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Vicksburg voters have a big responsibility

The qualifying period for the municipal elections is over, the candidates are in the starting gate and the race is on.

The field this election is rather small with a total of 10 candidates — five running for mayor — compared with a total of 11 in 2017 and 18 in 2013.

Like previous elections, this one is important for the future of our city, which is slowly beginning to grow and shake off the residue from the problems caused by concern for the COVID-19 virus. It would be in everyone’s interest to get to know the candidates, and that means calling them up or asking them in person where they stand on issues.

Remember, I said ask the candidates. Not your neighbors, not the candidate’s friends or anyone who claims to represent a candidate. None of those folks are running for office; their names aren’t on the ballot and, while some may feel they’re running for office through the candidate, they’re not the one who stands to get elected and they won’t be casting a vote in the boardroom on a policy or financial issue.

Stay away from Facebook. Most of the information you read there may be suspect. This is election time, and as someone who grew up watching and covering local government and politics in Louisiana and reporting on the stuff for 42 years, I can tell you there will be a lot of fiction and a lot of negative comments about candidates.

For Facebook, follow the advice in the song, “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” —  “Believe half of what you see; some and none of what you hear.”

There is a lot on the line with this election. Vicksburg has come a long way in a relatively short time, and we need to continue the momentum. That means asking candidates where they stand on housing, capital improvement projects and the ways to finance them.

Get their opinions on where they think the city is headed and the best way to move forward. What’s their plan for improving public safety?

Find out how they feel about working with the board of supervisors and if there are possible ways of consolidating duplicate functions of government.

If all of this sounds like I’m preaching, I am. I’ve covered too many cities where the local government sat back and wanted to keep the status quo; where they didn’t want to take chances to move their city forward, and the voters were happy to keep things the same.

While we can argue its merits and problems, our local government has done a good job being progressive, but new ideas and fresh faces can sometimes provide new ways to do things that can make the city grow and prosper even more.

The first primary is April 6. The general election is on June 8. This is the time to find out what these candidates stand for. So voters, attend candidate forums — if we can have them in the time of COVID-19 — talk to candidates if you see them on the street and press them if they’re in your neighborhood campaigning. Then go to the polls and vote.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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