Leader Blues

Friday, May 01, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Jacksonville will choose

Jacksonville voters will choose a new mayor on May 12, but early voting starts Tuesday at city hall and ends on Friday. Voters can also go to the Pulaski County Regional Building on West Markham in downtown Little Rock, where polls will be open till the day before election day.

This is an important election, the first truly contested mayor’s race in Jacksonville in almost 23 years. Your vote could make a difference. There are several outstanding candidates in the race with good ideas on how to improve Jacksonville.

The candidates are Tommy Dupree, Aldermen Kenny Elliott and Gary Fletcher, Randy “Doc” Rhodd, Jody Urquhart and Beckie Brooks.

Here’s a quick rundown of the candidates:

Dupree believes the other candidates are ignoring several important issues, including better oversight of the police and fire departments, which are mostly staffed by people who do not live in Jacksonville. He thinks they should live in the city they serve.

Elliott is the candidate most identified with Mayor Tommy Swaim, who is resigning in mid-term for personal reasons. Elliott says he wants to build on Swaim’s record and has the endorsement of several council members. His platform includes reviving neglected areas of Jacksonville, which qualify for stimulus programs that benefit disadvantaged communities.

Fletcher is a longtime alderman who has been telling voters that he could do better if he became mayor. He promises to attract new businesses, revive decaying neighborhoods, improve deteriorating schools, fill empty storefronts and stop the flight of professionals and others from the city. It’s a tall order, but he says he’s ready for the challenge.

Randy Rhodd, a motorcycle minister, is a colorful candidate, but a vote for him would be like supporting Ralph Nader. Although he is a long-shot candidate, he is genuinely concerned about poverty and joblessness in Jacksonville, and his presence in the race is refreshing.

Jody Urquhart is one of the more credible candidates in this crowded field. He brings new ideas and a youthful vigor to this race, and whether or not he gets into the runoff, he should have a bright future in Jacksonville politics. He, too, is a problem solver, and here’s hoping he’ll use those talents to benefit the city.

Beckie Brooks is the conscience of this race, a true Southern lady who says what’s on her mind and harks back to a less complicated time when people reasoned together to solve their problems. Even if she falls short in this contest, she has already made an impact through her straight-from-the-heart campaign.

Look at the candidates’ records. Go to our Web site, www.arkansasleader.com, and read the long responses to our recent questionnaire the candidates sent us.

Don’t just complain about the direction Jacksonville is going. Go to the polls and tell the politicians what you think. Your vote will make a big difference.