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Candidates respond to questions at forum

    At the candidate's forum held on Tuesday night at Georgia Southern University's Nessmith-Lane building, over 200 people came to listen to the candidates talk about the issues and hear them field questions from the audience.
    After Mayor Bill Hatcher spoke about some of the issues he feels are currently facing the city, the candidates  were allotted five minutes to speak on their platform and the items of concern to them.
    Appearing in alphabetical order were Will Britt, District 2 incumbent, Gary Lewis, District 3 incumbent, John Morris, District 5 incumbent, Harry Propes, challenger in District 3 and Nathan Queen, challenger in District 2. Also speaking was Shannon Edwards, girlfriend to District 5 challenger Travis Chance, who was unable to appear due to a scheduling conflict.
    Once the speeches were done, Georj Lewis, Georgia Southern Dean of Students and moderator of the event, took questions from the audience. They were invited to submit written questions on note cards handed out at the door. Edwards did not participate in this part of the program.
    One of the questions asked of the candidates was about alcohol sales and the possibility of a referendum.    
    Propes said, "I can weigh both sides, but I personally don't have a problem with alcohol on Sunday. I'd like to see a feasibility study."
    Morris doesn't support alcohol sales on Sunday and said, "You have six days a week to buy it, drink it and do what you want with it. Sunday should be a day of rest."
    Lewis said, "It's state law that there be a referendum. If it's coming on Sunday that would be the choice of the people."
    "Many of you know I don't drink alcohol, but I don't have tattoos either," said Britt. "That doesn't mean that I feel I need to put my beliefs or my decisions above yours. Sunday sales has been allowed in other cities, with a strict time limit...but I will not support another night to go out. "
       Queen said, "It's a referendum. It's not my decision to tell you 'that's not Statesboro.' It's your decision to get out and vote for that. If that's what the community wants, if that's what the students want, then that's what you get."
    This year's election has drawn an unusually large number of students to the registration tables. According to the Bulloch County Registrar's office, more than 1200 people registered to vote between Aug.1 and Oct. 1, and they expect to enter another 1200 application into the system by the end of next week. Approximately 85 percent of the new voters are between the ages of 18 and 25.
    Another question addressed the relationship between the city and the students and how it could improve.
    "It's simple," Queen said, "whenever you don't get out to the campus and talk to people, how do you know what affects these students?"
    "Open lines of communication," said Propes. "Statesboro is a college town, that's why I came here. Let's keep it that way."
    "The answer to this is open communication," said Morris. "There is a small group who has brought the issues of alcohol and parking to the forefront, but in fact, there is a great relationship between several GSU organizations and the community, as well as the government."
    Lewis said, "It would be good if the city would approve that we have a city council meeting on campus, sometimes. We would get more attendance from the students and we could hear your cries and the needs you have. I think it would be great"
    "I think by being here tonight, it's a huge start," Britt said. "We're talking and we're listening. I believe the voter registration performance that the powers-that-be have seen has opened a lot of people's ears and a lot of people's eyes."
    In addition to questions about GSU students being treated unfairly and ticket fees being higher around campus, candidates were asked about the balance between new development in the city and the need for green space.
    Gary Lewis said, "I think we need more development in the city right now. We have a lot of green space. So, development overrides green space, right now."
    Britt said he wants to see more green space, like a dog park, and that the old hospital could be turned into a park.
    "There's still some land left and we've got to purchase it," said Britt.
    Queen stressed the need to keep parks open, specifically citing the pool at Luetta Moore Park.
    "If we annex property in, it would be a good idea to turn some of that area into a big park, particularly on the west side of town," said Queen. "I'd also like to see the downtown area developed more."
    Propes said GSU has much more green space than the city and would love to see a park made out of the old hospital.
    "Downtown, to me, is the most vital portion of the growth of Statesboro, right now," said Propes. "Taking responsible action and looking at what we can do with the aesthetics of downtown, within the structure we already have, is very important."
    Morris said that in the past six years, while he was on council, several parks have been created and revitalized.
    "One of the things we do, as a council, in every development, is we require a certain amount of green space," Morris said. "The engineering department has done a tremendous job making sure that whatever green space has been removed, trees to be specific, that there is a certain number put back."
    Elections for city council will be held on Nov. 6th, with early voting starting at city hall on Oct. 29.

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