EDITORIAL — Candidates spoke; city voters must act
It was comforting to see so many people — more than 100, easily — attending last week’s City of Port Arthur Mayoral Candidates Forum at Strong Tower Ministries.
The church and its people did great service to Port Arthur by staging the sole forum during the runoff for mayor. Those public-spirited citizens who attended heard what seemed to be a fair give-and-take on the issues.
Candidates handled a spate of questions from audience members, mostly with skill and candor, and those who took the time to attend likely learned something about the two men who would lead our city: Incumbent Mayor Derrick Ford Freeman and challenger Thurman Bill Bartie. From the start of this campaign, we’ve endorsed the incumbent, who has led the city with enthusiasm and dedication and who seems to have created the conditions for more success. Bartie, too, has a public record and is eminently likeable.
That said, no one gets elected if nobody votes. It’s incumbent on Port Arthur’s 30,000 voters to consider the issues and the candidacies of both men.
Wise guys might suggest that the voters stayed home in droves for the May 4 election, when Freeman and Bartie emerged from a pack of five General Election candidates to lead our city. In fact, more than 4,000 voters — 13 percent — voted. Around here, that’s a turnout.
Here are some major issues upon which voters ought to reflect:
- Who unites the city? Bartie says he’d seek a meeting involving all the major stakeholders in Port Arthur: City Hall, Port Arthur Independent School Board, Drainage District 7, Commission District 3, Sabine Pass and Port Arthur. From that meeting, he said, Port Arthur would develop a plan to move the city forward. Freeman contends there are plans in place now, developed over several years, that include enticing business and residential development downtown, establishing tax advantage zones to encourage investment and more — plans that are manifesting themselves with new development.
- Who’ll get jobs? Bartie says he’ll push for more jobs — and compliance — for Port Arthur people at existing and future plant sites in the city. That includes Motiva, Valero, Golden Pass LNG, Total and, hopefully, Port Arthur LNG. Freeman says there are numerous programs promoted by the city to train employees to get skilled jobs, including truck drivers and welders and process techs. He said Valero has promised more jobs, and Motiva will do the same.
- Who’s got leadership skills? Freeman has proven he can keep order at the City Council meetings, which he leads. Bartie has never served on council; that doesn’t mean he can’t preside over effective City Council meetings, only that he hasn’t.
There’s a lot to consider. Port Arthur appears to be making progress, especially with downtown developments. Candidates did their jobs. Voters must, too.