- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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April 25

The Commercial Dispatch on road and bridge conditions in Mississippi:

For the past three years, the Mississippi Legislature has been warned about the deteriorating conditions of our state’s roads and bridges. For the past three years, nothing has been done.



What was once viewed as a problem is now considered a crisis. Two weeks ago, the federal government said if the state did not close more than 100 bridges federal inspectors had found to be unsafe, the state would risk losing federal highway funds. That got folks attention in Jackson. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant declared as state of emergency and required the Mississippi Department of Transportation to act immediately in closing those unsafe bridges. This week, the State Bond Commission authorized $25 million in bonds to fund emergency repairs, which is little more than applying a band-aid to a gaping wound. According the Mississippi Economic Councils study in 2014, it will require $3.75 billion to return the state’s roads and bridges to good condition.

A Senate bill to spend $1.1 billion on addressing the problem never reached a vote in the House and probably, for good reason: The funding was dubious - relying on revenue surpluses at a time when the state’s annual revenue has fallen below projections in each of the last three years and local “matching funds,” which essentially raise taxes on the local level. That many of the worst bridges are in poor counties seriously challenges how viable raising local taxes would be.

Last week, House Speaker Phillip Gunn called for a “tax swap,” which would lower income taxes by raising the state’s fuel tax. That’s problematic, too. Gasoline prices have steadily increased since last summer and trading one tax for another is like re-arranging the furniture after the roof has fallen in. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves flatly rejected that plan as the power struggle between the two autocrats running the House and Senate continue.

All eyes now turn to Bryant, waiting to see if the governor will call a special session for a road/bridge plan.

Bryant has not tipped his hands and for good reason: It’s a tough call.

The fact is the legislature is not oblivious to this problem. It simply lacks to will to do anything about it.

A real plan to fix our roads and bridges requires real money. And that money can only come from some sort of tax increase. There is no other solution.

Every plan to raise that money - from a state lottery to a increase in the fuel tax to a law requiring sale tax collections on internet purchases - has met stubborn resistance. You can bet the Governor has no interest in a prolonged special session where legislators argue bitterly over how to raise the funds necessary to adopt a workable road/bridge plan.

After all, it’s one thing to have a special session. It’s quite another to have a special session that achieves nothing.

There is, at this point, no reason to believe our legislators could agree during a special session on something it has not been able to agree on during the past three regular sessions.

Oh, and if you think a solution will be forthcoming in next year’s session, forget about it. 2019 is an election year and no legislator with an eye toward staying in office is going to have anything to do with raising taxes, no matter how needed those taxes might be.

Given that immutable fact of Mississippi politics, addressing our roads/bridges will likely require 2020 vision.

Drive at your own peril.

Online: http://www.cdispatch.com

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April 20

Sun Herald on the future of Black Spring Break:

The people of the Mississippi Coast have a decision to make.

Do we want to be the host of Black Spring Break? If the answer is yes, we have to start planning for next year and expand that planning to include the Chamber of Commerce, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Coast Coliseum board, the promoter of the events, elected officials, first responders and people who live on or near ground zero, the area between the Coast Coliseum and Edgewater Mall.

We have to be honest. What occurred last weekend wasn’t a spring break in the traditional sense. It revolved around a hip-hop concert and other events. And it drew not just students, but adults. Lots of them.

Therein lies the problem.

When Cruisin’ The Coast was in its infancy, there were growing pains. People complained about that traffic, which at times was at a standstill on U.S. 90. But the organizers worked with the Coast’s leaders and eased the traffic headaches by spreading events up and down the Coast.

If we choose to host Black Spring Break, that has to happen for that event as well. We cannot lure tens of thousands of people to such a small area and not expect a traffic nightmare.

The Coliseum is not the only venue that offers entertainment. At Cruisin’ there are entertainment options geared to the hot rod crowd up and down the Coast.

That is just one suggestion. We won’t know what great ideas might come of a brainstorming session until we have one.

But we should not limit ourselves to thinking about ways to control traffic and the crowds in the Coliseum neighborhood. We’ve been there. Done that. And the result is an event that has disappointed visitors and residents alike.

Biloxi Police Chief John Miller’s plan did keep the traffic moving better and it did keep visitors and residents safe. So we can build on that success.

But, there’s another problem.

Consider Terreze Seiber of St. Louis and his first impression of the Coast.

“Everything just seemed on edge,” he said. “We had bought some food at Raising Cane’s on Saturday and we were standing in the mall parking lot eating and a mall security guard came up and told us we had to leave - and we had just bought some food, so we left. We came back to the mall on Sunday to go shopping and the same security guard pulled up and told us we had to leave - and we hadn’t even gotten out of the car.”

If most people, and officials and business owners want Black Spring Break to go elsewhere, then they should stand up and say so. And if they want it to stay, they should stand up and say that as well.

And if we decide that we will be a spring break destination, we expect visitors to extend the same respect to their hosts as they expect from us. Part of the unease described by Seiber and others was the result of disrespectful, obscene and illegal acts at past spring breaks.

We welcome any visitor, any time, as long as they behave respectfully. We do not condone nudity, violence, trespassing and destruction of property. We do condone, we encourage, having a good time.

This is the message we have to make clear if we invite the spring breakers back: You are welcome here on the Coast

It isn’t fair to coax visitors here by advertising all the Coast has to offer then tell them some of those attractions are off limits after they get here. Other tourist destinations have shooed spring breakers away by limiting alcohol on their beaches. But that would have to apply to all spring breakers, not just black spring breakers.

It’s decision time.

Online: http://sunherald.com

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April 20

The Vicksburg Post on the death of Mississippi’s richest resident:

Last Tuesday, the state of Mississippi lost a man who for more than 60 years dedicated himself to creating jobs and building a business in his home state.

Leslie Lampton, Mississippi’s only billionaire and the founder of Ergon, which has multiple subsidiaries in Vicksburg, died Tuesday at his home in Jackson. He was 92.

Lampton founded Ergon in 1954 and built it from a company with only two employees to a workforce of more than 2,600 employees in Mississippi, 29 other states and throughout the world.

Many of those jobs are here in Vicksburg where Ergon operates multiple businesses including Ergon Refinery, the largest piece of a diverse company, Ergon Trucking and Magnolia Marine Transport Company.

Upon hearing of Lampton’s death, Vicksburg Warren County Economic Development Director Pablo Diaz said, “Our community is thankful for Mr. Lampton’s visionary investments, philanthropic efforts and for the many positive contributions his leadership and business acumen brought to our regions over more than six decades.”

Comments on The Vicksburg Post’s Facebook page called Lampton “a great man,” ”a remarkable man that truly cared for each of his employees” and “an amazing man.”

From buying Girl Scout cookies to establishing scholarships, Lampton was known as someone who truly cared about his employees and his community.

Lampton left a lasting impression on the city of Vicksburg and the state of Mississippi and his business acumen and philanthropy will be dearly missed.

Online: https://www.vicksburgpost.com/

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