Letters to the Editor

Our newspaper serves Southwest Mississippi and East Central Louisiana, covering seven counties and parishes.

Publisher: Peter Rinaldi    

601-431-2990

Mailing address: 15044 Blue Marlin, Bonita Springs, FL 34135

missloumagazine@gmail.com

 

Politics of Division – No Place in Natchez

Dear Sir:

The Concordia Parish Police Jury is considering adopting an ordinance creating this development district on February 14th. My question is why and how did this come about?  The intended reasons for its creation are nebulous and duplicative of other agencies and would only create another bureaucratic arm of the state government, giving it many rights and powers, including incurring debt, issuing bonds and levying taxes and assessments. That's right, levying taxes!

The primary purpose is supposedly to encourage development. Isn't that what the Concordia Economic Development District is supposed to do?  Isn't that a function of the Kisatchie Planning & Development District? What about the Louisiana Department of Commerce and Industry?  What about the Commissioner of Agriculture? Doesn't his office promote the agricultural interest of the state? What about individual police jurors?

This appears to be an attempt to create an agency to collect tax money with no specifically defined real purpose and to create cushy jobs and positions chosen by board and maybe even other highly elected officials. That should raise a red flag. The police jury, once this agency is created, will have no say so in the levying of these taxes or assessments since it will have only two appointed members and its people will have no real voice.

Once appointed the members may set their own per diem and the salaries of attorneys, clerks, engineers, deputy commissioners (whatever that is), superintendents and employees and fix their salaries and terms of employment.  Wow!!  But that's not the worst part. The board can acquire property, incur debt, issue bonds, borrow money and levy ad valorem property taxes of five mills on all property in the parishes. This tax will be levied on each piece of property, including homes, restaurants, retail stores, furniture stores, lumber yards, convenience stores, storage facilities and any business that operates in the parish. It affects every citizen and voter.

The police jury should consider whether this duplicative agency is really needed at all. I suggest that it is not.

Respectfully,

Kevin M. Friloux

Former Concordia Parish Police Jury Secretary/Treasurer, Resident of Vidalia

Northeast Louisiana Railroad Development District

Kevin Friloux

Dear Sir:

The Concordia Parish Police Jury is considering adopting an ordinance creating this development district on February 14th. My question is why and how did this come about?  The intended reasons for its creation are nebulous and duplicative of other agencies and would only create another bureaucratic arm of the state government, giving it many rights and powers, including incurring debt, issuing bonds and levying taxes and assessments. That's right, levying taxes!

The primary purpose is supposedly to encourage development. Isn't that what the Concordia Economic Development District is supposed to do?  Isn't that a function of the Kisatchie Planning & Development District? What about the Louisiana Department of Commerce and Industry?  What about the Commissioner of Agriculture? Doesn't his office promote the agricultural interest of the state? What about individual police jurors?

This appears to be an attempt to create an agency to collect tax money with no specifically defined real purpose and to create cushy jobs and positions chosen by board and maybe even other highly elected officials. That should raise a red flag. The police jury, once this agency is created, will have no say so in the levying of these taxes or assessments since it will have only two appointed members and its people will have no real voice.

Once appointed the members may set their own per diem and the salaries of attorneys, clerks, engineers, deputy commissioners (whatever that is), superintendents and employees and fix their salaries and terms of employment.  Wow!!  But that's not the worst part. The board can acquire property, incur debt, issue bonds, borrow money and levy ad valorem property taxes of five mills on all property in the parishes. This tax will be levied on each piece of property, including homes, restaurants, retail stores, furniture stores, lumber yards, convenience stores, storage facilities and any business that operates in the parish. It affects every citizen and voter.

The police jury should consider whether this duplicative agency is really needed at all. I suggest that it is not.

Respectfully,

Kevin M. Friloux

Former Concordia Parish Police Jury Secretary/Treasurer, Resident of Vidalia

Consolidation by Repeal of City Charter

Dear Sirs:

The recent Stennis Institute public forum on Mississippi municipal government forms reconfirms that changing Natchez city government form or replacing city elected officials will not cure area problems. Stennis says, “any of the forms of government can be effective” depending on elected officials’ behavior; however, our city government’s lack of basic competencies, irresponsible spending, and failure to manage city contractors, property, and departments compounds our population decline and local economy problems. We are beyond the study stage. Radical changes now for our area are a must. It is inconceivable that city elected officials will give up power or positions, take reduced salaries and by-pass excessive travel perks, or give complete authority to a City Manager for administration, personnel, and money matters. Don’t expect city elected officials to combine all services with the county. That would further expose city elected officials as unnecessary and irrelevant.

Service consolidation attempts locally have mostly failed, with annual infighting between city and county officials. Visit “City Failures” at www.OneBoardnatchezadams.com for a list of what we have all endured just in these past 34 months—city leaders who thumb noses at employees, taxpayers, and laws—most recently state law on routine maintenance of minute books, unindexed since 2016 but for 366 pages. OneBoard believes critical time and money are now being wasted with talk of prolonging the life of Natchez city government. This will simply further compound problems and endanger the needed reboot.

The turning point in the recent forum came when Sue Wiltz, with a long and distinguished public service career elsewhere, asked about local government consolidation—a common subject across the country for areas with declining populations and economies. Stennis professors informed Sue that she could raise her question later this month when University of Georgia speakers discuss consolidation—presumably consolidated government form(s) permitted in Georgia. I look forward to hearing their presentation; however, unlike Georgia, Mississippi does not allow consolidated local governments.

To be clear, OneBoard is not about trying to consolidate the governments of the city and the county. Mississippi counsel tells us Mississippi does not permit it. If both city and county government exist, they must be separate. Each Mississippi county’s Board of Supervisors is required and protected under the Mississippi Constitution, whereas Mississippi municipalities are strictly optional and charters can be repealed. OneBoard is in favor of forced consolidation via City charter repeal. All local government functions would be run by the Board of Supervisors, which has in place a County Administrator administering and managing all services and operations. City government goes away under the OneBoard initiative. “Natchez,” to identify our community name, remains. The Board of Supervisors can establish an economic development area for the Natchez bluff/tourism/entertainment area. Legislation can address tax diversion so our area receives sales and other taxes it collects. City funding like “casino money” goes to the county. See illustrative list online under “City Failures” described above. Only property owners within former city boundaries pay off former city debt. Yes, legislative tweaks would be made for separate political subdivisions, like Natchez Convention Promotion Commission.

All of this leads us to expect that, for the Georgia presentation to be relevant for our area, it should focus on Mississippi processes to consolidate all of our local government functions under the Board of Supervisors. We also know that besides city charter repeal, “forced consolidation” can also occur incrementally through neighborhood withdrawals from the city. OneBoard’s initiative—dissolution of city government through legislative repeal of the obsolete city charter is the quickest, most direct path to saving this area, resulting in default by operation of law to the Board of Supervisors. It also means that our area will then have “all eyes on 5” Supervisors elected to the Adams County Board of Supervisors and no more blame game between the local governmental entities.

OneBoard supporters are bi-partisan, of all races and ages, investors, business owners, employers, and white, pink, and blue collar workers, property owners, aspiring property owners and ex pats forced to leave for economic reasons. Sign the petition to save our area through consolidation of all local government functions. Go to www.OneBoardNatchezAdams.com for the online petition and information, or pick up petitions at 329 Market Street downtown.

Paul H. Benoist, Natchez

Natchez Needs Governmental Reform

Dear Sirs:

The recent Stennis Institute public forum on Mississippi municipal government forms reconfirms that changing Natchez city government form or replacing city elected officials will not cure area problems. Stennis says, “any of the forms of government can be effective” depending on elected officials’ behavior; however, our city government’s lack of basic competencies, irresponsible spending, and failure to manage city contractors, property, and departments compounds our population decline and local economy problems. We are beyond the study stage. Radical changes now for our area are a must. It is inconceivable that city elected officials will give up power or positions, take reduced salaries and by-pass excessive travel perks, or give complete authority to a City Manager for administration, personnel, and money matters. Don’t expect city elected officials to combine all services with the county. That would further expose city elected officials as unnecessary and irrelevant.

Service consolidation attempts locally have mostly failed, with annual infighting between city and county officials. Visit “City Failures” at www.OneBoardnatchezadams.com for a list of what we have all endured just in these past 34 months—city leaders who thumb noses at employees, taxpayers, and laws—most recently state law on routine maintenance of minute books, unindexed since 2016 but for 366 pages. OneBoard believes critical time and money are now being wasted with talk of prolonging the life of Natchez city government. This will simply further compound problems and endanger the needed reboot.

The turning point in the recent forum came when Sue Wiltz, with a long and distinguished public service career elsewhere, asked about local government consolidation—a common subject across the country for areas with declining populations and economies. Stennis professors informed Sue that she could raise her question later this month when University of Georgia speakers discuss consolidation—presumably consolidated government form(s) permitted in Georgia. I look forward to hearing their presentation; however, unlike Georgia, Mississippi does not allow consolidated local governments.

To be clear, OneBoard is not about trying to consolidate the governments of the city and the county. Mississippi counsel tells us Mississippi does not permit it. If both city and county government exist, they must be separate. Each Mississippi county’s Board of Supervisors is required and protected under the Mississippi Constitution, whereas Mississippi municipalities are strictly optional and charters can be repealed. OneBoard is in favor of forced consolidation via City charter repeal. All local government functions would be run by the Board of Supervisors, which has in place a County Administrator administering and managing all services and operations. City government goes away under the OneBoard initiative. “Natchez,” to identify our community name, remains. The Board of Supervisors can establish an economic development area for the Natchez bluff/tourism/entertainment area. Legislation can address tax diversion so our area receives sales and other taxes it collects. City funding like “casino money” goes to the county. See illustrative list online under “City Failures” described above. Only property owners within former city boundaries pay off former city debt. Yes, legislative tweaks would be made for separate political subdivisions, like Natchez Convention Promotion Commission.

All of this leads us to expect that, for the Georgia presentation to be relevant for our area, it should focus on Mississippi processes to consolidate all of our local government functions under the Board of Supervisors. We also know that besides city charter repeal, “forced consolidation” can also occur incrementally through neighborhood withdrawals from the city. OneBoard’s initiative—dissolution of city government through legislative repeal of the obsolete city charter is the quickest, most direct path to saving this area, resulting in default by operation of law to the Board of Supervisors. It also means that our area will then have “all eyes on 5” Supervisors elected to the Adams County Board of Supervisors and no more blame game between the local governmental entities.

OneBoard supporters are bi-partisan, of all races and ages, investors, business owners, employers, and white, pink, and blue collar workers, property owners, aspiring property owners and ex pats forced to leave for economic reasons. Sign the petition to save our area through consolidation of all local government functions. Go to www.OneBoardNatchezAdams.com for the online petition and information, or pick up petitions at 329 Market Street downtown.

Paul H. Benoist, Natchez

The Stewpot

Dear Sirs:

Please help feed the hungry in our community.

 

The Stewpot is very low on vegetables. It takes 9 large cans to prepare the 300 meals that we serve every day. Please consider getting together with your family, classmates, group, club, or Sunday school class to collect enough cans for one day or one week.   

 

Any amount will be appreciated. Vegetables can be delivered to the Stewpot Monday to Saturday from 7:30 am to 2:00 pm. Thank you!

 

Stewpot address: 69 East Franklin Street

 

Marcus Archer, Natchez

Souuthern Pine Beetle

Dear Sirs:

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that it has established an Incident Management Team to direct efforts to suppress southern pine beetle infestations that threaten to damage tens of thousands of acres of pine forests in Mississippi.

Forest Health officials have classified the level of infestations as a severe outbreak. “This outbreak is unprecedented in scope with beetle activity progressing at breakneck speed with infestations rapidly escalating in size, coalescing, and decimating whole plantations,” said Jim Meeker, an entomologist with the Forest Service.

Recent surveys conducted by flights and on the ground found more than 3,500 spots of infestation by southern pine beetles on the Homochitto Ranger District (southwest Mississippi), Bienville Ranger District (central Mississippi), Tombigbee Ranger District and the Holly Springs Ranger District (both in north Mississippi).

“We have put together a dedicated team of professionals to manage our beetle suppression and resource protection efforts as an incident. This approach provides an increased focus and additional resources as we work to protect resources on public and private forest lands,” said National Forests in Mississippi Forest Supervisor Gretta Boley. “We are working very closely with our state partner, the Mississippi Forestry Commission.”

The southern pine beetle, a native insect, is the most destructive forest pest in the South, both in economic and ecological impacts. In the absence of southern pine beetle suppression, large-scale pine mortality occurs, destroying endangered species habitat, recreation opportunities, timber, and other property values.

The southern pine beetle is a cyclical outbreak species, which becomes an area-wide and aggressive tree-killer during outbreaks.  Scientists believe there are several reasons for this severe outbreak

--- recent unseasonably mild winters and excessively dry, drought conditions in the summers and falls,

--- an abundance of moderate to high density pine stands, including more than 100,000 acres of unthinned loblolly and shortleaf stands that are highly susceptible to infestation by the insect, and

--- the inability to complete effective suppression activities in previous years.  

Staff from the National Forests in Mississippi and the Mississippi Forestry Commission are working closely with the incident management team. “We are working with and reaching out to private landowners who have questions or need assistance related to the southern pine beetle outbreaks,” said Mississippi State Forester Charlie Morgan. “We continue to work with and support our federal partner, the National Forests in Mississippi, in responding to the southern pine beetle outbreaks.”

“Our crews are working very hard in some extreme conditions including rough terrain and excessive heat,” Boley added. “They are doing an excellent job. Carrying out our work safely is of the utmost importance.”

Ground saturation, including frequent pop-up showers, has also created a significant challenge to suppression efforts. Because of the amount of recent and continued rain fall, logging crews have limited ability at this time to operate heavy equipment.

Forest workers are cutting infested trees to suppress the spread of the beetles and protect resources. Cutting trees helps prevent spot growth by disrupting the beetle pheromone communication system and thus their ability to effectively aggregate and mass attack new pine trees. It is generally thought that most southern pine beetles die before they can colonize trees in a new spot, particularly in the summer when survival outside of the tree is short.

Foresters generally use one of two suppression methods: cut and remove or cut and leave.

Cut and remove is the preferred and most effective suppression tactic because it eliminates all the beetle and their pheromone odors from the forest. Because of the markets and weather, cut and remove has not been available as an option. While less effective, cut and leave – a method that leaves the cut tree in the forest – is the primary suppression tactic at this time.

For more information about southern pine beetles, go to www.mfc.ms.gov/SPB-Prevention.

Mario Rossilli, Public Affairs Staff Officer

U.S. Forest Service, Jackson