At a live forum this week, four of the five candidates for Monroe Mayor praised past accomplishments of the city’s leaders, but think Monroe needs new leadership to face a new generation of challenges. Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said now is not the time to experiment with the inexperienced.
The candidate’s comments were part of a forum sponsored by KEDM Radio and the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, held at the Monroe Civic Center.
All candidates for the April 4th mayoral primary responded to questions posed by the panelist with specific pre-broadcast instructions to focus on their platforms without speaking negatively about other candidates.
Mayor Jamie Mayo said he has served as Mayor for 19 years and is a “genuine” candidate. Mayo, a Bastrop native, took potshots at candidate Friday Ellis who is Rayville, native. Mayo said Ellis was not genuine because he lived in West Monroe and was a former Republican who switched parties two years ago and became an Independent.
“I am authentic; in other words, I’m genuine. I have not moved from one place to another like Mr. Ellis has, moving from West Monroe in the last two and a half years and changing parties from Republic to Independent, I guess to run for Mayor,” Mayo said.
Mayo said all his opponents have no plans except to “tear the city down” and to “tear me down. They don’t have any specifics, just generalities to fool you.”
He also said the other four candidates were inexperienced and knew little about running a city. He listed several initiatives that are underway in the city, including the Kansas Lane Extension, the new Civic Arena, drainage and sewage improvements, and economic development that has resulted in what he says over 2000 new businesses since he took office 19 years ago.
Mayo said since the city has many incomplete projects already underway, there was no need for new ideas on the table, but he will focus on the completion of existing projects.
Mayo said he has risked his life twice in service to the city when he was involved in minor fender benders in Washington, D.C., and Baton Rouge. He said he asked himself, “Is it worth it?” and concluded that it was.
Mayo’s four opponents said nothing negative about him; several complimented him for some of the initiatives that are underway but added that they wanted to chart a new path and more inclusive direction for the next generation.
Ronnie Scott, a Libertarian candidate, said he is concerned about the “human” issues that impact homes and families.
Scott said, “the Lord Jesus Christ” helped him to shift from a self-serving life to working to help others. He said he has been a HUD-certified builder of single-family homes in the city for 16 years.
Marie Brown said she wants to promote a more welcoming atmosphere for those thinking about moving to Monroe. She said she wants to improve the city’s infrastructure and economic climate. She said keeping Century Link in Monroe past its 5-year commitment would be one of her priorities.
Although Century Link lists Monroe as its corporate headquarters, it has 6,300 employees in Denver, including its top officials. In Monroe, the company has downsized from its original employee base, leading to rumors that it may leave the city when its state commitment ends.
Brown said she has a special concern for the conditions of South Monroe. She said the only way that the issues she sees can be addressed is to change administrations.
She said although she only has a high school education, she has educated herself on the issues facing Monroe by attending nearly all city council meetings.
As a community advocate, Brown has often spoken before the council as a poor people’s advocate. When the Mayo administration pushed to raise bus fares, she brought scores of the poor and elderly to council meetings to speak against increases. She has often clashed with Mayo over what she called unnecessary increases in fees that adversely impact the poor. She spoke out on behalf of city garbage workers who have no benefits, sick leave, or retirement under Mayo.
“I only have a high school education,” said Brown, “But I have worked in this community for over 50 years, I have studied the budget, I have studied the city charter, and I have come to every council meeting. I have a passion for this city. Once you have a passion for something, you can become self-educated.”
She said she wants to attack the crime problem by expanding programs for youth. She said the city has four recreation centers “with no programs in them.” She said, “That’s ridiculous. Our tax dollars pay for these facilities; we need to have some programs in them.”
Friday Ellis, a Monroe businessman, said he is married to Ashley Ellis and the proud father of three children. “I want to build a future that includes my family and your family, and they don’t have to leave for an opportunity that they can find here in Monroe, La,” he said.
He said, “courage” defines his life. He noted several courageous acts he thinks he has taken, the first being to ask his wife, Ashley, to marry him, which he says has been the best 19 years of his life. He said he courageously stepped up and serve the nation after 911. He also said he and his wife courageously adopted a child with special needs, with the understanding that “God’s promise to our family was greater than any fear that we would face.”
Ellis and his wife adopted an African-American foster child with the full knowledge that the child would require continuous medical assistance. Even as he has campaigned for Mayor, he has missed several public events as he sat by the bedside of his daughter, holding her hand.
Ellis said he stepped up to run for Mayor after he sensed that the city needed “a new energy direction, and a new vision, once again I stepped up to say, send me I will go.”
Ellis said Monroe needs to grow, “but how are we suppose to grow when we tear each other down and say the nastiest things about each other.” He said when the entire community works together, it will show the rest of the region that people with differences can work together.
Crime, flooding, and economic development are tops on his list of priorities. One of his ideas is to offer a declining sales tax rebate that begins with 30% in the first year of a new business and ends with 10% in the third year. He said it would be an incentive for companies to operate in Monroe rather than Ruston.
Rev. Fredrick Louis noted that he is a teacher with a Master’s degree in math. He said he has seen the city “that was once united come to division, and I want to be the leader that brings us back together again.”
Louis said he has plans to address crime, infrastructure, and economic development. He said he wants Monroe to grow beyond “satisfaction at who we are, but a better Monroe.”
All four of Mayor Mayo’s challengers said they would not build an arena in Monroe. Brown said she would not build an arena because it would take resources away from projects that would benefit the community as a whole.
However, Mayor Mayo favored the building of an arena. He said the arena would bring 1,200 jobs to the city.
Mayo also said he favored building a casino in Monroe. He said he was the only candidate that had the “guts” to take that position publically.