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What`s on your mind, Mississippi?

From the Ground Up

Snail mail is out, e-mail is in and readers have no shortage of questions and comments for this columnist. Here`s a sample of what`s on your mind lately:

Q: What do you think of the proposal to have a statewide vote on gambling? Has gambling been a benefit to Mississippi?

A: On this subject I am of the same mind as former state representative N.S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr. was on the subject of legalization of whiskey. To paraphrase his famous speech before the Mississippi Legislature, I would say that I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. I will take on any subject at any time.

If when you say gambling you mean that sinful activity, those dangerous games of chance that dethrone reason, destroy the home, create poverty, yea, literally take the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil activity that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteousness, gracious living into the pit of degradation, and despair and shame, then I am certainly against it.

On the other hand, if when you say gambling you mean the entertainment, the social activity that provides hope and joy, the fun that passes away the time for senior citizens who go with friends to spectacular casinos by the busload; if you mean the economic development engine that provides direct jobs to over 30,000 Mississippians, the source of over a hundred million dollars for our state treasury, the treasure chest that provides financial support to local schools and communities, the golden egg that will keep our state from going bankrupt, indeed the economic activity the keeps Mississippi off the bottom in so many categories, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

Q: How long is this boom economy going to last?

A: Until the baby boomers` average age reaches 52. That should occur in about 2008, which also happens to be the year that the Social Security system is forecast to be paying out more than it is taking in.

Enjoy the good times now. For more on this opinion, I refer you to Harry Dent`s book, The Great Boom Ahead.

Q: What`s it really going to take to get Mississippi off the bottom?

A: Education is the key, but exactly how we will do it is still uncertain to me. Basically, we must change our demographics. When the best predictor of test scores is the percent of children on the free school lunch program then one begins to understand the magnitude of this problem. Also, we should have learned by now that neighborhood schools are not necessarily a bad thing. It irks me when I hear teachers complain that the parents are not involved in school activities and then I learn that the student is bused across town to the school. How can a mother who catches the bus to work during the day be expected to attend a PTA meeting across town at the child`s school? Perhaps if the school was located closer to the home schools would see more parental involvement.

Q: If you could choose, what national headquarters would be located in Mississippi?

A: I like WorldCom, of course. But it`s already here, and I assume you mean one that is not here. The best one, in my opinion, would manufacture something, not pollute, have high-paying jobs, and have a highly-educated, skilled workforce. That sounds like a computer-related manufacturer to me. How about Gateway?

Q: Are you going to run for public office?

A: No.

Q: What are you reading these days?

A: I`m in the middle of The Drucker Foundation`s new book entitled “The Community of the Future.” It`s a collection of essays about the ideal community, and is very thought-provoking.

Q: Where are you from?

A: In the South, this is the mandatory question. It`s a way for people to connect. People who move here from other parts of the country don`t understand why this is such an important question to Southerners. But I digress. I was born in Mendenhall, Mississippi, spent the first eight years of my life on a small farm near Puckett and moved to Jackson in the summer before the third grade. Except for six years outside the state – San Antonio, Miami and Washington, D.C. – I`ve lived in Jackson all my life.

Phil Hardwick`s column on Mississippi business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is hardwickp@aol.com.

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