JACKSON Not surprisingly, yesterday's Senate District 28 special election resulted in a runoff.
Former Jackson City Council President and community college administrator Marshand Crisler will face former Jackson Public Schools board member Sollie Norwood in a Feb. 26 runoff election. There were nine candidates, including four women and five men.
Crisler received 25 percent of the 2,789 votes cast; Norwood received 22.5 percent of the votes. The winner will take over the seat vacated by Sen. Alice Harden's death.
Crisler, director of adult education at Hinds Community College, is already well known to a lot of Jacksonians as a former Jackson City Council president who ran for mayor in 2009. He believes his experience holding public office will enable him to hit the ground running.
Fully funding public education according to Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula could help lower Mississippi's 1-to-27 teacher-student ratio (the national average is 1-to-16), and help pay the state's teachers more inviting wages, he said.
"I certainly think that none of us could do any of the things we do without teachers," Crisler said. "I know we say that all the time, but the way we compensate them says something differently."
In terms of economic development, he's excited that the city is breathing new life into Metrocenter Mall by moving some offices there, but would like to see more retailers in the mall, which would contribute to Jackson's tax base. Crisler likes the idea of a local option sales tax, a temporary levy that would let cities fund certain capital improvement projects if a majority of the citizens approve the tax.
Improving Jackson's crumbling roads and water system would help attract new businesses to Jackson and encourage businesses already operating in the city to hang around. He posits: "Who would leave a city that has great infrastructure, that's safe and is well-educated? Nobody."
Norwood wants to spend his time in the Senate encouraging parental involvement by fining parents who miss parent-teacher conferences.
"We should hold parents accountable and not let them lackadaisically not go (to conferences)," Norwood said.
Norwood said he would not have voted for the Senate charter-school bill. "You're going to further diminish the public schools because everyone isn't going to be fortunate enough to go to a charter school," he said. "We have many successful students that have come from public schools."
Gov. Phil Bryant's plan to introduce a merit pay system to give teachers raises based how well their students perform on tests "leaves too much room for subjectivity," Norwood said. He would not back the plan.
Norwood would fight Bryant's attempt to halt expansion of Medicaid, and said the state could shift spending priorities to accommodate adding 330,00 more people to the rolls. Budget experts predict that expanding Medicaid would create up to 9,000 jobs.
Calling expanded health-care coverage a sanctity-of-life issue, Norwood said: "We have people who are literally dying every day because of lack of health care. A person shouldn't have to worry about whether they've got food (or health insurance). This is America. I don't think that's something we should have to worry about."