OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The mayoral candidates for Ocean Springs, two term Democratic incumbent Connie Moran and Republican challenger John McKay, squared off in their first official debate Tuesday night before a standing room only crowd at the civic center.
First up, the city's financial condition.
"It is a fact that the city has been in a five year deficit spending cycle," John McKay said. "It is a fact that the city auditors told the city, do not dip into your find balance anymore or you stand the possibility of losing your bond rating."
"My administration has spearheaded more projects and obtained more grant funding than any other past mayor," Moran countered. "Of over $40 million in projects nearing completion, only three percent of that money has come from the general fund. I call that a pretty good return on investment."
City workers have not had raises in several years, something McKay said was wrong.
"The city employees who work hourly, that need their money just a much as she does, hadn't had a raise in over four years, which is ridiculous. Now that's the crises that we've got to head off so that we can take care of our employees."
Mayor Moran agreed.
"All of us, all of the aldermen want to do what we can for the city employees. And I ditto Mr. McKay, we are very fortunate to have some of the best city employees on this Mississippi Gulf Coast."
Traffic congestion on Highway 90 and the future widening of that busy thoroughfare was also a topic of debate. Moran said there is a plan in the works.
"We have enough right of way that we can widen Highway 90 to the six lanes, maybe even widen it to the middle, have a new streetscape type of ditch and have frontage roads in the long run. How to pay for that, we'll look at that. We've got BP RESTORE Act funding that's also a possibility," Moran explained.
McKay offered his thoughts.
"We need to work with MDOT as much as we possibly can to make sure it's as pretty as we can get it, as landscaped as we can get it, that we have turn bays where we need them to benefit our businesses."
Back on the subject of money, McKay had this to say.
"If I'm elected, I will not take a raise the whole time I'm in the office. I'm not doing this for the money."
But the mayor also said she made sacrifices, as well.
"I did not take my three percent raise several years ago when the employees didn't get theirs, but I didn't tell anybody."
Since neither Moran nor McKay face any opposition in next week's primary, the general election on June 4th will decide who will be the city's next mayor. Another debate between the two will be held on May 14th, sponsored by the League of Women Voters.