- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Nov. 3

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo on Mississippi’s business climate:

Mississippi remained conspicuously missing from Site Selection magazine’s annual listing of the top 10 business climate states.

For the third consecutive year, Site Selection magazine has named Georgia as the state with the Top Business Climate. As revealed in the November 2015 issue of the magazine, research based in part on a survey of corporate real estate executives and in part on an index of criteria based largely on the Conway Projects Database, has led to Georgia repeating its first-place finish. North Carolina ranks second, up from third place in 2014; Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas round out the top five spots.

Mississippi, in some past measures, has ranked in the top 10 in single digits, but our state wasn’t in any of the top 10 lists made by Site Selection this year. Our state’s experts need to pinpoint why we didn’t make it and correct deficiencies. The reason isn’t only about making the high-profile list, but about what we might be missing in not making that high grade.

“Our Conway Projects Database of new and expanding facilities tracks private capital projects involving $1 million or more of investment, 20 or more new jobs or 20,000 or more square feet of new construction, and Georgia has the second highest number of those so far in 2015,” said Site Selection Editor in Chief Mark Arend. “Site selectors gave Georgia very high marks in the survey component of the ranking - only Texas scored higher. This ranking, therefore, reflects actual projects announced, which result in new jobs, and the input of those deciding where projects should be located. Georgia’s first-place finish would not be possible without strong performances in both those areas.”

The rankings were out of the state’s hands: Fifty percent of the overall business climate ranking is based on a survey of corporate site selectors asked to rank the states based on their recent experience of locating facilities in them.

The other 50 percent is based on an index of seven criteria: performance in Site Selection’s annual Competitiveness ranking; total Conway Projects Database-compliant facilities in 2014; total new facilities in 2014 per capita; total 2015 new projects year to date; total 2015 projects year to date per capita; state tax burdens on mature firms and on new firms according to the Tax Foundation and KPMG Location Matters analysis.

Conway, Inc., founded in 1954, is an international publishing, consulting, association management and events company headquartered in Atlanta.

The big asset in gaining the top 10 standing is virtually priceless exposure.

Online:

https://djournal.com/

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Nov. 2

The Greenwood Commonwealth on Mississippi legislators and the state flag:

With last week’s actions at two of the state’s largest universities, it is becoming clear that Mississippi may be setting itself up for an angry, bitter, divisive and messy fight over the state flag that it really doesn’t need.

Last Monday, University of Mississippi officials quietly took down the state flag, which includes the controversial Confederate battle emblem, at the campus. The University of Southern Mississippi did the same thing a couple of days later.

There has been harsh criticism of the two schools for this. Defenders of the flag note that voters in a 2001 referendum opposed a change by a 2-to-1 margin. A number of Republican elected officials have cited that as a reason to leave the flag alone.

With that for background, it was a mild surprise Thursday when Gov. Phil Bryant, a USM alum, said the Legislature ought to put a flag referendum on the November 2016 ballot, because turnout is highest during presidential election years. The governor continues to maintain that if the flag is to be changed, the question should be put again to a popular vote.

It requires no great insight, however, to foresee that a flag referendum most likely would produce the same result, although the vote would probably be closer than it was 14 years ago.

Bryant and anyone else whose job includes overseeing the image of Mississippi should cringe at that prospect. What would it say to the rest of the country, and to the businesses being recruited to expand here, if Mississippi votes to remain the only state in the former Confederacy to continue to have as part of its official state insignia a symbol that is offensive to many of its black citizens?

The governor and Republican legislative leaders have to know the risks of a referendum. They also know there is one other way to solve the problem. The Legislature could make a change on its own.

It’s interesting how lawmakers respond differently to different issues. Put an initiative on Tuesday’s ballot to require more education spending, and the Legislature moves swiftly to retain its authority by producing an alternate proposal.

But suggest that lawmakers use their power to avoid a divisive battle and replace the current flag with a more unifying symbol for the state flag, and a majority of legislators duck behind a prior referendum and want to pawn it off on a future one.

The governor is right: 2016 is the best time to resolve the state flag issue. But that’s because it will be the first year of the Legislature’s new term - the perfect moment for newly elected lawmakers to choose a new flag.

After all, the Legislature has the power to decide what’s in the best long-term interest of the state. All it needs is the courage to do so.

There would be anger and criticism, but elections would be three years away. That’s plenty of time for voters to forgive incumbents. And any outcry over a new flag would be tame compared to the rancor that is sure to intensify the longer the state delays a decision.

Online:

https://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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Oct. 31

The Hattiesburg American on the Mississippi state flag:

The message is getting louder and louder: A growing number of Mississippians are not happy with the current state flag, and some officials are listening.

On Oct. 28, the University of Southern Mississippi quietly took down the state flag on all its campuses before a protest began seeking its removal.

Southern Miss president Rodney Bennett ordered the removal, saying in an email, “While I love the state of Mississippi, there is passionate disagreement about the current state flag on our campuses and in our communities. I am looking forward to a time when this debate is resolved and USM raises a state flag that unites us.”

The flag contains the Confederate battle emblem, which some find a painful reminder of slavery and segregation.

Southern Miss’ decision to remove the flag came just two days after the University of Mississippi made the same choice.

Confederate symbols have come under increased scrutiny since the massacre of nine black worshipers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. Police said the attack was racially motivated. The man charged in the killings had previously posed for photos online with the Confederate battle flag.

South Carolina’s Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, with support from most of her state’s legislature, ordered the flag removed soon after the incident.

“That flag needed to come down,” she told the Associated Press after visiting the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “I could not look my kids in the face and justify that flag anymore.

“These people are forever ingrained in my soul - what they went through. It will forever change the way I live my life. … Every parent needs to understand we have a responsibility to show our children, because hate is not born. Hate is taught.”

The Associated Press reports Mississippi’s three historically black universities - Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State - had previously stopped flying the state flag. The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson recently took down the flag with no fanfare.

Several cities and counties - including Hattiesburg - have furled the state flag since the attack in Charleston.

“We have removed the state flags to honor the lives of the nine individuals slain in the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, their families and community as they mourn,” Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said in a short statement released when the city made its decision.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, a USM alumnus, has said he thinks universities should fly the flag. State law, however, does not require them to do so.

“I think that if you’ve got a publicly funded institution like that, they should be respectful of the people of the state,” Bryant told the Associated Press on Oct. 27 in response to questions about the flag being removed at Ole Miss.

The flag’s removal at state and municipal agencies is a prime example of leadership from the bottom up.

Perhaps it’s time the governor and legislators listen to these rumblings and do the right thing: Order the removal of the state flag from all public buildings until a new flag can be designed that will embrace all of Mississippi’s citizens.

Online: https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/

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