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Albany Herald Editorial Board announces endorsements

Beginning today, The Albany Herald Editorial Board is publishing its endorsements for elections and referendums that will be conducted Tuesday in Albany and Dougherty County.

Dougherty County voters who reside outside the Albany city limits will have only one issue on their ballots — the question of whether a 1 percent sales tax for education should be extended for another five years.

All Albany city voters will have that and two other issues to weigh in on — a new mayor and Sunday sales of alcohol.

In addition to those three ballot questions, voters in Wards II, IV and VI will choose who will represent their wards on the City Commission for the next four years.

Over the past two weeks, The Albany Herald Editorial Board met with the candidates for mayor and City Commission. On Wednesday, the board discussed what we learned from the candidates and the two referendums, then voted on recommendations.

Today, we are listing our recommendations for the three City Commission seats and the referendum on Sunday alcohol sales.

Sunday, we will give our recommendation on the mayor’s race.

Monday, we will give our recommendation on the referendum on continuing the special 1 percent local sales tax for education.

Commission Ward II

In the race for the Ward II seat vacated by mayoral hopeful Dorothy Hubbard, voters have an opportunity to choose between the youthful passion of Melissa Strother and the behind-the-scenes service career of the Rev. Ivy Hines. Both are first-time candidates.

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Ivy Hines

While talking with the Editorial Board, Strother stressed the importance of promoting closer ties between the city and Albany State University and the need to rid the city of its many blighted properties. She listed public safety, improving infrastructure and transportation as the key issues facing city leaders.

“I’m not business as usual,” she said. “I feel a true connection with the people in the ward, and there will be 0 percent hesitation in my standing up for what’s right in our city.”

Hines’ resume includes stints working with a teen pregnancy prevention program sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, as a member of Leadership AS, the Toastmasters Club at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany and 100 Black Men of Southwest Georgia, and as local chair of the Blacks in Government organization.

“My experiences have prepared me for this office,” he told the Editorial Board. “I have spent my career helping the city by working from the outside. I feel as one of seven (on the commission), I can help from the inside.”

The board debated the qualities of both candidates extensively and agreed that either would work hard to represent Ward II. But Hines’ vast experience with local civic organizations puts him in a position for a shorter learning curve. The Editorial Board recommends that the voters afford Hines that opportunity.

Commission Ward IV

Ward IV voters will have the opportunity — literally — to choose between student and teacher in the quest for the seat held for the past four years by Roger Marietta. One of the Darton College professor’s former students, Jason McCoy, is challenging him for the opportunity to represent the ward.

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Roger Marietta

Marietta acknowledges that the city faces a number of challenges, many of which carry over from his first term in office, but he refutes the challenger’s claims that he was involved in such negatives as former Downtown Manager Don Buie’s tenure and some high-profile failed development projects that utilized city-backed funds.

“Those things happened before I was in office,” Marietta told the Editorial Board. “I was equally frustrated by some of the amateurs who failed in these projects. And the common thread is that they were amateurs.

“But we’ve had successes in the last four years: our 311 system, increased manpower with our police and fire departments, our improved ISO rating, progress with being more business-friendly. I don’t believe my opponent understands the complexity of this position, but his challenge has forced me to reconnect with the people in Ward IV.”

First-time candidate McCoy said he’s heard a litany of complaints while canvassing the district: lack of street lighting, crime, a number of people in the district who feel “excluded” by their representation and the “embarrassment” of Albany State University homecoming visitors seeing such a “trashy downtown.”

“Roger’s soft on consensus-building,” McCoy said in his meeting with the Editorial Board. “There are a number of people in the district who’ve told me that they don’t know who their commissioner is, that they’ve never seen him. I want to represent all of the citizens in Ward IV.

“I don’t see Albany as a business-friendly town. There’s blight everywhere, the city is nasty and citizens don’t feel safe. I feel I can work with the other commissioners to meet the challenges that our city faces.”

The city needs involvement by its young professionals, and that makes campaigns by candidates such as McCoy vital. There are occasions when change can invigorate a community, but this board feels Marietta has worked hard enough on behalf of the people of Ward IV to earn an opportunity to return to the commission for another four-year term.

Commission Ward VI

Ward 6 City commissioner Tommie Postell is facing two challengers to his effort to gain a third four-year term on the Albany City Commission — former Dougherty County commissioner Victor Edwards and political newcomer Kowana McKinney.

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Kowana McKinney

Many voters who may not follow the week-by-week actions of the city commissioner may know Postell only as a flamboyant, polarizing city official. Unfortunately for Postell, his shoot-from-the-hip comments make headlines and often get more notice than the good work he does for citizens in one of the city’s poorest districts.

A retired educator, Postell has an admirable record of public service. He says this will be his final campaign for commissioner, but that with so many people coming in or moving to new positions on the board, he feels a need to help with that transition of leadership.

Edwards was a Dougherty County commissioner at the age of 20. He was convicted of money laundering in the 1990s and, to his credit, appears to have returned to society a changed person. He has started a business, supports his family and acknowledges that a brief time in prison changed him for the better. He seems to be in tune with what is going on in Ward VI, including a number of issues that he feels has not been addressed.

McKinney is a newcomer to politics. A former pre-kindergarten teacher, McKinney says she was drawn to seek a position to help families in her Ward beyond what she could accomplish as a classroom teacher.

During her interview with the Editorial Board, McKinney was knowledgeable about issues that are coming before the City Commission. She wants to be a catalyst for change and is the type of citizen who likely would bring a new approach to the commission table. She has the potential to be a key player in changing Albany’s image. She says she especially wants to improve the infrastructure in Ward VI and pledges to support initiatives to fight poverty in the district.

We believe it is time for a fresh voice and recommend McKinney for Ward VI commissioner.

Sunday sales

Albany voters will decide Tuesday if they want to allow Sunday alcohol sales.

The city already allows the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink in restaurants that derive at least 50 percent of its revenue from food.

This measure, which would have prompted marching in the streets a couple of decades ago, has attracted little attention. Many voters now consider the issue a financial one rather than a moral one.

It remains a personal choice whether you want to purchase and consume alcohol. It seems odd, however, that you cannot purchase alcohol at a supermarket or convenience store on Sunday, especially when you can buy it at a restaurant.

Allowing Sunday sales of alcohol will also cut back on the number of illegal drinking houses throughout the county.

The strongest opponents to this measure are, on the surface, odd political bedfellows — preachers and package stores. Ministers decry the selling of alcohol on their Sabbath, while package store owners realize they are unlikely to gain much of an increase in sales, but will have to pay more overhead by operating a seventh day to remain competitive. The only real “winner” in Sunday sales are supermarkets and food stores already open on Sundays that normally have to shut down those aisles one day a week.

What it boils down to is a free-market decision. Government should not be able to tell a business it can’t open on Sunday and sell a product that it can legally sell six other days of the week solely because of religion reasons.

We recommend approval of the Sunday sales question.