The last article in the Ledger-Enquirer's weeklong Q&A series focuses on the candidates for the District 7 seat of Columbus Council.TSYS supervisor Mimi Woodson, who has served as District 7 councilor for about 20 years, is seeking re-election. She faces challenger Xavier M. McCaskey, who is a psychotherapist, addiction counselor and paralegal.
1. Does Columbus need a crime prevention director?
Mimi Woodson: The crime prevention program was a part of the OLOST promise during the many public forums held throughout the community. Voters approved the OLOST and elected officials have a duty to see that the promise is fulfilled. Therefore, the program must have oversight and management to be effective. This should be done with a full time director as we have today, or managed as part of the responsibility of another person, maybe in the Columbus police department. We need a person responsible for the program.
Xavier McCaskey: No, we need departments consolidated in the early 1990s when the city consolidated city-county government. Before you add another layer on the county government, why not look at consolidation? First, let's do a cost-benefit analysis of consolidating the Marshall's office and the Sheriff's departments. The two offices have many redundant systems and the whole point of consolidating government is the consolidation of services and not adding layers?
2. Does Columbus need three law enforcement offices?
Mimi Woodson: Each of the three law enforcement agencies have a core mission that should prevent duplication of services. Therefore, each serve a purpose. This question has been answered by the following; Consolidation, Charter Review and the voter several times. It's like having different branches of our military that makes us stronger as a nation. Each branch brings something to the table and I respect the wishes of the voters.
Xavier McCaskey: We need to evaluate the expenditures between the three departments.
3. Can trash pickup be cut down to once a week, and can this change help with our budget deficit?
Mimi Woodson: With the construction of our state of the art recycling center and the aggressive push to increase recycling by residents and businesses, I believe we will get to a point soon that we can go to once a week collection. Once a week will not directly help the budget shortage in the general fund. Waste Collection is a separate fund and cannot provide relief to the general fund. Once-a-week collection will reduce the cost of service for regular household collection, thereby minimizing the overall increase in the integrated waste fund as the increased cost to handle recycling will occur as more residents and businesses increase their recycling. In the past we have had to use the general fund to subsidize integrated waste. If this is no longer necessary, this will help with the general fund deficit.
Xavier McCaskey: We have to weigh the cost saving from not moving vehicles one day a week versus that added strain on the sheriff's department for keeping non-violent criminals productive.
I tend to believe that keeping prisoners productive decreases violence during incarceration so I believe that productivity far outweighs cost.
4. Should Columbus pursue a referendum to remove the property tax assessment freeze?
Mimi Woodson: The voters approved the tax assessment freeze. It has been challenged multiple times and has been upheld all the way through the Georgia Supreme Court. I respect the voters approval and the fact that it has been upheld in the courts. I do not see the need to pursue a referendum on this matter at this time.
Xavier McCaskey: No, there was a promise made to taxpayers.
This freeze was enacted in the early '80s so the vast majority of people that will be affected by the change are over 60 years old; a majority are living on a fixed income, so it would be ostensibly a tax on the poor. So I would never be for an added tax burden on the city's most valuable citizens.
5. Do you think major projects like the natatorium, city services building and ice rink are necessary?
Mimi Woodson: Yes, these are great quality of life projects and provide a direct benefit to our citizens. Citizens were made aware of these projects during the many forums to educate citizens on the OLOST. Citizens voted to approve the OLOST and therefore, we had a responsibility to follow through with the projects.
Xavier McCaskey: Only if they're done under a private venture through tax credits or in some limited cases a public/private venture. During an economic downturn the city needs to tighten its belt and focus on saving for the tax payers and not building monuments for themselves.
Name: Evelyn "Mimi" Woodson
Education: High school and 1½ year of college
Experience: District 7 councilor for 20 years
Xavier M. McCaskey
Occupation: Psychotherapist/Addiction Counselor/Paralegal
Experience: Appointed to the Cooperative Extension Board in 2012