- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:


Oct. 8

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the Mississippi College Board conducting confidential presidential searches:

Ford Dye, the Mississippi College Board member who chaired the search for a chancellor at the University of Mississippi, said last week that the board rushed to name Glenn Boyce as its choice so Boyce could get to work quickly “to unify the Ole Miss family.”

Talk about miscalculations.

The selection of Boyce was so unifying that it spurred a protest of students Friday that caused cancellation of the ceremony at which Boyce was supposed to be formally introduced as the new head of the state’s flagship university.

The students’ protests aside, Boyce may be just what Ole Miss needs. He is an alumnus of the school and has worked as an administrator at the public school, community college and senior college level, including serving three years as the commissioner of higher education, overseeing all eight of the state’s public universities. He had a reputation, while serving as president of Holmes Community College for almost a decade, as being student-centered.

But his selection also comes with suspicions - in large part because he was a paid consultant early in the search process and publicly said he was not a candidate for the job. This may not be how it went down, but it’s hard to blame anyone on the outside from thinking that Boyce was not an impartial participant when he was supposedly getting feedback from students, faculty and alumni on what they wanted to see in the next chancellor and checking out some possible candidates.

The dissatisfaction about the selection of Boyce would have been less, and perhaps totally avoided, if the College Board had not conducted the process in secret, as it has done with presidential searches since 2006.

As we have written multiple times over the years, whatever benefit comes from confidential presidential searches is outweighed by the negatives of leaving the public in the dark about how the College Board settled on its ultimate choice and not disclosing whoever else might have been in the running.

Had Mississippi conducted its search the way it used to and the way many states still do, it would have announced Boyce as one of its three or so finalists. The College Board would have been forced to explain how his role in the search process, for which he was paid around $87,000, did not create a conflict of interest. And Boyce would have been afforded the chance - while meeting face-to-face with campus groups - to show that he could be this unifying figure his bosses believe he will be BEFORE he was offered the job.

Instead, Boyce is going to start with a cloud of distrust hanging over him, with a sizable faction feeling it had no input in his hire and with many feeling the whole search process was just for show.

Ironically, Boyce could have done something to avoid his current predicament had he advocated, while serving as higher education commissioner, that the College Board return to a more open presidential search process.

There is no evidence that closed searches have produced better selections. The closed searches, though, have produced plenty of evidence of distrust and disappointment in those selections. The Ole Miss fiasco should dictate that the secrecy has got to stop.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com


Oct. 3

The (Columbus) Dispatch on the debate between Airbnb operators and local residents:

The city of Starkville is in the midst of a heated debate as it attempts to adjust its code to accommodate an emerging business — short-term rentals in residential communities such as Airbnb — while protecting the interests of home-owners in those neighborhoods.

There is a natural conflict.

Homeowners certainly have rights. So do those who choose to supplement their income through short-term rentals.

As more and more property owners turn to short-term rentals, the need to adjust the city’s code to reflect the changing dynamics is warranted. This is especially true in a college town where sporting events draw large numbers of visitors.

With one exception, we applaud the city’s handling of this delicate subject. The city has been holding regular meetings to allow both residents and short-term rental operators to make their cases. The tone of these meetings has been largely positive. No one seems to be drawing a line in the sand. Both sides seem to understand the opposing point of view. There is no doubt that this input has provided invaluable information for the city as it develops its new code.

We believe these meetings prove that a compromise can be made, one that protects the interest of all parties.

One troubling idea that emerged was the city’s initial requirement that short-term rental owners pay an annual permit fee of $300. That proposal drew warranted criticism.

On this subject, we are firm in our conviction. The amount of a permit fee should be limited to the associated cost of the permit. It should never, under any circumstances, be used as a means of discouraging people from obtaining a permit.

The city presented five options for consideration. Four of those options call for a smaller permit fee — ranging from $50 to $100. That’s at step in the right direction.

That aside, there’s far more to like about the city’s handling of this issue than there is to criticize.

That the city has now offered five options - covering everything from the amount of days a property can be rented to how complaints and citations are governed — suggests city leaders are making a good faith effort to listen to all sides and offer options that reflect what they have heard.

Other cities have grappled with the problem and further ideas can likely be gleaned from them.

We believe there exists a healthy balance between the two sides and encourage both to continue constructive dialogue.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com


Oct. 2

The (Tupelo) Daily Journal on a new homeless shelter and overall efforts to help the homeless:

Building on its mission to serve the homeless population in Northeast Mississippi, the Salvation Army’s efforts over the past several years come to fruition today with the completion of a new shelter and reopening of the community center and soup kitchen.

The new shelter - the Jim Ingram Red Shield Lodge - is named after former businessman and National Guard general Jim Ingram, who was instrumental in bringing the Salvation Army to Tupelo. The lodge will accommodate 50 people, including families who need a place to stay, while the kitchen will allow the Salvation Army to feed 100 people twice a day, as reported by Daily Journal staff writer Michaela Gibson Morris.

The homeless population in our area deserves the community’s attention and the new shelter is only one of several initiatives throughout the region aimed at addressing this issue and making concerted efforts to help those in need.

A recent decision by the Lee County Library’s Board of Trustees to authorize a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., to promote security and keep a clean and safe environment, according to the library’s director, was met with a mix of reactions because of the impact on some homeless individuals who have stayed in the parking area throughout the night.

The challenge now revolves around the group of individuals who have to leave and go elsewhere because Tupelo does not have any emergency, overnight shelters.

The Library is located along a corridor of services and agencies that provide assistance to the impoverished, including the homeless. Hannah Maharrey chairs the city of Tupelo’s Homeless Task Force, which seeks to coordinate local non-profits, churches and aid agencies that assist or house the local individuals without housing.

This problem is not unique to Tupelo, and city officials and the community continue to work toward more solutions. These efforts have contributed to a modest downturn in the city’s homeless numbers, according to a recent survey, the 2019 PIT (Point in Time) Count - Mississippi Continuum of Care.

In January 2019, a homeless census identified 62 homeless people in Tupelo. In January, 2018, a homeless census identified 78 homeless people within the city, compared to six months later when the number was 44.

This annual effort to count the homeless population provides information needed for certain federal grant funds, while providing useful benchmarks for Tupelo. To complement its work, the city partners with Mississippi United to End Homelessness, based out of Jackson, who link willing homeless individuals with various available housing subsidies and any relevant treatment options in an effort to stabilize those individuals.

The Salvation Army’s new shelter became a reality because a group of area businessmen organized a capital campaign, with backing from the city of Tupelo and Lee County, to fully fund the project.

Homelessness has many root causes. We have seen evidence that addressing homelessness improves lives and strengthens the health and wellbeing of our community.

Well-coordinated efforts by volunteers, medical and religious groups are necessary to continue decreasing the number of homeless in our region. These efforts require commitment and perseverance and will need the support of a village.

Online: https://www.djournal.com

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