BREAKING: 'Two Lakes' Developer McGowan Gave $6,000 to Secretive PAC | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

BREAKING: 'Two Lakes' Developer McGowan Gave $6,000 to Secretive PAC

Othor Cain just got the long-overdue finance report for the Better Jackson PAC from the Jackson City Clerk. The report (PDF) shows the largest contributor to the PAC, which filed no campaign reports until today, is Two Lakes impresario John McGowan. McGowan, who would financially benefit from the Two Lakes plan to develop the Pearl River waterfront, gave a whopping $6,000 to the PAC that has been pushing crime hysteria in order to get Marshand Crisler elected. Crisler has come out for the controversial Two Lakes project, saying no further study is needed and that he is ready to "pull the trigger." When asked by the Jackson Free Press at the mayoral debate last week what he would do to vet the project before pursuing it, he said no further study was needed.

The $6,000 donation, in effect, makes McGowan one of Crisler's largest campaign contributors.

The report, which City Clerk Brenda Pree received today at 2:49 p.m., according to its date stamp—four hours before the polls close in violation of state law—lists Wilson Carroll as the director and Belmont Trapp as the treasurer. An organization report faxed late yesterday to the city clerk only listed Trapp as the director and treasurer, although Carroll had said Friday that he is the treasurer. This report's cover sheet is dated May 18, although it was not filed until this afternoon.

The report shows that most of the donations, including McGowan's $6,000, were made previous to the May 5 primary. State law requires that all political action committees file a report previous to the primary listing all donations and disbursements. The Better Jackson PAC apparently did not do so.

The belated donor report also lists William R. James of Pruett Oil; attorney John Piggot; James H. Creekmore of Celluar South; Fenian's Pub; C. Victor Walsh III, J.E. Roberts Jr. and Crymes G. Pittman of Pittman, Germany and Welsh Law Firm as donors. In addition, W.E. Walker Jr; Ann and Ricky J. Calhoun, Business Park LLC, William Lamar and Richard and Kristin Miller donated to the PAC—most on April 23. The report lists payments to the Northside Sun for $2,108.91 for advertising; $10,173.39 and $4,297.13 to Winning Edge Communications in Alexandria, Ala., for direct mail, and $1641.83 to the Hederman Group for printing. The only dated disbursement is the one to Hederman on May 7.

William James and Ricky Calhoun are part of Pruett Oil, according to other campaign finance reports filed in the past. Several of the donors are connected to the Pruett family, whom McGowan calls "dear friends."

It does not list payments for the robocalls and radio advertising that David Sanders of the Northside Sun says the PAC ran as well. The reporting period is listed as April 25 through May 9.

The report also does not list additional PAC members, including Sanders.

CORRECTION Appended: McGowan is not in business with Pruett Oil, he says, but they are "dear friends." This is corrected in the above story.

Previous Comments

ID
147773
Comment

This is unbelievable, except that it's not. They're trying to play the whole city and using fear to get high-priced lakefront property. Aaaaaaaa!!!

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T15:01:59-06:00
ID
147776
Comment

The only fearmongering that is happening is in the Johnson Free Press.

Author
QB
Date
2009-05-19T15:26:10-06:00
ID
147777
Comment

PS, a whopping $6,000.00 for "high-priced lakefront property"? You would think such a nefarious scheme by evil developers would cost more than six grand.

Author
QB
Date
2009-05-19T15:27:14-06:00
ID
147778
Comment

You call it fearmongering, Fat Harry; we call it transparency. If this PAC had been open and filed its reports, and then used the money to push Crisler/Two Lakes, it all sure would seem more up and up, eh? But we get misleading crime sensationalism and "taking a bullet" from people who want pricey lakefront property. And who knows what they received/spent over the last week? This report ended on May 9. Which, under the law it should not. They must report it all before Election Day. Except that's today. Oops.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T15:31:00-06:00
ID
147779
Comment

I do understand why now, though, they didn't want to reveal the donors. We've been talking about Crisler's undying support of Two Lakes for weeks now as a big deal, and come to find out the Better Jackson PAC is mostly funded by McGowan and associates. You can't make this stuff up.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T15:33:10-06:00
ID
147780
Comment

I guess Jackson's cheap. I mean, it could be all this easy. On the other hand, if that's what he's up to he's not guaranteed all this money will translate into a better climate for his nefarious schemes.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-05-19T15:37:24-06:00
ID
147782
Comment

No, but McGowan's is nothing if not determined. His people has asked to meet with us Wednesday to try to pitch us again on supporting Two Lakes. Most media don't question him on it; I'm sure he doesn't want us to, either. But we're us. We ask questions that others don't, or won't.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T15:39:41-06:00
ID
147785
Comment

Here's where a lot of the PAC money went to: http://winningedgellc.com/about.php Is there no direct-mail firm in town?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T16:15:14-06:00
ID
147787
Comment

Gee Fat Harry, I bet if the tables were turned and this information worked in favor of your candidate, and I personally don't know who that is, your comments would probably be very different. Just a human nature observation.

Author
jacksonmissmom
Date
2009-05-19T16:16:20-06:00
ID
147788
Comment

After following all the stories that have been run lately on the election, I can't help but wonder if Mr. Crisler wants to be the mayor of Jackson and sees all the potential here why has he chose to go outside of Jackson to spend his money? If he brought in a crew from out of town to shoot his commercial (which kept him from the city business of electing an acting mayor) he has done an injustice to the very people he wants to represent in denying them the opportunity to work. I know the city is full of talent!

Author
jacksonmissmom
Date
2009-05-19T16:20:37-06:00
ID
147789
Comment

it looks like Winning Edge has a satellite office in downtown Jackson.

Author
JSL1
Date
2009-05-19T16:23:26-06:00
ID
147790
Comment

John McGowan wants to say something (I typed this into the forum for him...he doesn't do computers-Robert Muller) In public statements, I made a promise to support the candidate for Mayor who would unequivocally support the Two Lakes Plan and did so when Marshand came out for it. Subsequently, I called Harvey Johnson, a friend, to inform him I would be meeting this pledge. I should have contributed directly to Marshand (and later did so) not to a PAC. The Jackson Free Press has reminded me of the duty to always be transparent. This is the first time I have given to a PAC and it will not happen again. Good reporting JFP! John McGowan

Author
John McGowan & Robert Muller
Date
2009-05-19T16:23:35-06:00
ID
147791
Comment

Thanks, Mr. McGowan, and I appreciate the fact that you are now being transparent and forthcoming for your reason for donating to the Better Jackson PAC. Had the PAC actually run ads about Two Lakes, and followed state law with its own reporting, then this wouldn't look so bad. As it is, it looks like Two Lakes people putting up money to run nasty and misleading crime ads. Perhaps you will join our Truth and Transparency Initiative going forward, Mr. McGowan, regardless of what happens with your project?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T16:32:08-06:00
ID
147792
Comment

More info coming in on the Better Jackson PAC's donor list and connections to Mr. McGowan, Pruitt Oil and, thus, Two Lakes: William (Randy) James is married to a Pruitt Oil daughter. Ann Calhoon's maiden name is Pruitt and is Randy's wife's sister. The Pruitt daughters' father was once head of the Republican Party in Arkansas. McGowan, feel free to correct me if any of this is incorrect.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T17:04:27-06:00
ID
147793
Comment

Hanlon's Razor, anyone?

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-05-19T17:15:25-06:00
ID
147796
Comment

According to Wikipedia, "Hanlon's razor is an eponymous adage which reads: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." And then there's the Heinlein variation, which ends with "but don't rule out malice."

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-05-19T18:10:23-06:00
ID
147799
Comment

God Bless you Ronni! Just when I was bemoaning the x-number of hours I have spent over the past few days following the several blogs and various facebook scribblings, you just made it all worthwhile!

Author
pjiv
Date
2009-05-19T18:28:41-06:00
ID
147800
Comment

I heart the Heinlein variation. And I heart Ronni!

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-19T18:31:46-06:00
ID
147803
Comment

Heinlein has his merits, but I like Sir Bernard Ingham's in this context. :)

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-05-19T18:47:08-06:00
ID
147819
Comment

I have a new love and appreciation for JFP. Thank you for allowing me to share my views! I shall return!

Author
GratefulJTE
Date
2009-05-19T22:09:44-06:00
ID
147897
Comment

I commend Mssrs. Muller and McGowan for a) admitting to a mistake and b) willing to become more transparent about things. I mixed feelings myself about Two Lakes and other similar plans. While it could be a great thing for Jackson in terms of economics and to have more things to do here, my main concern is with flooding. Disneyworld could've been built there, but if it doesn't do a thing about flooding, what good is it to build it? Hopefully, the luncheon will shed more light.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-05-20T12:44:19-06:00
ID
147903
Comment

Mr. McGowan is in the JFP classroom right now with Todd and Adam, and has been since noon. I had to duck for a phone meeting. Stay tuned for more detailed coverage of the resurrection of Two Lakes.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-20T13:28:58-06:00
ID
147920
Comment

Two Lakes: Electric Boogaloo?

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-05-20T16:54:11-06:00
ID
147988
Comment

The Northside Sun, which shows undying support for Two Lakes and unwillingness to report anything negative about it, has this editorial today about how the new mayor of Pearl is on their side. Money quotes: With the defeat of Pearl mayor Jimmy Foster by Brad Rogers, John McGowan's Two Lakes plan is now front and center. It's hard to overestimate how important this is to the future of Jackson. The Pearl River levee board is the perfect vehicle for developing Two Lakes as a public-private partnership. Developing Two Lakes privately would be a tough row to hoe. But with the levee board on its side, the path is now clear. This will create huge economic benefits for all three metro counties. The first step is for the board to formally endorse McGowan's Two Lake plan and wash its hands of the warmed-over levee plan called "Lower Lakes." Two Lakes is vastly superior to Lower Lakes. Two Lakes provides 90 percent 100-year flood protection versus 80 percent for Lower Lakes. Two Lakes is estimated to cost $336 million versus $605 million for Lower Lakes. Two Lakes has lake level fluctuations of one foot compared to 20-foot fluctuations of Lower Lakes. Two lakes creates 7,000 acres of prime real estate versus zero acres for Lower Lakes. Please note this the bolded passive about should read: "Two Lakes developer John McGowan estimates that his plan will cost $336 million, much less than opponents say it will cost."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T14:07:09-06:00
ID
148000
Comment

Also, note that Mr. Emmerich did not say in his editorial that the newest Two Lakes plan will require that the government take 15,000 acres of private property–the entire flood plain–with hopes of it being used for private development over the next several decades. More on Two Lakes in next week's issue. Stay tuned.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T14:57:40-06:00
ID
148002
Comment

And this from the Northside Sun editorial: We don't know if Foster's opposition to the popular McGowan plan got him defeated, but it probably didn't help. Sooner or later, democracy has a way of making politicians accountable. This smells like they might have targeted Foster, too, because he opposed Two Lakes.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T15:03:15-06:00
ID
148004
Comment

Ladd/iTodd: is there a computer model on-line to see what a 100 yr old flood does to a current map, and to see where all this private land is located?

Author
GradyGriffin
Date
2009-05-21T15:09:24-06:00
ID
148011
Comment

EatOut: You might be able to get something you'd like from the USGS service guys out on Airport RD. Might be a fee. Or you could get lucky and find the info online. I suspect a map of their planned rape&pillage of the Pearl River Basin around here might come in handy.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-05-21T15:45:38-06:00
ID
148012
Comment

Rape and pillage? It's a freakin' flood control project, first and foremost. The secondary effects are the incredible economic development opportunities.

Author
QB
Date
2009-05-21T15:57:26-06:00
ID
148015
Comment

I wonder what you think of the massive eminent-domain component, Fat Harry? And the part where it becomes a massive government project? Is that cool with you? We have huge maps here in the office. I'll see what else is available. We'll have a big story next issue, so we'll have lots more stuff to look at by then. We're doing the best we can to air out everything possible about this project, being that its supporters such as Emmerich seemed to think everything is now stacked politically in its favor. We will include McGowan's selling points as well as the stuff they don't emphasize at the top of their public presentations. At least know everything you can before you sign on.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T16:22:51-06:00
ID
148016
Comment

And I disagree, Fat Harry. It's clearly a development project first and foremost.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T16:24:20-06:00
ID
148017
Comment

Grady: I don't think there's anything online, although Mr. McGowan brought up a map yesterday that seems to show exactly that. I'll see if we can get an electronic version and perhaps post it...or find it on one of their sites.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2009-05-21T16:25:15-06:00
ID
148018
Comment

Cool about the stuff coming out about it. I am interested to learn more about the pros and cons of the project. It does sound like it could be a great development even if that is what it is first and foremost. I would expect it to be that if a private developer is pushing it. You really wouldn't expect a private company to be that interested in a flood control project unless they were levy contractors or something. What is the main knock against it? The cost? The eminent domain problem? Flooding?

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-05-21T16:31:54-06:00
ID
148019
Comment

BTW, Mr. McGowan called to tell us today that he is not in business with Pruett Oil, but that the family (see above for the other ones connected to Pruett Oil) are "dear friends."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T16:39:51-06:00
ID
148020
Comment

Again, WMartin, we'll have a bigger story next week; I shouldn't take more of it out of context, and let it all unfold then. As I understand it, Mr. McGowan hopes to be the contractor on it, I believe. One thing that he made clear this week is that it is a very different project than it was when he was shopping it the private land owners it would affect, hoping they would pay for it. Only 30 percent of them said yes, he said, forcing him to rethink it. That's how we've ended up with this massive eminent domain component. The whole thing is fascinating, and I do get the feeling that most people who support it know little about the current plan. Hang on: You'll know much more next week.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T16:42:45-06:00
ID
148021
Comment

Ok, ok. I had a feeling you would say that. Keep 'em coming back for more. Right? Tease. ;-)

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-05-21T16:49:38-06:00
ID
148022
Comment

;-) That, and my brain hurts from thinking about Two Lakes this week. It did rather emerge as a litmus test after all, huh? Especially all the things done to stack the support in favor of it. Wacky.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T17:22:08-06:00
ID
148023
Comment

Damn it. I can't get away from this topic. Someone just mentioned the Mississippi Business Journal's page 1 story last week about Two Lakes. I went and read it; it actually is half a page of copy. It is pure advocacy journalism on behalf of Two Lakes (and mentioned that Crisler was in full support). Worse, though, there is no explanation of what the project actually entails, how the costs would work, when the development would come into fruition or a word about the eminent-domain component. No critic is interviewed. We really, really need real business journalism in Mississippi. This story is simply a shame. This paragraph seems mighty prescient now: "Muller said both Pearl and Jackson are soon to get new mayors, which could change the makeup of the Levee Board. He said a decision from the current board would be meaningless. So, he and the plan's backers will bide their time until after the June 2 general elections."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-21T17:34:57-06:00
ID
148032
Comment

[quote]It's a freakin' flood control project, first and foremost. The secondary effects are the incredible economic development opportunities.[/quote] Backwards. It's a residental development with some laughable flood control stuff tacked on. I've got the downloadable maps from the USGS now, and I'd love to see what he's claiming this will do for flood control.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2009-05-21T19:37:32-06:00
ID
148033
Comment

The bottom line figure for the Two Lakes project seems to fluctuate more than the water levels of the Pearl. I understand why Guest Consultants and The Army Corps offer different estimates. I don't understand why John McGowan's supposed own estimates vary. This month, at least three different publications have reported three different estimates from McGowan for The Two Lakes Project. $175 million revised plan - JFP, March 26, 2008 "Closer to $200 million" - Clarion Ledger, May 1, 2009 $200 million - Clarion Ledger, May 9, 2009 $200 million private / $205 million public - JFP, May 6, 2009 $250 million - Northside Sun, three weeks ago $250-$290 million - Northside Sun, two weeks ago $336 million - Northside Sun story, yesterday $336.7 million - Guest Consultants - Clarion Ledger, May 11, 2009 $1.4 billion - Army Corps of Engineers Can someone help identify the reason for the discrepancy?

Author
sny guy
Date
2009-05-21T19:44:37-06:00
ID
148035
Comment

it seems to me that we need to look at all of the costs and benefits. that means the cost/damage of a flood like in 1979 should be factored in, adjusted to today's dollars. what would that be? i've lived in jackson all my life; was lucky enough to avoid the floods, but had friends all over the city who weren't so lucky. it kind of reminds me of katrina. i want flood control, but i don't trust the corps. i don't want a levee system. all you have to do is look at n.o. and see that it is just a disaster waiting to happen. and, we've put billions of govt dollars in that project and it still doesn't work. we need to (1) achieve equitable flood control (including protecting all of jackson) (2) measure the economic cost and personal suffering potential for NOT doing anything (3) consider any positive economic development opportunities that will have a positive impact on jackson and (4) look at adverse environmental issues. This project is just too damn important to say "i got you" because of some stupid maneuvers by some 2-lakes supporters (i.e., PAC stuff). But, please don't ignore the merits of the project and unintentionally punish the beneficiaries (that would be me and other jackson residents) because of their actions. That's just like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you can't support it, then how about coming up with a non-levee flood protection plan of your own that is better than the one that mcgowan has offered?

Author
msnative1943
Date
2009-05-21T21:44:24-06:00
ID
148036
Comment

The Mississippi Business Journal is pro-everything when it comes to business.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-05-21T22:01:52-06:00
ID
148041
Comment

sny guy, This is an incomplete answer to part of your question. LOL. Sorry. But I am still learning about the plan myself. One of the reasons, as I understand it, for the much higher price tag put on the project by the Army Corps of Engineers is that when they considered using the plan themselves they had to adhere to certain corps policies. One of those policies is that every structure had to have 100% protection from a 100 year flood event. While there was significant flood protection over what we have in place today it did not rise to that level of 100% for a 100 year flood. So, consequently, to adhere to those guidelines pumps, levies and other costly items had to be added to the total. Which then pushed the cost out of the feasibility range. At least that is what I gathered from a review of the feasibility study done by the corp from the Two Lakes website.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-05-22T05:36:26-06:00
ID
148046
Comment

Folks, as I understand it, McGowan's current plan relies more more than $100 million from the Corps; thus, they still have to buy in and approve the plan. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. The number McGowan is using now is $336 million, although many people disagree with him that it can be done for that. Our story next week will discuss and break down the various number. I'll leave that to Adam.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T08:22:03-06:00
ID
148047
Comment

I kinna thought ya'll were in favor of advocacy journalism. No, Boyd. Advocacy journalism is taking a position on something and sticking to it without doing the homework first, or despite evidence to the contrary. What we do is try to ascertain all the facts, and then the paper takes a position if we believe it's necessary. That's a long-held tradition for good newspapers. And everyone knows that we are willing to change our minds mid-course as new information arises. (Ask a certain Democratic state senator from Jackson who lose our endorsement due to misleading campaign advertising.) The problem with the Business Journal story is that it was all McGowan's first 10 minutes of talking points. And that's what we're hearing from most Two Lakes supporters. There is a woeful ignorance about the project from many of its supporters! (Heard last night at Tye's more than once: "Eminent domain? Really?") We'll try to fill in the holes for y'all so you can make an educated decision (the role for journalism). If we take a position -- and our position right now on Two Lakes is "healthy skepticism" and "need of unbiased evidence" -- feel free to ignore if it you disagree. But at least everyone should have all the information before deciding to support something this large. The JFP pledges over the next few weeks to tell metro citizens everything we can about Two Lakes and other possible Pearl projects, so people can make a smart decision. Stay with us. And please keep asking questions so we can get them answered.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T08:28:42-06:00
ID
148048
Comment

Donna, eminent domain is an incredibly useful tool for a project like this. Large-scale developments simply aren't feasible when you have ridiculous holdouts who refuse to sell for a reasonable price. Eminent domain is an excellent stick to go along with the carrot of a higher-than-market-value price tag. Also, the Corps will ultimately have to approve this project as flood control is within its jurisdiction and federal money is available to combat flooding in the Pearl River basin. Tell me this, if the Corps gives the project its blessing, would you change your tune?

Author
QB
Date
2009-05-22T08:36:28-06:00
ID
148056
Comment

Robert Muller here.... We try to be as open and transparent as possible (although we have been known to make mistakes!). We will try to answer any question we have an answer for, particularly in regards to the Engineering & Flood Control aspects of the Two Lakes Plan. After 13 years we have heard almost every question imaginable and have a written answer for most of them.

Author
John McGowan & Robert Muller
Date
2009-05-22T09:39:55-06:00
ID
148057
Comment

Robert Muller here, regarding the Cost.... On the cost estimate we provided to the Levee Board on May 11, we made the following statement to explain the differences in the cost: "The $200 million cost estimate previously provided by McGowan was for private construction of the Two Lakes by the landowners along the Pearl River through the Jackson Metro Area. As a public project, several features have been added such as flood control for Richland and a higher lake level for development along Town Creek. This is represented by adding the cost of levees for Richland and a wider and taller lower weir. As a public project, a cost must be included for land acquisition and higher Engineering and Construction Management costs are anticipated. These costs represent the difference between the $200 million McGowan private Two Lakes cost estimate and the cost estimate above." ("above" is the $337 million figure.) The cost is different at different times over the years depending on what you have or don't have in the project (bigger/smaller lower wier, retaining walls near downtown or not, etc) and when it was either public, private or Public/private. This is the whole reason we want to complete the NEPA process with the board. To give everyone a definative document regarding the Two Lakes Project.

Author
John McGowan & Robert Muller
Date
2009-05-22T09:40:43-06:00
ID
148058
Comment

Robert Muller here, regarding the Flood Benefits.... We have voluminous graphs, tables, etc. describing the flood benefits Some of it goes back 12 years but the Flood Benefits have remained the same or improved slightly up to today. All of this can be found on the Two Lakes website www.twolakesms.com On the Overview Tab Click on... FLOOD BENEFITS for Flood Benefits IN DEPTH ANALYSIS for detailed engineering information and answers to questions We are (obviously) regularly creating updated information and will try to post it when available but many times it's so detailed and large that we can't easily put it on the website

Author
John McGowan & Robert Muller
Date
2009-05-22T09:53:17-06:00
ID
148060
Comment

John McGowan, How refreshing that you have chosen to "come out." I am a life-long resident of Jackson and don't want to see another 1979 flood. I don't dislike my friends in Rankin County, but I really have a disdain for any flood control program that has levees that can be avoided and any flood control program that protects Jackson. I have environmental concerns though not as much as the JFP people, though I do think they might be extremists on that issue, not really sure yet. I've been up and down the pearl below the damn (even before there was a damn!). I'm not a scientist, but i really am not overwhelmed with having mosquito breeding swamps and wasteland next door to me for the rest of my life. I think there has to be a careful balance between preserving some of our nature with the inevitable need to develop. And, there is a need. As for economic development, since I'm retired, I've love to see Jackson development that helps my taxes, but mainly one that generates more jobs, more taxes, more public parks and opportunities for young families to move to Jackson. My only concern (other than some modest environmental concerns) is that you and your co-developers that will make a lot of money off this project are transparent enough for the public to know the "real" facts (as my father used to say). If you guys are making a killing, then clearly there is a credibility issue. What's the deal with who makes money off of this and how much?

Author
msnative1943
Date
2009-05-22T10:17:50-06:00
ID
148061
Comment

Tell me this, if the Corps gives the project its blessing, would you change your tune? "Change tune?" What bizarre language. What needs to happen here, as we've said for years, is a full vetting of several alternatives for flood control. People need to understand every detail, and hear from critics who don't have a conflict of interest, in the project before signing on. Right now, many Two Lakes supporters simply do not know what the current plan entails, beyond the basic talking points. We will do everything in our power to get all that information out over the next few weeks. Then, we can decide as a community what makes the most sense because this is a *public* project. It is not up to a small group of developers, or people who try to fund certain candidates who sign on without a full vetting. Those people are welcome at the table, too, but their voices cannot drown out the people who disagree with them. And they won't, especially in the public gets behind the transparency and education effort we are pushing on this project. The big thing is: Do NOT decide until you have all the information, no matter who you are. This project is too big, too costly and too important to be sold with a press release.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T10:19:19-06:00
ID
148063
Comment

Also, the Corps will ultimately have to approve this project as flood control is within its jurisdiction and federal money is available to combat flooding in the Pearl River basin. Some notes: 1.) It seems that the plan has changed rather dramatically now that it's moving from a largely private plan (landowners getting together to assess themselves to float bonds to build it "on the cheap" at $200 million) to a largely public one ($337 million, $133 million from the Corps and roughly 15,000 acres taken by imminent domain and then sold or re-leased to developers). 2.) Clearly the purpose of imminent domain is to allow the government to affect some public good without negotiating directly with every landowner and being held captive to unreasonable demands. However, one thing that citizens need to judge is whether Two Lakes fits the purest definition of a "public good" and whether or not it's the best use of the government's authority. For instance, there's clearly been some backlash this year in the MS Legislature to the notion that you can take land with the intention of turning it around to developers for private gain. Witness the bill the "conservative" Haley Barbour vetoed this session. 3.) The Corps has already approved Comprehensive Levees more than once. Mr. McGowan is of the opinion that the Corps has never in good faith studied the Two Lakes plan but -- be that as it may -- it's also true that no outside authority has ever approved or passed positive judgment on Two Lakes. (At least, not to my knowledge; the Levee Board has not released all studies in its possession.) Tell me this, if the Corps gives the project its blessing, would you change your tune? As for the Corps giving the plan its blessing, that would not be the end-all, but if Two Lakes went through a legitimate (read: inclusive, fair and reasonably apolitical) NEPA process and the final mix of feasibility, accountability, preservation, mitigation, environmental best practices, water quality and public access to the river was acceptable, then I, for one, might find myself a wholehearted advocate -- but only if other options are studied in a fair way as well. I'm not against eco-devo involving the river. I'm for it. 110%. I also believe that eco-devo could be something other than a lake -- it could be a river greenway with parks, trails, transportation, and access to the river for water sports, fishing, etc. That greenway could be considerably cheaper than the Lakes, more feasible within Corp guidelines and may just be the "better practice" from both smart growth and environmental perspectives. As for Two Lakes itself, I'm careful because I don't want Jackson to be sold a bill of goods. Mr. McGowan is an interesting, friendly and intelligent (if rambling ;-) man in person, but he's been playing backroom politics with this plan for over a decade, and I think every so often he hauls out a .38 and slugs himself in the foot. Still, we welcomed him and his PR rep to the JFP for over 2.5 hours because I, personally, want to take in as much data on this deal as I possibly can. There's the possibility that Two Lakes would be the boon that has been suggested, and I like the idea of being known as a guy who makes informed decisions. BUT...If we get through this whole thing and we've clear-cut timber and gutted wetland habitat to build some murky "waterfront" subdivisions, some Lakeland-style strip mall development, and all we see is a bunch of four-wheeler trails on the sand dunes, I'm not going to think it was $300+ million well spent. Jacksonians deserve better -- this thing has got to be done *right*.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2009-05-22T10:59:22-06:00
ID
148067
Comment

Nice post, iTodd. ;-) The only thing I will add is that it is *high time* that this thing be taken out of the back rooms and be put front and center with all details aired out, discussed, argued over, confirmed, vetted and so on. We've had enough behind-the-scenes political maneuvering over to last a lifetime. We cannot allow Two Lakes to get approved simply because its supporters managed to get their people into office and onto the levee board. They've gotten a lot of media to go along with it without asking real questions, but that's not good enough, Jackson. It's the people's turn.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T12:15:20-06:00
ID
148070
Comment

Todd, thank you for your comprehensive response. I don't have time to address each of your points, but one recurring item seems to be the need to "study the alternatives." I must ask (and I don't know a lot about this) - the flood happened in 1979, before I was born. It is now 2009. Surely flood control has been studied ad infinitum. The Drainage District has most likely seen these alternatives. In fact, I know that they have reviewed the levees only plan, the Lower Lake / LaFleur's Lake plan, and the Two Lakes plan. I guess the point is, at what point do they get to cut off further discussion? You can say that a " river greenway with parks, trails, transportation, and access to the river for water sports, fishing, etc." would be nice, but has anyone shown the flood protection benefits? I don't think the Levee Board has a duty to review anyone's proposed alternative. I think they only have to review feasible alternatives.

Author
QB
Date
2009-05-22T12:29:26-06:00
ID
148072
Comment

A big part of the problem, Harry, is that some powerful people have gotten behind Two Lakes, and don't seem to want other plans studied. It's as if they're waiting for the area to act out of desperation and take the Two Lakes plan in whatever its current form is -- fighting a war of attrition of sorts. This is bad, and it's really sad that people (and local media) have not done a better job on this before now. However, the answer is not to just get behind that plan because its supporters have been the most aggressive. That would be a huge mistake. A real community vetting process *must* happen first. And anyone blocking that needs to get out of the way. Fortunately, Mr. McGowan is providing information, including on parts that might not thrill taxpayers as much. So that's a good start and a good nod to transparency. We will hope that he lays off backroom dealmaking while the public has a chance to look at the entire picture, and do what should have been done a long time ago. It is important to remember that the threat of flooding is not a reason to grab hold of the slickest-sounding plan. It's not like Two Lakes would happen very quickly; it is likely to be tied up in lawsuits for years, and that's a serious consideration for people when they decide which plan to cover. If it is tied up in litigation, the flood threat continues. One point in our thinking needs to be a compromise plan that can happen the fastest, and not allow the people who want a certain plan to hold us hostage for many more years.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T12:44:01-06:00
ID
148073
Comment

I also suspect that if we cut off further discussion right now and picked a plan to get on with, it wouldn't be Two Lakes.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T12:45:16-06:00
ID
148076
Comment

Don't play the race/class card on us, Boyd. I don't recall us bringing that up, except the fact that its inherent that a developer who can give upwards of $6,000 to try to get a mayor who will support it without further questions has money. And I don't care that Mr. McGowan gave the $, but it should have been reported correctly -- and used in materials that support why the money was given, not fake crime hysteria mailers based on "baseless" rankings, as the FBI calls Morgan Quitno's lists. You simply can't box us in that way. Our concerns/questions are much broader than that. To name a few: actual costs to taxpayers and beyond; how soon and effective flood control would be; how soon the eco-devo would start to pay off; 15,000 acres of eminent domain for private development; whether the engineering will actually work; who will do/benefit from the project; and others I'm probably not thinking of. As I've said, we have a big story coming next week, and probably quite a few after that. And our goal isn't to give you "the poop on why people should be against this project," as to give you information you need to ask intelligent questions. Because, so far, we're not hearing a lot of them. We're hearing undying support that, in most cases, comes from people who know few specifics about the plan. That should scare everyone of us.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T13:56:14-06:00
ID
148078
Comment

I guess the point is, at what point do they get to cut off further discussion? You can say that a " river greenway with parks, trails, transportation, and access to the river for water sports, fishing, etc." would be nice, but has anyone shown the flood protection benefits? I don't think the Levee Board has a duty to review anyone's proposed alternative. I think they only have to review feasible alternatives. Actually, Harry, you'd have to take that up with the Levee Board. It's my understanding that the Comprehensive Levee Plan *is* the current, operative solution that has passed muster with the Corps and would therefore be able to access the Federal dollars ($133m) that could be committed to the project. So, by your logic, McGowan should take his maps home and take up another hobby.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2009-05-22T14:22:00-06:00
ID
148081
Comment

Our concerns/questions are much broader than that. To name a few: actual costs to taxpayers and beyond; how soon and effective flood control would be; how soon the eco-devo would start to pay off; 15,000 acres of eminent domain for private development; whether the engineering will actually work; who will do/benefit from the project; and others I'm probably not thinking of. ladd 2:56 p.m. I haven't read all of this yet (perhaps I should have started at the top), but reviewing an envirnomental impact of the project is of major interest and concern to me, particularly regarding displaced animal habitats. It may have been already addressed; I'll read back upthread to see if that's addressed.

Author
Kacy
Date
2009-05-22T15:35:21-06:00
ID
148083
Comment

is it your practice to come out against a project before saying why you're against it? Boyd, you just asked that question in a way that we teach journalists not to–it's a yes-or-no false dilemma. I'm sure not willing to sign onto a very expensive, no-return project without having all the information at hand. (Especially one that has morphed as much as this one–from an expensive public project to an expensive private project to an expensive public project again.) Put another way, the burden of proof is on the backers of the project to prove that it's the best one on all fronts, when compared to all the other options. We're not satisified on that front, yet, so no we are not going to blindly support it before all the information is out, discussed and vetted. Clear now?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T15:48:03-06:00
ID
148087
Comment

Wow, Boyd, where have you been? The JFP has been covering this project since '04 at least, including several cover stories. Do a site search for Lefleur Lakes.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-05-22T17:00:54-06:00
ID
148088
Comment

Boyd, you don't seem exactly open to anything about Two Lakes; you seem to be fully decided and really to roll with it. So I doubt anything we say or do is going to sway that, so if that's your thing, you don't need to try to keep spinning me in a circle about it. I don't have time for that. Let's stipulate that your mind it made up. That doesn't change the conversation the rest of us need and want to have about it. As for your remark about Crisler's "white" contributors -- actually, it's NOT about having a problem with white supporters. I don't know if you know this -- [ladd looks over both shoulders] -- but I'm *white*. And if Mr. McGowan were black, we'd raise the same questions we think need to be raised. (If you don't believe me, ask Mr. Melton, may be rest in peace.) The JFP has written many times about Two Lakes -- many news stories, at least two cover stories, many blog posts and columns. We have always urged caution and, frankly, for all intents and purposes the project seemed to be dead not so long ago. An, frankly, we didn't know about all the manueuvering to get supportive mayors and levee board members that was going on behind the scenes. It wasn't until Mr. Crisler pledged his undying support for the project, without us asking about it, that our radar went off, and we started noticing. I wish we had sooner. And the "revenge" remark is simply B.S., with due respect. And anyone who is blindly following this project knows it. I have no reason to extract "revenge" on Mr. McGowan: I've met him twice, I think, and he's been gracious, for the most part, both times. And why in the world would anyone want revenge on a mayoral candidate who just lost as handily as Crisler. I have compassion for him more than anything. Our true motivations are exactly what we've stated: to make sure that the whole picture is out there before this or any project of this scope is rubberstamped. This really, truly isn't that hard to understand. Note that you're trying to make this personal against me and the JFP is simply tiresome, and we all say that way too much during the campaign. Please address the issue itself or move on. After a lawyer getting three inches from my face and calling me an "effing b!tch" last night for endoring Harvey Johnson, I'm over the personal attacks. So don't bother trying my patience on it. Post on the issue or leave.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T17:02:00-06:00
ID
148092
Comment

"Boyd, you don't seem exactly open to anything about Two Lakes; you seem to be fully decided and really to roll with it." Ladd, ditto. You say the right things about looking at "both sides" to the two lakes issue, but with all due respect, your commentary comes across as if you have your mind made up. You seem to be very defensive about your positions and very combative with anybody that expresses an opinion you don't necessarily like. I don't think we should rubber stamp the mcgowan plan, but why are being so clearly biased against his plan. if you don't see that, then you really have lost your compass.

Author
msnative1943
Date
2009-05-22T19:32:52-06:00
ID
148095
Comment

I have a house in the floodplain and would benefit from flood protection and I still have plenty of questions about the 2L plan. I want to know what the long-term and recurring costs will be. Are there maintenance costs to keep the lake dredged and the levees secure? How will run-off and nitrogen loading affect the lake over time? Who will maintain the shorelines? Will speed boats be allowed? What will prevent the lake from becoming a weed infested algae bloom every summer? Will all the development fall on the Rankin side mostly because of lower taxes? Will there be plenty of access and recreation or will it just be private and exclusive and/or commercial? Will there be other supporting floodplain management policies enacted? Oh, and dear God can there please be a greenway so I can bike downtown from NE Jackson without endangering my life? Just think everything through. Simple solutions can lead to many unintended problems. It should be everyone's plan, not just the investor's.

Author
gwilly
Date
2009-05-22T20:36:50-06:00
ID
148096
Comment

Gosh, where to start. i hate i missed all the fun on this thread! Well, i won't go point by point since most contrary points have been sufficiently dulled, but i do want to contribute a little here... i am totally surprised to find that the McGowan Lakes (original 1997 name) has morphed again. If not for the immense political powers which support this plan, i would say i was surprised that it was even being introduced again. Since i haven't seen the new plan i will not roll out my long list of reasons for being very afraid. i do look forward to the same level of community involvement which was invited at the charrette a few years ago which was the last time this plan was defeated. Kacy - the Gulf Sturgeon and some rare cute turtle are two endangered species whose habitat is the stretch of Pearl in question. Scientists at the Natural Science Museum would be happy to tell you about it. i also hope the new plan does not include flooding the bulk of Lefleurs Bluff State Park as it has in the past. FatHarry - the N.O. levee system is an extreme example to use and far from comparable to the levee plan in Jackson. No doubt there are countless successful levees throughout the United States.

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2009-05-22T21:20:47-06:00
ID
148121
Comment

Msnative, I just responded to a very similar comment about "bias" from you under our new story about McGowan giving money to help defeat the Pearl mayor. I suggest y'all look there for my response; I'm getting a little tired of defending our role as messenger and watchdog and saying the same thing over and over again. There is more important work to be done than dodging the same tired bullet over and over again. Have a great weekend.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-23T10:08:33-06:00
ID
148129
Comment

Thanks BC. I know the water will be public, but the access and ability to enjoy views of the water and how that access and viewshed will be allotted will be a major factor in determining the political support and viability of the plan. Also, one of the core issues for the use of eminent domain will be whether and how much the public is truly served by private development on the river/lake. I would like to see "Meadowbrook Landing". I have some training in flood hazard management, but even though it is obvious to me just by looking around casually that much of Jackson is in the floodplain, there is much I don't know, having only been in the area 3 years.

Author
gwilly
Date
2009-05-23T13:36:32-06:00
ID
148208
Comment

"Surely flood control has been studied ad infinitum." Sadly, Fat H, it has not. After a failed attempt to address the only real flood control alternative in 1985 (upstream solutions - Shoccoe Dam) the Corps developed the Comprehensive Levee Plan, completing its design in 1996. At the time there was no local support for the levees plan as McGowan had first introduced his Two Lakes proposal. In 1996 McGowan's plan was certainly worth a look, but in the ensuing 13 years Two Lakes has gone through at least 4 studies, each concluding the plan was either technically or economically infeasible. Each time the answer has come out against Two Lakes, McGowan has been able to use his political capital and charm to restart the process. In 2004, the Corp was pressured to limit the scope to only the Two Lakes alternative or the Comprehensive Levee plan, leaving us with the currently stalled process. What has been completely lost over the past 13 years is that the Federal permitting process requires that all AVAILABLE (not reasonable) alternatives be reviewed, including doing nothing, Basin wide strategies, moving people out of the floodplain, etc. To my knowledge this has not been done to date (unless it was part of the 1985 or 1996 studies). Failure to follow this process will result in slam-dunk lawsuits by environmental groups once this project is far enough along to hit their radar. I, for one, am not pushing for the detailed review of alternatives to Two Lakes because I am environmentalist. I am pushing them because until we do we are going to continue along the same unproductive path we have been circling for the last 13 years.

Author
pjiv
Date
2009-05-27T16:31:32-06:00
ID
148210
Comment

Having taken a cursory glance at the federal permitting process, it looks like a federal permitting agency only has to review feasible alternatives. Now that is obviously different than reasonable, but limits the scope of the review to those that are feasible. Doing nothing is obviously feasible; moving everyone out of the floodplain is obviously not.

Author
QB
Date
2009-05-27T17:35:08-06:00
ID
148212
Comment

Doing nothing is obviously feasible; moving everyone out of the floodplain is obviously not. Why "obviously not"? Consider a situation where the other option is to condemn 12-15,000 acres of land and pay the landowners a reasonable price so that you can then turn it around and lease or sell it to developers? Say that's $60-70 million. What if you could buy out everyone who is interested, tell the others to get flood insurance and save tens of millions in the process?

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2009-05-27T18:34:50-06:00
ID
148216
Comment

Sure it's feasible to move everyone out of the floodplain. It's be done before. The federal govt. moved 4700 families in Missouri and 3000 families and a whole town in Illinois permanently out of the Mississippi river floodplain so it could be done here too. Turned it all into open land that no one can build in.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-05-27T22:09:02-06:00
ID
148219
Comment

We are going to agree to disagree if you think it is feasible to move everyone out of Pearl, Flowood, Richland, etc. who lives in the floodplain.

Author
QB
Date
2009-05-28T08:23:48-06:00
ID
148221
Comment

If you are talking about spending $400 million (with another $1 billion in possible contingencies), I would imagine the range of what is feasible becomes quite large.

Author
pjiv
Date
2009-05-28T08:44:15-06:00
ID
148226
Comment

And you wouldn't have to move everyone out of "the floodplain" which is a rather wide thing; you could move people in conjunction with new levees, for instance, or only move people threatened by a 100 year event, or something similarly down-the-middle. Clearly the $500 million invested in downtown in the past few years should be protected and can't be moved or mitigated. Mr. McGowan himself talks often about "Mr. Schlotzsky" -- the fictional owner of Schlotzsky's on Lakeland -- who has taken a risk by building his store in the floodplain and not on stilts. They likely knew full well what they were getting into; so, why is that the government's problem? They can buy flood insurance and rebuild if they're ever flooded -- or, maybe the public would do a one-time buyout and anyone who wanted to skip it could. In other words, Harry, there are solutions other than "move everyone out of...the floodplain."

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2009-05-28T09:05:54-06:00
ID
148229
Comment

Moving everyone out of the floodplain was "pjiv"'s words, not mine. Todd, I'm not arguing with you that the "do nothing" alternative is feasible, as obviously it has worked, to some degree, for the past 30 years. But "pjiv" said that the Corps had to review all AVAIILABLE alternatives, and used the example of moving everyone out of the floodplain. It seems pretty clear to me that the Corps does not have to consider all available alternatives that are not feasible. I don't think the Corps would consider that to be feasible.

Author
QB
Date
2009-05-28T09:54:01-06:00
ID
148230
Comment

Yeah, the "Mr. Scholtzsky" stuff was funny. Made it sound like there is a local businessman named Scholtzsky who sat around with his wife and a calculator to figure out it was worth it to build in the floodplain. And I couldn't agree more that that shouldn't be the government's problem. It's not like "Mr. Scholtzsky" didn't know what he was doing, and I doubt he's a guy who thinks the government needs to solve every problem.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-28T09:57:34-06:00
ID
148240
Comment

Fat H, I thought we (as bloggers on this site) agreed not to mischaracterize other peoples posts. I clearly am not advocating "moving everyone out of the floodplain". I am curious now to learn if I have ever used the word "everyone" outside of quotes... You are making the same general mistake that has resulted in the review of flood control moving in unproductive circles for the past 13 years (or 30 for that matter). The question should be approached more intelligently than forcing a choice between Shoccoe Dam, the Comprehensive Levee Plan, or McGowan's Two Lakes proposal (or "moving everyone out of the floodplain"). In the end the best solution will likely be a combination of strategies that retains some flood waters upstream, control the movement of floodwater through the Jackson area, and minimize downstream effects, but this requires a more robust basin wide approach than has been applied to date. A simple example of moving people out of the floodplain (not "everyone"): Based upon my understanding of the Two Lakes alternative, the key design element is essentially digging a floodwater ditch from Ross Barnett Reservoir through Jackson, then constructing weirs to flood the ditch and make two attractive lakes. The resulting dredge materials are used to construct islands for development. This would allow Ross Barnett Reservoir to pre-release water in anticipation of upstream flooding, giving the reservoir the capacity to provide flood control. Great idea! I certainly would have advocated studying the idea back in 1996 when it was proposed. Why can't we pre-release water without Two Lakes? Because I am told doing so without the ditch component of Two Lakes results in flooding of some "people". Who are these people and could they be moved out of the floodplain? Seems feasible to me. Would this simple step be enough to mitigate a 100-year flood? How about a 30-year flood? That would at least be a step forward, and address the question of whether the Reservoir is capable/willing to be used for downstream flood control. Still, I offer this not as a solution, but only as an example of one of many questions that needs to be addressed in the review of alternatives. If the permitting process moves forward with only a cursory review of alternatives and mitigations then it won't have a chance once it receives Federal/national scrutiny. To date the only hint of that scrutiny are the comments by Melissa Samet. People keep asking me if I am an "environmentalist" (ouch!). I imagine anyone who wants to see nothing done toward flood control is happy to bide their time for another decade while we continue to put politics ahead of engineering.

Author
pjiv
Date
2009-05-28T12:05:18-06:00

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