Albany Mayoral Candidates square off in debate

The four mayoral candidates discussed issues affecting Albany in a public debate

The four Albany Mayoral Candidates faced off for the first time in a public debate format on Monday at the Union Baptist Church as a part of the 2011 Clergy Open Forum.

Moderators asked questions on four topics including Budget, Recreation, Public Works and Public Safety.

While Public Safety includes the police force and the fire department, the Albany mayoral candidates say they have heard more concerns about police presence and being afraid of criminals.

"What I'm hearing is that people are afraid," says Mayoral Candidate Dorothy Hubbard. "What I'm hearing is that people want police presence."

She says one problem she sees is that once Albany trains police, they leave for better paying jobs in different cities.

Instead of tweaking what exists, some candidates say the city needs to expand and develop different police departments.

"I've always been partial to precincts in cities and that we have to do a little study on to make sure we cover every area of the city," says Mayoral Candidate John White.

"My concept plan is with the Dougherty County Aggressive Task Force: It's a military format I want to come into the police department to be able to control crime, corruption, all of the issues that we deal with," says Mayoral Candidate Kirk Smith.

Mayoral Candidate B.J. Fletcher says crime and jobs go hand-in-hand. She says when you help the economy you are in turn lowering the crime rate.

"When we create jobs and we create tourism, those numbers will go down. Keep them off the streets, give them something to do and you will see a reduction in crime," says Fletcher, who did say Albany Fire Chief James Carswell has "done a tremendous job."

John White and Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard say the city's workforce should mold and industries and businesses should expand all to fit what already exists in Albany.

"What my plan is to work with the industries and the small businesses that are already here to see if we can grow some jobs from some extensions and some subsidiaries of some of the industries that are here," says Hubbard.

"I made contact with several different kinds of industry already to see if they fit our population, see if they fit the skills that we teach at the local technical schools," says White.

Smith, on the other hand, is thinking a bigger.

"My focus is on strictly Fortune 500 companies because you can't come in here and put a restaurant here and hire two or three people, you've got to have mass quantities. With the Fortune 500 companies I'm talking to we'll be able to put at least 10 to 15 thousand people to work," says Smith.

When it came to questions about recreation in Albany, Fletcher says she will develop a Recreation Board which will compose of parents and business, community and church leaders who will make recommendations to the city commission.

Hubbard says she will encourage families and church organizations to get involved with children, which was a strategy White mirrored.

"Parent involvement is a major issue with our children," says Hubbard.

As for the Civic Center, Smith says it is a "money-making opportunity." He says he would work with a Civic Center Manager to bring more than one event per month to the facility. Smith says it would not only make more money but also keep kids off of the streets.

While White says that the city cannot compare its Civic Centers with other cities' Civic Centers, Hubbard says she wants to meet with civic center managers in surrounding cities such Montgomery and Tallahassee to see what makes them successful.

Fletcher says she wants to develop the Civic Center into a multi-purpose complex.

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