LaDarion Ammons, 25, is running for the open Ward 7 city council seat in 2017 to replace retiring Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon.
Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. His answers to the JFP candidate questionnaire are published below, verbatim.
Name: LaDarion Ammons
Job and Employer: Chuk Stop (Chief Operating Officer)
College(s) and degrees: Mississippi State University '13 (B.A) Mississippi College School of Law '17 (J.D)
High school: Jim Hill High School
Spouse (if applicable): N/A
Children's names and age (optional): N/A
Previous political office? No
1. Why does your ward/district need you specifically right now?
Ward 7 needs a holistic approach to development and engagement. I live in the Battlefield community, where we have learned we are our own best advocates, working to improve our area as a collective. This isn’t just unique to Battlefield; all the areas in Ward 7 are working in a silo. Ward 7 needs someone who can connect the various areas, with the varying interests, and come up with a Ward 7 master plan that is inclusive to everyone in Ward 7.
2. Provide one or two examples of when you have been an advocate for your district/ward in your personal or professional life. What was the result?
For the last year, I have been fighting to get the bridge on Robinson Rd extension back open. We own a business that is directly affected on the street, so I have experienced the hardships of it being closed and heard the outcry from other business owners and citizens in the community. I joined with many other business owners and residents, attending many City Council meetings to explain the frustration and hardships we were experiencing. This was bigger than the bridge being, though. It is about getting our city government to work the way it should and be responsive to the needs of the community. As a result of many phone calls and attending countless city council meetings, the bridge is finally in the beginning phases of reconstruction.
I also advocate for the Youth in the City of Jackson, through my Mentoring organization Brothers of Mississippi, Inc. In doing so I not only volunteer with JPS, but work with them in any way possible. Being an advocate requires one to be on the ground working to see what the true issues are. Brothers of Mississippi, Inc. has given me the unique opportunity to be able to do so.
3. In the past year or so, what was the most important vote in council affecting your district/ward. How would you have voted and why?
Each vote that the city council makes is important. I think the most important ones deal with budgeting and accountability. We need to revamp the current way that we account for money in the city. Currently our budget is based on projected revenue, which is a crap shoot at times and leads us to have to come back and raid the coffers when there is a deficit. There needs to better accounting throughout the year, auditing of what each division is spending and which areas there is redundancy.
The role of a city councilman is to approve the budget that is set forth by the mayor’s administration, and evaluate each area of spending to account for deficits and increases. I promise to be engaged, ask the hard questions, and ensure that Ward 7 (and all of Jackson) understands where they money is being spent. There needs to be true transparency and accountability in this process.
In advocating for the rebuilding of the bridge on Robinson Rd, ext., I noticed discrepancies on the city’s capital projects website, which were never explained. The costs fluxed from $1.1 million allocated for the bridge with $6,000 spent on the design phase, to months later it was changed to $167,000 allocated with $5,000 spent on design. There needs to be a more transparency, and a better system of accounting. We need to give an account of how much of our tax dollars are going to administrative fees , in contrast to going to actually projects
4. What are the top three most pressing issues for your district/ward? Please provide potential solutions.
Streets – Ward 7 is a microcosm of Jackson; it’s were much of the economic development is taking place and it has the biggest area of economic potential. They need to be a priority, ensuring that the parts of Ward 7 that aren’t covered by the CCID bill, are not ignored.
Crime – Canvassing in Ward 7, the second biggest issue is crime. We need to look at crime as a multifaceted issue, where we need to invest in
Economic Development – There needs to be growth and expansion outside of the usually areas for Jackson to reach it’s potential, and where there is room to grow is in Ward 7 along the Terry Road corridor and Hwy 80.
Also, those areas that are growing need to be ensured that their growth isn’t hampered or impeded upon due to absent leadership. The next councilperson for Ward 7 needs to be able to walk and chew gum, handing the myriad of economic development challenges in South Jackson, and continuing to encourage development in downtown, midtown, Historic Farish Street, along with Fondren and Belhaven.
5. If you could propose one ordinance that would greatly improve the quality of life of people your district/ward, what would it be?
Creating new ordinances is fine, and will be necessary. However, I want to start with the ordinances we have on the books already. When we begin to enforce ordinances dealing with blighted properties, crime, and nuisances, building codes, and etc. we will see a difference in the way Jackson is perceived.
6. Too many young people in Jackson end up as suspects or victims of violent crimes. What are your specific ideas to assist with city crime prevention that do not involve the police directly?
This is one of the reasons I founded Brothers of Mississippi, Inc. I saw a need in my community to help empower and educate the youth. In too many instances the youth in Jackson don’t feel supported and loved. The mission of Brothers of MS is to empower the youth through education, service, and leadership. Our way of doing so is by becoming innovative in the way we mentor. Also understanding that they need to see the future; children aren’t conditioned to think far ahead, that is our responsibility. We need to encourage children to see beyond their immediate situations and look to their future. Encourage apprenticeships and tech jobs, vocally champion for transformational leadership within JPS and the school board. We need to equip JPD with the most up to date technology and crime solving techniques to not only prevent crime, but fight crime.
7. Provide three examples of what you believe are the most critical improvements needed in the entire City of Jackson.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but infrastructure, crime, and economic development.
In South Jackson on Mason Blvd. you have a major flooding and drainage issue. A little rain can entire flood out a quarter of a street. The same happens in Belhaven .You have raw sewage that overflows into citizen’s yards (also in Midtown). These are major infrastructure issues that we have to address that affect the health and wellness of the citizens of Jackson.
We must start creating ways to prevent crime. For example, my family owns a convenience store where we must be very mindful of safety, for our employees and our customers. We have found that knowing who comes into our store, building a relation in our community, and addressing those small, petty crimes (i.e. loitering, solicitation, etc.), helps to create an environment of security – where people feel safe to visit our store and those looking to cause trouble know that we won’t tolerate it. This is no different than what we need to do as a city, address issues and enforce ordinances. We also need to address the systemic issues that plague our communities. Lack of resources and access leads to a lot of the issues Jackson faces.
It’s apparent that we must bring more revenue into the city of Jackson. We will do so through economic development and home ownership. One of the new businesses in Ward 7 down in South Jackson is Jackson Cash and Carry, which is in the old Kroger’s building on Terry Road. The opening of this establishment has brought jobs and food to an area that desperately needs growth. We have to make Jackson a place to do business and be open to investors and stakeholders in the community who want to help bring the City to where it should be.
8. What needs to happen to improve the city’s infrastructure?
The infrastructure of Jackson needs a comprehensive plan and money to fix the issue. The problem of in structure is not just about potholes. It involves not just filling potholes, but a plan to resurface and repave the streets of Jackson. A comprehensive plan, strategic plan needs to be in place that rebuilds and reservices the worst streets, including the pipe work underneath, and patching those salvageable areas until they can be resurfaced. Most cities have a plan in place to take care of these issues on a continuous basis, the City of Jackson is no different.
9. What experiences qualify you for this position?
Growing up in the Battlefield community and being invested into the City I have gained a deep appreciation for Jackson. I am out in the community everyday with my fellow citizens and I see the things that are needed. Having a business background, a law, and a policy background I am qualified to lead Ward 7. I have worked as a policy assistant for the Speaker of the House office. I have worked at the Attorney Generals Office and Hinds County Board of Supervisors Legal Department Office. I have gained a vast amount of knowledge that allows me to understand how government truly works and be able to help move Ward 7 forward. Relationships are important. I have formed good relationships with city, local, and state officials but also stakeholders in the community, business owners, and everyday citizens.
10. What do you think needs to happen to improve public education in Jackson?
Education is the cornerstone of all development in Jackson. Families across Jackson are deciding if they will stay in Jackson based on the quality of Education. When businesses are considering whether to come to Jackson, they factor in the educational system, because they consider what are the issues that their current employees will face, but their growth potential with the quality of the workforce.
We, those who currently hold office and those that seek office in Jackson, need to not allow the excuses of under budgeting and state intrusion to convince us that our hands are tied. We need to be creative, engaging businesses and industries to get involved and help to meet the funding deficit in our schools. We also need create a pipeline to employment and opportunity for JPS kids, where they are connected to the colleges and fields that best suit their occupational pursuits. We also need to connect seasoned education professionals, those who have been in education for many years and even retirees, to younger less seasoned educators, to mentor and encourage. We cannot have a one size fits all approach to education and child development, in as much as we can individualize and encourage every JPS student’s success, we need to. We can no longer let excuses and inactivity be our default attitude.
11. What do you think about the One Lake project? Please detail any concerns.
The One Lake Project has a lot of potential. Outside of the flood relief it would give, it also would give the city the opportunity to drive economic development in the area and bring more revenue to the city. As seen a couple weeks ago this conversation is important because of the need of flood reduction. However, funding for this project could be the turning point.
12. How can city council and the mayoral administration improve its relationship?
The relationship between the council and the mayoral administration is very important. The better the relationship the more things that can get done. The mayor and the council must understand that they all have differences and respect those difference, but never let those differences get in the way of what's best for the city. The two must be transparent with each other and communicate. When communication ceases the progress that was being made begins to stall. Elected officials must remember they are placed in the position they are in to serve and represent the people. In doing so they must work with other council members and the mayoral administration.
This article has been updated with answers for Questions 11-12, that the candidate forgot to originally submit.