Candidates Appear At Forum

Candidates for the District 3, Post 2 seat on the Stephens County Board of Education meet for a political forum just over two weeks before Election Day.

Democratic incumbent Curtis Waters and Republican challenger Jim Ledford both appeared at a political forum last night at the historic Stephens County Courthouse in downtown Toccoa and aired on AM 630 WNEG and

The two talked about a number of issues, including how to deal with a continuing decline in revenues and the possibility of even more budget cuts in the future.

Waters said that the school system would continue to have to look everywhere it could to cut.

“I think we have some people in our system doing a real good job on our electrical bills and gas bills and so forth,” said Waters. “We will continue to look at those programs. That’s a hard question to answer (however). We have cut so much already and we have so much less income coming in. Anything we can do without hurting education and the learning process, that is open.”

Meanwhile, Ledford agreed that any further cuts would be difficult.

“I do not believe in furloughing the teachers,” said Ledford. “I do not believe in cutting their benefits, but like my opponent says it can’t just keep on keeping on. We are going to have to cut somewhere, but we are going to have to stay after our state representatives and senator to make sure we get all of the state money and grants we can get from Atlanta.”

The two men also discussed Wilbros, with both agreeing that everything possible should be done to eliminate the odor.

However, when the candidates were allowed to ask each other a question, Ledford asked Waters if teachers had been told by the school board or central office to not complain about the odor.

“My source was from a teacher that has a doctorate degree, another teacher that has a masters degree and they told me they were told not to complain about the odor,” said Ledford. “I can assure you that if I sit on the school board, I will do everything possible to make sure that the teachers have the same rights as the rest of the people. That is freedom of speech.”

Waters said he does not where that idea would have come from, saying teachers and employees had and have the right to speak up about the odor.

“I assure you it was not coming from the school board and I do not know anybody in the central office that would tell somebody not to complain about the odor,” said Waters. “I heard that too somewhere.”

Waters said he talked with a bus driver he knew who said they were concerned about the odor, but did not want endanger their job by speaking out.

Waters said he encouraged that person to tell him their concerns and said their job would not be in jeopardy.

Also appearing at Monday’s forum was 9th Congressional District Democratic candidate Jody Cooley.

Cooley appeared at a political forum last night at the historic Stephens County Courthouse in downtown Toccoa and aired on AM 630 WNEG and

He answered questions about a number of topics, including health care, immigration, energy, and the debt.

On the debt and deficit, he said he supports using the Simpson-Bowles Commission report on the topic as a starting point for discussion.

“What the Simpson-Bowles proposal does is it lowers tax rates across the board, mainly through the elimination of deductions and loopholes,” said Cooley. “It lowers the corporate income tax rate to 25 percent, which I think is necessary for competitiveness reasons. But it includes some difficult medicine. It includes a phased-in gas tax to support infrastructure development. It also removes some important deductions, like at some levels the home mortgage deduction and some charitable deductions at some levels.”

Cooley is running against Republican Doug Collins for the newly created northeast Georgia congressional seat. Collins said in a statement that his schedule did not permit him to attend last night’s forum.