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Commission candidates debate issues
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The two candidates for county commission chairman squared off at a debate attended by about 60 people last week. Both contestants are Democratic and there are no Republicans, so the winner of the July 15 primary can expect to take office as chairman in January.
Former County Commissioner Linda Graham, who is challenging incumbent John McIver, said in her opening statement, "We don't need four more years of the same."
"Growth is good," Graham said, " but we need growth that benefits all of us." On the topic of development, she said, "We need to make sure development does not harm our quality of life."
The incumbent said he was running for re-election, "for one simple reason. I love Liberty County."
He related his years of public service, starting in 1978 when he began serving as mayor of Riceboro. McIver said his extensive experience was "beneficial to the county. I have learned how to work with administrators, staff and others to achieve goals. We must not have chaos."
Perhaps with an eye toward forestalling criticism, McIver said, "Taxes are not controlled by the county commission." He said mandated services and millage rates allotted to schools by the development authority and the hospital authority were responsible for most of a citizen's tax bill.
When a question was asked about the county's controversial plans to build a marina, Graham responded, "I can't say that a marina is not needed, but there are other priorities that must be considered."
She added, "The property is purchased now and we have to live with it.
McIver said emphatically that
the land purchase for the marina, "was the right decision for all the citizens
of Liberty County and we did it in
the right way." He said all the information on the purchase would be provid-
ed and after that was done," The decision will have the backing of the majority."
Asked about the main obstacle to progress in Liberty County, McIver said, "Resources, you cannot implement improvements without revenue. Naming growth and fire service as examples, McIver said, "We have many challenges to face."
Graham identified the number one obstacle was "to get rid of the good old boy system. We all pay taxes and we all should benefit." This was greeted with loud applause.
To bridge the gap between the commission and the citizens, McIver called for more public attendance at commission meetings. He noted that he had just come from a session at which the county's budget was adopted, and no citizens had come in to offer input.
Graham said more transparency and openness was needed in county government. She said, "We usually hear about decisions after the fact."
Graham proposed that the commissioners meet in various neighborhoods around the county. "Let the commissioners go out to the communities," she said.
In her closing statement Graham summarized her position by saying she wanted smart growth and open government for Liberty County.
McIver said his record shows he has worked to bring progress to Liberty County and "There are lots of things we need to work on."
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