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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Do The Parties Differ On Fixing Potholes?

A shorter version of this letter appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on May 25, 2005.

It happened again.

All or most of the candidates for mayor ran in one party's primary, while all the candidates in certain wards or districts ran in the other party's primary. Thus, residents of those wards or districts could vote for mayor or council member, but not both.

This year, Hattiesburg and Tupelo were two cities in which voters had to make this choice.

We can prevent this from happening in the future by changing to the system that the big majority of U. S. cities already use: non-partisan elections, popularly called "open primaries." The legislature could require all municipalities to use this system, or each locality could be allowed to decide for itself.

Staff writer Alfred Smith Jr. discussed the expense of running for local office ("Municipal campaign can be costly venture," May 14). In the current system of party primaries, a candidate potentially faces three elections: the primary, the runoff primary and the general election.

In a non-partisan system, in contrast, no candidate ever has to undergo more than two campaigns: the election and, if necessary, the runoff. This system also ensures that all winning candidates get 50-plus percent of the vote-- which is not the case in the current system.

Furthermore, fewer elections mean less expenditure of the taxpayers' money.

Wirt Yerger says, "For over 50 years I have strongly advocated non-partisan municipal elections" ("Melton can 'reverse' Jackson's decline if elected mayor," April 27 letter). How many more years will we wait before giving our citizens greater choice in local elections?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

MAEP: Money Answers Everything, Pronto

[The Clarion-Ledger ran this column by Dot Ward of Madison, Miss., a former member of the Southern Regional Education Board, on May 14, 2005.]

I applaud Gov. Haley Barbour's call for an open and honest dialog on funding education. Too bad his appeal will fall on so many deaf ears.

The idea that Mississippi must "fully fund" education at a time when this state is facing a budget crisis is ludicrous. [Amen!]

Education spending in Mississippi is at an all-time high, as 62.44 percent of the 2005 budget will go to fund education. There has been nearly a 50 percent increase in education spending in the last five years and Mississippi ranks third in the nation in funding increases.

What the governor proposes in his education plan is a 4 percent increase in spending, yet he and others who oppose a tax increase so education can get a bigger cut of the pie are now accused of being against public education. That's untrue and unfair!

Instead of continually demanding more money, educationists need to look at ways to cut excessive education spending.

One huge savings could be achieved with district consolidation. Mississippi has 149 school districts-- far more than necessary. More school districts mean more administrative costs and employees.

According to a study done by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, there are 62 percent more assistant principals and "supervisors" overseeing 12,000 fewer students than 10 years ago, with every category of K-12 spending except one growing at least 31 percent ahead of inflation during the same time period.

Even with schools operating with fewer state dollars than they say they need, the legislature gave huge salary increases to school superintendents last year. The average raise was $3,900 but 18 superintendents received an annual increase of $10,ooo or more, with two superintendents receiving salary increases of over $20,000.

When was the last time the average Mississippian got that kind of raise?

A bundle could be saved on travel expenses. Administrators, principals, school board members frequently attend education meetings like the one to be held in June at the Beau Rivage Casino [on the Mississippi Gulf Coast].

And printing expenses could be cut. I mean expensive, slick paper, full-color materials produced by the state Department of Education and local districts.

Legislators don't have the backbone when it comes to trimming fat from the education budget. The education establishment, led by the state Department of Education, the superintendents and school board associations, teachers unions and others who feed at the education trough, represents a huge and powerful lobby.

A new low was reached this year when school children were used in letter-writing campaigns and booed the governor from the steps of the state Capitol.

The scare tactics need to cease. The schoolhouse doors will be open next year and teachers will still have jobs-- without increasing the education budget.

In addition to education, there are other budgetary obligations that must be met like maintaining our highways, prison system, hospitals and debt retirement. Belt-tightening is in order and education is no sacred cow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Charley Reese's Basic Premises

ORLANDO, Fla.-- What follows are a few of the premises on which I base my thinking. You might or might not agree with them, but may I suggest that you make a list of your own basic premises. It will help you clarify your thinking. >>>Read more>>> www.lewrockwell.com/reese/reese189.html

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Attention, Thugs: There's A New Sheriff In Town

[The first letter to The Clarion-Ledger is from Stacey M. Johnson. My letter of April 30, 2005 follows.]

Some eight years ago, Mayor-elect Harvey Johnson (no relation) promised the elderly that they would be able to "sit on the porch in the cool of the evening" as a result of his aggressive means to end crime.

Well, I can't even sit in my bathroom at home without being robbed.

My home was burglarized on December 25 (yes, Christmas) around 3 a.m. The man walked me around, stealing my belongings, gifts and vehicle, and attempted to sexually assault me before I managed to escape.

It took almost two months and several calls before a detective was assigned to my case. The suspect was apprehended, only to be released after his bond was reduced and he bonded out.

I have to look at him daily, as he is now residing in my neighborhood. The death of Officer Thomas Catchings, who was a very dear friend, has shown us that we are actually in worse shape now.

So I ask Mayor Johnson: When will Jackson see the "cool of the evening and become the best of the New South"?


Two industries that are booming in Jackson are the burglar alarm and burglar bar businesses.

Stacey Johnson's letter ("Johnson failed in promise on crime," April 25) struck a chord with me. In 2003, I had a "perception" that my car's battery was stolen in broad daylight. I didn't even bother to report that crime.

Last year, a friend of mine had a "perception" that her home was burglarized in broad daylight. The thugs entered through a window that they had broken out with a brick.

Ms. Johnson notes that a suspect was apprehended for robbing her home. As far as we know, the thugs who burglarized my friend's home are still at large and, of course, her stolen property has not been recovered.

Now just about every week, my friend reads in The Clarion-Ledger that at least one home in her neighborhood has been burglarized.

Do we really have to keep putting up with this kind of nonsense? Don't we deserve better?

If Frank Melton just gets the votes of Jackson's crime victims from the past eight years (the ones who haven't been murdered or fled to the suburbs), he'll be elected mayor in a landslide.


Note: In Jackson's May 3, 2005 Democratic primary for mayor, Frank Melton defeated two-term incumbent Harvey Johnson, 63 percent to 36 percent. Melton is a member of the state Board of Education, a former director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and a former television executive.