The following delicious news release is printed here verbatim:
Brenham, Texas, November 24, 2015 – Blue Bell Ice Cream will be available in Louisiana and Jackson, Miss., and its surrounding areas beginning Dec. 21. This is the second-to-last phase in the company’s five phase market re-entry plan.
“We are excited to announce phase four and look forward to expanding our distribution area,” said Ricky Dickson, vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Bell. “Our customers have shown great patience over the past several months and we cannot thank them enough.”
To begin phase four, Blue Bell will bring back 115 of its employees who were put on paid furlough earlier this year bringing the total number to approximately 1000 company-wide.
November has been busy for Blue Bell. At the beginning of the month the company entered phase two, less than two weeks later it announced phase three will begin in mid-December and its Brenham, Texas, production facility began making ice cream again on Nov. 18.
“We have made great strides over the past month,” Dickson said. “Our next big step is the phase three entry on Dec. 14. With the reopening of our Brenham plant in November, we are able to build enough inventory to enter phases three and four before the end of this year. Also, this will allow us to expand our flavor selection.”
For now Blue Bell is producing five flavors of ice cream in the half gallon and pint sizes: Buttered Pecan, Cookies ’n Cream, Dutch Chocolate, Homemade Vanilla and The Great Divide. More flavors will be added in the future. 12-pak Homemade Vanilla Cups and 12-pak Homemade Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate Cups are also available in stores.
For more information and to find out where Blue Bell is available visit bluebell.com.
From the Mississippi state Auditor Stacey Pickering:
JACKSON, Miss. –Roderick Nicholson, Mayor of Terry, pled guilty to five counts of embezzlement, and advised the court he would resign from his position as Mayor of Terry effective immediately.
From January 2011 through December 2012, the Mayor made personal credit card payments using the Town of Terry’s funds, as well as submitting false bills to be paid by the Town of Terry.
“Considering the size and limited budget of the town, this case is even more egregious,” said State Auditor Stacey Pickering. “My office has already issued a demand to the Mayor in the amount of $56,966.27, and I look forward to returning the money to the Town and justice being served in this case.”
Mayor Nicholson was arrested by Agents from the State Auditor’s Office in March for driving the Town of Terry’s vehicle to his federal job.
Circuit Court Judge William Chapman ordered Nicholson to be held in custody until sentencing December 7, 2015.
Jackson City Hall
Gov. Phil Bryant joined 15 other governors in pledging to refuse Syrian refugees should they be sent to Mississippi, following the terrorist attacks in Paris over the weekend that left 129 people dead and hundreds wounded in France.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees and argued Monday that the United States needs to allow them because many are fleeing terrorism, and that they would undergo rigorous security checks before being admitted to the U.S.
"We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves. That’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety. And ensure our own security. We can and must do both," Obama said today at the G20 summit.
Mainly Republican governors from 16 states (including neighboring states Louisiana and Alabama) are responding to heightened concerns that terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders after authorities said a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers on Friday, according to an AP report. The Paris prosecutors' office says fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.
Bryant said in a statement that he is working with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security to determine the "current status" of any Syrian refugees that could be coming to Mississippi in the future.
Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, told the Associated Press that under the Refugee Act of 1980 governors cannot legally block refugees. Each state has a refugee coordinator, a post created as part of that law and funded by the federal government. The refugee coordinator helps with resettlement efforts and directs federal funding for refugees in each state, Limon told the AP.
Gov. Phil Bryant's statement is below:
"I’m currently working with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and Mississippi Office of Homeland Security to determine the current status of any Syrian refugees that may be brought to our state in the near future. I will do everything humanly possible to stop any plans from the Obama administration to put Syrian refugees in Mississippi. The policy of bringing these individuals into the country is not only misguided, it is extremely dangerous. I’ll be notifying President Obama of my decision today to resist this potential action."
A new study found that Mississippi has the highest percentage of at-risk hospitals, mainly rural facilities that are caught in the crunch of rising healthcare costs and less reimbursements while serving at-risk populations that need the care.
Researchers from the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, Mississippi State and the University of Memphis identified 31 hospitals (33 percent) of hospitals in Mississippi as "at-risk," and using the State Auditor's report and their own research, focused on solutions and the impact of the closure of the nine most at-risk hospitals. The report states that if those nine hospitals close, around 2,600 jobs would be lost along with $8.6 million in state and local tax revenue. If Medicaid were expanded in the state, the hospitals could compensate for some of the Medicaid Disproportionate Share payments that allow the facilities to offer services to uninsured patients. The State Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health has so far offered assistance to the rural hospitals and has grants available to help facilities implement financial recovery programs.
The 9 hospitals most at-risk for closure:
Covington County Hospital
Highland Community Hospital
Holmes County Hospital & Clinics
Tippah County Hospital
Hardy Wilson Memorial Hospital
Montfort Jones Memorial Hospital
Natchez Regional Medical Center
Noxubee County General
Tallahatchie County General Hospital
The Mississippi Business Journal is reporting that Farish Street in downtown Jackson may soon have a new developer with plans to move forward with an entertainment district.
Mississippi has earned a D- grade on the Center for Public Integrity's 2015 investigation of state government transparency and accountability issues. The state's overall rank nationally is 33rd out of 50 states.
After this year's election, it should come as no surprise that Mississippi was ranked last in the campaign-finance category.
As early as the primary elections, disputes over personal campaign-finance spending raged. For example, Stacey Pickering, the state's auditor, used campaign-finance money to buy an RV and a garage door. He said at the time that the FBI was not investigating, despite reports to the contrary.
Advocacy organizations played important roles in the campaign-finance game too--especially in DeSoto County where four Republican legislators were ousted for their anti-charter school views when Empower Mississippi, a pro-charter organization, funded their opponents' successful campaigns.
The only regulations in place in Mississippi state law limit corporate donations to candidates or political parties. Individuals, lobbyists, political initiatives or political action committees are not limited in their spending on candidates or campaigns, an important factor in the Initiative 42 public-school funding campaign and the "Vote No" anti-42 campaign this last election. Dark money--donations made through or by organizations with no transparency about motivation or primary sourcing--influenced both sides of the Initiative 42 debate.
Mississippi also received failing grades in the following categories: public information access, electoral oversight, executive accountability and judicial accountability.
The report stated that Mississippi could rise from its last-place rank if legislators would examine and update campaign-finance laws in the state.
This is a full, verbatim statement from the City of Jackson:
Mayor Tony T. Yarber, Director of Public Works Kishia Powell and other representatives will hold a public meeting to address water billing concerns on Monday, Nov. 16, at Smith Robertson Museum at 6:30 p.m.
The City of Jackson recently implemented Phase One of its new Customer Care & Billing System (CC&B). The system went live across the City on September 1. The system is currently in the verification process, which allows the city to ensure account accuracy and that all of the new system’s capabilities are fully functional. During this phase, water bills are estimated based on an average of actual consumption from prior billing periods.
As the City of Jackson proceeds with the CC&B, representatives are addressing, and when necessary, correcting issues that arise during the Phase One implementation. Residents may call 601-960-2000 if they have questions about their bills. Residents are encouraged to attend the public meeting on Nov. 16 for more information about the new billing system.
Key benefits of the new CC&B include increased efficiency of meter reading and water billing, eventual elimination of the need for estimated bills, and a reduced need for personnel to enter property. The system will also be able to track usage patterns, allowing the city to potentially detect leaks on a property through abnormal usage patterns.
The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled Lauren Czekala-Chatham's divorce legal in concurrence with the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in June. Czekala-Chatham filed for divorce from her estranged wife in 2013 in Mississippi, and has been waiting for an order from the Mississippi Supreme Court since July when both the state and Czekala-Chatham's lawyer filed entry motions for judgment in the case following the Obergefell decision.
After a four-month silence, the Mississippi Supreme Court has finally ruled, but not without pontificating. Five of the Mississippi Supreme Court justices signed the order in support of granting Czekala-Chatham a divorce. Chief Justice William Waller and Justices Michael Randolph, Ann Lamar, Randy Pierce and David Chandler ordered a short entry of judgment in Czekala-Chatham's favor, reversing the previous DeSoto County Court ruling that said Czekala-Chatham could not get a divorce. Justice Pierce wrote a separate statement in support of the court's order.
Four justices objected to the order, however. Justices Jess Dickinson, Josiah Coleman and Leslie King, however, in three separate written statements, objected to the order, and Justice James Kitchens joined Justice King's statement. The 36-page order and statements are available here.
Czekala-Chatham released the following statement after the court's ruling:
"I'm happy this battle has been won. But the war on discrimination is still on going. I continue to struggle with the negative consequences that being in the public's eye has caused. I will soon be divorce (sic) from my former spouse. And realize there are still road blocks when testing discrimination laws. So much still needs to be addressed. This fight has damaged my life in ways I can't recovered (sic) from. Searching for employment for 18 months has put a mental and a financial strain on me. Any potential employer can google my name and I'm dropped as a potential candidate. You can win the battle but the war on discrimination is very much real."
Below is the verbatim press release from 42 For Better Schools sent out today.
To the Supporters of Initiative 42 and All Proponents of Public Education:
As another school day began this morning, the 500,000 candidates for whom we fought in the campaign for Initiative 42 took their seats in classrooms across Mississippi. The majority of those candidates were probably unaware that they'd just lost a battle for full funding of their public schools. Likewise, they probably did not know that their campaign was just beginning.
Unlike a traditional political campaign, Tuesday night saw no winners. Certainly not the supporters of the constitutional amendment to force the Legislature to abide by its own 1997 school funding law. And most definitely not the opponents of Initiative 42, at least not from the perspective of the half a million students -- those candidates -- whose educational environments remain exactly the same today as they did yesterday.
Of the approximately 640,000 Mississippi voters who cast ballots on Tuesday -- one of the lowest turnouts in state history -- only about 25,000 more people voted against the amendment than voted for it. So no matter who claims "victory," our Legislature must now heed the call to do more to improve our public schools. Either that, or simply ignore the wishes of more than 300,000 of their citizens.
With power comes tremendous responsibility, and those who control the legislative process have a larger duty to serve all the people, not just those who agree with their political ideology. As the saying goes, character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.
As we reflect on Tuesday's results, the 42 For Better Schools Campaign offers no excuses and assigns no blame for not reaching the numbers required to adopt the constitutional amendment. Did the Legislature's alternative measure create the confusion they wanted to defeat 42? Of course it did. Would 42 have passed if the vote had been a straight-up yes or no decision without the alternative? Most likely.
So many factors play into any political campaign and this one had more than most. It was an uphill climb from the start, but that was the point -- to start the process to guarantee adequate and full funding for our students and their public schools. And so the battle continues.
The volatility and rancor on both sides of this issue over the past few months only underscores its importance and the need to continue working to make a difference. While this battle wages, we hope that somewhere in the wings lies the opportunity for cooperation from both sides.
We are all Mississippians. And our candidates will always be our children.
Jonathan Compretta Michael Rejebian Co-Managers, 42 For Better Schools
Candidates running for state office filed their final pre-election campaign finance reports on Oct. 27. Click a candidate's name to view the full report.
Phil Bryant (Republican)
Amount spent this election: $2.74 million
Amount still on-hand: $1.38 million
Robert Gray (Democrat)
Amount spent on this election: $3,100
Amount still on-hand: $1,700
Tate Reeves (Republican)
Amount spent on this election: $640,000
Amount still on-hand: $3.6 million
Tim Johnson (Democrat)
Amount spent this election: $213,000
Amount still on-hand: $15,900
Secretary of State
Delbert Hosemann (Republican)
Amount spent this election: $321,000
Amount still on-hand: $1.2 million
Charles Graham (Democrat)
Amount spent this election: $8,500
Amount still on-hand: $150
Jim Hood (Democrat)
Amount spent this election: $1.26 million
Amount still on-hand: $350,000
Mike Hurst (Republican)
Amount spent this election: $861,000
Amount still on-hand: $86,000
Stacey Pickering (Republican)
Amount spent this election: $302,000
Amount still on-hand: $49,000
Jocelyn “Joce” Pritchett (Democrat)
Amount spent this election: $158,000
Amount still on-hand: $4,000
Lynn Fitch (Republican)
Amount spent this election: $395,000
Amount still on-hand: $5,700
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce
Cindy Hyde-Smith (Republican)
Amount spent this election: $111,000
Amount still on-hand: $162,000
Addie Lee Green (Democrat)
Amount spent this election: $765
Amount still on-hand: $5,700
*Numbers rounded for clarity, incumbents listed first; numbers taken from October 27, 2015 Campaign Finance Report Filings with the Secretary of State's office.
The number of Mississippians without health insurance has grown over the past year. Over 16 percent of Mississippians don't have health insurance in all but six counties, according to data from Enroll America and Civis Analytics. This number supersedes 2014 numbers and can be seen visually on the New York Times' Upshot blog.
Mississippi's Republican leadership has opted to not expand Medicaid, and Medicaid enrollment numbers have leveled out in 2015, and are on the decline according to the state division's report. In July, 737,854 Mississippians were enrolled in Medicaid; now, 730,354 Mississippians are enrolled.
The Upshot reported that the decision to not expand Medicaid in states with large numbers of uninsured constituents puts people in the "Medicaid gap," since they are unable to qualify for Affordable Care Act services due to their low incomes. Medicaid expansion will likely be reconsidered in the 2016 Legislative session.
Dick Hall, the Central District commissioner to the Mississippi Transportation Commission, had a little surprise for Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber today.
Well, not exactly little.
It was a $3 million check for Mill Street reconstruction. Hall grew up in Fondren and said he wanted Mill, which runs from downtown northward to Fondren, to be restored to its heyday.
The presentation came at the end of a press conference to announce at $16.5 million federal DOT grant to Jackson for a North State Street project, from Sheppard Road to Hartfield Street. The project will also include a portion of West County Line Road in the Tougaloo community.
Yarber said both the North State Street and Mill Street projects are part of the 1-percent sales tax master plan, which he said would free up funds for other projects in the plan.
The fund currently contains approximately $21 million; Yarber said his administration expects to recommend a project manager to the city council in the next few weeks.
The following is a verbatim statement from the City of Jackson:
The City of Jackson has been awarded a $16.5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The federal award will help fund the city’s “Greening the Gateways” project that will integrate environmentally sustainable multimodal transportation improvements within Jackson.
“I would like to thank the Department of Public Works team for designing this plan and aggressively pursuing the TIGER grant. This project will serve as a catalyst for revitalization activities in the city. It also supports the city’s continued work toward addressing decades-old infrastructure needs,” said Mayor Tony T. Yarber. “The Administration is appreciative of the support given by Mississippi’s congressional delegation, specifically the technical assistance on the application from the offices of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and U.S. Rep Bennie Thompson.”
TIGER grants fund capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure and are awarded on a competitive basis to projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area. In Jackson, the improvements will be made along the “Gateway” corridor segments of North State Street and West County Line Road. The project will convert roads and make them complete streets. It also will manage drainage and mitigate sanitary sewer overflows along both streets and provide greater access to Tougaloo College.
“The ‘Greening the Gateways’ project is an integral part of the Infrastructure Master Plan, a 20-year blueprint for a comprehensive overhaul of the Capital City’s aged infrastructure system,” said Department of Public Works Director Kishia Powell. “The Gateways project will create ladders of opportunity that will bolster economic growth and stability by providing accessible and efficient connections between residences, schools, parks, public transportations, offices, retail and recreational destinations.”
Mississippi is one of three states selected to receive the Toyota USA Foundation Grant for career education. The $1.5 million grant will be shared amongst students in Mississippi, New York and Kentucky. The grant will span over a three-year project that focuses on increasing student interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and manufacturing careers. Four Mississippi high schools will receive the grant funding.
The grant focuses on preparing high school students for careers and improving graduation rates simultaneously. The project uses an online, Web-based program to train freshman and sophomore high school students in STEM and manufacturing skills that can help students obtain certificates at the end of the program.
In a press release from the Mississippi Department of Education, state superintendent Dr. Carey Wright said, "One of the Mississippi Board of Education’s goals is ensuring every student graduates high school and is ready for college and a career, and this program fits perfectly into that goal. We greatly appreciate Toyota USA Foundation’s commitment to providing career and educational opportunities to our students."
The following Mississippi schools have been selected for the Toyota grant project:
- Saltillio High School in the Lee County School District
- New Albany High School in the New Albany School District
- Pontotoc High School in the Pontotoc City School District
- North Pontotoc High School in the Pontotoc County School District
108 Mississippi United Methodist pastors have released an open letter endorsing Initiative 42. The letter states that each signing pastor's position on the upcoming ballot initiative stems from John Wesley's passion for meeting educational needs even in 18th century England and Jesus' command to let the "little children come to me." Bruce Case, head pastor at Parkway Hills Methodist Church, helped craft the letter and send it out to pastors throughout the state. Pastors were invited to respond and sign their name to the letter, and it took Case less than a day to collect over 100 signatures. Case said they could have collected more signatures, but wanted to get the letter out due to timing.
The full letter has been produced verbatim below:
A Letter from 108 Mississippi United Methodist Pastors:
As Mississippi United Methodist pastors serving in rural areas, county seats, and large towns all across our wonderful state, we are compelled to speak out on behalf of our children and Mississippi public school education.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was passionate about providing all children access to educational opportunities in 18th Century England. He opened libraries, published reading material for children, and founded schools that served impoverished children. He believed every child—regardless of gender or economic background—deserved the opportunity a quality education provided.
Because we believe that every child in Mississippi has a right to a great education, we will be voting in favor of Initiative 42 when we go to the ballot on November 3. Initiative 42 will require our legislators to follow our state law and fully fund public education based on the MEAP (MAEP) formula. Our Legislature has failed to honor this law nearly every year since its adoption (by our legislature!) in 1997.
We are disappointed that politicians have added 42-A to the ballot. 42-A will confuse thousands of people who are trying to make an informed decision regarding our children’s well being. Please be advised: 42-A is simply a vote for the status quo. What is the status quo?
-Since 2008, the state budget (excluding federal funds) has grown by 35% while K-12 education's portion of the state budget has grown by 2.47%. -MS ranks 47th in per student funding out of 51 (including District of Columbia). -Mississippi ranks last among our neighboring states in per student funding.
The status quo limits our children; it limits our state; it deprives all of us of economic stability.
We can rise above the status quo! We can begin to work together to ensure every community in our state has a school with high-quality facilities, full of teachers and students who have all they need to succeed. Initiative 42 will be a much-needed step in the right direction for K-12 education in Mississippi.
We strive to be faithful to Jesus’ high calling in the communities we serve, and we can think of no higher priority in God’s Kingdom than our children. Jesus said: “Let the little children come ...
From the office of Mayor Tony Yarber:
The City of Jackson urges citizens to complete a new survey that will help the city move forward with its open data initiative.
Last month, Mayor Tony T. Yarber signed an executive order that will pave the way for a city government that’s more open, transparent and data driven. This concept was centered on the city’s engagement with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative. As a part of that initiative, Jackson is committed to releasing key data sets within the city to its citizens, businesses, and organizations. The goal is to make constituents more informed about what’s occurring within the city. A survey seeking public feedback has been made available on the city website at www.jacksonms.gov or by clicking this link: bit.ly/1Mdeku7. Copies also will be available at public libraries and community centers.
We’re encouraging citizens to take the time to fill out the survey so the city can identify the sets of data most important to constituents.
As Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps pointed out this week, the folks behind Johnny T's Bistro and Blues has done what people have been sitting around waiting for the city, state and a procession of developers to do for years: Giving people something else to do downtown, on Farish Street.
This weekend, joining F. Jones Corner in the Farish Street Historic District, is 540, located upstairs from Johnny T's.
A grand opening comes Oct. 24 for Jackson State University’s Alumni Homecoming After-Party and will feature DJ Moneycure.
According to a release, 540 features "an elegant bar, performance stage, VIP seating and a stunning hardwood dance floor that beckons the trendsetters, progressives and explorers of downtown nightlife."
In addition, the lounge includes a "panel of wall-to-wall mirrors and the intricately placed lighting, coupled with the modern black and chrome furniture."
540 is also available for hosting contemporary wedding receptions, corporate events or charity fundraisers. Hours for 540 are Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.; the space is also available for private events Sunday through Thursday.
This is a full, verbatim statement from the City of Jackson:
City of Jackson crews are patching potholes across the city.
• Crews are repairing potholes on areas of Woodburn Drive, Ellis Avenue, McFadden Road, Bellmont Street, N. State Street, Keele Street, E. Northside Drive.
• Crews repairing sidewalk/curb & gutter Mill Street.
• Crews repairing utility cut on St. Andrews Street.
Education topped the talking points at the Women's Foundation of Mississippi annual meeting on Thursday. Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve Jobs' widow), Donna Barksdale and Toni Cooley discussed education at national and statewide levels. Jobs is passionate about transforming the educational system in the U.S., and she recently launched a project called XQ: The Super School Project, a project to reimagine high school structure and design by engaging students in the conversation. The XQ project came to Jackson this week, which was why Jobs was in town.
Jobs, Barksdale and Cooley discussed philanthropy and the importance of funding in education. Initiative 42 was discussed and promoted, and Jobs said she supported the Mississippi citizen-driven initiative because funding public schools is necessary for them to leap frog to the place they need to be.
"Everyone in this room should commit to passing Initiative 42," Jobs said.
Jobs said passing Initiative 42 is a tangible way for the community to get involved in education in Mississippi. Jobs' XQ Project focuses on rejuvenating the old high school model, rethinking classroom structure and models.
"If we're going to condemn the system, we ought to understand the system," Jobs said.
Jobs emphasized that students need the ability to be lifelong learners and creative thinkers. Jobs, Barksdale and Cooley discussed the importance of education, particularly for women. Donna Barksdale's husband, Jim Barksdale has donated to pass Initiative 42 and attended the annual meeting on Thursday.