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Smart Growth hosts forum Thursday
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One of voters' last chances to hear from county chair, commission and school board candidates before the July 31 primary election will take place at Smart Growth Newton County's forum at 7 p.m., Thursday at the Washington Street Community Center.

Because of the large number of candidates expected to attend, 18 or 19, Smart Growth President Jonathan Paschal said there will be no formal question-and-answer session, but each candidate will instead be given five minutes to speak and there will be time to mingle and speak to candidates one-on-one afterward. Paschal said he expects the forum to last an hour and a half; light refreshments will be provided.

However, each candidate was asked a handful of questions beforehand, and attendees will be able to get a handout at the forum that lists each candidate's responses. All responses will also be posted to Smart Growth's website,, after the forum, Paschal said.

"With all the candidates, we felt like there were too many to have a lot of Q&A, so we talked to people and polled Smart Growth board members and came up with questions we think voters want to know the answers to," Paschal said. "We're talking about Baxter, the 2050 Plan, the board of education and the lawsuit, the fact that Newton County graduated only 64 percent of its students, compared to Walton at 74 percent and Morgan at 86 percent. If we're trying to attract Baxter officials to this community, what would you do about this?"