[Kamikaze] Winning In Spite | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Kamikaze] Winning In Spite

I apologize. My first intentions were to sum up my experiences in Africa. I know some of you were eager to hear more. But there's something more important at play here. So I'd like to take this chance to not talk about "meҒ but more about "us.Ғ "Us" as in "Jacksonians."

We are on the cusp of something great. I know this because I've seen what a city comparable to ours can do when common sense trumps apathy and egos.

I was honored to be part of a contingent that visited Little Rock last week to tour their booming downtown area. And I was encouraged to see a southern city with a population similar to that of Jackson's.

They have a 24-hour nightlife, an 18,000-seat arena that stays active and turns a profit, bringing in the biggest names in entertainment, a river walk, and many other amenities that rival cities much larger in size.

You know what else they have? More crime than we do. But yet they succeed in areas where we fail. Why?

Little Rock's city staff has created a winning atmosphere, and a positive attitude that permeated from every speaker we saw. These folks were excited about coming to work, not interested in just drawing a check. They spoke with their shoulders square. But they also spoke of the team effort that has led to success.

Can you believe: city and county departments that actually meet on a regular basis; a right hand that knows what the left is doing; no one trying to "one-upҒ the other? How about a city government that actually listens to its citizen groups and looks to them for guidance?

Or how about an arena manager who actually comes to work and "pursuesҒ events for his building instead of sitting at his desk hoping his phone rings? Folks, it's the difference between winners and losers ... attitude.

We are capable of creating that same environment here. The proof is in the projects. Piece by piece, our downtown is coming together.

I was excited last week, yet embarrassed ... again. We were meeting many in Little Rock's city and county government, but how many of Jackson's City Council were present? Zero. Mayor, CAOs? Zero. City legal? Nada. City planning? One. The Clarion-Ledger? Nope. TV stations? One. (WAPT) Seems this trip wasn't important, and apparently, positive moves can't make the mainstream news in this town.

So the question is posed. Do the dedicated few of us city leaders who witnessed a sleepy Arkansas town come to life try to win "in spiteҒ of city government? Try to win "in spiteҒ of a media that spew propaganda? Or do we do what I propose: Start making wholesale changes from City Hall all the way down to the folks that run the Coliseum or the Alamo.

Jackson can be Little Rock and much better, but I'm afraid some of you may screw it up. So you've got to go if you don't step up.

And that's the truth ... sho-nuff.

Previous Comments

ID
132179
Comment

Great DJP event last night. Hopefully the enthusiasm will remain high AND consistent. We've got to take some long hard looks at ourselves here..Theres reasons why we havent suceeded where some cities our size have. ..And AGAIN...NO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS PRESENT! so why should anyone else care huh? suceed in spite of them? looks like we'll have to.

Author
Kamikaze
Date
2008-07-17T21:55:47-06:00
ID
132180
Comment

Kaze, did the group that went to LR come back with any viable ideas that could be implemented in our area? Especially since we don't have the benefit of an ex-President to be our champion?

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-07-17T22:09:37-06:00
ID
132183
Comment

One major problem with our arena is the alcohol sales ban. For or against alcohol, that is where a great deal of money is made (6 to 8 bucks for a draft beer has a LARGE profit margin), but also sponsorship plays in to the picture. Many tours for popular bands, be it rock, country or rap have a sponsorship agreement with a beverage company and no alcoholic beverages can be sold in the fairgrounds arena. So sponsored tours are out and many acts pass us up because the acts usually get a cut of concessions. Would you rather get a cut of a 2.00 coke or an 8.00 beer (whose wholesale costs are probably not that much different and the beer drinker will probably have more) We need an entertainment district such as a cleaned up Farish street or the talk of redoing Fortification as a walking area with Fennians and Kats and Basils being the start and the rest of the street being a few homes, galleries, a few other restaurants and it being turned into two lanes with a median and walking paths. (long into the future)or pump a few more businesses into Fondren Corner We also need a real arena that can allow alcohol sales (crucial to getting most things in) and start drawing some talent and some additional entertainment, like the roller girls (I am sorry I want a beer with my girl on girl violence on skates) a semi pro hockey or basketball team. Jackson could support an improvement, but there has to be a focal point both for local acts, such as Farish Street, the Fortification project, or Fondren, and more national acts like a REAL arena.

Author
AGamm627
Date
2008-07-17T23:00:59-06:00
ID
132185
Comment

Actually Jeff, that point was brought up early in our trip and outside of Clinton agreeing to put his library in downtown LR(a move that convinced busineses to move downtown. Kinda like what would have happened had we put the CR museum downtown). LR got no ''special'' help from the Clintons. It was a collective effort of public and private entities and a team effort of city and county departments working in tandem. They met regularly, knew what each other was doing, and supported each others moves when it came to funding, logistics etc. Ive been in mtgs here whre folks who worked one floor apart didnt know what each other was doing before it was brought up in a mtg setting where it got reeeeaallly uncomfortable. The amazing thing I found was the written agreement that LR got signed with all of the outlying bedroom communities that they would work as a team with the understanding that if the capital won...they won..They eliminated the ''competition'' factor. Here, Madison prays for our downfall. and they are aided by local news and the Clarion Ledger. They see us as competition so we battle for the same things..businesses, restaurants etc..Jackson cant win like that.

Author
Kamikaze
Date
2008-07-18T06:05:20-06:00
ID
132186
Comment

...And dont get me started on the arena issue. All of our area venues suffer from poor management. True, we need a larger arena to be competitive with cities close by. True, it makes good common sense(whether youre a bible thumper or not) to sell alcohol at a venue..But Ive long since abandoned the thought that folks even USE common sense here! The coliseum needs to be torn down..(The arena mgr at the Alltel arena in LR laughed at it)..Ours is infamous for the wrong reasons. a new one needs to be built somehow. And Im convinced that taxpayers wouldnt have a problem with footing the bill if its presented to them properly..But thats another story. Our venue managers always complain and go to city and state officials looking for help. They wonder why no ones knocking the door down to get in their venue. Well theyre not because YOURE not working! The coliseum folks pray for Dixie National and damn near refuse to book anything else and dont try. Thalia Mara prays for the IBC to bail em out every 4 years. You go to them and they NEVER have ''open dates'' but yet it sits almost dormant most of the time. And the Alamo...well...'nuff said. Those folks are a joke! Big tours are not going to book in an 8000 seat arena(coliseum) and the folks there dont know how to book events for something that size..Get rid of em..

Author
Kamikaze
Date
2008-07-18T06:26:16-06:00
ID
132187
Comment

outside of Clinton agreeing to put his library in downtown LR(a move that convinced busineses to move downtown. Kinda like what would have happened had we put the CR museum downtown). LR got no ''special'' help from the Clintons. I'm not surprised by that seeing as the Clintons have made NY their adopted hometown these days. Still, it sure doesn't hurt to have a Presidential library card in your back pocket as a City official trying to promote business and economic investment.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-07-18T06:57:56-06:00
ID
132188
Comment

Jeff, what we came back with outside of a renewed since of purpose was a slight blueprint for what initially needs to be done to turn our city around. The first thing, like LR, is to have regular meetings between City and County departments, Jackson Progressives, The Main Street Association, the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, JCVB and anyone else who dares come to the table. This will be to get us all on the same page and help develop a comprehensive plan of action. I also personally learned that for our new high powered united West Coast Offense, we dont have the personnel to run it. Although some believe that we can suceed ''in spite'' of city government, that it will take only the private sector to revive us. But realistically, in order for this to work we have an enthusiastic buy in from our city leaders. We cant win with what we've got. In 2009 we MUST completely overhaul our mayor and city council. Its time for something new. Im no longer confident in them as a body. Im confident in a few of the individuals ON it but not the body as a whole. Ben Allen's also pledged to have that ''come to Jesus meeting'' with the mayors of the surrounding cities.Madison, Ridgeland, Byram, and Clinton to get us all on the same page and end the ''us against them'' mentality. Oh yeah..and the high ups at the CL and our local TV stations will be there too. It will take a broad total effort to make this work and everyone must buy in..Those who dont need to be removed. Period. by being fired, demoted, transferred, or elected out of office!

Author
Kamikaze
Date
2008-07-18T07:04:00-06:00
ID
132189
Comment

Great report. I will say that I went to the REO Speedwagon concert during the State Fair and they sold beer in the Coliseum...

Author
QB
Date
2008-07-18T07:35:38-06:00
ID
132198
Comment

I am so excited about the changes going on in Jackson! Kaze's speech was inspiring last night, and I got chills looking at the development designs as they flashed up on the screen. I agree with you that we need to get rid of the dead weight in city government. What's that old saying? "Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way?" I think that is appropriate here.

Author
andi
Date
2008-07-18T09:15:16-06:00
ID
132200
Comment

Yes, very exciting. Kaze's speech for fabulous. And, boy, did I love seeing that big BOOM logo flashing on the wall of the Clarion-Ledger wall. Out with the old, in with the new! Go, Jacktown. We're on a roll. (Come to the Chick Ball Saturday night to get your copy of BOOM Jackson, btw.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-18T09:29:51-06:00
ID
132201
Comment

And Kaze, I saw Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon there.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-18T09:30:51-06:00
ID
132202
Comment

That was the Clarion-Ledger wall? HA HA HA!

Author
andi
Date
2008-07-18T09:32:57-06:00
ID
132205
Comment

My apologies...Didnt see her..But none of the others bothered to show...and MBS didnt make the LR trip so it barely balances out. I can no longer make excues Just doesnt look good. Just...doesnt...look...good.

Author
Kamikaze
Date
2008-07-18T10:05:50-06:00
ID
132208
Comment

Part of the problem has been an exaggeration of crime. Jackson has crime, but crime is rising all across the United States because it is in part driven by rising inequality. There are examples of cities that have experienced eye-popping economic development in spite of crime: Miami, Richmond, VA, Little Rock... When your leadership in government and the media buy into the false idea that you cannot get economic development until you stop crime when actually the reverse is more accurate, then you end up like a little hamster on one of those spinning wheels and your city is a laughing stock.

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-07-18T10:52:51-06:00
ID
132209
Comment

Very well said..I read sooooo many different blogs and posts on different sites, read articles in other publications where folks swear there is some vast conspiracy that involves DJP, JFP, and JPD to hide crime numbrs as if we ALL arent aware that Jackson has crime. Hell EVERYWHERE has crime. Thing is..we've used that crutch for a decade as an excuse to NOT get things done. When cities comparable to us with a percentage point or 2 more crime(like LR) still succeed..it makes me think ww're simply fostering a loser mentality. The real co-conspirators are the local media, and those who wish to see Madison trump our city. The ones who tell you that your family will be robbed or murdered if you come downtown after dark. The ones who tell you in order to be safe you must move to MAdison. And we've sat back too long listening to excuses and taking abuse and barbs in the press. We just need to make it happen.

Author
Kamikaze
Date
2008-07-18T11:41:05-06:00
ID
132213
Comment

Well said, Kaze. It's sad that people of all stripes try to guard power, or get it, by sowing division and trying to pit race against race. We've seen enough of that crap to last several lifetimes. Just say no, folks, to that kind of madness. And say yes to forming alliances to get stuff done. Talk is cheap. So is blogging. It's action that counts.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-18T12:16:38-06:00
ID
132214
Comment

What bugs me about the anti-DJP blogging is that there's just enough truth to the gentrification worries (because of bad precedents set in other cities) to justify mobilizing on policy advocacy--inclusionary zoning, opposition to the SB 2991 Green Zone, opposition to quick-takes, ensuring that related grant money isn't being misdirected--but instead of focusing on policy, all that energy is being directed towards conspiracy theories and across-the-board opposition to development. It becomes clear early on that so much of the anti-gentrification movement--especially as represented by a few certain people on the City Council--consists of unfocused negativity and little else. Look at how little attention is being spent in the anti-gentrification blogs on rent control. Now, I'm not necessarily in favor of rent control--inclusionary zoning is a superior approach in that it accomplishes the same objectives without blocking development--but you would think that anyone who is seriously concerned about gentrification would be talking rent control vs. inclusionary zoning. But instead of "How can we ensure that nobody loses their homes?," we're getting a steady diet of "Here's what DJP is up to today." And DJP isn't the problem here. The group that was behind SB 2991 was SafeCity, not DJP, and nobody's even talking about them. There are some good people falling for the unproductive anti-development rhetoric, because they're looking at Chinatown in Manhattan and other parts of the country that are being cleaned out by developers, and they could be channeling that energy into productive policy advocacy that would actually address their concerns without sabotaging city development. But instead we're seeing the same old "don't invest in Jackson; there's too much crime here" garbage we've been hearing for 40 years. And as Kaze points out, Little Rock--with its more than $2 billion in investment--has a higher crime rate than we do. Community organizing. Policy advocacy. Focused, results-centered activism. And no more wanking around with conspiracy theories or unfocused anger against developers or DJP or anybody else who is trying to get capital into the capital. All that does is concentrate the wealth into the majority-white suburbs, and keep wealth out of the majority-black city. Not a good agenda. Concerned about gentrification? Join Mississippi ACORN. Join the Jackson chapter of the NAACP. Hell, start a new organization and set up your first meeting--for next week. But don't sit around spewing venom at everybody who wants to put money into this city. I mean, come on. What good does that do?

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-07-18T12:49:36-06:00
ID
132215
Comment

but instead of focusing on policy, all that energy is being directed towards conspiracy theories and across-the-board opposition to development. I totally agree, Tom. It's totally counter-productive to go around blaming people who are actually concerned about the need for development and the fear of gentrification Community organizing. Policy advocacy. Focused, results-centered activism. And no more wanking around with conspiracy theories or unfocused anger against developers or DJP or anybody else. The only people that helps are the people who aren't comfortable with the idea of a powerful, multiracial city. Amen. And what else it does is make people of color with the means and ability to be part of the development be suspicious of white people—the "white power structure"—who might be really stoked to work with them and combine efforts in order to see more diversity at the table. There is no question that we've had a stinker "white power structure" here that has caused many, or most, of the problems we face now. But it is just as bad for people hungry for attention to spread rumors and "unfocused anger" toward people who are actually trying to do something about it. Get on this train with us all, or get out of the way. Jackson is remaking herself into a strong, multiracial city at this point, whether some bigoted folks like it or not.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-18T12:55:54-06:00
ID
132216
Comment

Also, there is nothing helpful about not acknowledging changes in people and allowing for evolution on race issues. Ben Allen, for one, is doing many things differently than when I first met him, and back when we called him out, and he apologized on this Web site, for speaking to the CofCC. His son is helping lead a younger, multiracial revolution to empower the city. This is good. That doesn't mean I won't criticize Ben Allen, or anyone else, as needed, but I'm not such a blind ideologue that I assume he can never do anything right, either. This city has long been mired in white supremacy and "Brown Society" sh!t—and they're both sh!t used to divide people and help build individual power bases. Every one in this city who wants to live in a multiracial city where we all work together simply has to reject people who play those kinds of games. There are plenty of others who want the city to thrive to give those wankers the time of frickin' day. Last night, while all the BOOM and development excitement waged around us, a very wise African American woman I know and I started talking about putting together a development watchdog group of sorts to have meetings and hold community discussions to make sure that gentrification doesn't do here what it's done in other places. Smart development will lift up the whole community, and that's what we need to stay focused on. Once Chick Ball is over, we'll put out a call for people to gather to have the conversation. And we need people around the table who are there to work toward solutions, not people there to divide and rumormonger.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-18T13:00:25-06:00
ID
132217
Comment

And one of the stupidest things I could imagine anyone saying is that the JFP is part of a conspiracy to "hide" crime numbers. I personally write and do media all the time that talks about how much crime has risen since Melton has come into office. We have never sugarcoated crime, and we have never sensationalized it, and we criticize those who do. Both are moronic. What's funny is that back during Johnson's adminstration, white N-JAMmers (and a certain city councilman on the radio) hyped crime for political reasons. Now some black commentators (especially one) is hyping crime for political reasons. Both are despicable.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-07-18T13:08:45-06:00
ID
132218
Comment

Wonderful job, Kaze. I hope I live long enough to see Jackson become all it can be. Maybe I won't have to take so many out of town vacations anymore, and others looking for a new and better way can stay right here and experience it. Needless to say, I saw all kinds of things that impressed me last week in Baltimore and DC despite all the alleged great crime there (some of it real though). I haven't been to Little Rock in a while since they put up the monument to white chocolate - the Clinton Presidental Library. I must go visit that some day.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-18T13:14:27-06:00
ID
132219
Comment

Also, Kaze, I visited the area of the National Mall in DC where the King Memorial is to soon stand. We, the fraternity, now has 95 million of the 100 million needed to complete the job. Let us send in a few grands to make up the difference.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-18T13:20:39-06:00
ID
132220
Comment

This is a good example of how "urban renewal" can be a good thing for low-income residents: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/12/11/60II/main532704.shtml

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-07-18T13:50:46-06:00
ID
132222
Comment

Glad to see those projects gone and I'm still pissed off about how the government segmented black folks into such a small area under such harsh conditions that bread so much violence and self hatred, so that they could be used for votes or whatever but easily controlled and accounted for.

Author
Walt
Date
2008-07-18T13:59:44-06:00
ID
132223
Comment

I lived in Chi for seven years. I was skeptical of the urban renewal plans that were just talk at that time; however, it seems that it has worked out for the best for everyone. I doubt anyone misses Cabrini Greens.

Author
FreeClif
Date
2008-07-18T14:22:41-06:00
ID
132229
Comment

Whitley, agreed re: the article... Everything I've ever heard has suggested to me that mixed-income development is to housing segregation what busing is to school segregation, but better. This is one of the reasons why inclusionary zoning tends to work out better than rent control and other policies intended to preserve the housing status quo--most inclusionary zoning policies are open to mixed-income development, while most rent control policies are obviously unfriendly to that prospect... People talk about transitional neighborhoods (going from higher to lower income, or from white to black) and gentrifying neighborhoods (going from lower to higher income, or from black to white). But if we're serious about neighborhood integration, the movement in either direction needs to stop about halfway through and stay there--every neighborhood both permanently "gentrifying" and permanently "transitional."

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-07-18T16:09:37-06:00

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