There's one thing all five candidates in Harlem have in common: they all get ornery when they talk about consolidation.
"As long as Harlem can contain itself economically and without raising the taxes, and contain itself, I would rather stay Harlem as Harlem," City Council hopeful C.D. Morris said.
"It will be a cold, dead day before we give up our city charter," mayoral candidate Scott Dean said.
"This side of the county has been a stepchild. We've gotten very little help from Columbia County. I'd vote against it," said incumbent city councilman Rudolph Dixon.
Voters will fill two city council seats and the mayor's slot Tuesday, choosing from Morris, Dixon and political newcomer John Thigpen for city council and Dean and incumbent Mayor John Bentley for the top spot.
Bentley's hoping his accomplishments in the past 22 months asHarlem's mayor will help propel him to a second term. He points to shifting the mayor and city council positions from two-year to four-year terms, the saving of $500,000 through restructuring bond debt, the completion of the first phase of library renovation, extension of water to the Campania community and the creation of a meals-on-wheels program as some of the successes.
"We were able to do all this during a learning phase," he said. "I can only imagine what we'll accomplish in four years with experience behind us."
His opponent, former city councilman Dean, refers to similar accomplishments and credits the council for working together.
"The mayor can do nothing by himself," Dean said.
If elected, he promises to improve communication among council members and always listen to residents.
"I promise to listen with patience," he said. "I promise to speak with respect. I promise to serve with honor."
He hopes to maintain Harlem's "hometown atmosphere," encourage more citizen participation in government and create a downtown business association.
If Bently maintains his hold on the mayor's job, he wants to ensure that the city's sewer system is OK'd by the state and maintain the integrity and appeal of Harlem.
City council hopeful Morris said it really does not matter to him who is at the helm of the city's government.
"I served under three mayors, I can serve under anybody," he said. "I am running because I am concerned. I want to make sure there is no wasted spending."
Morris said it all comes down to experience. He was a member of the city council for 23 years, before taking thep ast two years off from politics.
"I think the city council needs some experience," he said. "I have more than the council members and mayor combined."
Dixon also talks about the importance of experience. He was a methodist preacher for more than 40 years and has served on the city council for six years. In September, he was appointed to fill the seat Dean gave up to run for mayor.
"I've had a lot more time to learn things than (the other candidates) have," he said.
Dixon and his wife have lived in Harlem for 16 years and they plan to live in the city for the rest of their lives. Serving on the city council allows Dixon to work closely with the city's residents.
"I don't have any other reason to serve," he said.
Thigpen is a relative newcomer to Harlem politics, though he's lived in the city for 17 years and served on various local committees.
"I think I am a good, honest, stable candidate that is sensible, somewhat conservative and really feel strongly about a hometown city," he said. "I like this little city. It is a good place to live and raise a family."
He wants to help the city maintain it's quality of life while maintaining its roots in history.
"If you promote your family atmosphere, and your growth as far as family and residential goes, the commercial will take care of itself," he said. "I think this is a great place and people see to like to be there."
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