- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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June 10

The Picayune Item on road rage:

Operating a motor vehicle is one of our greatest privileges, which carries with it great responsibility.

It allows us to get where we’re going with a semblance of freedom, so long as we follow the rules of the road.

Those rules pertain to proper methods of changing lanes, passing slower vehicles and obeying speed limits.

And while the act of driving is essentially a group of individuals doing their best to abide by those rules in their own way, every now and then someone becomes enraged by the way someone else is operating their vehicle.

Recently, it seems as though road rage incidents are becoming more common.

On June 9 it was reported that two Picayune residents were charged in a June 8 road rage incident that involved another driver being shot in the head.

But these suspects not the only ones accused of causing bodily harm or property damage in an act of this sort on our nation’s streets. A quick search on the Internet shows that at least five other incidents of road rage have occurred in the past week across the country, some of which also involved gunfire.

So what is causing ire on the roads? While nothing is concrete, it could be the additional vehicles on the roads today, lack of respect for the safety of others, the faster pace of life which causes people more stress or any number of other factors. But what is clear is that something needs to be done to curb the aggressive driving that can lead to a person’s death.

If these drivers would take a second to reflect on the consequences should a person be hurt or die due to road rage, they may resist the urge to cut someone off, ram another vehicle or fire their gun at another driver.

It may be annoying to have to wait another five minutes to get to your destination because another driver feels more comfortable driving at a slower speed than you, but keep in mind? It’s better to get there late than not at all.

Online: https://www.picayuneitem.com/

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June 13

The McComb Enterprise-Journal on state bidding laws:

The bidding laws in Mississippi are a mess: Contractors are allowed to donate to political campaigns to get government contracts. Service contracts don’t have to be bid out. Governments are free to choose the high bidder. Cities and counties have no oversight for their public procurement. The list goes on.

In Jackson, minority set-asides, a product of state law, have been a disaster, allowing politically connected operators to interject themselves into the public procurement process, drastically raising the cost of city government.

It is the Jackson taxpayers who are hurt. Eighty percent of the Jackson taxpayers are African Americans. Raising their cost of government hurts, not helps, them. Unless you are one of the chosen few.

Take the case of Marcus Wallace, mayor of Edwards, and founder of MAC Construction Co. in 1996.

Wallace is not an engineer. In fact, he has a marketing degree from Southern University A&M; College in Baton Rouge. He started out as a sports agent, then became an entertainment promoter. At some point, he became a contractor for the city of Jackson.

The MAC Construction Web site lists its partners: United Water, Hemphill Construction, Siemens, CDM, Petal Valve, Neel-Schaffer, Terra Renewal. Every one of them is connected with the city of Jackson.

You have to wonder about a construction company, started by an entertainment promoter, whose business is almost exclusively politically sensitive government contracts.

Thelman Boyd is vice president of MAC Construction. Boyd is a former public works director for the city.

MAC Construction was involved in the Savannah Street waste treatment plant (now taken over by the EPA), Farish Street (fined by the federal HUD for non-performance), the Capitol Street two-way project (which took forever), the Westin Hotel (funded by Hinds County), and the Siemens water meter disaster.

MAC was the main minority contractor on Siemens’ $90 million contract to replace Jackson’s water meters. MAC’s cut was $17.8 million on that gig. Recently, Wallace held a press conference announcing he is suing Siemens to get $37 million more.

Very few construction companies hold press conferences when they have a contractual dispute requiring litigation. Very few construction companies are almost entirely reliant on government contracts.

Most states require public contracts to go to the “lowest responsive bidder.” But the Mississippi Legislature has charted a different course. Down home, it’s “lowest and best,” meaning cities and counties, lacking any oversight, can award lucrative contracts to anybody they want.

It is our state Legislature, as well, that passed a law allowing for “minority set-asides,” thus creating an entire layer of political operatives driving up government costs 30-40 percent. As usual, it is the clueless taxpayers who pay for it.

It would be easy for the state Legislature to end this mess in Jackson by cleaning up our state bidding laws. But to do so would end a $20-billion-a-year party that goes far beyond the confines of the Bold New City.

Wallace donated $15,000 to Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber’s campaign. Pay to play. As one contractor said, it’s the way business is done in Mississippi. Everybody does it.

Siemens didn’t need MAC Construction to install new water meters. The German company employs 362,000 people. Siemens needed MAC Construction to get the contract. The extra $17.8 million to MAC was just a cost of doing business. Is it any wonder Jackson is broke?

MAC’s attorney, Robert Gibbs, explained it this way: Siemens suggested that MAC subcontract with Pedal Valve (a real company) but then entered into a separate contract with Pedal, bypassing MAC. As a result, MAC didn’t get its full minority cut.

So why did Siemens bypass MAC? Because MAC was a political expense to get the contract. Siemens didn’t need them to do the real work, for which they had little experience or training. I suspect MAC’s inexperience could have helped cause some of the problems associated with the new meters.

Every city contract gets marked up 20, 30, 40 percent above the cost of actual work. We have created an unholy alliance of engineering firms and their minority firm sidekicks. Competitive bidding has been cast aside, while a new professional caste leeches taxpayers.

And no one in the city has explained why we still have 2,000 employees when most of the actual work is now contracted out to private companies. Jackson contracts with private contractors to hire the private contractors. Seriously.

Meanwhile, our mayor’s home mortgage is miraculously paid off two weeks after his election. “God is great!” as he said in a sermon.

Online: https://www.enterprise-journal.com/

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June 14

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the state budget:

The evidence continues to grow about Mississippi’s budget: Spending will have to be cut because tax revenues are lower than expected.

At a public hearing last week conducted by the Legislative Black Caucus, state health officer Dr. Mary Currier said budget concerns have forced the Department of Health to lay off people, and she predicted there will be more jobs eliminated when the new fiscal year starts July 1.

The Department of Health will get $4 million less from the state in the next budget year - a cut of 11 percent. Currier also said that Medicaid payments to the department are down by one-third. However, that’s not all bad: Since Medicaid is paying private health care providers more than it used to, some patients who used to go to public health clinics have switched to private care.

Nevertheless, the Department of Health has closed nine clinics and reduced the hours of service at 41 of its 87 remaining clinics. This runs the risk of denying medical care to people who arguably need it the most.

Compounding the problem will be the potential effect on tax cuts passed into law this year.

Republicans who pushed those tax cuts through will say they’ll boost the economy and wind up producing more revenue for the state than the tax reductions cost. Maybe, but maybe not. Other states that experienced with this in recent years have gotten badly burned.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com/


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