By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Candidates for mayor and alderman fielded questions ranging from finances to annexation to tourism Tuesday night in Oxford, but the two clear winners were cold beer and a parking garage.
All candidates either favored or would accede to allowing stores to sell beer already chilled.
“Cold beer is a no-brainer,” said Arnold Pegues, a challenger for Ward 4 Alderman post.
Ward 2 Alderman challenger Robyn Tannehill said Sunday alcohol sales would make Oxford more attractive for three-day weekenders.
While non-incumbents expressed dissatisfactions with recent efforts to manage parking in downtown Oxford, incumbents and challengers unanimously favored a parking garage.
“A parking garage is what we’ve earned, what we deserve, what we need to support those people who come to the square and support our businesses there,” said Ward 1 Alderman challenger Jay Hughes.
Ward 2 incumbent Ernest Oliver encapsulated one Oxford verity when he reminded his colleagues and the audience, “Our challenge is to solve problems that every other city in Mississippi would be glad to have.”
Both challengers for mayor charged the city’s planning for growth was ineffective.
“The 2020 Plan had all these new roads, and most of them haven’t been built,” Wade said. He called the parking management program a “silly” waste of money and suggested the $30 million hospital trust fund is a “sacred cow” that should pay for immediate needs.
Democratic challenger Jason Plunk declared, “We’re way behind on 2020. I’d be interested to see how much of that book since 2000 we’ve actually done.” He advocated more lighting and higher pay for police.
Patterson defended city efforts on several fronts from planning to committees.
“I admit to not being the most graceful person in the world, but … from a financial standpoint, I don’t know a city in Mississippi that’s in better shape.”
On alcohol, Wade characterized the Sunday bar ban as an issue of both rights and economic benefit. Plunk, a former bar owner, said last call should not be a requirement to push customers onto the street, causing a crowd-control problem for police. Patterson resisted extra bar hours or Sunday sales as making Oxford less “family friendly.”