The 2009 JFP Interview With John Horhn

Photo by Kenya Hudson

John Horhn, 53, recently reclaimed his District 26 Senate for a fifth term, but now he wants to be mayor of Jackson. A self-proclaimed "lifelong resident of Jackson," and a product of Jackson Public Schools, Horhn won the then-newly created Senate seat in 1993. The Democrat now serves as chairman of the Senate Labor Committee—not an easy call in a Senate dominated by Republicans.

Horhn fashions himself as a money-maker for the cash-strapped city of Jackson. He says connections he has developed in the Senate and throughout his career as a revenue generator for state programs make him ideally suited to making ends meet in the city budget.

He also considers himself a deal-maker who is capable of forging ties between the estranged mayor's office and Jackson City Council. The council describes the current administration as secretive and guarded of plans and initiatives, while Mayor Frank Melton commonly treats the council as meddlers interfering with his governing style, and has attempted to remove the council from critical decisions.

Horhn argues that the council and the mayor's office can and should come to an early agreement on a mutual path to follow for improving the city, and says he is willing to do what he can to foster a rapport with the legislative branch.

Tell me about your childhood in Jackson.
I grew up visiting my grandmother at the north end of Farish (Street), and as a young boy we lived in Midtown and Georgetown and the Virden Addition, so I'm familiar with many neighborhoods. What I remember about growing up in these communities is that there was a great flavor and mix of people.

The neighborhoods were integrated?
Well, I grew up on Enoch Street in Georgetown. We lived up the street from whites, and they were still separate societies. But when I refer to the "mix," I'm referring to doctors and lawyers living side-by-side with ditch-diggers and domestic workers. You had role models in your community. There was a hodgepodge of professions and social levels. You had families generally regarded as affluent, and then you had families that I suppose society didn't expect the affluent to have anything to do with living side-by-side with each other.

Which category did you fall into?
I guess I never bothered to classify myself. My people were working-class people. My mother started out as a domestic worker. She was a cook in a public school and eventually became a cafeteria manager. My father was a metal polisher at a manufacturing company. He became the first president of the local union. He and my Mom grew up poor in Holmes County, and they brought us to Jackson when I was 3 years old, to seek a better life.

What did you do after college (at Jackson State and Duke University)?
After college I worked on Farish Street for two or three years with this youth employment program. I got to work up close and personal with high-school dropouts and people with little prospect of a future or life or career. We had several success stories where we could turn lives around, but it was very tough. If you don't have the proper education, it's hard to put the things together that allow you to make a good living.

Then I joined the Mississippi Arts Commission as a program manager and worked with funding arts and cultural organizations that, in this case, were serving minority populations and certain constituencies such as the handicapped. The state government saw my work and asked me to join them to become the funder across the state. We funded everything from the Farish Street Festival to the Blues Festival, the Choctaw Indian Festival, (and) a special arts festival for the handicapped. Then I became the film commissioner for Mississippi, working to bring movies to be filmed on location here. That was from 1985 to 1988. I brought in "Mississippi Masala," "Mississippi Burning," "North and South, Books 1 and 2," "The Miss Fire

"Crossroads"? I loved that movie. Steve Vai whooped ass.
Vai and Ry Cooder did the music in that. After that, Gov. Mabus was elected. and I became an executive director of the governor's office over federal and state programs. Then that agency was disbanded, and he appointed me as state tourism director. I spent about three and a half years doing that. Then (Republican) Gov. (Kirk) Fordice was elected. I couldn't see myself working for him, and he couldn't see me working for him, either. Three months later, a new Senate district had been created, and I found myself running for that.

Do you have any concerns about who will run your district if you leave it?
I have concerns about it, but there's a lot of talent there, and I think it'll be OK. I had 12 years of state government work leading up to the Senate office, so I was able to hit the ground running. It's going to take a special person to hit that same ground running, but, like I said. there's a lot of talent in that district.

Let's speak about the office you're running for. How do you feel about the communication between the council and the mayor's office right now? What are your first impressions when you watch the news?
I feel that the communication between the city council and the mayor's office should be better. Personalities there have a lot to do with that. There's a sense of hopelessness on the part of the council members because it is a strong mayor form of government, and council members don't have a lot of sway over city government. There have been attempts by council members to assert themselves in that process, but not with very much success.

A board of alderman or a city council is statutorily required to attend water board meeting training to serve on a water board, but there's no requirement that they attend certification or any sort of training on the operation or management of local government. So I've got a bill that I'm filing this year requiring any alderman board or city council to go through training that gives you a sense on financing a budget or developing issues as relates to the running of a city or town.

Not to be a paranoid ass, but couldn't they also wind up getting training on how to better circumvent your directives as mayor? Wouldn't you also be building a better chess player.
Heh, well, I don't know about that, but a lot of folks come into these positions without the training that's needed. You have to have better communication from the council.

You're not exclusively blaming the council for the bad communication here, are you?
Well, there's rancor between the council and the mayor, and I think that goes back to the lack of effective communication.

But is it all on the council's side?
Right now, I have an excellent working relationship with all the council members except Mr. (Jeff) Weill. I've never met him. But I have a good working relationship with each and every other member, and I think the mayor has to have those kinds of relationships, too.

Another problem that drives the whole problem is that the city government has no plan. Neither the council nor the mayor's office has come together to offer one in terms of what our priorities and major issues are and how we're going to solve Jackson's problems. So one of the first things we need to do is develop a plan with the direction that everybody is striving for.

Let's look at the Form 1099 issue. Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill recently asked the mayor's office for copies of the city's 1099 forms in order to better gauge how the city is spending its money. The city refused, saying some information on those forms could get the city in legal trouble. What's your take on that?
I'm not aware of who the intended targets are or what the interest is, but it seems to me that there needs to be transparency on who the city is doing business with, who it's hiring and who it's contracting with.

If they redact the problem information on those forms, I couldn't see why it couldn't get sent out.

Let's go to the root of another council/city disagreement. The council addressed this issue early in Melton's term. They discovered that the city attorney, who is paid more than $80,000, also gets a cut on any bond measures she helps put together, even though they have no way of knowing exactly how much participation she puts into each project. That included the school bond issue, didn't it?

Yes, indeed. I think she got an extra $30,000 for her work in that.

What are your thoughts on this?
This is news to me, and if I become mayor I'd like to explore this issue. I understand historically that city attorneys have gotten that kind of consideration, but I don't understand the merit of it and why it makes sense to do that if they're full-time employees. It's almost like they're both contract and full-time employees. My sense is that lawyers set things up for lawyers' sakes in terms of what rules are acceptable.

Regarding lawyers, the council has asked time and again if the Legislature would consider allowing the city of Jackson to have an attorney dedicated to the council. Could you see the value in that?
Could you explain a little more?

In 2007, I believe, the council demanded the city attorney advise them on opposing a measure overtly supported by the mayor. Melton told the attorney to abandon the council, and council members say the attorney and her assistants walked out on the council. This has since fueled council member's desire for their own attorney, one who is independent of the executive branch. Could you see two different sides of the government having their own lawyers?
Well, in state government, they already have that. You have situations where the attorney general winds up suing the government, and it can get dicey that way, but as far as the city council having its own representation, I don't see why that should be a problem. I think the council needs the benefit of the best legal advice it can get. And that's part of the problem, really. A lot of these times council members are shooting in the dark, and with legal clarity, they may not go down the road they had gone down.

We in the Legislature have our attorneys, the executive branch has its attorneys, and I don't see how that could be a problem on the local level.

The mayor might argue that two separate attorneys serving two distinct government branches may bog the system down with needless lawsuits between the two governmental branches.
We have attorneys who are assistant attorneys general for the Department of Finance and Administration, or the assistant attorney general for the Mississippi Development Authority, or the Department of Transportation, and yet, they are all assistant attorneys general. I would have no problem with a legal division of the city of Jackson servicing the council.

Even if it meant they would occasionally cross the priorities of the executive?
Well, if it's crossing the executive's priorities then that means somewhere down the line somebody miscommunicated and that somewhere down the line a plan never came together between the two government branches. That goes back to everybody setting a common agenda for the city.

The city has a Washington lobbyist who earns almost $90,000 a year pushing the city's agenda in D.C. Is that money well-spent?
The money that the city spends on this Washington lobbyist is well-spent. You have to have someone who knows the ropes in Washington, D.C. You cannot, as a mayor or city council member, be effective in Washington without having any knowledge of what's going on up there. I worked in the governor's office for federal and state programs. I know what it takes to go up to D.C. and try to get money out of federal agencies, but I also know you need someone who knows the lay of the land who already has boots on the ground, looking out for your interests.

Keep in mind, he costs good money. Some people would say that that's at least three cops' wages.
Yes, but in order to get several million dollars to pay for those cops' wages by virtue of having that guy there, then that's obviously money well spent.

How did you feel about the council's decision to allay property taxes for some downtown development, such as the Pinnacle? Was that a good investment?
We've basically got two things we can offer (new businesses): an ad valorem exemption and tax increment financing. We don't have enough tools in our arsenal to sweeten the pot to attract businesses here. We've got situations up at Highland Parkway where they're offering cash incentives; they're able to defer payments on your grant in order to get new tenants. Imagine a cash payment to supplement your building or moving expenses. We just don't have that kind of loose change.

We need revenue for economic development but also to cover the cost of infrastructure.

What do you suggest?
It's no easy matter if you're broke. Focusing on what we're giving this company versus that company, we've got to have a plan, a shared vision, and get as many folks lined up in support of that vision and plan to roll it out. It may be that the business community, which already has an interest here, may want to put up some sort of seed fund or development fund that can complement what else we're doing. The Chamber of Commerce might be able to offer some other kinds of incentives to round out what the city can't afford to do.

Other cities do that. The community partnership in Tupelo has the wherewithal, in terms of their rules and regulations, but also in terms of their ability to provide folks with financial incentives to come and do business in Lee County, because they've got the daily news up there, which is owned by the community partnership, so the revenue from the community newspaper is piled back into the community in terms of economic and community development.

Think The Clarion-Ledger would be open to the idea?
Maybe the Jackson Free Press would be open to the idea.

Not really sure if the owners are quite ready to sell, yet. We just finished decorating (new reporter) Ward's office. We have a Jackson Chamber of Commerce to help with these things now, don't we?
We just formed a Jackson Chamber of Commerce within the last year or year and a half. Socrates Garrett is the head of that, and I think David Pharr is the incoming chairman.

Was it a good idea to separate the Jackson Chamber from the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership?
One of the best. Other communities who are members of the metro partnership also benefit from their own private chambers. There's the Rankin County Chamber, the Madison Foundation, the Ridgeland Chamber of Commerce, which deal with things specific to their areas. The metro partnership is such that Jackson gets the short end of the stick in terms of attention and focus. The biggest issue we have in the metro area is other communities coming in and stealing business from Jackson, luring them away with incentives and new construction. What we've got to get them to see is that it's not helping the area out when you move business from one jurisdiction into the other when you're all part of the same economic stream. What's the point in taking a business out of Jackson to go to Ridgeland? There's no new money to be made from that. We need to be competing with places like Nashville, Memphis or Birmingham, as opposed to competing with our neighbor right down the road.

I'm sure communities like Madison and Ridgeland envision themselves being the center of the area's business development.
That's not a reasonable thing to think. Jackson is the capital city. It is the largest city, and people who travel here from out of state don't say, "I'm going to Flowood." They say, "I'm headed to Jackson." Anyone looking to do business here, to come here to visit or live is thinking "Jackson," and the sooner we all understand that, the stronger we will be. We have some strong communities that have grown up around Jackson, strictly by virtue of their proximity to Jackson. If we're not careful, we're going to have a hole right in the center of all this prosperity.

Some people in the outlying areas probably think they're fine living and working on the edge of a big 'ol rotting donut.
Does that really sound appealing to you?

Not to me personally. I work at a place with the word "Jackson" in its name. But do you think we've already reached that point?
No, I'm not that cynical about Jackson. I'm very optimistic. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if I thought the situation was hopeless. The thing with Jackson is that we've got to get better leadership, which brings about better collaboration. That's one of my strong points—my selling points. I've been able to form coalitions and collaborations and partnerships throughout my years as a public servant and a state employee. These aren't things that I have to go out and invent. I already have these relationships. I had them in state government, in the MDA and the Mississippi Department of Transportation, and this city really needs those agencies in order to do some things. I just don't understand, for instance, why the city's not talking more with the State Department of Health, or with the Mississippi Department of Human Services, because there are a lot of social issues that affect our residents' health that we're not addressing at the state level in effective ways.

You think good conversation can fix this?
It's not just conversation. You've got to communicate. In terms of relationships, no one knows the federal/state programs like I do. I have an excellent working relationship with Congressman (Bennie) Thompson; I have an excellent working relationship with (Sen.) Thad Cochran and Sen. (Roger) Wicker. I have working relationships with the business community. Partnerships like these will solve the problems of Jackson.

What's your plan to address the degradation of the city's neighborhoods?
There's a lot of emphasis on downtown Jackson. That's good. It's great to create a downtown Jackson as a destination spot, but where this city will be either won or lost, sink or swim, is in the stabilization of our neighborhoods. That's where we have the problems in housing. That's where we have the problem in not having commercial and retail activity, and the ability to create jobs. It's the Shady Oaks of the world, the Washington Additions. If we cannot turn those neighborhoods back around and make them viable places to live and work then we have a bleak future ahead of us in Jackson. What happens in Subdivision No. 2 has an impact on a Jackson country club. What happens in Eastover has an impact in Georgetown.

A lot of people attribute the decay in those areas to rental housing. They say rental populations are mobile, they put down few roots, they have no reason to respect a house they don't own because it's not their investment, and then they make a mess and pack up and move.
That's a problem with accountability. We need to make a decision that we're going to be more accountable as citizens to get this city into the position it needs to be in. We need our elected officials to be more accountable. We need city workers and our workers in the school system to be more accountable; we need parents to be more accountable. It's all about accountability. If we don't have that, any amount of renters or homeowners we get isn't going to matter.

What's a mayor going to do to change the state of mind of a private individual? How is some guy you may not have even voted for going to teach you to respect your neighborhood if you don't already?
I think that someone's got to set the tone for Jackson believing in itself. I believe in this city. We've got to start feeling that we can achieve whatever we want to achieve. Oklahoma City, prior to the Oklahoma City bombing, was in dire straits. They were losing industry right and left, and they were really in the doldrums. And no one locally believed in the city.

But the local leaders got together and said, "By God, we've got to turn this place around." The precipitous moment when they discovered this was when they got turned down for a project that they thought they absolutely had to have or they were going to go down the tubes. But they didn't get it. Well, they could have plunged even further in the doldrums, but what it became was a rallying cry to turn their attitude around. One person cannot do that alone, but collectively we can to it.

What's your take on the city's growing Hispanic population? Some of the new occupants are undocumented workers, but they pay rent and spend money locally. If you could, would you endorse policies to encourage more immigration regardless of work status or do what you could to discourage it?
We have a lot of Hispanics coming into the community, but what I need to do, and what I've not done yet, is get a sense of where they live and what their status is. There are a lot of Hispanics who are opening up restaurants, who are adding to the economy, who are working hard and try to make a better life for themselves and their family. They are perfect examples of what it means to be an American. We are a nation of immigrants and we should be as welcoming to our new neighbors as possible.

Have you noticed the number of immigrants doing construction and labor around the city? What goes through your mind when you see such a large number of immigrants employed in manual labor?
I'm not as concerned about them allegedly taking jobs from other Jacksonians. That may be a reality in other parts of the country, but here we just need to work on how to find a way to get them involved in social and civic affairs to allow them to become full-fledged citizens. The work ethic that many immigrants have is admirable, and I'm not aware of any local jobs that are getting lost to citizens. If the jobs exist, the local citizens are certainly free to pursue them for themselves.

Yeah, but talk radio is all over the issue.
That's basically fear-mongering and subtle racism that's associated with the advent of Hispanics in this country that we need to stop. I'm not sure that the groups that shout the loudest over new Latinos would have the same attitude over Eastern European workers who come here, the J-1 workers who go to the Beau Rivage to work a few months.

How much time do you think a good mayor would reasonably need to turn crime around in a city this size, with this budget?
The situation with crime is a very complicated one. First of all, there are crimes of economy and crimes of passion. To be able to stem the increase of domestic crimes will require a long-term solution that we'll all have to look for. The crimes of economy have to do with the perpetrators not having proper training or education, so they wind up going after somebody else's possessions. Crime figures tend to go up with a drop in the economy. We need to go back to community policing. One of the best ways is to have officers in those neighborhoods being very visible, on foot or on bicycle or otherwise, and we need to think about how we can improve the response time by establishing more substations in neighborhoods with high crime rates.

Speaking on community policing, we once had a collection of city employees—the Crime Prevention Unit—who attended neighborhood-watch meetings and local schools, taking questions and offering crime prevention tips to residents.
I don't understand why that unit was disbanded (by Melton), because they were making a difference in terms of getting the neighborhoods more involved in policing themselves, getting citizens more involved with National Night Out, and having more community meetings and developing better relationships with police officers. My understanding is that the disbanding occurred as a result of personality clashes between some members of the unit and the city administration. ... [T]he crime prevention unit was money well spent.

Who would you advocate as police chief? Would you keep Sheriff Malcolm McMillin as chief?
I'm still gathering information on that. I'm not at the point where I want to say, "Yes, I would keep the chief/sheriff," or "No, I would not." I think he enjoys a good amount of popularity in Hinds County and Jackson, but I also believe there are issues that need to be addressed that speak to morale and resources, which may not be the chief's own doing. But the fact of the matter is we do have a rise in major crime. I reserve the right to say that everything's on the table at this point.

You must have some vision on what a police chief needs to be. What kind of personality are you looking for?
I believe we need a strong leader who can motivate the sworn officers and who has some vision on how the department can be restructured to be more efficient and do a better job. And we need someone who's creative in terms of how we can identify resources.

Can a chief also double as sheriff, or does the police-chief job need to be a full-time thing?
I would like to better study the current arrangement. It's an awesome responsibility to have one man in charge of that much.

Do you know whether or not he even wants to stay on as police chief? Have you spoken to him?
I spoke to him around the time of the Fuelman (city employee gas theft) issue and the missing cars. He was a little distracted.

Neighborhood associations have requested that the city police department hold weekly meetings to explain what crimes are happening in what areas, so neighborhood associations can be better informed. Would you demand that of the police chief working for you?
I think it is of the utmost importance. In order to solve problems, you've got to know what the problem is, and it's every citizen's and neighborhood association's right to know what's going on in the neighborhood. So we will be very forthcoming about the information, what crimes are being perpetrated, and whether or not there's an organized wave or trend of criminal activity, so we can work on prevention.

The last administration learned that putting those numbers out there cast a bad light on the administration. They showed everyone that the crime figures were creeping upward. Could you handle that kind of embarrassment in the short term?
I'm already convinced that in the short term we're going to see the crime figures either go up or stay the same because of the economy and because of a sense of invulnerability on the part of perpetrators. They feel that they can get away with anything because if they're caught they won't be punished to the extent of the law, and they'll be back on the streets after a short time. We need to change that attitude so that people know that if they commit a crime, they'll be caught and dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.

Not and easy goal to set for yourself, considering how little of that has to do with the mayor's office.
The district attorney's office (and) the judicial system all have to become partners in making sure that we can make it less desirable to commit a crime in Hinds County and the city of Jackson.

Let's look at what a mayor can do. The issue of hiring more cops comes up over and over again. Residents say we need them. City accountants say we can't afford them. How would you pay for more cops?
To have an effective police force, we need about 250 additional police officers, and I believe there is federal support out there to hire those police officers. The city obviously is not doing a very good job at grants management. I've been executive director of the governor's office of federal and state programs under Mabus, so I've got experience going to Washington and procuring funds from the federal government. We need a good administrator of the grants, and we have to have grant writers to identify the opportunities for funding and secure them through proposal writing.

Do we need to pay them a salary or base their pay on how much they bring in? Believe it or not, this question has come up recently.
I think we need full-time grant writers. We might contract with some consultants on occasion for their specialties in certain areas, such as housing or public safety, but I think that we need to manage our own house in terms of keeping track of grants and administering them properly.

Here's a popular question: Any ideas on how to handle the city's growing pothole problem?
I'd like to look at where in the budget there is an opportunity to save money. One of the first orders of business is to see how we're spending what money the city is collecting. The other thing is there are federal funds geared especially for infrastructure repair. The Obama administration is coming out with a stimulus package that will be available to handle street repair in addition to water/sewer improvements.

Got him on speed dial, do you?
We sure need him on speed dial. The city's needs are tremendous. We need $70 million just to get us where we need to go in repairs and avoid further degradation and $10 million in annual management once we get the improvement done. Then we have about $340 million in water/sewer needs to meet the guidelines of the EPA and DEQ. As far as infrastructure is concerned, we have a lot of opportunity with this new administration that wants to support more infrastructure repair. We just have to make sure that Jackson is at the table to take advantage of some of that money.

A lot of the road money coming down as of today would be under the control of the Mississippi Department of Transportation in the form of a block grant without any earmarks. I have a very good relationship with Butch Brown, the executive director of MDOT and with Highway Commissioner Dick Hall. Hall and I served in the Senate together, and I would like to think they would have a strong interest in helping the city of Jackson.

You had spoken on the possibility of money from the state. Could you elaborate on that?
We've already received $3 million, and we're about to get an additional $11 million for the neighborhood stabilization program from HUD, flowing through MDA (Mississippi Development Authority). This money is intended to help communities with a high foreclosure rate. It's meant to fund the returning of dilapidated housing to the housing stock. We're waiting for HUD to approve the state plan. After that, MDA will select from the applications that have already been submitted to it from various non-profits who will actually administer the program in Jackson. There's a $43 million pot that comes to the state, and Jackson gets $11 million of that. This is a formula based on the number of foreclosures in the city of Jackson.

About those non-profits: You'd address the high occurrence of non-taxable property in the city, much of that occupied by non-profits and government offices?
My plan is to ask the Legislature to approve to rebate back to the city a higher amount of sales tax. Every municipality currently gets 18 percent. I would propose the state rebate an additional 1.5 percent, which would generate just under $3 million a year. That money would be used for things like public safety and infrastructure.

I would also like the state to give a one-time allocation to the city of Jackson, to allow us a bond operation to improve Medgar Evers (Boulevard), portions of Woodrow Wilson (Drive) and portions of State Street. Those were once state roads, and they were on the state system. I propose to turn them back over to the state. But to return it back to the state, they have to meet state standards.

You've been a senator for a long time, and this kind of money has never come down. Both the House and Senate are filled with people who really don't care much about Jackson. If you couldn't convince them as a senator, how could you do it when you're no longer a member of their team?
It's a hard sell, but there is a growing sentiment in the Legislature that something needs to be done to help the Capital City. The Senate leadership and the House leadership have expressed that notion. Members are starting to appreciate the city and are wanting to make sure it's the best Capital City it can be.

In the state of Mississippi the right to raise taxes is reserved for the Legislature, and the Legislature has jealously guarded that for years. So to be able to get the 1-cent sales-tax increase approved requires us jumping through a lot of hoops. It has to clear two committees in each chamber and the two chambers themselves.

The proposal supported by the Jackson City Council this year is to do an increase on retail items excluding groceries, prescription drugs, and hotel or restaurant prices. If we can do that, we can raise an additional $22.5 million for the city. But I don't believe in taxing people against their will. I think we need a referendum where 60 percent of voting citizens could either approve or reject this tax.

You're not increasing my confidence in the survival of the 1-cent tax there.
The selling point is the purpose of the tax. It will be used exclusively for public safety and infrastructure. We've got to come up with a way to fix these bad streets and deal with some of these water/sewer issues, and make sure the fire department and police departments are given the proper training and manpower to do their job.

As mayor, you'll be expected to nominate someone to replace Jackson Public Schools board member Jonathan Larkin with somebody else or to re-nominate him for another term. What's your opinion of Larkin's work on the board?
I don't have a strong opinion either way. I think he's done an admirable job given what they've got to work with. I think all the members of the school board have. Whoever is the next mayor has the opportunity to shape the board, because by summer of next year there will be at least three positions that will be up for replacement or re-nomination. That's a majority of the board. What I'm looking for is a school system that will be a credit and an asset to our city, where it is safe and attractive for people to work and learn.

You cannot have a high quality of life if you don't have a high standard of public education. We'll have to challenge ourselves to reinvent the school system. It's adequate, but it needs to be great.

The board's been looking into the idea of bringing corporal punishment back to the school system. Do you favor that?
I served on a committee established by former JPS Superintendent Dr. Earl Watkins to explore the effectiveness of corporal punishment. This was around the same time he announced that he would not be seeking to renew his contract with the district. Personally, I feel we don't need to be looking at corporal punishment to establish order.

When I was covering the Legislature a few years ago, I recall you opposed the cigarette–grocery tax swap. One of your opponents for the Senate seat in 2007 brought up the fact that you received a $1,000 donation from a tobacco company in 2006. Was there any connection between that money and your lack of support for the cigarette tax?
There's absolutely no connection to that. That grocery tax was a project developed by then-Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck to create a legacy for herself, I believe, in hopes that it would help her to seek higher office. The plan was not well-conceived. It wasn't well thought out and was shoved down the throats of both House and Senate members.

There was not a lot of discussion about the plan, and although it sounded good, you saw that this swap of tobacco tax for grocery tax might have had a negative impact on municipalities around the state as well as public-education funds. Then there was the matter of the shrinking revenue generated as more and more people quit smoking because of the tax, so we would be replacing a stable revenue, that is the grocery tax, with a shrinking revenue in cigarette taxes. It made sense that we needed a more thorough approach to reduce grocery tax.

How have you responded to calls to increase the tobacco tax since then?
I have voted to increase the tobacco tax as a means to increase funding for Medicaid. I have nothing against the tobacco tax, so long as it doesn't cut funding for municipalities and schools.

How are you voting regarding the House's $1 tax increase on cigarettes this session?
I would support it if given a chance to vote on it. No question about it.

Previous Comments

ID
143142
Comment
You can pretty much lock it and load it: Senator Horhn is my candidate for the mayoral seat. Though I'm not saying I won't change my mind, but I need for other candidates to show me more. Plus, this city needs a working relationship with the state legislature and with his connections there, perhaps there will be more of a willingness from the state to help Jackson move forward.
Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-01-29T22:55:42-06:00
ID
143144
Comment
Great interviewing skills Adam. Just one question. John Horn is listed in this article as attending Jackson State University and Duke University. What was his area of study at these Universities and was a degree earned at Duke? Just asking.
Author
justjess
Date
2009-01-30T10:22:32-06:00
ID
143146
Comment
justjess, go to John Horhn's Web site for more info. He graduated from the Jackson Public School System (Callaway High School), received his B.A. from Centre College of Kentucky where he has served on the Board of Trustees and been named as Alumnus of the Year . He has done further study at Jackson State University in Community Leadership Development and is a graduate of the Governors’ Center in strategic planning at Duke University.
Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2009-01-30T11:49:40-06:00
ID
143147
Comment
Looks like Adam left out the Kentucky college. I'll yell at him when he gets back in town. ;-)
Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-01-30T12:30:20-06:00
ID
143151
Comment
Aw, come on Donna. Even the best of us goof up every now and then. LOL
Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2009-01-30T14:51:24-06:00
ID
143157
Comment
Thanks L.W. and Ladd. The way the educational information was given led one to believe that he received a Master's degree from Duke rather than to have received a Govornor's School that is very similar to our Stennis School. Centre College of Kentucky is an online program. This is all good; however, when we are looking at candidates, we just need to be sure that we are doing what JFP is so good at: DRAGNET.
Author
justjess
Date
2009-01-30T15:13:17-06:00
ID
143158
Comment
Are you sure about Centre College of Kentucky being an online degree? The Wikipedia entry is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centre_College
Author
Jennifer2
Date
2009-01-30T15:52:45-06:00
ID
143161
Comment
The current President of U. of Georgia was a former prez at Centre. He was revered at Centre for his ability to raise ungodly gobs of money for the school. Centre is a "real" college.
Author
Bulbs
Date
2009-01-30T16:17:13-06:00
ID
143164
Comment
Lady Havoc is from Centre College's hometown. I'm sure she could confirm it's a real brick-and-mortar school. Anyhow, it was a really good interview and I can't emphasize enough how much I'm drinking the John Horhn Kool-Aid.
Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-01-30T19:28:44-06:00
ID
143166
Comment
Another John Horhn Kool-Aid drinker here. He's been my favorite candidate for a long time--months before I had any idea he would actually be interested in running. Re Centre College: It's a small Presbyterian college founded in 1819. It may offer some online programs (so do Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, etc.), but it's regionally accredited and is primarily known as a brick and mortar school.
Author
Tom Head
Date
2009-01-30T22:04:14-06:00
ID
143170
Comment
Centre College is in the same athletic conference at Millsaps, Sewanee, Trinity, Rhodes, etc. http://scacsports.com/landing/index That is pretty good company to keep.
Author
MAllen
Date
2009-01-31T16:52:43-06:00
ID
143171
Comment
Just to add insult to injury, Jess... :) I've been to Danville, so I can confirm it's a real college. Brick and Mortarboards, so to speak. It's a nice little town even. I don't know where you got the "It's an online degree" from. As for Horhn, has he got the guts to tell the people and power structures in Jackson the truth?
Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-01-31T16:58:16-06:00
ID
143172
Comment
According to wikipedia, Centre College was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as 44th in the category of Top Liberal Arts Colleges. Millsaps was ranked no. 81.
Author
Jennifer2
Date
2009-01-31T17:22:26-06:00
ID
143175
Comment
I was born and raised in Danville, KY. In the summer of 1981, I spent three weeks in a dorm at Centre College as part of the Senior Scholars program, which was the predecessor to the Governor's Scholars program. Ate in the cafeteria: glued napkins together with pancake syrup: spent gobs of time in the library or in front of the library. The college is harder than heck to get in, too. Even with my grades in high school, I couldn't do it. My high school english teacher graduated from there in the 1950's, long before the Internet came along. It's located on Main Street, between Fifth and Maple. It's a rather large campus. Centre College was the host of the 2000 Vice Presidential debate, which brought a large sense of pride to my little hometown. I don't think a school could be any more real. :)
Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2009-01-31T19:38:12-06:00
ID
143178
Comment
Just as I thought I was solidly behind John Horhn for mayor, former mayor Harvey Johnson is running for his old seat. Johnson, though as slow and methodical as he was, was a good mayor and I think Jackson is realizing that now that the Melton administration has been a disaster. I wouldn't mind seeing Johnson back in office.
Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-01-31T22:45:43-06:00
ID
143179
Comment
I'm a Horhn supporter, but I _like_ Harvey's emphasis on "I've learned from my mistakes." That's exactly where he needs to come from. He could be triumphalist--with a "You rejected me once, and look at what you got" attitude--but he's being very humble. That bodes well for him.
Author
Tom Head
Date
2009-01-31T23:01:32-06:00
ID
143180
Comment
Hopefully this time, Johnson will get a fairer shake from the media. He may not have been the quickest-acting mayor Jackson ever had, but we're starting to see the fruits of his labor with downtown redevelopment. He also presided over the city at a time when the crime rate was going down. Yet, the media (minus JFP, of course) made it seem as if Jackson was a virtual prison in which the criminals were running the show and that residents were scared to stick their big toe out of the door. Also, streets were being repaved, if it wasn't going at the rate in which we hoped. Sometimes, being slow and methodical is the best way to go. At least, it gives you time to carefully think things out rather being so quick and brash and not thinking if what's being proposed does more harm than good.
Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-01-31T23:21:44-06:00
ID
143181
Comment
Right. I think we're VERY lucky with the crop of candidates we've got this year so far--it looks like it'll probably be either Johnson (Harvey or Robert), Horhn, or Crisler. All are qualified, unlike Melton, and all seem to be very sane and levelheaded. I'm optimistic...
Author
Tom Head
Date
2009-01-31T23:24:36-06:00
ID
143182
Comment
There's a difference between "slow and methodical" and "Glacial and Indifferent". Harvey was the latter to the extreme.
Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-01-31T23:46:20-06:00
ID
143183
Comment
I think we're VERY lucky with the crop of candidates we've got this year so far--it looks like it'll probably be either Johnson (Harvey or Robert), Horhn, or Crisler. All are qualified, unlike Melton, and all seem to be very sane and levelheaded. I'm optimistic... If I were Melton, I wouldn't run again. It doesn't bode well for an incumbent candidate to have so many other candidates running against him, especially with as many heavyweights like the two Johnsons, Horhn and Crisler all running. I do believe the Democratic primary will come down to a runoff and my gut feeling is that Melton will not come close to making it into a runoff. I see 4th place at best.
Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-02-01T00:48:10-06:00
ID
143184
Comment
Agreed on both counts. No way this doesn't come down to a runoff, and no way Melton will be part of that runoff. But assuming he's (a) still ambulatory and (b) not in prison by the time the next elections come around, I think it's almost certain he'll run. I mean, this is a guy who thought he could override a city council no-vote and implement legislative changes through executive order. Wherever his head is at, it isn't in a place where he would necessarily be able to recognize that he's not going to win.
Author
Tom Head
Date
2009-02-01T01:32:54-06:00
ID
143185
Comment
I was looking at hohrn but since Harvey is back in it ill be voting for him. Harvey 09!!!
Author
NewJackson
Date
2009-02-01T13:46:13-06:00
ID
143193
Comment
I was at the Convention Center on Sat. for the Harvey Johnson announcement. It was really a very spirited group with a great band called The Patric Harkins Group. I think that the owner/manager is Patric Harkins who owns the Fondren Guitar Shop. Johnson gave a great "Back on Track" speech and the humble man he really is was as evident as anyone could expect. The Clarion Ledger carried a small blurb in their paper. I don't know what is wrong with those cats over at the CL because they estimated the attendance to be around "100". Leave it to the Ledger with their personal mission to discredit and destroy. They really did a great job of giving misleading/erroneous information during the last Mayoral election.
Author
justjess
Date
2009-02-02T11:08:19-06:00
ID
143198
Comment
I supported Harvey Johnson in his re-election bid against Melton, however I'm solidly on board with Horhn. I'm anticipating new vision, new blood, new directions.... We desparately need a new vision if we are going to overcome the disasters of Melton. Let's invite some new people to the table and consider some new ideas, and though I like Johnson, I personally don't think he can offer enough of a new direction for the city as it relates to economics, housing and education. Having said that, practically anyone running would be better than what we have now.
Author
lanier77
Date
2009-02-02T12:54:02-06:00
ID
143235
Comment
All, note that I have posted links to city candidate pages over on Jackpedia. So go over and help us build the pages (but no hanky-panky with candidates you don't like). We will be linking to the Jackpedia pages, once they're beefed up, on future articles and blog posts, so any help you can give is greatly appreciated!
Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-02-03T14:37:29-06:00

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