By: Emily Guiles
Along with getting a new Mayor the city of Muskegon Heights can also look forward to receiving new members to their Council.
These candidates for Muskegon Heights City Council are; Dave Alves, former fire chief in Muskegon Heights who feels that he has unique qualifications as he already has experience as a department leader. Kelly Kitchen, longtime resident of Muskegon Heights with no prior experience in the government of Muskegon Heights, feels as though she can bring in a new prospective. Willy Watson, another candidate also believes the Kitchen is a great choice and can bring in new ideas to council, Watson was on the Council for 8 years and decided to take a break for two years, and now is trying to get reelected because he sees that Muskegon Heights’ financial system is going down hill and he wants to help, Watson also wants to get more young people involved in the government of Muskegon Heights. Ordained Preacher Redell Holmes is also a candidates, a former Muskegon Heights principal and superintendent, Holmes wants to bring the zeal back to the Muskegon Heights area. Vernon Smith is a current Councilman of Muskegon Heights and says that he has worked with a great team, and has facilitated many good things during his time on the Council.
The debate took place at Corinthian’s Baptist church on Peck St. and was sponsored and put together by 103.7 The Beat radio station, and the proctor for the event was John Covington of 103.7 the Beat. Each candidate was given a 2 minute opening statement, 90 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to rebut any answers. This is the only debate for those candidates who are running for Muskegon Heights Council.
Unlike the Mayoral debates in previous weeks there was not a set panel to ask questions, instead members of the audience were allowed to write their questions on a note card and come to the podium personally to ask the candidates their questions.
The first audience member was James Kitchen, candidate Kelly Kitchen’s father, Mr. Kitchen asked the candidates what they will do that is different than what has been done in previous years if they are elected to the council.
The first to answer was Kelly Kitchen, Kitchen wants more police on the streets, and more training in order for them to become even more effective in stopping crime in Muskegon Heights. Kitchen also wants to work closely with neighboring communities and eliminate the blight that has surfaced in Muskegon Heights.
Blight has been a large topic for the recent Muskegon Heights Candidates for both Council and Mayor. Mayoral candidates Sims and Scott also both brought up the recent blight in their recent debate at Muskegon Heights Waters Center.
Current Councilman Smith answered the question by stating that he would like to see more community involvement, and to Kitchen’s statement he said, “it doesn’t matter how many police officers are out there… if the public doesn’t speak up,” Smith encourages citizens to stop turning a blind eye to crime and start to cooperate and report crimes to officers.
Candidate Holmes said that he wants to see Muskegon Heights receive more representation at the State and Federal level so that Muskegon Heights can play a larger role in the State community and be more in control of things that effect the city.
Candidate Watson agreed with candidate Kitchen, that there needs to be more police on the streets, Watson also believes that the council needs to be more in touch with the housing in Muskegon Heights to better control the type of people that are coming into the community. Watson also proposed that the water bills be made monthly instead of every 3 months, in order to appease the citizens.
Former fire chief Alves wants to present the council as a more cohesive body who are unified in their goals. Alves also wants to promote the youth of Muskegon Heights and stop them from falling through the cracks.
Education and how the council should be involved in the educational body was a large topic in the debate.
Smith said that in the beginning of Muskegon Heights schools financial problems the council reached out to help, but the offer was declined by the schools. Holmes feels that his background as an educator gives him good insight on how to proceed with the goals of both the schools and the council in order to better unify them. Alves also wants a better unity between the council and government in regards to the school district and education in general.
Watson stressed how important it is to better the education in Muskegon Heights because due to school of choice, students are leaving Muskegon Heights schools.
Holmes also stated that the council needs push for education reform at a state level, by, “getting in the face of the State.” Candidate Alves disagreed with Holmes and said that it is wrong to put the education of Muskegon Heights students fully on the State and that educating children starts with the parents.
There has been talk of Muskegon County having a Casino built, and this topic came up in the debate. Watson, Alves, and Kitchen agreed that a Casino would be a great addition to the area as it would bring more people to Muskegon and Muskegon Heights areas.
Alves said that a Casino was a good idea because it would help to foster a good infrastructure to the city, and keep the money in the county. Watson agreed that this would strengthen the city and county. Kitchen stated that she felt a Casino would encourage employment and bring in a healthy amount of tourism to the county.
Holmes disagreed with the other candidates, and said that because of what he stands for and his relationship with the Lord that he felt a Casino was not the right type of business to enter Muskegon Heights and Muskegon county.
All candidates have fresh and new ideas to offer, as well as their own personal wisdom. It is up to the citizens of Muskegon Heights to decide and to make sure that they vote.