LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) – Lynchburg City Council hopefuls met Wednesday night at a public forum to address serious issues affecting the community.
“Drugs, drive-by shootings, burglaries, and various things in that category. This is a top priority,” said 2nd Ward candidate McKinley Marshall.
After several shootings in his ward of the city, Marshall addressed the issue of crime from the beginning of the forum.
His opponent, Sterling Wilder, believes that violence is only a window to a bigger issue.
“Crime is because of poverty. The results of low grades is because of poverty. So if we give a person more opportunities to excel from poverty and give them a way out, for example job training programs,” said Wilder.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a quarter of Lynchburg’s population is at the federal poverty line.
The average family income is under $40,000 a year.
Candidates say training and education may be the answer.
“The only way we get at poverty is to start very young with these children and educate,” said 1st Ward Candidate Mary Jane Dolan.
“We need to make sure that our young entrepreneurs are well-taken care of and have the tools that they need to succeed,” said 4th Ward Candidate Turner Perrow.
Entrepreneurs that can create jobs to replace all the ones the city has lost.
“We had General Electric, the foundry, Glade Morgan, there were jobs, jobs were plentiful. People knew that they could come out of high school or not finish high school and get a job, and that is not the case now,” said 3rd Ward Candidate Charleta Mason.
3rd Ward Candidate Jeff Helgeson says high taxes are driving companies away.
“These businesses say we’re tired of it and they’re going to move into the county line, and that’s what we’ve seen happen with millions of dollars being spent and invested in Campbell County,” said Helgeson.
Several candidates say to get companies back will require investment in infrastructure.
“We need the clean water, the good roads, we need the public safety so that when people come downtown they’re going to be able to feel safe,” said 1st Ward Candidate Christian DePaul.
“Try to help alleviate some of the problems that go along with high traffic,” said 3rd Ward Candidate Albert Billingsly.
Eight candidates are running for just four seats on council.
The Hill City heads to the polls May third.