Valdosta mayoral candidates address housing, crime ahead of 2023 election
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Mayor candidates say that they are focused on addressing affordable housing as many residents in the city say there’s a housing crisis in the area.
Valdosta’s current mayor says that the city is on the right track to addressing those concerns.
“It’s been a great four years. I am excited about revitalizing the 166-year-old city, we want to make it for a better quality of life so we want to enhance the CDBG program, that will be a focus, and just more affordable housing,” Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson said.
But J.D. Rice, another mayoral candidate, says that the city needs a new vision.
“Valdosta needs progressive change,” Rice said. “Our property tax is too high, and we can’t keep putting the burden of financing the city on the backs of taxpayers. But if we expand by adding new industry, folks will be able to buy homes and cars to relieve the burden of current taxpayers to make it more equitable for everyone to enjoy Valdosta.”
Mayor candidate Fallon Harris echoes this need for a new direction in city leadership. She says there are ways the city can help its citizens secure housing, but they are not being used.
“I think we need to use some of the grant money that we received to be accessed for housing and build outside of the southside,” Harris said. “That’s a lot of the issue is that people can’t get to work, because we don’t really have a local Valdosta transit where you can go to work so that’s also another problem.”
Residents are focused on a candidate who is also addressing community violence, especially among the youth.
Candidates are also focused on addressing the increasing crime rate. WALB spoke with the current mayor who says under his leadership, the city has implemented a program to address at-risk youth.
“We won a statewide award for our mentorship and our involvement with at-risk youth,” Matheson said. “We bring them in, we actually pay them to work in our cities departments and of course, our department heads mentor them as well. We have enhanced it and its Great Promise Partnership on steroids, and the state recognizes that.”
Rice says that the city has to improve the environment for youth to make effective change.
“Also crime; Valdosta exceeds the national average in crime against persons, and most of the crimes are committed by young people. Which goes back to the job training program which will give that child something to look forward to so that they know they can become productive citizens,” Rice said.
Harris says that she knows firsthand how crime is affecting the community, as her son was wrongfully convicted. She says there are ways to end violence — like a citywide gun buyback program.
“I feel like the buyback program would be a great implementation to implement for the law,” Harris said. “You would stop some of the crime with the killing, shooting, and young kids killing each other, while giving some of the rightful owners back guns that have been stolen.”
In addition to the mayoral race, there are multiple seats on the city council that are up for reelection, including districts 1, 3, 5, and at-large positions.
Early voting for all city positions will end on November 3rd. The last day to vote will be Tuesday, November 7, at 7 p.m.
To find your assigned precinct, please go to: https://mvp.sos.ga.gov, refer to your precinct card, or contact the elections office.
If you have any questions, call or email the elections office at (229) 671-2850 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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