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Politicians missing from forum
AW CityCouncilCands
Where was everybody?: Only challengers (from left to right) Eric A. Thomas, Peter L. Jones and Keith Jenkins and incumbents David Anderson Sr. and Charles Frasier were in attendance for the Hinesville City Council portion of the last political forum of the 2007 election season. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington
The lights and microphones were working. Audience members filled the auditorium. Panelists were ready with their questions. But there were just a few important pieces missing from Friday’s political forum — politicians.
The last debate for Hinesville mayoral and city council candidates before the Nov. 6 election, just 9 of the 16 competitors showed up for the event that was hosted by the Liberty County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The lack of participation from candidates, however, did not completely weaken the debate as challengers and incumbents discussed some new issues and revisited old ones.
District 1 five-term councilman Charles Frasier, without challenger Robert D. Robbins in attendance, defended the Azalea Street Redevelopment Project, which has garnered some criticism because of what appears to be lack of progress in the initiative to build new homes for low-income residents.
Frasier said the first phase of the ASRP, which has been in the works since a 2001 charrette study labeled Azalea Street the worst neighborhood in Hinesville, will “probably take two years to build out,” but the first homeowner should be moving in within the next month.
The councilman said an exact completion date for the entire project has not been set, but said he was happy with the progress and the goal of the endeavor.
“I have no concerns with the Azalea Street Project. We are pleased about this project in the district,” Frasier said. “That project will help us to provide better homes, affordable homes, to all citizens of Hinesville.”
Along with fellow incumbent, District 3 councilman David Anderson Sr., Frasier also tackled the topic of holding town hall meetings with their constituents.
Both councilmembers said they hosted district meetings in the past, but discontinued their efforts due to dwindling attendance and instead have opted to be present at neighborhood watch meetings.
The three newcomers on the stage vying for city council seats, however, said it is vital for and the responsibility of officials to hold town hall meetings, regardless of the number of people who attend the events.
“I think it’s very important to keep our people informed on what’s going on inside the city,” District 4 candidate Keith Jenkins said, adding under his leadership there would be meetings with constituents once every quarter. “And if no one shows up, I’m still going to have them.”
Eric A. Thomas, also a District 4 candidate, said he would be more than willing to host meetings with residents because it would be an expansion of the gatherings he was holding within his neighborhood prior to running for office.
Fifth District candidate Peter L. Jones, who agreed district meetings were necessary, said it would be important to keep in mind the schedule of most Hinesville residents, which he thinks has affected attendance at city council meetings.
“The time of the meeting doesn’t fit the citizens of Hinesville from I can see,” Jones said. “The citizens are the ones we’re working for, so we need to set our schedule to them, not make their schedules fit our schedule.”
An issue incumbents and newcomers did agree on was the need to bridge the gap between the city’s haves and the have-nots by implementing more work training programs and bringing in higher paying jobs.
But another disagreement quickly erupted between the five candidates when they were asked to give a yes or no response on whether they agreed with Sunday alcohol sales.
Thomas emphatically said he agreed with Sunday alcohol sales, while both Jenkins and Jones said they disagreed.
“It’s the wrong direction for Hinesville to go,” Jones said.
Anderson said he would “leave it to the voters.”
Frasier agreed, but said he personally intends to vote against the referendum.
The city council candidates ended their portion of the forum discussing Hinesville’s stormwater usage fee, which continues to draw the anger of many property owners.
Although they all disagreed with the stormwater fee, Jenkins, Jones and Thomas confessed their understanding of the issue was minimal and said they would need to do further study on the issue to clearly define it to constituents.
Frasier, on the other hand, reiterated that the fee was necessary to fund $14 million worth of projects the city has waiting in the wings.
“We simply cannot do (these projects) otherwise because we don’t want to make it an ad valorem tax issue,” he said.

Among the missing
City council candidates not in attendance for the election season’s final forum:
• Robert D. Robbins (District 1)
• James R. Bobby Ryon (District 2, running unopposed)
• Yong H. Lee (District 3)
• Bonita Smith (District 3)
• Jack Shuman (District 4, incumbent)
• Kenneth Shaw (District 5, incumbent)
• Angela Wilson (District 5)
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