CAMDEN By PATRIC FLANNIGAN
Camden Mayor Elect Bishop Julian Lott partnered with Thrive Church to hold a meet-and-greet for members of the community to voice their concerns for the future of the city.
The Rev. David Walthall served as the moderator for the meeting that was held twice on Tuesday - once from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., then again from 6-9 p.m. Walthall explained the purpose of the meeting and said that there may not be immediate answers for some of the questions that the community has, but this would allow Lott time to find answers and research concerns of city residents.
Lott opened the function by welcoming and thanking everyone for attending before sharing what he has been up to since he was elected as the first African American male mayor of Camden. He than shared that he has already visited different organization around the city to build partnerships that will help the city prosper and that he will continue to build on relationships that are already established.
From there, the mayor elect spoke on a variety of topics from street signage and different city celebrations to Ouachita Partnership of Economic Development and city employment.
Lott emphasized the importance of spending inside the city. He stated that Camden pays 11.25 in taxes which is among the highest in the state. Of that, 6.5 goes to the state, 3 goes to Ouachita County and Camden only gets 1.75.
“We must remember the importance of shopping locally to increase revenue for the city of Camden,” Lott said. “Our budget means nothing if we don’t spend money inside of these city limits.It takes money to buy land, however we will work to make the community aware of the upcoming sunset dates of the taxes that we already have.”
Lott also said that Arkansas voted to increase minimum wage so the city will have to raise the wage for its workers by nearly 8.82 percent by 2020.
“You’re not punishing city hall when you go out of town to shop, you’re punishing our police,” Lott stated. “You’re punishing our children. You’re punishing our fire department. We’ve got to spend some of our money locally. Even if your are going out of town, at least buy the gas here… Revenue, revenue, revenue.”
Lott said that he asked city council for OPED to focus on Camden and Ouachita County instead of Calhoun County.
“If we could not get jobs inside the city of Camden then we should at least consider partnering with Highland Industrial Park instead of paying for our own people inside the city to help Calhoun County,” Lott said. “Let’s just partner with them and let them keep doing that job while we work on some jobs right here in our own city limits.”
Education statistics was also a priority with Lott as he said the city will have to continue to support organizations like The Hub, and the Camden Fairview School Districts and SAU Tech to help local students succeed. He also shared that he hopes to work with CFSD to adjusting the school board meetings times so it wont be held at the same time as city council meetings. Lott added that he wants to set up shelter at some of the bus stops in the city so students will not have to stand in the rain to wait on their buses.
Lott then spoke about how city owned property needs to be up to the proper standards and codes and that every park should be safe. He discussed weekend clean-ups and finding ways to make properties more affordable to manage.
Lott said the city should also look in to being more inclusive and observe more holidays and hold more events such as a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco De Mayo.
Before field questions from the audience, Lott encouraged the community to resister to vote and know the issues, get to know their city council members and to join commissions. He said the meeting is not a gripe session, but a “think tank for the future of Camden.”
“I’m intentionally being inclusive because I believe you are, we are, I am Camden.” Lott stated before fielding questions.