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Upcoming Paris city election will determine whether Hashmi gets fourth straight stint as mayor

Even though none of the three is on the ballot, this year’s city elections in Paris hold special importance for District 7 councilman Dr. AJ Hashmi, District 4 councilman Dr. Richard Grossnickle, and District 5 councilman Matt Frierson.

eParisExtra logoWhether Hashmi will be mayor for a fourth straight year depends on whether at least three of the four incumbents who are on the May 10 city election ballot can win re-election to the Paris City Council.

It takes four votes to be mayor, one of which is his own. He cannot expect support from either Grossnickle or Frierson, who frequently found themselves on the opposite side from Hashmi on key issues in recent months.

Which means the three other votes must come from the four incumbents seeking re-election — District 1 councilman Aaron Jenkins, District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster, District 3 councilman John Wright and District 6 councilwoman Cleonne Drake.

Hashmi enjoyed the support of Jenkins, Lancaster, Wright and usually Drake throughout the past two years.

At Thursday night’s candidate forum, all four spoke of the accomplishments of the past two years:

  • “Our council, with the leadership of Dr. Hashmi, has been very successful,” Jenkins said in his opening statement.
  • “I want to help the mayor facilitate low-interest loans to improve homes in the city,” Lancaster said.
  • “There’s a number of things we accomplished,” Wright said.
  • “Other council members have already told what our accomplishments have been,” Drake said.

The four incumbents are being challenged by former councilman Joe McCarthy in District 1, Kelly Collins in District 2, former councilman Benny Plata in District 3, and former councilman Edwin Pickle in District 6.

All four of the non-incumbents , in their campaign rhetoric, spoke against one or more of Hashmi projects such as:

  • aggressive economic development of Lake Crook,
  • using infrastructure bond money for water and sewer lines to the exclusion of streets,
  • using infrastructure ┬ábond money to extend water and sewer to Cox Field Airport, and
  • elimination of the financial support for the R3bi business incubator and Retail Attractions; and Hashmi’s encouragement of the assault by his former campaign manager, Bill Strathern, on the Paris Economic Development Corporation, leading to the resignation of executive director Steve Gilbert and several PEDC members.

Here is what the non-incumbents said during the candidate forum or to other questions about where they stand on the issues:

  • McCarthy: “I can stand on my own without being coached.” … The city manager “should not have to answer to a mayor, but to the council as a whole.”
  • Collins: “If we tear up the streets to replace water and sewer lines, we must fix them back. We must put back the streets until the money is gone.”
  • Plata: “I decided to run for the council when the council took $5 million out of the bond the citizens of Paris voted to use for infrastructure repair, to run sewer lines to the airport.”
  • Pickle: “I can tell you what the city council has done to help me and other small businesses in Paris: absolutely nothing. They’ve decimated the PEDC. They have created a level of distrust. My top priority will be to instill trust and confidence back into the city council.”

McCarthy, Collins, Plata and Pickle have endorsed an effort by a citizens group to keep Lake Crook a quiet, family-oriented lake.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra