Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on every penny of BP millions should be spent wisely:
Over the next five years, the state of Mississippi will receive its portion of the financial settlement of criminal charges against BP and Transocean for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The $356 million is a significant amount, and its wise outlay can do much to restore the damage done to the Gulf and our most precious natural resources.
Funding for three projects was announced in Moss Point last week by Trudy Fisher, the head of Mississippi's Department of Environmental Quality. The three were said to be designed to remedy harm done by the spill. Their combined cost is $7.5 million.
"We're really trying to get this right," Fisher said, a notion that we applaud, and that the people of our state expect.
As we have seen in the past, the spending of big sums doesn't always meet the standard of transparency the public would like to see.
Getting "this right" should mean that MDEQ, which will play a leading role in distributing the BP funds, regularly report on how every penny is spent. To our mind, this is job one. This would include a complete listing of who receives the money.
We have no doubt that the public relations roll-out of each round of spending will be robust. We would hope for less shock and awe on the PR front, less limelight focused on political leaders, and more of what Sgt. Joe Friday used to describe as "just the facts."
We also would like to see a minimum of these funds directed to "consultants" and studies and the like, and more to what the real needs are for the restoration of the Coast and the Gulf.
Finally, we urge there be at least annual audits of the spending of these funds by an independent auditing firm.
Getting this right is imperative for Mississippi. Let's start by taking politics out of the process and have a full, open and ongoing accounting of how our share of the fund is spent.
The Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth on state needs a vibrant capital:
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and former Gov. Haley Barbour were right last week when they said at a charity fundraiser that Mississippi's capital city can overcome its many challenges if citizens work together for improvement.
The two disagreed on some issues, such as the merits of charter schools. But Barbour correctly said that Mississippi, like all other states, benefits when it has "a successful, vibrant capital."
Unfortunately, Jackson has been heading in the other direction for the past 20 years. Most public schools are poorly rated, streets and other infrastructure are in disrepair, and local TV stations regularly report horrible crimes in the city. The population has declined sharply as more residents have moved to the suburbs. Many services have moved with them.
To begin rebuilding, Jackson must convince people it's a city worth living in. Police protection must be enhanced until crime drops, and the culture that encourages low-income unwed motherhood must be changed.
Improvements have occurred in larger cities — New York City being the most obvious example. So it can happen in Jackson, too, but it will take more bipartisan political will, along the lines of what Lumumba and Barbour discussed, to start it.
Vicksburg (Miss.) Post on persistence pays off in dollars:
A progress report with a vision seems to be what Mayor George Flaggs Jr. gave members of Congress from Mississippi on Wednesday.
It's just a start, but as past trips to Washington, D.C. by local officials have proven, persistence goes a long way.
Flaggs wants to sell the idea that programs at federal facilities like the Engineer Research and Development Center can be a jumping-off point for economic development. No specifics have been made available but the pieces are out there — the myriad testing and experiments for the Department of Defense on and off the battlefield could spur more defense-oriented private business. A number of small businesses in Vicksburg and satellites of large outfits live off contract work at ERDC. Having a few more of those in town couldn't hurt, what with the high cost and failure rate of startups in the private sector as a whole these days. Keep the idea on your lips, Mr. Mayor, even in broad theory. It's a good idea.
Flaggs says they want to visit the city. It's standard procedure for senators and members of Congress to say they'll visit their folks on the ground when the little guys want some face time. When they do, let's hope money returns to the conversation in quick order. Why? Until the city's bond rating is restored — something Flaggs and the city's two aldermen must do next year — it can't tackle the arduous task of repairing its aging water and sewer lines. Just the list of infrastructure hotspots that have failed in 2013 is easily a million-dollar problem.
Earlier this week, Greenville Mayor John Cox and other city officials announced they'd received a $600,000 community development block grant to work on its water and sewer lines. Replacing just one segment could cost $1.8 million, according to published reports.
It's obvious to locals who are paying attention where it leaves us. Congressmen Thompson, Nunnelee, Harper and Palazzo need to bring the silk purse to help save the state's buried jewel of a city. Voice your opinion and write your legislators.