District 4 candidates Marks, Doucet talk campaigns, priorities ahead of runoff
Published 12:36 am Tuesday, June 13, 2023
Early voting began Monday for the Port Arthur City Council District 4 runoff race, which pits incumbent Kenneth Marks against former councilman Harold Doucet.
Marks and Doucet spoke with Port Arthur Newsmedia and shared their thoughts on topics of interest, providing insight into their campaign platforms.
Marks said constituents want their councilman to respond to their concerns and issues. They want to be informed about the proposed solution and a timetable in which that solution is going to take place.
He’s also hearing he’s done a good job from those who see the progress being made.
Doucet said he’s hearing the same concerns now that he heard when he decided to run for the District 4 seat: issues about streets, drainage, garbage and high water bills.
“It has not varied. It’s everywhere you go,” Doucet said.
Some questions posed to the candidates required a bit of explanation as opposed to a single quick response, such as whether or not this has been a fair race.
Marks said he does not engage in social media and that goes back to the first time he run for the seat. There was disinformation, misinformation and outright lies about him on Facebook. He learned long ago not to refute everything people throw out, adding he is not going to deal in the foolishness.
But, he added, he believes there is a concerted effort against him based on supporters of his opponent. He said there are some untruths out there.
Doucet said he heard from someone of a post on Facebook where Mayor Thurman Bartie was invited to read a proclamation at an event at a church. Marks was in attendance at the event as well during which time Bartie introduced Marks and asked attendees to support him in the race.
Doucet said this was against election law and was unethical for the mayor to ask people to vote for Marks, especially in a church, which is a nonprofit entity.
The topic of the city’s streets program showed two sides to the issue. Marks replaced Doucet in 2020 after Doucet decided not to run for reelection and Doucet was in office when the streets program was conceptualized.
When asked if Port Arthur residents should be happy with the streets project, Doucet said no.
It was during Doucet’s time on council that the city opted to use a special vehicle to perform an analysis of each road in the city thus identifying those in the greatest need for repair.
“We did it that way to take politics out. City Council should be able to justify why to fix this street or that street,” Doucet said.
Once the street is noted for repair then the cost would be figured and it would go before Council for a vote and the money allocated.
“From there no councilman should be changing the list unless it goes back to Council and explain why they are making that change,” Doucet said.
This way the cost is there already and someone is tracking the dollars.
The work on the streets project was divided up by districts and money allotted. Doucet said if a project came in under cost then the remaining money would go back to that district’s street funds.
But in the years since the project began the cost has increased. Doucet said this is because the city dragged its feet in getting the projects completed.
Marks said some residents in his district are happy with the progress of the streets project.
“I have constituents in El Vista that are ecstatic about the work that we’ve done with their streets,” Marks said. “One small area had been on the list to be done for several years and every time they would ask where they were on that schedule. They kept being put off. Same thing in Montrose, and there are several in the Palomar area. There are some in the Port Acres area.”
Marks spoke of one example of work done — Smith Street and Wheatley Avenue.
Money was allotted for work on Smith Street, which is a main road, he said. But there were also several connecting small roads that were due for repair at a later date. Marks said he learned that if the additional roads were fixed after Smith Street was completed then there was a possibility of damage to Smith Street.
The best option was to fix Smith and the smaller connecting roads all at once instead of possibly jeopardizing Smith Street and having to come back later in the year and stage materials and equipment.
This meant Council moved up several streets that were already on the schedule and pushed back some others.
This, he said, is the kind of forward thinking a councilperson should have.
The two candidates may have differing thoughts on a variety of topics but they agree the May 6 Election Day turnout was disappointing.
“I could not believe the turnout,” Doucet said. “I was very, very shocked at the number.”
Neither Doucet nor Marks pulled more than 50 percent of the May 6 vote. Doucet came in with 353 for 45.67 percent of the ballots cast, while Marks brought in 252 votes for 32.60 percent of ballots cast.
The low voter turnout is in stark contrast with the amount of concerns the residents have with what is going on in the city.
“They have all these things they want to complain about and here is your opportunity,” he said. “I used to say that was because of voter apathy, oh they’re going to do what they want and not waste their time.”
He said he’s come to realize there are people who go to the pools to vote for their friends. Then when others not associated with a particular group opt not to vote, this leads to special interest groups in control.
Marks called the voter turnout disappointing while noting the previous election saw higher numbers.
Marks wondered what the answer would be to bring more people to the polls. One idea would be to move the election to coincide with Jefferson County’s election.
Early voting and Election Day
Early voting times are:
- Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- June 20 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Polls will be closed June 19 due to the federal holiday.
Early voting can be done at Port Arthur City Hall or the Port Arthur Public Library. On Election Day June 24, all residents must vote in their precinct.