Fri January 29, 2010
Candidates Surge Murray City Council Ballot
By Chris Taylor
Murray, KY – Incumbents looking to be re-elected are: Danny Hudspeth, Jeremy Bell, Robert Billington, Melvin Bowers, Jane Brandon, Linda Cherry, Pete Lancaster, Dan Miller, Jason Pittman, and Pat Scott.
Newcomers to the ballot include: Jeremy Boyd, Brad Darnall, Donald Elias, Michael Faihst, "RG" Gladden, Amos McCarty, Charles McKenney, Martin Milkman, "Jay" Morgan, Debbie Griffin-Nance, Billy Pritchard, Mark Randall, Richard Reed, John Roberts, Jane Shoemaker, and Greg Taylor.
26 candidates will be on the ballot for Murray City Council in this May's Primary, but there's only twelve seats to fill. Chris Taylor looks into what has spurred so many candidates to seek public office and about the challenges both current and future Council members will face.
Here's the breakdown: nine of twelve incumbents are seeking office; the other three are hoping to be Murray's new Mayor. Then there are 17 newcomers. Calloway County Clerk Ray Coursey, Jr. will oversee the election. He says voters will narrow down the field in May's primary.
Coursey- Pretty much two are going to be left out. When you've got this many people running, it will not be an insult for a fellow not to be included in the top 24 because basically there's such a wide field here.
Coursey says the last election saw only thirteen try for the seats.
Coursey- Any time you get more people involved in the process, I think you're giving people more choices and I think that's a good thing. In the past it has been as many as 16, 17. I'm not sure exactly if we've ever had this number, certainly not in the last 20 years.
Murray State Political Science Professor Winfield Rose says this surge for public service could have something to do with the three incumbents stepping aside for the mayoral race, leaving their seats up for grabs.
Rose- I don't sense a lot of dissatisfaction with the city government and given our resources and our circumstances the city is run very competently and very professionally.
Rose says he's taught several of the candidates during his tenure at M-S-U.
Rose- What I see here is a group of people who are committed to giving something back something to the community that has blessed them and I know that we stress civic engagement in our political science classes.
City Administrator Matt Mattingly says Murray needs just that, as the city dipped into its savings to balance the budget this year and some serious challenges lay ahead. He held a meeting this week with business leaders to discuss the city's financial future.
Mattingly- Two things are facing us: one is we've pulled quite a bit of money out of our reserves. We still have a little over a million left. At the same time, we know expenses are rising on our personnel due to mandates from the state. We also know, not only next year, but for the next five years, we're going to be increased with the same hit, and when I say hit, it's going to be 400,000 for the next five years.
Mattingly says the current council will have to make some decision to guide the budget back to black. He and his staff are analyzing the city's services and will report personnel, operating, and capitol costs.
Mattingly- And also showing them different options for revenue that we have or what the state allows us to do. The council from there has to take all that information this budget year, which starts next month and decide what's best for our community. Ultimately, some of the things they'll have to consider is if they're going to cut services, if they're going to raise taxes, or if they're going to do a combination of both.
Whatever course the city council takes will be inherited by the next group elected to the seats. Who may be in office to realize the city's longer-term plans: like a multi-million dollar public safety center that would house both the city's fire and police departments; or a new fire station on Murray's north side. Mattingly says council members will also have to figure out the logistics on replacing the city's 40-year-old fire engines and laying new sidewalks in several parts of town.
Voters will go to the polls May 18th where County Clerk Ray Coursey, Jr. expects turnout to be as high as 40-50%. With the ballots locked in, one thing's for sure: at least three new faces will be elected to the council in November.