Tuesday’s Meetings a Real Story for The Real Story

February 8, 2012


February 7, 2012, should be remembered as the Day the Earth Stood Still in Lowndes County.  In what may appear to be three separate meetings, the entire inside structure of our community was set on its head.  The City of Columbus, which has been frozen out of any progress from economic development, finally had to break down and submit itself to Joe Max Higgins and the LINK machine.

After about 45 minutes of asking a few questions about retail, four members of the City Council (Fred Stewart and Bill Gavin were not in attendance) and the Mayor sat as silently as school children as Joe Max taught them about the cold realities of economic development.  Without a doubt, the 7:30 a.m. show, called by the Mayor and City Council, belonged to the LINK.

Ward Three Councilman Charlie Box started the conversation with questions about retail development.  However, this was the “Joe Show” from the beginning.  He was the leader and the “man.”  Surrounded by the usual suspects of LINK leaders, Board of Supervisor’s President Harry Sanders, Bill Brigham and Jeff Smith, Joe Higgins took control.

After his presentation was about half way through, the true reality came out when Kabir Karriem blurted out the obvious to everyone, “Let’s talk about the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  Elections are 18 months away.”  That’s all you need to know, folks.  This meeting was an attempt to do something to cover their political hides.

The truth is Columbus is not a player in the power triangle of the city, county and the LINK office.  Over the past six months alone, often, no city officials are at any LINK-sponsored events.  The Mayor and Council, other than giving the LINK money, are non-existent.  They are ghosts in a machine long-forgotten.

Joe Max continued to school his students by telling them that by not annexing CAFB, the city has stripped themselves of important numbers such as population, education and income – three of the biggest indicators businesses use to choose a location to place a business.

When Charlie Box countered with the area the city wants to annex, Joe Max made it clear that that area would hinder, not help, with the city’s economic development.  It was clear during the meeting, and pointed out by Joe Max on several occasions, that he had not met with any city officials, with the exception of Ward 2 Councilman Joe Mickens, in a long period of time.

Joe Max even had to school the city officials that this meeting did not need to happen in front of a media circus.  I agreed with him in principle since they are not on the same page, and certain economic deals cannot be discussed in public until a certain time or the deals will be lost.

However, it was disappointing to be referred to as a circus since there was a lack of three rings, no bears and only a few clowns, none of which worked for any media outlets.  With that said, Joe was breathing fire, so maybe in hindsight he was kind of right.

Some very interesting points to take from the meeting:

  • Sales tax for the city is up over $130,000 from this time last year.
  • 10 billion dollars of industry has come to Mississippi and 40 percent of that has come to Lowndes County.
  • 50% of those workers live in Lowndes County, but let’s be honest, very few live in the city of Columbus.
  • More hotels are looking to come to Columbus, but the Gilmer deal is as dead as the inhabitants of Friendship Cemetery.  This eyesore should be the perfect complement to a multi-million dollar soccer complex.
  • We now have more places to buy chicken per-capita than anywhere else in America.  (That’s for you, John)
  • The “it will never be built, so no one will ever come” hotel between Belk’s and Reeds is scaring away the other businesses.  Nothing says failure like a half completed, half-a$$ project.
  • The City of Columbus now has almost two million square-feet of antiquated, unused and almost un-marketable industrial work space.  But, it is alright, we don’t have a plan to solve that problem, either.

The idea of Clay County and West Point joining the Link was also discussed, but other than saying competition is good, no one is grabbing the bull by the horns and asking “how does one company serve two masters?”

But why would they ask that question?   Elections are 18 months away and some folks have just realized that their group has not been invited to “play in any reindeer games.”  And, that ain’t good at voting time.

The meeting ended with Mayor Smith saying he serves at the pleasure of the council and that he does what they ask him.  Everyone smiled….we all love irony.

Later in the day, the Columbus Municipal School District released the following press release:

The oddity of all of this was that while Mayor Robert Smith’s friend, Dr. Del Phillips, was the superintendent, no one said a word.  He was heralded as a champion of education – even when he told the community that as soon as he got a better job, he was outta here.

Now the bad checks are due, 59 people have lost their jobs, and the Columbus Middle School has to be annexed to receive city services.  And, as Del slipped out of town, all was quiet.  Now the school board and Dr. Liddell are left holding the bag.  Regardless of your opinions of her or her board members, just remember where this started.  That’s right boys and girls… with the Mayor’s personal friend, Del.

The 59 individuals given their walking paper had two years or less tenure.  And, the Board stated that the CMSD had already cut $480,000 from this year’s budget.  Let’s see how this plays out in the long run.

The opening of the City Council meeting sealed the deal as to where Columbus stands in the power triangle of the city, county and LINK.  Kabir Karriem asked for a resolution to have Harry Sanders apologize for disparaging remarks he made about the city and their board appointments.  The resolution was passed to write a letter to request the apology.  Everywhere in the world, Harry’s fans laugh.  Instead of letting it go, you tell everyone Harry doesn’t think you know what you’re doing.  This request only drove home the fact that you don’t or you would have let sleeping dogs alone.

But, feel better, campers.  When Charlie Box tried to get board members trained, it was met bitterly by the Mayor, and he accused Charlie of giving in to Harry.  The vote to give appointed board members training was resolved with a 3-3 tie, with Box, Gavin and Karriem asking for board members to get training after they were appointed to their boards.

The mayor disagreed and felt they did not need to be trained and voted NO to the training.  He has obviously never been to a CCVB meeting.
Well, maybe one… when he gets his money to buy catfish for unity.

Mr. Mojo Rising

Note: Police promotions will be discussed in the next article.

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10 Comments on “Tuesday’s Meetings a Real Story for The Real Story”

  1. Ruling People Says:

    Charlie Box is Ward 3, not Ward 2, and Joseph Mickens is Ward 2, not Ward 3.


  2. Berry Hinds Says:

    There are so many topics in this article it is going to require several comments in one.
    First is the obvious, it they are having a meeting with a quorum of a governing body it must be in open session no matter how much a party wants to keep it “QUIET”. Lately there have been comments made about discussions of the CPD performance in executive session. I believe the open meeting law says a department performance is not a “PERSONNEL” performance therefore does not qualify for an executive session topic. The City Council sure hasn’t treated Public Works the same, look at how many times has the Mike Pratt been called to the well at a City Council meeting and grilled about the lack of getting work down that was requested by a City Councilman and the overall performance of the department.
    Training for new board members is an obvious need but certainly should be done by the board to which they are appointed. It is disheartening though to hear a person that is appointed to a board comment they don’t know what that board does or its responsibility. The Board of Supervisors and the City Council should at a minimum prepare a document that goes with the application explaining in a broad sense the purpose of the board, meeting schedule and any special requirements. The applicant should supply enough information in the application that will allow the Supervisors on Council to determine the applicant has an understanding of that information. The governing bodies stifle constituents that would like to serve their community by appointing a person to multiple boards and not allowing new people to grow in service to their community.

    The CMSD announced 59 positions not having contracts renewed. Did they look at possibly offering retirement packages so that people with long tenure in the system that might retire allowing the newer employees the opportunity to remain. Then again this is probably one of those situations that a governmental body cannot do a business practice that industry and business have used to open up position to keep new talent.. There are bound to be energetic bright people with great ideas that will make a difference to the children of our community make a positive impact on our community and our children, that will be lost.

    Now that the Real Story has come out on the School Board finances it is known that the millage has underfunded the school system for several years. Were were out School Board Members then and their financial responsibility to the community and the students. The general public sure had a hard time understanding what they were doing even if attending the meetings. No discussion on an agenda item took place unless it was a recognition of someone. These type of meetings have to stop. The community members, including me, have to start attending these meetings and don’t give up asking questions, requesting information and minutes meetings and ask questions to understand what our governmental bodies are doing.

    Berry Hinds
    Columbus, MS


  3. micheal Says:

    My,MY,My Things can change. (for the worst) Today durning a meeting of the minds at a local bussiness someone said what happen at the City Council last night. Another said there was a problem with what Harry said last week about the City now knowing what or who they are putting on the boards like the cvb. That’s when another person spoke up and said he is just a Sanders. (what ever that means) Then the conviersation turned to how this whole mess looked to a person or persons when were in town reading the front page or reading this on line. Everone had the same opinion that this latest outbreak could only hurt Columbus and help places like Starkville and Tupelo. Some even said they would move if the right opportunity presented itself. The talk turned to what can be done to turn this around. Most thought the elected officials have to change or be replaced. No one thought there was a good chance in any of the officials moving in that direction. That’s when the talk started on who could turn this whole mess around. This type of conduct of our City and County has gone way too far. It has gotten worst in the last year alone. If Columbus is to grow and become the City we want it to be then we as voters have to make that change. There is not just one or two that have to be replaced, but the majority of them need to go. Clean house. Sometimes you have to burn the barn to get rid of the rats. This can not continue or we will look like Greenville or Greenwood. Call on the ELECTED OFFICIALS and demand that they conduct this in the order it should be. It can and must be changed.


  4. John Says:

    “10 billion dollars of industry has come to Mississippi and 40 percent of that has come to Lowndes County.”

    Amazing! Most people do not get the opportunity to read articles this useful surrounding local politics, surely most communities do not operate this poorly. I don’t claim to know anything about politics just find it interesting. 40% of 10 Billion? Wow! that could support a lot of nice things. where’s the leaders with a vision?

    Thanks! Real Story Publishing…… I say if we use this information in the right way things will one day turn around. I say sooner than later.


  5. micheal Says:

    We need more men like Berry Hinds to step up and run for office. Go for it Berry. You got my vote


  6. gary Says:

    The Real Truth – no one gives a s— ! Sad


  7. Helen Willis Says:

    We have talked about a lot of things , lets talk about Columbus ? We need to stay on the Mayor and city council About local Jobs people! We have lost almost every Plant in the city limits in the last ten yrs! Yes they are building at the Industrial park but those are shared with others towns and communities, Also people who are transfered. We need plants in our town! For many reasons, and not just minimum wage jobs! They are those who, have no way or can’t drive that far, or have families to feed and can’t go to the VoTec for training and then your talking 15 miles one way? We have people in Town who want work ,can work and will work! GOOD people! give us the jobs and all will improve this town. We have shown that many times, They need to keep our town from dying a slow death! and yet when we have lost a plant it’s OH WELL There goes another one.”” Guess it “s the Economy”” and yet other towns like Tupleo and Starkville are growing by leaps and bounds.


  8. tommy Says:

    Thank you Helen. I’m glad other people can see Columbus needs strong leaders. We have a bunch of Baffoons running the town. They want to blame it on someone else. We all need to get out and vote this next election. Yes – Robert Smith CAN BE BEAT ! If peoplr voted on the records of these city officals then they would all be gone. It’s our falt we don’t have better city goverment. Tell everyone you know to vote. Remember you can vote early. Take the time to learn when, where and how to vote. It is up to YOU (the people ) to make this change. You must have the mind set that it can get better. We need good people to run for office. Take a look at what you have to choose from. Now you get the picture. The County is doing good because they have the money. Without the money they would be much like the City. VOTE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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