Jackblog entries for January, 2017 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

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Entries for January, 2017


January 31, 2017

Ed Funding Formula "Dummy" Bills Survive Deadline Day

By adreher

On deadline day, both the House and the Senate passed their respective versions of "dummy" education funding formula bills out of committee that bring up code sections regarding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The bills mark both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves' commitment to at least looking at some of EdBuild's education funding recommendations, which were released two weeks ago in an 80-page report.

EdBuild's main recommendation is for the state to transition to a weighted student formula, which would work in a very different way than MAEP does now. Weights are attached to certain characteristics of students like special education, English language learners or "low-income" students to name a few. Weighted formulas give money based on those weights and the student populations they affect, so in theory, the district with the highest number of highest weighted student populations could have the most to gain--or not. How much weight each of those and other measures will get in the Legislature's proposed new formula is still unclear, and experts say that the weights are the political part of any weighted formula.

The dummy bills that came out of both committees today give no indications of what sort of weights the top lawmakers are considering or what total dollar amount lawmakers are working with to determine funding for the new formula or fiscal-year 2018, which begins July 1.

It's possible that specifics on any plans to re-vamp the formula won't be out until conference committee time, right before session ends. It's also possible that lawmakers will only address certain parts of EdBuild's recommendations. Both Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, and Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, mentioned the transparency measures from EdBuild's report, which would require school districts to track and report how they spend their funds in new ways.

There are a lot of questions up in the air, and the answers are few and far between. What's for certain is that the formula is certainly still up for debate and potential changes this session, but to what extent changes will be made depends on top lawmakers' decisions in the next 60 days.

January 31, 2017

AG Announces Settlement with Western Union

By Tim Summers Jr.

The Mississippi Attorney General's Office released the following statement, reproduced here verbatim:

"ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH WESTERN UNION Western Union Admits Anti-Money Laundering and Consumer Fraud Violations

JACKSON— Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that popular money-transfer service Western Union will implement a comprehensive anti-fraud program in response to widespread claims of consumer fraud by third parties who use the service in their criminal schemes.

As part of a settlement with Mississippi and other states, Western Union has agreed to develop and put into action a plan intended to detect and prevent incidents where consumers become victims of fraud when they use Western Union to wire money to scammers.

In addition, Mississippi will receive $53,180 in the settlement.

“Criminals continue to craft all kinds of schemes to try to convince consumers to wire them money,” Attorney General Hood said. “Among these common scams are those where consumers have told they’ve won money or prizes, but first must wire money to pay required taxes or fees before they receive their winnings. These criminals try to exploit our instinct to protect our family members through scams saying a loved one is in immediate danger and needs money right away. Most importantly, consumers who receive solicitations from someone they’ve never met in person should be cautious about wiring money.”

The components of the anti-fraud program to be implemented by Western Union include: · Anti-fraud warnings on send forms that consumers use to wire money; · Mandatory and appropriate training and education for Western Union’s agents about fraud-induced wire transfers; · Heightened anti-fraud procedures when warranted by circumstances such as increased fraud complaints; · Due diligence checks on Western Union agents who process money transfers; · Monitoring of Western Union agent activity related to prevention of fraud-induced money transfers; · Prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against Western Union agents who fail to follow required protocols concerning anti-fraud measures;

In addition to this settlement with the states, Western Union also settled claims related to fraud-induced transfers with the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice. As part of that settlement, announced earlier this month, Western Union has agreed to pay $586 million to a fund that the U.S. Department of Justice will administer to provide refunds to victims of fraud induced wire transfers nationwide, including Mississippi victims. For more information about this settlement, visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-mlars/remission.

Mississippi, 48 other states and the District of Columbia participated in the state settlement.

For more information about how to avoid wire-transfer scams and fraud, visit www.AGJimHood.com or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline, (800) 281-4418."

January 31, 2017

Millsaps Issues Statement on Trump's Immigration Order

By Todd Stauffer

Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College, release this statement in response to President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration this week.

January 27, 2017

Court Denies Attempts to Dismiss Election Complaint for "Straw Contest"

By Tim Summers Jr.

The U.S. Southern District Court issued an opinion and order this evening denying attempts to dismiss the lawsuit filed by five voters who allege that the Mississippi House of Representatives "intentionally discarding their ballots to change the outcome of the election," the order states.

In the order, United States District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the State of Mississippi's three attempts to dismiss the case, citing the intention behind the disqualification of the votes of plaintiffs Billie Faye Keyes, Joshua Allen, Courtney Rena Fortune, Karli Ford Matthews and Shelton S. Matthews.

"Taking these allegations as true, as the Court must at this stage, they state a claim that defendants intentionally treated plaintiffs differently from others voting by affidavit ballot, and there was no rational basis for the disparate treatment beyond an impermissible desire to alter the outcome of the election," Reeves' order states.

The late 2015 District 79 race between incumbent Representative Blaine Eaton, D-Taylorsville, and challenger Mark Tullos. The race ended in a tie, one that was broken through the implementation of an antiquated state law that demanded the two draw straws, which they did in a ceremony Nov. 20, 2015 in front of the governor and other state officials, and Eaton emerged victorious.

Tulles challenged the results, and a majority-Republican special committee was convened.

The Jackson Free Press reported the decision of the committee, to throw out some votes, ending the tie and handing the seat to Tullos.

"The House relied on the special election committee's report and testimony from Baker that five of the affidavit ballots should have been disqualified because voters violated a part of Mississippi law that requires voters to notify their county clerk if they move more than 30 days before an election," the JFP reported. "After two days of testimony from "five or six" witnesses, the House special election committee voted 4-1 to disqualify five of the affidavit ballots counted in the District 79 race, which was decided in November by drawing straws, as state law requires. By disqualifying five votes, the race was not technically a tie because, Baker said, even if the remaining four votes were for Eaton, Mark Tullos, the Republican challenger, would have won by one vote."

Reeves, as expressed in his opinion, disagrees. The judge instructed both sides to move forward with the trial, beginning with contacting the magistrate judge to coordinate the next stage.

January 27, 2017

Roll-Off Dumpster Day on February 4

By Todd Stauffer

The City of Jackson is encouraging citizens of Jackson to participate in Roll-Off Dumpster Day. Residents can take tree limbs, other yard debris, and household items to one of the following locations on February 4, 2017 from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., weather permitting.

January 27, 2017

City: Court Rules Rankin Can Build Own Wastewater Treatment Plant

By Tim Summers Jr.

The City of Jackson released the following statement, verbatim:

City of Jackson’s Statement on Recent Ruling to Allow the West Rankin Utility Authority to Construct a Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rankin County

The City of Jackson is disappointed that the Rankin County Chancery Court agreed with the decision of the Mississippi Environmental Permit Board to grant the West Rankin Utility Authority an NPDES permit that will allow construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Rankin County. The Court’s decision last week ignored significant errors of law that should prevent the issuance of this NPDES permit. The West Rankin Utility Authority currently has cost-effective wastewater treatment provided by the City of Jackson’s Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant. The City believes that the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant that discharges into the Pearl River is an unnecessary expense to all of its Savanna Street customers in Rankin, Hinds, and Madison Counties that will degrade the water quality of the Pearl River.

The City has 30 days within which to file an appeal of this decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The City is weighing this option as well as other options to increase its customer base as a result of any lost customers of the West Rankin Utility Authority. The City will also be reassessing its plans for upgrading the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant under the Consent Decree to identify areas of savings that may be available as a result of any loss in some West Rankin Utility Authority customers. Finally, the City will continue to be open to any new, mutually advantageous relationship with the West Rankin Utility Authority that will maximize the existing treatment capacity at the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant and maintain the existing low cost of treatment, while planning for the future.

January 25, 2017

House Passes Bill to Curb AG Hood's Power

By adreher

The House passed House Bill 555, which previously failed and was held on a motion to reconsider, which would require Attorney General Jim Hood to get the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state's permission before pursuing litigation that costs more than $250,000. The bill caused some debate, and some Republicans voted against the measure. Today, however, some lawmakers chose not to vote while other switched their votes. The bill passed by a vote of 63-56, with three lawmakers not voting.

Hood issued this statement in response:

“A legislator advised us that Entergy demanded another vote on the bill and that it be made retroactive. It’s no coincidence that the State’s case against Entergy is now active again in federal court, and this company fears having to pay more than $1 billion for its illegal acts," the statement says. “Obviously, House leadership and proponents of this bill bow down to their corporate masters, and it’s unfortunate that this bill’s supporters put such pressure on conscientious Republican legislators to change their vote. I am grateful for the bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans that saw this bill for what it is: an unconstitutional, political power grab that puts the interests of corporations ahead of Mississippi citizens.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

January 25, 2017

LaDarion Ammons Announces Run for Ward 7 Council Seat

By Tim Summers Jr.

The following release was sent out by the Ammons campaign:

"JACKSON, MS - On Tuesday, January 24, 2017, LaDarion Ammons qualified to run for Ward Seven City Council seat. Surrounded by his family, Ammons signed and submitted his official qualifying papers into the Jackson City Clerk’s office.

“I think Ward Seven has seen continuous growth and development, which is great. This is in spite of the actions within city hall,” said Ammons. “There are also parts of Ward Seven that are underdeveloped and forgotten by current representation, this is unacceptable. We need representation within city hall that can work for all of ward seven, leaving no area left behind.”

Ward seven has more than 15, 000 residents, encompassing Fondren, Belhaven, MidTown, and South Jackson.

“At the end of the day, I am just a guy from Jackson who loves this city and wants this city to be successful. I know that its success depends on Ward Seven being able to fully engage in the problems plaguing all of the city. I want to work for all of Ward Seven, and in turn all of Jackson.”

January 19, 2017

Tornado Warning for Central Hinds, NE Rankin, Madison Counties

By Tim Summers Jr.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the central Hinds County, northeast Rankin County, south-central Madison County until 5:45 p.m. tonight.

The NWS reported at 4:45 p.m. that "a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Ridgeland, moving east at 30 mph."

The National Weather Service released the following information along with the warning:

" HAZARD...Tornado.

SOURCE...Radar indicated rotation.

IMPACT...Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows, and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is likely.

  • This dangerous storm will be near... Ridgeland around 445 PM CST. Madison around 450 PM CST. Fannin around 505 PM CST. Goshen Springs around 510 PM CST.


TAKE COVER NOW! Move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.

This cluster of thunderstorms is capable of producing tornadoes and widespread significant wind damage. Do not wait to see or hear the tornado. For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building."

January 19, 2017

IHL and MDA Partner to "Showcase" State to Businesses

By Tim Summers Jr.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning released the following verbatim:

More than 95 percent of jobs created during the recovery have gone to workers with at least some college education, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind, according to America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots, a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Understanding the crucial link between higher education and economic development, the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and the Mississippi Development Authority have worked together for decades to leverage higher education assets to attract business and industry to Mississippi. The two entities formalized this partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Glenn McCullough Jr., Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority, Dr. Douglas W. Rouse, President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education, at a Board of Trustees meeting held today in Jackson.

In collaboration with Mississippi’s eight public universities, the Board of Trustees and MDA will showcase Mississippi to companies that will create jobs and invest capital.

“Mississippi's public universities are a strategic advantage in community and economic development so MDA is pleased to formally recognize our partnership with the Institutions of Higher Learning to provide new career opportunities for Mississippians,” said MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough, Jr. "Working together, MDA and the IHL will aggressively leverage the assets we share to accelerate economic opportunity for Mississippians throughout the state.”

As outlined in the MOU, the expected outcomes include: Increased pipeline of companies to consider Mississippi for expansion and growth Increased number of corporate contacts and project leads for MDA Increased opportunities for corporate entities and Mississippi’s public universities to support one another Defined and mapped catalog of the respective economic development strengths of Mississippi’s public universities Increased business growth across the state Stabilization and growth of jobs in defined sectors

“Working together, our university system and the state’s economic development engine can build on our collective strengths for the benefit of the state,” said Dr. Glenn Boyce, Commissioner of Higher Education. “This Memorandum of Understanding better defines our roles and efforts, enabling the partnership to become a force multiplier for the state’s economy.”

Some of the planned efforts include shared marketing messages, joint outreach to strategic clients and business leaders and identifying and supporting shared legislative priorities. Each organization will designate a representative to serve as a point of contact and liaison for the effort who will support the goals of the MOU.

In addition to the MOU signing, another initiative was announced at the ceremony. This initiative is an online tool designed to help recent and soon-to-be graduates find jobs in the state, www.msgradjobs.com. Set to complete the pilot phase and begin statewide implementation soon, the site allows students to receive email alerts when jobs in their desired career tracks become available. The online tool was conceived by Mark Henry, …

January 17, 2017

AG Hood Secures $26 Million for Mississippi in Settlement with Moody's

By Tim Summers Jr.

The Mississippi Attorney General's Office released this statement:

AG HOOD SECURES $26 MILLION FOR MISSISSIPPI IN SETTLEMENT WITH MOODY’S Rating service to pay nearly $864 million to states, federal government over claims of deceptive conduct

JACKSON— Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that Moody’s will pay Mississippi more than $26 million to settle allegations that the credit rating agency engaged in deceptive conduct during the height of the financial crisis.

Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., and Moody’s Analytics, Inc. agreed to pay a total of $863,791,823 to 21 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government to resolve claims that Moody’s misrepresented its independence and objectivity when rating structured finance securities. Attorney General Hood’s lawsuit alleged that Moody’s ratings of structured finance securities were tainted by the company’s drive to win business and its concerns for market share. Structured finance securities, particularly those comprised of sub-prime mortgages, were at the center of the financial crisis.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Moody’s has agreed to take specific compliance measures intended to prevent the same problems from ever reoccurring.

Attorney General Hood and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen led the investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice. The two AGs also led the multistate litigation against Standard & Poor’s, which culminated in a $1.375 billion settlement for 20 states and the federal government in 2015. Standard & Poor’s is a competitor of Moody’s. Mississippi received $33 million in the settlement with S&P.

“Moody’s reckless conduct went unchecked for years, feeding a subprime mortgage bubble,” Attorney General Hood said. “While Moody’s profited handsomely, the economy crumbled as people lost their homes. Pension funds, retirement funds, and other investment vehicles in Mississippi and across the country lost billions of dollars as the value of securities with inflated ratings plummeted. This settlement is another important step toward holding accountable those responsible for our mortgage crisis.”

The settlement is the successful culmination of five years of hard-fought litigation for Mississippi, Attorney General Hood said. In 2011, the Attorney General sued both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s for violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit alleged that the companies misrepresented their independence and objectivity when rating structured finance securities, including residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which derive their value from the monthly payments consumers make on their mortgages.

Mississippi’s lawsuit alleged that Moody’s assigned inflated credit ratings to toxic assets packaged and sold by the Wall Street investment banks in an effort to curry favor, continue and grow business with these banks. This alleged misconduct mainly occurred between 2004 and 2007, though it began as early as 2001.

Moody’s represented to consumers that its Aaa rating, its highest rating, carried a lower level of risk than other ratings. The Attorney General alleged that Moody’s manipulated its process so that, in reality, the Aaa rating represented a greater risk than Moody’s disclosed to investors. The lawsuit asserts that Moody’s gave in to pressure from big banks, …

January 13, 2017

UPDATED: Biloxi Mayor Says City Must Change "Great American's Day" in Ordinance to MLK Day

By Donna Ladd

UPDATED Jan. 14: After a national firestorm and a No. 1 trend on Twitter, Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said the Biloxi City Council on Tuesday, the day after the holiday, should change the city’s Code of Ordinances" to reflect the official federal name of the holiday, 'Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,' commonly known as 'Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.'”

“In my opinion,” Gilich said in a statement on the city's website, “that is the appropriate step to take, for the holiday to have the same name as the federal holiday.”

The statement also conflicts with what city workers put out in social media yesterday, blaming the State of Mississippi for making the city call King Day "Great American's Day."

"The name has since been traced back to a City Council on Dec. 23, 1985 to proclaim the third Monday of every January “to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of this country.”

Presumably, among the other "great Americans" is Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who the State of Mississippi also honors the same day.

Did the State of Mississippi Rename MLK Day 'Great Americans Day'? Short answer: Not that we can figure out. The City of Biloxi apparently did rename the holiday, however, with local ordinance 15-2-2 declaring the third Monday of January as "Great American's Day. No sign of a state law, yet, however.

Still, the City of Biloxi is claiming that the State of Mississippi made 'em do it on its Facebook page (see image below), even as social media is starting to blow up nationally criticizing Biloxi, and maybe the whole state, for quietly changing the name of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to "Great Americans Day." Considering that Biloxi is the home of Jefferson Davis' museum-home, run by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, this does not completely surprise. (SCV are major opponents of changing the Mississippi flag).

The City of Biloxi posted this Friday: "Non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed on Monday in observance of Great Americans Day, a state-named holiday.""

When challenged under the post, the unnamed Biloxi employee double-downed that this name came down from above: "The City of Biloxi did not declare nor name this holiday. The holiday was declared and named by the state Legislature. The city, in fact, as it has done for years, touted our upcoming MLK celebration in a Bmail and on the city website this afternoon."

The problem is that, so far, we have not found evidence that the state Legislature officially changed the name of the holiday, and lawmakers we've reached say they have no idea about it, either. Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, said on the Facebook page of Lea Campbell of the Mississippi Rising Coalition that the "Great Americans" name applies to a different holiday altogether: "Great Americans Day is a combination of all presidents days, …

January 13, 2017

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves: DeVos Will Bring 'Sense of Urgency' to Public Ed

By adreher

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves wrote the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions a letter this week, to put his support for Trump's Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos in writing. In his Jan. 10 letter, Reeves wrote to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that DeVos represents a change that "our students so desperately need."

"As Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi, I know the importance of ensuring that every student has access to a truly revolutionary education, regardless of the zipcode in which they live or the income level of their parents," Reeves writes. "Mrs. DeVos's continued commitment to ensuring that every student has access to a school that best serves their needs -regardless of the delivery model or the school governance structure-gives me utmost confidence in her nomination and subsequent position."

DeVos's confirmation hearing was pushed back and is now scheduled for next Tuesday, largely due to the fact that the Office of Government Ethics had not completed a review of "DeVos's financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest," the Washington Post reported.

DeVos, known for her work as the Republican Party Chairwoman in Michigan and for using her political and monetary influence to support the school-choice movement there, is a big advocate of voucher programs, charter schools and lobbying for those efforts, reporting from the Detroit Free Press over the years show.

One editor in Detroit writes in an op-ed that DeVos is not qualified for her role because she has very little practical education experience. Indeed, DeVos hold a bachelor's degree in business administration and political science from Calvin College and has worked as a businesswoman at the Windquest Group and a principle actor in how the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation spends its money. Her political experience is evident, and her involvement in Michigan's Republican Party and lobbying for school-choice reforms are well-documented.

"She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them," Detroit Free Press editor Stephen Henderson writes. "For 20 years, the lobby her family bankrolls has propped up the billion-dollar charter school industry and insulated it from commonsense oversight, even as charter schools repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises to parents and children."

DeVos and her husband, a billionaire businessman, were influential in how Michigan's charter school law was written back in 1993, Chalkbeat reports, and continues to be involved with ed policy decisions there.

"When Michigan lawmakers this year were considering a measure that would have added oversight for charter schools in Detroit, members of the DeVos family poured $1.45 million into legislators’ campaign coffers — an average of $25,000 a day for seven weeks. Oversight was not included in the final legislation," a 2016 Chalkbeat report says.

Consequently, the majority of Michigan's charter schools are run by private companies, …

January 13, 2017

Virgi Lindsay to Run for Jackson City Council Ward 7

By Tim Summers Jr.

The following was sent to the Jackson Free Press in the form of a press release this morning, reprinted here verbatim: Virgi Lindsay to Run for Jackson City Council Ward 7

Expert in Neighborhood Revitalization Knows the Formula for Success

[Jackson, MS] Virgi Lindsay, a community leader and expert in neighborhood revitalization is running for Jackson City Council Ward 7. After filing her official statement of candidacy today, Ms. Lindsay remarked.

“I love Jackson and have spent decades working to make it safer, cleaner and a more vibrant place to live and work. Now I want to use this experience to help all the neighborhoods in Ward 7.”

Virgi has spent 15 years directing the Greater Belhaven Foundation, one of Jackson’s most successful improvement groups. She understands how the city operates. Under her leadership property values improved and new businesses brought more jobs to the city.

Virgi’s accomplishments led to Greater Belhaven’s designation as one of America’s Top Ten Neighborhoods in 2014. Experts in Mississippi neighborhood and downtown revitalization chose her as statewide Main Street Director of the Year in 2015.

Virgi Lindsay’s skillset extends beyond her successes in urban and community development.

Before managing the Greater Belhaven Foundation, Mrs. Lindsay was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger. She later served as Public Relations Director for the Jackson Public Schools and Communications Director for the Mississippi Arts Commission. This combination of experiences make Virgi Lindsay uniquely qualified to represent Ward 7.

Mrs. Lindsay has identified four areas of focus. She considers them all critical and of equal importance in making Jackson better. They are: • Repair our streets, water lines and other infrastructure • Make Jackson safer • Restore leadership in Jackson Public Schools • Improve and protect housing for all

Mrs. Lindsay has begun an extensive series of meetings all across Ward 7. She explains her intentions “There are shared issues that unite Ward 7 –for example we all have concerns about streets, water, sewer and drainage. But I also have tremendous respect for the uniqueness of every neighborhood in Ward 7 and the people who call it home. I know that in every neighborhood there are champions who are working to protect and improve their community.

These are the dedicated residents who are willing to do the hard work to make things better. I already know some of these leaders, but I want to know them all, and work alongside them to make things better. I want to partner with our neighborhoods and use my experience in community development to help them succeed.”

Virgi Lindsay has lived in Ward 7 for 32 years. She and her husband Chuck have two grown children, Chaz and Mary- Michael. The family has attended St. Richards Catholic Church for 34 years. Virgi currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Jackson Zoo and New Stage Theatre.

January 12, 2017

Natchez Publisher Promotes To-the-death 'Rodeo' for Black Youth, Age 13+

By Donna Ladd

A dark storm is brewing in and near Natchez, Miss., after the publisher of MissLou Magazine, The Natchez Sun and Natchez Sun XPress made shocking statements about young black people on Jan. 11, 2017, apparently in jest.

Peter Rinaldi wrote in a MissLou Magazine column titled, "Bang, Bang, You're Dead": "Natchez has become increasingly dangerous in the last eight years. As the population becomes more demographically poor, uneducated, unskilled and dominantly African American, the number of shootings has gone through the roof."

Rinaldi then lists three shootings and two deaths since the year started. He then added: "This is not such a bad thing, as one cynic remarked. The more criminals who shoot each other and are 'taken out,' the safer it is for the rest of us, the logic goes. Three shootings, three bad guys eliminated. Fifty shootings, 50 bad guys eliminated."

Then, he turns to joking, it seems, saying that "we were glad to hear local officials have finally fashioned a new anti-violence plan, which will be advertised in print and on the airwaves shortly, with posters spread all over town." That plan, he wrote, is called the Natchez-Adams County Gangbangers' Rodeo, which will be held March 12 at 7 p.m. at Liberty Park (where Natchez's Klan rallies used to happen, but we'll get to that). It is open to those 13 and up.

Rinaldi then explains in detail how this "rodeo" will work: "Open to all gangbangers with a .45 or 9 mm handgun. Limited to 20 rounds per person. Entry fee $100. Must be paid in cash in advance. No checks." The participants will then get in a circle and start shooting each other when the referee fires the starter pistol. They all kill or maim each other, and the last one standing gets $10,000. Free hot dogs and beers will be served, as well as fireworks. DJ Mortem, he writes, will provide live rap music. (See images of his event description below.)

The Mississippi Rising Coalition on the Gulf Coast alerted me to the editorial. Lea Campbell of MRC sent me the following statement:

"This kind of blatantly racist and classist editorializing and commentary from the publisher of a magazine in the Natchez area is irresponsible and unacceptable. Widespread violence in a community is the symptom of underlying social problems like poverty, institutional and structural racism, underfunded and segregated educational systems, untreated mental illness among many, many others. Mr. Rinaldi fails to express an understanding of these factors and scapegoats the issue of increasing violence in a way that will only act to fuel further racial and class division in the community instead of bringing the various community members together to work on effective, sustainable solutions. Shame on him for using his power and platform in such a reckless, dehumanizing and negligent way."

She also sent this statement from an MRC member whose parents reside in Natchez: "There are a million reasons that these shootings are occurring, and not a single one of them is …

January 11, 2017

Two Jackson Men Sentenced to 60 months in Armed Carjacking Case

By Tim Summers Jr.

The Department of Justice released the following statement verbatim:

Jackson, Miss - Gregory Hines, age 20 and Deontra Deon Paige, age 19, both of Jackson, were sentenced on January 10, 2017 before U.S. District Judge David Bramlette III to a term of 60 months in federal prison, after having previously pled guilty in U.S. District Court to armed carjacking, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis.

The crime took place on February 6, 2016 at a residence in Jackson. The victims, a husband and wife, had arrived home for the evening, when the wife decided to retrieve her Bible from their vehicle. As she attempted to do so, the defendants approached her, both bearing firearms. The defendants ordered her out of the vehicle and demanded the keys. The husband located the keys and tossed them to the defendants. The defendants left in the vehicle where Jackson Police Department officers subsequently apprehended them in the drive thru of the Burger King restaurant on Terry Road in Jackson. Jackson Police Department officers were able to locate the weapons used in the carjacking.

Hines and Paige’s 60 months’ terms of imprisonment shall be immediately followed by a three-year term of supervised release and they were both further ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $1,500.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with the Jackson Police Department, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abe McGlothin, Jr.

January 10, 2017

City to Repair Broken Water Mains after Winter Weather

By Tim Summers Jr.

Released this morning from the City of Jackson concerning water main repairs, reposted here verbatim:

City of Jackson Repairing Several Water Main Breaks Following Freezing Weather

City of Jackson Department of Public Works crews are repairing a number of water main breaks following freezing weather this past weekend. The numerous breaks have led to a temporary drop in water pressure in areas around the City.

Crews on Tuesday, Jan. 10, repaired a 12-inch line break off U.S. 80, which was one of the larger breaks. As the breaks are repaired, water pressure will increase.

January 10, 2017

Gov. Bryant Orders State Employees to Take Sexual Harassment Awareness Training

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant signed Executive Order 1392 which requires state employees to complete online sexual harassment awareness training.

"This should be a low-cost alternative to expensive seminars and provide a standard of prevention in this litigious society," Gov. Bryant said in his Facebook post announcing the order. "Everyone deserves a workplace free from intimidation and hostility. I will not tolerate sexual harassment in those agencies that fall under my control."

The State Personnel Board offers the training, and the Department of Finance and Administration will help state agencies administer the training, the executive order says. All state agencies must report to the governor's office by June 30, 2017, with evidence that their employees have completed the training.

January 8, 2017

National Media Diversity Site Features Kimberly Griffin's Promotion to Associate Publisher

By Donna Ladd

Associate Publisher Kimberly Griffin has been featured on Richard Prince's 'Journal-isms' website.

January 7, 2017

Four 'Blues Crawl' Venues Open Tonight for Marathon Runners, But No Shuttle

By Donna Ladd

We just received the following update about what venues will be open tonight for the marathon runners who came to Jackson for the Mississippi Blues Marathon that was cancelled due to the ice storm. Limited venues are open tonight for the scheduled Blues Crawl, but the shuttle will not run.

Verbatim from the organizers:

Due to the current street conditions, the Blues Crawl shuttle will not be running tonight. The weather has also impacted musicians and venues. As of this time, the following venues are scheduled to be open:

Hal & Mal’s (200 South Commerce Street, 601-948-0888);

Ole Tavern at George Street (416 George Street, 601-960-2700);

Martin’s (214 South State Street, 601-354-9712); One Block East (642 Tombigbee Street, 601-944-0203);

and Fenian’s (901 East Fortification Street, 601-948-0005).

If runners plan to get out tonight, we recommend calling the venues ahead of time.

January 7, 2017

Updated: Openings, Closings in Metro Jackson; Blues Marathon Cancelled

By Donna Ladd

The areas in pink are still experiencing icy, dangerous conditions on Jan. 7.

January 6, 2017

JTRAN Buses Shut Down By Weather

By Todd Stauffer

Due to the deteriorating street conditions, JATRAN buses will be off the streets at or about 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6. Anyone needing a ride home should contract customer service at 601-952-1000 for a ride.

January 6, 2017

Mississippi Wins 'Development Deal' Award for Continental Tire Plant

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant announced at MEC Capital Day on Thursday that Mississippi won the Business Facilities’ 2016 Economic Development Deal of the Year for sealing the deal with Continental Tire, which is set to open a tire plant outside of Clinton in Hinds County.

“To be chosen as the top recipient of Business Facilities’ 2016 Economic Development Deal of the Year national competition is a great honor for the state, the Mississippi Development Authority, Hinds County and the numerous individuals who worked tirelessly to bring Continental to Hinds County,” said Bryant said in an MDA press release. “This award confirms the state’s position as one of the top destinations for business and is something in which all Mississippians should take pride. I appreciate the team at Business Facilities for recognizing our efforts with this top honor.”

Bryant called a special legislative session last year to ram through the incentives package that brought Continental Tire to Mississippi in the first place. Continental invested $1.45 billion in the state, and eventually, the plant is supposed to create 2,500 jobs over the next decade. The state spent over $600 million in bonds and tax breaks to bring the German-based tire manufacturer to Hinds County, an AP analysis shows.

Bryant is a fan of tax cuts to bring in economic development projects. At the Jackson Marriott on Thursday, he reiterated his dedication to tax incentives to bring development and jobs to the state.

"Without tax incentives we've offered companies, they would not be here," Bryant told business leaders on Thursday.

The Hinds County tire plant will open with 100 jobs in 2018, but currently, the company is issuing contracts for development of the almost 1,000-acre plot. Mississippi companies are strongly encouraged to apply, but any company can bid on the contracts.

January 5, 2017

Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference: 'We Will Not Be Silent' About Hate Crimes

By adreher

Below is an open letter from the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference reproduced in full:

An Open Letter to All Mississippians and Our Leaders

We, the undersigned religious leaders, educators, community leaders, and citizens of Mississippi, hereby express our alarm at the increase in hate crimes and acts of abuse against Muslims and other minorities in Mississippi and across the United States.

We know that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and we will not be silent and allow hatred against fellow Mississippians to go unnoticed and unchecked. We will not accept as normal the increasing violence in speech, action, and policies against our neighbors.

We call out our politicians and civic leaders, asking them to condemn as we do the toleration of abusive speech of political leaders against Muslims, women, and others. Such words and actions inflame and justify hatred, are counter to the Constitution, and will always harm the fabric of our democracy.

We know that some of our neighbors, tragically some of them children, Muslims and other religious minorities, have experienced abuse that creates fear and anxiety about their personal safety and acceptance in the United States. Those fears are justified based on the words and actions of politicians and their supporters, and these hurtful actions are documented by reputable sources such as the FBI.

We will stand with you, whether you are a Muslim, African-American, immigrant, ethnic minority, LGBTQ person, woman, Mexican, disabled person, or anyone who has felt threatened by recent events in the United States. We want you to know that we will support you and uphold your rights and human dignity. We open our hearts and arms to help you.

We believe and advocate for "liberty and justice for all," equally and without bias.

We will not be silent. We will not close our eyes.

In Faith,

The Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference (www.msrlc.org/)

The following organizations* have endorsed this letter:

 Beth Israel Congregation, Jackson

 International Museum of Muslim Cultures

 Jackson Board of Rabbis

 League of Women Voters of Jackson

 Masjid Muhammed

 Millsaps Jewish Culture Organization/Hillel

 Millsaps Religious Studies Department

 Millsaps Secular Society

 Millsaps Religious Studies Club

 Mississippi Black Methodists for Church Renewal

 Mississippi Center for Justice

 Mississippi Human Services Coalition

 Mississippi Low Income Childcare Initiative

 Mississippi Muslim Association

 Moor Community House

 Steps Coalition

 Temple B'nai Israel, Tupelo

 The Baha'i Jackson Cluster

 Tougaloo College Center for International Studies and Global Change

 Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson

*We are continuing to collect even more signatories from

the state of Mississippi.

January 4, 2017

State Supe Releases Annual Report

By adreher

State superintendent Dr. Carey Wright released her annual report today, which includes how and where school districts spend their state, federal and local dollars. Data included in that report show that school districts use state funds to operate at least half of their budgets on average, while local and federal funding make up the rest of a district's budget.

In total, 67 percent of all funds (federal, state and local) go toward instructional costs, while a little over 10 percent of that funding goes toward general and school administrative costs. School districts also spend a large chunk of their money on support costs for maintenance and building costs, tech support and transportation, the report shows.

The average expenditure per pupil in the 2015-2016 school year was $9,704, Wright's report shows. The average teacher salary was $44,416.

“The report provides evidence that the education reforms and legislative initiatives that have been implemented throughout our state are working,” said Wright said in a press release. “Mississippi students are benefiting from the state’s investment in public education.”

The report also highlights several grants Mississippi received, including a $6.6 million grant for MDE to improve their data system with a focus on evaluation and early learning.

Read the full JFP interview with Carey Wright and see http://www.mdek12.org/MBE/R2017.

January 3, 2017

Mississippi Picnic in Central Park Cancelled for Good

By Donna Ladd

Last year, the organizers of the boisterous and well-attended annual Mississippi Picnic in Central canceled it in the wake of House Bill 1523's passage.

"Any law such as HB 1523 that discriminates against even a single member of our community cannot be tolerated, and therefore we have decided to stand up for all Mississippians by canceling the 2016 picnic in the park," organizers wrote in a statement last year.

Now, the picnic that started in 1980 seems to be gone forever. The New York Mississippi Society, which runs the picnic, posted this today on its website: "The 36 years of the Mississippi Picnics has been wonderful and a positive thing for all those involved but with the competition of funding sources and the rising costs and complexity of putting this event together, The New York Society regrets to announce that there are no plans for any future picnics."

Read more about HB 1523 and its effects here.

January 3, 2017

Blues Marathon Traffic Advisories for Jan. 9

By Todd Stauffer

The Mississippi Blues Marathon takes place this Saturday, January 9, 2017, throughout Greater Jackson. As a result, some streets will be closed and some intersections make take time to get across.

January 3, 2017

JSU one of only four HBCU’s ranked among top 200 research universities in the country

By Tim Summers Jr.

Verbatim from the Jackson State University public relations department:

When it comes to federal research expenditures, Jackson State University is one of only four Historically Black Colleges and Universities listed by The Center for Measuring University Performances’ top 200 research universities in the country. A joint venture between Arizona State University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, The Center is designed to track research productivity across the United States.

“Jackson State University’s inclusion as one of the top 200 universities in the country for federal research expenditures shows the high level of productivity that comes from our brilliant faculty and staff. We are honored by this achievement which is only a glimpse of the success that emanates from our great institution,” said Dr. Rod Paige, JSU interim-president.

Ranked as #195, Jackson State University joins the three other Mississippi research universities and the state’s only medical school on the list, with Mississippi State University (#126), the University of Mississippi (#174), the University of Mississippi Medical Center (#185), and the University of Southern Mississippi (#189).

According to Dr. Loretta Moore, Jackson State University Vice President for Research and Federal Relations, “It is a privilege for Jackson State University to be listed among the premier research universities in the country. This milestone is the direct result of our dedicated and talented faculty and staff engaged in funded research.”

The universities identified in the annual report support research in a wide variety of fields, contributing to both the growth of knowledge in those areas and to the economic impact of universities on their communities. As the Center for Measuring University Performance notes in its report, “Not only do high-quality research institutions require strong financial support, they also require rigorous processes to identify the best faculty and staff, the best students and support their performance within a highly competitive national and international context.”

January 3, 2017

JPD Arrests 18-Year-Old, 2 Juveniles for Carjacking

By Tim Summers Jr.

The following was released verbatim by the Jackson Police Department:

CORRECTION: JPD issued a correction for the street name to Newton Street, the change has been made below.

On Monday, January 2, 2017, at approx. 7:53PM, Jackson Police Officers responded to Texaco Gas Station at 3140 Woodrow Wilson regarding a carjacking. Upon officers’ arrival, it was learned that the victim was stationary at a red light near Bailey Ave. and Woodrow Wilson Blvd. when three unidentified black males jumped into his vehicle. One of the suspects was armed with a handgun. The suspects made the victim drive to another location where the victim was able to escape and seek help. The suspects took the victim’s Buick LeSabre and his personal belongings. The suspects fled the scene. The victim sustained an injury to his lower back due to being cut with a blunt object. He was transported for medical treatment and is in stable condition at this time.

On Tuesday, January 3, 2017, DART officers observed the victim’s carjacked vehicle in the area of Utica St. near NEWTON St. The vehicle was occupied by three black males. Officers initiated a traffic stop and the occupants fled the scene on foot. Officers were able to detain the three occupants after a brief foot pursuit. They were identified as Martavious Powell-18, and two unidentified juveniles. They were transported for questioning. Powell was charged with Carjacking, Kidnapping, Aggravated Assault and Armed Robbery of an Individual. The juvenile occupants were charged with Trespassing in a Stolen Auto. This incident is still under investigation.