On Saturday, September 28, candidates for District 8 --Charles Jones and Virgil Watkins, Jr.-- appeared on Central Georgia's largest television station, WMAZ-TV and spoke with moderator Randall Savage on the public affairs program, CLOSE-UP.
The District 8 runoff on October 15 is one of four winner-take-all contests among Macon-Bibb commission races along the with mayoral race between C. Jack Ellis and Robert Reichert.
Watkins, 28, was first elected to the Macon City Council back in November 2007 for Ward 4 Post 3 and is currently the youngest person on Macon City Council.
Jones is a local pastor who has served on Macon City Council in Ward 4, Post 2 since 1999.
One of the questions which was asked pertained to the perceived split on Macon City Council and votes that may go along racial lines.
Jones explains that he has always voted on the issues and not on the person or based on race. However, Watkins admits the issue of race is unavoidable.
Watkins cites minority participation with city contracts and believes more has to be done to improve the procurement process for racial minorities and women.
One study shows that approximately three percent of Macon's business had been contracted to minorities.
As of now, two-thirds of the county's overall population resides in Macon and the city has a 72 percent minority population in which 68 percent is African-American.
However, in a consolidated Macon-Bibb scenario which will be a reality on January 1, 2014, African-Americans are still the majority comprising 53 percent of the total population.
A second question posed to the District 8 candidates was the issue of the twenty-percent cut to local government which is a mandate and part of Republican-based House Bill 1171, the consolidation referendum.
Both Jones and Watkins admit that tough decisions will have to be made in regard to personnel especially with a large majority of the budget is centered around salaried employees.
However, they both said they will do their best to protect employees.
The issue of privatizing emerged in the conversation with Randall Savage --the moderator-- and both Watkins and Jones would rather see control of trash pickup stay in the hands of Macon-Bibb and not given to a private contractor.
Watkins wants to expand Macon Public Works into the county in an effort to meet the needs of all the citizens of the new Macon-Bibb.
On September 17, Watkins received the most votes with 1,148. However, with three candidates, Watkins did not match or exceed the 50.1 percent threshold to win outright so the top two who received the most votes-- Watkins and Jones--will meet on October 15..
Jones had 1075 votes and Regina Davis came in last with 597 votes.
On September 25, Regina Davis formally endorsed Jones for District 8.
"The main reason is cause Reverend Jones was humble enough to ask me for the endorsement and after much, many hours of discussion with him, I feel like he's the person who has the needs and concerns of the people in mind," said Davis.
What areas of Macon-Bibb does District 8 encompass?
Six precincts make up District 8: Godfrey 1, Godfrey 3, Godfrey 5, Godfrey 6, Hazzard 6, and Vineville 1
District 8 is a majority-black, Democrat-leaning precinct that encompasses areas south of Eisenhower Parkway, neighborhoods that surround Southwest High School and Jessie Rice Elementary.
Alphabet City and large areas of Bloomfield are part of District 8. Some of the local businesses and notable landmarks are the Westgate Shopping mall which sits near the intersection of Eisenhower and Pio Nono. Mercer University's campus is a part of District 8 along with Bloomfield Community Park
Some of the individual streets of District 8 include Rice Mill Rd., Williamson Rd., Canterbury Rd., Walker Rd., Sussex Dr., Berkshire Dr., Winston Dr., Plant St., Williams St., Little Richard Pennymon Blvd.and Cedar St.