Decision 2014: Columbus mayor candidates hold nothing back - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Decision 2014: Columbus mayor candidates hold nothing back

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

With less than two months until election day, the candidates for Columbus mayor are going toe-to-toe on issues like the financial state of the city, and public safety.

Former Columbus Chamber of Commerce vice president, Colin Martin, issued two press releases this week challenging mayor Teresa Tomlinson on her record of balancing the budget and retaining law enforcement, writing:

"Her campaign says, 'Teresa Works.' We see her working on her image, working on her campaign, and working the room at social events. What we don't see is Mrs. Tomlinson rolling up her sleeves and doing something about the crime overtaking our city."

In an on-camera interview, Martin added, "That's going to be a change I make is keeping those public safety officers longer than five years."

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson responded by saying the city recently did a study comparing the police departments of similar sized urban areas, including Montgomery, Macon, and the Atlanta metro area.

"Columbus came in second, the second best pay schedule, and we do have a very competitive pay rate," said Tomlinson, "when we do have a flare up of these break-ins or smash and grabs from time to time, you see these individuals being arrested within a day to ten days, which is pretty remarkable."

She added that there are seventy more officers on the force today than before the 'Other Local Option Sales Tax' was passed to fund the department.

In a statement he wrote Thursday, Colin Martin asks the mayor 'Where did the money go?.'

He writes: "I'm sure Mayor Tomlinson will have plenty of excuses and double talk about spending . . . But the bottom line is that she has failed to lead and make public safety and essential city services a priority.  As a result, the citizens of Columbus and city employees are paying a high price."

Martin later added, "You can't keep trying to balance the budget on the backs of our city employees.  I've had many of them tell me they're making less in take-home pay than they did four years ago, so we've got to address the issue."

Mayor Tomlinson said she is preparing to recommend a budget to council Friday morning that ends the city's deficit and prevents a reduction of services without laying off any employees.

"It looks like we eliminated the threat, the very real threat, of an 80 to 120 job loss, which would have been devastating," said Tomlinson, "So I guess it's about, solution-making.  I think what Mr. Martin did, unfortunately, was more political opportunism.  When you do that, I know you think it's going to feel real good, but when you miss the mark, as I feel he's done here, it's just embarrassing."

Election day for mayor and other city and county offices with terms expiring in 2014 is May 20.

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