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For the love of Pete, somebody take Southaven mayor Greg Davis out behind the woodshed

February 15th, 2012 Comments off

Southaven mayor Greg Davis addresses questions during an interview from his home in Southaven this week. Southaven aldermen say they want an internal audit of city finances to get a more in-depth look than the one provided by the routine annual audit. The Commercial Appeal reports a newly formed committee plans to initiate the review in the wake of ongoing questions over Mayor Greg Davis' spending. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Stan Carroll)

Seriously?

Greg Davis wants to pin blame on his alderman for him being an idiot?

The only thing the Southaven Board of Aldermen should have done differently in the last several months is for one of them to have taken their mayor out behind the woodshed for a lesson in humility and humanity.

Apparently, Southaven mayor Greg Davis believes he has done nothing wrong in regard to deals involving a Florida condominium he co-owns with a developer who has received more than $3.4 million through real estate dealings with the city since 2008, a fire station that could cost taxpayers up to $4 million because of an unusual no-bid contract negotiated by Davis, and other recently reported transactions.

Why?

Because, he says, the city’s aldermen approved all transactions.

>> ORIGINAL POST: Embattled Davis blames alderman for approving transactions …

I suppose if the alderman had known ahead of time that the mayor had been running around using the city credit card on items from a Canadian sex shop (and why wasn’t it an American sex shop?) or was dropping $1,000 tips at a Ridgeland restaurant as he picked up the tab for state legislators, then maybe they would have stopped, dropped and said, “No way we are taking this deal you piece of garbage.”

By the way, has anyone wondered which legislators went to dinner with Davis that night?

As it stands, the aldermen are guilty of believing everything Davis ever said during his political campaigns about truth, family and the American way.

Well, that will never happen again.

Davis has used all of his political capital and probably all of his personal capital as well.

Remember, Davis was absent from city business on a 30-day leave for medical treatment when most of the dealings were uncovered and is under criminal investigation for misuse of city funds after being ordered by the state auditor to repay about $170,000.

And for all of the group therapy and extensive psycho-education he picked up during his 30-day leave, I am not even going to insult your intelligence by reprinting Davis’ quotes, blaming everyone but himself in this fiasco. He even believes he has done what is in the best interest of the citizens.

So, which is it?

The aldermen should have known he was a lying, cheating sack of, uh, beans, or he is a good, upstanding guy that is doing the work of the people.

As for those credit card reimbursements that led to the repayment order from the state auditor, Davis said he could not discuss it because of the ongoing state and federal investigation.

“I just want the public to be patient and wait because all the facts will come out,” Davis said.

After everything else that has come out, you really think he wants more to come out now?

My guess is Davis doesn’t believe in karma.

Please, somebody, one of you aldermen do the right thing and teach the mayor a lesson.

Then again, maybe some time in jail would be good for the mayor. I suspect that would be a much more — how should I say? — educational experience.

Not sure which sun Bryant is talking about

January 25th, 2012 Comments off

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant delivers his first State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 on the steps of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. Bryant used the address to unveil detailed policy proposals, from education to health care to energy, saying he wants to create a "Mississippi Works Agenda."

Gov. Phil Bryant said a lot of things Tuesday night in his first State of the State address.

He’s for more jobs. …

He’s against obesity. …

And he’s for education and energy. …

But there was one quote that stood out as Bryant proclaimed that he is also for economic development.

“Economic development is the sun in our universe and everything revolves around it,” Bryant said.

That sounds something like his quote in a Hattiesburg American story by Ruben Mees from Jan. 23, 2007 with the headline, “Bryant launches campaign for lt. governor.”

“‘Education is the sun of the governmental universe; everything revolves around it, whether it’s economic development, transportation or any other issue,’ [Bryant] said, pointing out that Mississippi’s 35 percent dropout rate is unacceptable.”

So, which is it — economic development or education?

I guess it doesn’t matter. It all sounded real good.

Pepper fair, kind and a true example of a life well led

January 25th, 2012 Comments off

Allen Pepper had a genuine love of people.

It came across every time you ever saw him.

Tall and slim, with a chiseled faced that seemed to never show the burden of the decisions he made daily as a federal judge, Pepper had a way that eased folks in trying times, delighted them in good times and inspired them in times of need.

Judge Pepper, 70, died Tuesday when his heart that had given so much to so many over the years gave way in a heart attack.

>>> RELATED: SEE MAIN MBJ STORY ON JUDGE PEPPER’S DEATH

“The Northern District has lost a Judge of impeccable character and a man of great personality. He was the most fundamentally decent man whom I have ever known. He was a dear friend and a beloved colleague. We will not soon get over Allen’s passing,” said Chief Judge Michael P. Mills, in a statement released by the court late Tuesday.

And he was better than that.

Mississippi has lost a great, great man — one that I can only hope that my son will grow to be like.

A Belzoni native, Pepper went on to Ole Miss to college, where he also earned a law degree.

He ended up in Cleveland where he ran his law practice for years before being appointed to the bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.

Donna Barnes, of Tupelo, a judge on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, said Pepper’s “service to the bench, the bar and the public was exemplary.”

Mills said he and the other three judges will divide Pepper’s case load with special priority to the criminal cases. Pepper can be replaced only by a presidential nomination and U.S. Senate approval.

However, it is Pepper, the man, that will never be replaced.

He raised his family, loved his wife and led his life in a way that is an example we all should aspire to.

Maybe ‘trash dogs’ are the answer for Madison

December 21st, 2011 Comments off

Have you ever noticed that just about every neighborhood has a “trash dog”?

You know, the dog that wanders through every few days and picks out one house to hit, knocking over a trash can and dragging away all the good stuff it can and leaving a giant mess in its wake.

Or maybe it’s just the neighborhoods I have happened to live in. Who knows?

Regardless, unless you neighborhood has the best trash dog on the planet — one that is able to drag away every last sliver or scrap of paper or broken toy or whatever — do you ever wonder where your trash goes once you put it on the street?

The short answer is a landfill.

I never really thought I would be interested in trash, but in the last few weeks — amazingly enough — I have.

I had been invited to tour the Golden Triangle Regional Solid Waste Management Authority landfill in Northeast Mississippi a few times, but I had never made time to view the facility until a couple of weeks ago. After a trip up to speak to the West Point Rotary Club, I made the 10-minute drive to the landfill with few expectations other than I might ruin a good pair of pants.

However, it was fascinating, and I left with my pants clean, other than the chicken I spilled on them from the Rotary meeting.

The science and high-tech brainpower that goes into building, implementation and maintenance of these facilities is amazing.

I am working on a story to publish in the next couple of weeks on the landfill. Having said that, there has been landfill controversy in the news the last several weeks.

Some Madison residents have been up in arms about a proposed landfill in Madison County that a woman at a recent public forum was quoted as calling it an “environmental injustice.”

The anti-landfill folks were reported to say their environmental and health concerns include:

>> Infrastructure problems;

>> Complications from stench …

>> Rodents and …

>> Buzzards.

While I don’t have all of the information at hand about this particular landfill, I am certain concerns these residents have levied aren’t as big a deal as you might think.

First, stench was high on my list of concerns when I went to the Golden Triangle facility. Amazingly, after touring nearly every inch of the place, that was not an issue.

Rodents? Probably, but I have since asked two homeowners about that issue to which they said there was none.

Buzzards? I saw a bunch there, but I literally see as many or more buzzards picking at road kill on St. Augustine Road near Strawberry Park in Madison every week. Those are buzzards I have to deal with every day. Buzzards at the landfill are at the landfill, not the local park where my children play.

I’m not saying the proposed landfill is perfect in every way, and I am not saying Madison County doesn’t need to answer the public’s questions. What I am saying is landfills of today aren’t your grandfather’s local dump, where people would drive to unload an ugly 20-year old couch.

Landfills are a necessity, and there is significant regulation to ensure the safety of the community.

Landfills are also a necessity for economic growth. For a county like Madison where business and residential growth is dizzying, the trash must go somewhere.

And, as far as I can tell, there aren’t enough trash dogs to go around.

Barbour most popular governor in America

December 9th, 2011 7 comments

Gov. Haley Barbour

The press release just came down …

Here it is …

JACKSON – According to Public Policy Polling, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour is the most popular Governor in America. Mississippians approved of Governor Barbour more so than voters of any other state approved of their respective governors.

“Haley Barbour’s conservative Republican policies like opposing tax increases and fostering job creation have made him the nation’s most popular Governor,” said Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Arnie Hederman.

“Governor Barbour, known for his strong stance even on tough issues like cutting budgets and reforming the state’s pension system, has been a national model of governing. These polling numbers confirm what Governor Barbour and conservatives already know: Voters across the country are tired of politicians who promise one thing and do another, and who support anti-growth policies instead of promoting private sector job creation,” Hederman added.

Paid for by the Mississippi Republican Party.

www.msgop.org

Fortune tellers may be the key to economic progress

December 9th, 2011 Comments off

Headlines in every newspaper across the country seem to give conflicting information on the current status and the future of the world economy.

We are left to wonder when, if ever, we will ever come out of this — what seems to be never-ending — economic slowdown.

One day you read that the governments of Europe are in such a bind with the Euro that everyone’s economic system is going straight down the tubes.

The next day, you read that a limit in paying state taxes by big business will help ease the pain.

Then, it’s back to Europe where leaders feel a new plan will make everything better.

At home last week, Southern Motion announced it is expanding operations in Baldwyn. The reclining furniture manufacturer’s announcement was good news for Northeast Mississippi, which has been reliant on the furniture industry the last 20 years.

The next day, though, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that furniture maker KI will lay off 70 employees in north Mississippi as it closes its Pontotoc factory and converts a second in Tupelo to a warehouse.

What gives? Up, down. Opening a business, closing a business.

You need a fortune teller to figure out all of this.

But wait. Hattiesburg’s city council may have the answer for everyone from Egypt, Miss., to, well, Egypt.

In a stroke of genius, Hattiesburg’s city leaders have repealed a ban on fortune telling.

OK, a federal judge ruled their old ordinance unenforceable, but with so much of an unforeseen future, Hattiesburg has made the right call.

Economic leaders from across the world can come to Hattiesburg to talk with Sister Marie. If president of Spain has a long life line, then his country is going to pull out of this thing. If not — well — let’s not talk about that.

But, maybe it’s not that simple.

We have to wait 120 days before the ordinance is repealed.

That’s far too long.

Mississippi, as well as the U.S. and the rest of the world, cannot wait 120 days for information that could put civilization back in normal working condition.

Hattiesburg’s City Attorney Charles Lawrence says it will take the 120 days to get new regulations in place, such as zoning restrictions.

Restrictions my foot.

There should be a fortune teller on every corner if it means we can put people back to work and money back in retirement accounts.

Donald Trump should bring this up at the next Republican presidential debate. Our future depends on it.

But, then again, the fortune tellers already knew that.

Southern Motion to expand in Baldwyn

December 5th, 2011 Comments off

Officials from Southern Motion, a reclining furniture manufacturer, have announced it is expanding into Baldwyn, where it will manufacture a new line of upholstered recliners. The company is locating into the 192,500-square-foot building formerly occupied by ForeFront Golf. The company says it will invest $3 million and will create 150 new jobs over the next three years. Southern Motion also has manufacturing operations in Pontotoc, where the company employs approximately 915 workers.

The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) provided assistance for the project through the Momentum Mississippi Incentives program for modifications to the building in which Southern Motion will be located. Also, the Appalachian Regional Commission and Prentiss County provided assistance for infrastructure improvements at the site, and the City of Baldwyn donated land to be used for truck access.

Founded in 1996 in Pontotoc, Southern Motion manufactures motion furniture including recliners, sofas and loveseats, sectionals and home theater furniture.

Snake-oil salesmen make a killing in the name of economic development

December 1st, 2011 3 comments

Most every little town in Mississippi — from the Tennessee line to the Gulf of Mexico — has an economic development arm.

Presidents of growth alliances, economic development associations, or whatever each town prefers to call its version, routinely make anywhere from $60,000 to more than $100,000 to lure big business to small-town Mississippi. We are talking about paying that kind of money in towns with populations ranging from 9,000 to around 20,000.

In many cases, the economic development expert has left one small town for another, hoping to accomplish in the latter what he or she failed to accomplish in the former.

It’s not necessary for these towns to pay that kind of money for an “Economic Development President” to travel, eat nice meals and make phone calls when — in most cases — the only thing the town gets in return is a fatter, more well-traveled “Economic Development President.”

While some may argue that now — in this economic climate — is the absolute best time to hire aggressive economic developers, this really is the worst time to waste money when other more productive and important departments — like fire and police services or education — are being cut to the bone or cut out all-together.

We scream about wasteful government spending on the national level. Yet, when there is duplicitous spending on the local level, we find ways to rationalize the process. There is no reason to have small-town economic developers when, just up the road, there is generally an economic development agency that serves the entire region — such as the statewide Mississippi Development Authority.

There have been calls at the national level of getting rid of large-scale economic development agencies, such as — although not specifically mentioned — the MDA.

In an op-ed to The Wall Street Journal in June, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a Tea Party stalwart dedicated to reducing the size of the government, called for the elimination of the Economic Development Administration. He says the EDA’s efforts duplicate existing federal programs.

While I am certain there is much fat to be trimmed, the MDA’s overall work is needed to facilitate economic progress.

Towns need to think about consolidating, using existing services and working regionally. The best example of regionalism at work in the last 50 years in Mississippi is in Northeast Mississippi, where companies have located in and around Tupelo with little selfish pushback in individual communities.

Toyota recognized that, and placed its new production facility near the interstate-like U.S. 78 and U.S. 45 intersection as people from as far away as Corinth, Columbus, Oxford and across the state line in Alabama will drive to Blue Springs to work.

The bottom line is that in small towns around the state, essential services like police, fire, education and infrastructure repairs are being slashed or eliminated in the name of fiscal responsibility. In the mean time, as much as $100,000 is being handed out to the president of an economic development organization who is making claims of working hard on the next big thing — when the only thing of significance that might be getting done is making sure the local farmers market has a clean working area for the spring and summer months.

Mississippi ranks next to last in nation on new measure of opportunity in America

November 28th, 2011 Comments off

The State of Mississippi has placed next to last in the nation, ranking 50th, on a new measure designed to indicate how effectively individuals living in a state can move up the economic ladders of society as compared to the rest of the country.

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippi is fat and stupid

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>> RELATED STORY: Health, education key to Mississippi economy

The measure, called the Opportunity Index, pulls together more than a dozen data points to rank every state by awarding a first of its kind Opportunity Score. The Index is designed to empower community leaders, engaged citizens, and elected officials at all levels to become knowledgeable of the overall opportunity they are providing to those living in their region. It will be issued annually, giving leaders a way to track progress and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Developed jointly by Opportunity Nation and the American Human Development Project, the Index is available online, for free in a user-friendly and interactive format at www.opportunityindex.org.

“Opportunity Nation starts from the belief that the zip code you’re born into shouldn’t pre-determine your destiny,” said Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation. “For too long we have sliced and diced the interconnected issues of education, jobs, families, and communities – the framework underlying the idea of opportunity – into narrow silos that are disconnected. The reality is that these factors work in tandem to determine the potential success of our citizenry. That’s what the Opportunity Index provides – an unprecedented snapshot of what opportunity in America looks like at the local, state and national levels.”

MISSISSIPPI LANDS NEAR BOTTOM

Mississippi landed next to last in the nation, earning an Opportunity Score of 29.8 out of 100. Only the state of Nevada fared worse. The state ranked lower than national averages in 13 out of 16 categories. A few of the trouble areas that Mississippians struggle with include:

· Poverty Plays a Role: Mississippi has the lowest median household income in the country, at $36,796, and the highest poverty rate in the nation at 21.4%. It is one of three states in the nation where median household income is lower than $40,000 per year

· Not Part of the Information Superhighway: Mississippi has the lowest score for high-speed internet access, with only 43.5% of households having high-speed internet.

· Room for Improvement in Education: Mississippi has a significantly lower percentage of on-time high school graduates (64%) than the national average (74%). It is also falling behind in college graduates with only 19% of the population holding a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 27%.

“Having scored at or below the national average in many of the metrics used to formulate their Opportunity Score, Mississippi residents have much work to do before they can say they provide their residents with opportunities to improve their lives,” said

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C Spire pleased with decision by FCC to block AT&T/T-Mobile merger

November 23rd, 2011 Comments off

Executives with C Spire were pleased with the news from Tuesday that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission took steps  to block the proposed $39 billion merger of the mobile phone companies AT&T and T-Mobile USA.

“We are pleased the FCC has taken this important step toward a formal, administrative hearing to resolve questions regarding AT&T’s claims regarding its takeover of T-Mobile,” Eric Graham, vice president of Strategic and Government Relations for C Spire Wireless, told the Mississippi Business Journal. “C Spire Wireless has long asserted that this acquisition would be harmful to competition, the wireless industry and consumers. This action shows that Chairman Genachowski — like the Department of Justice — recognizes the harm inherent in AT&T’s bid to eliminate a competitor from the marketplace.”

>> SEE RELATED STORY: Judge approves C Spire lawsuit

>> SEE RELATED STORY: iPhone a coup for C Spire

>> SEE RELATED STORY: C Spire reveals iPhone plan

>> SEE RELATED STORY: Competitors react to C Spire’s deal with Apple for iPhone

The chairman, Julius Genachowski, made the move after the commission’s staff concluded that the deal would harm consumers, kill jobs and result in an overly concentrated wireless phone industry, F.C.C. officials said.

The decision puts another large roadblock in front of AT&T, the nation’s second-largest wireless phone company, in its effort to buy T-Mobile, the fourth-largest carrier. In August, the Justice Department filed a federal antitrust lawsuit to block the merger, saying it would stifle competition.

Mr. Genachowski on Tuesday notified the other three F.C.C. commissioners that he intended to refer the proposed merger to an administrative law judge for a trial-like hearing in which AT&T would be required to show that the deal was “in the public interest.” The commission — currently composed of three Democrats, including Mr. Genachowski, and one Republican — is likely to vote on the chairman’s plan in the next couple of weeks, an agency official said.