Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance Legal Project Director L. Patricia Ice waited until the last minute to enter the race for the vacant Ward 1 council seat. Ice barely managed to gather the 50-signature minimum on her petition to run against Jackson lobbyist Quentin Whitwell in the Feb. 15 special election to replace departing Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill. Weill took office as a Hinds County Circuit Court judge in January after a successful November election.
Ice, 57, turned in 60 signatures, but signatures must be from Ward 1 registered voters, and the Municipal Election Committee tossed nine of them. Whitwell told the JFP Monday that he challenged the legitimacy of some of the remaining signatures before the Election Committee, arguing that Ice's petition contained "at least three (signatures) signed by the spouse of the person, clearly in the exact same signature." Whitwell said his campaign has retrieved the voter-registration application signatures of several of the disputed names, and that their signatures "(do) not match the signature that is on the petition."
Whitwell said Monday that he has received no response from the Election Committee, however, and has surrendered his challenge. He said he is moving forward with the campaign and plans to battle Ice at the ballot box. Ice said she is ready for that fight.
Why are you running?
I can represent the ward better. My opponent Quentin Whitwell is a lobbyist, and he represents a lot of big businesses. I have worked in my entire career here in Jackson for people, and I believe I have the interests of the ordinary citizens and residents of Ward 1 in mind. He is clearly, in my opinion, interested in business and in making a lot of money rather than the concerns of the ward.
What would be your priorities?
My priorities are trying to decrease crime, to strengthen education and promote economic development in the area. These are the three main ones, but I'm also interested in constituent services and other things. ... In the JATRAN situation, I really support keeping the bus routes (at their current size) and not cutting the bus routes. I want people (with disabilities) to be able to ride the buses and have the necessary equipment for the buses.
What are your thoughts on employee pay raises? Can citizens afford them?
City employees should definitely be paid a living wage or higher. I also support union rights for city employees. I know they're already allowed to join the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees, but I'm particularly interested in city police and possibly having a pay raise for police officers. That ties in with the issue of crime and officer morale and police responsiveness.
Will tax increases be necessary to accomplish this?
I think there are ways that we can raise taxes from certain untaxed property that is in the city, either government buildings or offices that should be paying into our system, so that we can raise money for police officers and other city workers.
The Legislature has to agree with any kind of tax increase we want to put on untaxed government buildings.
I know there will be an uphill battle on that.
What do you make of Quentin Whitwell's dispute of your signatures?
I'm not sure how many signatures he's disputing, but all of the signatures I have left are all valid signatures, as far as I know. I went door-to-door collecting those signatures. Now some people who signed may have been disqualified, but they told me that they were registered voters in the ward. As a matter of fact, there's one name that was disqualified who is a registered voter in Ward 1, and I may be challenging the disqualification of that one person, at least.
Whitwell is welcome to commit any challenge he likes, but I hold firm with the signatures that I have, and I feel confident that he won't win any challenge for those remaining 51 signatures.
When did you start collecting signatures on this?
I made a decision just a few days ago. I started a little less than a week before the signatures were due and I pounded the pavement in the ward. I went to several neighborhoods and asked for signatures.
What is your opinion of the work of Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Lonnie Edwards over the last three years? (The school board voted not to renew Edward's contract last month.)
I've met Dr. Edwards, and I think he is extremely personable, affable, and I think he's been good for Jackson Public Schools on many levels. I'm concerned about the dropout rate and the low performance of the schools, but I feel like maybe he should've had more time to stay in the job because he hasn't been in the job very long. I think he should've been given more time to improve the performance of the school.
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