April 27, 2005
Tempers didn't exactly flare at an April 18 forum for Ward 6 candidates, but words did get spicy in more than one instance. Democratic candidate Von Anderson, 27, faces Democratic incumbent Marshand Crisler, 36, who has held the seat for one term. The forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters at Forest Hill High School, was an hour-long affair before a relatively sedate crowd of about 100. Anderson said he was running because politicians, like dirty diapers, sometimes "needed changing."
Anderson, a law student, said he would focus on bringing business and infrastructure improvements to the ward, and would begin the process by focusing on crime.
"Crime is perpetrated mostly by young people, so we need to get the young people involved. We can cultivate (a relationship) between them and the community and cull the crime. Also, (businesses) follow the money, and we need to bring up entrepreneurs. We have the resources, but they have not been utilized," Anderson said, referring to the availability of storefront grant money that has already been used in areas such as the old A&P grocery store—now a General Dollar Store—and the recently revamped Westland Plaza, which now sports new restaurants and a Hollywood Video Store. The challenger also said he would look into turning the Appleridge Shopping Center "into a community center."
Crisler, a National Guardsman who recently returned from Iraq, said Ward 6 is blessedly low on crime compared to other wards, but said vigilance must never be abandoned. He said that one of the main priorities in his ward, according to residents who have complained to him, was the attraction of new businesses, particularly restaurants. Saying that he didn't "see any sense in having to drive all the way to North Jackson to get something to eat," he said he planned to "continue doing" what he's been doing to improve the situation.
"I'm going to speak out for businesses," Crisler said. "I'm going to meet with restaurant owners and try to court them to Jackson. Before economic development takes place there has to be residential development," he said and pointed to two emerging neighborhoods in South Jackson.
Both Anderson and Crisler cited the importance of working with neighborhood associations in bettering the ward.
"I will continue to support residents to form homeowner associations. I've been very active in these projects. … People need to be very mindful of their neighbors," Crisler said.
"It takes a village to raise a child and a village to prevent decay," Anderson said. "We need to be dealing with neighborhood associations. We have the enthusiasm there. We just need to tap into it."
Anderson complained that the neighborhoods needed better infrastructure such as sidewalks. Much of South Jackson consists of former city suburbs hastily put together within a span of mere decades, with little consideration for a pedestrian-friendly environment. Crisler said he would like to see a more sidewalks in South Jackson, but said there were bigger priorities than sidewalk development.
Both Crisler and Anderson deftly dodged questions demanding they take a side in the upcoming mayoral primary between incumbent Harvey Johnson Jr. and former MBN head Frank Melton.
"I don't care how you twist that (question), that's a loaded weapon," Crisler scolded. "I'm well rounded and can work with anybody. If there's a change in the mayor's office, I'm going to operate just like I did with the (current) mayor."
"I think Mayor Johnson's a good candidate. I think Frank Melton is also a good candidate," said Anderson. "All I can tell you is that on May 3, I'm going to vote for Von Anderson. I'll work with whoever's in office be it Mayor Johnson or Melton."
There are no Republicans or third parties running for the $25,000-a-year position, so the decision will be forthcoming in the primary.