CityBuzz [10.4.06]

'Allen and His Loony Squad'

Former JFD Assistant Chief Tony Davis got free rein at the Jackson Advocate two weeks ago in a vitriolic column describing Council President Ben Allen's "hidden agenda for the city of Jackson." In the column, Davis called Allen a "pick-pocket racist," who hates other races but still wants their support. Davis recently resigned after he demanded written substantiation of firefighter complaints made to the JFP. The fire department suspended five firefighters for failing to comply, but Mayor Frank Melton soon returned them to duty. It was Davis who got the boot.

Davis accused Allen of trying "for years" to terminate his employment because of Davis' "personal friendship" with Interim JFD Chief Todd Chandler. Davis charges that Allen manipulated other council members to write an "illegal" letter to Melton demanding his dismissal. Davis vowed to take legal action against Allen and any other council member who signed the letter.

Davis also accused Allen and his "loony squad" of deliberately neglecting black neighborhoods. His diatribe defies summary: "Why did Ben Allen and his loony squad vote against passing ordinances confiscating and destroying any dwelling that is used to lure young children in the drug world or when these children are being forced to have sex with adults to support their drug addictions and the chances of them spreading diseases and committing crimes? (sic!) It's very simple; it's in the African American communities. Allen's agenda is let them commit genocide as long as its stay (sic) in their neighborhoods."

Allen didn't care to comment when called by the JFP.
— Brian Johnson

Policing the Police

Jackson citizens and leaders of the Mississippi American Civil Liberties Union gathered at the Eudora Welty library for a People's Crime Summit on Oct. 2. Attendees seemed excited about the possibility of establishing a CopWatch program or Civilian Police Review Board.

"Poorly trained officers who don't know the law are actually a detriment to the city," said Brent Cox, the ACLU's public education coordinator.

According to a vignette from the video "These Streets are Watching," which was shown at the meeting, police know they're not supposed to violate citizens' rights, but an overwhelming number of these violations happen while no one seems to be watching.

Programs such as CopWatch call for holding police officers accountable for their actions, but they demand civic engagement from members of the community.

Sheila Bedi, the director of the Youth Justice Project and president of the ACLU, said that citizens "shouldn't have to choose between being safe, and being free."

A Civilian Police Review Board would help improve "relationships between police and the community," explained Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the Mississippi ACLU.

In some cities, members of the review board are appointed by City Council, while some cities appoint members based on the community's precinct.
— Natalie A. Collier

Stealing From Peter

On Oct. 2, Hinds County supervisors approved a measure to use funds for emergency 911 service to lease 15 new vehicles for the sheriff's department, according to The Clarion-Ledger. The following day, supervisors reversed their decision based on information from the attorney general's office, which found that supervisors cannot raid the 911 fund to pay for vehicles. On Friday, the county's E-911 Commission recommended that supervisors raise fees on phone service from 80 cents a month to $1 for residential phones and from $1.60 a month to $2 for business phones. The commission says the increases will generate an additional $250,000.
— Brian Johnson

Lott Accuses Democrats of Abuse

"They better stop this. This will be the last one, or there will be retribution," Sen. Trent Lott said after Senate Democrats used an Appropriations Committee room to hold a hearing on the Iraq War.

According to a Sept. 26 story in The Hill, Lott accused Democrats of abusing the system by going outside the ordinary committee process. However, Lott may have fellow Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran to blame. Cochran is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and he controls the Dirksen Building room that Democrats used for the hearing.

Meanwhile, Democrats brushed off the threat of retribution from Lott, saying they'll take their hearings on the road. "The administration won't talk straight, and the congressional majority won't hold them accountable," Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said. "We're going to try."
— Brian Johnson

A Trailer By Any Other Name

Gov. Haley Barbour announced he was calling another special legislative session, which will begin Oct. 5, to pass reductions of taxes on modular homes. The proposed tax cut, which would reduce the taxes on a typical modular home from $6,000 to $4,000, was considered during the August special session. The Senate passed the measure unanimously, but it was killed in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Dowdy said that Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority continue to drag their feet helping Katrina victims. Dowdy criticized Barbour and the MDA for doing little with $3 billion in Community Block Grant Program money designed to help Hurricane Katrina victims whose homes suffered flood damage. "Here we are more than a year after the hurricane, and just 242 checks have been mailed to Katrina victims," Dowdy told the Associated Press. "This is a program that Barbour is administering. … It seems to me that we should be a lot further along with the program than we are now. These people need help and they needed it months ago."
— Brian Johnson


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