Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Be Careful When You Vote for Sheriff - Part II

Well, I’ve definitely stirred a hornet’s nest. Have you read the comments to Part I? Ronny Brown must be running scared – his supporters have accused Charles Woods of everything except sleeping with this sister. Maybe that’s coming next.

So many of the comments have to do with Tommy Ferrell that you might think he was running for Sheriff. Tommy Ferrell is the former Sheriff, who was defeated by Ronny Brown in the last election. I haven’t asked Tommy if he is supporting Charles Woods, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he is – since he knows first hand how Ronny runs his elections. However, I can tell you for sure that he is not involved in the Charles Woods campaign. This election is between Charles Woods and Ronny Brown and has nothing to do with Tommy Ferrell.

Last week, I told you why I could never support Ronny Brown for Sheriff. Now, let me tell you why I like Charles Woods. When he graduated from the Natchez Adams County Public Schools, he signed up to defend his country – which was not an fun thing to do in those days. They say the Army is a good training experience for youngsters, and in this case, that turned out to be true. Charles served as a policeman in the Army and fell in love with law enforcement - and he’s been doing it ever since. When he was discharged from the Army, he went to work for the New Orleans Sheriff’s Department. He then moved to California, where he worked for Lockheed and a local police department. All along, he continued his training in law enforcement.

As so many Natchezians do, he came home in 1993 and joined the Natchez Police Department. He started as a patrol officer, which he still does when he is needed. He went on to become the Crime Prevention Officer and Public Relations Officer. He has coordinated the Miss Lou Crimestoppers and the Citizens Police Academy. In addition, he worked with TRIAD, a senior citizens support organization, and coordinated over 30 neighborhood watch groups.

As you can see, Charles Woods has plenty of experience in real law enforcement, which has taught him several important lessons. One is that you have to enforce the law fairly and equitably, but with compassion and respect for all. He’s learned the importance of preventing crime before it occurs. He knows that working with the citizens on a daily basis is key to effective law enforcement. He also knows that he is only as good as his employees, and he will have only professional, trained officers. Finally, he’s well aware that he is funded through taxpayers’ hard earned money, and he will spend it frugally and well.

If you want a Sheriff that knows how to use his brain and not just his brawn, if you want a truly professional and experienced Sheriff, if you want a Sheriff with a heart, if you want a fair Sheriff that will serve all the citizens of the county, and if you want a Sheriff who will watch how he spends your money, then you should vote for Charles Woods.

UPDATE: Did you see this article in the Natchez Democrat?
Local biofuel developer John Rivera is being sued for fraud, and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office is having trouble presenting him with papers.
If you look at Ronny Brown's Campaign Finance Reports, you'll see that John Rivera gave him $5000 and also allegedly paid for that big party on the Bluff. Do you suppose this financial support had anything to do with Brown not being able to find Rivara? Do you suppose he had any trouble finding him to pick up the donation? Hmmm.
“Hopefully, we can get this worked out the first of next week,” Brown said.
Yeah - after the election.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Be Careful When You Vote for Sheriff

If you haven’t committed a crime or been the victim of one, you may not be aware there are some serious problems in the Sheriff’s Office today. Let me start by telling you why I got interested in this race.

A friend of mine served on a jury for a significant murder case. When the trial was over, this friend was absolutely livid and called to tell me we had to have a new Sheriff. Apparently, the work done on this case by the Sheriff’s Office was so shoddy that a person possibly guilty of murder got off scott free. That is pretty serious stuff!

As I looked into it, it became apparent that the problem was INEXPERIENCE – they’re just plain incompetent. When he became Sheriff, Ronny Brown had no law enforcement experience. He claimed he did, but he just worked in Parole and Probation, which, I’m sorry, is definitely not law enforcement.

So what did this inexperienced Sheriff do right after he was elected? Fired most of the experienced, competent staff and replaced them with his buddies. After all, loyalty to him was more important than any knowledge or experience. This was the first not smart thing he did.

Ronny hadn’t been in office a year when a prisoner died while in his custody. Her parents have filed a federal law suit against him, and people say they have a good chance of winning some big bucks. Guess who’ll pay for that? We will, as taxpayers.

That’s not the only cost to taxpayers. Ronny spent more than any Sheriff ever, mostly in administrative costs. So far he’s spent about a million and half dollars more than the previous Sheriff. Ronny just had to buy eight new cars last year – and then he bought eight more this year. He was driving a brand new Ford Expedition SUV while the Chief of Natchez Police drives an old Ford Taurus. There is one place Ronny has saved money though – the narcotics unit. Why does that not make me feel good?

If you check the State Auditor's Report for the first year Ronny was Sheriff, you’ll see he was cited for not giving the County the money he collected in fees in a timely fashion. He was also cited for not following the proper procedures for spending money. However, he promised to do better. Now check the audit for the following year. He’s still not paying the money he’s collected to the County as required by law, and he’s also cited again for not spending taxpayer money in the manner required by law – 32 times!. But not to worry, he promised again to do better. Somehow I just don’t believe him. (The latest audits are not available online for me to check.) This sounds suspiciously like someone else we know.

Another thing is very troubling to me. Apparently, his employees have been threatening and intimidating voters who dared to support his opponent, Charles Woods. The Sheriff’s Office has a lot of power, and abuse of that power for political purposes is abhorrent.

My final concern about Ronny is not major, but it bothers me. It’s the way he looks and dresses. He’d be perfect to play the Sheriff in Mississippi Burning. Although I hate to cast aspersions on someone for the way they look, I do think image is important. Say what you will about Tommy Ferrell, he always dressed the part.

In my next article, I’ll tell you why his opponent, Charles Woods, is the person to vote for on August 7.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Do You Know Your State Legislators?

What's a state legislator? Mississippi is divided into 52 equally populated Senate Districts and 121 equal House Districts. Each Senate District elects one State Senator, and each House District elects one State Representative. The term State Legislator refers to both Senators and Representative. The House and the Senate together form the Mississippi State Legislature, and they make all the state laws that we have to obey. All legislators are up for election this year, so this is our chance to tell them if we like what they're doing.

Districts tend to be drawn across county borders, so Adams County has part of two Senators and part of four Representatives. This picture will give you and idea which district you live in - or you can check your voter registration card.

Let's start with the State Senate. Democrat Bob Dearing represents District 37 (orange on the map), which covers most of Adams County. Most of you know Bob, because he's been serving us in the Senate forever - well since 1980 anyway. Most of you probably also know about something positive he's done, since he does a good job of representing our county. Most notably, he was instrumental in the Four Laning of most of our major highways and the Bluff Stabilization Act, but he's done a lot more. I can't imagine anyone in Adams County voting against him, especially since his opponent in the Primary, William Guy, is a trial attorney from McComb.

Democrat Kelvin Butler represents District 38 (green on the map) which includes a portion of Adams County, along with parts of Amite, Pike, Walthall, and Wilkinson. He lives in Magnolia. This is his first term, but he seems to have done a good job and will likely be reelected. He's Chair of the State Library Committee, so I have a special fondness for him. His opponent in the Primary, Spencer Nash, is a former Judge, also from Pike County.

Now for the House of Representatives. Two of our Representatives, Democrat Robert Johnson from District 94 (brown on the map) and Republican Sam Mims from District 97 (blue on the map), have no opposition and are already considered reelected.

Democrat Angela Cockerham of Amite County represents District 96 (orange on the map) and was elected in a special election in 2005. Even though I'm not in her district, I followed her election and was very impressed with her. She's an attorney and obviously quite smart and well spoken, but she's also very friendly and has one of the prettiest smiles I've seen in a long time. I've had a few dealings with her, and I think she is a future star of the Democratic Party. Her opponent in the Primary is Larry Lee from Wilkinson County, and so far I haven't been able to find any information about him.

Democrat America Chuck Middleton of Claiborne County represents District 85 (yellow on the map). He's a businessman and a veteran and has been in the Legislature since 1996. I don't know much about him or his opponent in the Primary, Arnold Clark of Jefferson.

So those are your choices for the Legislature in the August 7 Primary. Please note that ALL of these races are only on the Democratic Ballot. So if you choose to vote in the Republican Primary, you'll have no choices to make.

To find out more about the incumbents, you can go to the Mississippi Legislature website.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's Official - Sort of

According to the Democrat, the City signed a lease option agreement with the Lane Company to continue their destruction of our bluffs by placing a casino at the bottom of Roth Hill. Although I feel certain that the Lane Company will do a good job, it's still a casino. And casinos are disasters for communities. From the article I wrote about the economic impact of casinos:
"All of the legitimate research that has been done by unbiased economists and other academics show that legalized gambling eventually causes: 1) increased taxes, 2) loss of jobs, 3) economic disruption of other businesses, 4) increased crime, and 5) large social welfare costs for society in general and government agencies."

Not being restrained by facts or research, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen were so excited with themselves today, as they unanimously approved the Mayor signing the deal. It's so sad that the beautiful community of Natchez is reduced to groveling for casinos, prisons, and coal plants. If only we had leadership with vision.

These casino operators know exactly where to go to find unsophisticated (to be kind) politicians. Sixteen years ago, all the City officials were so excited about the economic benefits of the casino coming - so much so that they signed the worse casino deal in the State. Only one problem - the benefits never appeared. In fact, the opening of the casino created a decline in sales and business downtown. Over 70% of businesses reported a decline a year later. Although casinos promised increased tourism, that didn’t happen either. But some people never learn - and unfortunately, they're our elected officials.

There is one small glimmer of hope. The agreement signed today was a lease "option" agreement. The Lane Company has six months to decide if it wants to actually sign a lease with the City. We can dream that perhaps Lane will see the futility of three casinos fighting for business that can barely support one now.

Of course, each of those three casinos thinks that it will be the one left standing after the Battle of the Natchez Casinos. Can you imagine what that Battle's going to be like? Each casino will be offering escalating incentives to get gamblers. More of our downtown entertainment businesses will close, because they won't be able to compete with the casino prices. Our city police officers will be working overtime to combat the crime that always follows gambling. There are already many families in Natchez that have been destroyed by gambling. Now there will be more, and there will be a strain on our City and County to provide the welfare and other social benefits to those devastated families. Those promised economic benefits will never appear to counter our increased costs. so our taxes will have to go up.

Be prepared for the Battle of the Natchez Casinos, because it won't be pretty.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Why You Should Vote in the Democratic Primary

You should vote in the Democratic Primary on Tuesday, August 7 - even if you're a diehard Republican. Here's why.

In Mississippi, voters do not register as Democrats or Republicans - they just register as voters. When a Primary Election comes up, as it will on August 7, every voter gets to pick which primary they want to vote in. You don't have to be a Democrat to vote in the Democratic Primary, and you don't have to be Republican to vote in the Republican Primary. BUT you do have to pick one. (There is a court case pending to change this - click here to read about it.)

Many people make the mistake of picking the Party Primary of the Party they like, but that's a BIG mistake. Instead you should pick the Party Primary where you can most make a difference - where you have the most significant choices. And in this election, that's the Democratic Primary.

Although there are some state offices that have Republican Primaries, there is only ONE local office that has a Republican Primary - District 1 Supervisor Sammy Cauthen is being challenged by Paul Brooks. Every other local office is either unopposed (6) or has a Democratic Primary (16). So do you want to vote for one local office or sixteen? It's a no brainer!

Be careful when you go to vote. The poll worker may ask "Democrat or Republican?" They're not asking your Party. They're asking you which ballot you want.

Another significant fact that many people do not know: only the people who voted in that Party Primary will be allowed to vote in the Runoff. There will be no Republican Runoffs in this election, so if you vote in the Republican Primary on August 7, you will not be allowed to vote at all in the Runoff Election on Tuesday, August 28.

Every registered voter has the right to vote in the General Election on Tuesday, November 6. However, you'll only be able to vote for two local offices: Supervisors from Districts 1 and 2. All other local offices will be decided in the Democratic Primary: Both State Senators, three State Representatives, Sheriff, Circuit Clerk, Tax Assessor, Tax Collector, Coroner, both Justice Court Judges, and Supervisors from Districts 3, 4, & 5.

If you care about how your government is run, then you must vote in the Democratic Primary on Tuesday, August 7.

NOTE: How you vote is private. Whether you vote and in what primary is a matter of public record. People who do not vote or who vote in the Republican Primary will have no right to complain for the next four years, and we'll know who you are.