Warning: I'm sort of stretching these metaphors. It was just my way of combining several topics into one article.
Forks: Thursday night, I attended a meeting regarding the Forks of the Road. The City of Natchez owns the Forks of the Road site and would like to transfer it to the Natchez Historical Park, which would like to have it. However, since the Natchez Historical Park is part of the federal government, it's not that simple. First, there must be a study (surprise, surprise), which is anticipated to take about a year. The study is called the Boundary Adjustment Study - only the federal government could come up with such a convoluted name. The meeting Thursday (called a Scoping Meeting) was the first step in that study. It was an opportunity for the community to communicate its goals for the site. There were about 30 people in attendance, both black and white. There were no Aldermen present. The Mayor was there, as this is a priority of his. Because of a death in his family, he had to leave early, but City Grants Director Brett Brinegar was there. There were some very eloquent and emotional remarks. If you would like to comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The next step is draft recommendations from the consultants, after which there will be opportunity for more public input. The Natchez Democrat had an editorial on Wednesday urging us not to rush the Forks project. I don't think they have anything to worry about.
Spoons. On Wednesday, I attended the Working Session of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, where they discussed the much delayed City Budget. I would have liked to have used the metaphor of knives, indicating they were carving a creative budget. However, spoons seemed more appropriate, since they were just scooping in the money. I have been involved in developing countless budgets in my life, but none was like this one. There was not even a calculator in the room - much less a spreadsheet program.
Basically, this appeared to be their strategy. They started with the expenditures from last year. Then they added the items they had already voted on, mainly the raises for themselves, the firefighters, and police. They subtracted this from the money they expect to receive. This left them with a little over half a million dollars to spend. In the previous Working Session, the Mayor asked them to prepare a list of their priorities. He started with his list. Then each Aldermen presented their list, based on the needs/wants of their wards and/or committees. The Mayor kept track of the projects and their costs and calculated the total cost on a flip chart. That was it. (For a report on which projects were requested, see this article in the Democrat.) Since the total cost was more than the revenues available, they will eliminate projects at their next meeting. What was most amazing to me was how little information the Aldermen had about their projects. They would ask questions of City Clerk Donnie Holloway , who would have to run down to his office to get an answer. I feel certain the Department heads could have done a better job of presenting these requests. Also, there apparently was no evaluation of expenditures to see if they are appropriate. Aldermen Gray did ask for a 3% across the board reduction, but no one paid any attention. I hope after the next election there is at least one person elected with budget experience.
Plates. Also on Thursday night was a meeting of a group interested in creating a college of art and design in Natchez modeled after the one in Savannah GA. Check out this excellent article describing the economic benefits, where you can see why it would be such a good match for Natchez. What an exciting idea! There were close to 100 people there, so lots of people are energized over this concept. How's that for a big helping of dessert for your plates? I was unable to attend, since I was at the Forks meeting. However, I have asked someone to write a report for me to post here.
Glasses. Natchez has created the newest chapter of Drinking Liberally - the first in Mississippi, although there are 172 chapters nationwide. What is Drinking Liberally? Basically, it's an informal, progressive social group. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don't need to be a policy expert and this isn't a book club - just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration, and hang out in an environment where it's not taboo to talk politics. You can raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Join us at our first meeting on Wednesday, November 8 at 7 pm (when we will hopefully be celebrating election results from Tuesday) at the Natchez Historic Inn at 201 North Pearl in the glassed in room off the courtyard. All liberals invited!
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