Gov. Calls Special Session, Commemorates Katrina | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Gov. Calls Special Session, Commemorates Katrina


Barbour is calling a special legislative session to discuss economic development projects.

Gov. Haley Barbour is calling a special session of the legislature Friday to approve one or two large economic development projects.

The state Bond Commission discussed the projects at its Aug. 17 meeting and said they could provide 1,950 jobs. Barbour said he will not release details of the projects until Wednesday because the details on one of the projects have not been finalized, and he is not sure if that project will be ready to take up Friday.

"These projects, if they come to fruition, are very, very attractive, with very large capital expenditures and very significant employment gains," Barbour said.

Barbour said he has been talking to leaders in the Legislature about a special session for quite some time, but they agreed to wait until the primaries were over. He scheduled the special session so that the projects can get started this winter if the Legislature approves them, he said. He anticipates it being a one-day session.

Barbour also said the Department of Public Safety is conducting an internal investigation into inappropriate conduct related to examinations for promotion. He said anyone involved in any impropriety would be "severely punished." He would not give any more details until the investigation is over.

Today is also the six-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Mississippi Coast. Barbour said although some rebuilding projects are still unfinished, due in part to conflicting agency regulations, the Coast has come back "bigger and better than ever" and is 80-90 percent rebuilt.

"The beauty of it is that the people on the Coast made the decisions," he said, adding that people in some areas have rebuilt towns that are much different than before. Barbour gave the example of Biloxi, which has built high rises where there were none before Katrina. "Jackson, much less Washington, is not going to try to tell the people on the Coast how to rebuild the coast."

Barbour also praised the efforts of governments in other states to prepare their citizens for Hurricane Irene over the weekend by evacuating danger areas and telling people to stock up on food and water. He said he is encouraged to see them using some of the lessons Mississippi learned in Katrina.

"Preparation is crucial, and to teach your citizens that self-preparation is absolutely essential," he said.

When asked what he will do when his term is up, Barbour said he may do some speaking and is seriously thinking about writing a book about Katrina.

"It wouldn't be a political memoir," he said, "but a book about lessons of leadership in a mega-disaster. … But we'll see."

In 2008, Mississippi housing advocates, including the NAACP and the Mississippi Center for Justice, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Urban Housing for the agency's approval of a $570 million diversion in housing funds toward the expansion of the port in Gulfport under the authority of Barbour who said the port's expansion would speed the recovery of the coast. The NAACP charged at the time that the funds were not intended for development, but for the reconstruction of homes.

Last November, the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development settled the lawsuit allowing renters to claim up to $75,000 for Katrina-related destruction.

Read this story about the settlement and all of the JFP Katrina coverage.

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