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To ID tax-and-spenders is to look past the label provided by opponents

February 9th, 2012 Comments off

Labels are a hard thing to get rid of.

In real life, they have that sticky adhesive that is bound to ruin any piece of clothing if gets attached.

In the political and perceptive world, labels are much the same.

During the last election cycle, many Mississippi Democrats were labeled as free spenders for voting on particular tax measures.

With that in mind, emotions were high last week in a debate about — you guessed it — taxes.

Several Democrats said opponents sent mailers claiming they voted for a large number of tax increases, unfairly counting times they voted to raise or renew taxes requested by individual cities and counties.

Last week, the bill was to renew a 2 percent tax on Hancock County hotels for two years to fund tourism promotion. The bill passed the House, 69-44.

So, does that mean those who voted for the bill are big government, nut-job liberals? Probably not.

We have created such stereotypes in politics, that the ethics and morals of actual people are being questioned, based on votes like last week. And that vote — if you want to label it — was pro-business.

It will provide needed funds for communities to promote themselves to bring more tourists in, therefore bringing more money to the businesses and families in Hancock County.

Therefore, should the 44 who voted against the bill be labeled as anti-business?

Just asking.

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

UPDATE: Rooster corralled — It’s been a bad week for roosters, exotic animals

February 7th, 2012 Comments off

In a Sun Herald story this morning, it was reported that Carl the Downtown Rooster, who roamed Ocean Springs streets since last summer, has been relocated to Vancleave, where he has a pen and the companionship of six hens.

Two women who work at a local grocery store found a home for him with nice pens and six hens to oversee.

Malcolm, the other surviving downtown rooster, also known as The General, is living in an attorney’s storeroom, waiting to be adopted as well.

A flock of about 10 roosters showed up in July and seemed to belong to no one. Only 2 roosters — affectionately known as Carl and The General — are still alive and had become a novelty in the downtown area of Ocean Springs.

Sounds like a good opportunity for some lucky family to adopt a famous rooster!!!

ORIGINAL POST IS BELOW ….

Everything from chickens and roosters to tigers, wolf hybrids, leopards, and cougars are under fire this week in separate stories across the southern portion of Mississippi.

In Ocean Springs, alderman Chic Cody says the city has to address the rooster issue once and for all.

Cody’s comments came Monday after a woman told the Mississippi Press that her 2-year-old daughter was scratched on the arm by one of the roosters last week.

It’s the seventh reported incident of a run-in between the roosters and children since November.

Sarah Fountain, the child’s mother, now wants the roosters confined or relocated and the city of Ocean Springs to cover her medical expenses.

“We need to decide about the roosters once and for all, one way or the other,” Cody said.

ZOO OWNERS ASK JUDGE TO RETURN ANIMALS

Down in Collins, the owners of the Collins Zoo have asked a judge to return 11 animals seized for relocation on state wildlife officers in January.

The owners, Gus and Betty White, are asking the Covington County Circuit Court to review a justice court order that led to the Jan. 25 seizure of tigers, wolf hybrids, leopards, cougars and a Rhesus macaque by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

The Whites’ attorney, A. Regnal Blackledge, tells the Hattiesburg American that the state violated a regulation that calls for a “reasonable period of time” to correct deficiencies in facilities housing what are legally defined as “inherently dangerous animals” following an initial inspection.

He says the rule provides that after the period allotted for corrections, a follow-up inspection is in order.

Betty White said when MDWFP officials inspected her facility in October, she didn’t hear from them again until January, when a court order for seizure was already in place.

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.

Businessperson of the Year not always singular

December 16th, 2011 Comments off

When we first dreamed up the idea of having an MBJ Businessperson of the Year, we had no idea that the inaugural award would turn out like it did.

We generally thought the award would end up going to someone like a Hu Meena at C Spire, who led his Ridgeland-based companies to new heights in 2011 by working a deal to offer Apple’s iPhone to his customers.

>> SEE MAIN STORY: SURVIVING THE STORM
>> SEE WHAT’S NEXT FOR SMITHVILLE
>> SEE WHAT THE FAMILIES ARE SAYING
>> TOWN BANKING ON HIGHWAY RECONSTRUCTION

Maybe someone like Hartley Peavey at Peavey Electronics in Meridian for the yeoman’s work he has done over the course of a lifetime that has led to a more positive image for Mississippi.

But when we really began to think more about the year that was in 2011, the weather from the historic floods and the EF-5 tornado that struck Smithville kept coming to the forefront.

From there, we looked for business people who had really made a difference to their communities and regions in a great time of need.

Then, we ran across Doughbellys Pizzeria and Mel’s Diner — two businesses that were totally destroyed during the April 27 storms.

So, here we are. In our inaugural Businessperson of the Year award, we are honoring the grit and guile of two Smithville small business ownerships, who stared down a community-destroying EF-5 tornado. Theirs, along with all but two business, were destroyed last April. But Phillip and Tiffany Lockhart of Doughbellys Pizzeria and Bobby and Melanie Edwards of Mel’s Diner have built back — bigger and better — and are serving a town that is healing on multiple levels. Sometimes, success is not measured in hundreds of millions of dollars made, but in serving your community. This is one of those times.

Many business owners fled, however, worried that the small, rebuilding Smithville might not be able to support much business going forward.

So, why stay?

According to Ted Carter’s story on page 13, there were signs that suggested that there was still plenty work to do in Smithville — for the town and themselves.

So why didn’t Smithville restaurateurs Bobby and Melanie Edwards and their neighbors Phillip and Tiffany Lockhart move on to new pursuits or go back to former occupations after April 27’s EF-5 tornado destroyed their businesses?

The Edwards say signs signaling what they should do appeared among the debris that was Mel‘s Diner, a business they built together for 14 years. The tornado took all the walls except the one dividing the kitchen and walk-in freezer and most every other part of the structure. But it left behind much of what Bobby and Melanie would need to make a new start including grills, stoves and fryers. The cake mixes, macaroni and other food remained on a shelf undisturbed.

“All the stuff was sitting there,” Bobby Edwards says. “The equipment was there.”

The reaction of Melanie Edwards? “She said, ‘God didn’t leave all this stuff here for us to just walk off,’” her husband recalls.

Sounds like a great reason to me.

So, while in the future, I am sure there will be lots of CEOs and bank presidents and more traditional types that will win this award, this time our most prestigious award goes to a group of people whose hard-working business practices just may help save an entire town.

We thank Edwards and the Lockharts for their dedication to their craft, their families and their towns. They are absolutely deserving of this honor.

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

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

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippi last in reading and math

>> 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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Boyce Adams either lying or uniformed when it comes to his key issue — the Kemper County Coal Plant

November 7th, 2011 Comments off

Why won’t Boyce Adams answer questions about his main talking point in the race against Brandon Presley for northern commissioner of the Mississippi Public Service Commission?

He has gone on the record several times, saying there will be no rate increase involved with the building of a $2.88 billion coal plant in Kemper County. Yet, when we called him this past week to ask him about it, he didn’t return multiple phone calls.

Boyce Adams has said there will be no rate increase invoved in the building of the Kemper County Coal Plant

In a story we ran in this week’s Mississippi Business Journal, Presley views the plant as a job-killer while Adams was quoted two weeks ago in A Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal story reports Adams as saying, “There is no rate hike associated with the project.”

RELATED STORIES …

••• KEMPER PLANT KEY IN HEATED PSC RACE

••• Bentz: The whole Kemper story is not getting told

••• Poultry association: Kemper could cost jobs in Mississippi

••• Topazi talks — ‘About a third’ really means ‘about a half’ where rate increases are concerned with Kemper Coal Plant

••• Public record or corporate secrets — PSC to decide whether public should be privy to matters concerning their pocket books ahead of corporate concerns of confidentiality

••• Kemper plant — Yes or no?

••• Presley pulling for Kemper, but admits it is a huge risk

••• Sierra Club sues to stop Kemper

••• The Kemper Project: What to expect

Brandon Presley has said he opposed and voted against the $2.8 billion Kemper Coal Plant and against the 45 percent rate hike

••• Kemper technology could be proving ground for a plant in China

••• BGR website changed following MBJ story on Kemper Plant

••• (VIDEO) Kemper County welcomes coal plant

••• (VIDEO) Anthony Topazi on the Kemper County Coal Plant

According to a 2009 document filed with the Commission, the Kemper plant could make customer rates go up by about 45 percent. Mississippi Power Company told poultry farmers that their rates would rise by 30 percent.

So, when it comes to rate hikes involved with the Kemper coal project, Adams is either lying or uninformed. In either case, that is unacceptable for someone basing his entire candidacy on the worthiness of the Kemper County Coal Plant.

From my perspective, I am sorry that we cannot provide people with a response from Adams about this issue. However, we have been calling him for nearly a week without a return phone call.

If he needs to clarify his position, he can reach me at (601) 364-1000.

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Netflix is taking the bull by the horns while newspapers wait for their base readers to die

September 20th, 2011 Comments off

In a recent blog post, I found it interesting what one media observer related about the newspaper industry in a comparison with Netflix …

Unfortunately for newspapers and other publishers with legacy businesses, they have to make the transition somehow, and the glacial pace that most of the industry has taken — which amounts to waiting for existing print subscribers to die of natural causes and thereby solve the problem — isn’t really cutting it. They can change quickly and risk the kind of customer uproar that Netflix is experiencing, or they can move slowly and be disrupted. At least Netflix is trying to disrupt itself instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

You can read the entire blog post here.

Bynum will be remembered for great, thought-provoking work

September 4th, 2011 1 comment

News that former Mississippi Business Journal editor and co-owner Buddy Bynum passed away this weekend is dispiriting for our newsroom. Bynum has long been held as the best and most thoughtful editor the paper has had in in its 30-plus year history.

James L. "Buddy" Bynum was editor of the Mississippi Business Journal from 1993-1997.

As the new editor of the MBJ three years ago, I began to go through old copies of the publication to see what had been done in the past. It didn’t take long to figure out that trying to match the writing and thought-provoking work of Bynum was going to be a work in vain.

He was the straw that stirred the drink, and if there was anyone that helped put the MBJ on the map, it was, without doubt, Buddy Bynum.

Bynum was with the MBJ from 1993-1997 and then served as the editor of his hometown paper — The Meridian Star — from 2000-2005. He also served as an aide to Gov. Haley Barbour and former Sen. Trent Lott.

There will be many great moments in the years to come at the Mississippi Business Journal, but the memory of Bynum will serve as a great reminder of what every journalist that walks through these doors must live up to in the future.

We will all miss Buddy immensely.

DuPree will be no pushover against Bryant in governor’s race

August 22nd, 2011 Comments off

The first time I ever met Johnny DuPree, he had been holding court in my office for about 30 minutes before I ever walked in the door.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree

One of our reporters was using my office for the interview, and when I walked in, I was in a hurry but didn’t want to be rude. I mean he was running for governor. I thought I would listen a couple of minutes, and then slip out the door with my briefcase.

Forty-five minutes later, I was having a philisophical conversation with the Hattiesburg mayor about education in Mississippi.

I was totally entralled. On education, at least, I wasn’t sure if all of his ideas would work, but I knew he would make a decision, if he were governor, and stick by it.

It was that day, I knew he would give Clarksdale atorney Bill Luckett a run for his money for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Hell, he might even win, I thought.

Well, last night, DupRee smoked Luckett in the Democratic runoff, becoming the first black candidate to win major-party nod for the state’s top job.

DuPree, 57, advances to the Nov. 8 general election to face Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, 56, of Brandon. Bryant already has spent $3.1 million on his campaign — more than twice as much as DuPree and Luckett, combined.

For months, Bryant has been all but given the throne to the kingdom, the heir apparent to Gov. Haley Barbour.

Bryant, may win — may win. But, it won’t be because DuPree isn’t a worthy opponent.

Don’t sit back and assume he won’t be there when the confetti cannon goes, because DuPree has come to play and he didn’t leave his ball at home.