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|Lewis opposes Marx in District 1 city council race|
Two candidates. Two visions for the future of Monroe.
In the race for Monroe City Council District 1, incumbent Jay Marx said voters can expect to receive the same attention they have enjoyed for the last four years.
"I've returned every single phone call to every constituent that has called me," Marx said.
In addressing the concerns of his constituents, Marx said he helped get the number of bus benches in his district reduced and helped make improvements to Forsythe Park tennis facility. He said he also had been actively involved in improving Municipal Golf Course at Forsythe Park.
Marx wants voters to consider his record on taxes as well.
"The tax assessor increased property values at about the same time we lost State Farm and Guide," Marx said. "Not knowing what the property values were going to be, we increased the millage to the maximum allowed by law in 2007."
Marx said he was a vocal proponent of lowering that millage once the city saw the effects the State Farm and Guide closings had on the economy.
"I led the group that compromised on the millage and rolled it back to a level that was projected for budget," Marx said.
Marx, 60, pointed to his lifelong residency in Monroe and his position as a fourth-generation small business owner as evidence of his commitment to the community.
"I will work to continue breaking down the barriers that have haunted this city, to continue to use my accounting background to work on improving the stability of the financial backbone of this city," Marx said.
Marx faces competition from Spec Lewis, a retired insurance agent.
Lewis, 69, returned to Monroe two years ago after retiring from the insurance business in Baton Rouge.
Lewis said he decided to challenge Marx because of signs in the community he described as troubling. Most notable, Lewis said, was District 1's concern with rising crime.
"We have a 40 percent reported concern in District 1 where people are afraid of crime," Lewis said. "Without clearing this up, we can forget about jobs and we can forget about the tax base because the people are going to leave and the jobs won't come."
Lewis said the first thing he would do to suppress crime would be to increase salaries of starting police officers.
"We have to compensate the new police so we can keep them in the job long enough for them to advance to a $50,000-a-year job," Lewis said.
Currently, Lewis contended, the Monroe Police Department was losing too many new officers to the Louisiana State Police, the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office and other area law enforcement agencies. Higher pay, Lewis said, would keep more officers on the streets.
Also, Lewis said he would work with Monroe Police Chief Ron Schleuter to establish a substation in his district.
On another front, Lewis said he would stem the rise in water rates in the city, perhaps by placing a cap on rate increases.
"We don't need water rates any higher than we've got," Lewis said. "We also need to see about capping the other excesses we've got, whether that be in the engineering firm we use, the employee health insurance plan or other areas."
Lewis said he decided to run for the post because information about city business is hard to come by.
"When you ask the questions, you don't get the response you need," Lewis said. "You need a pulpit from which to speak."