As early voting is set to begin on Oct. 12, the six Rome City Commission candidates spoke at the Floyd GOP Women’s luncheon.
Questions posed by a moderator Tuesday ranged from infrastructure and tourism to homelessness and public safety.
The three Ward 2 seats will be filled in the Nov. 2 citywide race. Voters will be able to choose up to three candidates, with the top three taking office in January.
Incumbents Jamie Doss and Randy Quick are running for reelection. Elaina Beeman, Victor Hixon, Tyrone Holland and LuGina Brown also are seeking seats.
Beeman cited job creation as one of the most important issues Rome will be faced with in the next five years.
“We have a lot of under-utilized businesses on North Broad Street,” Beeman said. “I love what the Downtown Development Authority has done downtown, but we need to direct some of those resources to enhance that North Broad Street area.”
Creating jobs was also a focal point for Quick, who said the city’s educational development and work force development programs should help bring employees to Rome.
Holland said he is concerned about the number of unleashed animals roaming the streets and the potential danger of being attacked by a vicious dog.
Brown said the lack of adequate cellphone and internet service has become an issue, especially with the wave of people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a lot of places in Rome where there is no connectivity,” Brown said. “I would focus on that.”
Hixon said combating the influx of drugs in the city is his priority, adding that drug problems tend to latch onto jobs, housing and homelessness, creating even more problems.
“We have to come together and do it as a whole,” Hixon said. “Handling the drug problem will solve a lot of the public safety issues.”
Some of the candidates were asked about ways to retain and support first responders.
Hixon said the city would not have to continue to hire additional officers if the amount of crime is reduced, adding that it turns people away from wanting to serve as a first responder.
Doss said the city compensates its police officers well and is working to add bonuses to attract new employees. He said new officers would receive a $5,000 annual bonus. It would increase to $8,000 after two years and jump to $10,000 after five years.
Beeman said she wants to speak with first responders to understand what aspects of the job are deterring potential employees.
Quick said that Rome first responders should be held to a higher standard and that whoever the city hires has to be a fit for the expectations of the community.
To reduce traffic congestion, Brown suggested bringing in a tech company to install cameras that sense buildups and help relieve them.
“You’ll hear me speak a lot about surveillance,” Brown said. “I come from that industry and it’s the cheapest way. They will answer so many of your problems.”
Holland said he likes the idea of building more roads to thin out the traffic.
“Rome’s traffic is becoming a lot like Atlanta’s traffic,” he said.
Doss, Quick, Holland and Hixon each expressed approval of the state of the roads in Rome, especially when compared to other communities. Doss said the city is working on a plan to build more roads and Quick said there are plans to pave most of the existing streets.
“There’s nothing we can do about paving the state routes,” Quick added. “We’d have to basically collaborate with the state and put additional pressure on the state to add to the immediate needs. We plan to do that.”
Hixon said there are plenty of streets in need of repair and the city is working to fix them. Holland then mentioned some big pot holes on South Broad Street he wants to see fixed.
The candidates all had different ideas about how to improve Rome’s trail system.
Brown and Quick favored adding more lights to the trails, with Brown also opting for more surveillance equipment to make people feel safe.
Beeman would like to see bike rental stations set up and more promotion of the trails to tourists.
Doss wants the trails to be linked, citing the Mount Berry Trail that will go out to the Armuchee Connector. He said better connectivity would bring more people to Rome.
The open container ordinance for downtown Rome was one of the final topics mentioned. A trial period — on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. — is running through Oct. 31.
Holland said he doesn’t drink, but “won’t rain on anybody’s parade” as long as people drink responsibly.
Brown said that the merchants downtown have been asking for the ordinance for years and feedback has been mostly positive. She said she also likes that it results in having more police on the streets.
Hixon said he has not heard any complaints and applauded the city for the way it handled the ordinance.