Runoff candidates square off

Published 10:57 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

Demopolis’s District 2 will determine its City Council representative today in a runoff election between Mitchell Congress and Charles E. Jones Jr. District 2 lies south of Arcola Road and east of U.S. 43 South, and its registered voters will vote at the National Guard Armory on U.S. Highway 43 South.

In the Aug. 26 election, Jones garnered 184 votes, while Congress had 148. Alex Roberson, who also ran for the District 2 seat, had 105 votes, and it is those voters that Congress and Jones have sought out since that election.

“The biggest challenge is to people back out to the polls,” Jones said. “Last time, we had a mayoral race, and there was more at stake, and people wanted to take part in that race, and we were more like a sideline to that. I’ve actually said — and somebody told me I was stupid for saying this — but I told them, ‘If you vote for me or any of them, I just want you to come to the polls.’ I need a turnout, just so it won’t be a lethargic deal where it’s ‘We don’t care which of them wins.’”

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“I’ve written my last letter to the voters, which I’ve done several,” Congress said yesterday. “I’ve made a last-minute appeal to the voters. I’ve had a warm reception from the voters, so now, it’s in the Lord’s hands.

“It’s been very tiring and very expensive to campaign six more weeks. Sometimes, you get to the point where you don’t know what to do next; it all becomes redundant, but it’s been fun. You kind of adjust your strategy, because when it’s down to two candidates, you focus more on your opponent than you would with three running.

“It’s going to be tough to pick between Charles and me,” he said. “I’ve been on the council before, but Charles has served in other capacities, so either of us would be a good pick, I think.”

Each candidate has been working on many different issues that they hear about from the constituents.

“One thing that’s big in District 2 is that they want to clean it up,” Congress said. “They want to get rid of the hung banners and the dilapidated houses, and they want to clean up the vacant lots and enforce the ordinances that are in place. If we can enforce the noise ordinance, we can tell people, ‘Your grass needs to be cut’ or ‘This car that’s been parked in your yard has to go or be repaired,’ or ‘This house is falling apart. You need to either tear it down or make it livable.’ It’s just not fair to people who have nice, well-kept properties to have to live next door to those conditions.

“We also need to make sure that the departments that exist have what they need to work with. Another focus is trying to get businesses and industries on the east side of Highway 80 instead of everything moving west. Moving things east would sort of fill the city out, and people moving from 80 West to 80 East would be able to see the best of Demopolis without having to go halfway down Highway 80.

“The area of French Creek has a lot of work they need to have done,” he said. “We want to make sure that our efforts start at the city limits at French Creek and help them a lot, then bring it on into the city.”

“The people that I’ve talked to have said there are some speed issues where they’d like the traffic to slow down,” Jones said. “They’ve been told that they can’t get speed breakers there, and I think they can.

“There is slow-moving storm water, because all of the water on the west side of town has to go through District 3 (south Demopolis), and then through the center of town all the way to the canal; it goes all the way down to Parr’s (Chevron on U.S. Highway 80 East). So, you’ve got to figure that all of the other areas are dumping it to the ditches, so our water is on the tail end, and it’s just backed up. It’s really slow-moving. The water on each side of town needs to be turned towards French Creek, so we can get it out of town. They’ve done some engineering studies, so the studies are in place. The constituents have been told that they can’t get grant money because the income per capita is too high.

“That area has no pavement, and there are a lot of mobile homes there,” he said. “You’ve got to get your sewer in, you’ve got to get your water in, and then we can start talking about streets curbed and guttered and street lights. You’ve got to get the subsurface right, and then we build it up.”

Both candidates said they were anxious to work with mayor-elect Mike Grayson.

“I think things will be OK,” Jones said. “We just need to stay true to the east side of town. I know there are some constituents who want him to go the other way, but you’ve got to stay true to the east side of town, but I can work with anybody.”

“Mike Grayson has said that he doesn’t want an east Demopolis and a west Demopolis or a black Demopolis and a white Demopolis — we just want one Demopolis,” Congress said, “and I agree with that wholeheartedly. If I’m on the council, I’ll hold him to that.”

The poll will close tonight at the National Guard Armory at 7 p.m. The winner of the runoff election would join Grayson and council members-elect Thomas Moore, Melvin Yelverton, Bill Meador and Jack Cooley on the Demopolis City Council when they are sworn in on Nov. 3.