Candidates for Hopkinsville mayor offered their perspectives on how to put the city on the right path should they be elected in a candidate forum Tuesday night. The local chapter of the League of Women Voters hosted and moderated the event, featuring Republican incumbent Carter Hendricks, Democrat Jason McCraw and Independents Walter Shamble and Wally Bryan.
Democrat Jason McCraw
Democrat Jason McCraw described himself as a conservative, veteran and business owner. McCraw said the city is not in the right direction because current “borrow and spend” policies burden the people. He said he would not increase taxes and would cut spending. “I believe I’m the only conservative on this panel right now that I know of,” McCraw said, swiping at Hendricks.
McCraw said that, responding to Hendricks’ defense of the insurance premium tax, the borrowed rate is 3.6 percent now and can go up to 6 percent, which would increase the tax rate. “As far as that one percent, we don’t know that that’s going to substantiate the payback for the money we borrowed and we keep adding to the WINS programs - we just added another $3.5 million dollars to it in May. So, when is it going to stop?”
He said downtown revitalization has helped Hopkinsville, but took issue with a lack of maintenance on some buildings that he felt could be changed with ordinances. He said there's too much rental property and too many run-down houses that need to be evaluated. Investors are willing to build new homes, he said, and called on private-enterprise to help resolve the city’s housing issue.
Republican Carter Hendricks
Incumbent Republican Carter Hendricks said the city’s downtown has undergone a “renaissance” over the past four years. He touted efforts to reduce crime, improve sidewalks and parks and expand business options. Hendricks held up a picture of a smiley face to emphasize why he felt the city was on the right path. “Jobs are up, crime is down, unemployment is down. Visitors to the community are up and pride in the City of Hopkinsville is on the rise. I think that’s the reason to smile about the path that we’re on,” he said.
Responding to criticism from McCraw over tax increases, Hendricks said the insurance premium tax was debated for a year before approval. Hendricks said it’s a 1% tax that equates on the average household to $2.50 more per month for strategic initiatives “That we believe help to make our community a better community for all residents.”
He said the city is investing in infrastructure projects like sidewalks and more needs to be done. He argued that quality of life aspects like parks and sidewalks attract workers. He said the industrial park has grown under his administration, described the new shopping center and said locally-owned businesses are thriving.
Independent Wally Bryan
Former mayor Wally Bryan promised to steer the city in the right direction by reducing city debt and future taxes. On this topic, he called for the city to go back to basics. Responding to Hendricks’ smiley face sign, Bryan held up a sad face because he said debt has gone up from $18 million to more than $31 million in less than four years. He said people need more money in their pockets to spend downtown. He suggested a Dave Ramsey class for the city to improve money management. “Groupthink” needs to be challenged, he said, and added that the city needs “a businessman in the mayor’s office.”
Bryan vowed to go after slum lords and said too many properties are owned by out-of-town people. He stressed the importance of people owning real estate and supports job training so people can earn enough money to buy homes.
Bryan said he undertook a sidewalk initiative as mayor in the 90s, but said too many sidewalks today are falling apart and suggested rather than building new ones to repair old ones.
Independent Walter Shamble
Walter Shamble said he’s an activist committed to public service. He called for a change to the “good ole boy system.” Shamble reiterated throughout the debate that dilapidated housing and poverty are moral issues. He called on changing the credit score system for home ownership and said the city needs to better manage “slum lords.”
The industrial park is an “economic oasis,” Shamble said, adding revenues and resources should better support the city and residents. He said “multimillionaire conservatives” have eliminated people in the democratic process and wants more citizen participation.
Calling for more minority inclusion, Shamble challenged the other candidates to “try living black in Hopkinsville for 30 days.” He said the city wins when people in authority give power to the people to achieve the American Dream.
Election Day is November 6.