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Market Street Festival Impact

With all the debate in the past year or so with the city, the county, the CVB and other public-funded organizations providing money to our various festivals and events throughout the year – and the long-needed verification of the economic impact on the community – the just-completed 2011 Market Street Festival will have just that this year. Mississippi State University will have an impact report available soon. I’ve long said that MSF is far and away the most successful of our annual events as far as festivals are concerned. Though I have no prior knowledge of any hard numbers, you can bet the impact on the local community is huge.

An example: If $20,000 is giving to a festival (or event) by the CVB, a study will provide economic impact numbers to show how much was given back to the community by way of hotels being filled, local businesses being shopped at, how many out-of-towners came in and spent dollars in our local pubs, restaurants, stores, gas stations and shops.

Main Street Director Amber Murphree Brislin has said that preliminary findings (though not yet confirmed) show an increase of 20% or so in money taken in for the event. It was obvious, Saturday, as I tried to find a parking place nearby the downtown festival area, that this was one of the most successful festivals so far, if not THE best.

The Saturday night concert at The Riverwalk, a first this year, was very successful. As soon as the day’s events downtown shut down Saturday afternoon, a huge crowd of people gathered at The Riverwalk for the concert that featured The Old Memphis Kings, Cherry Lee Mewis & Friends and James ‘SuperChikan’ Johnson. It started at 6:30 and lasted past 11:00 p.m.

Dispatch Touts City Employee Overtime Problem

Sunday’s Commercial Dispatch had articles concerning city employee overtime problems and, in particular, most of that overtime occuring within the Columbus Police Department. The mayor and city council have been discussing the overtime problem for awhile now during council meetings as well as Monday morning department head meetings. In fact, a recent Monday morning department head meeting took place and several councilmen showed up to talk about the overtime problem. The most vocal were Ward 2 City Councilman Joseph Mickens and Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box. Both Mickens and Box questioned Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John with concerns about the overtime of police officers.

The main problem causing police overtime is officers working festivals and events, as well as funerals. And for those who believe that St. John is not aware of the problem, I can tell you that i’ve heard him tell the mayor, the councilmen and department heads over and over that police presence at these events are critical (if officers aren’t there and something happens, heaven forbid). And other than Market Street Festival, most of these festivals and events are being brought forth by Mayor Robert Smith, Councilman Kabir Karriem, Councilman Gene Taylor (The mayors unity picnic, Heritage Festival, etc…) the very ones that are scrutinizing the chief for getting a handle on police overtime. The Dispatch article was correct in pointing out that it’s certainly not the fault of Officers Donnie Elkin or Selvain McQueen (the one’s receiving the most overtime, according to the CD findings).

It needs to be pointed out that lost in all of this is the work of St. John, Fire Chief Ken Moore, Public Works Director Mike Pratt and other police officers, firemen and public works employees who are salaried workers that work extremely long hours with no additional pay. An example is – I’ve seen Pratt out at the crack of dawn at many of these events – and he didn’t leave till well after midnight. This has gone largely unnoticed. Though salaried workers such as these don’t contribute to the overtime problem facing our budget concerns, that fact needs to be pointed out to show they go above and beyond their normal duty hours to work hard for the public and the city.

And while were on the subject of people working hard for practically nothing, let’s give deserved credit to the hundreds of volunteers for the Market Street Festival, Relay For Life and other such events that do tremendous good for people, while these volunteers go largely unnoticed. To those hard-working, unpaid volunteers – a big ol’ Thank You!

Stereotyping The South and Mississippi

It has been happening for years. People from other parts of the country – or even the world – hearing or reading about how life is in the south, and Mississippi in particular. This past weekend two visitors from the U.K. may have a different perspective on the stereotypical thoughts they previously had about Mississippi and the south.

Cherry Lee Mewis, a singer/entertainer from the U.K. (she performed at Fuhgetaboutit and Market Street Festival) and her U.K. bandmember Nick Slater (dobro/guitar) was a guest of the festival committee, the city and Fuhgetaboutit owner Freddie Fields. After performing Friday and Saturday nights, the two overseas visitors had a day and night of pure relaxation Sunday night, provided by Fields. The conversation with Slater often turned to politics and social issues.

“After visiting your city and observing race relations and the wonderful people here…it’s not at all as i had heard” Slater told me Sunday, an apparent victim to the stereotyping. “This is a lovely city with lovely, warm people” he added.

Part of that changed perception can be contributed to the Market Street Festival music committee and Fields. They rolled out the red carpet for the visitors and showed them our classy side. How to treat our visitors. And this was a shining example of how we received the name, ‘The Friendly City’. To live up to expectations associated with that name, we must strive everyday to change that stereotypical perception. People like Amber Brislin, Mike Cooper, Freddie Fields and many others are doing just that. That’s the type of good will that money can’t buy!

State Redistricting Update

State Representative Jeff Smith sent some information on the latest going-ons with state Redistricting. As of Wednesday, the 3-Judge Redistricting panel is expected to rule on the case soon, and the exact makeup of the Legislative Districts in the Golden Triangle area will be known.

Smith also prevailed in an online poll for Speaker Of The House by the Magnolia Report. Smith received more votes than the 7 other candidates combined (he has between 52-53% and has maintained that for the entire poll period on the statewide poll). Smith pointed out, however, that the real poll will be the 122 Legislators when the House convenes in January, 2012.

Kior is having its Opening Gala today (Thursday). Smith said there had been many Kudos for the Legislation assisting the Entrepreneurs in this economic undertaking but that the credit should go to Link Director Joe Max Higgins, the Columbus Light & Water Board, the Supervisors, City Council assistance and the Mississippi Department of Economic Development, with special emphasis on outgoing Executive Director Gray Swoope and his staff.

Smith has also noted that one of the most surprising by-products of this late Spring is the quietness of most of the ‘state-wide’ races (local races also. RW)

Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com

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