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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Candidates talk inclusion, energy in forum
Thursday, September 27, 2012
The city must make efforts to ensure that all segments of its population are included when issues are discussed and decisions are made, according to Martinsville City Council candidate Sharon Brooks Hodge.
During a candidates forum sponsored by the Martinsville-Henry County Democratic Committee on Wednesday, committee Chairman Jeff Adkins asked what candidates think is the biggest issue facing the city, except for creating jobs and improving education.
Inclusion, Hodge replied. She said the city should “make every neighborhood feel like we’re part of the community.”
She emphasized that by inclusion, she meant not only people of different races, but also people of all genders and ages.
Hodge, who several times expressed concern about people leaving the area when they grow up, pointed out that no young voters seemed to be among the approximately 35 area residents who attended the forum.
She suggested asking young people what they consider to be important to the community.
They are “the next generation of leaders,” she said.
Incumbent Councilman Mark Stroud said he thinks the big issue is the city being able to increase the amount of energy it produces “in house,” such as electricity generated at the landfill methane facility and the hydrodam on the Smith River.
Stroud said the municipal building uptown is undergoing a “full revamp” of its energy distribution system that is expected to save the city $35,000 to $40,000 a year on its energy costs.
Incumbent Councilman Danny Turner said the city must determine ways to hold down the cost of electricity for city residents and businesses, plus ways to keep enough police officers on patrol.
Council candidate Jim Woods said the biggest issue is whether the city should revert to town status to save money. Alluding to past studies of the issue that were shelved, he said “we’ve got to quit kicking the ball down the field and deal with” the issue.
The fifth council candidate, Jay Engstrom, did not attend the forum.
People in the crowd were able to ask a few questions and make comments on issues.
Naomi Hodge-Muse of Martinsville asked the candidates if they will take a stand against uranium mining near Chatham in light of fears over health problems that could result from it.
The candidates said they at least would favor the state continuing its ban on uranium mining until scientists know more about the effects of mining.
The possibility of mining near Chatham affecting an aquifer associated with Leatherwood Creek was mentioned during the forum.
Ellen Boone, who lives in the county’s Dyer Store community, said mining could contaminate well water extracted through the aquifer.
Carolyn Drew of Martinsville encouraged the candidates to take a stand on the issue before health problems might arise.
An unidentified area resident voiced the need for council members in the future to be able to “disagree without being disagreeable.”
Hodge suggested that council members “spend more time in the community” getting to know different types of people.
The more that people are around others who are different from themselves, the more likely they are to be civil toward others, she said.
A former civics teacher, Woods said “I try to live my life Christ-like” and as such, he always encouraged his students to respect each other despite their differences. It is a lesson he also teaches his children.
Stroud said he thinks “venom that spews” on television talk shows makes people uncivil toward others.
He said he also thinks economic constraints make people stressed, which in turn makes them less civil, even if they do not realize it.
The world would be better “if people would treat each other the way that they want to be treated,” he added.
Responding to comments by city resident Ural Harris, candidates said they would support reserving industrial sites with railroad access for companies needing such access.