Archive

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Intuit dropping the ball with switch to Mint

August 16th, 2010 No comments

Intuit, the personal finance software company that has done a lot of good things, is in the middle of doing a bad one.

On Aug. 29, Intuit will shut down Quicken, the software that basically serves as a checkbook on your computer. Taking its place is Mint, which is supposed to serve the same purpose but doesn’t.

There’s no comparison between the two. Quicken is easy. Mint is clumsy. Quicken allows you to post and keep track of recurring expenses. Mint does not. Quicken shows what your real balance is after those recurring expenses. Mint does not.

Quicken is superior. Mint is inferior.

So why is the better product on the way out? I’ve asked Mint’s online support that three times. Each time, I get the canned response full of corporate buzzwords like “efficiency, customer experience” blah blah blah.

My experience with Quicken, over the past few years, has made personal finance probably as pain-free as it can get. The few times I’ve forced myself to use Mint — to get ready for the switch — have been frustrating to the point I get angry and give up. There’s no way to rationalize this. Eliminating Quicken in favor of Mint is total nonsense.

It’s not too late, Intuit. Admit the mistake you’re making. Call off the switch. Better yet, eliminate Mint and keep Quicken.

Doing anything else is corporate stupidity.

Categories: News, Personal finance Tags:

David Hasselhoff — promoting Coast tourism?

August 13th, 2010 4 comments

Observations and opinions to close out the week …

Gov. Haley Barbour announced in a press release this afternoon that the CW Network will air a one-hour special Aug. 27 that will “highlight the resilience and spirit of Gulf Coast residents.”

The timing of the event, designed to promote tourism, is right, considering Aug. 27 is two days before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and what with the oil spill and everything. Mississippi residents can even appear as extras.

What is curious, though, is the man who will serve as the event’s host — David Hasselhoff.

Knight Rider David Hasselhoff? Yes.

Lifeguard David Hasselhoff? You bet.

Cheeseburger aficionado David Hasselhoff? Yep.

The special will air from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, which also happens to have a franchise of the hamburger joint Mugshots. Just sayin’.

Moving on, if you’ve read this week’s edition of the MBJ — and if you haven’t, what’s the hold-up? — you’ve read seen the efforts to lure the SEC Baseball Tournament to Trustmark Park in Pearl. Metro Jackson is fighting an uphill battle to land the tournament, for two reasons: The Confederate emblem on the state flag; and the size, or relative lack thereof, of Trustmark Park.

The Southeastern Conference has already said the flag will be a part of its evaulation, and Trustmark Park is the second smallest stadium of any involved in the bidding. Magnolia Marketplace would be surprised — really, really surprised — if the Tournament ended up anywhere other than Memphis. Memphis has made it known for years, basically ever since Autozone Park was built in the late 1990s, that it would like to host the event. With the biggest stadium of all the cities pushing to host, and with hundreds of hotels and restraurants in the area, many within walking distance of the park, it’s our guess that it’s Memphis’ to lose.

The SEC would take a lot of heat if it simply  handed the Tournament to Memphis. Opening it up for bids is probably a way of covering a few tracks.

Political battle lines forming over jobs bill

August 11th, 2010 3 comments

It didn’t take long for Gov. Haley Barbour to express his displeasure over the $26 billion state-aid legislation President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.

In a press release his office issued Aug. 9, Barbour said the bill would force Mississippi’s budget into a re-write in order for the state to accept the $98 million for public education and $130 million for Medicaid.

The state’s budget for fiscal year 2011 has been set since June. Proponents of the bill claim it will rehire laid off teachers or keep those teetering on the edge of unemployment in the classroom. Travis Childers, D-Booneville, and Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, voted for it. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, and Gregg Harper, R-Pearl, voted against it. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker both voted against it.

“There is no justification for the federal government hijacking state budgets, but that is exactly what Congress has done,” Barbour said in his statement.

So does that mean Barbour will call lawmakers back to Jackson to reconfigure the budget?

Not necessarily, said Barbour spokesman Dan Turner. The state has the option to decline the education money, or show a “maintenance of effort” to work it into the budget without having to redo the whole thing.

Which is the best option?

“Too soon to say,” Turner said.

The notion of whether to accept one-time federal money for a specific state expense got a lot of political run about a year and a half ago, when the original stimulus bill included for Mississippi $56 million for extended unemployment benefits. Barbour and several other Republican governors refused to take it. Democrats wailed. It’s likely a similar scenario will play out this time around.

Categories: Haley Barbour, News, Politics, State revenue Tags:

Yoknapatawpha Arts Council in running for $20,000 grant

August 9th, 2010 No comments

About four years ago, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council moved into the Powerhouse, a stone and brick building on South 14th street in Oxford. It was built in 1928 and once housed the Oxford Electric Co.

Renovated with money from the Mississippi Arts Commission, the City of Oxford and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Powerhouse has become a popular venue for corporate events, wedding receptions, and also hosts arts workshops and seminars. The Powerhouse is currently seeking funding for the completion of its second phase, which will include theater space with new lighting, flooring seating and a stage.

For its efforts to revive the Powerhouse, the YAC has emerged from thousands of applicants and is now one of 41 programs that Tom’s of Maine is considering for a $20,000 grant. Five programs will receive the money.

Tom’s of Maine, a natural personal care product company, is administering the grants as part of its 50 States for Good program.

The YAC is competing with programs from Brooklyn, Seattle and St. Paul, Minn.

“Some of these cities have populations equal almost the entire state of Mississippi,” Wayne Andrews, director of the YAC, said in an email to the Mississippi Business Journal.

You can help the YAC land the grant. Visit this site and vote for the Powerhouse. It’s easy, and it benefits a worthy venture.

So as they say in Chicago, vote early and often.

Categories: News, Ole Miss Tags:

Since when do college athletes need PR firms?

July 29th, 2010 1 comment

We’re not going to rehash the ins and outs of the will-he-or-won’t-he nonsense that has become Ole Miss’ pursuit/non-pursuit/whatever it is of former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. There are plenty of other places you can find that out if you aren’t already informed.

What did catch Magnolia Marketplace’s eye, though, is the news that Masoli has hired this PR firm to represent him in his effort to present himself in a more favorable light.

What?

Even though he currently has no team, Masoli is still (technically) an amateur athlete. When did athletes who are (technically) still amateurs start hiring PR firms to represent them while they look for a (technically) amateur athletic program to play for?

Professional athletes have armies of PR people in their employ. So do corporations big and small. There’s certainly nothing wrong with pro athletes and businesses hiring folks to help shape their public image. It’s smart, actually, to do so.

But bringing one on board in the middle of a crisis sounds all sorts of alarm bells. Toyota did it in the middle of the recall mess, after the company’s response to it had drawn criticism for being too slow or too steeped in denial. BP, after their now-former CEO committed some of the worst PR blunders of the past decade, did the same for a lot of the same reasons.

There aren’t many things Magnolia Marketplace loves more than Ole Miss football. And we have absolutely no control over whether Masoli ends up playing for the Rebels. As of late Thursday afternoon, it seemed for all the world that he would. If/when he takes the field, we hope he’s every bit as good as he’s been the past two years at Oregon. And if he helps the Rebels beat Alabama or LSU or Auburn or Arkansas, we’ll celebrate along with everybody else.

But there’s a reason Masoli and his family deemed it necessary to spend what’s probably a sizable amount of money on a PR firm to basically make people think he’s not as much of a creep as he seemed when he got into all that trouble at Oregon.

It just smells bad.

PR 101: Confront the truth, no matter how ugly it is

July 26th, 2010 No comments

One of Magnolia Marketplace’s favorite movies is “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the ’80s flick that makes rebelling against authority look like a whole lot of fun.

In the middle of it, Ferris’s principal, Mr. Rooney, finds himself in an arcade in his search for Ferris and his buddies. Toward the end of the scene, Mr. Rooney is standing in front of a television showing a Cubs game. The second he looks away, Ferris is shown catching a foul ball, coming perilously close to getting busted for playing hooky.

Mr. Rooney didn’t spot Ferris in the stands at Wrigley Field, but what if he had? What if Mr. Rooney’s hunch that Ferris was a school-skipping ne’er do well was proven correct when he saw Ferris, Sloan and Cameron on TV? All three of them would be cooked. Pictures don’t lie.

We were reminded of that classic sequence Friday afternoon while we were working up the story of MDOT Executive Director Butch Brown being arrested early Friday morning at the Beau Rivage and being charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct. (The charges have since been dropped).

When we reached Brown on his cell phone, he confirmed that he had “just left” the Beau Rivage. In one of the weirdest interviews we’ve ever done, Brown flatly denied that he had been arrested and charged with anything. This despite the fact that his mugshot was sitting on my computer screen while I was on the phone with him. Brown was polite. The tone of the interview never got confrontational, but he insisted he hadn’t been arrested. The whole thing was odd.

Fast forward about an hour, after the story had taken up the top spot on msbusiness.com, and other media across the state had picked it up. Brown apparently decided to abandon his denial strategy and start referring questions about the incident to the Beau Rivage.

Why didn’t he do that from the beginning? Did he think that, just because he denied the whole thing, we would just drop the story all together? Especially when we had his mugshot?

If the first rule of public relations is don’t put yourself in bad situations, the second rule is to aggressively confront the truth when you do, no matter how badly you may not want to. Brown broke both of those rules Friday. Pictures don’t lie. People do.

Ferris Bueller, Brown ain’t.

Categories: Butch Brown, MDOT, News, Politics Tags:

Special session on the near horizon?

July 19th, 2010 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace got a tip a few minutes ago that there was the possibility of a special legislative session Aug. 13, in which lawmakers will take up incentives for an economic development project.

Phone calls to a few folks who usually know about these things yielded a recurring theme:

No, they all agreed, they had not heard about the specific date for the special session. They had, however, had cross their radar the possibility of something going on in Meridian. In three different phone calls, Meridian came up unprompted all three times.

It makes sense. Toward the end of the 2010 regular session, a bill that would have offered state incentives to a wood products facility in Meridian died. At the time, a couple of people connected to the project said it wasn’t quite ready to take the last step to the altar of economic development. Maybe it is now. Or maybe it’s something else really cool that nobody (other than perhaps Gov. Haley Barbour) knows about yet.

Dan Turner, Barbour’s spokesman, did not immediately return a call to his cell phone. We’ll post what he says as soon as he does.

UPDATE: After checking around, one of the sources we spoke to about an hour ago just called back to say that the Aug. 13 rumor “seems to be true.” There still is no definitive word on whether Meridian is the target. But the Aug. 13 date is looking, for now, like a solid bet.

SECOND UPDATE: Another source we talked to earlier today has been doing some checking since we last spoke, and offers this: “Unless I’m badly wrong, it’s not Meridian.” So that’s the latest. Still no word from Turner, though if/when he calls back, we’ll share what he says. Stay tuned.

Few tears for old 82 bridge

July 19th, 2010 No comments

Aside from being the official birthday of Magnolia Marketplace, July 26 will be a big day. In Washington County, a torch will be passed.

The new Highway 82 bridge that will connect Mississippi and Arkansas over the Mississippi River will make its debut in Greenville. Our collegue, Wally Northway, is working on an advance story about it that will run in next week’s MBJ.

Wally, a native of Greenville, has a more than a few stories about the old bridge, which was built in 1940. Most of them aren’t happy.

For starters, the bridge was narrow. The roadway was only 24 feet wide and didn’t have a shoulder. You didn’t want to meet a tractor trailer on it. Nor was it ever any fun to cross it at night, especially if rain was falling.

Its location on the river wasn’t that favorable for towboats. Captains earned their money negotiating the bend to the north. The bridge has been hit by river traffic countless times.

Economic developers think the new one have a positive impact. Besides having wider roadways, the approaches make it easier for wide loads to cross from one state to another, making the transport of goods quicker and cheaper.

“The old bridge served us well,” Northway said. “But good riddance.”

Categories: Economic development, News Tags:

A look at fundraising in the 1st District

July 15th, 2010 No comments

Besides the final vote tally, there are no numbers more critical to the 1st Congressional District race between state Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, and incumbent Travis Childers, D-Booneville, than the amount of cash each has raised and the amount each has on hand.

With the latest fundraising quarter drawn to a close, both candidates feel pretty good about where they stand.

Magnolia Marketplace spoke to Nunnelee and Childers earlier this week for a separate story that will appear in the next issue of the MBJ.

The breakdown:

For the fundraising quarter that just ended, Nunnelee brought in $312,000. Childers reported $277,000 for the same period. It’s the second consecutive quarter Nunnelee has won the fundraising fight.

“It is more amazing that he has done it with a majority of his funds coming from individuals from Mississippi rather than Washington PACs,” said Nunnelee spokesperson Morgan Baldwin.

Where Childers has the upper hand, though, is the amount of cash on hand – money that can be spent right now.

Childers said in an interview yesterday that he has more than $900,000 in the bank. Nunnelee’s camp said he had $233,000.

Childers attributed Nunnelee’s quarterly fundraising victories to his obligations in D.C.

“I’ve been in session. He’s been campaigning. Matter of fact, he’s been campaigning for 18 months, basically since the day I won,” Childers said. “I’m not concerned about the cash numbers. I feel very confident where we are.”

National and state political experts agree that this will probably be the most vigorously contested Congressional race in the U.S. this year.

The fundraising numbers do nothing but confirm that. Should be an interesting fall.

Categories: Elections, News, Politics Tags:

Chaney, Pickering: Fire rebate cash misused

July 13th, 2010 No comments

State Auditor Stacey Pickering and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney have issued civil demands totaling just short of $22,000 to current and former city officials in Sledge.

Current city clerk Yvonne Amos, former mayor Bernard Handy and former city clerk  Mary Allen allegedly misused money the city received from the state’s Fire Insurance Rebate Program. More specifically, the three are accused of taking $13,579 of FIRP money that was supposed to pay for equipment and/or training for the Sledge Fire Department and transferring it to the city’s general fund to pay for recurring expenses, things like salaries, city vehicles and so forth. The state allocates FIRP money to municipalities where fire insurance was unavailable for home and business owners because of a lack of fire protection. It goes mostly to rural areas, and decreases homeowners’ insurance premiums.

While other municipalities have been caught doing this — Pickering mentioned Terry and Isola and Neshoba County — the past few years, what sets Sledge apart is that the three who wrote the checks (Allen, Handy and Amos) were unable to produce the FIRP money once it was discovered it had been misappropriated. Terry, Isola and Neshoba County officials, according to Pickering and Chaney, were able to refund the FIRP cash once the two agencies demanded they do so.

“This is the first case in a long time where people actually spent the money,” Chaney said.

As of now, this is strictly civil matter. Neither Chaney nor Pickering would say whether the three would face criminal charges, though it would seem they wouldn’t as long as the money is repaid to the state.

Categories: News, Politics Tags: