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Archive for December, 2010

Hey, Waveland mayor, I could use a raise, too

December 15th, 2010 Comments off

OK, I am officially confused.
Did you read last week about the Waveland mayor and alderman giving themselves a raise?
No, it is not a joke.
When virtually everyone in the United States has done without a raise for the last 18 to 24 months, the Waveland Board of Aldermen has voted to increase salaries for the next four years for themselves and the mayor.
And by 20 percent!
(I don’t like to use explanation points much in columns, but I feel like the one I used in the above paragraph is needed … as well as the one in the paragraph below.)
They gave themselves raises of 20 percent!
According to the Associated Press, under the city’s special charter, Mayor David Garcia says that the board must set the salaries for themselves, the mayor and the city clerk at their first meeting.
The board and Garcia were elected Dec. 7 and were sworn in Dec. 8. They held their first meeting Dec. 9, but recessed until Dec. 13 without voting on the salary issue.
Garcia’s salary was raised from $60,000 to $72,000 annually. He was making $63,383 a year as fire chief.
Aldermen, paid $14,400 annually, will bring in $1,200 more a year.
Garcia said the board voted not to give a raise to City Clerk Lisa Planchard.
I called to ask why Mrs. Planchard was not included in the Waveland Raise Club. However, Mayor Garcia didn’t return my calls.
Must have been out Christmas shopping.
If you haven’t read Jack Elliott’s column on Page 25 of our upcoming print edition, let me give you a preview. You can read the rest after you finish mine.
Leaders of two of Mississippi’s most politically active associations of public officials are approaching the 2011 session with similar views – an election-year Legislature is no arena for new, expensive ideas.
“You can’t have a huge agenda during a year like this,” said Derrick Surrette, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors, whose 410 members are also up for election in 2011.
Someone tell me when the recession ended. … Someone tell me when Gov. Haley Barbour stopped talking about the worst of the state’s economic woes are still to come.

How arrogant must you be to vote yourself a payraise during the worst recession in 80 years?
Hancock County has 9 percent unemployment, which, compared to the rest of the state, isn’t bad.
Still and yet, 9 percent of the people in Hancock County are unemployed. That is a lot.
The per capita income for Waveland is $16,413, and 13.7 percent of the population and 11.6 percent of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.6 percent of those under the age of 18 and 11.7 percent of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Granted, the salaries for the jobs of the mayor and the alderman are not a lot. However, when these folks ran for office, they knew what the salaries were.
Most of us, when we take a job, we also know what the salary is before we accept it. The difference between us and the Waveland leaders is that we don’t get to boost our salary once in the job just because we think we deserve it.
Hell, most folks deserve a raise, but don’t get it, particularly in these economic times.
The last time I remember a mayor voting himself a raise was in Indianola, Mississippi.
That was a couple of years ago.
Last year, the incumbent mayor was ousted by Steve Rosenthal, largely because voters believed they had been taken for granted.
So, I will say this.
Mayor Garcia and the Waveland Board of Alderman, you can figure out a way to make this salary issue right, or you can just wait until the next election, because the voters will do it for you.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

House wins Biggest Loser, Delta State takes shot at national title

December 15th, 2010 Comments off

Patrick House, a former offensive lineman at Delta State, was last to step on the scales last night at The Biggest Loser finale. The Brandon native needed to have lost 177 pounds to win the $250,000 prize.

When the numbers finally stopped tumbling, the former 400 pounder had lost 182, down to 218 to win the prize. House, who now lives in Vicksburg, plans to to move to South Carolina where he will teach at a school for morbidly obese teens. He plans to share his message of health and exercise and how he overcame his obesity as part of being a teach and a coach at the school.

But, first, House’s former football team, Delta State plays Minnesota-Duluth Saturday for the NCAA Division II national championship.

If you believe in karma, you gotta believe the Statesmen will win their second-ever national championship.

Congratulations to House and good luck Statesmen, uh Okra.

Mississippi rated as least healthy state, again

December 8th, 2010 Comments off

As I sat in my office and ate an orange and drank my water this morning, I was really wanting big plate of eggs, bacon, grits toast and coffee. Then, I read that Vermont has been ranked as the healthiest state in the nation for the fourth consecutive year.

According to the Associated Press, the 2010 American’s Health Rankings released Tuesday put Massachusetts in second place, followed by New Hampshire with Mississippi as the least healthy state.

Yep, there we are again, last. … There is certain to be a press conference somewhere in Mississippi this week where Gov. Haley Barbour will talk of the need to cut more of the state budget, but we have made no concerted effort to put a dent in the obesity epidemic.

Yes, the 2010 Global Obesity Summit was held in Jackson a few weeks ago. There was lots of buildup prior to the event, boasting of how Mississippi is taking a lead role in the fight against fat. But when the dust had settled, there was no announcement of plans made or actions taken.

As a society in Mississippi, we like to talk about the economy and health care and taxes and the irresponsibility those in charge use in dealing with these matters. We like to think that if you just work hard and keep your nose clean, and balance your checkbook, everything will be OK.

But we turn a blind eye to the economic impact of obesity on our state. Somehow, that’s not our problem. Those poor fat folks should just stop eating the junk from the food stamps we give them.

While we rant on about self restraint, there’s a snowball rolling down a mountain straight at us.

Mississippi’s estimated annual healthcare cost attributed to adult obesity (in 2003 dollars) is $757 million, of which $223 million is cost to Medicare and $221 million is cost to Medicaid. Nationally, childhood obesity alone costs Medicaid more than $3 billion annually.

If we continue to talk about self restraint and personal responsibility (while noble), we are going to be run over by runaway medical costs that someone is going to have to pay for.

So, as you have another cup of coffee with that do-nut and ponder this, remember, the time for action is now.

Who knew it would end as it has for Elizabeth Edwards?

December 7th, 2010 Comments off

The news just came across that Elizabeth Edwards has died of cancer.

The estranged wife of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards died in North Carolina Tuesday. It was only yesterday the family had issued a statement saying doctors told Edwards that further treatment for her cancer would be unproductive. She spent her last days at home in North Carolina with family and friends gathered.

She was graceful and tough-as-nails until the end.

When I met her in Marks, Mississippi a few years ago, she was on the campaign trail with John — a strong, energetic, forceful figure, who was as much a part of the intellectual team as anyone.

Make no mistake about my encounter, it was just that. I spoke with her briefly and exchanged pleasantries. That’s it.

But today, we look back at the well-publicized mess her marriage became and admire her for strength in the face of adversity.

I can only hope that if ever faced with equivalent challenges, I can handle them with the tact, charm and taste that she has.

She stood on her own, a woman of character and dignity.

Leland and Clarksdale the Blues museums to go to …

December 7th, 2010 Comments off

I saw a story from the Associated Press today (Tuesday) about the second phase of a blues museum project in Tunica about to begin. I suppose that is good news, but it makes me think of the two blues museums in the Missississippi Delta that are really worth seeing.
First is the Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland, which is part of the Leland Blues Project.
The LBP as well as the museum and the festival which it puts on are the best anywhere.
Billy Johnson heads the group, and his love of the Blues and his dedication to preserving the art form make any trip through the Delta a trip that includes a stop at the museum.
Billy is usually around and is willing to share his knowledge and love of the music and its history. … Just drive through downtown Leland, and you can’t miss it.
Also, if you are looking for a great blues festival, the Highway 61 Blues Festival is the best. Great acts, a great atmosphere and it has been organized on the same weekend as the B.B. King homecoming in Indianola for as long as I can remember.
For more information, go to the Leland Blues Project website … or just go. You will not be disappointed.
Another great blues museum is the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. It is a little more mainstream than Leland, but worth going to anyway. …
Either way, enjoy … I am not sure what the Tunica museum is expected to offer, but Clarksdale and Leland are the originals and you will feel like you have been a part of the blues just by going to them.
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Loyal customers, even those running, are the easiest to catch

December 3rd, 2010 Comments off

Somewhere after Eschman Avenue turned into Waverly Road in Clay County a couple of weeks ago, I forgot that my actual goal was to log 20 miles of running at one time.

Normally, my Saturday runs are organized with dozens of fellow runners along the trails and through the streets of Ridgeland and Madison.

Yet, this Thanksgiving weekend, the peaceful surroundings of rolling hills, lakes and farmland made the training run like a Sunday afternoon drive.

Only near the end did I realize there was real effort involved in finishing this adventure.

All of this is part of the larger scheme of running in the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson on Jan. 8.
I have always been a big fan of running and admired the ability of true professional runners. I have even done a little running from time to time during the years, hitting the occasional local 5K and 10K along the way.
However, my running exploits never lasted long enough to become a locked-in part of my life. I talked a good game to my wife and anyone else who would listen – if I run this way or that way, etc., I can lose weight – blah, blah, blah.

I talked so much that my wife even told me to either start running or shut up.

Finally in May, I began to jog a little to see if I was prepared to back up what I had been talked about for years and years.

And somewhere along the way, I guess like my run through Clay County on Thanksgiving weekend, I forgot this marathon thing was supposed to be hard work. It had become fun, actually enjoyable and relaxing, even when it was cold or raining or when my lungs screamed at me because we had run a little further and farther than we had before.

The hardest part became scheduling around work and family and friends and the everyday duties of life.
One of the things that has made the process easier has been the training program provided by Fleet Feet of Ridgeland.

Its “Running 201″ is a 25-week program designed to help you complete a marathon or half-marathon or improve on performance from previous races.

The design is to get anyone who wants to through 13.1 or 26.2 miles at the Mississippi Blues Marathon, and the program includes lots of nifty perks, like special shopping nights, gear and registration in the race.
There’s a support team of store staff as well as former participants in the program that help get you safely through two group runs a week. Even after the runs, there is always someone willing to provide advice or suggestions if you need it the rest of the week, when the runs are usually on your own.

The concept, obviously, is not new. However, the Fleet Feet crew does a great job and over the years, the process has helped build a significant running community in Jackson and even throughout the state.
What Fleet Feet has also done is put together a pretty good business model.

Sure, when I have needed help to get moving, there has been someone to provide a pat on the back or a kick in the rear.

When I needed to know if that pain in my knee should be cause for alarm, there was a responsible person there for an answer or a suggestion of where to go for a better answer.

And when I needed to change clothes from work before taking off on a run along the Ridgeland trails, there was a dressing room waiting for me.

But there is also lots of running and fitness gear to be bought, and Fleet Feet has done a great job of providing a service as well as a need for runners and walkers in the area.

If you participate in one of the many training programs and get to know the staff, it becomes difficult to buy shoes or socks or shirts anywhere. There’s a loyalty factor that is built in to the help provided for prospective runners.

None of this is a negative.

It’s proof positive that if you provide a worthy product along with good service and back it up with friendly advice and an inviting environment, customers are more likely to grow attached and want to spend their money there.

These training programs should serve as a model to other businesses, particularly small, locally-owned business.
Provide a quality product, back it up with service and become an integral part of the community you hope to sell to and there is success to be had, even in a down economy.
This year, more than 160 are part of the “Running 201″ program. That’s 160 more committed customers getting ready to participate in a community event.
How many more Fleet Feet training alumni will be running in the Mississippi Blues Marathon? The number is probably more than 1,000.

As for me, I will see you at the finish line.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

Newton to play for Auburn in SEC title game … yawn

December 1st, 2010 Comments off

The news came across a bit ago that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is eligible to play in the SEC title game, even though the NCAA says his father broke rules by shopping his son to another school.

Is anyone surprised?

The father prostituted his son for monetary gain.

One has to wonder what this guy preaches in his church on Sundays.

The full story from the Associated Press is below.

NCAA rules Newton eligible to play

INDIANAPOLIS — Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is eligible to play in the SEC title game, even though the NCAA says his father broke rules by shopping his son to another school.

The NCAA released its finding in a statement on Wednesday. The college sports governing body had concluded on Monday that a violation of Newton’s amateur status had occurred. Auburn declared Newton ineligible on Tuesday and requested his eligibility be reinstated.

The Heisman Trophy front-runner now has been cleared to compete without conditions.

“Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement,” Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, said in a news release.

“From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation under NCAA bylaw 14.11.1. Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible.”

No. 2 Auburn plays South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Saturday. With a victory, the unbeaten Tigers will earn a spot in the BCS national title game.

The NCAA won’t say its case is closed on Newton. However, its statement notes that reinstatement likely occurs “prior to the close of an investigation.”

The NCAA said Auburn and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that Newton’s father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to on a pay-for-play scam.

Two Mississippi State boosters have accused Cecil Newton and former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers of trying to get cash payments for Cam Newton to play for the Bulldogs while he was being recruited out of junior college last year.

The NCAA ruling does not mention Rogers by name, although it does note that Mississippi State has disassociated itself with the “involved individual.”

Auburn also has agreed to limit Cecil Newton’s access to its athletic program.

“The conduct of Cam Newton’s father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics,” said Mike Slive, Southeastern Conference Commissioner. “The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC.”

Newton, who started his career at Florida, chose Auburn over Mississippi State after one season in junior college. He has been spectacular this year, leading Auburn to a 12-0 season.

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