Wednesday, October 18, 2006
It's official. Parkway Properties announced its specific plans Monday to build The Pinnacle in the green space beside 1 Jackson Place. After a shaky start with law firm Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens & Cannada and accounting firm Horne CPA getting seduced away to Ridgeland, the $39 million project is again underway. The 175,000 square-foot, eight-floor tower will feature glass-encased walls, its own secure parking area and will host businesses like Watkins, Ludlum, Winter & Stennis, P.A, East Group Properties; Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC; and Trustmark National bank.
The structure will be just one part of the $50 million Jackson Place, set to join Farish Street and the Capitol Green Project as seats of downtown revitalization.
Tommy Shepherd, CEO For Watkins, Ludlum, Winter & Stennis, said his firm's reason for staying in Jackson was a matter of convenience. "We've been here for 101 years now. Our client base includes a lot of state agencies … so it's important for us to be close to those agencies, the sheriff's department, the Legislature, the gaming commission and other agencies. If they're all based downtown, it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to move outside of this central business district," said Shepherd, adding that the city's higher taxes (a common argument for relocation to the suburbs) have no impact on him.
"I'm building a house in the city of Jackson right now, and I'm not concerned about the high tax. I think the benefits of being in the city outweigh the other considerations. It's close to our church, where we work and where we shop."
— Adam Lynch
Dead Man Walking
As the Jackson Free Press goes to press, Bobby Glen Wilcher is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. Wilcher, who was sentenced to death for the 1982 stabbing murders of Katie Belle Moore and Velma Odell Noblin, came within minutes of death on July 11, when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution to consider an appeal from Wilcher. The court denied that appeal on Oct. 2.
In May, Wilcher dropped his appeals, but a month later, he asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate his appeals. When the Supreme Court rejected Wilcher's appeal, he asked U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate for a reprieve for further appeals, on Oct. 5. Wingate denied that motion last Saturday, saying that the court "will not be held hostage by the vacillations and whims of a death row inmate," according to the Associated Press. Wilcher filed another appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, but the court had not ruled on that appeal as the JFP went to press.
Attorneys for Wilcher, who suffers from bipolar disorder, argue that he was not mentally competent to withdraw his appeals. The courts have so far rejected that argument.
— Brian Johnson
About 56,081 Too Many?
Last Sunday, Clarion-Ledger Executive Editor Ronnie Agnew bragged about his paper's online forums, saying, "Some 60,000 of you have used our online forums, now called StoryChat, to offer comments on (our health) series." But as of that day, there were only 3,919 registered users on the CL's forums, and you have to be registered to post.
In the Ledge's recent nightmare switch to a new forum that doesn't allow users to link outside the Ledge—and which lost some of the more intriguing Web history there, including reader criticism of their TDN scheme and the thread that revealed their food plagiarism—they say they transferred all registered users over. So then, how do 3,919 users become "60,000 of you" commenting on that one story? -
— Donna Ladd
End of Round One
Chancery Judge Denise Owens ordered the city to pay nearly $13,000 in fees to The Clarion-Ledger last Tuesday, apparently bringing that paper's suit against the city over public records to a close. It may not be long before the city finds itself in legal trouble once more, however, judging from comments Mayor Frank Melton made to City Council last week.
"Everything we send in that's a positive for the city, it never gets in print. Yet, our employees have wasted their time putting all this stuff together," Melton said. "It's harassment. There's no question about it." Melton threatened to take the matter to court.
The Public Records Act, which governs how the city must respond to public records requests, does not require media or citizens to report any information they receive, and the city is always free to promote positive information. And it is not up to the government to decide which information the public has the right to.
Council President Ben Allen urged Melton to consult with City Council before "handling" the problem, as he vowed to do last week.
— Brian Johnson
Ain't No Stinkin' Crackhouse
Capital Car Care bookkeeper Helen Hudson said she took personal offense to a quote the JFP ran last week. Mayor Frank Melton, speaking last week to the Capital City Convention Center Commission, insisted that Capital Car Care would be torn down because it was a blight next to the new Convention Center.
"What are we going to do about Capital Car Care across the street?" Melton asked, adding that it would be torn down regardless of who owned it. He then said, "Can you look in the trunk and bring me my sledgehammer?" Melton's remark was followed by nearly 30 seconds of sustained laughter from the audience.
Melton's joke about his demolition of the duplex at 1305 Ridgeway Street in August (for which he faces multiple felony indictments) did not amuse Hudson.
"We never owned that property, even when we were there. We leased it," said Hudson, speaking from the business' new location on 1410 Hwy. 80, in Jackson. "Some of the remarks that he's been making about all these run-down buildings and crack houses and all that—we don't want to be grouped in with that. We're a legit business, and that statement's bad for business. You wouldn't want to be (grouped in with that), either."
— Adam Lynch
Hurry Up, Already
Fueled by years of impatient waiting for the blossoming of Farish Street, Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes submitted a resolution this week asking the Jackson Redevelopment Authority to terminate the city's contract with Performa Entertainment Real Estate if Performa fails to start construction on the Farish Street Entertainment District within 28 days.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon expressed similar concern and inserted a discussion item regarding the status of the Farish Street Historic District. Since becoming mayor, Melton has threatened to sever the city's contract with Performa, complaining that the company—which oversaw the renaissance of Memphis' Beale Street in the 1990s—has been taking its sweet time in moving dirt on Farish Street.
Performa CEO John Elkington says the council can stop worrying. "Everything's going great," Elkington said Tuesday. "We closed a loan with Trustmark (National Bank) a few weeks ago. Now we're getting ready to close another set of loans. We got that deal with Leland Speed finally worked out, and on Oct. 31, we're going to unveil the whole plan."
Elkington said Performa Vice President of Development Cato Walker was holding meetings with contractors and architects in Jackson and confirming that the state's historical society approved the construction. He said Jackson residents will see "visible construction in the next few weeks."
At the Tuesday night meeting, Stokes withheld the resolution without saying why.
— Adam Lynch
No Settlement for Sutton
Earlier this week, Deputy City Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen, told The Clarion-Ledger that the city would offer to pay for repairs to the duplex at 1305 Ridgeway Street owned by Jennifer Sutton. Mayor Frank Melton currently faces five felony indictments for allegedly demolishing the home in August.
The Clarion-Ledger reported that Sweet was interested in a settlement. "I think my client would be very happy (with a settlement). She's just a lady who works every day. The city shouldn't make her go to court," Sweet said. Apparently, Teeuwissen's offer to repair the house was not what Sweet had in mind. "It's not an offer. It's really a threat," he told The Clarion-Ledger in a later story.
— Adam Lynch
Guarding the Vote
The non-partisan Mississippi Center for Justice, with help from the NAACP, the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association and other supporters, is again offering the Election Protection Program this year—and looking for volunteers. The program, which got help from more than 200 Mississippi lawyers in the 2004 elections, assured that every voter looking to exercise his or her right to vote got to do so in the last national election.
They're back this year, and any Jackson resident looking to volunteer their efforts to help voters get to the polls and protect the polling places from voter intimidation and other forms of political malfeasance can call 601-352-2269, or 1-800-866-VOTE, or visit http://www.nationalcampaignforfairelections.org/pages/election _protection by Oct. 26. Any voter with a problem getting to the polls on election day—or suffering some form of disenfranchisement—can call 1-800-866-VOTE to get help.
— Adam Lynch
Southerners Turn on Iraq War
The Bush White House keeps insisting that the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq and should stay the course in Iraq, but there are few Americans left who agree. Support for the war has dropped to a new low of 34 percent in a new CNN poll. Furthermore, support for the war in the South has fallen dramatically, according to a survey by the Institute for Southern Studies. The survey found that 57 percent of southerners now believe invading Iraq was a mistake. When asked how many more soldiers it was worth losing to continue fighting in Iraq, 63 percent of southerners answered zero.
A number of senior Republicans have begun to speak out against the war. Last week, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., broke with the president, telling CBS: "You can see some movement forward, but a lot of movement back. We have to rethink all the options, except any option which says we precipitously pull out, which would let that country fall into a certain civil war at that time, and all of the neighboring countries would be destabilized." Warner heads up the Armed Services Committee.
Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., told CNN: "We need to find a new strategy, a way out of Iraq, because the entire Middle East is more combustible than it's been probably since 1948, and more dangerous. And we're in the middle of it. ... The American people are not going to continue to support, sustain a policy that puts American troops in the middle of a civil war."
Even Bush consigliere James Baker has broken with the president. "Our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run,'" he told ABC News.
Fifty-eight Americans have been killed in Iraq so far this month.
— Brian Johnson