Thursday, August 23, 2007

See You Later - and Don't Forget to Vote!

I'm leaving this weekend for Vienna, Austria for about a month. Since Vienna is about 7 hours ahead of Natchez, there may be some delay before you see your comments posted. I'll probably post a couple of articles about my trip. If there's anything you want me to bring back for you, let me know.

Since I'm leaving, I voted absentee yesterday, and the process has definitely been improved. There is a special room just for absentee voting, and it was busy. When you walk in, they ask you a few questions and fill out a form for you. You are then handed a ballot with an envelope and directed to the hallway where there are privacy stands. You're told to fill out the ballot, put it in the envelope, seal the envelope, and bring it back. Then they watch you sign your name across the seal of the envelope. I didn't see Binky the whole time I was there. (Maybe he was upstairs watching the ballots being examined.) I haven't heard a single complaint this time. I guess Binky decided it was time to clean up his act.

I went to the Secretary of State's website to download the official election results, and guess what? The results from Adams County's Democratic Primary weren't there. Adams County Republican results were there. Even crazy Wilkinson County got their report there. Somebody's not doing their job.


If no candidate got 50% of the vote for any office in the Primary Election on August 7, then the top two candidates for that office run in the runoff election on August 28. If you voted in the Republican Primary, you cannot vote in the Runoff. All other registered voters are eligible. This time voters will be making choices in one statewide race (State Auditor) two county wide races (Circuit Clerk and Tax Assessor), the southern district Justice Court Judge's race, and two Supervisor's races (1 and 3).

I recommend Mike Sumrall for State Auditor because he's definitely the most qualified. This is an important office. Don't forget that's who caught Binky embezzling funds. (Here is an interesting blog endorsing him.) For all but one of the other races, I think there are no bad choices.

However, the most important vote is the one for Circuit Clerk. For the sake of our county, please vote AGAINST Binky Vines and FOR Eddie Walker. I'll be checking the Natchez Democrat online to see what happens. If Binky wins, I might decide to stay in Vienna.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Sunday's Natchez Democrat had a truly shocking Top of the Morning.

Dr Kenneth Stubbs, an internal medicine physician in Natchez, made a good case for increased funding for Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez. He discussed the benefits provided to the community by the college.

"Almost all basic college courses in English, math, science and history are offered and credits may be earned toward an associate in arts to be applied towards a bachelor’s degree from one of our area’s four-year colleges or universities.
In addition, Co-Lin Natchez has a very busy Career and Technical Education Center offering training in a wide variety of potential career paths. These include several health related fields such as practical nursing, health care assistant, respiratory care practitioner, medical transcriptionist and medical records coding."
He elaborated on the benefits of the health care course offerings and pointed out that the need for health care providers is growing fast - and I might add that these jobs are well paid and generally come with benefits.

There's only one problem. The teaching facilities for these programs "are bursting at the seams", are taking space away from other much needed programs, and are spread out all over the campus providing logistics problems. It's obvious Co Lin Natchez needs a new health training facility, which will require increased funding from Adams County. Dr Stubbs strongly advocated for this facility, even though it will mean an increase in the taxes we pay.

So what is so shocking about this? Dr Stubbs is a pillar of the Republican Party in Adams County. Republicans cut taxes, not increase them. Republicans hate government programs and think the private section can always do everything better. So I am shocked to see this Republican stalwart push for a tax increase for a government program. Geez - he sounded like a Democrat!

However, he is absolutely correct. This is an excellent investment of our taxpayer dollars for many reasons. Dr Stubbs mentioned two:
  1. "You, your child, grandchild or other close relative or friend could more easily take advantage of a learning experience or job opportunity right here at home.

  2. Then, if your own health care needs arise, the qualified providers will more likely be available so your health care needs can also be met here at home."
But there are also economic reasons why this is such a good idea. Politicians are always saying we need jobs, and health care is a field begging for employees. We are always looking for new industries to come to our county, and one major reason they don't come is a lack of skills training in the community. As Dr Stubbs pointed out, having this new building would free space that could be used for a much in demand building trades program. When people and businesses consider relocating, one aspect they always consider is health care. We're doing well now, but we need to support our health care industry - or we may lose it.

Building this training facility is not just a "feel good" project - it is an "economic development" project. And I guarantee you it will do a lot more for our economic development than some of the lame ideas our City leaders have come up with - like casinos and condos.

Supervisors are running for election now. Before you vote, be sure you ask the candidates if they will support the funding for this facility.

If a Republican and a Democrat can agree wholeheartedly on a project, it's got to be a winner!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Deja Vu All Over Again - August 28

As Yogi Berra infamously once said: "It's deja vu all over again!" We've just gotten the results of the August 7 election (see them here), and we've got to do it again in the runoffs on August 28. But the choices are fewer this time.

Undoubtedly, the most important race is for Circuit Clerk. Inconceivably, 2837 residents of this county voted for a crook - Binky Vines. Amazing! Even worse, he got the most votes. Would one of those people please explain to the rest of us why in the world you did this?

Fortunately, we have a very good alternative in Eddie Walker. He has worked as an investigator in the District Attorney's office for almost 30 years. In that capacity, he has worked with 5 Circuit Clerks and gained invaluable experience and knowledge about the job. Wouldn't it be nice to have an experienced person in that position? My favorite of Eddie's many qualifications is that he's married to a CPA - no worries about "I'm just a bad bookkeeper" with Eddie. As you can see, Eddie is the favorite of my unscientific online poll. (By the way, there's a typo in Eddie's name in the poll (Eddiw), since I put it there late on Election Night when I was bleary eyed. I wanted to correct it, but I couldn't without removing the results.) As Eddie's website says: "Bring honesty, integrity, & accountability back to the office of Circuit Clerk."

There's an interesting note on the election results in that race. By my calculations, there were 1232 absentee/affidavit votes cast in that election. Binky got 38% of those. He went from a 5 vote margin over Eddie to almost 200. As I told you, Binky was flagranting violating the rules governing absentee ballots, and you see the results. Hopefully, he won't try it again. I know several complaints were filed with the Secretary of State's office, but obviously Binky has no qualms about violating the law.

There are several other local races that will be decided in the runoff. In the other county wide race, Tax Collector, it's Peter Burns versus Rose Daniel Johnson. For District Court Judge, Southern District, it's Danny Barber versus Charlie Vess. There are also runoffs in two of the Supervisor's races. For District 1, it's Mike Lazarus vs Mike Smith, and in District 3, it's Boo Campbell vs Britt Gibson. Although I have my favorites in each race, there are no bad choices here.

Vote on Tuesday, August 28 like your life depended on it - because it does.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Can You Help the Humane Society?

While we are waiting for the excruciatingly slow count of the ballots, I thought I would share this article submitted by Anne Vaughn with the Natchez Adams County Humane Society.

In recent months, the Natchez Democrat has published a series of articles regarding animal neglect and abuse in the Natchez-Vidalia area. The Natchez-Adams County Humane Society deals with these issues every day, and it can be overwhelming.

The one thing that would have a proven positive impact on animal welfare would be for pet owners to spay and neuter their dogs and cats. There are simply not enough homes to accommodate the massive numbers of animals being born. Unless you are a professional breeder of pedigreed animals, there is simply no good reason to allow your pets to reproduce. Even one litter is one too many.

Just in the first two weeks of July, we received 69 cats and kittens and 39 dogs and puppies. How much better it would have been if these litters had been prevented instead of ending up at our shelter!

In the three-month period between April 1st and June 30th, 2007, NACHS took in 334 cats and kittens, and 380 dogs and puppies. Due to lack of space and funds to care for them all, we were forced to euthanize 74 percent of them.Our shelter staff and volunteers are animal lovers all, and it kills our souls to have to put down so many beautiful, healthy pets.

In that same three-month period, only 27 felines and 61 canines were adopted from the shelter, and 21 dogs were reclaimed by their owners. On any given day, there are hundreds of animals at our shelter that are waiting and hoping for a home. We invite everyone to come see the selection of fine pets we have to offer. Our shelter at 392 Liberty Road in Natchez is open Monday through Friday, 2-5 p.m.

NACHS charges a modest adoption fee ($45 for canines, $35 for felines) that includes the cost of spaying and neutering. We lose money on every animal adopted, but much prefer that to having to euthanize them. Incredibly, some people choose not to have their adopted pets altered, even though they have already paid for the operation, and often the adopted pet is returned to our shelter accompanied by an unwanted litter.

In addition to the financial burden we bear to feed, shelter, medicate and care for all of these dogs and cats, we have recently been alerted to half a dozen neglected and starving horses in the Natchez-Adams County area. We were able to rescue several of them that were in dire straits – two of them near death and unable to stand on their own. One of these has recovered through the daily care given her by NACHS volunteers, but the other is still at the veterinary clinic, creating an ever-mounting expense for the Humane Society.

It takes on average $8,500 per month to operate our shelter in normal circumstances. We currently receive only $1,250 monthly from the City of Natchez and $1,000 from Adams County. Anyone who cares about animals and understands the huge service NACHS provides our community should contact their supervisors and aldermen and let them know how important their funding of NACHS is to the health and welfare of Natchez and Adams County. Just imagine the chaos hundreds of animals would cause if they were left to roam freely in our small community!

NACHS recently mailed our members a plea for donations. Anyone who is not a member and would like to contribute to our cause can send their check to NACHS, Post Office Box 549, Natchez, MS 39121. Donations of any size would be most gratefully received.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Could We Please Have Some Privacy?

There are differing opinions of our new fangled voting machines (which, by the way, I heard have just been declared outdated). There are, of course, differing opinions about candidates. There are differing opinions about the election results (or lack thereof). But there is one election opinion about which everyone seems to agree.

Could we please have some privacy when we vote? One of the foundations of our country is the secret ballot. But we sure don't have that here. Something needs to be done about this - and soon. I talked to a representative from the Secretary of State's office and was told that local election officials are supposed to arrange them for privacy. Well, that's ridiculous. Unless you have a handful of machines in a gymnasium, that will never work. You can read those machines from a mile away. I personally don't care if anyone looks at how I vote - I'm usually proud of it and will tell anyone. But a lot of people are very private about it, for various reasons - and they have the right to privacy. I know of several people who did not vote just for this reason.

There has to be a solution to this problem. Let's have some comments with ideas that you have.

I was reminiscing with some other old fogies about the old days, when we had actual voting booths. (You'll notice the expression "voting booth" is still around, although the booths are long gone.) You walked into a booth and pushed a large handle which closed the rear curtain. The ballot would not work on the machine until the curtain was closed. When you finished voting, you moved the handle back to open the curtain. That same move of the handle registered your vote and made the machine inoperable until the next person came in.

At the end of the election day was when the fun started. Each candidate could authorize a person to stay inside the precinct when the polls closed and when the door to the building was locked. The poll worker would use keys to unlock the back of each machine and call out the numbers for each candidate. When that machine was finished, all the candidate representatives would look at the numbers to be sure they were right. Then the pollwork took out the counter and put it in a locked box. This continued until all the machines were counted.

It was very exciting to be involved. As each number was called out, you would hear cheers and moans. If it was an election with lots of candidates, there could be a lot of very nervous people in that room. This was before the days of cell phones, and we were cut off from the rest of the world while we were in there. You were supposed to call your numbers into your candidate's headquarters the minute you got out - so you had already lined up a phone to use as near to the polling place as possible. When the doors opened, everyone took off running - it looked like the beginning of a marathon.

The pollworkers then took all the locked boxes to the County office and made their reports in writing. So a well organized campaign with a person in each precinct would know the results before the county did. Candidates who were missing numbers would call around to other campaigns to try to get those numbers.

One time I was at a precinct that had a lot of trouble getting the machines to open, and we were very delayed in getting out. When we burst out the door, we were totally shocked to be met by a huge crowd of people, including reporters and TV cameras. Every other precinct was in but ours, and a major election depended on the results. Pretty exciting!

Ah for the good old days!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Election Night Blog

Each paragraph is posted separately and the blog is updated regularly.

The first precinct is in, and based on the results, I can safely predict that Ronny Brown will be reelected as Sheriff. No other races are so clear cut.

I am putting the results into a spreadsheet with previous election results, and basing my predictions on this analysis.

After 5 precincts, I would also say it's looking good for Reynolds Atkins for Tax Assessor at this point, but it's too early to predict.

After 9 precincts, looks like Circuit Clerk is close, but I expect it to spread out shortly. Also Darryl Grennell looks to be reelected Supervisor District 4 without a runoff.

There are 2000 absentee and affidavit votes that won't be counted for days, and this will affect most races.

The Northern Justice Court Judge race between Audrey Minor Bailey and Patricia Dunmore will definitely be decided later.

Mike Lazarus, Supervisor District 1, will definitely make the runoff. It may take a few days to find out if he can avoid the runoff by getting over 50% of the vote.

After 12 precincts, the Circuit Clerk's race is still close, and it won't be decided tonight.

The last 8 precincts are taking forever to arrive, but they'll all come at once. So hang on! I sure do wonder why those votes are taking so long to leave the Courthouse.

Well, I went to visit a few candidates and just came back. All the results are in now - at least from today's voting.

In addition to Darryl Grennell, it looks like Spanky Felter also got reelected as Supervisor District 5. The others likely will have to go on to runoffs or generals.

Apparently James Lee got reelected Coronor. It looks like a runoff in the Southern Justice Court Judge's race between incumbent Charlie Vess and Danny Barber. However, the outstanding ballots might give Vess over 50%. We can safely say there will be a runoff for Tax Collector between Peter Burns and Rose Daniel Johnson.

And of course, our very own Bob Dearing was reelected to the Mississippi State Senate, for which Adams County can be grateful.

The biggest surprise to me is the closeness of the Circuit Clerk's race. I am truly shocked Binky got that many votes. Who in the world voted for him? Right now, it's a runoff between Binky and Eddie Walker (only 5 votes apart), but that could easily change after the absentee and affidavit ballots are counted. Only 355 votes separate the top from the bottom. I predict whoever runs against Binky wins easily.

My biggest disappointment is, of course, that Ronny Brown got reelected as Sheriff. However, that was more than made up for by Reynolds Atkins winning for Tax Assessor - the most important race of all. As as extra bonus for me, at this point, it looks like George Dale was defeated as Insurance Commissioner.

The Runoff Election is Tuesday, August 28!
(But only those who voted in the Democratic Primary today get to vote.)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Future of the County in Voters Hands Tuesday

This Tuesday, voters go to the polls in the first, and most important, round of selecting leaders for Adams County and the State of Mississippi.

There are seven countywide races. District Attorney, County Attorney, and Chancery Clerk have already been decided, because no one is running against the incumbent. However, the rest are very heated. Two key races, Tax Assessor and Sheriff, will be decided Tuesday, because only two Democrats are running. I have posted previous articles indicating why I think it is important to support Reynolds Atkins for Tax Assessor and Charles Woods for Sheriff. (Click here to read all articles about the Elections.)

The other three races, Coroner, Circuit Clerk, and Tax Collector, will likely not be decided until a runoff on Tuesday, August 28. Remember, that only people who voted in the Democratic Primary on August 7 will be allowed to vote in the Runoff on August 28. There are no Republicans or Independents running in any of these races, so you must vote this Tuesday to have a say in these results.

Unfortunately, I will have to vote absentee in the runoff, since I'll be out of town. I have absolutely no faith in the absentee ballot process since Circuit Clerk Binky Vines is in charge of it. He is desperately trying to get reelected and is flagrantly violating the absentee rules - which is what happens when you let a crook stay in office. Absolutely disgusting! (See this article.) Some people are writing in Binky Vines for Attorney General in the hopes their ballots will not be thrown out. Hopefully, Vile Vines will be thrown out by the voters on Tuesday - so we don't have to wait another three weeks. By the way, if absentee ballots are key to certain elections, you'll definitely see a challenge.

We're also voting for our representatives to the State Legislature, which I wrote about here, as well as the Southern District Representatives to the Public Service Commission and the Transportation Commission.

There are eight statewide offices: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture & Commerce, and Commissioner of Insurance. Six of these races really will be decided in the General Election in November, but two have heated primaries - one Republican and one Democrat. The Republican primary is between Phil Bryant and Charlie Ross for Lt Governor, and they have been busy attacking each other. However, few local voters will be involved in this decision. According to the poll on this blog, only 18% will vote in the Republican primary - and it will probably be lower. This is because all the important local races will be decided in the Democratic Primary. (See this article.)

The statewide Democratic Primary is for Insurance Commissioner, where Incumbent George Dale is being challenged by Gary Anderson. This race has become interesting because Dale is basically a tool of insurance companies, and he betrayed the voters of Mississippi after Katrina. Check out the blog A M in the Morning, described as "dispatches from Katrina's ground zero by Ana Maria" for several articles about Dale - start with Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Doesn't Get It - His Job, That Is . . . Those poor insurance companies complained so about their losses after Katrina, but the insurance industry made $108 billion net profit in 2005 & 2006, after paying taxes and Katrina claims - and fraudulently sending the federal government a $23 billion Katrina bill. According to Forbes Magazine, "Mississippi, dead last in income, is the sixth most expensive place to insure a house." To protect their cushy situation in Mississippi, insurance companies are major contributors to Dale's campaign. It's time we had an Insurance Commissioner who protects the public, not insurance companies - so vote for Gary Anderson.

On Election Night, I will be live blogging about the results, if you want to check it out. Also, the Natchez Democrat will be posting the results live online. They also have an excellent Election section, where you can learn about candidates and other election information. I wish they would do a little investigative work on some of these candidates, but otherwise, they've done a good job of providing the basic information. I was also disappointed in their endorsements - all incumbents, except for Binky.