Mayoral candidates take aim at incumbent
By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
May 25, 2001
Three mayoral candidates took aim at Mayor John Robert Smith's leadership style Thursday night as the incumbent skipped an election forum because of a prior commitment.
Mayoral hopefuls Bill McBride and Charlie Haynes, both Independents, and William Hugh Johnson, a Democrat, all took shots at Smith's leadership qualities at the NAACP-sponsored forum.
Smith did not attend the forum due to a previous commitment at the Multi-County Community Services Agency's awards banquet, but his absence didn't stop questions over such issues as a lack of quality service in garbage pickup, police protection and demolition of abandoned homes inside the city.
Haynes said the lack of quality services was because Smith's priorities weren't in line with the most citizens'. He claimed Smith would rather spend millions of dollars on big ticket items like The Grand Opera House, the new Central Fire Station and Union Station rather than provide quality basic services.
In written responses prepared in advance and read aloud at the forum, Smith said he believed current problems with yard debris not being picked-up resulted from the city's new contract with Waste Management.
When a question about annexations by the city was asked, McBride took the opportunity to claim Smith was only suggesting annexation because that's the only way he could "grow the city."
In his prepared response to the question, Smith wrote that annexation was a way for the city to occasionally protect its taxpayers from shouldering the entire tax burden.
Some attendants at the forum questioned candidates about a recent controversy involving Smith's decision not to prosecute a woman who filed a false rape report.
Johnson answered by claiming it was not only morally wrong for Smith to "pardon" the woman, but also illegal.
The city's general election is set for June 5.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at email@example.com.