Just as Sam Cooke predicted, a change is gonna come—to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors.
Last week, the board's two newest members—Darrel McQuirter of District 2 and Tony Greer of District 4—were officially sworn in and will sit for their first meeting on Monday, Nov. 18.
The additions represent a huge shift in power on the board of supervisors, where President Robert Graham and Vice President Kenneth Stokes have run the show for a long time. Along with ex-interim Supervisor Al Hunter, the three men could—and did—do whatever they wanted.
With the new dynamics, the question now becomes whether Graham and/or Stokes be deposed as board president and vice-president?
Either scenario is plausible.
Stokes was vocally anti-McQuirter during the Democratic primary for the District 2 seat, supporting challengers Willie Earl Robinson and, later, Hunter. Graham, although he did not publicly take sides in the special election, has locked horns with Hobson-Calhoun on a number of issues in the past, and she could seek payback by removing him from power.
Greer, a white Republican, is unlikely to get either of the board's top two slots, but will nonetheless be influential (perhaps even more so than his predecessor, Phil Fisher) because of his relationship with Democrat McQuirter.
The other interesting thing to watch will be how McQuirter's relationship develops with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who also endorsed Robinson in the primary. If there is any tension the men, they will have to bury the hatchet and find a way to work together as a large chunk of District 2 overlaps with the city.
Bill Walker, the former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, and nine other people have been indicted on state and federal charges related to an ongoing investigation into the state agency's spending.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering issued the following statement:
GULFPORT, Miss.- Federal and state grand juries returned indictments this week following a joint investigation into the activities of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (“DMR”) and a $3 million grant issued to the City of D’Iberville, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis, FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen, Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering, Second Circuit District Attorney Joel Smith and Nineteenth Circuit District Attorney Tony Lawrence. The State Auditor’s Office also issued civil demands totaling more than $1 million.
William W. Walker, 68, of Ocean Springs, Scott J. Walker, 34, of Ocean Springs, Sheila Tina Shumate, 52, of Saucier, and Joseph C. Zeigler, Jr., 66, of Gulfport, have been named in a five-count federal indictment, returned on Tuesday, November 5, 2013, charging conspiracy to commit federal program fraud, federal program fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud involving DMR and the Mississippi Marine Resources Foundation.
Scott J. Walker is also named in a separate federal indictment along with Michael Janus, age 47, of Biloxi, charging conspiracy to commit program fraud, program fraud, bribery in connection with a federal program and money laundering. The indictment alleges that Walker and Janus caused a false invoice in the amount of $180,000 to be submitted to the City of D’Iberville for payment of consulting services.
A Harrison County grand jury returned indictments this week against Sheila Tina Shumate, Leslie Young Gollott, Susan Perkins, Jere Grant Larsen, Jr. and Kerwin Cuevas for multiple counts of fraud and embezzlement which allegedly occurred during their employment with the Department of Marine Resources.
In addition, the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office issued demands against ten individuals as part of this investigation totaling $1,022,308.55. The individual demands are listed below:
William Walker- $362,689.14 Joseph Ziegler- $258,268.75 Sheila Shumate- $127,608.57 Leslie Gollott- $117,593.10 Susan Perkins- $ 30,959.34 Grant Larson- $1,342.08 Kerwin Cuevas- $108,420.70 Walter Chataginer- $1,279.85 Kerry Endris- $13,020.66 Samantha Hebert- $1,126.36 “The indictments and demands announced today are one step toward restoring the trust of taxpayers, but they do not close the investigation,” State Auditor Stacey Pickering said. “As alleged in the indictments, these men and women abused their positions, stole from the taxpayers of Mississippi, and they will be held accountable for their actions. I appreciate the hard work and cooperation from the local, state and federal agencies involved including our Special Agents, District Attorneys Joel Smith and Tony Lawrence, Gregory Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, and Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The public is reminded that an indictment is an allegation that a defendant has committed a crime. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
A run down of this weekend's shows in Jackson, some regional picks, and lots of new releases...
Jackson State University is apparently getting serious about building a domed stadium.
The university has launched http://www.jsums.edu/dome/, a site that includes a rendering and includes details on planning that were previously undisclosed. The cost of the 50,000-seat domed stadium is still listed at $200 million, and the site says the JSU administration has identified over $300 million in funding possibilities.
"The stadium is designed for football, basketball, concerts and special events," the site says. "Seating is 50,000 for football, 17,000 for basketball and 21,000 for concerts. It will include 75 sky boxes for rental. JSU's Sports Hall of Fame will be housed on the first floor. The design includes 4,500 parking spaces. Another 2,000 are located in garages downtown where shuttle buses can help on big game days."
The site says JSU currently owns 30 percent of the land on the preferred site.
Just got the press alert, verbatim. (OK, they didn't say "McDaniel" below, but you know.)
MEDIA ALERT: TEA PARTY EXPRESS TO MAKE MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT ON MISSISSIPPI'S U.S. SENATE RACE TOMORROW
SACRAMENTO, CA – Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, will hold a press conference in Jackson, Mississippi, Tuesday, November 5th at 11:00AM at the State Capital to announce its endorsement in Mississippi's U.S. Senate race. Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer will be on hand with the endorsed candidate to make the official announcement.
DETAILS: WHAT: Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate endorsement announcement WHERE: State Capital steps, 400 High Street, Jackson, MS WHEN: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
SPEAKER: Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer
Like a proud mother watching her child's first foray into the spotlight to glowing reviews, we at the JFP love to send links around the office of national stories realizing what we already know (that Jackson is pretty cool). Here are a couple stories circling our in-boxes this week:
The Atlantic Cities website published a story this morning called "Where Millenials Can Make it Now." The author, Nona Willis Aronowitz, traveled the country looking for the best cities for twentysomethings. She writes that she avoided "cities already deemed magnets for young, creative people—place like New Orleans, Austin, or Detroit." In the end she, chose nine cities, including Jackson. She puts Jackson into the category "Small Ponds for Big Fish" (Omaha, Neb., also makes this category), and describes our city thus:
"These are cities where creativity and entrepreneurship are on the rise, even as the rents remain reasonable. Chances are, small ponds have DIY art scenes: Omaha boasts a thriving start-up economy and the still-relevant force of Conor Oberst’s Saddle Creek Records while Jackson’s Fondren and Midtown neighborhoods have sparked a local art community. Yet even in the gentrified corners of town, the price points remain low by necessity, since most people aren’t making much money. And since there isn’t a shortage of space, local politicos are practically begging young people to take abandoned buildings and empty lots off their hands. Many of the twentysomethings I spoke with in these towns were on a first-name basis with the mayor or city council. One Jackson native was even running for office. These cities have a growing population of young people who would rather start something from the ground up and live cheaply than scramble anonymously in huge cities."
Aronowitz will be elaborating on her travels and the cities she chose over the next two weeks, so check back for more on Jackson.
Read her introductory story here: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2013/11/where-millennials-can-make-it-now/7454/
And keep an eye on the landing page for "Where Millenials Can Make It" for Jackson's full feature: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/special-report/where-millennials-can-make-it/
Another publication, the website Credit Donkey, recently named Jackson the fifth-best small city for starting over. The story comes from a study that took into account factors of population growth, income growth, unemployment rate and percentage of single adults. The idea is that these cities are great for mostly young, single folks looking for a new job and a new life. Here's how they described Jackson:
"If you’re single and hoping to start over in a new city, Jackson is one of our top locations for you, especially if you want some authentic Southern charm. With a strong music scene, particularly gospel and blues, Jackson is aptly nicknamed the "City with Soul." Literature lovers will want to visit the Eudora Welty House to explore the home and gardens of the Pulitzer Prize winner who wrote The Optimist’s Daughter. You can also visit the Medgar Evers Home Museum to learn about the civil rights activist’s contributions to our nation’s history."
See that story here: ...
The City of Jackson has announced that the 1200 block of Cooper Road in south Jackson will be closed Nov. 4-6 while crews replace a cross drain for maintenance purposes.
Detour signs will be posted and motorists are advised to proceed through the area with caution.
News on Morningbell and new releases...
Todd reviews Napa Smith Lost Dog, an American red ale from California.
We just received this release from Attorney General Jim Hood's office:
An undercover operation has resulted in several arrests and numerous businesses facing allegations of unauthorized dispensing of contact lenses, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.
Investigators with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection and Public Integrity Divisions, working with the Mississippi Optometry Board, conducted a two-month undercover investigation which resulted this week in seven arrests involving the owners and operators of S & K Fashion & Beauty Supply (Indianola), Fantasy City (Vicksburg) , Fantasy City #2 (Vicksburg), and Underground (Ridgeland). The defendants are accused of selling contact lenses to the public without licenses. Approximately 870 pairs of cosmetic contact lenses and over $1,000 were seized.
“This practice is particularly dangerous because contact lenses must fit properly,” said Attorney General Hood. “Without proper fitting by a licensed optometrist orophthalmologist, a number of eye issues may arise. Those issues could range from minor eye damage to a total loss of vision. Also, the quality of contact lenses may vary drastically and be unsafe for wearing. This is particularly a problem this time of year when people are wanting to enhance their costumes with a change in eye color.”
Those arrested and charged with the illegal sale of contact lenses without a license are:
Jeong Hyun, 42, Indianola , (Owner, S & K Fashion and Beauty Supply) two counts of facilitation sale, 10/30/2013
Margaret Turner, 57, (Operator, S & K Fashion and Beauty Supply), one sale count, 10/30/2013
Elle Turner, 42, Indianola, (Operator, S & K Fashion and Beauty Supply), one sale count , 10/30/2013
Chong Heard, 65, Vicksburg, (Owner/operator Fantasy City #1, Vicksburg), two sale counts, 10/29/13 Suncha Beech, 61, Vicksburg, (Operator, Fantasy City #2, Vicksburg), two sale counts, 10/29/13
Michael Kang, 49, Ridgeland, (Owner/operator Underground #10, Ridgeland), one sale count, 10/29/13
If convicted each defendant faces up to one year behind bars and $1,000 in fines per count. As with all cases, the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley.
New releases and more Superband Wasteband...
Mother Jones, the liberal investigative-news magazine that broke the story of Mitt Romney's 47 percent remark during the presidential campaign, is now taking aim at Mississippi politics.
MoJo reports that in August, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who last week announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, addressed a "a neo-Confederate conference in Laurel, Miss., near his hometown of Ellisville."
Attendees were reportedly urged to dress in "Confederate uniforms and antebellum ball gowns or wee kilties."
McDaniel told the Clarion-Ledger political editor Geoff Pender, however, that he never attended the ball and was at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council at the time.
MoJo doesn't provide any videographic proof but quotes sources saying that McDaniel attended the ball (the invitation listing McDaniel can be found here), but reports:
McDaniel was joined at the Southern Heritage Conference by Al Benson, a historian from Louisiana, who talked about his book Red Republicans & Lincoln Marxists, which speculates that Lincoln's actions during the Civil War were influenced by the writings of Karl Marx. ("Was Abraham Lincoln influenced by communism when the Union condemned the rights of Southern states to express their independence? It’s shocking to think so.") Benson's Amazon bio describes him as "a true Copperhead," a reference to Northern Democrats who supported the Confederate cause. In the September issue of the Rosin Heels newsletter, Benson writes that the nation's public school system was a product of "spiritual apostasy" by Unitarians and socialists.
The third speaker at the event was Ryan Walters, a PhD student at the University of Southern Mississippi who occasionally guest-hosts "The Right Side," the radio program McDaniel hosted before he entered politics (and still regularly appears on). Walters worked for McDaniel's first political campaign and previously suggested that President Obama was preparing to send army tanks to Texas. "As you recall, there was great controversy over Obama's birth certificate, which hasn't really been solved, but that's another story," he wrote in a recent blog post.
McDaniel is the first, and may end up being the only, Republican to come out and challenge the veteran Sen. Thad Cochran. McDaniel is one of the Tea Party's favorite legislators; Cochran is one of the Tea Party's most hated.
Mother Jones points out that the Rosin Heels has put up billboard wishing Confederate president and former Mississippi resident Jefferson Davis a happy birthday/
Now, in fairness to the Rosin Heels and to McDaniel, the Mississippi Senate once adjourned in memory of southern General Robert E. Lee and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom share a recognized birthday, at the suggestion of African American state Sen. Hillman Frazier of Jackson.
Updated to reflect a correction. A previous version misstated that MoJo did not quote sources saying McDaniel attended. The magazine did report that one of the organizers confirmed McDaniel's attendance.
Mississippi State Sen. John Horhn was singing the praises of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and the Jackson City Council Wednesday afternoon, a day after they moved forward on a motion to put to referendum vote a proposed 1-percent sales tax. He released this statement:
"I would like to applaud the Jackson City Council for its vote to proceed with a referendum to add a 1-cent sales tax on certain items in order to pay for much-needed improvements to our water/sewer system and for street re-surfacing. While I am not an advocate of higher taxes, as the author of this important legislation two years ago, I have long-advocated that the measure should be put before voters for an up or down vote to let people decide for themselves whether the increase was worthy of their support. My only regret is that this decision wasn't reached sooner, and I hope that the Mayor and City Council's resistance in the past has not soured voters' interest in approving the sales tax Increase."
The referendum will be put to the people on Jan. 14, 2014.
In an odd turn of events last night, Ward 3 Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes balked at a chance to bring her own motion to "unauthorize" the Jackson Redevelopment Authority forward, even though all she had to do was second a fellow council member who had already moved to adopt her motion.
When the motion was read, Margaret Barrett-Simon (Ward 7) moved to adopt the proposal, and Quentin Whitwell (Ward 1) immediately gave it a second. That opened the door for discussion and for Council President Charles Tillman to call a vote.
That's when Cooper-Stokes launched into her prepared speech on JRA, which began with a history lesson.
When she got to the end of sentence number one, Barrett-Simon interrupted.
"Oh wait, I'm sorry, I thought we were on another one," she said. "I withdraw my motion."
Tillman acknowledged her withdrawal, and said he needed a motion to adopt to go with Whitwell's second to bring the motion forward for a vote. Whitwell asked Cooper-Stokes if she would like to make a motion. "No, I just want to comment," she answered. At this point, Barrett-Simon let out what sounded like the tiniest of giggles.
"You can't comment unless we bring the item forward," Whitwell said.
"I just want to make my comment," Cooper-Stokes again responded.
Seconds passed before anyone spoke again. Whitwell finally agreed to withdraw his second, and instead moved to adopt the item. Tillman again acknowledged and asked if there was a second. Everyone in the room is looking at Cooper-Stokes, but she just stares straight ahead without changing expression.
After Tillman pronounced the item dead for lack of a second, he told Cooper-Stokes the council would then entertain her comment.
Her comment was about a three minute speech on JRA, without specifically going after the board or its leadership. It was more about what Jackson doesn't have commercially than JRA shortcomings.
"Where in the world is our economic engine?" Stokes asked. "I believe it has fallen apart, as we listen on a daily basis to cities all around us. Cities that are less-endowed than us that we can build, manufacture and have activities for their children. It's ridiculous what we're living with in the city of Jackson."
When she finished, Whitwell took the opportunity to really go after the JRA board, then used it as a jumping off point to criticize Cooper-Stokes for not standing behind her own agenda item.
"Well, since we're going to allow comment without a motion and a second," he began (Lumumba, seated to his left, is grinning). "I'm not suggesting that this order is perfectly written, but we have a crisis on our hands in the city of Jackson, because we have incredible opportunity for economic growth, yet we have a redevelopment authority that is completely inept. I have said this over and over again, and, you know, quite frankly I'm a little shocked and astonished, because we have a council ...
When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. — Thomas Jefferson
This afternoon, Gov. Phil Bryant followed through on his promise to issue an executive order for BlueCross & BlueShield of Mississippi to accept 10 Hospital Management Associates facilities into their provider networks.
The health companies have been beefing over money for a few months now.
Bryant had said that if the parties didn't work something out, he would step in order to ensure continuity in patient access to care.
Obviously aware of that given his chest beating about the government staying out of the affairs of private businesses, meddling with BCBS/HMA might come off as hypocritical (see his opposition to Medicaid expansion and Obamacare in general), Bryant's statement to the press reads:
"The Order issued by Gov. Bryant does not attempt to resolve the parties’ dispute over prior payments under their contracts, and it expresses no opinion and has no effect on that issue or their ongoing lawsuit. Rather, the Order is intended to preserve access to care until a full investigation is complete."
Bryant hoped the sides could come up with a resolution, but when they did not, said "as governor, I cannot sit back and allow Mississippian’s access to care to be threatened in violation of state law."
His order, good for at least 60 days, comes one day after Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney announced a deal whereby four HMA would be considered part of BCBS' network.
If the governor's actions are puzzling in that context, remember that Bryant also fought Chaney, a fellow Republican statewide officeholder, on setting up a state-based health-care exchange for the Affordable Care Act. The tiff caused the federal government to step in and set an exchange on Mississippi's behalf.
So, yeah, our governor has some control issues.
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney announced a deal in an ongoing dispute between Hospital Management Associates and BlueCross & BlueShield of Mississippi. Here's Chaney's statement:
"I am very pleased that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi moved forward today October 21, 2013 to recognize four HMA hospitals for network benefits. Three of the HMA hospitals are located in Amory, Batesville and Clarksdale, rural areas of the state. The fourth, Women’s Hospital in Flowood provides specialty medical service for women.
I would emphasis that the hospitals were not put back into the network of BCBS, but will be recognized as network providers and BCBS will provide in-network rates to its members that receive medical service at these hospitals.
Even with this action by BCBS, my office will continue to conduct an in-depth statewide network adequacy review to ensure compliance with market standards and statutory provisions.”
Lucky Town Brewing Co. is reporting on its Facebook page that the startup microbrewery received unanimous zoning approval to move into a building in midtown.
Lucky Town—which started making more of its own beer in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign—is one of only a handful of breweries operating in Mississippi and will be the first in Jackson in a long time.
Over the weekend, Black Enterprise magazine reported that the spending power of the nation's 43 million African Americans is expected to top $1 trillion by 2015.
BE cites a report that will be presented at a June 2014 meeting of the National Association of Black Accountants Conference. The report found that the African American population "is an economic force to be reckoned with, with a projected buying power of $1.1 trillion by 2015."
That should be good news for Jackson and Mississippi, which have some of the the nation's highest percentages of of black residents. Jackson's population is 80 percent black; Mississippi has to a 40 percent black population.
What's more, black consumers' growth outpaces the rest of the population by 30 percent, the study shows:
Between 2000 and 2009, the number of African Americans attending some college or earning degrees has grown: 45 percent of men; 54 percent of women. Households earning $75,000 or more grew by more than 60 percent, faster than the rest of the population. African American’s average income nationwide is $47,290.
So what does this all mean in business terms? It means African Americans wield tremendous buying power. The Nielsen study showed numerous shopping trends, mostly for household, health and beauty, travel, smart phones and child related items.
Hopefully, Jackson residents and businesses are in a position to take full advantage.