Wednesday, May 25, 2011
My 25, 2011
The Jackson Free Press has often agreed with Sen. John Horhn over the years, and we're finding that new Ward 1 City Councilman Quentin Whitwell can be a breath of fresh air out of north Jackson on many issues.
However, they are both wrong on a concern vital to Jackson: The city should not agree to allow a commission potentially containing non-Jackson residents to develop a master plan about how a proposed 1-cent sales-tax increase to fund infrastructure would be distributed.
This should not be an issue. We wish Sen. Horhn had led an effort in the Legislature away from this slap in the face at the capital city. We have a responsible mayor (whom Horhn ran against), and we have a city council that represents the taxpayers of Jackson. It is an insult to all of us to attach strings on our local tax increase that allow a "local chamber" to appoint business owners who may not live in Jackson into roles that could cast deciding votes for a master plan on using the funds.
We can understand that Whitwell wants to get on with the tax increase (which he says his supporters oppose). We also know that Whitwell is a lobbyist (his "constituent office in Ward 1" lists his Meadowbook Strategies office number on http://www.quentinwhitwell.com) whose clients do not necessarily represent the best interests of all Jacksonians (his 2011 lobbyist clients include payday lenders Cash in a Flash and Advantage Capital Partners, per the secretary of state's office).
That is, Whitwell's support base may skew him away from a wise solution on an important debate about the mayor and the city retaining a level of "local control" and a semblance of independence from the kinds of businesses that Whitwell is willing to represent before the Legislature.
There is an easy fix, and it's called unity. The Chamber does not have to fulfill the Legislature's wish that it skew this commission away from the best interests of the entire city of Jackson. That chamber—which the Jackson Chamber is a part of—should behave responsibly and give the mayor the authority to appoint those commission members as he has requested.
History provides context for this short-sighted and brazenly political move. Since Jackson became a majority African American city (as a result of white flight), the state has tried to force a backward paternalism on our (black) leaders. With a mayor like Harvey Johnson Jr.—a man who wisely stays the course on ensuring that resources are spread beyond the special interests in Ward 1 and the suburbs—our city is perfectly capable of making these kinds of decisions. It is insulting, and perhaps worse, to try to force the state's silly mandate on the capital city.
The antiquated games should stop. The Chamber should do the right thing and agree to work with the mayor, not against Jackson.
Seantor Horhn and the legislaturehave done a good job.