LaGRANGE — At a political forum earlier this month, candidates for LaGrange City Council presented their thoughts regarding the future of the city, its challenges, strengths and opportunities. In the interest of informing the public, the Daily News has been presenting some of their answers, based on the seat each candidate is vying for. Today, we present Richard Kimbrough who is challenging incumbent LeGree McCamey. Kimbrough was unable to attend the forum because of a work conflict, but in the interest of fairness, the Daily News sought him out and gave him the opportunity to respond to a few questions.
Early voting has closed. The election will be held Tuesday and polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Below are Kimbrough’s responses to the same questions that were asked of his opponent:
What do you see as the greatest strengths and conversely challenges facing the city of LaGrange, and how, specifically, will you address those issues?
Kimbrough: “Our greatest strengths I think is jobs. People come from all over to get a job here, but with the job, it’s sometimes a setback because of how long it takes for people to get hired. It used to be when they proved themselves after 90 days, people were hired on. (The current system) is more of a modern-day slavery. Companies should change their policies back so they can have the benefits their families need. I would address this by talking to the companies and the temp agencies.”
The city operates on a $110 million budget that includes multiple utilities and services. What prepares you to deal with and manage such a large business enterprise?
Kimbrough: “First of all, I think management is common sense. You know, we have a city manager and he has people working under him and they do the management because they bring it to the City Council. We know our elders aren’t wasting their money, they just don’t have enough because of the high utility bills in District 2. The organization that’s supposed to be helping says they are out of money or want your last $100 and they would pay it (the utility bill). It’s hard to pay a $1,000 light bill. That’s one of the first things I would do to make people’s lives better. Just to add, ‘we will not be cutting people’s water off,’ that’s inhumane and we are better than that.”
The City Council has allocated funds in support of the race reconciliation initiative in Troup County. First, how would you characterize the state of race relations in Troup County and do you believe the initiative is worth while?
Kimbrough: “I will give it to you in grade form. The report card for race relations in LaGrange is a B-, but when it comes to the judicial system, I give it an F over 85 percent of the race problems. I don’t think it’s worthwhile, it won’t work. It could work, but they’re not going after the race problems: the judges, the district attorney and the police department. If they tackle that first, it’s hard to make people do right, the person has got to want to do right and God has got to be a part of it.”
Earlier this year, the city of LaGrange experienced a significant increase in violent crimes and crimes directly related to street gangs. What should the city be doing to address this issue?
Kimbrough: “First let me tell you what we shouldn’t be doing: labeling all our children as gang members because they are not, just to get a grant. (Police) target our children that way and I won’t stand for that to be happening to our children. To address this issue, I think we’ve got to do what I have done along with Nathan Gaskin (city council candidate), who is doing a lot of sitting down with gang members — being in a gang is not a crime. Everybody’s got to come on board: preachers, business owners, the community.
Reporter’s note: LaGrange Public Safety Chief Lou Dekmar contacted the Daily News after reading this article online Friday afternoon and disputed Mr. Kimbrough’s statement about the police department receiving a grant for anti-gang enforcement. The chief said no such grant funds have been received by the police department.
Reach the LaGrange Daily News at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.