WTOK’s 2021 Meridian Mayoral Forum recap

Candidates answer questions during WTOK's Meridian Mayoral Forum.
Candidates answer questions during WTOK's Meridian Mayoral Forum.(WTOK)
Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 7:00 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - All three Meridian mayoral candidates voiced their opinions and their promises to Meridianites during WTOK’s Meridian Mayoral Forum Monday night. The topics ranged from infrastructure, crime, homelessness to everyday life in the Queen City.

On the topic of homelessness and panhandling, the candidates have different approaches to addressing it.

“I don’t care about the people begging. People are going to beg anywhere you go. If they are out there in the weather and want people to give them money what difference does it make?” Republican candidate Robert Ray said. “That’s a waste of manpower. You could be over here trying to get this guy to stop begging and somebody is getting robbed over there.”

“I think we need to get a list of folks doing that and make sure we are providing the services they need, whether it’s mentally or someone that’s been on drugs that we need to rehab,” Democrat candidate Jimmie Smith said. “We need to do something from a practical sense in dealing with these folks because these are still people.”

“If we had a properly staffed city planning division, that would have eliminated the issue with the lack of properly zoned halfway houses operating,” Independent candidate Weston Lindemann said. “That would crack down on the amount of people we have coming from other parts of the state that add to our homeless population. Additionally, we only have three code enforcement officers and that’s not even one per ward. We need to double those numbers at least.”

Meridian police Chief Chris Read has been in office for about eight months. We asked the candidates how they think he’s doing and if they would keep him on.

“While he’s done a good job of public relations and has been out in various parts of the community, it’s hard to see if that’s based on political calculations and the need of securing his job or if that was done to improve the crime situation,” Lindemann explained. “I’ve talked to voters all over town and they are very concerned about lack of police follow-up.”

“I understand that we are a little short on manpower at the police department,” Smith said. “I’ve heard there are 36 or 34 police officers and that’s just not enough police officers. We need to increase the capacity of law enforcement officers in the police department and make sure we are doing the job we should be doing.”

“He wouldn’t meet with us. That just shows me that he’s a man that doesn’t want to listen to anybody. He’s doing the job himself. It would be hard for me to keep an individual like that,” Ray said.

Potholes are always an issue and the three mayoral candidates have their own ideas about resolving the problem.

“You have a city engineer and then you have a plan of developing and paving. We have 14 different thoroughfares that we’ve got to pave. I think if we pave those, then we can go back to the neighborhood roads and streets,” Smith said.

“Last August, when I announced that I was running for mayor, I did so as a result of the city council rejecting my $5.5 million plan to spend money each year, consecutively, until we fully address the streets issue,” Lindemann said. “They rejected that because they like to rely on bonded borrowing every four or five years. Usually in an election year.”

“That would be one of my passions is to fix every pothole in the city of Meridian,” Ray said. “We are going to have smooth streets in Meridian, but it takes money. That’s what I can bring to this city is money, money, money.”

Here are the following air dates and times for the forum:

The second airing will be on WTOK Saturday, June 5 at 4 p.m.

The third airing will be Sunday on the CW, June 6 at 12 p.m.

The final airing will be on MYTOK Sunday, June 6 at 5 p.m. The election is on June 8.

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