Monday Morning Water Cooler Talk for November 28, 2011

As 2011 comes to a conclusion, it appears that the world, and not just America, is showing a need to grow and to expect better from our governments. Egypt and indeed, the entire Middle East have been shaken to the core. Will the new leaders be better than those they replaced? It is hard to imagine anyone being worse than Gaddafi, but it’s not out of the question; it could happen. It is irresponsible to think otherwise.

In America, Occupy Wall Street and many other regional Occupy movements have spread across the country. Whether people agree or disagree with the movement, it has gotten the attention of our leaders. Social unrest usually accompanies times of economic upheaval and uncertainty. Over the past several years, America has been barely dodging the blow of economic collapse.

The stress of easy credit and the ease of house buying finally caught up with us. Like all good times, it had to come to an end. Then the bills came due. Not just for the command man but for big business as well. Who would ever have thought, the “King of the Automotive World, Chevrolet” would be reduced to needing a government handout until it happened?   George W. Bush bailed out General Motors with a $9.4 billion government subsidy from TARP, generally reserved for financial institutions.  Then General Motors was bailed out a second time with $16.6 billion dollars by President Barack Obama!  Truly, this is the “Heartbeat of America”.  They may manufacture great automobiles, but their financial struggles have been everything but “Like A Rock”.  To add insult to injury, just one month later, General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy!  For more on this fiasco, read here.  General Motors is now a national institution, as the US Government owns 60% and Canada owns 12%.

In Lowndes County, business has been good. The Columbus-Lowndes Development LINK, led by Joe Max Higgins, has led the way bringing big corporations to our community. Unfortunately, and much to the chagrin of Joe Max, many of the leaders of the organizations and people who arrived chose to live in Starkville instead of Columbus or our county.

When talking to people in the know, we hear that they believe the problem lies at the feet of the City Fathers. Columbus, for better or for worse, is seen as dirty, mismanaged and wracked with crime. And, the real rub: no one in the City has the ability or the control to staunch the bleeding.

Not one elected official has the merit or the moral authority to tell us that everything is moving in the right direction or that the city has a plan. So far, the Mayor is not a person who is going to hold news conferences regularly or give updates on the progress of the City. His style of micromanaging, combined with a foreman’s mentality, leaves the City roiling in great unrest.

When we need leadership, it is not there. No one has shown the ability to rise above the fray. Mr. Karriem has ideas, but as long as he has a radio program that is seen as divisive, he has no moral authority with many people in the community — white or black.

Good leaders would bring people back together and in harmony. Leaders must show poise under pressure. They have to speak and write with eloquence to get people moving forward; they have to demonstrate that they are trustworthy and merit their positions.

Even the LINK has come under attack by members of the CCVB. At last Wednesday’s meeting, members threatened each other with accusations of ethics violations and investigations. There is a lingering suspicion that LINK members who resigned from the LINK board did so only because, as their accuser implied, these individuals’ first job is to direct maximum CCVB funds to the LINK, and there already is more money than ever accruing from the hotel and restaurant tax that funds the CCVB in the first place.

Such accusations cannot be ignored. The problems with the CCVB have been going on for years. From paying a lawyer seated on their own Board to perform legal services, to naming Nancy Carpenter as the new director without an open search, this organization has been painted as playing fast and loose with rules and money. This is an accurate image and destroys all credibility.

One recently appointed member of the Board hasn’t been mentioned by anybody in the media; he receives big grants from the CCVB for his business “Grilling on the River”. Harvey Myrick is a good person and was one of the few members on the board who showed any professionalism last Monday. However, it will only be a matter of time before he will be dragged into all the conflict of interest and ethics talk and his program called into question.

To make matters worse, one bad reputation erodes the integrity of each individual on the Board.  Every member of the CCVB Board runs the risk of losing all credibility, even within their regular jobs. It is never good on any level to be seen as unable to conduct business professionally. Anyone on the Board who tries to steer clear of the confusion also suffers. They may not know how to rein in the members who are out of control. Since most people paint with a broad brush, everybody gets tarnished.

Today, more than ever, people are paying attention to their local governments, and they don’t like what they see. They want the same standards that they are expected to uphold in their jobs and businesses to apply to those who are supposed to lead and show leadership qualities. They know that over the past few years this is not happening here. Those in power obviously believe they can play by their own special rules and do not have to comply with society’s rules.

Unfortunately for Lowndes County and the City of Columbus, many leaders think no one is watching and that no one sees the scams. However many people in our community know that the circus has come to town…and they are just waiting for it to leave.

Joseph B. St. John

A/K/A Mr. MoJo Rising

Notes: Extra love to the Tennessee Williams festival: not only did they have a successful event, they have money left over for next year’s event. Every other organization should be held to this standard.

Thumbs up to the Columbus-Lowndes Political Action Committee: CLOPAC is footing the bill for the City of Columbus to interview candidates for Chief of Police by paying travel costs for them to come to town. Once again, the Mayor and City Council have turned a simple task into a three-ring circus of ineptitude. The selection process has been nothing but a disaster since day one.

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One Comment on “Monday Morning Water Cooler Talk for November 28, 2011”

  1. John Dorroh Says:

    You are right! Severl years ago when SeverStahl (sp???) opened, I played racquetball with five different individuals who had moved into the area. These guys were from all over the world. Out of the five, only one decided to live in Columbus. The rest, as you pointed out, went to Starkville, or to neighnorhoods between Columbus and Starkville.
    It shouln’t be that way. Columbus has always had the potential to be the leading city in this area, but it has never lived up to its potential. Our population decrease should be an eye-opener and a concern to do something about it. But no, nothing positive happnes. So sad.


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