Melton's Honeymoon, Part I: ‘Hurry Up And Wait' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Melton's Honeymoon, Part I: ‘Hurry Up And Wait'

Part I of a series

Mayor Frank Melton rode into the mayor's office with an 88 percent margin of victory according to a July 27 press release from the city. Though the margin was lower during the Democratic primary against incumbent Harvey Johnson Jr., and only about 22.8 percent of voting-age Jackson voters (or 31.66 percent of registered voters) showed up for the election, the new mayor's supporters believed that if change could come to the city, it was action-prone Melton who could make it happen. The new mayor promised to get the city back into the jail business by building a facility for packing away the bad guys. He also planned to tear down dilapidated housing at a faster rate than the administration before him and to improve the condition of the city's streets. Furthermore, he promised to forge better relationships with the county and state and repair some of the bridges burned between the city and the county during the last eight years.

Melton rode into office with big plans, and promises of quick progress, but four months is a short time to expect miracles, especially when the mayor is only one cog in a machine called government, which has to follow established laws even when those laws don't sit well with the eager elected official.

INNOCENT OR NOT

Melton ran for mayor on a platform of combating crime—by getting criminals off the street so they can't commit more crimes. At his July 4 inaugural speech he stuck to his guns, promising a 150-bed facility for detainees and a 24-hour court system to quickly pack them through an otherwise crowded system.

"It's senseless that people should wait days or weeks to see a judge," Melton complained at a July 25 press briefing. "We have to get people through the system. They're either innocent, or they aren't. Let's at least get them where they need to be. If they've done wrong, they need to get on with their sentence."

Melton vowed repeatedly to work more closely with the county government, particularly Emergency Management and the 911 Commission on selecting a compatible communications system between the city and the commission. Emergency Management Director Larry Fisher had pushed for the city to adopt the Motorola system already used by the county, while outgoing chief Robert Moore had preferred a system he said was more compatible with the city's needs.

Fisher told the Jackson Free Press in October that the 911 Commission will meet with city officials within the next few weeks to settle the matter, though he believes Chief Administrative Officer Robert Walker will be friendly toward a Motorola system. Walker is the former mayor of Vicksburg, which currently uses the Motorola system. Fisher was unavailable for comment on progress.

Walker confirmed Oct. 31 that the city is having talks about adopting a system that will integrate easily into the county communication system, but could offer no comment on whether the Motorola system is to be adopted.

'$6 MILLION IN A HOLE'

Melton's ambition to create a 150-bed facility has been slower in coming, seemingly stalled by shortfalls in the city budget.

"We're $6 million in a hole," Melton announced to the Jackson City Council Oct. 4 in response to criticism about job cuts in the current city holding facility and the dissolution of the city's popular Crime Prevention Unit. "Cuts have to be made somewhere."

Melton had estimated in his July 4 inaugural speech that staff cuts would finance both the court schedule extensions and the construction of the holding facility. Then the week of Aug. 18, his staff presented a budget on one day that would raise taxes, with a note from Melton himself justifying the tax increases. The next day, however, he rescinded that budget, vowing instead to cut costs rather than raise taxes.

Ward 2 Councilman Leslie McLemore argues that by Oct. 4, the budget was already balanced, as required by law, and that there was no $6 million shortfall.

"The budget had no real holes," McLemore said one week after the Oct. 4 council meeting. "What was said that day was just, you know, political bullsh*t."

Numerous mayoral proposals to renovate existing structures around the city into a holding facility have not gotten off the ground just yet. City spokeswoman Carolyn Redd told the Jackson Free Press that a state agency will soon decide what the city's jail needs are.

"People from (the Department of Corrections) will be here the first week in November. They're going to do an assessment of what we need," Redd said, adding that the city may be more willing to work with the Hinds County Sheriff's Department instead of shouldering the financial burden on its own.

"Melton is doing everything, and is willing to work with the county in getting this done," Redd said.

This is good, because the city itself isn't in any condition to foot the bill, regardless of staff cuts.

Administrative Director Peyton Prospere said soon after Melton entered office that funding goals lay beyond assembling a holding facility.

"We're going to be looking at (the facility), but there are a number of other priorities. We've got to make sure that we've got an adequate police force on the street and good quality of life in neighborhoods," Prospere said in July, pointing out that previous budgets had been balanced using one-time monies that the city didn't have at its disposal any longer. "It just gets back to working with the county government, Sheriff (Malcolm) McMillin and such as that."

Police Chief Shirlene Anderson said the idea of a city holding facility seems dead. "The city can't afford it. We don't have the money," Anderson said Oct. 28.

In the meantime, Jackson detainees are still being held at the county facility in Raymond, which is regularly filled to capacity, according to Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin.

Melton announced last week that he will be closing the city's holding facility on Silas Brown Street this week, saying the facility needs renovating.

In an effort to cut costs, Melton and Anderson recently fired 10 guards and froze another two vacant positions at the facility, but the remaining 17 guards left over will stay on to work in transporting prisoners.

The closure means processing will take place at police headquarters, though Anderson said the city is "still working on" a permanent location. The detainees then head to the groaning facility in Raymond.

McMillin said he is waiting to hear recommendations from the National Institute of Corrections before he stands behind any proposals from the city or the county. McMillin said a representative of the institute will arrive this week to make assessments of the municipal court, the penal farm, the capacity of the county jail, and the effectiveness of the county court system.

"People who make recommendations of the criminal justice system generally only look at one aspect of it, then they make all kinds of comments without knowing how the hell one part of it affects the other," McMillin said in an interview Monday.

"You have to sit down and iron out the details and be aware of what the problems are. Don't start making plans until you know what the damn problem is. Melton isn't the first person to ever do that."

McMillin continues to argue that the county jail system cannot work without proper funding.

"You can talk about the crime rate if you want to, but don't fail to give me the tools I need to work with and then come whining because the crime rate's up. The Board of Supervisors wants to short me five (vehicles) and then give $50,000 to a museum. If you don't have enough money to purchase vehicles, you shouldn't have the money to put to the arts."

Attacking the Courts

Melton's attempts at revamping municipal court have brought some changes to the system. Melton announced July 25 that he was creating a $60,000 position for a Municipal Court deputy director, filled by attorney and former Municipal Judge Gail Wright Lowery. Melton said it was necessary to bring in an overseer to root out "corruption in the court system," claiming he'd witnessed, as Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director, suspects with the right connections getting out of the city system with illegally purged arrest records.

Redd said Melton will address his concerns through administrative changes in November rather than pursuing criminal charges against any allegedly corrupt municipal court officials—none of whom have been specifically accused by the mayor at this point.

"Expect more administration changes to come," said Redd, adding that no investigation of court corruption was currently underway.

Lowery said she is still researching the feasibility of bringing judges in after hours to consider municipal court cases, but Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, said the Legislature should be open to the idea of installing more municipal judge seats if the city still intended to lobby the state Legislature for them.

"I think the priority to get people through the system as either guilty or innocent is still there (in the Legislature) if the city is still interested in pursuing it, but I'm not sure if the city is still pushing for that because I have not seen that legislative package (from the city) just yet," said Evans, the husband of City Attorney Sarah O'Reilly-Evans.

Sarah O'Reilly-Evans said the city is assembling a proposal for the Legislature.

HIKING THE BAIL BOND

In his fight against crime, Melton has been championing another court-related issue: punitive bail bonds. On July 25 Melton announced that city judges should set bonds at a minimum of $500,000 "for anyone who uses a weapon to assault another human being."

"We're through setting (bonds) by schedules. That's over," the mayor said at the July 25 press conference. "They have to go before a judge. A judge is the only person who should set a bond, and now they're being set by everybody, by policemen, by the schedule that they have. … By detaining that person for 48 hours with a $500,000 bond, it will allow a judge and a court of law to assess the behavior of this individual and make a decision as to whether he or she wants to let them out on bond."

Currently, a judge presented with facts on an offender already has the power to issue a $500,000 bond at his discretion, said Lowery, adding that a recent executive order by Melton runs in accord with an Oct. 1 updated version of the city court's felony bond schedule regarding aggravated assault.

"If you commit an aggravated assault there is no bond set," said Lowery. "Everybody was thinking alike on the executive branch and the judicial branch."

Still, Melton's plan to hike bonds would have to be in line with the prerogative of judges and-—more importantly—the law, according to prisoners' rights attorney Ron Welch.

Welch said an oppressive bail bond would subvert state law by allowing the city to determine who gets time in jail, as opposed to leaving the decision up to the impartial declarations of written state law. In effect, Melton's executive order stepped over his legal authority as a mayor; he cannot tell judges what bonds to set.

"If (the price they're setting) is consistent with what the Legislature chooses, then fine. But when you get into the million-dollar bond category, the question is whether that's unreasonable bond and violates the Constitution," Welch said.

The 5th Amendment guarantees due process to individuals charged with crime. The Amendment most at odds with Melton's plan, however, is the 8th Amendment, which protects individuals from excessive bail.

"Though the law does allow bail to be withheld in some instances where the crime is very bad or there is what the courts may consider a flight risk, bail was never meant to be excessive," said ACLU Executive Director Nsombi Lambright. "High bail is a weapon used against the underprivileged and people who can't afford it."

FRANK V. BLIGHT

The incoming mayor also declared war on urban blight, with an emphasis on dilapidated housing, which he accused the prior administration of not moving on fast enough.

Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. said his administration averaged more than 100 homes torn down annually, adding that the rate of removal was squeezed by budget constraints.

Once in office, Melton learned what prior administrations knew: that the city's hands were largely tied in terms of removing sagging eyesores. Tearing down or refurbishing a house usually means having to own it first—and state laws make taking a home from a U.S. citizen difficult, no matter how neglected the property.

"The city has to go through a very complicated process when taking property," said Herman Taylor, division manager over community improvement, in an earlier interview. "We can put liens on property for the cost of upkeep but it's really very hard to just take someone's land. This requires changes in state law, and that's something our state legislators have to do."

Taylor said more recently that the city has the funding to remove 100 dilapidated houses a year and that, so far, the city is managing to meet that goal.

Council President Marshand Crisler said he was familiar with the hurdles the city had to jump over to get rid of unsightly structures.

"We're moving at the pace that the law allows, but I would like to see cases get resolved a lot sooner," Crisler said. "The mayor has a lot of ambitious goals, but the bottom line is having the authority and wherewithal to enact those in a timely manner is something that he's learning as he goes through these things. We have to abide by rules. State law is a big problem, and I think he's getting a heavy dose of that right now."

SAGA OF THE KING EDWARD

The city is also getting a heavy dose of pressure to show progress on the King Edward Hotel, which has clung to the downtown landscape like a 15-story corpse since it closed its doors in the 1960s.

Months ago Jackson attorney David Watkins announced a $35 million renovation project for the building. Watkins is partnering with football star Deuce McAllister and Historic Restoration Inc. of New Orleans to turn the King Edward into a boutique 152-room hotel with room and suite combinations, 72 condominium units and retail space on the ground floor.

Soon after he was inaugurated, Melton announced he would demolish the building if investors didn't get the money together and get things rolling. In July, Melton told the media he was giving his own staff about a month to cough up a plan for the building before pushing to have it demolished. The order, given on a Friday, contradicts investor claims that the HUD application was actually sitting on Melton's desk, waiting for Melton's signature, on the Thursday before.

Watkins said the application for renovation money is now in the offices of HUD, awaiting reply. Watkins said he believes the application will get the go-ahead from the federal agency, but adds that the onslaught of recent hurricane activity has likely slowed the process.

"There's just not anything to report yet because HUD's kind of overwhelmed. We made the deadlines, and they have their own internal deadlines that they're behind on, but we should be hearing something from them, I hope, in the next two to three weeks," Watkins said, explaining that a recent task force of investors has agreed to enlist the help of U.S. politicians to "gently prod the process."

Watkins said investors have U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran on their side. Cochran was responsible for an $800,000 environmental grant for the King Edward last year. They also say they have U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, Rep. Chip Pickering and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson.

"We just need to wait until the HUD money comes so we can put it together and get the critical mass to move the contractors," Watkins said. He said Melton, in the meantime, seems willing to wait out the red tape and see what happens, though a recent interview with the Mississippi Link suggests otherwise. The Mississippi Link reports that Melton said he was 95 percent sure that the King Edward would be imploded.

MAPLE STREET RAG

Melton is not patient with the Maple Street Apartments, at the corner of Maple and Fortification Streets, however. The apartments have deteriorated in recent years to the point where many units are unlivable. Wall studs are exposed in places, windows are damaged, and both exterior and interior vandalism has been rampant.

The mayor repeated his determination to "do something about those apartments," at a recent press conference, although options seem woefully limited by the scope of available money.

"The owner wants to do a lot of renovations, but he wants to do them at the city's expense, and the city can't do that, so the mayor has recommended that the owner sell them," Redd said. "Melton is in dialogue right now for them to be sold. If that goes well, the city will consider asking the council to manage the apartments in the future."

Melton said at the same press conference that he is working to find a new owner for the apartments, currently owned by Moore Enterprises of Hattiesburg. Melton was scouting around for a new owner months ago as well, while the apartments remain an eyesore.

The mayor cannot be blamed for the sluggishness in selling the apartments, however. The property remains a very hard sell, with numerous units in need of serious repair and high investment requirements from any prospective owner.

"Tenants who have been evicted are coming back and tearing them up," said apartment manager Laura Gibson. "They're mad because we're evicting them because they're not paying rent because they thought that they were supposed to get HUD vouchers. They want a free ride. Now they're tearing up our apartments."

Gibson says that former tenants use the cover of darkness to sack the place. "This was a good-looking unit just a few days ago," Gibson says, pointing to the interior of a three bedroom with the door jam smashed. A quick glance at the ceiling reveals a new coat of white, glossy paint and freshly plastered sheet rock in some areas. "They came back and just tore this place up."

Asst. Police Chief Roy Sandefer said he would work to beef up patrols in the area but lamented that keeping vandals in check was no easy matter.

"The problem is they can have friends doing look-out, and they can choose their time more carefully," Sandefer said, explaining that vandals have more time on their hands to orchestrate their destruction.

Gibson can also point to another unit, bordering Fortification Street, with every window gone. Three days ago, Gibson says it didn't look like that.

"We put new windows on the front unit up there, but somebody came back the next day and knocked every one of them back out again. There aren't any windows there now," Gibson said, shaking her head. "I almost quit my job that day. I just couldn't take it. People work so hard and people just tear it down."

MELTON V. SEX

In line with a strong crime-fighting agenda, Melton has also attempted to shut the doors of a number of businesses his administration has linked with illegal activity. Melton and police officers temporarily closed the Terry Road Bookstore in late July, lining the entrance with yellow tape.

The Clarion-Ledger reported that the store violated state statutes regarding the sale or rental of sexual devices. As earlier reported in the Jackson Free Press, city zoning Administrator Mary Merck said that the store could have stayed in that area if it had followed zoning restrictions more closely, meaning keeping only a small supply of adult material for sale that was well covered and out of the view of children.

The store soon re-opened after the initial closure, but Melton and the police shut it down again after they busted it a second time—after a policeman had received an illicit proposition for sex from a worker at the store.

Sgt. William Gladney of the JPD vice crimes unit said the store could not be shut down without a court order from the chancery court.

Nevertheless, the store remains closed. Calls to the business got no answer, but the line has not been disconnected, either. The Hinds County Tax Assessor's office lists the parent company as Russland Enterprises of Metairie, La., under the name Kenneth Ledet. Ledet has no listed number, and the two other New Orleans sister stores, International Video, also could not be reached.

Melton's attempts to close the Upper Level Bar and Grill, on Northside Drive, have been less successful, though the club did cave to demands to improve itself.

On June 26, 21-year-old LaKita Williams was shot to death while leaving the club. The shooting was the second near the club within a 30-day period, so Melton pressured Hinds Chancery Judge Patricia Wise to close the business as a public nuisance.

Club owner Sandra Moore Johnson, of Edwards, agreed to hire two off-duty police officers, submit to fire inspections and city code checks, expand and better maintain parking areas and give background checks for all employees and discourage loitering.

ALL SORTS OF SWEEPS

Melton has tried to sweep out more than criminals. On July 27, weeks after entering office, Melton called for the resignation of all city board and commission members. Stating no specific grounds, Melton's office told the media that he wanted immediate resignations of the almost 200 members of the 22 boards and commissions "in an effort to assure that the necessary policies and programs are initiated."

Responses have been slow in coming. "There hasn't been any follow-up. But, seriously, I had not ever planned on resigning," said Mississippi Link Editor Othor Cain, who is a board member of PEG, the city public-access network. Melton demanded the commission purge itself of its members.

"It's not that I'm anti-Frank. I am pro-Jackson, and there are a lot of great things going on that I intend to be a part of," Cain added.

Jackson Zoological Park Communication Director Chris Mims said the zoo's board could not turn in its resignations to an authority that did not appoint them.

"The mayor does not appoint our board. We're a non-profit organization, and we have two of our board members rotate every three years. Our board members know and choose the people they want to appoint and they present that to the mayor and he takes it to council, but he doesn't appoint them," Mims said. "Our board contacted city staff and explained this to them, and we haven't had any more requests for resignations."

Many members of the boards and commissions are not paid, and some boards, like the Jackson Public Schools board, are required to serve staggered terms and may not resign all at once—in part to keep their appointments from being at the whim of any one politician.

King Edward investor David Watkins, who is the outside counsel for the school district, said state law does not allow for local mayors to put an end to school boards or committees. "The statute is very clear," Watkins said. "The only way to remove (board members) is if they move out of the school district and no longer qualify, they don't do their continued education requirements or they commit a felony—and even then they're only subject to removal. They aren't automatically removed."

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT?

During his campaign, Melton promised members of the M.A.P. Coalition, a group of musicians and producers, that he would build a high-end recording studio on Farish Street, specifically to give the city's youth a creative outlet for their talent.

"I'm entering the fall of my life. The only thing I have left right now in my life is to make sure you have the same opportunities I had," Melton told an April 19 crowd at The Birdland on Farish Street. "I want a studio on Farish Street."

Rapper Kamikaze is heading the effort to develop the recording studio, though progress has been slow.

"It's kind of at a standstill," Kamikaze said, adding, "The situation is that we're trying to establish ownership of a building and where we're going to be breaking ground."

Kamikaze said he and others have considered several buildings in the immediate area, but found that some did not meet the size requirements of the studio that Kamikaze envisions. He said other buildings come with too much ownership and zoning paperwork to shovel through.

"We're trying to make sure we don't get entangled in any politics in like who owns the building and so on. It's going to be a slow, tedious process," Kamikaze said.

MELTON'S UNION PLEDGE

During his campaign, Melton pledged to work with local and state unions to develop a program to teach disadvantaged city youth valuable building skills that could easily net them $15 or above starting hourly wages.

Construction in the wake of numerous hurricanes has been exploding in Mississippi, thanks to the sudden flood of insurance money and promises of federal bailout money for repairs.

The national AFL-CIO lends money from its pension fund to various state projects in hopes of getting a nice return on the investment. The union also makes a habit of lending pension money to educational programs that produce more skilled workers.

Melton had agreed with the idea of the union educating Jackson youth using their facility in Pearl.

Since the election, however, David Newell, an organizer for the Mississippi Plumbers and Pipefitters Union and president of the Central Labor Council, had criticized the administration for moving too slowly.

"Melton made commitments to them, and every stump speech during the election he said he had a partnership with the AFL-CIO to re-build and revitalize some of the areas here in Jackson. That commitment still stands on organized labor's behalf. I don't know who has been dragging their feet, but it hadn't been us," Newell said.

"Before the money's spent, there has to be a plan put together on what they're going to be financing, whether its multi-story housing, or single-story housing or high rises or just what is it going to be."

After two meetings last week between city officials, like Planning and Development Acting Director Corinne Fox, Newell said representatives of the union's Housing Investment Trust were initially discouraged by the city's lack of preparation but perked up after a good pep talk from the mayor. Union representatives are back in Washington and putting together the preliminary stages of a plan for working with the city.

"We can't make any assessment right now," said HIT Director of Public Affairs Mary Thompson. "This is the very earliest stage, so I can't give you any decisions right now. We're just trying to assemble a plan and see what the city can offer."

A WAITING GAME

When citizens reacted with outrage at the news in late September that the Crime Prevention Unit was dismantled, the mayor responded that the city's multi-agency Quality of Life Task Force would be up and running "within days," and take the place of the liaisons between the police department and the community.

Days turned into weeks; assembling qualified people to volunteer for the task force is the stumbling block.

The city's Director of Constituent Services Goldia Revies is heading the task force, or "division," as she calls it—meaning she is wearing yet another hat in her city job. The division is intended to take the place of community go-between agencies like the recently dismantled Crime Prevention Unit. Hopefully it will draw upon the voluntary expertise of personalities both inside and outside city administration, such as the Department of Mental Health, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, local and county police and educational boards and facilities, to name a few—agencies the city had not approached when Melton announced the task force in response to the outcry over the Crime Prevention Unit's demise.

"We'll have some people serving in an advisory capacity and some in an active capacity, and we'll be bringing in people from the other agencies who'll be working with us to make decisions and referrals on the scene."

In theory, Revies estimates the Quality of Life Division will be able to offer direct counseling, or referrals to a good counselor, on anything from family care to crime prevention. Melton says his Quality of Life Division will assume the same duties of the Crime Prevention Unit, even though its members will be volunteer.

Revies said the new division will take a more preventive role in dealing with crime and city problems, such as environmental court and dealing with dilapidated housing. Revies could not offer specific examples for the division's plan in crime fighting at this time.

"The agencies are identifying the representatives of the outside agencies, but those working within the city administration have already been identified. We will be having the first meeting the first of November, where we'll identify the areas of urgency where we need to start," Revies said.

Precinct 4 COPS Moderator Bob Oertel says the division will have to fill a very interactive role in the community to replace the Crime Prevention Unit.

"We know (the Crime Prevention Unit) went to schools, we know they went to the houses of senior citizens and made their homes safer, but as far as the Quality of Life Division goes, it's now a waiting game. We'll have to wait and see what they're going to do.

Previous Comments

ID
79141
Comment

Good summation of the first 100 days. Here are some thoughts on various things in the article. Ö only about 22.8 percent of Jackson voters showed up for the electionÖ This isnít exactly accurate. If you look at the election results in comparison with the voter rolls youíll see that, yes 22.87% of the voting age population (based on the 2000 Census) turned out but 31.66% of the registered (i.e., eligible) voters went to the polls. That latter figure is more accurate for voter turnout calculations. ìItís senseless that people should wait days or weeks to see a judge,î Melton complainedÖ How long has it taken his case to go through the system over in Meridian? Shoulda been done in a week: If [heís] done wrong, they need to get on with [his] sentence. Is it just me or is there some irony here about someone with a communications background who seems top lack communication skills: Melton vowed repeatedly to workÖ on selecting a compatible communications systemÖ ìWeíre $6 million in a hole,î Melton announced to the Jackson City Council Oct. 4 in response to criticism about job cutsÖ But we can pay an economic development ìconsultantî $150,000/year who wonít serve as a directoróthereby requiring yet another employee with a top-executiveís salaryÖ ìcorruption in the court system,î claiming heíd witnessed, as Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director, suspects with the right connections getting out of the city system with illegally purged arrest records. UhÖ Isnít this uncomfortably close to the whole reason heís in court in Meridian? Just sayiní. îÖbut the bottom line is having the authority and wherewithal to enact those in a timely manner is something that heís learning as he goes through these things.î N further comment neededÖ He said Melton, in the meantime, seems willing to wait out the red tape and see what happens, though a recent interview with the Mississippi Link suggests otherwise. The Mississippi Link reports that Melton said he was 95 percent sure that the King Edward would be imploded. This is highly irregular, but you donít really expect the mayor of the stateís largest city to be anything but inconsistent do you? Speaking of irregularities, can anyone explain to me how a general election opponent becomes a highly paid employee in the administration? Explains a lot about the (non)campaign waged by Whitlow.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-11-03T13:39:17-06:00
ID
79142
Comment

Thanks for the number tweak, Rex. I edited it in above and will run a clarification next week.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-03T14:15:54-06:00
ID
79143
Comment

The most interesting question for me about voter turnout is: What percentage turned out to vote in 2001 or 1997? I mean, if we usually see higher turnout in municipal elections, then the landslide is indeed of limited value. If we usually see lower turnout in municipal elections, then the landslide is even more significant than it looks. And if we usually see about the same turnout in municipal elections, then turnout might not even be a relevant factor. Any idea where we could get these statistics? None of this is to say that Melton earned his victory through a rigorous, media-intensive public policy debate or anything. He earned it because of what I call Schwarzenegger Syndrome--namely that a sufficiently charismatic and well-liked outsider will always trump an embattled politician, especially if the media does not pressure candidates into pursuing an issues-oriented campaign. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-03T14:54:23-06:00
ID
79144
Comment

I don't really agree, Tom. I think the relevant point -- and why we keep pointing out the low voter turnout -- is to show that Mr. Melton wasn't exactly lighting a fire under the Jackson electorate ó as its press releases and media coverage claim. It's spun to sound like he drew the biggest mandate in our history or some such, when the overwhelming majority of Jacksonians viewed the whole thing as a yawn (or as a wash, as it were). And even if past turnout was low, which I assume it was, it still does not mean that the hype of this candidate lives up to its own bright lights. It's really important to put these press release and proclamations of "mandate" in perspective, which no other media are going when it comes to Melton. As we pointed out already, Kenneth Stokes had a larger "mandate" than Melton based on pure numbers, but you don't see the media jumping up and down over that. It's all spin.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-03T14:58:45-06:00
ID
79145
Comment

The only activity from Melton that will have an impact on Jackson is the significant raises he has given his new appointees, while keeping on staff at least one of Mayor Johnson's appointed directors and most of Johnson's appointed deputy directors (Code Services, Housing, Planning, and Economic Development). If these Johnson's appointees over housing, code enforcement and economic development couldn't get the job done before why are they still on the payroll? Melton ran on the premise of improving code enforcement and housing for inner city neighborhoods. [If they did a bad job,] he needs to stop the madness and stage a search for people who have been successfull in accomplishing this monumental task in other cities. Jimmy Heidel will be focused on his forte--economic development, meanwhile is Melton depending on Johnson's staff to do what they are not capable of doing? There are a lot of disappointed Melton supporters out there and Jackson deserves better than this.

Author
realtime
Date
2005-11-03T15:14:40-06:00
ID
79146
Comment

But if usual turnout is 20 percent and 2005 turnout was 30 percent, then wouldn't that be an interesting thing? Not a huge number, but certainly a relative blowout--150% is pretty amazing. Of course, if the usual turnout is 28 percent and 2005 turnout was 30 percent, then it's less impressive. And if the usual turnout is 35 percent and the 2005 turnout was 30 percent, then folks who say that Melton snuck in under low turnout would have a serious point in their favor. None of this speaks to the more serious concern of how Melton won without actually having, you know, a platform, but it seems to me that it would still be good information to have. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-03T15:39:28-06:00
ID
79147
Comment

realtime, every time Melton keeps one of Johnson's people, I smile. Because it's a tacit concession that Johnson wasn't actually all that bad, even in Melton's estimation, and that he knows that the changes he makes will probably not be as drastic as his rhetoric sometimes suggests. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-03T15:42:36-06:00
ID
79148
Comment

From the Hinds County Circuit Clerk election results web page. June 5, 2001 General Election: 40,866 votes That is 31.02% of Voting Age Population (VAP) based on 2000 US Census data. Number of registered voters in 2001 is not publishedóbut was probably lower than those currently listed for the city of Jackson (95,183 or 72% of voting age population).

Author
Rex
Date
2005-11-03T15:58:00-06:00
ID
79149
Comment

So, based on voting age population only, there was a lower turnout in 2005. But there may have been a slight higher percentage of registered voters turning out in 2005. That comparison cannot be accurately made at this time.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-11-03T16:01:28-06:00
ID
79150
Comment

*whistle* So we now have a significant drop of 26%--from 31.02% of the VAP to 22.87% of the VAP--between 2001 and 2005. That runs directly counter to the claim that Melton brought in casual voters who had not participated in recent elections. Great work, Rex. This is exactly what I wanted. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-03T16:46:44-06:00
ID
79151
Comment

realtime - Without commenting on specific city employees, you are way off base. I suggest you do a little research into your comments and learn what these people do, have done, and have planned. Was everyone you speak of appointed by the past mayor? You also do not know what kind of conversations these people had with the Mayor's team after they won. Maybe they found they had similar ideas, new ideas that Harvey wasn't into, and forged a relationship that is helping the city and the Mayor? Many former Harvey appointees and hires are still there and they are just as dedicated to pushing Jackson forward - more now then ever. Maybe if the Mayor wouldn't go around publicly saying, "if I could only get 8 hours of work a day out of the city employees that I could turn things around faster." Not a great moral booster when you are CEO of the company called Jackson. So, it's good to know that those for and against Harvey Johnson are now coming together in disappointment on how Melton is running the city. We'll have to have a mixer soon!

Author
pikersam
Date
2005-11-03T18:44:47-06:00
ID
79152
Comment

pikersam, I can assure you I have done the research and I am dead right. There are many dedicated city employees both appointed and civil service, but "acting" directors and deputy directors who were appointed by Johnson, supported Johnson, and were not effective in creating housing, economic development and cleaning up the City will not be able to objectively look at the processes they helped create. (That have not worked.) The mayor and City Council set policy, and the Directors should be creating processes and procedures to help their staffs work efficiently. Too often the public (and Melton) blame the workers at the bottom without knowing what obstacles they face in trying to do their jobs. They are underpaid, have not had a raise in six years, are making one-third to one-fifth of what the appointed Directors are making, often do not have the equipment including cars they need and then must endure the indignity of hearing themselves blamed for the inefficiency of the City when they are helpless to change anything. Mayor Melton was elected because the voters who went to the polls (no matter how few or how many) wanted a change. That did not mean inflating salaries of the highest paid appointees or adding even more appointees while eliminating more and more people who are actually doing the work. One of the complaints I heard about Johnson was he had created a lot of high paying jobs for his cronies. Also have heard the Directors spent most of their time going to meetings. What has changed?

Author
realtime
Date
2005-11-03T22:58:01-06:00
ID
79153
Comment

I never bought into the whole cronyism claim. My only real complaint about the Johnson administration is that some folks in the AMOS Network apparently found it to be very difficult to work with, and that some of the property taxes for downtown buildings were unpleasant. But this could be true of any administration. Generally speaking, I would have been happy to elect Johnson mayor-for-life and let him do his thing. So for me, the more people Melton brings in from the Johnson administration, the less likely it is that Melton will arbitrarily undo the good work Johnson began. The more he does to carry on Johnson's agenda, gently folding in his own ideas like blueberries in muffin batter, the happier I'll be with the job he does. I don't think a radical overhaul is called for, no matter what percentage of the votes he got, because I believe that Johnson's overall strategy was sound. His achilles' heel was the crime issue, and he did fail miserably in terms of how he approached that problem from a PR perspective, but the truth is that I'm not convinced that the mayor can do all that much about crime. As long as you appoint a competent police chief--and I have no qualms about Shirley Anderson--then the issue becomes one that the mayor can't really improve on, at least not directly. If Melton's people think he can prove me wrong on that point, I'd love to see it. But I'm skeptical. I think this is a larger societal problem, and the root causes are poverty and the drug trade--and because the drug trade will exist as long as the demand is there, the single root cause is basically poverty. We can do things to mitigate crime, to reduce crime, but I think to a great extent it's just the price we pay. Hey, it beats tuberculosis and malaria, civil war, and so on and so forth; we've got it pretty good compared to most of the rest of the world. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-03T23:39:27-06:00
ID
79154
Comment

Incidentally, I also had no qualms about Moore, and I think one of the central mistakes made by the Johnson reelection campaign was its failure to campaign on Moore. Johnson knew for months in advance that crime would be Melton's major issue, and he could have deflected that by making crime his own #1 issue and citing statistics to prove he's doing a good job. The fact that the first ad was "the privileged and the powerful are trying to take Jackson back"--which left a really bad taste in my mouth--was the first sign, to me, that Johnson might lose. I think he could have kicked Melton's proverbial ass if he had just run on the crime issue, made that his entire platform, and stayed on message with it: We have a competent police force, we have made tangible progress, and imagine how good things will be if crime continues to drop at this rate during my next term. Johnson's mistake was really the opposite of Melton's; Melton's campaign was not issue-oriented enough, but Johnson's may have been too issue-oriented and not centered enough on myth. Myth is very important in politics; the aging populist anti-crime crusader versus the comfortable bureaucrat is not a fair fight. The aging populist anti-crime crusader versus the demonstratable anti-crime mastermind, with Sherlock Holmes as his police chief, is much more interesting. He gave up the opportunity to frame the election, and I think that, Ledger or no Ledger, he would have won it if he'd just co-opted Melton's anti-crime rhetoric. Think '92. Clinton won because he stole Ross Perot's thunder and added it to the Democratic base. It's like aikido, folks--take your opponent's momentum and use it to your own advantage. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T00:04:06-06:00
ID
79155
Comment

(Demonstrable, not demonstratable. I always make that typo. Jeez.)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T00:06:14-06:00
ID
79156
Comment

Back to the election count... If you really want to put Meltonís election in context, you need to look at the primaries as well as the general election. A more comprehensive view will give a better indicator of voter participation. For example, in June 2001 there were 40,866 votes cast in the general election (31.02% of VAP). In May, the Democratic and Republican primaries, both three-way race (Harden, Johnson, and Kirksey in the Democratic and Miller, Neely, and Reeves in the Republican) together saw 40,024 votes cast ñ nearly the same number as later cast in the general election. In May 2005, the Democratic primary had 44,556 votes cast for the three candidates (Johnson, Melton, and Smith). There was no Republican primary due to one of the two announced candidates on that ticket decided, for some reason, to let Whitlow head to the general election without opposition-- who then offered only token opposition to Melton (in exchange for a job?). Now, using the 44,556 votes cast in the Democratic primary, we see that, for the REAL 2005 contest, voter participation was up in comparison to 2001: 33.8% of VAP and 46.8% of registered voters compared to 22.87% of VAP and 31.66% of registered voters in the general election). With this comparatively high turnout and nearly 63% of the primary vote going to Melton, Iíll leave it to others to the dueling blogs to discuss issues of ìmandate vs. no mandate.î As for me, I canít help but feel if there had been different circumstances in regard to Republican opposition in the general election, there would have been a different voter rate and final spread in June. IMHO, that whole thing begs to be looked at by the tin-foil hat crowd.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-11-04T08:23:30-06:00
ID
79157
Comment

Too early Too many typos

Author
Rex
Date
2005-11-04T08:28:16-06:00
ID
79158
Comment

While I do agree that Johnson didn't attack Melton the way he could and should have, the state's largest paper probably had Johnson beat months, if not years, ago. Crimes aren't plastered all over the front page of the C-L anymore. And it, the online edition at least, no longer lists a weekly "crime report". What a coinkydink.

Author
millhouse
Date
2005-11-04T09:04:18-06:00
ID
79159
Comment

realtime, I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with your overall opinion, but pike makes a good point about you calling out specific employees to bash anonymously. It doesn't matter to me that you say you've done the research to make your claims. I don't know who you are, and I haven't seen your research. Feel free to call me and set up an appointment to view it if you believe it would make a good story. Otherwise, I will delete any of your chacterizations of individuals.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-04T10:34:26-06:00
ID
79160
Comment

It wasn't just attacking Melton. Johnson didn't promote Moore, or himself, the way he should have. The C-L was definitely a piece of sensationalistic junk, but, here again, he could have played into that the same way Melton did by using the crime issue himself. If we had two candidates campaigning on crime, one a known quantity and the other a wannabe, I think it would have been a much more interesting race. The primary numbers are certainly relevant, but let's throw some context in here: Johnson had no real opposition in 2001, so during that race, the real fight was Johnson-Neely. Here in 2005, Whitlow never had a prayer of winning--though, as I'd said before, I think he would have been able to wage a better campaign if he'd been running against an incumbent--so the real race was in the primary, between Johnson and Melton. 1993 is the only year I can think of where both the primary and the general were considered competitive; usually one or the other is a completely predictable blowout. So the bottom line (no pun intended): You're right that comparing 2005 general election figures with 2001 general election figures doesn't make much sense, because in 2005 that wasn't where the real fight was. Maybe comparing 2005 primary figures with 2001 general election figures would make more sense, as word of mouth suggests to me that Republicans and independents showed up in droves to participate in this year's Democratic primary. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T10:35:31-06:00
ID
79161
Comment

Tom, millhouse's point about the media's coverage of crime is very good. I'm not sure the media would have allowed Mayor Johnson to win a single point on the topic, regardless of the hard evidence. The deck was stacked in that regard. No question. And it's also important to consider what The Clarion-Ledger did not report about Mr. Melton, as we discuss in the editorial this issue, not to mention Mr. Bluntson. It was as if it was a media blackout on anything potentially negative about those two men. I've never quite seen anything like it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-04T10:37:38-06:00
ID
79162
Comment

The C-L was definitely a piece of sensationalistic junk, but, here again, he could have played into that the same way Melton did by using the crime issue himself. Tom, I just don't agree. I covered the media's coverage of crime too closely for the last few years to believe that they would have allowed Johnson to campaign on crime. In fact, the Ledge itself mangled and manipulated crime stats continually to make it look like crime in Jackson is worse than it is. We showed how they did it several times. Then when Wilson Carroll and Haley Barbour did it during their campaigns (using Morgan Quitno numbers out of context and for the wrong year), the media here never called them out on it. No, they were not going to allow Johnson/Moore to take any credit on the crime point. And they have the power not to, just as they have the power now to take the spotlight off crime on Mr. Melton's behalf if he looks like he is not going to eliminate all crime in 90 days, or whatever claim he put forth. Also, did anyone see the big story *before* the election about how far the murder rate fell in Jackson for the first part of 2005 over 2004? I didn't think so. All this is not to say that Johnson ran a perfect campaign. Lord, no. However, he was running against the media on crime, and they were not going to let him win -- just like they were not going to report negative episodes from Mr. Melton's past from their own archives and direct dealings with him. They simply made that clear.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-04T10:43:35-06:00
ID
79163
Comment

During the latter part of the campaign this was certainly true, though some of the early stories about Melton seemed very critical. Not sure what happened. Maybe it was about the libel suit. I think that, regardless of the C-L, Johnson could not afford to concede the issue of crime. He knew this was the #1 stated concern of Jacksonians in most polls; that it was going to be Melton's main, perhaps only, issue; and that he had been put through the wringer on the "perception" quote. If he assumed in advance that the C-L would be too biased to allow him to run an anti-crime focused campaign, then I fail to see why he thought the strategy he did use would have worked out any better. Regardless, he could not let Melton have the crime issue; not if he wanted to be reelected. Personally, I think that if Johnson had made crime his #1 issue, the C-L would have been all too happy to cave and fall into their usual he said-she said holding pattern. It's a lazy newspaper with huge conflicts of interest, but there would have to be corruption at every level, very well-contained corruption, to permit Johnson and Melton to speak on the same issue and have only one of them get through. Plus I think the influence of the C-L is overstated at times. I'd rate it third in terms of influence, behind TV news and campaign spots, respectively. I'm not sure who reads the damned thing, and of the ones who read it, I'm not sure who trusts it. I can't remember a time when people thought it was a good paper. We've always pretty much acknowledged that it's a second-rate McPaper that exists only to provide a token daily for Jackson. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T10:51:12-06:00
ID
79164
Comment

Donna, I don't think that's why they covered crime in such a negative way. I think they covered crime in such a negative way because fear sells papers--especially among the C-L's most prized target demographic. And I think they would have fallen into their he-said, she-said holding pattern as soon as both Johnson and Melton started campaigning on crime. They'd have to, to avoid coming across as too obviously biased--which could hurt them if TV news got wind of the story, national suits started hearing about it, etc. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T10:59:50-06:00
ID
79165
Comment

It's not really a matter of who trusts the C-L, Tom. It's how the daily newspaper then influences coverage by television, etc. It's also about how they help create memes that are then spread by people who don't agree with them on other issues. People can be very fickle with how they use media. I agree with you that Johnson should not have conceded crime -- and I don't think he did, although you wouldn't know it from the media coverage. However, it's not the "No. 1 issue" and never has been. It's a sympton of other more important issues, and it's very anti-intellectual of the Ledge to keep saying otherwise. I also agree that the lamestream focuses on crime in order to sell papers, up ratings, etc. (in the short term, although it's clearly not working in the long term, if they hadn't noticed). But by the time this campaign came, they were backed in a corner a bit on crime because they had bashed Johnson so much with it. And with the evidence of their softballing Melton on other real issues, I'm not sure I can say with certainty that they were simply playing crime against the previous mayor to sell papers. I think by the time it got into the meat of Melton's campaign, for whatever reason, the Ledge et al were going to do anything necessary to get him elected. Of course, the question now is why they're not all complaining about how closed the city is becoming on crime info, stats, meetings, etc. And will they continue to cover crime with the same vigor under a Melton administration -- or will he somehow convince them not to? We've heard that at least one TV station has ordered its employees to de-emphasize crime. No doubt it's a second-rate paper; I'm on record saying I believe it's the worst daily in the country, and I just can't think of one worse when you take all the factors into consideration. One of its worst problems seems to be the desire to hire spineless editors who can be easily manipulated into writing mindless, cliche-ridden editorials without needed context and then saying publicly "that people don't want the truth," as one of the editors actually said at a panel we both were on recently when I brought up the holes in their Melton coverage. Well, then. There's some contempt for your readership. I truly hope the Ledge starts to prove us wrong -- that would be a victory to me. However, it's steadily gotten worse over the last several years and with their refusal to put enough resources into real reporting instead of special pubs to try to dominate other local publications, I don't see it changing. They don't do one publication well; instead they're trying to do lots of them bad. I don't know how people go to work over there every day and put out those rags.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-04T11:13:45-06:00
ID
79166
Comment

I think the Ledge, and TV news, have made crime the #1 issue. I don't think it should be--worrying about crime without worrying about poverty, without worrying about city development, is like worrying about casualties in Iraq without worrying about the war--but I think it is, and if you're surrounded by rotten tomatoes, you may as well get used to the flavor. No question the media--especially, though not exclusively, the Ledge--has been exploiting legitimate fear of crime to sell papers, and causing immeasurable damage to the city in the process. No question. No question that the C-L editorial board is full of people who don't understand journalism and don't give a damn about this city. No question. And if Johnson were just a public intellectual, then I would applaud his decision to say that crime is not as bad as the media portrays it to be, that we should not allow ourselves to be exploited in that way, that perception of crime, yes, is a bigger barrier to business development in this city than the crime itself. I ran across a wonderful 1970s newspaper article on this, in the course of working on my criminal justice book, just the other day--which I really ought to excerpt from and make into a blog entry, because it reflects so well what I think Moore was trying to get at in the speech the Ledge's people deliberately misunderstood. But Johnson is not just a public intellectual. He's a politician. Politicians are, by definition, professional vultures. Politicians need to realize that if you're hungry and surrounded by shit, you need to learn to like the flavor. I think Johnson needed to run action-hero ads trumpeting his own record and, most importantly of all, saying what things would look like in four years if current patterns continued; that would have made Melton look like a dilettante. I would be the first--well, technically, the second or third or fourth--to say that the C-L's mishandling of this election contributed in a significant, maybe insurmountable, way to Melton's victory. I would be the first---or...well, you get the idea--to say that the conflict of interest, as far as the lawsuit goes, is very troubling. But I'm not quite ready to connect the two yet. Is it possible that the C-L board orchestrated their handling of Johnson's campaign in such a way as to promote the election of their co-defendant in a civil lawsuit? Yes. It's very possible. But I think it's much more likely that the C-L was just doing what bad journalism does: Exploit fear, play to prejudices, and look at the other bottom line--the one with a dollar sign in front of it. Either way, the C-L's leadership behaved shamefully. No question. They have a lot to answer for. And if Gannett's ethics policy means anything, they should be held accountable for it. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T11:29:32-06:00
ID
79167
Comment

But I'm not quite ready to connect the two yet. Is it possible that the C-L board orchestrated their handling of Johnson's campaign in such a way as to promote the election of their co-defendant in a civil lawsuit? Actually, I agree here. As disturbing as it looks, I don't know that the Ledge orchestrated coverage of Melton so as to help their own lawsuit in some way -- although I do believe this should be examined by the public, and the timing is certainly disturbing. I'm not saying they did. What I am saying, and what we said in our editorial this issue, is that I believe the Ledge supported Melton with so little critical, probing coverage because they wanted him to win -- probably because their biggest advertisers wanted them to. And it was the worst coverage of a political race I have ever witnessed from a print publication. They truly seem to think we're all idiots out here. I believe that part of that strategy was focusing on crime as "the No. 1 issue," as ridiculous as that was, which also benefitted them in a sensationalistic way. And, as an institution, they clearly hated Harvey Johnson -- probably because he had called them out on some many things that happened to be true. Now, it seems, they have choices: Continue to softball Melton, even on crime and legal issues. Or risk ticking him off, as well as his supporters, by covering him as they should any elected official. Thanks for posting the ethics link; I often wonder if the GAnnett home office even know how badly they have mucked this up here. Looks like Jacksonians could e-mail their concerns straight to the home office. Good find.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-04T11:43:54-06:00
ID
79168
Comment

I'm not sure we're not saying the same thing here, Donna, but it would have been a shame to miss the opportunity for a good argument. I think we should definitely pelt Gannett with complaints. Everyone reading this should dash a letter off to Gannett to this effect: Your Jackson paper, the Clarion-Ledger, has been a co-defendant with local millionaire Frank Melton in a libel lawsuit for some months now. Earlier this year, Melton ran for mayor against Harvey Johnson, Jackson's first African-American mayor, and received an endorsement, and generally received glowingly positive coverage, from the Clarion-Ledger. Partly as a result of this coverage, Melton won. To my knowledge, the Clarion-Ledger did not ever mention, and certainly did not regularly mention, this possible conflict of interest. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T11:57:23-06:00
ID
79169
Comment

Thanks for the reminder Ladd. Did not mean to issue a personal attack but was just using names as an example. Frankly, I don't post often because it seems everyone is so polarized for or against Johnson or Melton that they are more interested in spinning than in trying to find out the truth. I will stick by my opinion that crime, deteriorating neighborhoods, and effective code enforcement are major issues with the citizens of Jackson and we need a strong leader who will spend the time needed to figure out why these issues are not being properly addressed. Most of us are sick of the hidden agendas and promises that never seem to materialize. I had thought the "honeymoon" article set the tone for a good discussion of these things, but maybe I was wrong. Mayor Melton has a wonderful opportunity to bring substantiative issues to the table. And I think most citizens and city employees would respond in a very positive manner to this type of leadership. Frankly, I think Jackson should look at a City Manager type of government that might remove some of the politics out of hiring practices. Changing Department Heads every four to eight years and appointing people who helped you get elected is not necessarily the best thing for the City; although, most of Melton's appointees are excellent choices.

Author
realtime
Date
2005-11-04T12:23:31-06:00
ID
79170
Comment

I understand. Your post wasn't that over the top; only took a tweak or two to make it OK. You raise interesting questions, which I left there. No one said those aren't major issues, by the way -- it's just looking at crime as "the No. 1 issue" is very short-sighted. You won't ever solve it that way. No, please keep going on the discussion. I just didn't want you calling out *individuals* for doing a bad job without us being able to prove it. That's just basic legal-type, User Agreement stuff that moderators have to be concerned about. I'm curious: What "type of leadership" do you think Mr. Melton brings to the table? I'm not being flip at all, by the way. I think this could open a new line of discussion here. I think the "leadership" style of elected officials is very important to discuss -- and it wasn't something that voters got much of during the campaign.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-04T12:53:18-06:00
ID
79171
Comment

I agree with Donna, please keep the dialog open. I'm not totally disagreeing with you realtime. There may be better candidates to head some departments. But, I feel we have some good people in place already who have made great strides. Like in my Farish St post, a lot of Johnson's accomplishments and on going projects were tossed aside by the lamestream and the business community in an effort to discredit Johnson's tenure. A lot of facts were distorted by the press which clouded the votersí view of Jackson's progress. I'm not faulting them or Melton per say, I think they thought he was going to be a better candidate to lead this city then Johnson. However, when it comes to leadership in gov't., I feel that the following of policies and procedures is the most important aspect of bureaucratic leadership. Once you master that, you are able to move political mountains if you have the support of the people. I think given time maybe Melton will catch on to the system and he may be able to lead this city forward in a more productive manner. Oh, and I love Tom's letter!!!!!

Author
pikersam
Date
2005-11-04T14:25:59-06:00
ID
79172
Comment

I'm not sure I understand the infatuation with Melton's margin of victory. Is that really an issue? While I will agree that his first 100 days in office have been less dynamic than his actual campaign, I think the thing to keep in mind is that it is his first 100 days in office. I can't recall much of anything that advantageous about Johnson's first 2,920 days in office. Jackson needed a change in leadership and Melton just happened to be the beneficiary. As much as some people wanted to believe that Melton would turn things around overnight, that's wishful thinking. It doesn't help that he continues to promote that line of thinking, but it's unrealistic and tose of us who aren't in office should realize this. Write me another article after his first YEAR in office.

Author
todd
Date
2005-11-04T15:57:10-06:00
ID
79173
Comment

Todd-not-Stauffer, Melton's margin of victory is only as important as his supporters (including in the media) make it. That is, if you are going to proclaim that he has a major, amazing mandate to sweep out the entire city government, leaving parts of crippled in interim, and ask for resignations of people who don't have the legal right to, and etc., etc., based on this amazing margin of victory, then that press release needs desperately to be balanced with the reality of how many Jacksonians actually turned out to vote for him. That is, it's a Fair and Balanced thang. I don't buy the whole "Jackson needed a change in leadership" and he was the one standing there argument. I see that as no justification for electing someone, anyoneóregardless of their own skills, platforms, leadership skills and tendency to tell the truth. We really can do better than that.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-04T16:07:42-06:00
ID
79174
Comment

Jackson didn't need a change in leadership? Seriously? I guess we can agree to disagree there. You've heard the whole "perception is reality" thing? That's pretty much where Johnson's ship ran aground. I'm also of the opinion that leaders make decisions, right or wrong, in a clear and decisive manner. The Anti-Johnson syndrome. Now, with that said, W has proven that mantra to be disastrous in regards to him, but I'm willing, for now, to give Melton the benefit of the doubt.

Author
todd
Date
2005-11-04T16:27:38-06:00
ID
79175
Comment

I'm a huge fan of Johnson, and I think Jackson obviously was too given his reelection in 2001. He got two terms. That's no small thing; so did Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush. He had his eight years, and if we had the same term limits policy, he'd leave office maxed out. I think Melton has considerable potential--to be not just good, but great--but I didn't like his campaign and I don't like his first 100 days in office. What I like about Melton is the side of himself that we haven't really seen yet. Maybe it doesn't even exist. I don't know. I do know that I'm tired of the stern, macho talk. Jackson doesn't need that. And Melton doesn't need that--it makes him sound like Barney Fife. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T16:27:59-06:00
ID
79176
Comment

Jackson didn't need a change in leadership? Seriously? I guess we can agree to disagree there. You've heard the whole "perception is reality" thing? What was the "perception is reality" thing?

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-11-04T16:30:09-06:00
ID
79177
Comment

todd, perception is sometimes reality. If affluent people refuse to visit businesses in a certain part of town because two murders happen there every year, never mind if they're acquaintance murders, then the businesses suffer and risk going under. If businesses go under, that part of town starts getting run down. If it starts getting run down, crime flourishes. It's a vicious cycle. If everybody in Belhaven insisted on doing all their shopping in the roughest parts of town, then criminals would stop doing their business there. Criminals do not respect the Gallatin line. They are concerned about getting caught, so they do their business where they don't think they'll get caught. The Clarion-Ledger's distortion of what Chief Moore said regarding perception is Exhibit A for folks who say that it had an anti-Johnson bias. The paper could have explained his point; instead they unexplained it, then spent all year railing against the straw man they'd created. It'd be pathetic, except that they can do it with impunity. The C-L editorial board doesn't understand the concept of journalistic ethics. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T16:33:35-06:00
ID
79178
Comment

todds, I was arguing with the other todd. And nothing personal to hm, but can we set up a policy where folks who have a nick identical to a @jacksonfreepress.com email address have to change it? 'Cause we have a todd now, we could have a donna later... I see huge potential for confusion. Cheers, Th

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-04T16:34:52-06:00
ID
79179
Comment

As much as some people wanted to believe that Melton would turn things around overnight, that's wishful thinking. It doesn't help that he continues to promote that line of thinking, but it's unrealistic and tose of us who aren't in office should realize this. Write me another article after his first YEAR in office.-- not iTodd Oh my mistake. I thught MELTON said he would turn things around nearly overnight. As I mentioned in another post Melton himself said he would "solve the crime problem" in 90 to 180 days. Well we're past 100 and the problem isn't solved. I'm still waiting. I got Dec. 4 circled in BIG RED letters.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-11-04T16:43:27-06:00
ID
79180
Comment

Hey Rex, have you ever heard the old saying, "You can't believe everything you hear and only half of what you see." I know there are people who believe that politicians should tell the truth and follow through on promises. That's the way it SHOULD be but that ain't the world we live in. I don't doubt that he will get a handle on the crime problem, but you had to have been able to distinguish between reality and political posturing. Okay guys, I'm out for the night. And Donna, thanks for spear heading this JFP baby of yours. It's nice to have a place to exchange valid arguments concerning the well-being of this city.

Author
todd
Date
2005-11-04T17:39:04-06:00
ID
79181
Comment

No problem, todd. Come on back soon and talk some more. Whether we all agree or not, it's important to have the dialogue (even if your name confuses us). ;-) And, Tom, this statement of yours is a wonderful and succinct description of how the Ledge, er, "covered" crime the last few years: The Clarion-Ledger's distortion of what Chief Moore said regarding perception is Exhibit A for folks who say that it had an anti-Johnson bias. The paper could have explained his point; instead they unexplained it, then spent all year railing against the straw man they'd created. The truth is, they acted like fools with their perception-gate mania. But I've given that stupidity too many words in the past. This is the kind of logic that would embarass me on behalf of Mississippians -- except, of course, that The Clarion-Ledger is no longer a Mississippi newspaper, even if they occasionally find Mississippians to pour the Korporate Koolaid on Goliath's behalf. They do (or don't do) many things that I loathe, but nothing infuriates me more than a Virginia-based mega-corporation comeing in here and treating Mississippians like we're fools who know nothing about the bigger world -- and stacking top positions with people who don't mind perpetuating that notion on the home office's behalf. Two of the best examples of this are their (a) coverage of tort reform, ignoring research their own corporation had done and (b) their hyping of perception-gate, completely ignoring the point of what Chief Moore was trying to say and putting those insipid sound bites like, "Hey, chief, I thought crime was only a perception." And I like Marshall Ramsey, over all, but he jumped on this particular bandwagon too often for me to completely respect his work. Truly, I believe the main reason the JFP is so popular with folks of all political leanings (except for insecure wingnuts) is because we don't treat people like they're stupid.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-04T18:06:59-06:00
ID
79182
Comment

you had to have been able to distinguish between reality and political posturing. --todd Of course I know the difference. And that's my point, I know the difference. But then I'm not a casual observer and I fear for any government that establishes itself on unreality. If I sagely chuckle and take Melton's posturing without getting upset, why should I get upset about any lies a politician tells me? I get upset because HE.IS.LYING and manipulating the voters. I get upset because THE.PRESS.IS.HELPING.HIM.LIE. I get upset because he seems to believe his own press. And I get upset because the news media (with few exceptions) are calling him on it.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-11-07T15:58:58-06:00
ID
79183
Comment

Have yíall seen Stringfellowís column in the Clarion-Ledger? Think the chickens are coming home to roost when even his cheerleaders are saying this? Money quotes: After 120 days, the key question remains: What's the plan? .... The votes should have been counted before the nomination, but some council members said the mayor did not discuss any nominations before they were offered. If the mayor wants to be effective, that should change. So must his response to crime. .... It was interesting that Melton, the closest thing Jackson ever has seen to Eliot Ness, gutted the Jackson Police Department's crime-prevention unit. Maybe he was justified, but it was a strange move for someone who crusaded against crime during the campaign while he was still a member of the private sector. .... Hereís the big one: To many, the implication is that Jackson really elected a police chief in Melton, who participates in raids and always is armed. Anderson often comes across as Melton's puppet. That, whether reality or just a perception, is not healthy. (emphasis added) .... It's time for Melton to demonstrate that he's more than a 30-second sound bite.

Author
Rex
Date
2005-11-08T09:42:12-06:00
ID
79184
Comment

Melton made his first mistake when he appointed Ms. Anderson as police chief without reaching out to other law enforcement agencies as he had promised. She seems like a good person and she may be a good law enforcement person, but having someone who is articulate, who can conmand the respect of the officers, and who can work with other law enforcement agencies is of utmost importance. The perception that Melton is running JPD whether it is true or not is not what Melton needs; since that is the same perception everyone had of Johnson and all of his police chiefs. I remember when Mayor Johnson fired Chief Johnson because the Chief did not want the Mayor running his Department. From that point on, Mayor Johnson seemed to select people who would basically send out the message the Mayor wanted to get out. Mayor Johson made the mistake of thinking that he could convince the citizens that crime was a perception. Then Chief Moore had the audacity to say it was the public's responsiblity to fight crime. That was the beginning of the end. "You can fool some of the people . . . " When people are experiencing break-ins, murders, and other violent crime in their own neighborhoods year after year, it is an insult to tell them crime is a perception. That dog just doesn't hunt anymore in Jackson. And if Melton is not successful in fighting crime, he will find his way out of the Mayor's office approximately three and one half years from now. When you think about all of the fantastic projects Johnson started (or continued from Ditto)and how Jacksonians began to discount these things, you begin to get the message about how strongly they felt about the crime issue. If we had begun the process of rebuilding neighborhoods and Johnson had been able to get a handle on crime, the downtown projects would have been a source of pride; instead, they began to a constant reminder that people who are hunting that he was not interested in their neighborhoods (perception again). And remember, Johnson had monthly ward meetings and "Pride Rides" for citizens so he did not have to depend upon the press to get the word out about projects.

Author
realtime
Date
2005-11-08T10:45:42-06:00
ID
79185
Comment

um, realtime, when, exactly, did Johnson try to convince us that crime was only a perception? And since when is fighting crime NOT the repsonsibility of every citizen? and todd, I do NOT buy into the notion that politicians can LIE and we shoudl forget about it, because, well, politicians lie all the time, so it's okay. I think we ought to hold politicians to the same ethical standards we apply to us regular citizens. Melton needs to learn to speak accurately - if he's not going to "solve the crime problem" in 180 days, then he shouldn't be saying it. Because it's a lie.

Author
kate
Date
2005-11-08T11:16:07-06:00
ID
79186
Comment

Yes, I saw Stringfellow's column. As I've said a lot lately, better late than never. Re Andersonóshe does seem perfectly nice, and I hear she has a good crime-fighting history, although you would never know it, being that the city has, so far, refused to give her a resume, bio, etc., for her. One thing I will say is that she seems terrified of the press. If the media hounded her half as hard as they did Chief Moore, I think she might never come out from behind locked doors. My biggest complaint, or two complaints, about her so far: (1) She seems to be there just to do what Melton tells her to do. (2) She doesn't have weekly press briefings such as Moore did, even though the media often quoted him out of context. But he wasn't afraid to do it. Not speaking of out of context, realtimeóMayor Johnson simply did not say that "crime was a perception." Never. In fact, he said the opposite. What was twisted into that by the mainstream media, for their own benefit and ultimately that of Mr. Melton, was the very real warnings *to them* that the way they were reporting crime was creating a perception that it was out of control. The warning was very correct and necessaryóif the media overblows and sensationalizes crime (even using stats for the wrong year as Mr. Stringfellow has done), then people start to feel hopeless, flee the city, move out businesses and so onóall things that actually contribute to crime. The "crime perception" issue is very real in criminal-justice circles, and needs to be discussed, even if the local lamestream media and "The Skin-Flint" is too doofus to understand, or bother to research, what is actually being said. We've written about what The Clarion-Ledger, followed by other media, did on the "perception" issue repeatedly. It was disgusting, and it was wrong. Furthermore, it was bad for the city. It is one of the most irresponsible stretches of journalism I've ever witnessed. Yes, and Todd-not-Stauffer, I agree with Kate et al. I don't think that one lie is justified because people lie too much. That idea is cynical and antithetical to democracy. And, Kate, you are absolutely correct. Mr. Melton should learn to think before he speaks. And do research. Just because his sound-bitedness got him this far does not mean it is OK. How can he make all the noises to young people about being honest and doing the right thing when he shows no urgency in fixing his own propensity to stuff, regardless of its veracity. It's patently irresponsible.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-08T11:41:12-06:00

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