The four candidates running for the Ward 5 seat on the Columbus City Council spoke at Hunt Museum during the Mississippi Derby Tea Social on Saturday.
Each of the candidates — Cadarall Eddings, Gary Jefferson, Stephen Jones, Marthalie Porter — gave a short speech introducing themselves, their concerns and their ideas. Attendees then had the chance to ask specific questions of the candidates, who are each vying to fill the seat vacated by Kabir Karriem, who stepped down in December after being elected to the Legislature.
About 75 people attended Saturday’s event, according to a representative from the Federation of Democratic Women, which helped organize the event.
Eddings, 33, focused his message on cleaning up what he called a “broken” political system and bridging the gap between the community and its government. In particular, he said, he wants to get to know the citizens of Ward 5 personally. A Columbus native, Eddings said he understands the citizens and knows their concerns. He promised to use his position to empower citizens to prosper.
“I have walked the streets of this community and I have felt the fear that has gripped this community and I have seen the hopelessness and the despair in the eyes of the people of this community,” Eddings said. “My aim is to cause the citizens, cause the community of Ward 5, to come out of the ashes of intimidation, of fear, of hopelessness and to create an environment that spawns hope, that spawns a future and that spawns peace through justice.”
Jefferson, 46, talked about how he wanted to improve infrastructure, encourage communication between the Columbus Police Department and citizens and fix the city’s parks.
The roads are in bad shape, the police and the community are scared of each other and the parks are dangerous because of bad lighting and a lack of police presence in the areas, Jefferson said.
“I feel I would be a strong voice, a strong voice, for the people of Ward 5,” Jefferson said. “People, when they talk, they want somebody to hear them, and I want to be that ear that hears what the people have to say and move on what they are saying and work hands on, hands on. That means actually being in the community.”
Jones, 46, focused on the safety of citizens in Ward 5. He plans to support fully funding and supporting the CPD. He also talked about how citizens need to hold themselves and their neighbors accountable. He also talked about improving infrastructure, cleaning up the streets and providing activities for teenagers to keep them out of trouble.
“I am Ward 5,” Jones said. “I’m a product of Ward 5…we all want the same thing, whether we on this side of Military (Road) or whether we on the other side of Military. We all want the same thing. We all want to be safe. We all want our children to be safe. And that’s what I plan to provide.”
Jones promised to be accessible to everyone in the community and even gave his phone number out during his speech.
Porter, 58, talked about her three priorities: Safety, education and economic development.
“I know (safety) is on everyone’s mind, and it is vital to have a safe community,” Porter said.
Porter reminded attendees to notify police when they see suspicious activities. She also promised to encourage the formation of new neighborhood watches and support existing watches.
Porter talked about the importance of education in order to build the workforce and commended the City Council for working with the LINK, Lowndes County, Starkville and West Point to develop the economy of the Golden Triangle.
“All of these elements have come together to develop more job opportunities for us,” Porter said.
Porter later said during the question and answer session that she would follow up with public works to make sure any citizen’s concern was addressed and said that as a woman, she could bring a different perspective to the council.
When answering questions from attendees, all the candidates talked about the importance of working with the other council members to solve problems facing the city. Eddings and Porter both promised that safety would be their main priority, while Jones promised to hold a forum to find out what the citizens’ priorities were. Jefferson said communication between the citizens and the police department was his primary concern.
The election is Feb. 16.
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