Will Ward III power shift? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Will Ward III power shift?

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November 4, 2005

Albany -- For 22 years, Arthur Williams has represented Ward three on the Albany city commission. Tuesday, he faces perhaps his biggest political challenge. In a drastically re-configured district, he has four opponents, and a runoff is very likely.

Candidate Morris Gurr is a deeply religious man who says the Lord is leading him to serve his community. The former Albany policeman now serves as an associate pastor and director of a non-profit organization that helps inner city kids and under-privileged adults.

Gurr says the city commission needs a new spirit. "A spirit of cooperation, a spirit of respectability and responsibility and civility to the table." Gurr says he supports redevelopment in south Albany and hopes to bring a weed and seed program to the Ward. "It's not just about trying to get rid of crime, though that is a large part of it, but it's also about cleaning up the community. And getting neighbors to be neighbors again."

Candidate Hank Young is a real estate agent who's main goal is to clean up neglected and dilapidated properties like these old homes on Whitney Avenue. "I will be the first person to call the city manager for a meeting to not only deal with this but also there are many eye soars and many things that have been neglected by the City of Albany," Young said.

He says the commissioner must be the watchdog for the constituents and respected on the commission for his attitudes and opinions. "I think there should be two things: One, a spirit of inclusion and two, a spirit of cooperation."

Candidate Christopher Pike is the curator at Thronateeska Heritage Center. He too wants to clean up eye sores like this dilapidated and burned house on Holloway and South Monroe. "It's very important that we continue redevelopment in downtown, but we also need to make sure other part of our city are not neglected as well, specially the south Albany," said Pike.

 He says a clean community will spur economic growth. And Pike stresses that if a commissioner isn't welcomed at the table, his opinions won't be either. "You need to have someone on there that can sale a vision and then people can buy into that vision. You can get three other votes, other than yourself, so things you can get things happening," Pike said.

 Candidate Bob Washington has lived in Albany all but five years while he served in Vietnam. He says Arthur Williams isn't listening to the constituents. "People want to call you and address issues and then they can't get you. If you can't talk to the person who represents you then you're fighting a losing battle."

Washington says his only political promise is to be open with the people of Ward Three and a team player on the commission. "90% of the time that candidates get in office, they don't deliver on those promises. So I'm not going to come here promising something I can't deliver alone. It's going to take a unified commission to do."

Incumbent Arthur Williams takes credit for the minority business incubator. Williams says he never supported the controversial decision to use taxpayers money to help Phoebe Putney build the South Albany Care Center. "The $1.5 million could have better been used for housing or economic development such as a shopping center."

He says he fights to clean up old buildings, but that people must understand renovating or tearing down property is lengthy and costly. And Williams denies being inaccessible to his constituents. "I'm accessible as the city is accessible. We have city commissioner meeting three times a month. People know where I live. I'm a statue in this community. The city clerk can type in my pager, so I have connectability."

Whether the people want Williams as their representative for another term will be decided at the polls. Election Day is Tuesday November 8th.

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