There are three candidates vying for the seat of Minden City Council District D. They are incumbent Michael Roy, Habacu Morales and LaKeyla Jacob Williams.
Webster Parish Journal sent all of these candidates a form, so they could participate in a question and answer forum. All candidates responded. Below are their answers in alphabetical order:
1. What are three steps you would take to improve the city’s financial stability?
Morales: We must shop local first! Sales taxes are one of our largest sources of income. Install a rigorous maintenance program for rolling stock and capital assets. (If our assets are better maintained, they would last longer) I would like to see tax incentives for new or growing businesses (give them a reason to invest in Minden).
Roy: First step would be to increase revenue. We must begin to think outside the box to attract industry and businesses. Another way to increase revenue would be to hire a grant writer. There are millions of dollars in grants that are being missed every year. Second step would be to reduce the city’s operating cost. Stream line repairs, such as creating a repair maintenance plan to service/repair on a yearly basis instead of putting off repairs for several years then having a huge one time replacement cost. This would also help to increase the efficiency which helps lower labor cost. Third step would be to make sure all of the city’s reserves are invested in the best place possible in order to maximize returns.
Williams: The steps I would take to assist in our city’s financial stability are to work with my city council team to create expense reports and projections on a monthly or quarterly basis. This tactic would help to keep a review on funding sources so that we know which departments are doing well, and the ones that have dropped or vanished altogether. Our city’s financial statement for the year ending September 30, 2020, showed our city exceeded its liabilities by over $37 million. Our city’s governmental activities exceeded revenues by $3.4 million before transfers. In 2019, it exceeded revenues by $3.55 million. I believe if we work together as a team, we could initiate a plan which involves evaluating situations our city could face in the best-case and worst-case scenarios. A semi-yearly audit will help keep up with the increases and decreases in city funds. This audit will give us an idea of whether our city is improving financially or deteriorating.
2. Minden has seen a steady decline in population the past couple of censuses. How would you stop it?
Morales: First and foremost, we must have reasonable utility rates (our citizens cannot sustain paying higher utility rates than their mortgage note). Create an atmosphere more favorable for small business and commercial employment. Maintain and improve our existing infrastruction (if we want to grow our city, we have to grow our infrastructure).
Roy: We must have a reason for people to come back to Minden once they graduate college/trade school. One way to do this is have better jobs that pay well. We must be aggressive in attracting industry/business that will create stable jobs. Another way is to lower the crime rate – increase police officers with take home cars and have workshops with parents to increase awareness. Create after school enrichment programs for kids. We also need to reduce the utility cost to live in Minden. This is the number one force that is causing people to relocate out of Minden. Being prepared to negotiate a shorter, better contract for electricity will allow the city to be in a position to stop losing its population.
Williams: The U.S. Census Bureau showed the statistics in April 2020, the population was approximately 12, 086, and in July 2021, the population was approximately 11, 769 which is about a -2.6% decline in population. To stop our city from declining in population, I would work with the Economic Development Department to get the Landlords in Minden to lower their monthly rent or lease payments. I have seen a lot of small business owners open and close within two years or less because they are paying more money to rent the building than the profit made. There are several homes in our community that is abandoned, or not suitable for living. These homeowners should be held liable for keeping their homes livable, grass cut, and yards clear of junk. We cannot attract new residents if our neighborhoods do not look presentable. I recommend issuing out property standard violations and/or making homeowners rent, sell or demolish the house. There are more than a few landlords in Minden who charge an outrageous amount of money to rent their homes. Most minorities who live in Minden cannot afford to pay their rent because they do not get paid enough, so they move to other cities or states. For instance, you have a house that no one is living in, but, the landlord is charging more than $700 for a one or two-bedrooms, and a one-bath house. I believe this is entirely too much. We cannot attract potential residents to our town if landlords are boosting rental prices. We all must work together as a community to help our city grow, “One town, One city, United”!
3. What are the pressing needs in your district and how do you plan to address them?
Morales: Our utility infrastructure in District D is very old in most areas. There are numerous grants available to offset the cost. We must begin replacing our antiquated water and sewer systems. School traffic is horrendous in District D. I will meet with the local principals and the Webster Parish School Board Transportation Superintendent and try to apply measures to reduce the lines of cars blocking streets and driveways.
Roy: Reduction of utility costs, raising property standards, infrastructure improvements and more police presence. I would begin by trying to reduce the power adjustment fee on each utility bill then recall the water increase ordinance that is tied to the CPI. I would look at the exiting property standard ordinances to see how these ordinances can be changed to help improve property values. There are areas in my district that has drainage issues that cause flooding during rain storms and so I would work with the public works dept to create a 3-5 year plan correct these issues. Finally I would like to work with the police chief to hopefully redirect some of the STEP funds to be used for police take home cars. I believe this would help to reduce some of the speeding and noise issues in our neighborhoods.
Williams: I have spoken with several neighbors throughout District D. Some of the pressing needs in my district are unleashed dogs, animals running loose, speeding in the neighborhoods, and potholes in the roads. My vision for these issues are to work closely with the Animal Control Department to issue citations to pet owners who are continuously allowing their pet/pets to run around loose in our neighborhoods. I would request a government or state-funded grant that would allow our Animal Control Department to update their facilities to allow suitable places for animals to stay until they are claimed by their owner or adopted. Most of our neighborhoods in District D have a high rate of traffic and excessive speeding within the community area. Most of these neighborhoods have small children playing in the area making it a potential risk for children to get injured. I will work with the Minden Police Chief and his department to request more patrolling in our district. I will work with the Public Works Department to get the potholes in our streets fixed, roads replaced with asphalt, and install drainage systems to keep our streets from flooding.
4. What part do you intend to play in making this a cohesive, cooperative council?
Morales: I am willing to meet one-on-one with other council persons and the mayor to alleviate problems (personal or otherwise) and to compromise and do what is best for Minden as a whole.
Roy: I plan to try work with each member of the council and each member of the council must be open to compromise. We need to remember what is good for one district is good for the other districts and our decisions must be for the city as a whole. The basis is to this question is cooperation from each council person and the mayor. Once this is understood then the city can move forward.
Williams: I believe a person should give 100 percent in everything they do, no matter what task is presented. Representing your district is not just a seat on the city council board, it is a privilege as a council representative. It is an honor to be elected by the people in your community. I would not only work to make my district better, but I would work with the mayor and the other city council members to make Minden the best place to live. I will assure our city council that we are not just workers, but we are family, and we can be better together! I will be an advocate for the safety of our citizens. Ensuring that district residents are treated fairly, also reminding city council members that it is not about us as an individual, but that we are here to serve our citizens. These are some of the roles I intend to play in making this a cohesive, cooperative council.
5. What do you see as top priority for the city and why?
Morales: We must UNITE! If we all have different agendas, nothing will be accomplished. The people of Minden are sick of the “power struggles” of their leaders and deserve better.
Roy: The top priority should be reducing our utility (electric, water, sewer) cost. The utility cost is so expensive it has caused people to move to outside the city and then Minden isn’t attractive for industry/business to relocate here. Also, because of the effect of high utilities, we lose sales tax revenue, property tax revenue and then the services the city offers. This must change in order for the city to move forward.
Williams: One of my top priorities will be to get our youth involved in positive activities, to get them off the streets. I believe in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it”! These children are the future of our city. If we all do not come together to form positive, and inspirational programs, we will continue seeing crime rates increasing, jails overpopulated, and our children dying. In my teen years, we had a Boys and Girls Club, and Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) programs. JTPA funding can be requested through federal funding, along with state and private participation, to provide training and other vocational services to our youth. We need affordable Youth Enrichment Programs for after-school to improve student grades (K5-5th grade). Each district, A, B, C, D, & E needs to work with the Downtown Development Commission and the Minden Main Street Board of Directors to create events that involve the youth in all districts. I have several fresh ideas for our city, that involve getting our school-age children, teenagers, and our young adults focused on more than video games, vaping, sexting, hanging out late at night, committing crimes, fighting, shooting, and killing. It is my top priority as a citizen to become a top advisor and listener for District D. I will work hard to solve, and mention community problems and concerns in our town.
The election is Tuesday, November 8.
Early voting is Oct. 25 through Nov. 1 (excluding Sunday, Oct. 30) from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the registrar’s office in the courthouse.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 4 by 4:30 p.m (other than military and overseas voters). You can request an absentee ballot online through the Voter Portal or in writing through your Registrar of Voters Office.
The deadline for a registrar of voters to receive a voted absentee ballot is Nov. 7 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
On election day, the polls are open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. If you are unsure of your voting precinct, please call 377-9272.
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