by Ron Williams
For more than 11 years I’ve been attending Lowndes County B.O.S. meetings (not all of them, but a fair percentage). Ever since District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders was elected for the first time, Roger Larsen, The Packet, and myself (I wrote a column in the Commercial Dispatch for three and a half years) have usually defended him much of the time. Mainly because, though certainly not always right, he seemed to have the county’s best interest behind his politics a good majority of the time. His District 5 counterpart, Leroy Brooks, is famous for disrupting meetings, famous for his many rants and raves..once even proclaiming, “bar the door” during a particular rowdy meeting of yesteryear. But during Monday’s BOS meeting, it was Harry Sanders that was the disruptive member and was completely out of line!
After a break from the first part of the meeting when the board cleared the agenda to make way for Chris Watson of the Oxford firm of Bridge & Watson, the board was ready to hear from Watson about a possible redistricting plan for the supervisor districts which are required every 10 years right after the Census. Watson brought a sample proposed map as well as data sheets with population pluses and minuses for each district including VAP (voting age population) data and a breakdown of black/white voting population per district. The long and short of it, as far as the U.S. Justice Department is concerned, is to ensure that black citizens maintain two minority-majority districts of the five districts. Those two districts in Lowndes county have long been District 4 (Jeff Smith’s current district) and District 5 (Brooks district for the past 28 years). District 4 is better than 80 percent black and District 5 has been more than 65. Watson’s proposed redrawn districts would have dropped District 5 from 65 percent 10 years ago..to 61 today. Though the district has lost population (particularly black population), the Justice Department doesn’t want minority-majority districts’ percentages to drop to ensure blacks have a fair chance at maintaining elected representation.
So when Watson’s proposal on redrawn district lines included District 5 losing black voting strength, Brooks was having none of it…and rightfully so! Everytime Brooks would explain that the Justice Department was concerned about ensuring 2 minority-majority districts, Sanders would insert his two-cents worth..when he should have just stayed out of it. Why? The best answer is: it’s Leroy Brooks’ district, it’s a historically black majority district and…Brooks was right!
Sanders behavior was so bad and misguided, Brooks’ opponent in the upcoming election, former Packet Editor Roger Larsen, got up and left the meeting in disgust. I caught up with Roger later and he explained his dismay, “When Leroy objected to diluting the black voting strength in District 5, Harry responded like an adolescent” said Roger. “Harry is a friend of mine, which makes a display like this all the more dismaying and embarrassing to me. Leroy is the District 5 incumbent and if he doesn’t want his black percentage diluted into the low 60’s, the Justice Department is unlikely to approve it (the plan as proposed) — especially since District 5 has lost black population over the past ten years and the trend is most likely continuing”. Roger continued, “The logical thing to do is restore District 5’s black component to somewhere above 65%. By the time the 2020 census rolls around, if the current trend continues, the black percentage would probably be back to the low 60’s. I would rather lose the (election) race in a 70% black district than win in a 60% black district. To win the race and then effectively represent the whole district, a person should have support of both blacks and whites. Unlike previous white candidates, I hope to get a substantial number of votes in the Hunt and Union boxes”.
It doesn’t surprise me that Roger Larsen is already taking the high road! Harry might actually learn something by taking Roger’s lead! Let’s hope so.
I’ve heard rumblings from Jackson that our Mississippi Legislators will very likely pass legislation to allow county Boards of Supervisors across the state to get their new districts ‘pre-cleared’ and open up the now closed qualifying deadlines for qualifying for supervisor positions under ‘new’ District Lines which are in compliance with ‘The Voting Rights Act of 1965′.
Senate Kills House Redistricting Plan
I reported last week that District 39 State Representative Jeff Smith had revealed plans that the House would hash out a redistricting plan by last weekend. Smith said the House plan was approved last Friday, March 4th, by a vote of 66-55 in favor of. He said the vote was somewhat partisan but that several Democrats voted against the plan and several Republicans voted yes.
Smith said that the plan seems to add 4 to 6 minority districts (some of which had gone minority by growth and some by attrition). The plan made it to the Mississippi Senate and was ‘tabled’ or killed almost immediately (the House and Senate must approve each others redistricting plans). Smith said that most Legislators say that makes a Bill ‘dead’ but not finally dead. There is a chance the Senate can try and approve their plan and send it to the House for approval and the House would likely insert a plan of its on and possibly wind up in some sort of Conference Committee, or the Legislation ultimately die and be ‘dead, dead, dead”.
Smith said that he’s always felt he’d have a better chance to prevail as House Speaker under the ‘old districts’ or if no change is made because of only losing by one (1) vote in 2008. He also said, to say that the matter has the Legislature in an uproar or turmoil would be an “understatement”. Smith said, “To us that follow or take inspiration from the Scripture….Paul said in the Book of Galations…”let us not grow weary in our well doing for in due season we too shall reap, if we faint not”. New CVB Board Meets For First Time
After the city and county abolished the old 9 member CVB Board and appointed a leaner 6 member board (per state law), the new body gathered for their first meeting Monday afternoon at the S.D. Lee Home. First order of business was to elect a president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer after Columbus Mayor Robert Smith swore-in newest members Dewitt Hicks and Nadia Dale. The 3 county CVB appointees are Mark Castleberry, George Swales and Bart Wise with the city appointing Whillie Byrd, Hicks and newcomer Dale.
Byrd and Swales were nominated for board president and Byrd was elected to the position. Swales was then nominated as vice-president and confirmed. The board chose Bart Wise to be its secretary-treasurer.
The board heard presentations from Main Street Director Amber Murphree Brislin (on behalf of The Market Street Festival) and Leroy Brooks (on behalf of Juneteenth) seeking funds that keep the two annual festivals afloat.
The board also agreed to seek another appraisal for the new CVB building constructed behind the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center. The property had been appraised at $600,000 and cost $734,000, prompting the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors to refuse to sign off on the deal (because legally, they couldn’t). The CVB has already paid $224,000 on the property and will need the higher appraisal to legalize the deal.
Bill Bambach Is A Candidate For District Attorney
Local attorney William (Bill) Bambach threw his hat in the ring and filed to run for District Attorney before the filing deadline. I had failed to mention his candidacy last week because I was unaware of it. Bambach will run as a Democrat and will face incumbent DA Forrest Allgood in the August 2nd primary. Attorney Steve Wallace has also filed for the position, but as a Republican will run unopposed in the primary and will face the winner of the Bambach/Allgood primary race in the November general election.
Rumors were abound, last week, that incumbent Allgood had filed as an independent instead of a Democrat. Not sure how that one started, but I had talked with Allgood by phone last Tuesday night (filing deadline day) and he confirmed that he was running as a Democrat, as he always has. It was confirmed by a visit to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website.
Primary Races Presents Problems For Voters Who Like To Crossover Party Lines
It happens every election period. It’s surprising how many voters still don’t realize how you have to follow party lines during primary races. Most voters still vote for the ‘person’ regardless of their party affiliation. But if you have more than one candidate you wish to be loyal too during the election, you’ll have to follow party lines during primary elections (unless the candidate is running as an independent..independents go straight on to the November general election automatically).
When you walk into your polling place on August 2nd to cast your ballot, you’ll have to choose whether to vote Democrat or Republican. As an example: If you want to vote for Democrat candidates Anthony Sanders or Howard Smart, Sr. or incumbent Jeff Smith for District 4 supervisor..and also would like to vote for Republican sheriff’s candidates Bo Harris or Barry Goode or Mike Arledge or Joey Brackin..you can’t do it. You’d either have to cast a ballot for a Democrat sheriff’s candidate or none at all. Loyalties will loom big in this years election. It’ll also apply to any state candidates as well. And the primaries are important..they determine who will go on to the general election as that party’s representative.
And if there is a runoff in any of the county or state primary elections (meaning at least 3 candidates of a party are running and no candidate gets a 50 percent majority), when you go back to vote 3 weeks later, you must remain bound to the party (Democrat or Republican) you voted in the first primary.
This is why if you like to vote for the ‘person’ and care less about party affiliation, we either need open primaries, or we need to remove party affiliation for any candidates for public office who are not either lawmakers or policymakers (lawmakers and policymakers would be county supervisors, state senators and representatives, governors, etc.). Just about all the county elected positions don’t need party affiliation.
I also hear an argument against this logic from time to time. I’ve heard, “I disagree with you…I want to know whether my sheriff supports legal abortion or not”. But abortion and other such issues are issues that a sheriff cannot do anything about, so why would their views on it be important? This would also apply to justice court judges, circuit clerks. chancery clerks, constables, coroners, tax assessors/collectors, supt of education etc..
And then you have that silly electoral college in presidential elections…but yet we call our process democratic…
District 4 Supervisor Candidate Fired:
Anthony Sanders, a candidate who had filed to run for the District 4 supervisor seat, was fired last week by the county. Sanders drivers license had been suspended and, as Lowndes County Road Manager Ronnie Burns explained, “his job description included driving county vehicles and deliveries and you can’t work for the county when your drivers license is suspended”. The Board of Supervisors voted on the matter at their Monday meeting, with District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith abstaining from the vote. (Jeff was correct in doing so considering Sanders is an opponent for his supervisor seat).
Former GTPDD Director Rudy Johnson Running for Oktibbeha Sheriff
Former Golden Triangle Planning & Development District Director Rudy Johnson is running for Oktibbeha County sheriff as a Republican. Johnson will be the lone Republican on the ballot sending him to the November general election to face the winner of the Democrat Primary winner. The primary will take place on August 2nd and the candidates are longtime incumbent Sheriff Dolph Bryan (since 1976), former Highway Patrolman Steve Gladney, Jessie Oden and Charlie Sanders.Ron Williams can be contacted email@example.com