Thursday, June 24, 2021

Meet the Candidates: Ward 6 Alderman Race Q&A – Bailey and Centellas

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor
alyssa.schnugg@hottytoddy.com

The Oxford municipal general election will be June 8. Oxford residents can vote from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Oxford Conference Center for mayor and their preferred candidate for the Board of Aldermen in their respective wards.

Absentee voting can be done at City Hall through Saturday.

This week, Hotty Toddy News is publishing Q&As with each of the candidates in the mayoral race and in Wards 23, 5, 6 and at-large.

Ward 1 Alderman Rick Addy won the primary and has no opponents in the general election and Ward 4 Alderman Keisha Howell-Atkinson was unopposed.

Today, we hear from the two candidates vying for the Ward 6 seat on the Board of Aldermen: Republican and incumbent Alderman Jason Bailey and Democratic candidate Miguel Centellas.

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order for fairness.


Jason Bailey

Name: Jason Bailey

Ward: Ward 6

Age: 42

Party: Republican

Family: Wife, Greta, and two children

Profession: Owner of Summit Property Management

Why did you decide to run for office?


In 2012, I decided to run for office because I wanted to give back to the community that has given me so much. I believe that if you are able, you should always serve others and make a difference. This is why I decided to run and want to continue as alderman.
 

What do you bring to the table for this position?

As a small business owner, I bring my business leadership background. Over the past nine years, I have applied these skills working as an alderman to serve our community. When I took on this responsibility, I didn’t want to just show up at a meeting. I wanted to put forth my full effort and grow as an alderman. I feel over the past nine years I have gained much experience and have earned the respect of my fellow aldermen. I was honored and humbled in 2019 when they appointed me to serve Oxford as Mayor Pro Tem.

What do you feel is the biggest issue city leaders are facing and your thoughts on how to improve it?

Managing the growth of our city and ensuring we have the infrastructure in place to serve the needs of our growing community, and how to fund these projects without raising taxes. Over the past four years, we have worked hard to establish relationships on the federal and state level to secure funding for these projects. Over the last few years, we have been successful in securing funds through the state Legislature in the excess of $7.7 million dollars.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

I would use $350,000 to finish phases 2 and 3 of Woodlawn Davis Park to complete this project, $150,000 for engineering and planning for a new city pool and $500,000 on improvement in the newly annexed area of Ward 6.

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Miguel Centellas

Name:  Miguel Centellas

Ward: Ward 6

Age: 46

Party: Democrat

Family: Wife, Kate, son, Javier, and daughters, Zoë and Isabel

Profession: Professor of International Studies at the University of Mississippi

Why did you decide to run for office?

I never seriously considered running for office before now. We, political scientists, like to observe and maintain our objectivity. But when several members of the Lafayette County Democrats asked me to run, after careful consideration, I decided it was the right thing to do. My decision was shaped by disappointment in my ward’s incumbent alderman and the decisions the Board of Aldermen have been making over the last few years. I’ve been here 12 years, and I’ve come to really love the Oxford of small, friendly neighborhoods and excellent and inclusive schools. I’m bothered by the growth of sprawl and the focus on strip malls and condo development, with the lack of attention to residential neighborhoods and our quality of life. And I’m bothered that not everyone gets to enjoy all the great things this city offers. I want a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable Oxford.

What do you bring to the table for this position?

I bring a lot of ideas, particularly from my knowledge of how policymaking works (and doesn’t work) beyond Oxford. Oxford is unique, but our problems aren’t one-of-a-kind. My opponent doesn’t talk about issues, lay out plans, or even take credit for specific accomplishments. I find that troubling. What I bring to the table is a journeyman’s work ethic, taught to me by my parents and my grandparents. I won’t just skate by or go along with the gang. I’m going to roll up my sleeves and get to work. If you look at my campaign Facebook page and my other campaign materials, I talk about specific issues facing our community and lay out goals and plans for achieving those goals. More than anything else, I believe in transparency and accountability. I’ve never seen my alderman. If elected, I pledge to visit the neighborhoods in my ward regularly — not just during election years. And I’ll listen to what residents have to say and try to respond promptly.

What do you feel is the biggest issue city leaders are facing and your thoughts on how to improve it?

I think Oxford faces numerous challenges. The city has grown rapidly, but traffic infrastructure hasn’t kept up. In part, this was a result of poor planning. The dangerous traffic congestion from the Starbucks on Jackson Avenue should’ve been anticipated. We keep building residential subdivisions but don’t give them neighborhood parks, sidewalks, or the basic amenities needed to create vibrant, friendly neighborhoods. We keep building strip malls and condo developments to boost tourism, but this affects housing availability for families that live and work here in Oxford. We need to rebalance. I’m not a landlord and I don’t own a property management company, so I plan to put residents first without any conflict of interest.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

If I had $1 million without any strings attached, I would hand it over to Participatory Budgeting. Divided evenly among the wards, this comes to $167,000 per ward. The various neighborhoods in each ward could come together and propose projects and improvements they want. After developing their proposals, they would present them in a public forum prior to a ward-wide vote. The projects with the most votes would be funded until the funds ran out. This is something many cities in the U.S. do as a way to increase citizen participation and make local governments more responsive. And it’s something I’m already proposing. I’m proposing we earmark 2 percent of the city budget (which comes out to about $100,000 per ward) to implement in exactly this way. Local residents have a much better idea of what they want or need than city planners often do. They should have a direct say in how their taxpayer money is used.


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