COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The candidates for Columbus mayor, incumbent Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and opponent Colin Martin, were our guests in the WTVM studios.
The candidates talked about crime, the city's economy, and jobs.
When asked about the reputation some say Columbus has as a violent city, Martin says the city is not necessarily violent; however crime is on the rise.
"We've seen that with the crime stats. Crime is up ten percent in 2013….We know that we have 24 less officers than we had four years ago, and that's after investing $102 million by the end of this fiscal year in our public safety," says Martin.
Martin says he has a public safety plan that would make sure the city is safe and people feel safe in their own home.
Mayor Tomlinson agrees that Columbus not a violent city, but that it does have violence like many other urban areas. She says that crime has in fact gone down since 2008. She says that if there is just one act of crime, there is a problem.
"All of our crime is down, but it is nowhere near low enough. And that's why you see us regrouping and coming with the additional resources that the citizens so generally gave us. Now we're investing in things like intelligence policing, and directed controls, and things that are going to give people an affect for that investment," she says.
Like other cities, Columbus is in a budget deficit. When asked how to remedy the problem, Martin says that the city must grow its economy.
"People in Columbus can't pay more out of their pocket or choose not to. I agree with them, so we've got to grow our economy, create more tax payers, and grow our local businesses. Businesses pay more taxes than families, so grow the number of businesses in Columbus and that will return the money to the city government without increasing the load of the taxpayers," he says.
Mayor Tomlinson says the economy in Columbus has grown, and the population has increased 6.3 percent since she took office, which is one of the highest growths in the state.
"We've had the best job performance rate in the state for two of the three years I've been in office, so we're doing a good job there."
She goes on to say that the city can do better and potentially save money by reforming the deficit, the current pension plan, and the healthcare plan.
Some people are concerned that the Columbus government uses inmates for work while there are other citizens who live in poverty and need a decent paying job. Mayor Tomlinson says that Columbus has one of the largest work camps in the state, and using inmates for work saves the city about $17 million.
Martin agrees that using inmates for work is a way to give back to the community. However, he says that some people think that inmates are used as "slave labor", and he understands that point of view.
He goes on to say, "If we are doing it for the reasons of helping them get out and be able to work when they're through then it's a positive thing. But if the only reason that we're doing it is to save ourselves money, it's the wrong reason to do it."
In January, a young girl was rescued from a party house by a group called Trafficking in America Task Force, who claim the girl was a victim of sex trafficking.
Martin says sex trafficking is a problem in Columbus, but that it is not a problem in Columbus to the same extent as Atlanta. Still, he says that citizens have to be more vigilant about the potential of the sex trafficking industry in Columbus, and it cannot be allowed to happen.
Mayor Tomlinson says that after an extensive investigation by local law enforcement and GBI, they were not able to substantiate the claims that the incident in January was a result of sex trafficking.
"We are very intensive about what goes on in the city, and the mayor is involved firsthand," says Mayor Tomlinson.
Watch the video for more details.