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From left: Kevin J. Bussey, Scott J.D. Rice and David Sumner take answer questions regarding public transportation.

Tension Builds: Mayoral candidates address transportation, racial tension

Valdosta’s mayoral candidates were able to answer the questions of VSU students first-hand and address any of their concerns at their last debate.

The last debate was held on Oct. 28 in VSU’s Magnolia Room, courtesy of the Sociology and Anthropology Club and the NAACP Valdosta State Chapter. All five of the candidates were invited but only three of them, Kevin J. Bussey, Scott, J.D. Rice and David Sumner, attended.

The president of the Sociology and Anthropology Club, D. J. Davis, announced that the two other mayoral candidates, Scott James Matheson and Brooks D. Bivins, were absent.

 “Regrettably, students, it seems like we have two candidates that didn’t think that you all were worth showing up to see,” Davis said.

While VSU students were concerned about crime and the lack of entertainment, most questions involved how they plan to change the lack of public transportation around Valdosta.

Davis asked all three candidates about what their plans were for public transportation and VSU students’ transportation, mainly concerning extending the traditional schedule of their Thursdays-only access to go to Walmart or the mall using the campus shuttle.

Bussey suggested that Uber or Lyft be subsidized to transport students, but ultimately the issue is a university, not a city, problem.

Rice disagreed, stating that the possibility of having a public transportation system is not nearly as far-fetched as it seems, and is a real possibility financially.

“Beware your politicians are telling you it’s not going to cost you anything, and I’ll tell you to go on a city’s website and look at how much money they’re pouring into their transit systems,” Sumner said. “For me to sit here and tell you you’re going to get public transportation the first year I’m in office– or any of these guys are in office is just not true. To do a comprehensive transit program it’s going to take a pretty long time. The funding has got to come from a lot of different sources. It can’t be carried on the backs of taxpayers of Valdosta.”

The debate concluded with VSU students being allowed to ask any additional questions. A question that came from the entire student section was how these candidates plan on dealing with racial tension in Valdosta, especially VSU.

Sumner’s answer was not very pleasing according to the students who left right after his response. Davis pointed this out and said students got up and left after his response because they were upset.

“I have no plan on how to handle it, I’ll be honest with you I’ve never heard of such because I have not been incorporated in the daily activity of students,” Sumner said. “When I’m elected mayor, my door is always going to be open and any college student that wants to come to my office and sit down and have a conversation, I would love to have that.”

Students were able to rebut Sumner’s response.

“You stated that you didn’t recall any racial tension here in Valdosta but that you do have an open-door policy for students to come and talk to you and other community members. What are your thoughts about black students being escorted in February 2016 at the Trump rally?” said Mirakal Jackson, a senior art major.

Sumner had an unsure response but proceeded to answer the question.

“I really don’t remember, I don’t know,” said Sumner. “I don’t know what the details were. I am aware of it now and my door will be open. I’ve lived my whole life not being in any way racially prejudice, I don’t see color. I do not see things from a prejudiced way—and I may not be saying it the right way for students to understand. If it offended you, I’m very sorry and that’s certainly not what my intentions were. I’m going to be here to help and if there is a wrong, we’ll make it right.”

The students of VSU put all three candidates in the hot seat, leaving their final decisions to be made at the polls.

Written by Kayla Pool, Staff Writer. Photo courtesy of Kayla Pool/The Spectator.

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