination. We have promoted ourselves as a place to shop, dine, [experience] great cultural events and our literary culture, come to play in weekend long tournaments at FNC park, and to enjoy yourself for a three-day getaway. [But] we are not a three-day getaway, because most of Oxford is closed on the third day. If Sunday Sales were allowed, then restaurants would be open and it would allow us to meet the expectations of these visitors that we’ve invited to Oxford, as well as capitalize on having these people in town on Sundays.”
“Sunday Sales means more restaurants open, giving visitors and residents more options,” Tannehill continued. “I believe that if the restaurants are consistently open, we’ll see more shops opening on Sunday as well. As an Alderman of Ward 2, I want to protect all of the interests of citizens, families, retirees, and business owners. But ultimately for Oxford, I come down on the side of Sunday Sales. I believe at the end of the day people make their own decision whether or not to have a drink on Sunday. I think from an economic perspective, it is the next step in a positive direction for Oxford. And I also believe in ‘cold beer.’” Tannehill’s statement drew applause from the forum audience.
Local elections for the City of Oxford will take place on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 from 7 am to 7 pm at the Oxford Conference Center on Sisk Avenue. All citizens who are registered to vote in the city limits of Oxford may cast a ballot for Mayor. Only those who are registered in Wards 1 and 2 will be able to cast a ballot for Aldermen running in these wards.