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Candidate forum held at GSU
Incumbent City councilman John Morris, center, answers an audience question as other candidates wait their turn during Tuesday's forum at the Nessmith-Lane Center on the campus of Georgia Southern University.
    Over 200 people showed up to hear the city council candidates  talk about the issues, at an event sponsored by the GSU Student Government Association and held at the Nessmith-Lane Continuing Education Building. The crowd
    Covering topics from the alcohol ordinance, to parking and towing, to the impression that Statesboro police unfairly target GSU students, the candidates offered the audience their opinions.
    Mayor Bill Hatcher opened up the night with his view on the issues. He touched on the recent changes to the alcohol ordinance, parking in the front yard, towing problems and emphasized the pro-business attitude of the council.
    "Alcohol. That's high on the list for many," said Hatcher. "But I want to remind you that two years ago, it was Georgia Southern faculty and students that came before the city council with pictures and testimony about what was happening on the edge of campus."
    After the mayor spoke, each candidate was allotted five minutes to speak about the issues. They appeared in alphabetical order. Will Britt, current District 2 councilman, spoke first, followed by District 3 councilman Gary Lewis and District 5 councilman John Morris. They were followed by District 3 challenger Harry Propes and District 2 challenger Nathan Queen. Shannon Edwards, girlfriend of District 5 challenger Travis Chance, spoke on his behalf since he was unable to attend due to a work-related conflict.
    Britt focused on the mistreatment and misrepresentation of students. He stressed the student's right to vote and that the students are part of the community. In addition, he added that the city should be pushing education initiatives for the students, instead of focusing on punishment.
    "It seems like students are often targets in and around campus. This election is no different, y'all," said Britt. "Most of you can't run for office, the powers that be are encouraging you not to vote and not to register. Your concerns and ideas are rarely, rarely addressed."
    Lewis wondered why he was being opposed in the city election, stating that Statesboro is a diverse city and should have a black as a representative. He said he was there to do the right thing and that he was there for the bar owners.
    "The work I've done will surely speak for me," said Lewis. "But my questions is 'Why?'Is it because somebody told you to run against me or so we can have alcohol if we get a certain number of friends on council?"
    Morris stressed that Statesboro is a city on the move and a city on the cutting edge. He talked about annexing more land in the last six years than the past 25 and mentioned potential growth influencing projects, including wireless for the city and infrastructure for the Flying J.
    "We have a prime city that attracts business. I can't happen overnight. It takes time. It takes a lot of  hard work," said Morris. "There are many cities in this state that use Statesboro as a benchmark."
    Propes portrayed himself as a someone who understands the situation of the students, since he came to Statesboro as a student, to enjoy the college experience and get an education. He said he has no conflict of interest, since he doesn't own a business or rental property in town, and that he's not running to capitalize off of the students.
    "Unfortunately [my job] took me away from here, to Atlanta before I came back. But I never, ever felt as if this wasn't my home," Propes said. "I want to pay back what this town has done for me and what this college has done for me."
    Queen said his platform is quality, unity and justice. He wants officers going after crimes of malicious intent instead of petty citations. He also feels that Statesboro denied him, and all students, the right to run for office in 2005, since they changed the city charter to limit council candidates to age 25 or older and mayoral candidates to 30.
    "I want a unity of the city that is not divided by some imaginary line, where all the students have to stay on this side," said Queen. "It's unfair to see students treated one way and everybody else treated another way. I'm ready to see things changed."
    Edwards read a letter written by Chance. He stressed that living in Statesboro were the best years of his life. He also felt that the students and community should work together and that everyone should have voice regardless of class or age.
    "I'm extremely excited about being a part of this community and I would like to make as impact of Statesboro, as Statesboro has made an impact on me," said Chance. "We have a great opportunity as citizens to nurture the city and make sure it grows into the city it could be."

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