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Thompson: Vicksburg needs a clear vision for its future

Editor’s note: The Vicksburg Post has allowed each candidate in the April 6 municipal election’s party primaries the opportunity to submit a guest column to exceed no more than 500 words. These columns will appear online and in print ahead of the primary election.

Willis Thompson is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Vicksburg in the April 6 party primaries. Thompson previously served as South Ward Alderman through 2017.

 

A wise person once told me that problems do not fix themselves. True leadership involves facing problems and the obstacles they bring. The city of Vicksburg has several challenges that must be addressed to move the city forward.

Currently, the primary priority needs to be finding a solution for the aging water plant. While serving as South Ward Alderman, I voted to hire ESG because they are a good company with more qualifications, certification and staff to manage the water plant full-time than the city. ESG has made recommendations to the city over the past four years about the needs of the water plant and currently, there have not been any plans made to address the issues.

Most older cities share in the challenge of finding a way to fund infrastructure projects. We need a dedicated funding source. Borrowing money each time you have an issue is not a permanent solution because you still must make the payments from either enterprise funds or the general fund which take away funds for day-to-day operations.

When I left city hall in 2017, the police department had approximately 72 certified officers. Over the past three years, that number has declined drastically to less than half that number. I applaud the men and women of the Vicksburg Police Department for what they do, but they need help. How much more experience must we lose before admitting there is a problem? Again, nothing of real substance has been done.

The best way to grow a city is by effective planning. City planning involves creating policies and programs that stimulate economic growth. This normally involves a focused effort on designated areas that encourages collaboration between local government, the private sector and the public. Planning helps a city establish a vision for the future.

Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).

Vision aids leaders to make the best long-term and short-term decisions for the city. Planning sets priorities, aligns with goals, and decreases the possibility of wasting taxpayer dollars. For example, having a land-use plan would have helped the city make a better decision with the latest park downtown. That property has always had a commercial interest. More people living downtown is a good thing because it creates more opportunity for economic development by providing the need for more services in the area.

A comprehensive plan is essential to community development. It helps a city to regulate policy regarding utilities, recreation, housing, and land use to name a few items. These things are important when determining the needs, direction, and defining present and future opportunities. Then we can determine the best incentives and/or legislation needed to identify viable opportunities for investment in the city.

I decided to run for mayor because I believe the citizens of Vicksburg deserve and should expect more. We need real solutions and a plan of direction going forward. Having a real strategy is the key to progression.