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Published on February 13th, 2012 | by Newt Rayburn

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City of Oxford, Mississippi Ward 6 Special Election February 14, 2012 – Interviews with the Candidates: Katie Morrison, Liz Barrett, and Jason Bailey

City of Oxford, Mississippi Ward 6 Special Election February 14, 2012
Interviews with the Candidates

 

by Newt Rayburn – from The Local Voice #149

 

On Tuesday, February 14, 2012, voters registered in Ward 6 in Oxford, Mississippi will head to the polls to elect an Alderman to fill the seat of Brad Mayo. Ward 6’s Alderman seat was vacated after Mayo was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives last November. The Alderman who is elected this month will fill the remainder of Mayo’s term, until new elections are held in 2013. Several candidates running for this seat reached out to The Local Voice for help in getting the word out, so we decided to do Q&A’s with them.

Ward 6 is a wide, winding swatch of west and north Oxford, including the neighborhoods Woodlawn, Country Club, St. Andrews, Stone Glen, Eagle Springs, Orrwood, Chickasaw, The Links, McElroy, some of College Hill Road, some of Anderson Road, the west side of West Oxford Loop, and more. All voting takes place at the Activity Center at the corner Molly Barr & Price Street on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm. You must be registered to vote in Ward 6 to participate. –Newt Rayburn

Katie Morrison

How long have you lived in Oxford and what jobs have you held here?
I have lived in Oxford for over 14 years and worked in both private and public sectors of the community.  I started working at Square Books in college, first schlepping coffee and cleaning toilets. When I ended my run there I had opened and managed Square Books, Jr. for two and a half years. I also worked for the City of Oxford for three years in the Mayor’s Office, doing everything from planning the Fourth of July festivities, coordinating task forces to study everything from bike paths to public safety, but primarily I served as a point of contact for citizens to receive help solving problems and receiving information from the City. I’ve also worked at the University in several departments including the Department of English, the Croft Institute for International Studies, Department of Public Policy, and most recently the Vice Chancellor’s Office for Research and Sponsored Programs. Most of these have been in the capacity of public outreach connecting local teachers and schools to tools and programs to enhance their classroom teaching, or public-private partnerships with business entities trying to help solve Mississippi’s education and economic development challenges.

How long have you lived in Ward 6?
I have lived in Ward 6 in the Stone Glen neighborhood since 2008.

What is your public service background?
Public service is my life’s work. Working in City Hall made me realize that this is what I was meant to do. Helping people resolve the critical issues facing their families and neighborhoods is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. After serving in City Hall with Mayor Howorth during his first term, I was in the first class at the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School for Public Service and received a master’s degree with honors. During my studies I worked in the Delta helping public and private groups come together to help two communities consolidate and streamline their city governments and services. I also worked with President Clinton’s Foundation in New York, helping match large corporate companies with worthwhile non-profits around the world to combat issues like Ethnic and Religious Conflict, Health Crises, Climate Change, and Poverty in the world’s most affected areas. My favorite project was matching Coca-Cola with an AIDS non-profit to figure out how to get desperately needed AIDS drugs into African villages where cold cokes were available, but medicines that needed refrigeration were not. In a matter of months, Coca-Cola was delivering refrigerated soft drinks and vials of life-saving drugs. Here in Oxford, I was the Assistant Director of the Mississippi Geographic Alliance, committed to outreach to educators to improve geographic literacy among K-12. I also currently serve as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Oxford Convention and Visitors Bureau, as appointed by the Mayor and Aldermen.

Have you ever run a business in Oxford?
Yes. I opened Square Books, Jr., the children’s bookstore on the square, in 2003 and successfully managed it for two and a half years before going to graduate school. I managed, scheduled, and trained the staff, met with publishers and toy manufacturers to select all of the inventory, organized events for authors and teachers, and watched the bottom line to be sure that sales were successful.

Why would you like to be Alderman of Ward 6?
As I mentioned earlier, public service is my passion – nothing gets me more fired up than helping people and problem solving. My skills in diplomacy, communication, and innovative problem solving have helped me to help others, and Oxford has been a big part of my achieving these accomplishments. I would like to give back to the community that has given me so much. Oxford is home for my family, and as our family grows and Oxford grows, I want Oxford to be a place that serves everyone well. And this takes careful thought and planning – I’d like to serve and offer everyone in Ward 6 a voice in that process.

What are the major issues facing Ward 6?
The most common concerns are drainage, erosion, infrastructure, and safety. As I’ve walked door to door and met the citizens of Ward 6, many people are concerned that we are not carefully planning Oxford’s development – that development is just “happening to us.” We have such dedicated people like Tim Akers, Randy Barber, Bart Robinson, and many others in City Hall but they can’t do it alone – they need a strong Board to help them shape a vision for the future of Oxford with input from the citizens and homeowners of our neighborhoods. The well-being of Oxford’s homeowners needs the same careful consideration as is given the economic well-being of the developers and property managers who do business here.

In this special Ward 6 election candidates are not running as a member of a political party. However, if you were aligned to a party, which one would you choose?
I think that this race is special for that exact reason – Ward 6 citizens can choose a representative based on ideas and experience, not just the letter by their name on the ballot. For me as a would-be alderman, local issues trump national politics every time.

Former Ward 6 Alderman Brad Mayo campaigned in 2009 on a platform of “pursuing a property tax cut.” However, property taxes have actually increased since then. Many landowners in Oxford will tell you property taxes are too high, and many people who work in Oxford don’t actually live in town due to excessive property costs. As Alderman, will you work to lower property taxes, and if so, how can a reduction be offset?
The good news is that property taxes are very likely to decrease soon as reassessment is about to take place.  This is both good and bad, as taxes will go down but so are property values. However, Oxford is lucky that we are such a destination for shopping and tourism – our sales tax revenue continues to increase, giving Oxford a very ideal tax ratio compared to other communities in Mississippi, making property tax increases unnecessary for now.

As Alderman, what will you do to help, support, and promote local business, and how can the City of Oxford improve its relationship with business owners?
This is an area where I feel communication is very important. Often, business owners are the ones who know first-hand what is going on with the local economy before anyone else. They see where the trends are.  Not only could our local government do a better job communicating to the business owners, our representatives need to be asking business owners what Oxford could be doing better, and continue these conversations as changes and new programs are put in place.  Secondly, the Board of Aldermen recently raised the City’s contribution to the Economic Development Foundation from $55K to $75K; the EDF is a place that the City, County, and University can all work together to increase services for business owners and prospective business owners.

What do you feel the City of Oxford is doing right, and what do you feel needs to be changed?
There are so many great things about Oxford, and the dedicated people at the City have had a lot to do with all of it.  We have a beautiful city managed by a resourceful building and grounds department, wonderful schools with a devoted school board, growing amenities like pathways and public transportation, and increasing cultural opportunities that have been collaboratively fostered by the OCVB, YAC, the University, the Public Library, and other private businesses, artists and citizens.  What needs to improve is the energy with which we show that same kind of commitment to planning the next 20 years and upgrading infrastructure to handle our growth, as well as careful planning with regard to rezoning.  City Planner Akers reminded the Board at the last meeting that if they wish control the growth of multi-unit apartment complexes in Ward 6 that they would need to consider rezoning in these areas  – very few Board members appeared eager to consider that.  I am very excited to help make this a priority for the Board.

Are there any laws in Oxford that need to be repealed and what laws need to be implemented?
At this time I’m not aware of any ordinances in need of repeal.  My concern at this time is enforcement and strengthening of existing ordinances.
What is your opinion/stance on:
A. Sunday Alcohol sales in restaurants and stores?
B. Extended bar hours?
c. Cold beer for sale in stores?
D. The City’s involvement in a Farmer’s Market at the Armory?
These are all on-going debates that are important to some.  So far, the only one of these issues I’ve heard much interest in among Ward 6 residents is the Farmer’s Market. From what I understand thus far about it, moving it near the Community Gardens would increase it’s availability, appeal, and affordability to more citizens. If that is the case, then I would support this, but I’m eager to learn more about all the details involved.

How can the City of Oxford improve its relationship with its citizens?
This comes back again to communication. Ward 6 was lucky to have Brad Mayo and Jon Fisher start blogs and email blasts that kept citizens informed and engaged. As Ward 6’s Alderman I would continue this, and would also like to work with Bob Opalko and Chris Simmons in City Hall to implement a system that would encourage and allow all of the Aldermen to do this.

Are there any questions I didn’t ask that you would like to address, or any other statements you would like to make to the voters of Ward 6?
I think we’ve covered quite a lot! I suppose I would just say that I have a wealth of knowledge and experience to bring to the Board and am committed to staying open and in touch with the citizens of Ward 6 and the City of Oxford.  If elected, I would welcome the chance to do the hard, time-consuming and incredibly important work of getting our city infrastructure, zoning, budgets, and plans ready for the future of Oxford.

 

Liz Barrett

How long have you lived in Oxford and what jobs have you held here?
I’ve been in Oxford since October 2006 and have worked at PMQ Pizza Magazine, and started EatingOxford.com since moving here. I’m still doing both.

How long have you lived in Ward 6?
I purchased a home in Community Green three years ago, and while there has been confusion in the past about whether the new community was in Ward 4 or Ward 6, the neighborhood was recently recognized as Ward 6.

What is your public service background?
EatingOxford.com has been serving the community for more than two years by providing up-to-date information about the restaurants in and around Oxford. The site has helped to raise $1,000 for The Pantry and regularly encourages readers to participate in local charity events.

Have you ever run a business in Oxford?
I own EatingOxford.com and run my own freelance writing business.

Why would you like to be Alderman of Ward 6?
I believe that the residents of Ward 6 deserve someone who is reliable and who will keep them informed of what is happening in their ward. The plan is to keep the lines of communication open with residents and address any concerns in a timely manner. Absent aldermen should not be tolerated.

What are the major issues facing Ward 6?
I think the issues of the entire town are also the issues concerning Ward 6. We don’t stay in our ward, unaffected by what’s happening around us. We’ll all be affected by the move of the hospital, the shifting of the Jackson/Highway 6 intersection, and the building of new housing developments. Individually, residents face issues of water pooling after rain storms, questions about street lighting, the costs and effects of new tennis courts, needed stop signs and more.

In this special Ward 6 election candidates are not running as a member of a political party. However, if you were aligned to a party, which one would you choose?
Democrat

Former Ward 6 Alderman Brad Mayo campaigned in 2009 on a platform of “pursuing a property tax cut.” However, property taxes have actually increased since then. Many landowners in Oxford will tell you, property taxes are too high, and many people who work in Oxford don’t actually live in town due to excessive property costs.  As Alderman, will you work to lower property taxes, and if so, how can a reduction be offset?
I don’t like to promise anything that can’t be guaranteed. I would like to hold a meeting and invite those concerned about their property taxes to come forward with ideas about how to offset the costs if they were reduced. This could start a conversation and make a future reduction more feasible.

As Alderman, what will you do to help, support, and promote local business, and how can the City of Oxford improve its relationship with business owners?
I currently support and promote local restaurants through EatingOxford.com. In order to continue to support them as well as other local businesses, I’d like to hold monthly or bimonthly meetings that are open to business owners in which they are invited to come and voice their concerns. I’d also like to see more community education opportunities for business owners. There are many successful business owners in Oxford who would be willing to share their experience and tips with others. This would be a first step toward helping other businesses grow.
What do you feel the City of Oxford is doing right, and what do you feel needs to be changed?
One of the best additions to Oxford has been the addition of Oxford University Transit. I recently learned that more than 300,000 people rode the bus last year, showing that the system was truly needed in Oxford. Other great additions are the planned bike/walk routes, which show that the city cares about the health and safety of Oxonians.
As for what needs to be changed, I feel the city should work harder to enforce deadlines for road construction projects. A recent example is the roundabout on Old Taylor Road where city and university officials were led to believe that construction would begin at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013. The project has now been pushed to 2015, much to the disappointment of many.
While Ole Miss is a big part of Oxford, there are times when it feels as if it’s the only part of Oxford (i.e., fewer cultural events in the summer, etc.). I think the city should pay more attention to the citizens who live in Oxford year-round by offering more cultural opportunities and activities outside of the existing bars/restaurants and galleries. I’d like to encourage residents to submit ideas for traveling exhibits, new businesses, etc., that would keep Oxonians in Oxford during summer and winter intersession and bring more money to Oxford instead of to Memphis, Southaven, Tupelo, or Tunica.
I also feel there should be more opportunities for job education and business mentoring. With Mississippi being rated fourth in unemployment behind Nevada, California, and Rhode Island, we need to start providing citizens with the tools they need to obtain employment. Regular computer training courses, resume and job placement assistance services, and business mentoring are all things that I feel we could easily implement in Oxford. This would boost our economy, help our residents find jobs, and possibly even help them start their own businesses.

Are there any laws in Oxford that need to be repealed and what laws need to be implemented?
Many states have a law stating that you can use cell phones while driving only if you have a hands-free device. In my opinion, Oxford needs to consider a similar law in order to curb the amount of distracted driving around town.

What is your opinion/stance on:
A. Sunday alcohol sales in restaurants and stores?
I made it a point to go out on most of the Sundays approved for special bar hours to see how many people came out for them. It turned out to be much lower than most thought it would be. I think that Sunday sales in restaurants and stores, possibly with shorter hours, would help boost profits—for those who choose to participate—and would not have a negative effect on Oxford.

B. Extended bar hours?
If we were to extend bar hours, we’d also need to extend the hours that the city is providing a larger staff of law enforcement, which will ultimately cost tax payers more money each year. I don’t think Oxonians are open to spending more tax dollars on something like this at this juncture.

C. Cold beer for sale in stores?
A very small number of people who purchase a cold beer are going to immediately open it and drink it in their car (if that is indeed the concern). Those who would do this are probably the same people who would drink the beer if it were warm.

D. The City’s involvement in a Farmer’s Market at the Armory?
I can understand the city getting involved with the development of a new farmer’s market since there have been talks about helping lower-income residents afford the fresh produce offered at the market as well as helping with transportation to the market. However, I’m wondering if the same types of benefits can be extended to the other farmer’s markets in Oxford so that everyone has access to all of the offerings. I think that there is still much discussion that needs to take place before this is finalized since it will affect other businesses and many residents that will have new access to locally grown food.

How can the City of Oxford improve its relationship with its citizens?
Mayor Pat Patterson and members of the Board of Alderman have been holding weekly lunchtime meetings with residents of each Ward, which are basically intimate town-hall meetings and give residents an opportunity to meet with their ward representative and the mayor on a face-to-face level and voice their concerns. This is an excellent step to an improved relationship and communication between the city and Oxonians.

Are there any questions I didn’t ask that you would like to address, or any other statements you would like to make to the voters of Ward 6?
I’d just like to remind residents to go to their alderman with concerns; they are there to help. Problems cannot be solved unless someone knows about them.

 

Jason Bailey

How long have you lived in Oxford and what jobs have you held here?
Thirty-three years, First Job- paper boy Oxford Eagle 11 years old. Guest Realty and Land Company, Bailey Management Company (Owner) Summit Management Services, LLC (Owner)

How long have you lived in Ward 6?
I have lived in five different houses over 17 years in Ward 6.

What is your public service background?
Leadership Lafayette, City of Oxford Planning Commission

Have you ever run a business in Oxford?
Bailey Management Company and Summit Management Services, LLC

Why would you like to be Alderman of Ward 6?
Because of my love for Oxford and my lifelong connection to Ward 6 I want to give back to the community and the Ward I know so well.

What are the major issues facing Ward 6?
Drainage/erosion, Development encroachment on neighborhoods and pedestrian safety.

In this special Ward 6 election candidates are not running as a member of a political party. However, if you were aligned to a party, which one would you choose?
I feel in a city election party lines should not matter. To me what is best for Oxford and her citizens is what matters.

Former Ward 6 Alderman Brad Mayo campaigned in 2009 on a platform of “pursuing a property tax cut.” However, property taxes have actually increased since then. Many landowners in Oxford will tell you, property taxes are too high, and many people who work in Oxford don’t actually live in town due to excessive property costs. As Alderman, will you work to lower property taxes, and if so, how can a reduction be offset?
The tax increase we have seen since Mayo was elected was due to the school bond issue. This was voted on by the citizens of Oxford and passed as it should have, we want to continue with the pursuit of excellent in education for Oxford. Any time we can lower taxes I am for, but I do not want to cut any services that vital in keeping Oxford the way it needs to be. I do feel we can become more efficient in the way we do business.

As Alderman, what will you do to help, support, and promote local business, and how can the City of Oxford improve its relationship with business owners?
As a business owner I know how important this is to our business and to the community. I would help the chamber of commerce any way I can to promote local business. I would like to see a buy local campaign happen here in Oxford.

What do you feel the City of Oxford is doing right and what do you feel needs to be changed?
The 2020 plan is something I feel the City of Oxford has used as a great guide and many thing have been done right because of that guidance. I would continue with this plan but I feel that now it’s time to revisit this again with the citizens of Oxford to take us past 2020. If elected I would like to see a 2035 commission of citizens formed to look at where we are now, where we want Oxford to be in 23 years and revise the plan.

What is your opinion/stance on:
A. Sunday Alcohol sales in restaurants and stores?
I don’t have a problem with this in its current state, but would have a problem if it was going to be changed.

B. Extended bar hours?
They are fine as it is no need to change.

C. Cold beer for sale in stores?
I never understood why you can’t buy cold beer in Oxford. If you are going to allow it to be sold, hot or cold, it will be consumed. I would be in favor of letting the citizen of Oxford put this to a vote, but I would like to see a cut off time for the sale of cold beer in stores at night.

D. The City’s involvement in a Farmer’s Market at the Armory?
I am for.

How can the City of Oxford improve its relationship with its citizens?
I feel the relationship with the citizens and the city is good. We have a city hall that has an open door policy where anyone can get help, ask questions or get involved. In my experience anytime I have a issue, needed help, had a question or wanted to get involved the City was able to address all.

 

 

Ward 6 Special Election Results
Deadline to register to vote in the March 13 Mississippi Republican Primary is Saturday, February 11, 2012

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About the Author

Newt Rayburn founded THE LOCAL VOICE in 2006. Previously, Newt was Editor of PROFANE EXISTENCE in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Art Director for Ole Miss' LIVING BLUES magazine. Newt won a National Magazine Award in 1999 for his SOUTHERN MUSIC ISSUE with THE OXFORD AMERICAN. A seventh-generation Lafayette County, Mississippian, Newt is perhaps best known as the leader of the Mississippi RocknRoll band THE COOTERS, but he also has the Country & Southern Rock group, HAWGWASH. Newt is a Photographer, Writer, and Civil War Enthusiast.



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