Calera candidates sound off on city issues

From infrastructure to business development, six of the nine candidates for the Calera City Council shared their thoughts on a wide range of issues during a Nov. 3 forum.

About 50 city residents listened on as candidates Chris Bunn, Ed Gentry, Eric Snyder, Alan Watts and incumbents Bobby Joe Phillips and Mike Roberson attempted to win the voters’ support.

Candidate Jerry Davis and incumbents Ernest Montgomery and David Bradshaw did not attend the forum, which was held in the Calera High School auditorium.

Moderator Connita Turner, president of the Calera Chamber of Commerce, addressed questions to each of the candidates, and allowed them a one-minute response per question.

During his responses, Roberson, an electrician who has served one council term, addressed the city’s transportation issues, and promised to always be accessible to city residents.

“I will be accessible to everyone, just like I have always been in the past. Being out and about at city events is the best way to stay in touch,” Roberson said. “Our downtown is overrun with trucks. Once we get the bypass in place, it will open up downtown again for sidewalks and more parking.”

Phillips touted his nearly 33 years of experience on the City Council, and said he would help ensure any future growth in the city fits into the city’s recently approved comprehensive plan.

“You have to compare that (comprehensive) plan to what has been requested to see if it fits into the plan for the city,” Phillips said. “We have to look at the kind of growth that will be good for the city and good for the people in the city.”

Gentry, a former candidate for the Pelham City Council and state representative, said he would try to help Calera weather the nation’s current economic downturn.

“We are facing what most cities across the state, and across the nation, are facing. There is no one person who can fill the business vacancies we have right now, but tenants come where there is growth,” Gentry said. “We are strapped for money, and I will help the mayor and other councilmen in any way I can.”

Watts, an insurance claims adjuster who ran for the council in 2004 and 2008, urged city beautification and fiscal responsibility.

“All departments need to be analyzed for fiscal responsibility,” Watts said. “Low-cost things need to be done, like areas of the city cleaned and dilapidated properties cleared to enhance the beauty of our city.”

During his responses, Snyder, an office manager who has been living in Calera nearly four years, said he already had a familiarity with problems facing Calera, and planned to try to address all city issues.

“I have been to all but two or three City Council meetings since I became a candidate over a year ago. I try to stay abreast of all city issues,” Snyder said. “I want to know what is in your neighborhoods that needs attention.”

Bunn, a sales engineer who has been living in the city for about 13 years, said he would like to encourage more family oriented residential development, and would work to create a citywide entertainment event.

“We need to get more houses that have basements, instead of flat houses, so we don’t lose people to other cities around us,” Bunn said. “I think whoever is elected needs to be creative in bringing everyone together as a community.”

The six candidates, along with Bradshaw, Davis and Montgomery, will by vying for votes during the city’s Nov. 10 election. Polls will be open at the city’s Community Center on U.S. 31 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Though the city council was previously composed of five ward representatives, voters this year will elect six at-large council members, who will take office before Jan. 1, 2010.

The U.S. Department of Justice approved the Nov. 10 election about a year after it threw out the city’s 2008 election results, claiming the city’s redistricting plan eliminated Calera’s only black voting district.