Tuesday night marked the final time that city council candidates could debate, as the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce hosted a 90-minute forum aimed at residents who may have yet to decide for whom to cast their ballots.
This election will mark the first major litmus test for a public that remains uneasy since the now-infamous Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the Capitol in Washington and the madness that ensued afterwards.
Many of the candidates stated their cases at a heavily attended function that saw 10 prospective winners field questions from Chamber chairman John Lawson, who moderated the proceedings, which took place at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas.
There were five contenders in Ward 1 -- including LaTisha Brunson, David Knott, John Proctor, Garland Trice and Danny Lester Walker.
Ward 3 included three aspirants – Quranner Cotledge, Lanette R. Frazier and incumbent Ivan Whitfield. Cassandra Dean and incumbent Steven Mays Sr. are the lone candidates looking to secure the Ward 4 nomination.
In a very structured configuration, each candidate first drew a number to determine the order in which they were seated on the stage and had two minutes to respond. Each fielded random questions from Lawson and then were allotted a two-minute closing statement.
Each candidate outlined their own agendas and provided a few highlights during the presentation, which seemed to strike a chord with the audience in attendance.
In one of the most important topics of conversation, many of the participants offered quick and direct answers concerning the Go Forward Pine Bluff plan.
Local businessman Trice bemoaned how Go Forward projects follow initiatives as written and vowed to change how some of the bonds were written if elected, while Frazier vowed to work with the smaller businesses that are already in place in Pine Bluff.
Mays spoke of the importance of embracing the city council as the governing body and reminded the panel that the goal was to make Pine Bluff a better place to live.
Cotledge assured voters that the problems of the city can be solved with a strong plan of action for Go Forward.
Whitfield outlined some of the things he signed off on during his current tenure.
The candidates also addressed the issue of handling dissenting opinions, for which both Brunson and Knott were adamant about the need to accept communication from all sides.
Dean spoke of the need to "protect the citizens of Pine Bluff" to bring more revenue to the city.
Walker discussed the low morale of the current city council and vowed to make inroads to ensure that the city would "try to fix that fact that businesses aren't making it to the city council members" when it comes to attracting potential businesses. Election day is May 24.