Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba has announced two more town hall meetings to discuss the need for the city to pass a 1-percent sales tax hike.
The first is set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the E-Center on the campus of Jackson State University at 1230 Raymond Road. The second is set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, at Word and Worship Church at 6286 Hanging Moss Rd.
The mayor has already hosted two such meetings in the past week, and called them "very well-attended and informative" at Tuesday's meeting of the City Council.
Jacksonians will vote on the referendum on Jan. 14, 2014.
With less than two months left before Jacksonians head to the polls to decide the fate of a proposed 1-percent sales tax increase, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba is taking his message to the people.
Lumumba will host a town hall-style meeting at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1 at Pearl St. African Methodist Episcopal Church at 2519 Robinson St.
The Mayor will discuss the 1% sales tax proposal, and explain the use of the tax revenue to make infrastructure improvements. The meeting comes as Jackson's City Council debates whether to push the referendum vote to a later date in order to improve it's chances of passing with the 60 percent threshold it must have to become reality.
The US Human Rights Network has announced it will honor Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and six others with the 2013 U.S. Advancing Human Rights Award. The Atlanta-based organization describes itself on its web site as "a team of thematic experts, organizers, education specialists, trainers, communications experts, and human rights activists."
It describes the award ceremony, set for Dec. 6-8 in Atlanta, as an opportunity to "recognize and celebrate six visionary people and one organization building and strengthening the human rights movement at the grassroots level."
To be considered, nominees must have had at least five years experience in grass-roots organizing in the area of immigration, environmental and climate justice, workers rights, or access to justice, as well as other areas such as racial justice, women's rights, disability rights, and economic, social and cultural rights.
Other award recipients include Haitian Women of Miami Executive Producer Marleine Bastien, Desis Rising Up and Moving Executive Director Monami Maulik, Texas Latina Advocacy Network Field Coordinator Lucy Ceballos Felix, Navajo Nation Corrections Project Supervisor Lenny Foster, Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign Co-founder J.R. Fleming and Mossville, La. community organization Mossville Environmental Action Now.
Somebody in City Hall is listening.
The city clerk's office has posted the agenda for next Tuesday's City Council meeting, and it looks like Mayor Chokwe Lumumba plans to present two new Jackson Redevelopment Authority board members for council approval.
The first is Kemba Ware, a Data Information Manager at Jackson State University, and the other is attorney Jennifer Johnson. It is unclear which wards they will represent, but as we profiled in this week's cover story, there are three spots open. Neither of the nominees could be reached late this afternoon.
Bishop Ronnie Crudup, the board's chairman, has been out of term since Aug. 13, 2011 and two other members, Brian Fenelon and John Reeves, have been out of term since Aug. 13, 2012 and 2013, respectively.
UPDATE: It looks like the JFP once endorsed Kemba Ware as a young influential in 2005, which you can read here. And it looks like Jennifer Johnson would represent Ward 7, if approved.
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.
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
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.
The response to the question that will be posed to the Jackson City Council next Tuesday (Oct. 22) is something many people are asking: Is the Jackson Redevelopment Authority still worth having?
Ward 3 Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes has put forward item No. 34, an order by the city council unauthorizing the JRA.
Technically, the word should be de-authorizing, but you get the message. This conversation should be interesting in light of recent developments with the Farish Street saga and the unanswered questions surrounding the non-existent convention center hotel.
For a quick history lesson, JRA was created during the 1970 legislative session. It’s a seven-member board that has power, under the Mississippi Code of 1972, to establish and construct municipal parking facilities for motor vehicles belonging to members of the general public, and to rent, lease, purchase, or acquire land and property for public purposes (the historic Farish Street district or the land on which the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau now sits, for example).
This may get a bit technical, but it also has the power and authority to rent, sell, convey, transfer, let or lease such facility and related structures or any portion thereof, or any space therein, and to authorize commercial enterprise activities other than the parking of motor vehicles on leased property comprising any part of such parking facilities and related structures, which is what it is doing with the Farish Street Entertainment District and the land on which the new Iron Horse Grill will sit.
Because the JRA board was set up by Mississippi law, it is unclear whether or not the city council even has the authority to do eliminate the quasi-governmental body.
We reached out to all the city council members this morning and, so far, Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber is the only one to comment. He said he is not likely to support the motion.
“What I am in support of is a proposal I’m going to bring forward,” Yarber said, “a motion that will require JRA to involve the (city) council in future, and way earlier on in the process.”
Yarber said he could bring his motion as early as next week.
UPDATE: Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps responded with a "no comment."
The deeply "red" state of Kentucky -- the folks who put both Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul as in Senate (and, excruciatingly, on our TVs) -- is also the only Southern state that has expanded Medicaid in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.
They also implemented their own ACA online exchange, instead of relying on the Feds.
Kentucky’s experience has been exemplary: In its first day, 10,766 applications for health coverage were initiated, 6,909 completed and 2,989 families were enrolled. Obama himself bragged that Kentucky led the nation with its glitch-minimized performance.
Kentucky's opt-in attitude is the result of their Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, who has done end-arounds on his GOP-lead state Senate and poked his finger in the eye of the Tea Party. Focusing on the moral implications of improving healthcare access for the citizens in his state, Beshear is perfectly willing to tell the national media why he's willing to make ACA compliance a signature accomplishment of his tenure.
“[T]o those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, ‘Get over it’…and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life.”
And why is ACA popular in-of-all-places Kentucky? Is it because it gives people an opportunity to buy into their own health security and that of their families? Is it because it's an actual market-based solution -- a Republican idea from a few decades back, polished up and implemented first by Mitt Romney in Connecticut -- that might help lessen the burden on families, small businesses and, ultimately, on state coffers?
Time will tell, but it should be a cautionary tale for "red" state politicians -- such as, oh, Governor Phil Bryant -- who have taken the path of least resistance within their own party and buckled to their Tea Party and Talk Radio constituencies.
If Obamacare works -- especially since it now looks like the GOP is pretty much out of tricks to block it from getting started -- then folks like Phil are going to be on the losing end not just of a moment in political history, but of actually doing the right thing for the citizens of their state.
According to GovTrack.us, Representatives Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo voted against House Bill 2775 this evening, which was the bi-partisan compromise in the Senate to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling in order that the bills owed--from budgets already passed and funds already appropriated by this same House--might be paid.
The rest of the Mississippi delegation -- Senators Wicker and Cochran, Representatives Thompson and Harper -- voted for the compromise bill.
For the two who voted against the bill, it's worth it to stop and think what they voted against tonight. After their tea party point was made -- and after their tactics failed and a compromise was reached -- they still voted to take the United State's good faith and credit down with their twisted politics.
This compromise was the vehicle for moving ahead; this compromise was the vehicle for getting back to work after a misguided stratagem -- shutting down the government in order to try to kill the Affordable Care Act -- blew up in one party's face.
After $24 billion lost, treasury bills getting more expensive, 0.6% shaved off GDP growth and countless people denied important, sometimes critical services, this was the way forward.
But along with Rand Paul and Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, two of Mississippi delegation still voted against putting the government back to work and pulling the economy out of a treacherous nose dive.
Nunnelee and Palazzo put ideology over country. It was irresponsible, selfish and potentially very damaging to the United States and its people.
Hopefully their constituents will remember that.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican from Ellisville, is making an announcement this weekend about his political future, the blog Mississippi PEP reports.
McDaniel, a self-styled fiscal and values Tea Party conservative, has been rumored for some time to have his eyes on senior U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran's seat. Anyone looking for proof of that needn't look any further an McDaniel's Wikipedia page, which was updated more than 50 times in April alone -- way more than a Mississippi state senator needs to (see below).
Cochran, whose conservative street cred is solid, but he has been criticized for being insufficiently right wing. Cochran has held the seat since the late 1970s and even at age 75 can probably hold on to the position until he gets good and damn ready to step aside.
"We are in difficult times. Our state and country are suffering from a lack of confidence in our current leaders. Our Republican Party is in the process of reinvesting in the principles that made us who we are, and that has not been an easy time," said McDaniel, who wasn't even a year old when Cochran first went to Congress in 1973, said through a press statement posted on the PEP blog.
“I hope my decision will aid in bringing us back to agreement on the values we all support and hold dear, and give Mississippians the ability to move forward into the future with a purpose of reclaiming those values for our children.”
I don't know McDaniel well, so it's hard to tell what his end game is. It's possible that McDaniel is positioning himself to the first to declare his intentions in case Cochran retires. In doing so, McDaniel also gets first crack at deep-pocketed Tea Party Mississippians who'll no doubt be getting hit up by several Republicans in case a Cochran departure yields a packed GOP primary.
Or, he's positioning himself for a primary run at Cochran because someone has convinced him (erroneously) that with the right people behind him, he could take down a wounded Cochran.
McDaniel might also just be displaying a bit of bravado to run for a statewide office in 2015 as the kid who had the cahones to lock horns with Thad.
We'll know for sure when he makes the announcement in Ellisville on Thursday, Oct. 17.
Barely a full two months after taking over as chairman of the Mississippi Parole Board, Doug Davis is leaving for a new job as Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's chief-of-staff.
Davis was appointed to the parole board earlier this year and ascended to the chairmanship on Aug. 1. He replaced Malcolm McMillin -- Hinds County's former sheriff -- who spent about 15 months as head of the parole board before retiring.
Through a news release, Hosemann said: “Doug has long served the citizens of the State of Mississippi ... No doubt his legislative experience, extensive background in policy, and commitment to our State will be an asset to our Agency."
Davis, a former state senator from DeSoto County, was getting paid $70,000 per year to run the parole board.
Gov. Phil Bryant appointed current board member Steven Pickett as the new chairman. Filling Pickett's slot will be Pearl police officer Butch Townsend.
The Jackson City Council had a couple of hurdles to jump Tuesday morning to keep the city from losing up to 20 percent of its expected profits from the now-official water and sewer rate increases outlined in Mayor Chokwe Lumumba's 2014 budget.
Some were cleared; others were not.
The city will lose expected revenue it was set to receive from increased rates, but the rates will not be delayed as long as they could have been.
The motion to enact the rate increases, which will charge $4.47 per 100 cubic feet of metered water consumption for sewer service and $3.21 per 100 cubic feet for water consumption, was passed with a 5-2 vote, with LaRita Cooper-Stokes, Ward 3, and De'Keither Stamps, Ward 4, voting in opposition.
Here comes the technical part:
Rules of council procedures require a new ordinance, such as the one the city council passed Tuesday morning, to sit on the agenda for at least six days before the council puts it to a vote. After it's approved by a majority vote, the ordinance goes into effect 30 days after the vote.
The city attorney's office gave an extensive briefing on what would have to happen to bend both of those rules and make the rates go into effect immediately, but council did not heed that advice.
The council agreed unanimously to an expedited vote, forgoing the six-day waiting period, but because the final vote came back 5-2, the increased rates will still take 30 days to go into effect. A unanimous vote would have made the rate increases go into effect immediately.
"I was hoping for a unanimous vote," Council President Charles Tillman said. "But it's out of our hands now."
For more on water and sewer rate increases, be sure to pick up this week's edition of the JFP, which hits stands tomorrow, or check back to JacksonFreePress.com tomorrow.
Religious organizations are generally not allowed to donate to politicians, but often find clever ways to skirt the Internal Revenue Service prohibitions.
One way is just for the pastor and key church officials to personally make big contributions, and encourage their flock to do the same, to support candidates who share their values. Another is to allow candidates to speak to congregants directly, which lets the politician associate himself or herself with that particular house of worship.
Both are gray areas.
It's quite another thing, though, for a church to give directly to a political candidate. That's what appears to be happening in the case of Hinds County Democratic hopeful Willie Earl Robinson. Campaign finance reports show that Hill of Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Bolton made a donation of $500 to Robinson's campaign.
Robinson's challenger in the Hinds County District 2 race, Darrel McQuirter, is a pastor. The name of his church -- Pleasant Green Baptist Church -- does not appear on his finance reports, but McQuirter and his wife personally contributed more than $7,000 to the campaign coffers.
Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, charitable organizations (in fact, all corporations) are prohibited from making contributions in connection with federal elections. This is not a federal election. However, the IRS code, which applies to all organizations that have tax-exempt status, states: "(A)ll section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office."
A Guidestar.com search of 501c3 nonprofits as well as a search of charities through the Mississippi Secretary of State yielded no results for a Hill of Zion M.B. Church in Bolton.
An attempt to reach the church by phone this morning was not successful.
Will the GOP pay attention to its moderates?
19,000 Mississippians awoke this morning to the possibility of no paycheck.
Two days after a first-place finish in the Democratic primary for Hinds County District 4 supervisor, Jerry Hopkins has bowed out of the race.
On Tuesday, Hopkins edged out James "Lap" Baker, 353 votes to Baker's 316, setting up an Oct. 8 runoff.
This afternoon, Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee chairwoman Jacqueline Amos-Norris told the Jackson Free Press that Hopkins dropped out of the race because "he looked at the numbers" and didn't like his chances.
As a result, third-place finisher Mike Maldonado, who got 160 votes, will face Baker in the runoff. The winner of that race will face Republican Tony Greer in the November general election.
In District 2, Darrel McQuirter will square off against Willie Earl Robinson in a Democratic runoff Oct. 8. Both men are department heads for Hinds County. McQuirter oversees planning and zoning, Robinson the county's central repair division.