MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Wednesday night, WSFA 12 News partnered with the League of Women Voters Montgomery and Troy University to host a mayoral forum.
At Davis Theatre in downtown Montgomery, 11 candidates took the stage to address issues in the city, such as education, crime, entertainment and quality of life. Hobson Cox is also running for mayor, but he declined to participate in the forum. Residents were able to hear from each candidate about their platform and plans to improve Montgomery.
On the topic of education, the candidates were asked what they would do to improve schools in the city. When asked whether property taxes should be increased to help fund school systems, many, including Elton Dean and Artur Davis, were not in favor. Davis said there needs to be a hard conversation held about how city schools should be run, but continuing to throw money at the system is not the answer.
Stephen Reed is not opposed to property taxes, but he does want to look at other avenues of funding. He said within his first 90 days in office, he would put together an economic team to look at all options to fund public schooling, including looking at where wages and spending can be cut.
Shannon Ferrari brought up how poor schooling in Montgomery affects military families, stating some military members have said they’ve left their families behind because of the lack of quality education in the city. She wants the city government to take over the school system.
“Every student in the city has the right to a top notch education,” Ferrari said.
The questions moved to the topic of crime, and the candidates were asked what their overall approach to the issue would be. Many were in favor of community policing and increased opportunities for residents, particularly children.
“We have to be proactive rather than reactive,” Reed said.
Bibby Simmons said if the city opened more community centers, teenagers would have something to do and would be less likely to get involved in crime.
“We have to go back to the root of the problem,” he said. "We need to reeducate our children."
Mentoring programs were also suggested as a way to pair young children with adults who can steer them in the right direction.
“My plan would be to create mentor programs,” David Woods said, saying the programs would teach the kids at a young age how they should behave.
“We’ve got to let our kids know that we care,” Ed Crowell said, and he suggested keeping kids busy with activities, not crime.
Ronald Davis said poverty is a factor in crime.
“I believe poverty has a grip on a lot of our young people,” he said. “We need to work to alleviate poverty.”
Victorrus Felder addressed recent attention brought to some instances of crime, like a recent shootout in Cloverdale, but not to instances in other parts of Montgomery.
“All communities should be safe, but there shouldn’t be certain communities where we say this is enough,” he said, adding class shouldn’t be a factor when deciding to talk about tackling crime.
Artur Davis agreed with Felder.
“There are places in this city where the sound of gunfire is a nightly rhythm,” he said. He also said if he is elected mayor he will lobby for the district attorney to be able to remove firearms from individuals that exhibit “red flag” characteristics, like mental illness.
Elton Dean said a big issue is offenders being released on bond, allowing them to continue committing crimes in the city. He would make sure they stay behind bars.
“We need to make sure citizen laws are strengthened,” Dean said. “Enough is enough.”
The questions turned next to quality of life in Montgomery, and what the candidates would do to make the city more “fun.”
JC Love talked about the amphitheater, saying it is one of the most under utilized venues in the city. He would bring music festivals to Montgomery, and he would work to expand the entertainment district.
“Make Montgomery more of a destination and less of a pass through,” he said.
Butler Browder said he wouldn’t invest in entertainment downtown because most of the city’s money has already been invested there; however, he did say the area around the Alabama River could be improved.
“First thing I’m going to do is try to get some of that land back around the Alabama River so it can be beautified and make a public landing like in downtowns of most cities,” Browder said.
Montgomery’s municipal election is Aug. 27.