Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which will appear in Sunday's print edition. Genese Lane was one of the moderators at the Liberty County Joint Political Forum on Monday evening. Two front-page articles Wednesday gave her name incorrectly. The Coastal Courier regrets the error.
Liberty County organizations held a political forum Monday evening before a packed auditorium in the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.
Nineteen candidates in municipal elections from across the county talked about their platforms and ideas if elected.
All Hinesville candidates for City Council and mayor attended, but that was not the case with candidates from surrounding towns.
The Hinesville mayoral candidates brought up recurring themes throughout the night.
However, the biggest point of discussion was the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, a 1 percent sales tax voters rejected last November.
All Hinesville mayoral candidates, except Danny Eason, supported bringing it back with a focus on having it reduce the current debt.
Candidates were asked how they would explain SPLOST because some in the community believe there is a lack of understanding of the tax.
Eason said that in November 2008, voters passed SPLOST, and the next day they got a notice that their property taxes went up.
“It is incredibly disingenuous of anyone up here to make you think that just because you vote for SPLOST your property taxes are going to go back down,” Eason said to applause.
Allen Brown said people were turned off by hearing about paying off the debt from building construction, and the other problem was that turnout was low at the information sessions.
Tyrone Adams received a standing ovation for answering the question directly, whereas other candidates talked about their strategies to inform the public about SPLOST.
“Here it is, simple. When you go to Savannah, you pay an extra penny. When you go to Richmond Hill, you pay an extra penny. When you come to Hinesville, or when they come [from] Savannah to Hinesville ... they don’t pay that penny. Their roads will be better than ours. ... It’s that simple,” he said.
“And people did not understand that at the last election. They thought — and it was put out — that it was a new tax, which it wasn’t. It’s that simple. Explained. Thank you,” Adams said to applause.
Brown jokingly asked if he could change his comments, and moderator Genese Lane said, “No, just shop local,” which caused the audience to laugh and applaud more.
Public safety and community policing were also discussed throughout the evening.
Liston Singletary III said that creating a community policing model was an issue not getting enough attention.
“With community policing, the police and community build a relationship on trust and respect,” he said. “The police get out of their cars and get to know who you are. They get to know your neighborhood. And therefore, the likelihood of people being apprehensive about talking to police when they come in the neighborhood will probably be remote.”
“And in those communities where there’s a good community-policing model in place, crime statistics go down. Because you’re working together,” Singletary added.
Charles Frasier also proposed having police officers not just patrol in their cars, but also to get out and meet people.
“But I think that it’s important that we have our police officers that can get out of their car and don’t just pass me by when they see me sitting on the side of the street — stop and talk to me. Because it’s important that we build a relationship,” Frasier said.
Other topics discussed at the forum included the need for more youth and family activities, recreation centers, business-friendly initiatives and building a sense of community.