Jackson Is Learning, Yarber Says | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Jackson Is Learning, Yarber Says


Ward 6 Councilman says Jacksonians must be courageous enough to get their heads out of the sand and fix the city's problems.

Sept. 16, 2011

Jackson has been "teetering between lucky and learning" for the last 20 years, Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber said at Friday Forum this morning. The city has problems, but is learning how to turn pockets of success into models for the whole city, Yarber said.

Yarber spoke at Koinonia Coffee House's weekly Friday Forum, where he said Jacksonians must be courageous enough to ask questions and make changes to fix the problems the city faces.

"We have seen opportunities of success--we've seen where crime has dropped and crime has risen ... where people come in and people go out," he said.

Yarber also said the city needs to foster strong partnerships with Jackson's most influential industries, including the medical industry--Jackson's largest employer--education and the arts.

Education is both a present and future industry, Yarber said, because it employs people now and equips students for future employment. The city must also broaden how it invests in its future taxpayers.

"What's good for the goose is not good for the gander," Yarber said. He applied that saying to the variety of opportunities schools should offer children, saying the school system should prepare students for careers in technical, intellectual and artistic fields.

Jackson has put forth a lackluster effort in marketing, Yarber said, and should brand itself as an entertainment city, giving the arts an opportunity to be a major industry. Growing industry requires systematic and strategic planning, however.

"The role we (council members) play is handling that budget," he said.
Yarber said one of Jackson's problems is inefficiency in the City Council and other government bodies.

"How many of you know we waste too much time on that council?" he asked, laughing, as several in the group called "Amen!"

Another problem is that the City Council only receives the budget about a month before it has to vote on it, Yarber said, which makes large, strategic changes difficult.

"It's negligent to make million-dollar changes in a month ... but at the same time, we want to do due diligence," he said.

Yarber said the council will propose a set of policy initiatives in January of next year, about six months before the council votes on the budget, so that the mayor's office can use those goals to shape the budget. Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. recommended that the council and administration begin working on the 2013 fiscal-year budget in January after the council expressed concerns that they did not have enough involvement in the budget process this year.

"That gives us an opportunity to do more strategic things with our budget ... by talking about policy initiatives and voting on policy initiatives as the year goes on," he said.

During budget discussions this year, the council called a special meeting to discuss the process. At the time, Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell said the biggest point of the special meeting was to demonstrate to the mayor that the council wanted a stronger presence in the budget process.

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