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July 4 - 10, 2012
1 0 N O . 43
contents VIRGINIA SCHREIBER
6 War of Words The anti-abortion rhetoric about closing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization may save it. COURTESY JOSH HAILEY
Cover photograph of Jonathan Lee by Virginia Schreiber
Caballero says movies such as “You Got Served,” “Stomp the Yard” and “Step Up” portray the aggressive side of dance battling. “It’s not exactly like that,” he says. Rip the Cypher has become an outlet for teens. “College students were too busy, but high schoolers were YouTubing it and really getting into it,” he says. “People come from all over to support the event, like (from) Memphis, Alabama and even California.” The mixed-style events include popping, breakdancing, crumping and locking, and Memphis jookin’. “More traditional events stick to one style,” he says. Now CEO and president of Unique Touch Painting LLC, Caballero, 27, also encourages youth to make good choices through workshops at the Boys and Girls Club and programs at school. “This year, I’ll be doing a dance workshop at the (ACLU’s Mississippi Youth) Hip Hop Summit,” he says. Cabellero hopes to create more events around the South, and he is in the process of planning one for the Gulfport-Biloxi area. Meanwhile, he spends much of his time instilling his love of dance in his five children. His oldest, Desiree, 9, is a cheerleader, and his youngest, 3-year-old Carlos, is perfecting his headstand. He encourages everyone who wants to dance to try it. “Go. Show up,” he says. “Network and meet the dancers. See something you like out there? Then ask them about the style.” —Christianna Jackson
29 Birthday “Jubilee”
JSU honors Margaret Walker Alexander with a concert on what would be her 97th birthday. COURTESY JOSH MARKS
Luis Caballero was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami, Fla., where he found it hard to stay out of trouble. “The streets of Miami were not nice,” he says. Cabellero says that the streets offer many dangerous distractions such as crime and drugs, but says dancing has always been an outlet for him. Better known as b-boy Tony Touch on the street-dance scene, Caballero danced with Ill Moves Crew in Miami and regularly traveled to battle different crews. In 2004, he came to Jackson as a painting contractor, bringing his passion for breakdancing with him. After arriving here, he felt a void. He formed the Phase 1 dance team but found it challenging to battle. “It got to the point where nobody in the Mississippi area would battle us, so we ended up just starting an event,” he says. That event is Rip the Cypher, a familyoriented dance competition that takes place once a month or so. “Cypher is a circle of dancers expressing themselves, and ripping the cypher is whoever does it hardest,” Caballero says. He and two other creative thinkers, DJ Young Venom and Cornelius “JagWar” Wilcox, hoped it would motivate others to start their own dance crews. Caballero has a bigger dream for dance battling in Jackson: getting kids off the streets. “That was the purpose of Rip: to keep kids out of trouble and teach them the ethics of battling,” he says. “Instead of fighting and being aggressive, (battling) helps you to channel all of that negative energy through dance.”
36 Master Marks “Masterchef ” competitor Josh Marks fesses up about Gordon Ramsay beyond the foul mouth.
Josh Hailey plans to visit 50 states in 50 weeks, armed with little more than his camera. COURTESY THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
4 ..............Editor’s Note 4 .................... Sorensen 6 ............................ Talk 10 .................. Business 12 ................... Editorial 12 ................... My Turn 13 ................. Opinion 14 ............ Cover Story 22 .............. Diversions 24 .................... 8 Days 26 ........................ Film 27 ............. JFP Events 29 ...................... Music 31 ....... Music Listings 32 ..................... Sports 34 .............. Road Trips 36 ....................... Food 39 ................ Astrology 39 .................... Puzzles 41 .............. Body/Soul 42 ... Girl About Town
Jacob Fuller Reporter Jacob Fuller is a former student at Ole Miss. When not reporting, he splits his time between playing music and photographing anything in sight. He covers the city for the JFP. He interviewed mayoral candidate Jonathan Lee.
Aaron Cooper Editorial intern Aaron Cooper reads more than he should, and writes a voluminous amount. He leads an unhealthy life and is unusually proud of the fact. He wrote an arts story.
Sara Sacks Editorial intern Sara Sacks studies English and communications at Millsaps College. She runs for the Millsaps cross-country and track and field teams. She wrote a sports story.
Darnell ‘Chris’ Jackson Editorial intern Darnell “Chris” Jackson is writer, photographer, graphic designer and entrepreneur. He is a Jackson native and Jackson State University graduate. He owns J.Carter Studios. He co-wrote a culture story.
Whitney Menogan Editorial intern Whitney Menogan is from Madison and holds a bachelor’s in English from Tougaloo College. She enjoys having mind-blowing conversations with friends and hopes to be able to travel around the world one country at a time.
Kelly Bryan Smith Kelly Bryan Smith is a busy mom, writer, brain tumor survivor, and nursing student living with her small son in Fondren. She enjoys healthy cooking, swimming, reading and collecting pastel blue eggs from her backyard chickens. She wrote a Road Trip feature.
ShaWanda Jacome ShaWanda Jacome is a 6th grade JPS teacher. She lives in Ridgeland with her husband and son, Michael and Mateo. “May the odds be ever in your favor,” she lives to say. She wrote the Body/Soul feature.
June 4 - 10, 2012
Account Executive Stephanie Bowering is from Mendenhall. She is mommy to Jameson, the cutest 2-and-a-half-year old boy, and Duke, a 4-year-old boxer. She loves good food and red wine. Music is her passion and she wants to travel the world.
by Donna Ladd, Editor-in-Chief
Repeal the Rhetoric
he morning the U.S. Supreme Court did not strike down “Obamacare” as so many believed it would do was another of those crazy busy days in the Jackson Free Press offices. This summer, we have 18 interns in our summer training program, and they are everywhere, lifting the already high energy of this joint even more. They are focused on solutions and making the world a better place, and tend to think that partisan political rhetoric is wasted and distasteful. (See a column by one on page 13 for an example.) When President Obama made a statement a couple hours after the decision, I turned it up loud on my office TV and yelled out that anyone could crowd in to listen. Suddenly, about 10 staffers and interns in my office listening to him. We all remained longer to hear Mitt Romney’s statement. I’d already been seeing the #repeal tweets by Republicans all morning, but I was naïve enough to think that the presumptive presidential nominee for the GOP wouldn’t make a nakedly political statement in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a law that, while you may disagree with how it’s done, is at its core about saving American lives. Romney didn’t mince words, quickly declaring that on his first day of office, “I will act to repeal Obamacare.” From there, it got worse with him repeating the perjorative “Obamacare” 18 times as he slammed the law based on the one he signed in Massachusetts. It was empty rhetoric, and it was all politics. Meantime, people are dying and living low-quality lives because they can’t afford health care for themselves and their children. Is this the right message to send to a nation that is getting sicker and sicker of divisive rhetoric? It sure doesn’t help convince young voters that our political climate is anything but toxic. Fast forward a couple days, and we broke the news that Judge Dan Jordan had slapped an injunction on the folks trying to close the state’s only abortion clinic (see pages 6-7). He pointed out in his order (posted at jfp. ms/documents) that a big problem with the anti-abortion folks’ case was that they didn’t hide the fact that their primary mission was to eliminate abortion—like it or not, a constitutional right—in the state of Mississippi. That is, politicians weren’t even smart enough to focus their remarks on women’s health—giving pro-abortion rights advocates ammunition to say that the motive was eliminating a constitutional right. And that’s not good. The next morning, a JFP staff-intern team walked over to the clinic to see what was up. A young woman there, Ashley Sigrest, told a compelling story about why she’s now against abortion: She’s a rape victim who had an abortion and now regrets it. I am in favor of abortion rights, but I respect people who disagree, such as Ashley, and I want to find a middle ground that allows us all to work together to lower the incidence of abortion as much as possible, while still allowing women to choose whether or not to have
a child and when. And, boy, do I believe every child has the right to be wanted. But even as Ashley was telling her story to our reporter Jacob Fuller, other anti-abortion protesters, include the omnipresent Beverly and Roy McMillan, were vying for the spotlight. At one point, Jacob said, Beverly McMillan even interrupted his interview with Sigrest to say that the president of Pro-Life Mississippi (her) was available to give a statement. And while our team was on the scene, Roy McMillan kept giving them angry messages to give me because I had dared criticize his wife’s stance against all hormonal birth control, including the pill and the morning-after pill, in an editorial. I questioned how she expected to lower abortion rates if she didn’t want women to have access to birth control and pondered at the end (snarkily, granted) whether she also preferred women barefoot as well. Her husband’s answer that day? To yell out that “shoes are optional!”—and to tell my reporter he said my “boyfriend” and I should get married. He was presumably talking about my life and business partner Todd Stauffer. (Todd’s response later: “Roy McMillan needs to be introduced to the All-American concept of minding his own damn business.”) But some opponents of abortion seem to have no interest in minding their own business. Not only do they want to declare that abortion (and, apparently, the pill) is murder; they also want to tell us when and with whom we can have sex or even marry (or not). In the case of the McMillans, they want to put the onus on the woman to make all the smart (and abstinent) choices, while giving her very few. They want to show up every day outside a clinic where a woman is making a very difficult decision for herself and her family, and
harangue her into submission. Meantime, much different, and more effective, work can be done to lower abortion rates. Young women need to be told it’s OK to say no, and at any point before intercourse occurs. Young men need to learn that no means no, and there are no excuses for trying to force a young woman to have sex. Young women need to learn to be independent and to have a strong voice when it comes to taking care of herself and expressing what she wants and does not (including having sex). Young people must learn to find fulfillment in a wide variety of ways other than resorting to cheap sex. We also need to challenge a culture that rushes young people into marriage too soon and encourages children to have children. Let’s be honest: Not a small number of “teen” pregnancies in this state involve married teens. We need to mentor young people and model the kind of behavior that shows that love is a whole lot deeper and more lasting than saying yes just to buy a bit of fleeting affection. And, for the love of all things that make a lick of sense, we have to get over our antiquated notions in this state that young people aren’t going to come up with having sex if we don’t suggest in sex-education classes. This is backward thinking, and it is keeping good information away from our young people that would, in itself, lower the incidence of abortion in our state. Put another way: If your motive is actually reducing abortion and increasing the birth of wanted children, then stop the silly rhetoric and nosing into other adults’ lives, and start doing the kinds of things that might actually reduce abortion. Young people are watching. Let’s make it count. Follow Donna Ladd @donnerkay on Twitter; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
news, culture & irreverence
Thursday, June 28 Gov. Phil Bryant and Nissan officials announce an expansion at the Canton plant that will create 1,000 jobs. ... In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the package of health-care reform laws that many know as “Obamacare” is constitutional. Friday, June 29 Lefleur’s Bluff Golf course reopens after nearly two months of renovations. ... Actors Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise file for divorce after five years of marriage. Saturday, June 30 Marie Wicks, formerly Miss Dixie, wins title of 2012 Miss Mississippi in her fifth competition for the crown. ... Egypt swears in Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation’s first democratically elected president. Sunday, July 1 Spain defeats Italy 4-0 in the final game of the Euro 2012 Championship to capture the team’s third-consecutive major title. … U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan issues a temporary restraining order to block the state Department of Health from enforcing the new abortion-clinic law designed to shut down the state’s only remaining clinic, located in Fondren, and eliminate abortions in Mississippi. The judge schedules a hearing on the matter for July 11.
July 4 - 10, 2012
Monday, July 2 Cedrick Gray starts his first day as Jackson Public Schools superintendent with a press conference at JPS headquarters on State Street. ... Michael Phelps, a 16-time Olympic medalist in swimming, withdraws from the 200-meter freestyle during London Olympic trials.
Tuesday, July 3 The University of Mississippi announces that its campus will be smokefree as of Jan. 1, 2013. ... Actor Andy Griffith, star of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock,” dies at 86 in his North Carolina home. Get daily news updates at jfpdaily.com.
The Natchez Trace Parkway, named an All American Road by the federal government, extends 444 mies from Natchez to just south of Nashville, Tenn. The Trace began as an Indian trail more than 8,000 years ago.
Rhetoric May Save Abortion Clinic by Jacob Fuller, Vergie Redmond and R.L Nave
risten Hemmins, a rape victim who helped organize the successful fight against Proposition 26 last fall, doesn’t buy that efforts to regulate the state’s only abortion clinic have anything to do with the protecting the health of women. “The people who want to shut down the clinic have made it so clear that it is not about women’s health. It’s simply about shutting down the clinic,” she said, referring to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The clinic had filed a lawsuit to block a state law requiring all doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board certified obstetrician/gynecologists. But a federal judge agreed with the clinic that evidence of state officials’ claims that the new requirements would close Mississippi’s last abortion clinic was compelling enough to keep it open. With Mississippi poised to become the first state without an abortion provider, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Jordan issued a temporary restraining order July 1, which prevented the state Department of Health from beginning an administrative process that would close the clinic if the doctors there did not meet the new requirements. Jordan cited the pro-life rhetoric as the main issue in his order. “In this case, plaintiffs have offered evidence—including quotes from significant legislative and executive of-
ficers—that the act’s purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi,” the order states. “They likewise submitted evidence that no safety or health concerns motivated its passage.” Jordan set a hearing for July 11 to decide whether to extend the restraining order. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, located in the Fondren district, will stay open at least until July 11. Michelle Movahed, CRR’s lead counsel, said the clinic had hoped to avoid litigation, but a series of actions by state officials forced their hands. “I don’t attribute any ill will to anybody, but certainly the elected officials in Mississippi have been engaging in a really pronounced, public-pressure campaign to make (the state health) department use this as an opportunity to close down an abortion clinic,” Movahed told the Jackson Free Press. Despite the clinic’s diligence, it Ashley Sigrest, 18, became a pro-life activist after was “impossible” to comply with the going through an abortion after she was raped. new requirements by the law’s July 1 effective date, according to the complaint. Nancy Northup, CRR’s CEO, said the organization has “been beating back give them license to violate their constitutional Mississippi’s underhanded tactics to close the rights,” Northup said in a statement. only abortion clinic in the state” for years. Dan Chisholm, executive director of “Mississippi lawmakers’ hostility to women and their reproductive rights does not CLINIC, see page 7
Wednesday, June 27 Lacardio Quentez Ward, former Raymond Detention Center jailer, brings marijuana and other contraband into the facility and finds himself behind bars. ... T-Mobile USA’s CEO Philipp Humm resigns after two years on the job.
The Supreme Court upheld “Obamacare” in a 5-4 decision, p 8.
Hit the Road, Jack “The people who want to shut down the clinic have made it so clear that it is not about women’s health … It’s simply about shutting down the clinic.” —Reproductive-rights advocate, and rape victim, Cristen Hemmins on the controversy around keeping the state’s sole abortion clinic open.
“Inmates may not handle the facility like we would handle our homes.” —Hinds County Administrator Carmen Davis on the need to make repairs at Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond. “Malta, as you know, is an impregnable island fortress. It seemed like a good idea.” —SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts, who delivered the key vote to uphold the federal health law, joking about his visiting the island nation to avoid questions about his Obamacare vote.
“We’re still teaching that Columbus discovered America. America wasn’t lost, Columbus was. Hundreds of times, people had sailed to America from Northern Africa, the Moors, people that looked just like the kids in our schools.” —Jackson Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba on the mis-education of American children.
ith the Mississippi sun bearing down this season, road trips are on our heat-addled brains. We’re dreaming of any place with surf, sand or even snow. If you’re feeling the same, here’s how far you’ll have to drive to get to a few popular vacation destinations. New Orleans, La.: 186 miles Dallas,Texas: 401 miles St. Louis, Mo.: 492 miles Chicago, Ill.: 742 miles Miami, Fla.: 912 miles New York City: 1,198 miles The Grand Canyon, Arizona: 1,599 miles Las Vegas, Nev.: 1,619 miles Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: 1,802 miles Portland, Maine: 1,513 miles San Francisco, Calif.: 2,131 miles Anchorage, Alaska: 4,184 miles (MILEAGE FROM GOOGLE MAPS)
For more road trips, check out pages 22 and 34-35.
news, culture & irreverence
CLINIC, from page 6
Pro-Life Mississippi, said other states such as Arizona and Tennessee also require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges to protect the health and safety of women. In 2004, CRR challenged a law that would have required second-trimester abortions to be performed in hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities. A federal court ruled the law unconstitutional. CRR and reproductive-rights advocates hope that Republicans’ open hostility to abortion will become the factor that nullifies the new state law. To back up its claims about a concerted effort from state officials to shutter the clinic, the lawsuit cites Gov. Phil Bryant, who voted “work to make Mississippi abortion-free,” and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves who said HB 1390’s passage in the Senate “should close the only abortion clinic in Mississippi.” Mississippi College constitutional law professor Matt Steffey said that openly admitting that the real purpose of the law is to eliminate abortion, not to make women’s health care safer, may not have been a good legal decision for the pro-life camp. “It certainly helps the plaintiffs make their case,” Steffey said. “Many of these (efforts) directed for the explicit purpose of shutting down the lone remaining abortion clinic are going to immediately be challenged.” The order also states that the Department of Health could not have shut the clinic down immediately after the law took effect July 1, anyway. Rather, if the TRO is lifted and law
takes effect, “the State will commence administrative proceedings that will allow the Clinic time to comply before it is closed.” Diane Derzis, the clinic’s owner, said the doctors at the clinic have applied for admitting privileges. The process is usually a lengthy one, she said, and the applications are 50 pages. “We have made applications to every hospital in this area, except St. Dominic,” Derzis said. “They told us not to bother.” Steffey said he expects the hearing to last days, not weeks. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will ultimately make a decision on the law, though, Steffey said, in a legal process that will likely take one to two years. Whether the clinic stays open during that time will depend on Judge Jordan’s ruling in the hearing that begins July 11. Anti-abortion protesters were outside the clinic at 6 a.m. Monday. One protester, Ashley Sigrest, said she is the kind of activist most mainstream media avoid: a woman who has had an abortion. Sigrest said she was raped when she was 18 and waited about five months before having an abortion at a small clinic in Houston, Texas. “The regret a woman feels from choosing an abortion is the deepest pain known to man, I have no doubt,” Sigrest said. “It’s not just the loss of a child. It’s (the fact that) you chose to kill your child for whatever reason. That is the pain that is hard to live with.” Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email Jacob Fuller at email@example.com or R.L. Nave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please join us for our monthly luncheon:
“Plans for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum”
Eight Years in, State Still Neglecting Kids by Valerie Wells file photo
Wednesday, July 11, 2012 Luncheon 11:45 am - 1:00 pm Admission: $12 ($10 for J2000 members) Location: Mississippi Art Center Hank Holmes has had a distinguished career in public service and currently serves as the director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, a position he has held since 2005. A native of Winona, Holmes earned his B.A. in English from Millsaps College in 1973 and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1982. He has been a staff member in the Mississippi State legislature, an archivist, an oral historian and a curator.
have the information it needs. She didn’t want to characterize the motives of DFCS officials who are not complying with the court order. The two main issues, she said in a phone interview, are inadequate staffing at the state agency and that agency’s lack of maintaining accurate data. Children’s Rights will push the courts to make the state take prompt action “even if we don’t have data,” she said. The court could require 90day monitoring reports. “If they fail, we will collect the data.” Mississippi started a new approach to its data collection last year, and Lowry wants the agency to follow through on its compliance to the court order. While Lowry would like for this to work, she is prepared to take the next step in the legal cycle. “The state has known this for a long time,” she said. “They’ve been under a court order for a long time.” Olivia is 12 now. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
Members and non-members are encouraged to attend and bring guests. The cost will be $12 per person ($10 for current, paid members), payable on site by cash or check the day of the program, and includes lunch catered by Broad Street Bakery. The Mississippi Arts Center is the former Mississippi Museum of Art at Lamar and Pascagoula, next to the Planetarium. We meet on the second floor, which is elevator-accessible. Call 601-960-1500 for more information on the Center.
catering by ______ www.jackson2000.org Bringing the Community Together Promoting Racial Harmony and Facilitating Understanding
livia Y. was 3 years old in 2004, a neglected toddler of an unequipped mother. The state became her father and took action. Mississippi Department of Human Services’ Division of Family and Children’s Services found a place for the toddler to live, but Olivia’s life did not improve. The foster home was not a haven for the little girl no one cared about. One of the people living in the home was a convicted rapist. Months after she moved in, doctors gave the skinny, smelly little girl a physical exam. Olivia was malnourished and had scalp rashes. That’s not all. Her vagina was red and swollen, but the doctors didn’t examine her for sexual abuse. Olivia is just one of thousands of children that filter through DFCS each year. In 2004, the New York-based advocacy group Children’s Rights filed a class-action lawsuit in the toddler’s name, Olivia Y. vs. Barbour. Three years later, the court implemented a reform plan for DFCS, and Children’s Rights agreed to the settlement. That was in 2007. Six years later, an independent monitor finds that DFCS still isn’t complying with the court order. Grace Lopes, the court-ordered monitor, reported June 29 that DFCS did not have effective management to comply. Lopes collected statistics from Jan. 1, 2009, through March 31, 2011, and found that DFCS investigated less than 60 percent of child-abuse reports within the required 24 hours or completed its investigation within the 30-day timeframe. Lopes also reported that fewer than 60 percent of caseworkers made follow-up visits. But her report also indicates this may not be the whole picture. Marcia Robinson Lowry, founder and executive director of Children’s Rights, said her group doesn’t
Hank Holmes, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives
by R.L. Nave
ACA: ‘Great But Not Perfect’ proximately 30 million uninsured Americans. The mechanism that backers of the law hoped would bring the largest number of file photo / Kenya Hudson
f anything, last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the federal health-care overhaul—the Affordable Care Act—provided one more reason to mobilize for the November presidential election. For those concerned about the actual health of the nation’s citizens, there was a little less to celebrate. With Chief Justice John Roberts as the surprising swing vote, justices ruled 5-4 that the act is constitutional. However, the ruling still leaves the door open for states to opt out of expanding Medicaid coverage. Warren Yoder, executive director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, said the ruling was “great but not perfect,” adding that states choosing not to expand Medicaid programs could hurt the middle class—the people the act was designed to take care of. “We’re not talking about poor families; they’re covered. We’re not talking about well-to-do families, even in a Mississippi context; they’re covered. We’re talking about the middle. ... It’s the middle that we’re worried about,” Yoder said. ACA requires people who can afford it to purchase insurance or face penalties. It also prohibits insurance providers from denying coverage because a person has a preexisting condition. Estimates are that the ACA would provide or mandate coverage for ap-
President Barack Obama campaigned on the promise of health-care reform.
people who might not otherwise buy health insurance—the Medicaid expansion—immediately came under fire from Republican elected officials, including in Mississippi. Twenty-six states challenged ACA on the grounds that forcing states to add millions
more people to the Medicaid rolls was coercive. Those states represent 8.5 million people who would benefit from expanded eligibility. “The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court today does not change the fact that Obama care raises taxes on Americans and expands the bureaucracy of our health-care system,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in an emailed statement. The governors of Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana have vowed to refuse the additional Medicaid funds, while Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has said he is considering it. But it’s not the states that will pick up most of the tab. From 2014 to 2016, the feds will pay 100 percent of Medicaid expansion. From there, the federal portion decreases each year until 2020 when Uncle Sam pays 90 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, the federal government provides numerous grants for everything from educational programs to setting up an insurance exchange. Mississippi has already received millions of dollars in federal grants under the act for community health centers to public education, including $20.1 million for developing and promoting a health-benefits exchange. ACA would also eliminate health-insurance coverage disparities by ethnicity and gender. In Mississippi, white children are more
likely to lack health insurance than African American children. Here, 14 percent of white children are uninsured compared to 9 percent of black children. Without the Medicaid expansion, Yoder believes many will be left uninsured in Mississippi and other southern states that have been hostile to the ACA. “We’re hopeful, but at this moment, nobody really knows how this is going to work out for these middle-class families that we’re so worried about,” Yoder said. “It has the potential to hurt working families pretty hard.” Comment at www.jfp.ms.
stant-feed world. “The ethical challenge is to articulate guidelines for dealing with rumors
usually in the same section as the original error. Websites don’t really have a page 2, at least not one that readers are going to check. As a selfgoverning profession, journalism can’t afford to hide mistakes. To maintain reader trust, sites have to make a big deal about corrections. The Canadian Association of Journalists suggests best practices for online corrections. They have a simple list of five practices: • Be transparent about all mistakes,. • Ask readers to find mistakes, then make it easy for them to tell you what they are. • Make corrections in a timely manner. • Place corrections with the online article. • Have the same standard for corrections across all platforms. The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, says the rule of thumb is this: When you screw up, admit it, then say you are sorry. Don’t justify it with explanations and excuses. Get the right information out and move along. Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore interviewed one of the media talking heads who got it right. ABC News Legal Analyst Dan Abrams offered this advice: Quote directly from the opinion and don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand what it means. Comment at www.jfp.ms, or send an email to email@example.com.
How the ACA Could Cure Mississippi’s Health Woes • If fully implemented, 500,000 currently uninsured Mississippians would have health coverage. • People with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for Medicaid. • Children can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26. • Insurance discrimination, such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and imposing lifetime caps, is prohibited. • Middle-income individuals and families receive tax breaks to afford private insurance Source: Mississippi Center for Justice, 2012
Media’s Need for Speed
July 4 - 10, 2012
ne of the year’s largest stories didn’t catch anyone by surprise. Reporters, editors and social media agitators were ready. The media outlets prepared for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act, ready to go either way. Journalists researched possible implications before knowing the outcome of the decision. Producers filled talk shows with legal analysts. Online editors posted detailed graphics. Legal experts cautioned not to assume too much right away. It’s a complex law, and the ruling would not be simple, they warned. The point of the all the preparation was to be ready to break the news as soon as possible. Unfortunately, a few key journalists lacked patience. Two TV networks blurted out incorrect summations. Minutes into the reading of the decision, CNN and FOX News announced that the Supreme Court had overturned the ACA mandate. Huffington Post and TIME magazine made the same error. As soon as other media outlets read the tweets and heard the news, the wrong information rippled across the landscape. The Clarion-Ledger put a package up on its website with the headline, “Supreme Court kills individual mandate.” The Gannett-owned daily
also tweeted the news. Moments later, the Associated Press, MSNBC News and others reported the high court had found the ACA was constitutional. CNN and FOX were wrong. Quickly, CNN tweeted and emailed corrections. Additionally, CNN put a bold yellow and black banner across the top of its website with the correction prominent. The Clarion-Ledger tweeted the new correct observation of the ruling. While the wrong headline disappeared and an updated version of the story popped up, site keepers did not post a correction until the end of the day. Sam R. Hall, The Clarion-Ledger’s new assignments and community engagement editor, wrote a blog about the mistake. “Sometimes we get it wrong,” wrote Hall, the former director of the Mississippi Democratic Party and, briefly, a tech columnist for the Jackson Free Press. He went on to explain how it happened and who was at fault. Despite all caution, journalists do make mistakes, and they do gather inaccurate news, then pass it along. When that happens, policies should kick into play to reassure readers that the paper or website is on top of things. Stephen J.A. Ward at the Center of Journalism Ethics at the University of WisconsinMadison studies the need for ethics in an in-
by Valerie Wells
Gannett’s Clarion-Ledger was one of several news outlets that got it wrong.
and corrections in an online world that are consistent with the principles of accuracy, verification and transparency,” Ward writes on the center’s website. In publications, standard practice is to put corrections in the next published issue,
by Jacob Fuller
City Seizing 32 Properties for Road tends to procure through eminent domain are a few homes with tenants, Gaillet said, but he did not know the exact number. “We feel like we’re going to save those for last, so people can live there as long as possible,” Gaillet said.
possible, the plan includes moving the railroad tracks. Designs for the project show the railroad shifting west from just north of the current railroad crossing between North State Street and McLaurin Road to Brown Street. The McLaurin Street crossing will close. The design calls this portion of the plan phase 1B. The new design would include a railroad bridge, which would allow travelers to drive under the bridge and continue on West County Line Road without interruption from passing trains. It would also allow trains to pass the intersection without blowing their whistle. The noise of the whistle is a problem for citizens who live nearby, especially late at night, said Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon at the meeting. Gaillet said he does not know all the details of the projThe city plans to connect East and West County Line Road ect, which city engineer Robert separated by a 100-yard gap and a railroad. Lee is heading up. Gaillet said in a June 29 phone interview that the city would move the railroad Johnson said the city wouldn’t be taking that runs parallel to State Street from its inanyone’s land through eminent domain with- tersection with Interstate 220 to the crossing out proper compensation. However, the court at Brown Street. That rail line does not cross may have the final say on the properties. Interstate 220, however. “Property rights (are) always something The city has already completed the first that should be protected,” Johnson said. part of phase 1A. It included moving the “The public good should also be pro- Tougaloo College Post Office to its current tected. Sometimes the public good outweighs location across West County Line Drive from these individual property rights.” the college and expanding West County Line Currently, the Canadian National-owned Road to four lanes in front of the campus. railroad occupies a portion of an approximate- Gaillet said the city will fund about 20 ly 100-yard gap in County Line Road at the percent of phase 1A, roughly $2.5 million. road’s intersection with North State Street. Another $6.3 million will come from the To reach West County Line Road from East federal government’s TEA-21, or TransportaCounty Line, drivers have to travel south on tion Equity Act for the 21st Century. The act, North State for about two-tenths of a mile on originally passed by Congress in June 1998, State Street and then turn west on County provides funding for a range of transportation Line Road, crossing the railroad tracks. To initiatives including railway, highway, walking make the County Line Road connection and biking-trail projects.
The city said it will ask the Mississippi Department of Transportation to request the federal funds available for the project. Canadian National Railroad will help fund and construct the railroad track and bridge portion of the project. Gaillet did not know how much funding the railroad would provide. Phase 1C of the project would include connecting Rand Street and Guice Lane. It also includes relocating Grant Street. The city of Jackson has not established a timeline for starting or completing construction on Phase 1A, Gaillet said, due to the large number of legal issues the city will face trying to acquire the needed property. At the June 26 council meeting, he said the city hopes to break ground on all three phases of the project by next summer. With funding not yet secured and a lengthy court process on the horizon, it could be well over a year before the city breaks ground on any of the project, though. Once construction begins, Gaillet estimated it will take about 18 months to complete. Breaking Ground on Water Main Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. held a ground-breaking ceremony for the installation of a 52-inch water transmission line June 28. The 17,766-foot line is the last piece of a line that will connect the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant to the J.H. Fewell Water Treatment Plant. The installation will cost $8.6 million. Johnson said new line will help reduce the occurrences of wide-spread water pressure loss and boil water notices. The ultimate goal of the project is to eventually close the 98year-old J.H. Fewell Water Treatment Plant and move all water treatment to O.B. Curtis. The Jackson City Council approved a contract with Morgan Contracting May 15 to install the water line. Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email Jacob Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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he city of Jackson plans to use eminent domain to secure 32 pieces of property in north Jackson as part of a project to connect East County Line and West County Line Road. Public Works Director Dan Gaillet said many of the properties are vacant. But procuring the land could take a while, because the city has not been able to contact the current owners in many cases. The city expects to have to go to court to acquire at least 22 of the properties. On June 26, the Jackson City Council approved an order for the city to file condemnation proceedings on three of the properties in the Court of Eminent Domain by a vote of 5 to 0. Ward 3 Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes and Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber were absent from the meeting. Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. said the project is important because the current layout of County Line Road does not allow direct access to Tougaloo College or the possibility of economic development west of State Street in that area. He said the city first identified the need and funding for the project during his first mayoral term during the 1990s. The mayor’s mention of economic development raises questions in light of the state’s new eminent-domain law. In November, state voters overwhelmingly approved a new law that prevents state and local government from using land procured through eminent domain to be transferred to “any person, non-governmental entity, public-private partnership, corporation, or other business entity” for a period of 10 years. Exceptions to the law include properties deemed a public nuisance, structures unfit for human habitation and abandoned property. The purpose of the law was to prohibit government bodies from using eminent domain for private development or enterprise. Governments are, however, still allowed to use the property for drainage and levee facilities, roads, bridges, ports, airports, common carriers and utilities. Included in the properties the city in-
by Jacob Fuller
Iron Horse Grill Reborn?
apital Hotel Associates got good news million for the project. The remaining $2 mil- Iâ€™ve seen in a long time,â€? Tillman said. â€œI like Wednesday when the Jackson Rede- lion will come from new market and historic what I see.â€? velopment Authority authorized a tax credits. JRA attorney Zach Taylor said JRA has approved building and concontribution agreement with the city CHA is likely to sell the tax credits, a com- struction plans for the project. The restaurant to help fund the developerâ€™s Iron Horse Grill mon practice among developers and banks, to and music venue will take up about 10,000 and Mississippi Music Experience square feet, the museum will be Museum project. about 4,000 square feet and the If the Jackson City Council headquarters of the Mississippi approves the agreement, it will put Blues Trail will take up the remainJRA and the city at the end of a ing 1,000 to 2,000 square feet. list of loan guarantors on the proj Board member Gregory Green ect. That means that if the ownsaid the boardâ€™s finance committee ers of the Iron Horse Grill, along approved the contribution agreewith seven individual backers of ment with the city before bringing the project, cannot pay the loans it before the full board. on the project, the city will get the â€œWe looked at numbers, disburden of repayment. cussed the numbers, discussed the Jason Brookins, JRAâ€™s excontributions and we feel, unaniecutive director, said the board mously, that itâ€™s a good project,â€? reviewed the income-tax returns Green said. of all seven guarantors for the JRA board unanimously appast three years. JRA was pleased proved the agreement. Brian Fewith the financial stability of the nelon, Ward 7 JRA representative, project, he said, and was ready to abstained from the vote because move forward. he works with one of the parties The city council will have to involved in the project, he said. approve the agreement for the city to back the project. Newest Farish Plans Plans for the project include Developer David Watkins told rebuilding the former Iron Horse the JRA June 27 that his company Grill, which closed in 1999 after is prepared to finish construction two fires left the building in ruins. on four structures planned for the Along with the restaurant and a first block of the Farish Street enlive music venue, lead developer tertainment district. Joseph Simpson plans for the Watkins told the JRA that a building to house a museum dedideal with the National Trust for cated to Mississippi music legends, JRA approved an agreement June 27 with the city to help fund Historic Preservation for $5 milas well as the headquarters of the the Iron Horse Grill, which closed in 1999 after burning twice. lion in historic-district tax credits Mississippi Blues Trail. would provide the needed collateral JRA will loan Capital Hofor the funding to finish constructel Associates the largest bulk of tion on four of the 13 buildings to the funding for the $5.96 million, 15,000- fund to the project. A funding flow chart, cre- be completed on Farish Street between Amite square-foot project. They agreed to loan the ated by CHA, shows Trustmark Bank as the and Grant streets. Watkins said he hopes to developers $2.5 million, on the basis that they projectâ€™s tax credit investor. close on the tax credits by the end of August. have enough cash-in-hand from other sources Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman The tax credits will act as collateral on a to complete the project at the time the parties said JRA should make CHAâ€™s presentation a $10.2 million bond issue to the Farish Street close on the loan. model for future developers. Group that the city and JRA agreed to in March. The developers will provide about $1.4 â€œThis is one of the better presentations The end-of-August projection for clos-
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ing on the tax credits is a slight delay from the mid-July date that Jason Goree, vice president of Watkins Development, provided to the JFP in early in May. Goree also told the JFP in May that the Farish Street Group expected to open four clubs on the street by the end of the year. When Watkins talked to the JRA June 27, that number was down to one. Watkins said he expects the developmentâ€™s premier venue, B.B. Kingâ€™s Blues Club, to be open by the end of December. The historic tax credits, unlike newmarket tax credits, take effect as soon as the buildings receive a certificate of substantial completion. Watkins said that makes the deal less of a risk to the JRA and the city, because the credits are in no way based on the performance of the businesses once they open. The developers expect to have at least three other music venues or restaurants open on the street within a couple months of B.B. Kingâ€™s opening. Named for and owned in part by the Mississippi-born blues legend, B.B. Kingâ€™s currently has locations in Orlando, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., Las Vegas, Nev., and West Palm Beach, Fla. Plans for the B.B. Kingâ€™s Blues Club on Farish Street include a two-story bar and grill, complete with a stage for live music performances. The third floor of the building will house Itta Bena, a fine-dining restaurant named for the Mississippi Delta town where B.B. King was born. Farish Street was once the epicenter of African American culture and entertainment in Jackson, but has largely fallen into ruin over the past several decades. Developers and city officials have discussed revitalizing the street since the early 1980s, but little progress was made before Watkins Development purchased the project in 2008 from Performa Entertainment, the former developer of Beale Street in Memphis. Comment at www.jfp.ms. Email Jacob Fuller at email@example.com.
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7/2/12 4:54 PM
opining, grousing & pontificating
Lose the Health-Care Bickering
Keep the Faith, Baby
July 4 - 10, 2012
ev. Cletus: “This is your car-sales pastor closing a special live radio broadcast from the front lot of Rev. Cletus’ Car Sales Church. I hope you all enjoyed my message titled ‘Don’t Worry about the Crap Hitting the Fan: The Creator Has a Master Plan.’ Thanks to the ‘Good God Gospel Quartet for their rendition of Rev James Cleveland’s song called ‘Where Is Your Faith?’ “I know that many of you have wept, wailed and cried in the wilderness of life’s problems and issues. A whole lot of frustrated and discouraged listeners have called my Counseling and Encouragement Telephone Hot Line. I have counseled several of the unemployed gospel emcees and deejays who talk about human-resource departments discriminating against them because of their age, race or gender. “Also, I spoke to a man who said, ‘Financial oppression is getting to me!’ Nevertheless, some divine wisdom touched my heart enough to refer to the poignant words of Rev. Cleveland, and I told this man, ‘No matter how strong you think you are, things will go wrong.’ Then I asked him, ‘Where is your faith?’ “I realize that our society has become more hardhearted and selfish. But allow me during these troubling times to encourage you the way Adam Clayton Powell (the legendary minister, politician and civil-rights activist) did when he told his Harlem, New York, constituents to ‘keep the faith, baby!’ “God bless you, listeners! Don’t worry about the crap hitting the fan: The 12 Creator has a master plan.”
Cole a Good Choice
his past Saturday at the Regency Hotel in Jack- first-time members.” Cole son, the Mississippi Democratic Party elected went on to explain that 19 of the members are unRickey L. Cole chairman of the state party on der age 40. Looking at the new state party—with a 45 to 19 vote by the new executive commit- this many young people, this many first-time comtee, which will serve the 2012-2016 term. Cole, 45, is mittee members and a leader like Cole—I have no a former chairman of the party, a national committee- doubt that the party is back on the track of winning man, and was chairman of his home statewide elections and taking back county’s Democratic Party in Jones the Legislature. County. The Laurel native will bring “We will be truly organized at a wealth of knowledge and grassroots every level, for every election, in every experience to Mississippi Dems. county, every time, in all 1,876 pre However, one aspect must be cincts,” Cole said. noted: The Democratic Party, as with It is worth noting that Cole is any organization, needs young people fully aware of the broad-base support to succeed. Cole fulfills that need, the Democratic Party has on the local and not only with his plans to involve Rickey L. Cole is the level as far as municipal and county more young people with the party. He new chairman of the officials are concerned. It is my opinunderstands the importance of young Mississippi Democratic ion that he will use that support to Party. people from his tenure as a member of the fullest to recruit candidates and the Young Democrats of Mississippi. raise funds at the state level. He went on to serve as president of that organization. The GOP should note that there are a lot of That day in 1994 at the old Sun-n-Sand Motor Ho- beloved—and elected—Democrats out there in the tel in Jackson when Cole was elected president, I was city halls and the courthouses across this state. They elected second congressional district chairman of the will be a powerful bunch to deal with for grassroots YDMS. I served with him in this capacity through a organization in Mississippi. two-year term. Cole’s commitment to having young Ken Strachan, is a former mayor of North Carpeople involved is unmatched. rollton and is serving in his third as the Carroll County In a recent interview, he told me that “of the Coroner. He is a former member of the Mississippi Dem80 members on the state committee, 44 are new, ocratic Executive Committee. file photo
he U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act last Thursday predicated a firestorm of news and opinions. Some of it was flat-out wrong, saying the court “killed” ACA when it did just the opposite. We were somewhat surprised that a largely conservative court—the same one that handed big business carte blanche to fund elections via its 2011 Citizens United decision—upheld the decision. Chief Justice John Roberts made some interesting choices that may take years to sort out. The individual mandate was constitutional, but the federal government’s threat to penalize states that decide not to comply wasn’t. The feds can’t take away all of its Medicaid support if a state decides not to expand its program. President Barack Obama’s televised message after the opinion was to the point. Obama campaigned on the promise of getting health-care reform passed, and has spent considerable political capital pushing through reforms where other presidents, from FDR to Clinton, had failed. “It should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics,” he said after outlining how the act had already made a difference in many lives and has the potential to do even more “I did it because I believed it was good for the country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.” Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s comments followed, and like clockwork, he began by saying he would act to repeal the bill on his first day in office. Romney’s statements perfectly toed the Republican line. Despite the bluster of Republican responses, however, no president has the power to simply throw out a law. If the GOP achieves an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress in November and figures out to retain the popular parts of the bill—ending coverage denial because of pre-existing conditions, for example— to gut just the parts they object to, they’ll create an unbelievable mess. Disabling the law through fiat—simply denying promised funds—represents high political risk. We would all do well to remember that this law is the exactly what Republicans wanted—right up until the time the Democrats adopted it. The proposal’s first appearance was in a 1989 brief from the Heritage Foundation—a conservative think tank. It spelled out that the federal government should require Americans to have health insurance. It was the GOP’s antidote to the reform President Clinton proposed in 1993, and they wrote it into their anti-Clinton health-care bill, signed by leading Republican congressional representatives. The Heritage plan guided former Gov. Romney’s health-care plan for Massachusetts. America is tired of this fight, and its citizens deserve better than unnecessary partisan bickering. We deserve a government that cares more about the welfare of its citizens than winning the next election. Demand more than inflammatory talking points from our leadership.
by Ken Strachan
Eight Years is Enough
emocratic Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York State has begun his fifth decade in public office. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah has been in Washington, D.C., since 1977. Closer to home, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson is approaching two decades in the nation’s capital. And last November, we had one Hinds County supervisor, George Smith—who had served 30 years in office—lose his seat to Jackson’s Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes, who had already served on City Council for the better part of 20 years himself. In my opinion, none of these scenarios are good for the people charged with voting public servants into office. It may seem ambitious, but I think every publicly elected position should come with term limits—hard term limits. Would we have the gridlock that we have in Congress if those ladies and gentlemen knew that their time was limited? Wouldn’t term limits encourage a more immediate need to leave a lasting legacy in the history books? I believe that, most importantly, term limits would hinder the ability of special interests—and their money—to entice officials over the long run. I’m not suggesting that we replace these longstanding politicos with just anyone. Nor am I saying that we should arbitrarily remove them simply to put
younger people in their seats. And it’s not as easy as just saying, “When the constituents are ready for him or her to go, the people’s vote will make that decision.” Voters become enamored with their elected representatives, at whatever level he or she may be on. And that makes it much easier for everyone to become complacent. Isn’t eight years plenty of time in office? Isn’t 20 years too long? It’s about time we started putting some things into play to hold our politicians more accountable to us, the voters. I believe term limits are one way to begin. We have many capable people primed to lead, and they deserve a shot. Demographics change. Population changes. But most glaringly, problems change, and old approaches and solutions don’t work. I find it difficult to believe, for example, that someone who has been in office since the 1970s or ’80s can connect with this technological age, despite their best efforts. Change is not a word a lot of people are comfortable with, especially in the South. But if you’re frustrated with partisan politics, perhaps you should see fit to just send a message to those in power—by sending them home. Term limits anyone? And that’s the truth ... shonuff.
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The Partisan Blindfold
all me a liberal or call me a conservative, but I am extremely disappointed by Mississippi politicians’ reaction over Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the Affordable Care Act. Although I increasingly expect to see it, both parties are displaying a fundamental lack of understanding about the ruling: Republicans follow their rank and file, claiming that the court’s ruling is a travesty of monumental proportions because it expands the federal government (see JFP coverage of Gov. Phil Byrant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, etc. ). The Democrats claim victory for equality. Both interpretations are inundated with party talking points, and in doing so, are only half-truths if they’re true at all. First, a little background information. Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court is a conservative court, meaning that of the nine judges, five of them were appointed by Republican presidents and have right-leaning tendencies. In fact, former President George W. Bush appointed the chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, making him one of those conservatives. And here is where it gets tricky. Producing a 5-4 decision, Roberts broke from the conservative block to uphold the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, after which he assigned himself to write the majority opinion. In his opinion, Roberts declared the individual mandate component of the act unconstitutional under the commerce clause; instead, he said the act was actually a tax and, therefore, valid under Congress’ authority to tax. Subsequently, the ruling has two major consequences. First, the ruling made the health-care law—Obamacare—a tax issue. Now, passing a new tax in this political climate is like jumping into a pit of volcanic lava. Chief Justice Roberts knew this, and you can bet he also knows that this is an election year. Basically, the court ruled that Obama taxed the entirety of the American population without them even knowing it. To say it another way: Roberts kicked Obama into the lava pit. Second, the court’s decision set a new precedent for legislative power. The Obama administration defended the act under the commerce clause, but the court did not uphold this argument. The implications here are much more far-reaching than the health-care bill itself. Over the past century, progressive courts have wielded the commerce clause as a rationale for expanding the role of the federal government (think:
New Deal and the Warren and Burger courts). However, in this decision, the court placed a hard and fast limitation to its use: the commerce clause is not a blanket justification for government expansion. Chief Justice Robert is playing a long game, rather than the short game, and by doing so, he is protecting the integrity of the court. And that brings me back to why I am disappointed. Mississippi politicians seem incapable of understanding the nuances of this decision. Republicans are mad because they “lost,” and the Democrats are happy because they “won.” Neither position departs from mere surface-level understanding. I believe this decision was a victory for conservatives. In the upcoming election, Obama will have to defend his policy of taxation—and not just the taxes he wants to raise on the rich. The individual mandate is a tax he has already levied on the middle class. Saying this bullet would be difficult to dodge is an understatement. What should be more important to conservative-minded people is that the U.S. Supreme Court did not take a partisan position on a politically charged issue. Just because the Supreme Court disagrees with a legislative policy does not mean that Congress lacks the constitutional authority to pass that law. If the Supreme Court falls prey to judicial activism, it become nothing more than a tool wielded by the parties— another wrecking ball of partisanship. Why then are so many Republicans in Mississippi dubbing the decision as a failure, and why are the Democrats crowing about success? I don’t pretend to know what is going on in their minds, nor do I pretend to have every answer on every issue. However, I do believe that as American citizens, we have a duty to delve deeper into an issue rather than being spoon-fed shallow interpretations. I hold our leaders to an even higher standard, and that is why I am especially disappointed when they are the ones giving us the narrow interpretation. I don’t care which animal you prefer to ride, the donkey or the elephant, but I do care when politicians blatantly distort the truth. We, as Mississippians, should demand more from our leaders. Matt Bolian is a full-time redhead, Christian, husband, Army officer and property developer (blackwhitedevelopment. com) who loves ultimate Frisbee, tacos, fruit smoothies and dreaming BIG. He’s starting an editorial internship with the Jackson Free Press this month.
Passing a new tax in this political climate is like jumping into a pit of volcanic lava.
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The JFP Interview
Opportunity Man by Jacob Fuller
t didn’t take long for Jonathan Lee to regret his decision to leave the metro area. A native of Jackson, Lee enrolled at the University of North Carolina after graduating from Northwest Rankin High School in 1996. Two weeks later, he was back in Mississippi. Lee, who plans to run for mayor of Jackson in next year’s election, thought he wanted a faster pace than his home city had to offer. Homesickness quickly took hold, though, and Lee called his father with news that he wanted to return to his home state. “Instead of saying, ‘It’s only been two weeks. Stick it out,’ my dad said, ‘What? No out-of-state (tuition)? Come on home,’” Lee said. So Lee returned to Mississippi and enrolled at Mississippi State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2000 and master’s degree in business administration in 2002. After graduation, he worked for then-university President Malcolm Portera and began to think he wanted to be a university president one day. When Portera left Mississippi State in 2002 to become Chancellor at the University of Alabama, Lee’s father, John H., asked his son to come back to Jackson and work for the family business, Mississippi Products, Inc. Lee decided to defer his planned doctoral studies for a year and return to Jackson. Shortly after that, his father received a terminal cancer diagnosis. He died eight months later. “It was confirmation that I was exactly right where I needed to be,” Lee said. Lee never went back to school. Now president of Mississippi Products, Lee has run the business for 10 years. At 34 years old, Lee says he is ready for a new challenge: leading the capital city. Next year, he plans to go up against established politicians and other relative newcomers in a mayoral race that looks wide open. July 4- 10, 2012
Why did you decide to run for mayor? I came back (to Jackson), and I have a large family all over the place. I really got excited with what was going on in Jackson. I really rediscovered the city; I shouldn’t even say I rediscovered. I realized what an awesome place we live in. I became enamored with the amount of goodwill here. 14 There are so many people doing great things, pursuing
Jonathan Lee, president of Mississippi Products Inc., intends to run for mayor of Jackson in 2013.
their individual passions for the greater good. When I came back, of course, my dad was all of a sudden out of the picture. I had an opportunity to sit in on some of his board appointments and things he had done that I, honestly at my age, never would have had that opportunity to do. I came back and immediately filled his seat on the Chamber of Commerce. I am still on that board. I just had an opportunity to get to know some of the inner workings of what’s going on in the city. Then, on the other side of the equation, we have a business that employs people who are blue collar, doing a whole lot of interchange with them. The thing that probably concerned me the most was there was a lot of missed opportunity. There seems to be a disconnect between the face of our community and what the issues are. Despite all this goodwill, (there) did not seem to be many opportuni-
ties, led by city government, to coalesce. If your individual passion is children, and you want to work to do after-school programs or some type of recreational project, people might ask, “How does the city get involved in that?” Quite frankly, I think one of our opportunities in the city is we’ve got to figure out a way to get the entire community working together to help solve big problems. I just felt like the opportunities weren’t there. We’ve got a huge community of folks who are working. At some point, we have to figure out how we’re going to implement and involve them in the process of the problems. Can you be specific? The example I usually give is: At some point, the city decided that it had no business picking up the trash. There are
Who Is Jonathan Lee? Name: Jonathan Lee Born: Jackson Age: 34 High School: Northwest Rankin College: Mississippi State University
Profession: President of Mississippi Products Inc. Affiliations: Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership Board of Directors Family: Wife, Davetta, and 2-year-old daughter, Morgan
What qualifies you to be mayor? That’s a great question. I think just now, we need a certain set of actions for mayor. We are in a particular point in time where people have lost the ability to dream. I think we need someone who can coalesce a vision from the community. I have had experiences—have been blessed with experiences from my community affiliation. I do a lot of work in town. I’ve done a lot of work with Operation Shoestring. It seems like everybody, no matter where you’re working at, is looking for a connector, someone that can bring folks from every segment of the community together, whether you’re rich or poor, black or white. I think that’s what we need right now, and really, that’s my strong suit. I have no respect for person; we are all God’s children. I think we all have a place. He’s created answers to every equation. I do have a background for business. That’s my core competence. That’s what I’ve been doing the past 10 years. I think there are opportunities for us to really, really make this city more efficient, less stagnant. It’s time, I think, to break out of the status quo. We’ve got to start reaching for greatness, dreaming the big dreams. If you are elected, what specifically will set you apart from the current administration? I think one of the major issues that’s going to set me apart is (that) I’m personally of
the belief that we’re going to have to break away from a siloed education system. What I mean by siloed is: We’re going to have to find ways to use our political power to drive personal capital in the education system. I’ll give you an example. One of the things that we’ve been working on since November is we’re getting people from all across the community around the table to talk about how we create free after-school care for our students. That’s one of those ideas that really reverberates with the community. I’m talking about an opportunity to get art, music and sports back to schools in a major, major way. At the same time, you get kids something to do after school. If we’re looking at it pragmatically, you could, essentially, be driving down the crime rate, (and) at the same time helping bust those test scores. So when we’re trying to attract business from out of state, or even from in the state, Jackson all of sudden becomes a better place to do business, because we have a great school system.
You mentioned reducing Jonathan Lee poses for a photo at a memorial for his crime. What, specifically, father, John H., who died in 2002. could you do as mayor to help reduce crime in Jackson? Specifically, as mayor, the opportunity There are two approaches to that. for us with crime is to make sure the com- Going to things we used to do, you look munity understands that this is a problem at it administratively. When dealing with that’s not going to go away overnight. It’s the police department (and officers) takgoing to require the entire community to ing cars home, I met with several folks that band together to stamp it out. are experts, as it relates to law enforcement. There are a lot of common-sense ini- There is a quantifiable bonus to have offitiatives that we can do a better job of imple- cers be able to take their cars home. They menting here in the city. Also, it’s important can park it in the driveway. It deters crime. to mention that we’ve really got to work on Not only that, the equipment lasts longer. making sure that we change the culture of For whatever reason, those police cars, they both the fire and police departments. It’s take better care of them. a hard thing when you’re putting your life On the other side, as it relates to the on the line every day, whether it’s fighting a community, I think one of the things that fire, or you’re out there in a patrol car every the city has done in the past is make sure day, and you’re concerned about whether or that through our precinct meetings, that not you’re going to get paid for your over- folks are aware of ways that they can deter time. We’ve got to create some real changes. crime. Things like making sure you don’t I think you’ve got to be able to see your leave anything on your car seats and all that way to the top. If you start out as a rook- kind of good stuff. ie cop, you want to see how you progress I think it makes sense for the city through the ranks. They really have to be to go back to the days when we had an
Officer Friendly. That was their job, to get in the community and to talk excessively about just common-sense things: locking your car, not leaving your keys in your car, making sure your shrubs are cut back. One of the things that’s done across the country is (that) beat cops actually may drive past your house and notice that your shrubs are grown up. They may make a little note on a note pad: “This is your friendly Officer Friendly. I just drove by your house, and I noticed that you’ve got some visibility issues. Nothing is wrong, this isn’t a ticket, but I wanted to make you aware that I’m driving by and I see some potential issues.” Not that there is anything going on wrong in the city; it’s just something I see. I think that helps. Those kinds of help really defeat the idea that crime is out of control. I think what we miss here in our community is there are some folks that feel like crime is going unchecked. How do you help a person with how they feel? Actions like that. You see a cop who stops and says, “Look, I don’t have to stop, but this something I think you should work on.” You’ve got to increase that emotional capacity with ways that folks feel like the police, fire department (or) whoever is actively out there working on combating crime. It’s nothing more than plain old customer service. At the same time, we’ve got to get those boys and girls on the police force and fire department to choose to do that. courtesy Jonathan Lee
other things that we can be doing with our time. We can outsource those types of projects. Someone else can do it better and cheaper. If you look at it from a social-services point of view, what if city government spent more time saying; “Alright, you run a homeless program, Salvation Army. You’re doing a great job with what you do. Stewpot, you’re doing a great job with what you do. How can the city add leadership to your programs, instead of trying to run a mediocre program ourselves? How can we measure those outcomes and leverage those outcomes for grant moneys and other opportunities?” I think in a city like this, in an urban environment, that’s going to be the way we get things done: nontraditional, out-of-thebox ways to really involve the entire community, working together to solve a problem.
empowered to know that their job matters and that the community supports them. I think that goes two ways. We’d love to make sure our police chief feels empowered to—when there’s an issue or when there’s not an issue—they can go to the media or whoever and say; “Look, we’re here. We’re working together with you to make sure this is a place you want to be.” Whether it is perception or reality, the idea is we have folks who make decisions—whether they want to live here in Jackson—based on whether or not they feel safe. Our job is to make sure that not only do they feel safe, but (that) they feel empowered to make sure that Jackson is a place where you can feel free to roam and live your life without having anyone infringe on your personal safety. You said there are some commonsense initiatives we can put in here in the city. What are some of those initiatives?
If you get elected, day one, what is your first priority? We’ve got a whole lot going on here in the city. Of course, we want to start doing some assessment of where we are and where we can go. I guess, overall, the thing that I want to do first is really dig into the community and figure out what is on the hearts and minds of the people. I really believe that if we’re going to push forward, the idea is not to sell anybody on my plan or my vision. The idea is to implement the vision of the people and get them to join in and be a part of the anything we can do. Then, when we accomplish that goal, the people can turn around and say, “Look, we did this, and we did it together.” I think one of the downfalls of where we are today is there is a feeling of everything is hands-off. Whether it’s perception or not, from the folks that we’ve talked to, and we’ve been talking to folks for months and months all over the city, we’ve got to empower people. We’ve got to empower people to get more Jonathan Lee, page 16
Degrees: Bachelor’s in Marketing, 2000; Master’s in Business Administration, 2002
JFP Interview with Jonathan Lee, from page 15 courtesy Jonathan Lee
Jonathan Lee met his wife, Davetta, on a blind date.The couple’s daughter, Morgan, is 2 years old.
involved in their communities. In the overall community, we’ve got to teach people how to dream. It’s funny when you sit down with a group of folks. It’s hard to pull out, “What do you want to see?” when you put so much focus on what’s wrong. “OK, this is wrong, but what do you want to see? What does a sustainable community look like to you?” First day, first month, we are going to do a whole lot of that. It’s going to emanate through economic development. It’s going to emanate through public safety. It’s going to emanate through how we have a
positive effect on schools. In everything we do, we’ve got to get a community involved. You’re younger than most of the other candidates. How could your age affect your ability to govern? I don’t think age affects ability to govern whatsoever. My hope is that my age will inspire other folks my age to be even more involved the process—in the process of governing and the process of being a committed, effective member of the community. We do have an older set of folks, and no
one, certainly, wants to eradicate old people from the table. Of course, they come with wisdom, but I think there is definitely some room at the table for younger people. When you look at the city of Jackson, we’re losing 1,300* people every year. So, of course, I’m concerned about those folks in my age bracket that are starting families (and) that are just getting married. That’s our hope. How do we turn that 1,300 net loss into 1,300 net gain? I think where we are just now is that people have got to feel emotionally invested that “I can make differ-
ence,” and certainly they can. We’ve proved that time and time again. *Editor’s note: From 2000-2010, Census figures show that Jackson averaged a loss of 1,128 residents per year, including a gain of 273 from July 2005 to July 2006. How do you get people to feel emotionally involved? I think it goes back to what we talked about, as it relates to crime. I think the only thing that inhibits it is kind of this imperialistic view that everything has got to be handed down from the city. I personally think that if you open up, you be transparent, and you show people. “Alright, we’re working on this, but we need your input.” I’ll give you an example. There is a lot of talk about the Highway 80 corridor. It’s really interesting. There is a really high traffic count that goes up and down the corridor. People argue that it’s the best location in the state. You’ve got (Interstates) 20 and 220 that intersect there. I think one of the things that we’ve done a very poor job of as a city is building a case for business. So what if we created some type of economic dream team, where we invited the entire community, old and young, that live in that area and said: “Look, we’ve got a lot of vacant space here. What is it that you want? What is it that you need?” and we create an environment where people bring their ideas to the table? Then it’s up to the city to set the stage. We discover the data. How many people live in this area? Where are they going for particular services and particular kinds of recreation? How much disposable income do they have? Rather than hoping and waiting that somebody comes along and discovers Jackson and the intersection of I-20 and 220, we go tap people on the shoulder and say, “Look, we’ve got the perfect location for you. I know the city owns the building at the Metrocenter. Hey, we’ve got a building here. Here’s the disposable income. Here’s the number of cars that pass by each day. By the way, we’ve got a community that is
July 4- 10, 2012
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How do you plan to compete with established politicians in the city such as Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. and Councilmen Chokwe Lumumba and Frank Bluntson in this campaign? I hope that this campaign is about the issues. We all know there are lots of issues out there. We’ve got some plans that we’re going to be rolling out in the very near future for addressing those issues. Honestly, I think that the cream rises to the top. I think that we’re definitely in the time when people are ready for something new, fresh and outside of the status quo. I think that they are going to be listening for what that is. We’ve got some factors in our city that I don’t know if we’ve actually, really addressed headon, like education. No doubt about it: The lifeblood of this city (is) the kids that live here. Every problem that we have can be directly or indirectly traced back to whether or not we have an engaged, highfunctioning publicschool system. I think talking about issues, generating ideas and inviting people into this campaign as an opportunity for them to build a vision and build a way to implement it will set us apart from every candidate running. Your work with the Greater Jackson Chamber and some of the developers around the city has raised concerns with some people that you are the developers’ candidate. How do you assure the people that you will take a discerning look at these developments and do what is right for the little man, as well as the developer? First of all, I’m glad you asked that question. The idea that I’m the developers’ candidate or the idea that I am favored by these guys is completely unfounded. I’ve been chairman of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, no doubt about it, but one of the things that I did during my tenure (there) was to make sure that the Chamber of Commerce sponsor community forums like we do (at Koinonia Coffeehouse) every Friday. I don’t have any allegiance to any particular developer. I just want development that makes sense for the entire community, not just for some. One of the things that we
will be talking about in great detail is making sure that our city is inclusive. I don’t mean racially inclusive, which is important as well: I’m talking about economic inclusiveness. For far too long, we’ve been doing things to our communities in Jackson, instead of with our communities. Honestly, serving on the board of the Chamber of Commerce had given me an opportunity to see (that) there are some things, some really grave issues that we’ve had. There are some real opportunities that we’ve had to make sure that we do development that benefits everybody. The developers’ candidate, that’s sort of an interesting way of putting it. Is that the business candidate, too, or is that just the developers’ candidate? I guess it can kind of go together. I think it’s fair to point out, too, that I’m not a corporate guy. I run a business on the corner of Valley (Street) and Raymond Road. I have employees that take the bus. We have known them and are intimately involved with them for many, many years. The perspective of being a small business owner, (and) a black business owner is a lot different from a corporate guy. I think that’s one of the divisive tactics, the ugly things that happen during the election cycle to really take our eye off the ball. Yes, I’ve sat at the table. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned some things that I want to do. I’ve learned some things that we certainly don’t need to do, or do again for that matter. I’m definitely not the business candidate. This whole campaign, we will be emphasizing the fact that this is a community where I’m from. I’m running for this office because it’s personal; it’s a real personal thing for me. I want a community where not only my daughter, but my cousins and my nieces and nephews are getting a great education. (I want) a place where folks on the south side of town aren’t worried about property values or even whether or not their going to be able to run down the street to the grocery store, as opposed to running all the way across town, because there isn’t a grocery store in their community. I’m concerned about those things. I’m concerned about this idea of infrastructure
I think it’s fair to point out, too, that I’m not a corporate guy. I run a business on the corner of Valley (Street) and Raymond Road.
more Jonathan Lee, page 19
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