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Federal Judges Set Redistricting Plan for Mississippi Congressional Districts

Ron Williams

Federal judges on Monday released a plan to update Mississippi’s four congressional districts. The new plan decreases the number of split counties from eight to four. The new plan still divides Oktibbeha County into 2 districts, but is better than a previous plan that would have split it 3 ways. “Notwithstanding the movement or potential movement of 146,000 persons, we made as few changes to the current districts as possible,” the three federal judges wrote. “Some changes were inevitable”
Mississippi has a population that’s 37 percent black. It has one majority-black district in the Delta, represented by Democrat Bennie Thompson. The other three districts are majority-white and are represented by Republicans. Redistricting was ordered into federal court after state lawmakers failed to come up with an agreeable map. Districts must be updated each decade after Census results are announced. The majority-black 2nd District lost population between 2000 and 2010, so it had to expand geographically to take in more people. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has said he will not oppose the plan. Congressional candidates’ qualifying deadline is Jan. 13 for the March 13 primaries. Hosemann said the judges’ plan should not need U.S. Justice Department clearance. The department must approve any changes legislators make to Mississippi election laws to ensure the changes are fair to minorities.

Brooks Visits CVB Board

During Leroy Brooks’ presentation to the CVB board, Monday, on behalf of his representation of the Alliance for Festival Organizers, Brooks talked about funding for his Juneteenth festival and other black-organized festivals. Brooks made a comment saying that Columbus is, “more polarized than anybody wants to think.”
CVB board member Mark Castleberry pointed out that West Point sponsors their annual Prairie Arts Festival. Noting that West Point is smaller than Columbus and has a larger black population, Castleberry said the festival raises money each year and actually gives back to the West Point community. By way of playground equipment for parks, carpet for the West Point Civic Center and $200,000 for an arts center.
“Dynamic, interaction and political environment (in West Point) is totally different from here (Columbus)”, Brooks responded. “We are a polarized community and we don’t talk about it and we like to perpetuate it. There have been men and women of enlightened minds that have worked together to make West Point what it is.”
The one thing that West Point does is…it doesn’t have a festival or event every month. Prairie Arts is a longstanding event that has been successful because of its broad-based appeal and hard work. And, the entire community gets behind it. There are no other events being added every other year that floods the market to take one part of the community here…or one part of the community there. They work together, as Brooks correctly pointed out.
One thing that Brooks and Castleberry didn’t say is…it’s really a matter of simply having far too many festivals for such a small community as Columbus. And i’m totally in favor of festivals and events that bring tourist and visitors to our area. Always have been. But when you’ve got this many events asking for more and more dollars annually from the CVB, it gets to the point where the well will eventually run dry. It’s a pattern similar to when you have too many farmers in an area growing the same crop. It floods the market and brings prices down. Same thing happened in the catfish industry. Many catfish farmers have had to go out of business.
The same can be said for festivals. Too many are asking for funding from the CVB, which is funded by the special 2% sales tax added to certain local restaurants. This is something the CVB board appears to be trying to get a handle on. On numerous occasions at CVB board meetings, i’ve heard talk of funding strains caused by more and more festivals and events being added to the list of those seeking funding. Some of these festivals and events draw locally and not necessarily from out town, which makes it less likely that people will stay in our hotels and eat at our restaurants. The amount of money asked for by a festival must be justified by its draw. That can truly and fairly only be measured by the amount of money generated by the festival in terms of people attending from out of town. Our hotels, restaurants and retail business’s will be able to tell us if an event is drawing people from out of town.
Mr. Brooks mentioned that events such as Market Street Festival has broad support and other funding mechanisms. That’s because of lots of hard work from people who have marketed the festival and made its appeal broadbased. And also a lot of hard work from volunteers who give their time and effort to help an entire community, not just a segment of it. There’s certainly been hard work from those at Juneteenth as well, no doubt. But several of the festivals that have come along in the past few years are gonna have to show their worth to the community in terms of revenue generated back to the community, or possibly face less funding from the CVB.
As Brooks said about the polarization of our area and that no one wants to talk about it…same goes for funding issues for lesser known festivals, events and other activities wanting grant funds from the CVB. No one wants to say it, but the well will eventually run dry.

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



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