Candidates answer questions at forum: Only 2 of 10 alderman hopefuls showed up at Franklinton event

Published 8:16 am Friday, October 7, 2016

Only two of 10 Franklinton alderman candidates showed up to a forum at the Washington Parish Courthouse on Tuesday evening, but those who did attend answered a variety of questions in an event that lasted about an hour.

The Franklinton Chamber of Commerce sponsored the forum, which was first announced about a month ago. Citizens were invited to submit questions to the chamber, and the questions selected were then given to the candidates ahead of time.

However, only incumbent alderman John Daniel and newcomer candidate Frankie Crosby showed up Tuesday. Candidates who did not attend were Wayne Bryant, Doug Brown, T.J. Butler, Patrice Crain, Cole Ladner, Florence Manning, Darwin Sharp and Heath Spears. Butler and Spears are incumbents.

Franklinton citizens will elect five of these 10 candidates to serve as members of the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the best of turnout, but we are more than thankful for the parties who have shown up, which is part of their civic duty as running for an office,” said James Knight, who served as the forum’s moderator. “It gives the public an opportunity to be able to hear what they have to say.”

Approximately 20 citizens attended Tuesday’s forum.

Daniel and Crosby were each given the opportunity to answer eight simple “yes or no” questions, and elaborate on their responses if they wished. Later in the forum, each was also asked six additional more detailed questions, rotating the order of who answered first.

Both candidates were also given time for brief opening and closing statements.

Candidates split on term limits, extending city boundaries

Several of the early questions dealt with the makeup of the Board of Aldermen itself. Both were asked if they support term limits — Daniel said no, while Crosby said yes; and both were asked if they support staggered terms for aldermen — both said no.

“I would not support (staggered terms),” Daniel said. “I would support separating the mayor’s election and the aldermen’s election. So that if you had somebody as an alderman that wanted to run for mayor, then he could run for mayor without losing his alderman seat.”

“If you’ve got staggered terms … is the mayor going to be (on staggered terms)? Is everybody going to be on staggered terms? It’s going to cost the town money to have that many more elections,” Crosby said.

The other yes-and-no questions asked were:

• Are you in favor of higher-content alcoholic beverages, such as wine or liquor, being served in restaurants in Franklinton? — Crosby said “yes and no,” suggesting that there might need to be quotas in place to ensure that restaurants do not sell too much alcohol. Daniel said, “I would not be opposed to restaurants offering a glass of wine with a meal — that sort of thing.”

• Are you in favor of the town of Franklinton supporting the recreational district? — Daniel said “absolutely yes,” and Crosby was also in support.

• Would you support extending the city limits of Franklinton? — Crosby said “without more information, I would say no.” Daniel said he would be in favor, because it might help the town attract more business by increasing its population.

• Would you be in favor of allowing golf carts for senior citizens on neighborhood streets in Franklinton? — Daniel said yes, while Crosby said no, expressing his concern about potential accidents.

• Should free-standing signs, such as those used by political candidates, be allowed on public property? — Both said no.

• Should large advertising signs be allowed on buildings in town? — Crosby said yes, if they are privately owned buildings and the signs were regulated to avoid offensive speech or garish decoration.

“We wouldn’t want a whole lot of psychedelic colors,” said Crosby, drawing chuckles from the audience. “We don’t want to go back that far; I don’t think we want to go back to the ‘60s.”

Daniel said, “Whoever owns that building … that is part of his business,” but also agreed that some regulation would be needed.

Candidates share visions, goals for town

During the longer-response portion of the forum, both candidates were asked to give their vision for the town in five, 10, and 15 years from now.

Daniel said that the town should utilize the Louisiana Municipal Association and other state agencies to help determine how to grow the downtown area. He also noted that he would love to see the town’s population grow by “20 percent” in the future.

“I’m not looking for Franklinton to grow like Mandeville or Covington,” he said. “I don’t think we can handle that.”

Crosby said his first goal would be to change the election of aldermen. He would recommend four districts and one-at large seat, rather than the current composition of five at-large seats.

“One person, voting for five people — that’s not right,” said Crosby, of the current election structure.

He also said he would research working with the state to control large truck traffic on Louisiana Highway 10 through downtown Franklinton.

Both candidates were asked how they would address the high unemployment rate. Crosby said he would hold monthly job fairs, and encourage younger people to develop an early work ethic. He also said that he would be aggressive in courting large-market businesses, even if they initially say that Franklinton is too small.

“You have not, because you have asked not,” he said. “Yeah, we may have asked for a Walmart. Yeah, we may have asked for a Target. But they’re not the only fish in the sea.”

Daniel said he would encourage jobs in the industrial park and downtown.

Other questions asked in this portion of the forum included:

• What long and short-term changes would you make in the town of Franklinton? — Daniel said the town needs to increase its revenue base, and suggested that improved recreational facilities could help. He also recommended troubleshooting and completing the automatic meter reading system. Finally, he suggested extending the runway at the airport and adding refueling stations to encourage more air traffic.

Crosby said that would try to grow the business base in downtown, and also work on revitalizing rundown or abandoned homes in recreational neighborhoods.

• What can the town of Franklinton do to attract new retail businesses in the downtown area? — Crosby suggested improving the parking situation by redirecting large truck traffic, and possibly building a central parking garage. He also recommended holding regular outdoor festivals to encourage growth and civic pride.

Daniel said the town needs a long-term vision and short-term vision for its business goals. He also suggested that growing other parts of the town would lead to additional growth downtown as well.

• How would you improve downtown parking? — Daniel noted that Franklinton is limited by what it can do, because of the state highway.

“If the state would allow us to make changes to Washington Street — to make it a one-way street — and another street going one way (in the other direction), then we could route those big trucks out of here,” Daniel said.

Crosby said that he has visited other cities who have been able to re-route traffic. It can be done, he said, but it requires a vision and a willingness to work with state legislators and other government bodies.

• Should the town of Franklinton be involved in providing recreational activities for the town, and if so, how? — Crosby said that he believes the town should be involved.

“We should have a (recreation) department that other towns will want to be like,” he said. “We have the minds, we have the people, we have the talent, we have the skills … and we definitely have the space.”

However, Crosby noted that he is concerned about the prospective park that may be built on Highway 25, because there is no safe way for children to travel to it.

“My biggest concern is children getting up there — walking up there when it’s dark, walking back and forth, OK? We can create a bike path down the power lines … maybe we can designate that as a bike path,” he said.

Crosby noted there is plenty of space in town, such as the old school on T.W. Parker Drive. He also said that a small water park or youth center would improve quality of life in the town.

Daniel noted that a portion of the town’s sales taxes is earmarked for recreation, but he is not sure the funds have always been spent wisely.

“I think there’s more things that can be done there,” he said. “We can do walking paths, we can do movie nights, we can do entertainment,” he said. “The money that’s being taken in is like $50,000 — but only about $10,000 to $12,000 is being spent on recreation.

“We spent $3,000 putting basketball courts up in front of the primary school up there. We said that was needed, and that’s what this money is for. But we just have to find more ways to use that money for the benefit for our citizens.”