- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Feb. 3

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on the furniture market:

The final days of preparation for the Tupelo Furniture Market this week carry with them optimism for stronger sales based on the economic performance of 2014 and the stated expectations of some key buyers and sellers who exhibit at the market center on Coley Road.

The market historically has drawn a strong representation of retailers and manufacturers from across the United States, but this session of the market is highlighted by the anticipated visit of a delegation of Chinese furniture officials, which the regional furniture industry hopes will lead to openings for additional profitable dealings in the rapidly expanding Chinese market, as Business Editor Dennis Seid commented on Sunday.

The flagship trade publication Furniture Today reported that all the pre-market signs suggest a strong market.

“Buoyed by brisk business in recent months, exhibitors headed to this week’s Tupelo Furniture Market are looking to blend a smattering of product introductions with a heavy dose of market specials and quick-ship promotions to create a successful event,” reporter Larry Thomas wrote in a FT article. “Most exhibitors, especially those who produce upholstery, say January’s business picked up where the busy fourth quarter of 2014 left off, and they believe the momentum will continue at least through spring.”

Other sources, including year-ending reports on the broader national economy, show signs that could mean larger furniture sales, including a 5 percent 2014 growth in residential construction nationwide, a source of furniture stimulus.

It’s also true that the Tupelo Furniture Market faces stronger-than-ever competition from the Las Vegas Market, which ended only two weeks ago. That market event uses the destination lure of Las Vegas to draw buyers and sellers from across the nation and internationally.

Furniture Today also reported that some furniture executives say late winter and early spring sales often “spike once tax refunds begin showing up in consumers’ bank accounts, and they believe it’s critical to show market buyers they can deliver product to meet that demand.”

Franklin Furniture Institute’s link to furniture employment shows 18,232 people working in the industry in Mississippi at the end of the 2014 second quarter, an increase from some recent years.

Market President Kevin Seddon said advance registrations are about even with last February’s show, but he believes this year’s more favorable weather will result in a greater turnout.

The furniture market event is always good for Tupelo; the sales generated at the market are more important in the overall economy of Northeast Mississippi, center of the upholstered furniture manufacturing industry.




Feb. 3

Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on Common Core:

One of the more perplexing aspects of the irrational opposition to Common Core in Mississippi is the contradictory arguments made by opponents.

Some claim the new education standards for Mississippi’s public schools are too tough and that students and teachers are both struggling with them. Some say they’re not tough enough, citing objections to them made in other states such as Georgia, California and Massachusetts.

Which is it? Either Common Core standards are too tough, too easy or just right. This isn’t “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

The truth of the matter is that Common Core may not be as academically demanding as what a few other states, whose education performance has long exceeded Mississippi’s, had previously adopted on their own. That’s probably the case for Massachusetts, for instance.

The standards are, though, higher than what previously existed in most of the 43 states that have adopted Common Core. They are definitely higher than the low standards that Mississippi used in the past.

Common Core requires more critical thinking and less rote learning. It requires more writing and less multiple choice. All of this is good, or can be if the state Legislature butts out and gives the schools a chance to adapt to the standards.

Calling Common Core “failed,” as Gov. Phil Bryant has done, is grossly premature. Mississippi students have yet to be actually tested on the new standards. That comes this spring. Our guess is that the schools’ test scores will come down. They should, if Common Core is truly an improvement, since the previous tests provided inflated results, showing our students doing better than they actually were when compared to the rest of the nation

That’s the beauty of Common Core. It sets academic standards that, unless the tea party and other ultraconservatives have their way and gut the process, will be the same in most of the country. It establishes what a student should know at the end of each grade, regardless of whether that student is going to school in Mississippi or in Michigan.

Will it work in raising academic achievement in this state? There’s no guarantee. It all depends on how well schools adapt to the different teaching and learning skills Common Core requires and whether it is given a truly fair chance of being implemented.

We do know this, though. If Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and other Republican politicians who are pandering on this issue have their way and start the process all over again, the state will wind up squandering millions of dollars and end up with something worse than Common Core.




Feb. 3

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on legislature’s commitment:

Vote by vote, proposals to bring more accountability and transparency to government are moving through the Legislature.

If these measures are enacted, their sponsors and supporters are to be roundly congratulated.

We say if, because many a good idea has met its match in the corridors of the Capitol. But this particular election year would appear to favor — dare we say it? — reform.

A scandal involving contracts and kickbacks at the state Department of Corrections has gotten the attention of both the public and public officials. If it does not result in an overhaul of how government agencies award sole-source or no-bid contracts, then lawmakers should be held accountable at the polls for leaving in place a status quo that invites abuse.

The dysfunctional management of the Singing River Health System in Jackson County has also captured the attention of lawmakers in the capital city of Jackson. For years, the trustees and administrators of publicly owned hospitals have successfully managed to keep their meetings and much of their activities beyond public scrutiny. The result of permitting such sanctuaries of secrecy is now on display at SRHS.

There is even a bill that would require public officials to report gifts they receive as public officials that are worth $500 or more.

Each of these proposals and more is needed, not to handicap or hinder the conduct of public business, but to better ensure public monies are properly spent and public trust is not betrayed.

Closed doors and hidden records do not permit taxpayers to “follow the money” as it flows through and between the public and private sectors.

Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — both former state treasurers — have called for more accountability and transparency in the financial activities of public officials and agencies.

Now each has not only an opportunity but a duty to champion that cause with members of the state House and Senate.

We encourage them all to pass this test of their commitment to transparency.





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