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JONESBORO, Ark. – Six candidates almost guarantees a run-off election in Jonesboro’s future but before that, the public must decide who they want. Tuesday night gave everyone a better look at who they could vote for.
Candidates Harold Copenhaver, Amanda Moffitt Dunavent, Thomas Elwood, John Street, Nathan Coleman and Mayor Harold Perrin took to the stage at Jonesboro High School for a debate co-sponsored by Talk Business and KAIT.
The debate, moderated by Roby Brock, began with opening statements.
“You deserve a leader who will have your voice in hand,” Copenhaver said. “You the residents have spoken loud and clear that you are over regulated and ill-informed of backroom deals with little transparency.”
When you’re self employed, you have no fall back position,” Elwood said. “You have to produce or you don’t eat. We’ve been solving problems and it’s nothing for me to solve a budget.”
“The reason I am running for mayor is the outcry of citizens wanting change,” Dunavant said.
“I’m running not necessarily to make it bigger, but to make it better,” Coleman said. “To work on the infrastructure and to up our game. To set our standards a little higher.”
“If elected mayor, I’ll provide fair, equal and accountable representation to all citizens of Jonesboro,” Street said. “I’ll run a transparent and open administration and listen to your concerns.”
“When I became mayor in 2008, the City of Jonesboro was in a financial instability,” Perrin said. “I had to work a month and a half prior to taking the office oath.”
Property Maintenance Code
The first subject of the debate was the property maintenance code, repealed earlier in the year in Jonesboro.
“It’s kind of sad to see some of these structures come down, because they’re kind of part of the city,” Elwood said. “I was against the property code maintenance. Someone from the city could check in, purchase the property, and tear it down. I was against the property code and I’m against a new code. I think we’ve got to look at higher priorities.”
“I was not a big fan of the code,” Dunavant said. “I was also on the repeal the code. I collected signatures and talk to the community. Along with Mr. Elwood, we have bigger fish to fry. Some of these buildings are historical value.”
“The original intent, I don’t think anyone would have been able to find an officer who would have supported it,” Coleman said. “I felt like it was flawed to begin with and shouldn’t have been passed. I’d like to see something in place to where it’s easier to get rid of some of the trash. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can’t take it to the dump.”
“I opposed the property maintenance code and fought for it’s repeal,” Street said. “I think it was overreach and it would have hurt a lot of poor people and old people. We need more code enforcement officials now and we’re just placing a burden on them that would be impossible to do. I’ve been an advocate of reinstating clean sweep for a one month time period. We used to do it and it would be successful.”
“The City of Jonesboro has basically three ordinances on the books that pertain of the property maintenance,” Perrin said. “One is cutting of the grass, two is inoperable vehicles and three is unlawful storage. In the past, Jonesboro has done demolitions on at least 50 homes a year and I don’t think that’s a good way to do that. The community block grant does have money and this year we allocated over $50,000 for homes.”
“Initially, we as residents, understanding the code is issue number one,” Copenhaver said. “Anytime a code is presented that is over three or four pages long, you have to question that. This was 30 pages long. We have codes on the books and if we are not using them we need to amend those codes. You bring people to the table from both sides and let them discuss it. I feel like in this situation, that was not handled correctly.”
The only notable moment of contention, came as candidate Elwood made mention of the necessity of police parking their cars in protest to elicit the attention of city officials. Mayor Perrin seemed to take offense after Elwood stated it was a “shame.” Perrin took aim at police vehicle protest, saying he has always had an “open and transparent” office, suggesting the act was unnecessary. He said it cost the taxpayers overtime to pull people to take the cars back to the vehicle pull.
Edit: 9:05 p.m. – An anonymous police source reached out to NEA Report to say no overtime was paid for officers parking cars. On duty officers were called to move vehicles from city hall to departments service division, according to the source.
Candidates also discussed if Jonesboro could support two convention centers, which they did, although some skeptically.
In addition, the idea of annexation of new property was brought up. It was a trend among candidates to suggest Jonesboro worry about the area it currently covers and not grow beyond need.
Just as the debate neared completion, Brock mentioned a bonus lightning round and seemed poised to ask a more light-hearted question. However, with a noticeable tone of disappointment, Brock announced he was just told by a KAIT producer that they had ran out of time for the debate. Candidates closed the evening with statements.