Candidates cross paths

Published 5:29 pm Monday, October 30, 2006

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
With a capacity crowd on hand at Brewton City Hall, four political candidates had an opportunity to face voters in a question and answer session Thursday morning.
The Governmental Affairs Committee of the Brewton Chamber of Commerce sponsored an event that allowed members of the audience, as well as Brewton Channel 6 viewers, an opportunity to hear how candidates responded to issues during the public session.
Those candidates present for the question and answer session were Alan Baker, F.P. &#8220Skippy” White, Pat Lindsey and John McMillan.
Baker is facing incumbent White in the race for District 66 state representative. McMillan is taking on the battle to unseat incumbent Lindsey for the state senate position in District 22.
Questions concerning issues in Alabama, as well Escambia County, were presented by a group of panelists comprised of eight area high school students. Four students from T.R. Miller and four students from W.S. Neal were on hand to present some hard-hitting questions to the candidates.
Kaitlyn Griffin of T.R. Miller presented the first question asking candidates their views on Alabama Constitutional reform.
The candidates all agreed that a reform is needed. Baker said the constitution needs reform, citing obsolete information as well as language. Lindsey agreed with Baker in that there are many obsolete features of the bulky document. Both White and McMillan said voters should be educated and allowed to vote on a reform for the constitution.
The &#8220No Child Left Behind” act was addressed by Tiera Andrews from W.S. Neal. Candidates were questioned on their support of the act as it stands or if changes could make the policy more efficient.
Funding was one of the major issues that White and Baker felt needed to be addressed in the program.
White indicated that although it is a good concept, not all students are equal in mentality or physically, which makes implementation for every student difficult.
Lindsey and McMillan both said the program is a good one, overall. Both agree there have been some difficulties but said that over time, those problems can be worked out and the program will improve.
Education rankings were also questioned during the session as T.R. Miller student Kelly Stallworth asked for each candidate's plan to improve Alabama's low ranking.
Baker indicated that some fresh ideas are need for the education opportunities in the state and feels that distance learning is one of those fresh ideas the state needs.
McMillan agreed that distance learning is an exciting concept .
White said he would keep plugging away at a plan for education to come up with new ideas to improve the quality of education students in Alabama receive.
Lindsey said the state is not last in testing or in funding from the state, but feels that Alabama is at the bottom of the list in local funding aspects.
Ashley Baker from W.S. Neal posed a question to the candidates concerning proration and the possibility of increasing taxes to counteract the problem.
All four candidates agreed that more taxes are not what is needed currently to avoid a proration period for education budgets. Proper budgeting coupled with placing surplus funds in proration and rainy day funds, seems to be the consensus among the four candidates.
The issue of the war in Iraq was raised by Mitchell McMillan of T.R. Miller High School.
In a second instance, all candidates agreed that they support the military and that it is a federal issue and not one managed by the state. McMillan said he would much rather see the war on terrorism fought elsewhere rather than in the United States. Lindsey said he'd not seen anyone campaigning for the war and indicated that he felt it was a tar baby in that once you take hold, you can't let go.
Bryan Garcia, a student at W.S. Neal High School, presented a question regarding set-aside funds received by members of the state legislature. Candidates were asked if they agree with allowing independence in using the funds of if certain policies should be changed to help with possible abuse problems.
McMillan indicated that the funds program is fraught with abuse and can be confirmed by talking to anyone in the community college system.
The remaining pair of candidates agreed the money is some of the best spend money in the state indicating that it goes directly to the school or teacher that has expressed a need. Lindsay said there are safeguards in place in the program.
Priority was a question raised by Brad Smith of T.R. Miller. Candidates were asked about their first priorities following election in their respective seats.
White said if he were re-elected he would continue his work on the bypass and four-lane projects in the county.
Baker said education would be his top priority if elected and that he also felt that economic development would be a main priority with follow-through in the U.S. 41 and Alabama 113 projects also among top priorities.
McMillan said he would work on the unfunded liability in the education and state employee health funds.
Lindsey indicated his first priority would be education with focus on helping with funding by assisting in grant acquisitions to fund purchases of maps, books and other needed materials for the classroom.
Jared Cooper of W.S. Neal presented the final prepared question to the candidates, asking why four-laning evacuation routes from the costal to northern areas were taking such a long time. The question asked if the problem was funding or if a process was already in place.
McMillan and Lindsey agreed that the main problem lies at the feet of the Department of Transportation. Funding is also an issue since there must be an 80/20 division of responsibility between the federal government and the state.
Baker indicated that he saw the main delay as getting the involvement of various parties in line, while White felt that continuity might be an issue.
Following the responses of the questions presented by the students, three pre-screened questions were presented to the candidates from audience members.
Mabry Cook, moderator for the event, posed the questions to the candidates.
The first audience question was one concerning the possibility of presentation of a bill allowing same-sex marriages.
Each candidate indicated he would be opposed to such a bill. White said it is already illegal in Alabama, while Baker indicated his opposition on the matter. Lindsey said he had voted three times to prohibit such a matter and McMillan said he would vote against the issue any and every time he had an opportunity to vote on it.
The question of whether felons should have the right to vote was presented to the candidates with each candidate taking a similar stance on the issue.
White said there is a process and application period that all released felons must go through when attempting to regain their voting rights. There is a bill that would only speed up the process to those who are carefully screened. Lindsey said he voted for existing law that would give a released felon and opportunity to apply to have the right to vote given back.
McMillan's response to the question indicated he would not be in favor of liberalizing any voting ability requirements while Baker indicated he would not be in favor of making the process easier for convicted felons.
The final question presented during Thursday's event concerned a bill on the ballot in California. The question focused on a parents right to know if their child attempts to terminating a pregnancy.
Lindsey said he had no plans to bring that issue forward while McMillan said he would not support such a bill since he takes a &#8220pro-life” stand. White and Baker said they believe that parental notification is necessary.
The hour-long event was sponsored in part by BankTrust of Brewton, Bank of Brewton, First Progressive Bank, Regions Bank and the Book and Bean.

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