Salon.com Questions Barbour's ‘Mississippi Miracle' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Salon.com Questions Barbour's ‘Mississippi Miracle'

Salon.com today has a "hard look" into the job that Haley Barbour has done with Katrina recovery. Some interesting stuff in there, particularly about how slowly some of the non-casino counties are recovering, as well as some of the national emergency relief legislation that has been blocked by Republicans and now by the Bush veto.

Today, Hancock County and the rest of coastal Mississippi are 21 months into a recovery that has garnered Gov. Haley Barbour lavish praise. Governing magazine named Barbour its 2006 Public Official of the Year largely due to his supposed post-Katrina leadership and savvy, including his skill in convincing federal lawmakers to channel billions of relief dollars to the Magnolia State. As Billy Hewes III, a Republican official from Gulfport, said: "He is to Katrina what Rudy Giuliani was to 9/11." Outsiders might be surprised to learn then, that despite the plaudits, and despite the fact that Barbour's GOP connections seem to have won him a disproportionate share of relief money from Washington, post-Katrina recovery in some of the hardest-hit areas of the Mississippi coast is moving as fast as molasses in winter.

Previous Comments

ID
113159
Comment

Reading the article, the general impression you get is (1) Barbour was wildly successful in getting federal funds, although this might not have been fair to Louisiana; (2) for the most part, Barbour is kicking ass and taking names when it comes to economic revitalization; (3) much of the financial difficulty facing certain coastal areas is the fault of the federal government; and (4) there are, admittedly, some alligators that have yet to be dealt with. Unless you think it's Barbour's job description includes ensuring that Louisiana gets its fair share, I see no major problems. This smacks of a hit piece that a couple of avowed lefties committed themselves to prior to doing any research, which didn't pan out as expected.

Author
laughter
Date
2007-05-25T14:46:30-06:00
ID
113160
Comment

er, LTG, that's the impression *you* get.

Author
kate
Date
2007-05-25T14:55:22-06:00
ID
113161
Comment

This smacks of a hit piece that a couple of avowed lefties committed themselves to prior to doing any research, which didn't pan out as expected. Sigh. I guess this is what passes for "discussion" these days. Oh, well...it must have made Law Talkin' Guy feel pretty big in his breeches when he typed it...which is why we're all here. ;-)

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2007-05-25T15:12:17-06:00
ID
113162
Comment

For shame Law Talker. I mean, isn't that sort of glib dismissal Kingfish's job? Oh yeah. Anyway, what about this? And thanks to the economic boost in certain areas, Mississippi is now looking at a windfall in tax revenues. For the first six months of the 2007 budget year, general fund revenues were up 12.7 percent, and the Mississippi Legislative Budget Committee and the governor recently increased the estimate for the 2007 budget from $4.5 billion to nearly $4.7 billion, which means the state has an extra $192.7 million thanks to higher-than-expected tax collections largely from Katrina spending. But under Barbour's leadership, the state has been unwilling to use its good fortune to help debt-ridden towns -- and some are at risk of going under. In Hancock County, towns racked up massive debt when federal officials promised to make disaster loans but failed to move quickly enough. The Mississippi Development Bank stepped in and loaned $5.3 million to Hancock County and $4.5 million to the town of Waveland to keep basic operations running. State officials hoped FEMA would reimburse some of the money, but that hasn't materialized. Now those loans -- about $79 million across the Mississippi coast -- come due in October, and small towns hardest hit by Katrina have no idea how they'll meet the obligation. The fact that Bay St. Louis and Waveland are about to go under due to Barbour's inaction is not a "major problem," eh?

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-05-25T15:25:36-06:00
ID
113163
Comment

Before Katrina, the majority of Pearlington residents used post-office boxes; but since no post offices -- or any other major city, county or school buildings in Hancock County -- have been rebuilt, they have to drive an hour round-trip to Bay St. Louis to pick up a letter. First of all, let's speak to (4) -- the alligators. According to the piece, no major municipal buildings have been rebuilt in Hancock County. That's an alligator or two still left to deal with...amen? Undoubtedly this is not all Barbour's fault; but, by the same token, he takes enough credit that a little criticism can't hurt. So, why isn't Haley helping Hancock County push through what it needs the way he is, say, with the Beau Rivage? My first thought when I read it is...OK...call me crazy...I wonder what party Rocky Pullman in? http://www.hancockdemocrats.com/electedofficicals.htm But that couldn't have anything to do with his trouble getting the Guv's help, right? The Guv's not "taking names" or anything and helping only those who appear on certain lists right? ;-)

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2007-05-25T15:54:14-06:00
ID
113164
Comment

Secondly, I think it is fair, to a certain degree, to note the implications of Barbour getting inappropriate shares of Federal dollars because we had Republicans in office. What's so wrong with Louisiana that they deserve our contempt? Because they have Democrats running parts of it? That's not good enough for me. It's not just housing. Mississippi is also slated to get 38 percent of federal hospital recovery funds, even though it lost just 79 beds compared to 2,600 lost in southern Louisiana, which will get 45 percent of the funds. Mississippi and Louisiana both received $95 million to offset losses in higher education, even though Louisiana was home to 75 percent of displaced students. The states also received $100 million each for K-12 students affected by the storms, despite the fact that 69 percent resided in Louisiana. Is this Haley's fault? Dunno...is he influential with Republicans in D.C.? (I guess that depends on whether or not bears crap in the woods.) If so, then maybe he should have influenced them to be a bit more fair with Federal dollars..."C'mon, yawl. Give a lil' more to the poor childrun in Leesianna. Yur makin' me look bayad for my Vee-Pee campay-in."

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2007-05-25T16:00:04-06:00
ID
113165
Comment

Barbour for vice president? Perish the thought. Then perish it a couple more times.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-05-25T16:03:47-06:00
ID
113166
Comment

What's the baseline for a successful rebuilding after an unprecedented natural disaster? Is it reasonable to expect that no municipality will become insolvent in an already poor region? My sense is no, but then, there's just nothing to compare it to. At any rate, I don't think Barbour has been using the new surplus to buy Cuban tobacco and roll it with hundred dollar bills. If I recall correctly, we're spending most of it on education, right? As for rebuilding the municipal buildings, there's really only one state- or national-level policy decision that affects that much right now, and it's waiver of the 10% matching requirement. (And last I checked, the Postal Service is a federal agency.) As for the "fairness to Louisiana" issue, agreed -- to an extent. In a perfect world, people (i.e., voters) wouldn't be self-interested. They, and their elected officials would be as concerned about their neighbors as themselves. But it's not a perfect world. I care more about myself than my neighbor, and so do you. And the vast majority of people, regardless of party, vote that way. And it's well documented that people get more selfish (violent, intolerant, etc.) in large groups. So I submit that the only practical rubric under which to judge any politician is, how well does he deliver for the people who elected him? Finally, as for "Why the Beau Rivage and not the Hancock county library?" Simple: the Beau Rivage makes money, hires employees, and pays taxes. By the same token, Jackson ought to invest more in Belhaven and Fondren than in Ellis avenue. In the long run, it benefits everybody.

Author
laughter
Date
2007-05-25T19:01:24-06:00
ID
113167
Comment

I care more about myself than my neighbor, and so do you. And the vast majority of people, regardless of party, vote that way. And it's well documented that people get more selfish (violent, intolerant, etc.) in large groups. So let's just go with it, huh? If a group of men is stealing your neighbor's car, well, heck, that's human nature, right? Pay no mind, after all, it's not YOUR car. And if he tries to stop them and they beat him senseless with a tire iron, you don't need to intervene, no skin off YOUR nose. Morality, law, etc., why bother? Law talking guy, my a**. It's the law's job to keep the worst and most selfish impulses of people under check.

Author
C.W.
Date
2007-05-26T08:55:24-06:00
ID
113168
Comment

Finally, as for "Why the Beau Rivage and not the Hancock county library?" Simple: the Beau Rivage makes money, hires employees, and pays taxes. By the same token, Jackson ought to invest more in Belhaven and Fondren than in Ellis avenue. In the long run, it benefits everybody. Yes, LTG, it'd be nice to take the concept of "all municipal buildings" a pretend that actually means "a library," but it's not just the library. It's 911 response. It's basic services. It's county government. It's roads and water and public services. The story shows that a disproportionate amount of Federal dollars came to Mississippi as a result of the disaster (and, yes, we're benefiting from it -- I'm thrilled that GoZone is making all of the investments in Jackson possible), and yet places like Hancock County still don't have basic services, which might play *a little* against the "Haley Giuliani" myth. It's not just a library; it's not just an alligator. The Salon piece is not the full story but any stretch of the imagination, and I'm not saying it should be taken as gospel on the matter. But Hancock County was "ground zero" for Katrina, and it still, by every measure available, has a long way to go. Sounds like it could still use a little help -- and certainly Dems in Congress should be held accountable if things don't get better. (Note that the matching fund exemption was in the Iraq authorization bill that Bush vetoed.) There's also quite a bit more than just that 10% to deal with, such as loans that could be forgiven by the Miss Legislature. What's the benchmark? Since I'm not in Hancock County, I'm not sure. But officials IN Hancock County talked to these reporters and certainly made it sound like the benchmark hasn't been reached yet. It seems like their word on the matter could be worth a little something. And the Ellis Avenue statement is just some sort of Objectivism pipe dream. If you don't develop and economically motivate developers and entrepreneurs in low income areas as well as high-income areas, you aren't going to float the whole ship of Jackson, regardless of whether or not we renovate every storefront in Belhaven. The truth is that some of those areas are doing fine on their own with local developers; in that case, government can secure the common good and otherwise just get out of the way. But for parts of town that are in more trouble, isn't it fair to say that everyone deserves access to jobs, safe environs and increasing property values? Government can't do that on it's own, but a philosophy that gives up on that idea that government can help at all certainly won't solve the problem. As for Barbour spending the surplus on education, it's true that MAEP was funded this year. (That's the Minimum Adequate Education Program.) Which is great. But note that the Guv's office has said it "doesn't anticipate another special session" in response to the Dem's call for additional higher education funding to offset tuition increases this year. Special sessions under Haley are for tax abatements and corporate welfare developments in North Mississippi. (Not that I'm totally against those, mind you.) Indeed, the final question posed by the Salon piece (and hopefully more such pieces in local and national media) might boil down to this...is the right balance being struck by state and Federal government in Katrina recovery? Is there a moderate, middle-of-the-road solution to recovery that restores the standard of living in a place like Hancock County for all residents, or is it just another showcase of ideological solutions and back room political deals? If the latter, then the benchmark should be "So, how's that goin'?"

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2007-05-26T12:27:07-06:00
ID
113169
Comment

Well said, Todd. While it's illuminating and informative, I don't believe that the Salon article should be taken as gospel yet. I don't think that Governor Barbour himself has termed the post-Katrina economic boom as a miracle. My impression is from having read articles germane to this topic that he considers Katrina recovery to be something that would take several years, which is why I wonder why the title of this salon.com article includes Miracle. As an aside, I can't help but to suspect the use of words such as miracle when it relates to economic development and recovery and articles covering such topics. It reminds me of when Michael Dukakis made use of the Massachusetts Miracle in his 1988 run for the presidency. However, his miracle began to reverse, and I hope it doesn't happen here. With regard to the building of public buildings and facilities, yesterday's Sun Herald has an article concerning a $2.4 million allocation from FEMA to rebuild the Gulfport library. Also, Pearl River Community College has had "a continuing battle with Zurich Insurance Co. over PRCC's extensive storm losses." Personally, I'm glad that education is being supported. While it'd be nice for there not to be tuition increases at IHL universities, support for public colleges and universities nationwide has long been on the decrease, and universities have to make up the gap through various methods including, unfortunately, tuition increases.

Author
Ex
Date
2007-05-26T18:43:34-06:00

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