Melton's Last Laugh | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Melton's Last Laugh

The sudden and extremely belated concern about TCI doing a convention-center hotel deal with the city would be amusing if it weren't so frustrating to realize how little some people pay attention to vital city business.

The JFP journalists have reported since 2006 about the various controversies surrounding the man who started it all: Gene Phillips. They range from bribery allegations in Oklahoma that sent an insurance commissioner to prison, to the acquittal of Phillips himself less than a decade ago in after he was indicted in 2000 in a mafia scheme to bribe union officials in a proposed sale of preferred stock shares. And then there's his involvement in the high-profile savings-and loan-scandal that tainted many officials including President Ronald Reagan.

Phillips-related drama has been only an Internet and Nexis search away since Mayor Frank Melton started pushing his offspring companies to develop here in 2006. (Thankfully, they didn't get the King Edward, as Melton wanted.)

We've warned for years, and especially before Melton helped sell key property across from the Jackson Convention Center to TCI, that this path to a hotel development was not a good one. Of course, Melton didn't listen. Neither did many of his supporters, many of whom have long led cheers in favor of the TCI deal as recently as this summer.

This land sale to TCI left the city between a rock and a hard place. They own the land that is sitting ugly and vacant across from the shiny convention center. We desperately need a hotel there to make the convention center a success, and we need to get the land back. Somehow.

Meantime, as Lacey has reported, TCI and friends have faced all sorts of financial struggles, and have just let the property sit vacant and, at times, haven't even paid the property taxes on schedule. Any fool who has paid attention knows the difficult spot the city, and its taxpayers, are in on this one. So it's surprising to see some council members act as if all of TCI's history is news.

More likely, some folks suddenly are trying to position the city's deal to buy the land for $14 million politically against the mayor. This is the wrong response on this one. The mayor has made it no secret, as the JFP has reported, that he is virtually holding his nose to make a deal with TCI, and we've seen little that makes him grumpier than the Hobson's choice Melton left the city saddled with. The city should be more transparent on every aspect of the deal, but we also suspect they worry that any provocation will make TCI take its title to the land and hightail it home to Texas. And then we're left with an empty lot and no hotel. This situation has never been pretty, folks. The late Frank Melton getting the last laugh on this mess he created for us.

See http://www.jfp.ms/hotel for links to the JFP's TCI/Phillips coverage.

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