Four candidates for municipal offices participated in a forum hosted by 88.9 KETR in City Hall on April 26. Mayoral candidates Coby Marcum and Dr. John Ballotti and city council candidates Sue Davis (Place 4) and Emma Martin (Place 2) were all on hand to answer questions on issues concerning the Commerce economy, infrastrure, and more. Moderated by KETR’s Scott Harvey, the forum began with opening statements. Place 2 candidate Steve Harrison did not attend the event.
“I want to make it clear tonight that there is an observable difference between candidates for mayor,” Ballotti said. “There is a difference in being seen in the city and working and living in the city. In the 10 years I’ve been here, you can say I’ve been fully involved in Commerce as a citizen and consumer.”
Marcum emphasized the public relations portion of the mayor position in his opening statement.
“I hope that God and yourselves would choose to bless me with this opportunity,” he said. “We really need somebody who is going to reach out into the community, and the most important things that a mayor can do is be the face of the community.”
The first question concerned the $4.8 million street improvement plan, financed mainly by a $3 million bond sale. The rest of the money will be provided by Texas A&M University-Commerce and the Texas Water Development Board. Ballotti, Davis and Martin all supported the plan, while Marcum pointed out what he saw as problems with it.
“From a campaign sort of view, its easy to say ‘Yes, I support this measure,’” he said. “From a long-term perspective, if a person is unemployed in this city, a nice, shiny yellow brick road does not help them pay their rent or feed their family. I want to do things that generate revenue in the city, and then that will trickle down to the roads. I would have to take a couple weeks to study the numbers in the plan, but I am concerned with our debt level.”
Both Ballotti and Marcum emphasized the need to promote Commerce to prospective homeowners, despite higher taxes in Commerce compared to Greenville and Rockwall.
“We should ask them to compare our customer service and sell them on the education system here in Commerce,” Marcum said. “If we encourage their children, if they have them, to attend the university here, that could offset [the higher taxes].”
For the full audio of the debate, visit www.ketr.org. Early voting began April 30 and will run until May 8 and on May 7-8 the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On election day, May 12, the polls will also be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All voting will be done at City Hall in downtown Commerce.