Monday, February 27, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
SMART manager still eyeing Golden Triangle connections
The Starkville-Mississippi State University Area Rapid Transit system could add connections to Golden Triangle industrial sites outside of Oktibbeha County in the future, as Jeremiah Dumas, MSU's parking services and transit director, confirmed his organization is actively discussing a carpool option with government agencies and private sector providers. Connecting the Oktibbeha County-based mass transit system has long been a goal for Dumas, who first spoke of the potential links in 2015. Dumas described the discussions as "active" and said potential links will hub into SMART's Starkville system, which provide local access to campus, local stores, housing complexes, health care sectors and some government buildings. MSU is in the process of submitting an approximately $3 million grant application to the federal government for operating the free transit system next fiscal year.
Mississippi State marks 139th year with campus party Tuesday
Mississippi State University will celebrate the 139th anniversary of its creation with a Tuesday birthday party given by the university's alumni association. The date coincides with the 1878 anniversary of legislation signed to establish the Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College, a land-grant institution that would become Mississippi State University. "We proudly salute MSU's founding each and every February, and the annual birthday party is a great time for campus and community to come together and help light another candle for our beloved university," said Jeff Davis, the association's executive director. The campus celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Colvard Student Union's Dawg House. The party, presented by Renasant Bank, begins with the featured cake cutting, and complimentary cake slices, ice cream and drinks will be served while supplies last.
Mississippi State's radio station implements major upgrades
As it enters the 23rd year of public service to listeners at Mississippi State University and a 70-mile radius, university radio station WMSV is benefiting from key upgrades. A 24/7 non-commercial operation, the professionally managed station at 91.1 on the FM dial has replaced the original broadcast transmitter in use since 1994. The equipment should require little or no maintenance and, thus, save significant operational time and money, said Anthony Craven, general manager. "It is like replacing a tube television with a new flat-screen," he added. Also upgraded is the studio-transmitter link that sends audio from WMSV's studio on Tracy Drive to the transmitter and tower. Craven said the new transmitter and STL "create an all-digital sound and ensure we are reaching 100 percent of our broadcast coverage area at all times."
Former U.S. poet laureate to give reading Wednesday at Mississippi State
A former U.S. poet laureate who also won a Pulitzer Prize and other major accolades will be at Mississippi State this week. Rita Dove will be on campus Monday-Friday to lead the writer-in-residence program of the College of Arts and Sciences' Institute for the Humanities. Her visit will include a number of activities with members of both the university and area communities. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1 the poet and essayist will read from her works during a free special presentation in McCool Hall's Taylor Auditorium. Catherine Pierce, MSU associate professor of English and creative writing program co-director, praised Dove as "one of the most significant American poets of the last 50 years." "Her work shines new light on subjects we thought we knew, and her poetic voice is unparalleled," Pierce said. "It's an honor to have her here in residence at MSU."
Poet laureate to serve as Mississippi State writer-in-residence
A former United States poet laureate who also won a Pulitzer Prize and other major accolades will be at Mississippi State University next week as a writer-in-residence. Rita Dove will be on campus Feb. 27 to March 3 to lead the writer-in-residence program of the College of Arts and Sciences' Institute for the Humanities. Her visit will include a number of activities with members of both the university and area communities. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the poet and essayist will also read from her works during a free special presentation in McCool Hall's Taylor Auditorium. William Anthony Hay, institute director, said Dove's time on campus, like that of others preceding her, is designed to introduce new perspectives to MSU students and employees, along with interested community members.
'Barefoot in the Park' will close current MSU Lyceum season
The play that became Neil Simon's longest-running Broadway hit will be featured March 7 at Mississippi State. "Barefoot in the Park" will be performed by the Montana Repertory Theatre's national touring company. To begin at 7 p.m. in the Bettersworth Auditorium of historic Lee Hall, the romantic comedy is the concluding event of the university's 2016-17 Lyceum Series. Montana Rep is a major program of the University of Montana's School of Theatre and Dance. Since being established in 1967, it has earned a reputation as one of the nation's most dynamic and respected touring companies. In 1967, Neil Simon's then-four-year-old Broadway play had its movie premiere with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in the starring roles. In this story of love, relationship and marriage, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright has audiences share both the pangs of loss and the joy of reunion.
4-H conference at Mississippi State offers workshops to members, volunteers
A 4-H conference was held at Mississippi State University Saturday and offered workshops to its leaders and volunteers. The club does activities in agriculture and community service work. The conference Saturday included workshops about literary writing and social media use. "Our theme is growing 4-H volunteer leaders. We have an ongoing ongoing commitment to provide ongoing training for our leaders and also we have a commitment to enrolling new members," said Linda Ellis, the president of the Mississippi Volunteer Leader Association. The 4-H club has a strong tradition in the south and has been going on in Mississippi since 1902.
Statewide 4-H Leadership Conference Held In Starkville
Mississippi State University's Bost Extension Center hosted the Mississippi 4-H Leaders Conference. This year's theme is Growing Mississippi 4-H Volunteers. On Saturday more than a 100 4-H leaders representing 60 counties from around the state were in Starkville training. The annual Leaders Association Conference provides tools and resources to 4-H Volunteer Leaders. It's these skills and resources organizers say are valuable to teaching 4-H youth to become productive citizens. With more than six million young people involved, 4-H is the largest youth organization in the world.
Riley, Hardin foundations strive to improve quality of life
As host to two philanthropic foundations set up to provide a better quality of life, citizens of Meridian and Lauderdale County are rich in philanthropic resources. The goals of both the Riley Foundation and Phil Hardin Foundation are to improve living conditions in and around Meridian and Lauderdale County. The Riley Foundation has granted more than $37 million to Mississippi State University to enhance its downtown Meridian campus that included the MSU Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts, the Deen Building, that houses the MSU-Meridian business program and the Rosenbaum Building, which is home to the MSU-Meridian kinesiology program. The MSU Riley Scholars Program has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships for MSU-Meridian. The Hardin Foundation, along with the Riley Foundation, recently provided the required local matching funds for the partnership between Meridian Public Schools, MSU-Meridian and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., for the "Any Given Child" arts integration program in the schools.
Traffic advisory in Starkville to last until November for Mississippi 12
Roadwork that includes median and signal improvement begins Monday at 7 A.M. on Mississippi 12 between Louisville Street and Old Highway 12. We're told everyone moving through that area should expect delays in all directions as crews work to install a raised median in the center turn lanes. It'll take a while, MDOT says the project is not scheduled to wind up until sometimes in November.
Superintendent candidates see great potential in Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District
All three candidates vying to become Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's next superintendent agree the school district has the potential to be one of the best public school systems in Mississippi. On Thursday, the district began the process of introducing the shortlist of candidates -- Tullahoma, Tennessee, School District Superintendent Dan Lawson, Scott County School District Superintendent Tony McGee and Tupelo School District Assistant Superintendent Eddie Peasant -- to various school and community stakeholder groups. The SOCSD Board of Trustees held official job interviews in executive session for Peasant and Lawson Thursday and Friday, respectively, and will interview McGee Monday. Trustees could begin deliberations on a possible offer following McGee's interview, but school board President Jenny Turner said the district has scheduled a meeting Tuesday to discuss the candidates and how to move forward as needed.
Trailblazers of integration: African Americans in area remember trials, triumphs of tumultuous process
Before Henry Ashford started his senior year of high school in 1966, his father sat him down and asked him if he wanted to be one of the first black students to attend Starkville High School. "He wanted me to do it," Ashford said. "So I did it -- mostly for him." Ashford was one of five black seniors to graduate from SHS in 1967 -- the first year black students attended what had previously been an all-white high school. They weren't alone -- black students in Columbus and other parts of Mississippi began attending all white high schools by choice in the late '60s before the state began court-ordered integration in the '70s. In 1966, it had been more than 10 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Brown v. Board of Education case that public school systems couldn't discriminate against students on the basis of race. But Mississippi still had segregated schools. "The African Americans had to petition ... school boards and things and basically they had no power," said Jim Adams, professor of education at Mississippi State.
'A new day' in Kemper County: Despite delays, power plant yields economic benefits for area, officials say
Kemper County officials say taxes derived from Mississippi Power's Kemper Energy Facility has allowed the county to embark on projects never before imagined. Kemper County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Craig Hitt and Kemper County Board of Supervisors President Johnny B. Whitsett both said the economic benefit to the county has made for a higher quality of life for its citizens despite Mississippi Power's repeated struggles to get the facility up and going. County millage rates have fallen by 37 mills since the plant start up. Despite the delays, Hitt said Kemper County has reaped the benefits from the facility. The power plant is also directly responsible for a number of new small businesses that have opened near it.
Blue Springs happy to have Toyota as a neighbor
Toyota's impact on this small Union County community can be felt daily. Just ask Tanis Priest, who at 4 a.m. every weekday morning, opens the door at Blue Springs Grocery & Grill. Waiting on her is a small crowd. Most are workers at the Toyota Mississippi plant less than 2 miles away. Until 10 years ago, Blue Springs was little more than a spot on a map, surrounded by rolling hillsides and pastures. But since Toyota announced a decade ago it was building a 2-million-square-foot assembly plant, Blue Springs has more than doubled in population. Some 450 people now live in the community, which was established in 1888. Ten years ago, there were about 150. Granted, some of that growth was due to an annexation in 2011, but the Japanese automaker's presence can't be denied. The company has spent about $961 million on the plant alone, plus donated millions of dollars to local organizations. And Blue Springs hasn't been left out of the loop.
MEC's Wilson, Waller dish on roads, taxes, state flag
Blake Wilson, who's retiring June 16 as chief executive officer of the Mississippi Economic Council, says if you want know what the future could hold for Mississippi's economy, look to his home state of Delaware. In 1980, Delaware starting cutting the state's personal income tax rate, which topped out at almost 20 percent. The tax cuts helped make living in the state more attractive, he said. That, combined with other economic-development activities, helped spur the economy and, over time, create nearly 70,000 jobs, said Wilson, who for a time worked for the Delaware chamber of commerce. He sees momentum-building opportunity in one area in particular. "We've got to build on what we've got. We've got this tremendous automotive thing going. Twenty years ago this wasn't here at all in any way shape or form," Wilson told Mississippi Today last week.
Key committee keeps governor's power bills alive
Legislation that would give the governor control of more than 60 boards that regulate multiple professions passed a key hurdle Friday morning. But Senate Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Chair John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, who steered the legislation through his committee Friday, told members that significant changes must be made to the proposal before its ultimate passage. Polk's committee killed a similar Senate bill earlier in the session, but on Friday approved the bill passed by the House. The legislative process is to the point where bills from the other chamber are being considered. But Polk stressed to his committee a "reverse repealer" was placed in the bill, meaning in its current form, it would expire before it was enacted, therefore never taking effect. Legislators use the "reverse repealers" to work on legislation as it moves through the process with the understanding it will die unless certain issues are resolved.
Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, cries foul on Senate BP money bill
A local state representative is raising concerns about a bill that would channel payments from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement to a fund for projects on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Senate Bill 2634 passed unanimously through the Senate, without debate, in early February. The bill would create the Gulf Coast Restoration Reserve Fund to house $750 million in economic damages from BP as a result of the oil spill. The 2010 spill happened after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. District 37 Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) said he doesn't think the coast should get all of the $750 million, which was awarded due to a loss of state sales tax money as a result of the spill. Chism also noted the bill drew support from Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, both of whom are seen as potential gubernatorial candidates in 2019. "I can't believe that senators from northeast Mississippi are willing to give up the state money to three coastal counties (Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties)," Chism said.
Mississippi bills pass unseen in latest road-money twist
It's one of the eternal truths of the Mississippi Legislature: Most lawmakers vote on bills they haven't read. That may not square with the idealized, Schoolhouse Rock-vision of the legislative process that's taught in civics, but there are just too many bills. And unlike in Congress, Mississippi lawmakers don't each have paid staff members to examine bills for them. Typically, lawmakers are handed stacks of bills as committee meetings begin, and can at least try to plow through the legalese while a bill is being discussed. But even then, sometimes they vote on language they haven't seen, such as an amendment that's proposed only verbally. In large part, this process is based on trust. But a new wrinkle in legislation-by-ignorance unfolded, when Chairman Jeff Smith asked members of the House Ways and Means Committee to vote on bills that, for all intents and purposes, had no public existence.
Travels keep members of Congress out of state
North Mississippi's U.S. representative and the state's two U.S. senators spent a congressional recess last week working abroad, but some local citizens are eager for a stronger district footprint from federal lawmakers. In his capacity as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, led an official congressional delegation last week to Cuba and to Colombia, according to a spokesman. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, was traveling in his capacity as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission. Specifically, he was at the Winter Meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Austria for at least part of the week. Republican U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly, of the 1st Congressional District, was also at this winter meeting, according to a spokesperson.
George W. Bush: Media essential to democracy
Former President George W. Bush on Monday said the media is an essential component to democracy, arguing it is necessary to hold the government accountable. "I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy... Power can be very addictive," he told NBC's "Today" show. The comments come amid increased tensions between the press and the White House. On Friday, several news outlets were barred from a question and answer briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer. President Trump, speaking earlier that day at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), attacked members of the press.
Trump to propose 10 percent spike in defense spending, massive cuts to other agencies
President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an administration official. The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions. It is the first indication of spending priorities by the new administration, with the president set to arrive on Capitol Hill Tuesday night for a joint session speech to Congress. But the full budget negotiations between Trump and Congress will not be complete for many months.
Inaugural MUW Symposium plays to overflow crowds, rave reviews
A sense of pride and gratitude led Dr. Doris Taylor to put together the inaugural II+C (Imagine, Inspire, Challenge) Symposium at Mississippi University for Women. As one of The W's most accomplished alumna, the pioneering medical researcher eagerly accepted the invitation, pulling together a group of renowned experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for the symposium, which was held Thursday and Friday at the Nissan Auditorium on the MUW campus. With that came an unspoken agreement that she might return for next year's symposium. "I really didn't know what to expect," Taylor said Friday after the symposium had came to a close. "I thought maybe we would have 100 people show up. I was willing to come back, sure. But if there had been 25 or 100 people, we probably would have to talk about it more to see if it was worth the time and energy." That uncertainty vanished the moment Taylor took the stage Thursday evening to introduce keynote speaker Dr. Robert Robbins.
MUW's McCoy, Yray recognized at HEADWAE program in Jackson
Dr. Tammie McCoy, chair of Mississippi University for Women's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, and Gabriella Yray, a recent W graduate, were recognized at the Higher Education Appreciation Day, Working for Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) Feb. 21 in Jackson. One student and faculty honoree are annually selected from each of the 34 Mississippi public and private universities and colleges to participate in the Appreciation Day activities. McCoy was named Faculty Member of the Year during The W's 2016's spring commencement ceremonies. Yray graduated December 2016 with a degree in biological sciences.
MUW festival puts spotlight on music by women
Contributions of women composers to classical music are the focus of events March 3-4 at Mississippi University for Women. The inaugural Music by Women Festival in Poindexter Hall on campus will feature about 150 professors, independent musicians and students from the United States and abroad. Informative sessions and free concerts throughout the two days will showcase works by female composers from a number of musical eras. "The goal of the festival is to change the current performance paradigm of classical music," explained Julia Mortyakova, chair of The W's Department of Music and artistic director of the festival. Although much great music has been composed by women, it is rarely programmed on recitals or orchestral concerts, she continued.
U. of Mississippi students petition to avoid rush, football conflict
Ole Miss students have been signing and sharing a petition requesting the university reschedule the 2017 formal recruitment week so students can attend the Alabama football game in Tuscaloosa. Marketing major and Panhellenic member Di Law wrote and published the petition, which has since garnered more than 2,300 signatures as of Sunday night. The current recruitment schedule for Ole Miss Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council Formal Recruitment is Sept. 24 to Oct. 1. The university's office of fraternity and sorority life released a statement Wednesday regarding the conflict. "In an effort to model the Division of Student Affairs value of 'Everyone Speaks,' we welcome student input regarding the selection of this important event that affects not only our members and potential new members but the entire University of Mississippi community," the statement said. The staff will be meeting with council and chapter leaders this week.
Southern Miss instructor researching phys ed for autistic children
A Southern Miss physical education instructor is conducting research that may one day make it easier to teach P.E. to children with autism spectrum disorder. Joann Judge, a student in the School of Kinesiology, said autistic children have a number of issues, including difficulty with movement. "There's a lot of focus and attention on the social side of the disability," she said. "There's been very little done on the motor deficits. These could be fundamental motor skills -- anything from walking, running, hopping, skipping, jumping, catching, throwing, striking." Judge is researching the use of videos to teach boys 8-12 years old with autism simple physical skills like dribbling a basketball or bouncing a tennis ball on a racquet. "The advantage of video is it takes away the social interaction of being with the person," Judge said.
Budget cuts forces Delta State to close golf course
Nearly $2 million in state budget cuts has forced Delta State University to close the school's golf course. DSU President William N. LaForge said it was a difficult but necessary decision in order to protect university programs and personnel. "Regrettably, the Cabinet has been put in the difficult position of closing the university golf course to achieve savings in our budget -- necessary because of the continuing state budget cuts," LaForge said in a news release. The closure will save nearly $250,000. Savings are needed to offset $1.1 million in state budget cuts from the current fiscal year alone. There are no plans to repurpose the golf course at this time. James Rutledge, vice president for Finance and Administration, said the closure will not affect golf course employees.
Work begins on U. of Alabama adapted athletics facility
The University of Alabama celebrated the groundbreaking for its new adapted athletics facility on Thursday. UA President Stuart R. Bell, Adapted Athletics Director Brent Hardin, team members and supporters of the program gathered for the formal ground breaking at the site on south side of the UA Rec Center, where construction has already begun on the 27,036-square-foot facility that includes a gym and basketball court, lobby and concourse, office suite, locker rooms and weight and workout rooms. Construction is scheduled to be completed in late fall. The cost of the $10 million project is being split evenly between university funds and gifts and fundraising.
Tommy Tuberville on running for governor, the Crimson Tide vote, Ole Miss sanctions
Tommy Tuberville doesn't know what his future holds, but public office in the state of Alabama is, indeed, an option on the table. The former Auburn football coach joined "The Opening Kickoff" on WNSP-FM 105.5 in Mobile, Alabama, to talk about his political aspirations. "I think I could make a difference if I do decide to run (for governor of Alabama) because it is all about sales, organization and leadership," Tuberville said Friday morning. "Some people say you haven't been in politics. I've been in a big part of it. This whole country is politics now. ... If I figure and I think I can help this state -- which I think I could -- then I might give it a run." Tuberville said he is currently getting polling data to gauge his interest and the response his interest will get.
Tougher TOPS rules shelved by Louisiana Board of Regents
With little discussion, the Louisiana Board of Regents voted Friday to shelve a proposal to toughen academic requirements for TOPS students. The board deleted the proposed change from a set of higher education recommendations going to the Legislature. The regents' staff in January recommended increasing the yearly academic credit requirements to 30 hours, up from 24 now. Doing so, backers said, would boost chances that students could meet graduation rules in the traditional four years. But Charles McDonald, a member of the board and a former state representative, made a motion to remove the change from the 52-page study. McDonald and others said the new rules need more study. About 50,000 students get the aid, which supporters say helps keep top-flight students in Louisiana.
U. of Kentucky's business and art schools collaborate on new building
After making a lot of money in business, Gary Knapp wanted to give back to the University of Kentucky's Gatton College of Business and Economics, where he earned his doctorate in the 1970s and learned skills that made him successful. "I started thinking back to what it was like to be a student," said Knapp, recalling UK's circa 1963 Commerce Building where he studied. "A lot of painted cement block walls, terrazzo floors and steel doors. It was not a visually stimulating place." Nobody can say that now. The old Commerce Building, to which a wing was added in 1991, got a privately funded $65 million renovation and expansion last year. And because of an endowment Knapp created about 15 years ago to buy art for the college, the building displays some impressive work by UK faculty, instructors and graduate students.
NRA Backs Expanded Arkansas Campus Guns Proposal
The National Rifle Association on Thursday said it backs an effort to expand an Arkansas campus guns bill to allow anyone with a concealed handgun license to carry a gun on a college campus and remove an active shooter training requirement for people who want to participate. The group said it supports the amendment to the campus guns bill, which currently would allow anyone 25 and older to carry on a college campus if they have a concealed handgun license and have undergone up to 16 hours of active shooter training. The NRA a day earlier dropped its support for the campus guns measure after the age and training restrictions were added. "It nails exactly what we're looking for for a true campus carry bill, which is removing restrictions on all law-abiding permit holders," Anthony Roulette, Arkansas state liaison for the NRA, told reporters.
French scholar set to speak at Texas A&M detained by customs officials at Houston airport
A visiting scholar to Texas A&M was detained by customs officials in Houston this week while on his way to speak at a symposium in Aggieland, officials said Friday at the conference. Henry Rousso was flying in from Paris to participate in the Hagler Institute Symposium when he was "mistakenly detained" Wednesday evening upon his arrival because of a misunderstanding regarding the parameters of his visa, according to Richard Golsan, director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M. After learning about the situation, Golsan said he immediately called university officials, leading A&M President Michael K. Young to enlist the help of Texas A&M Law School professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic Fatma Marouf. Using a network of connections, Marouf said they were able to get in contact with customs and border protection agents onsite in Houston to get the situation resolved.
Professors and Politics: What the Research Says
When Betsy DeVos on Thursday accused liberal faculty members of trying to force their views on students, the new education secretary infuriated many professors -- and won praise from some conservatives. Most faculty members who weighed in on social media denied the indoctrination and unfairness charges. While not disputing her assertion that they are more likely than others to be liberal, they said it was unfair to say that this meant they were indoctrinating anyone. Many conservatives who applauded DeVos said their personal experiences (or those of their children, nieces, nephews, etc.) showed she was correct. For all the back-and-forth of traded anecdotes, there is research on these subjects -- in peer-reviewed articles, books published by scholarly presses and so forth. And most of these studies reach a consensus.
Trump seeks to outdo Obama in backing black colleges
President Donald Trump is expected to provide historically black colleges and universities a long-awaited boost as he looks to outdo his predecessors -- including the nation's first African-American president -- on a surprising issue. Trump will sign an executive order as early as Monday, when the schools' presidents arrive in Washington for a visit. It's expected to significantly strengthen the office that pushes the federal government to do business with the colleges by moving it to the White House and providing it specific goals, according to those who are helping to write the document. The potential is huge. Federal agencies have thousands of contracts with colleges, universities and think tanks worth billions of dollars, primarily for research that includes studying everything from cancer to poverty.
Shift tax burden or delay cuts
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "The Tax Foundation expert legislative leaders brought in last fall to advise them on tax reform recommended a shift in the state's tax burden -- away from corporate and individual income taxes to user-based taxes. The key word is 'shift.' User-based taxes -- gas taxes, sales taxes, use taxes, etc. -- are already on the books in Mississippi. The tax expert called for these taxes to be expanded and corporate and income taxes reduced. The Legislature has begun the shift away from corporate and individual income taxes with cuts that will begin phasing in next year. What has not happened, yet, is any shift of taxes on to users."
Mississippi should invest in what's already working
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "Mississippi is a natural for specialized tourism. We know about the place; others are very curious. We see cotton fields and wild rivers and antebellum homes and flights of waterfowl pretty regularly. Others don't. People will travel here to learn Civil Rights history just as much as Civil War history. They'll follow a trail of the heroes who changed America just as they follow the trail of those who gave birth to America's music. The natural world -- ecotourism -- is largely untapped. Music. The arts. Literature. These assets are here. Positive steps are being taken toward more trails, more museums, more festivals. From the top of the state to the bottom and from west to east, there are new attractions. But think about the financial gain from a superbly coordinated, well-funded statewide campaign to promote tourism. The effect would immediate and profound. Instead, budgets for promoting the tourism are being cut, and the Mississippi Arts Commission barely escaped becoming absorbed into another agency, where it would likely be forgotten."
They keep cutting taxes, but revenue still falls short
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "There's an old carpentry joke that goes something like this: 'I've cut this board three times now, and it's still too short.' I thought about that last week, as Gov. Phil Bryant was forced to make the fifth round of emergency, mid-year budget cuts in 14 months. As he was cutting the budget because of continued revenue shortfall, lawmakers continued looking for ways to cut revenue. ...ever hear the phrase death by a thousand cuts? I'll posit it's not the major tax cuts -- the $415 million package that includes the franchise tax doesn't start to kick in until next year -- that are hobbling the state budget. It's the more than 40, and counting, small piecemeal cuts that no one has measured or monitored."
Will Trump's campaign rhetoric on U.S. Navy shipbuilding come true?
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "During the 2016 session last year, the majority of the Republican-led Mississippi Legislature ignored Tea Party protestations and passed a state bond bill that provided $45 million for capital improvements at the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula. Ingalls employs some 11,000 workers and is a bedrock component of South Mississippi's economy. Ingalls was lured to Mississippi in 1938 to locate its shipyard in Pascagoula under Gov. Hugh White's 'Balance Agriculture with Industry' program. The 2016 move drew sharp criticism of state lawmakers and their leadership from critics, who questioned the wisdom of state taxpayers providing $45 million in capital improvements at the Ingalls Pascagoula facility. Critics called the bond bill 'crony capitalism' and said it exemplified 'our state's poorly-executed long-term economic plans, which is evidenced by irrational spending in many of our bond bills, not to mention a lack of reform in our overall business climate.' Fast-forward to the present. How does that investment of capital improvements at Ingalls look in the rear-view mirror?"


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