Whose race is it anyway?

With an air of anticipation, spectators filled the room and took their seat for what was surely to be an informative event.

Seven Grambling mayoral candidates were seated on the stage looking out into a sea of familiar yet strange faces. No longer were these the faces of close friends but of a concerned constituency.Once Grambling Chamber of Commerce President Barbara F. McIntyre and Northeast Homeowner Association President Douglas T. Porter extended welcome messages, the moderators began to explain the rules of how the forum was to proceed.

To begin, each candidate was to give seven minutes to present themselves and their platform, which was followed by a question-and-answer portion.

The candidates in the running to become the mayor of Grambling are incumbent Martha B. Andrus, Alvin R. Bradley, Gary Dupree, Stephric Garrett, Edward Jones, Robert E. Wiley and John Williams.

Mayor Andrus was the first to speak, and one of the first to extend one of many thanks to the Homeowners Association. She presented herself as the homegrown mayor who had an extensive knowledge of how to run the city because of her eight years in office.
The mayor also included her service record of renovating Grambling Park, getting highway lights for Exit 81 into Grambling, and helping fight for housing for the elderly.

After her, Bradley took the podium and explained his platform. He stated that his vision for Grambling was a more fiscally responsible, accountable and transparent city.

Another platform of his was that the mayor should take a stake in the education of the community’s children and to work in concert with the Grambling State University administration to provide internships for students.

Bradley also wants to establish task forces to find and use tax breaks and incentives for the town.

Dupree spoke next and his statement was a mishmash of different concepts that did not seem to reach the audience, which exhibited an aura of anxiousness and wrecked nerves.
His platform was that Grambling citizens should buy in Grambling before going to Ruston to spend their money.

If elected, he said, he would bring hard work and the ability to lead because of his background as a supervisor in his career. He said his leadership training with the Methodist church could also help him.
To close his platform, Dupree stated that he had a 20-year plan that included an industrial park and even an airport for the city.

Upon hearing this news the crowd buzzed with comments, but was quieted once Mayor Pro Tem Edward Jones rose to speak.

He gave his record of being a past president of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as being a prominent businessman in the community and being housing director of the Grambling Housing Authority. If elected, he said, he would work in conjunction with “Village” owners, find ways to reduce property taxes, enhance relations with GSU, and help stimulate an era of accountability in the city government.

Wiley then stepped to the podium and gave his platform in three points: (1) development of small businesses in the community to stop the spending of money in Ruston; (2) better management of city finances and to have smoother auditing processes to ensure accurate financial reports; and (3) his third point, teamwork, was to take the skills and talents of his administration and place them into positions that could be used.

A highlight of Wiley’s speech was a hotel that he wanted to have built in the city that could help spark business interests to come into Grambling, which would in turn lower property taxes.

Former Mayor Williams was the next to speak, and he surely did not disappoint. He did not waste time attacking certain candidate achievements and taking credit for major progresses in Grambling. He stated that he wanted to work to get the city back in order and have an open-door policy.

Williams also said that he would work hard for the children and elderly of the city. At one point he alienated the students of Grambling, alluding to a story of a student almost winning a seat on the council and only caring about the money.

Much of Williams’ speech was messages about candidates that only those who had been paying attention to the entire race would understand.

The last candidate was the ever so modest Garrett, whose speech was enthusiastic and focused. He talked about his emotions of anger, tiredness, sadness and fear. He was tired of the negative press Grambling always seems to receive, angry because the city was in turmoil, sad to see that no progress had been made, and afraid that someone will be hurt.

Garrett also wanted to see accountability be taken by the government, as well as a reduction of expenses and an improved infrastructure.

Once the question and answer section started, the candidates gave similar answers. Each of them spoke about the fact that, for Grambling to survive, it must bring in businesses. Wiley said that small businesses could come into the town, the sales tax generated by the business would in turn lower the property tax and town millage. He said the millage for Grambling is a staggering 47.3 percent as opposed to that of Ruston, which is 9 percent, and the village of Simsboro, 4 percent.

Candidate Wiley gave a detailed plan as to what could be done to generate business, the central point of which was to bring a hotel into Grambling. The hotel would bring in food chains, which would bring in more businesses and increase revenue.

All the candidates agreed to use the university to bring in more business so that they can be taxed since GSU’s 380-acre campus is state property, therefore preventing it from being taxed.

Dupree proposed that the sales tax would offset the property tax and that citizens should buy at home first to help spark this. He also said that church organizations should also be accounted in the business growth. Dupree asserted that he had seen many churches build grocery stores and apartment complexes.

The issue of indebtedness was also touched on, and Bradley said that we should first take care of those problems, in addition to finding tax incentives and credits to give business.

The entire panel of candidates also affirmed that they were in favor of rezoning and setting up districts for the city. Williams said that it was one his priorities that never got off the ground during his 1995-2000 term.

Garrett wants to create businesses and opportunities for students, along with a newspaper and transit system.

The primary election is on Oct. 2, and the general election, where any runoffs will be decided, is Nov. 2.