- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


Aug. 31

The Commercial Dispatch on the state flag on college campuses:

In non-maritime references, the word “flagship” is used to describe one of a group of things which is recognized for its leadership qualities.

From time to time, the word is used to describe the University of Mississippi - often by those with ties to that university. Naturally, that description grates on the ears of those at the state’s seven other state-supported universities, especially Mississippi State, the state’s largest university and the University of Mississippi’s greatest rival.

The truth is each of our universities has earned the right to that distinction in one field or another.

Yet when it comes to advancing the cause of racial equality, Mississippi State and MUW appear to be abdicating that flagship status to Ole Miss and the University of Southern Mississippi.

This week we learned, well after the fact, that Mississippi State had quietly removed Mississippi’s state flag, with its Confederate imagery, from sites throughout campus. Likewise, Mississippi University for Women removed the state flag, also in a somewhat surreptitious manner, in July.

Both universities had grappled with the state flag controversy this past year. MUW held a student forum in November to discuss the issue while at Mississippi State, a student-led sit-in in April thrust the matter into public view.

At the time of those gatherings both MUW President Dr. Jim Borsig and MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum said publicly the flag would remain on campus, although both said they favored a new flag.

Keenum, in particular, made note that any change in the state flag must occur through the proper process, primarily through legislation or a vote.

That was the message he sent to student protesters last spring. It is a fair question to ask now what happened to that process that Keenum said must be followed.

It is interesting that neither president chose not to announce a change in policy as the flags came down on their campuses, which strongly suggests an effort to avoid criticism that could follow.

That stands in sharp contrast to the manner in which Ole Miss and Southern Miss confronted the issue, publicly and courageously. Both universities announced the state flag would be removed from campus and were willing to withstand the wrath that decision incurred.

When we think of leadership, we often think of the benefits that role bestows. Yet any true leader knows that status has its costs, too.

It can mean standing alone and enduring the brunt of attack when public response is least certain and passions are at their highest. It means accepting that role with the knowledge that those who follow will have a smoother journey.

The leaders at Ole Miss and Southern Miss rightly understood their stakeholders were entitled to know about the decisions made on so controversial a topic. Certainly, stakeholders at MSU and MUW were entitled to no less consideration.

As our state continues to grapple with the ugly implications associated with our state flag, there are many ships that ply these troubled waters.

On this subject, Ole Miss and Southern Miss have earned the title of flagship while Mississippi State and MUW follow timidly in their wake.




Aug. 31

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on road and bridge maintenance:

Despite studied indifference in the highest echelons of Mississippi’s Republican Party leadership, the issue of maintaining our state’s highways and bridges in safe condition won’t go away.

A statewide effort, led by the pro-business Mississippi Economic Council, to win approval this year of a maintenance and bridge rebuilding program hardly stirred the water.

It is a testament to the issue’s inarguable importance that it will not die among a handful of outnumbered and outspoken GOP legislators and leaders.

MEC’s push for $375 million in additional annual maintenance and bridge revenue was backed by the logical arguments and support of groups like the Mississippi Association of Supervisors and the Mississippi Farm Bureau, but nothing happened.

Farm Bureau and the MAS make persuasive arguments about the impact on their large and influential constituencies and the state at large, but the key movers and shakers act tone deaf.

Zachary Oren Smith, reporting for Mississippi Today, recently wrote extensively about the failed lobbying effort, noting that the plan’s due diligence was done by MEC in collaboration with researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University and the Stennis Institute of Government.

MEC talked about several methods for funding the infrastructure investment, but the initiative went nowhere.

At hearings by special legislative committees looking at state spending, Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, asked Transportation Department Executive Director Melinda McGrath for her assessment of Mississippi’s roads and an estimate for how much additional funding is required.

McGrath’s answer was consistent with what she and other Mississippi Department of Transportation Leaders have said all along: $400 million is the adequate figure, even higher than MEC’s proposal.

No one even asked how that could be funded.

Smith reported that the MAS continues its eight years of support of maintenance and bridges as the top legislative priority

MAS Executive Director Derrick Surrette said there is great resistance to a tax increase.

“We walked the halls trying to push for road and bridge funding,” Surrette said. “I heard a lot of talk, ‘Well, nobody wants a tax increase. There is just not enough money to go around.’ Well that’s duh-huh talk. . Let’s graduate to the third and fourth grade, and let’s start thinking about why we need to do this, and how we are going to do this.”

Surrette hit the nail on the head when he said that any change in infrastructure funding is going to require Democrats and Republicans to be in the same room talking through their options.

If that once was a common practice it no longer is. The partisanship in the Capitol has declared the other side unclean.

Surrette said everybody in their right mind understands not enough money produces not enough maintenance.

Until there is consensus on the necessity of expanded funding, Mississippi won’t spend enough to maintain its roads and bridges.




Aug. 31

The Oxford Eagle on student voices:

With the start of a new school year comes the revival of an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. It was reported this week that the state flag has been removed from the campuses of Mississippi State University and the Mississippi University for Women, leaving Delta State as the only remaining public university in the state still flying it.

Think about that.

While the issue of whether to change Mississippi’s flag won’t be decided on these campuses, it is a powerful statement that almost every institution of higher learning in Mississippi has removed the flag to promote an environment of inclusion and create distance from Confederate symbolism.

Lawmakers and other opponents of removing the flag can try to ignore it or minimize its importance as nothing more than the actions of “emotional college students.”

But pretending what’s happening on these campuses isn’t significant is not only an inaccurate assessment, but a dumb move given how often Mississippi college students are urged to remain in the state after graduation rather than fleeing it for better opportunities.

If you value students enough to want to keep them - acknowledging their education and abilities could improve the state in several areas - why devalue the importance of their voice on issues like this? Doing so is a discouraging force that does nothing to convince the state’s best and brightest to stay in Mississippi when their views on how the state and its universities should be represented are ignored.



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