Comcast awarding scholarships to 14 Mississippi students

comcast logoComcast will present 14 scholarships to Mississippi students Saturday as part of its annual Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program at the Soul City Showcase at the Jackson Convention Complex, 105 E. Pascagoula St.

Receiving awards at the 4:30 p.m. ceremony are Kierra Hawkins of Jackson, Shanice Dowdy of Red Bank, Cory Snow of Southaven, Quamia Glover of Jackson, Alexis Ester of Coldwater, Shundreia Wilson of Sardis, Cayla Hari of Southaven, Jordan Hutton of Brandon, Courtney Crockett of Pelahatchie, Lacey Harpe of Brandon, Brianna Starnes of Olive Branch, Olivia Dear of Madison, Savannah Smith of Corinth and Daniel Mendoza of Hattiesburg.

The Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program provides one-time $1,000 scholarships to students who strive to achieve their potential, who are catalysts for positive change in their communities, who are involved in their schools, and who serve as models for their fellow students.

According to a Comcast news release, the philosophy behind the program is to give young people opportunities to be prepared for the future, to engage youth in their communities, and to demonstrate the importance of civic involvement, and the value placed on civic involvement by the business community.

“I applaud the scholarship recipients and commend their hard work, dedication, and selflessness to their communities,” says Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in the release.  “It is important we recognize their efforts, and the efforts of Comcast for highlighting these students’ achievements.”

Since the scholarship program’s inception, there have been over 19,000 scholarship winners totaling more than $19 million.

DAVID DALLAS — Chris McDaniel: Mississippi’s next four-decade senator

Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel

By David Dallas

I worked for the Republican Steering Committee in Washington D.C. during the final throes of the George Herbert Walker Bush presidency after he had broken his no-new-taxes promise. No matter how you read his lips, George the First had betrayed the Reagan Revolution. He had compromised with Democrats and, now-extinct, liberal Republicans to save the country from the brink of bankruptcy. As a result the Reagan base did not bother to turn out to vote in 1992 to give him a second term.

A similar group of Republicans, Tea Party Patriots still raising Reagan’s ghost, have chosen not to support Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran for much the same reason. As that incessant radio commercial asks, “What happened to his Mississippi values?” — suggesting that Cochran has betrayed real conservative values with his compromising support of highway bills and farm bills designed to bring evil government money into our very poor state.

Now, I’ve never been much of a Thad fan, but watching him run yet again for the future of his party, Mississippi and its people, when he could have packed it in and gone home, is probably one of the more courageous moments I have ever witnessed in Mississippi politics. He’s old and he’s tired. That is evident. Yet, he has fought on in spite of vicious opposition and his own poorly managed campaign.

Certainly, his loved ones would be more than happy for him to come home and simply be appreciated for a successful political career and a job well done. Cochran has done a good job for our state and our country. But after 36 years, this could very well be the end of the line for the Grand Ole Patron.

Some argue the Tea Party hit its high water mark with its turnout for the June 3 primary. However, they have not yet begun to fight. The negative ads will keep coming, more money will pour into his challenger’s coffers and Chris McDaniel will become the darling of the Koch Brothers and Fox News. Thad Cochran will be decried as all that is wrong with Washington D.C. and Mississippians will be seeing a lot more of Sarah Palin.

» READ MORE:  Sticker shock? Each Cochran-McDaniel vote costs $40-plus

» READ MORE:  Weary? Cochran-McDaniel runoff means more politicking

» READ MORE:  Tea party officer, others trapped in courthouse in middle of night

More importantly, the Republican establishment will have to be more cautious now after McDaniel’s strong primary showing. They cannot afford to make him a pariah. Haley Barbour and his lobbying firm will start hedging their bets in preparation for the beginning of the Tea Party takeover of Mississippi’s GOP. It’s a seed Haley helped to sow, and as one of D.C.’s highest paid lobbyists, he will want to remain in the best position to reap.

In the interest of reaping a bit myself, I would like to offer some campaign slogan suggestions to the McDaniel juggernaut as they bring home the victory on June 24.

» Vote Chris McDaniel: Because Ted Cruz Needs a Drinking Buddy

» Vote Chris McDaniel: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Government Money

» Vote Chris McDaniel: Sarah Palin Can See He’s an Ass from her Front Porch

» Vote Chris McDaniel: The Senator Mississippi Deserves

I’ve got a million of them, and my fee is minimal by our new over-priced political campaign standards. Business groups like the National Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Realtors spent a lot of money trying to defeat McDaniel before the primary. They may have believed he was bad for business before he pulled more votes than Thad, but they will not run the risk of alienating him further before a run off. Would they send money his way? McDaniel has likely cashed the check already.

To be fair, young Chris McDaniel might get up to Washington and grow on the job, become a fine Senator, the Tea Party Flag Bearer saving our state and nation from imminent peril. Political races have always been urgent, ugly and tough. The key is to get elected since the work of the government in some form, big or small, must go on.

Contrary to what those Chicken-Little Republicans may scream, the sky is not falling: a victory by McDaniel on June 24 does not give Travis Childers any more of a chance to win. There is little danger of Childers becoming our first Democrat in the U.S. Senate since John Stennis, no matter how many guns he totes. This is a Red State and, as McDaniel’s victory indicates, turning Blood Red by the minute.

It is a shame that the GOP establishment did not encourage others to consider running in this vitally important election or, at the very least, ensure that Cochran was ready to run a rough campaign. Even Haley Barbour, who is not helping Cochran for free, admitted in an interview with the Huffington Post, that Cochran did not have “an active political operation” and that they were “trying to ramp something up.” Haley excused himself, “you can’t just get to 30,000 feet over night. It takes time.” Well, he’s got three weeks left.

Haley, of course, would have won this Senate seat handily, regardless of how many prisoners he’s freed. Why he didn’t run is vexing.

Our current Secretary of State is our best candidate for the U.S. Senate, but he also decided not to run. Delbert Hosemann is a Republican even a Yellow Dog Democrat could vote for. Thoughtful and deliberate, Hosemann speaks more like a genuine public servant than a political grandstander. While he has served mostly in executive capacities, Hosemann has the makings of a true Statesman, reminiscent of another of our State’s more soft-spoken and thoughtful executives, former Gov. William Winter. Winter lost out on his only bid for the United States Senate, defeated in 1984 by Thad Cochran who had already served a six-year term.

David Dallas

David Dallas

If McDaniel wins on June 24, the Tea Party will gain the foothold it needs and he will become the establishment candidate. We can all hope he performs well and for the benefit of the entire state. No doubt, he will be there for quite some time.

» David Dallas is a political writer. He worked for former U.S. Sen. John Stennis and authored Barking Dawgs and A Gentleman from Mississippi.

Watkins’ defense says Hosemann’s claims are ‘absurd’

Delbert HosemannDavid Watkins, the president of Watkins Development, has responded to the finding of the Secretary of State Office’s hearing officer, attorney Robert Bailess of Vicksburg, and the affirmation of that finding by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Speaking through his spokesperson, lawyer Lance Stevens, the Watkins defense team states: “The finding of the hearing officer is a joke. He specifically writes, on page 17 of his report, that ‘there exists no applicable statutory requirement that fraud be proven at all…’ Indeed, there was no evidence of fraud whatsoever.

“Hosemann agrees with the hearing officer’s conclusion, on page 18 of the report, that ‘whether or not the money was owed (to Watkins) is irrelevant.’ Watkins is apparently now fined for withdrawing his own money. That is absurd.”

Watkins alleged at the hearing, without any contradiction, that the Retro Metro business owed him well over the amount he withdrew for expenses like the purchase of the MetroCenter property and his costs for development of the property.

“This was a private loan, not public money,” Stevens states. The loan was for $2 million more than the hard construction costs estimated to complete the project, so, according to Watkins, the lenders clearly knew that development and procurement costs would have to be included. “The lenders did not expect Watkins Development to work for free or buy the property for nothing.”

Watkins, a lifelong Democrat, also notes that the decision is so contrary to the law and facts that it smacks of political abuse by his Republican accuser, Hosemann. Bailess, the judge or hearing officer in the two-day trial, is a Vicksburg lawyer and Hosemann contributor (according to Secretary of State Office records). He is also the lawyer for one of Hosemann’s business interests, 100 Colony Cross Blvd., LLC (according to Secretary of State Office records).

“If I tried all my cases in front of my best buddy and personal lawyer, from my hometown, I bet I’d win them all, too,” Stevens said.

Watkins will appeal the ruling.

Pickett to chair parole board, Townsend takes at-large position

Butch Townsend

Butch Townsend

Steven Pickett

Steven Pickett

JACKSON, Mississippi – Gov. Phil Bryant selected Steven Pickett to chair the State Parole Board, and Butch Townsend is leaving the Pearl Police Department to serve as the board’s at-large member.

Pickett will replace the board’s current chairman, Doug Davis, who plans to resign Oct. 15 to become chief of staff for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Townsend was tapped for Pickett’s vacant at-large post.

The parole board is comprised of one chairman and four active members, each appointed at-large. The board meets weekly to review the cases of state offenders to determine parole eligibility

“I appreciate Doug’s service to the people of Mississippi and look forward to working with him in his new role,” Bryant said.

Pickett, who has served on the board since his original appointment on Nov. 10, 2012, will assume the chairmanship Oct. 16.

“Steven brings a vast amount of law enforcement experience to the Mississippi Parole Board and will make for a seamless transition as chairman,” Bryant said.

Bryant’s at-large appointment, Pearl Police Department Lieutenant Butch Townsend, is a third generation law enforcement officer with more than 35 years of experience. Townsend’s term begins Oct. 16.

Townsend has served the Pearl Police Department for 25 years in a variety of capacities, including chief of police, chief of detectives and senior investigator in both the Criminal Investigations Division and the Juvenile Division. He has served as the department’s public information officer since 2009.

Townsend has been recognized throughout his career for numerous accomplishments including Officer of the Year for the Pearl Police Department. He is one of the department’s most highly trained individuals with regard to juvenile and criminal investigations; he worked more than 550 cases while assigned to the juvenile division and more than 6,200 cases while assigned to the criminal investigations division.

“Butch’s seasoned law enforcement background and training will be instrumental to the board,” Gov. Bryant said.

Townsend holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is a native of Brandon and is married to Dr. Sue Townsend. The Townsend’s have one child, Chelsea.

“I am honored to be appointed to this position by Governor Bryant,” Townsend said. “While I hate to leave the Pearl Police Department, I believe this is a unique opportunity to serve and bring my extensive law enforcement training to the table.”

Townsend’s appointment will be brought before the Mississippi Senate for confirmation during the 2014 legislative session. Pickett’s appointment as chairman does not require Senate confirmation.

Hosemann not feeling generous toward unauthorized charity

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is not feeling real charitable toward Bit by Bit Equine, and he is warning Mississippians not to get in the saddle with the Pearl-based charity.

Hosemann says Bit by Bit Equine is not registered with the state as is required by law, and continues to solicit donations in Mississippi despite a cease and desist order by the Secretary of State’s Office.

“Just because a charity provides a service to Mississippians does not exclude it from registering with the state,” says Hosemann. “Too often, groups prey on the good nature of our people. Registering your charity with the State is the law — it provides much needed confidence to our citizens that the funds they donate actually go toward a charitable purpose.”

The Secretary of State’s Office was notified by a concerned citizen that Bit by Bit Equine, run by Stephanie Barnes Wilson of Brandon, was soliciting funds in the state. On four different occasions over several months, Bit by Bit Equine has been contacted by the Secretary of State’s Office informing the charity of the registration requirement.  The agency also informed Bit by Bit its continued solicitation for donations without registration was in direct violation of state law.

Despite repeated notices, Hosemann’s office reports the charity never filed the proper documents to solicit funds in the state and continued to solicit funds in Mississippi.  Therefore, the Secretary of State’s Office has imposed a penalty of $1,000 against the charity and has ordered them to cease and desist soliciting funds in the state.