Wednesday, February 21, 2007

One post leads to another

In the previous posting a commenter stated:
"Well, the saddest part of the prison idea is the potential location:
Too bad we can't turn the airport into an airport......"

The future of the Airport, like the future of so much in Natchez IS tied directly to Tourism. Developing Tourism in Natchez is directly tied to developing Natchez as a DESTINATION rather than a side trip. A substantial part of that issue was addressed by yet another commentator.

In the previous posting a commenter asked:
"Does anyone have any accurate numbers as to how much money is actually spent on marketing?"

I don't know HOW MUCH is spent by the City, CVB, NCPC, or planned for the "new" thing - but I do have a pretty good idea of HOW LITTLE.

To give you an idea I'll republish an article I posted in Natchez Magazine.

"Where'd the Money Go?

No doubt the key to success in any business is getting the word out. In the Tourism business that means advertising. Regional and National advertising is the mother's milk of success. Going to travel shows will get tour companies to put Natchez on their trip itineraries, but if the tour originating in Podunk doesn't sell to the folks there the tour will be canceled, so all the work and expense goes for naught. You have to make Natchez a place people think about going to and you do that with advertising.

More than twenty years ago the legislature recognized the needs of towns like Natchez to enhance tourism and created taxing entities called Convention and Visitors Bureaus and authorized taxes on local food and lodging to generate funds to make it possible to attract visitors through various activities including advertising.

Locally those taxes have produced in excess of $800,000 a year for quite some time. Does that mean that Natchez has $600,000 a year for ads? $400,000 ?, $200,000 ?. NO, not even $100,000 is available. Where did it go?

In 1998 the City (as I've written before) decided to go into the visitor reception business and convinced the CVB (an independent State agency, equal in status to the City) to sign a “Management Agreement” whereby the City gets all but about $70,000 a year of the CVB funds and runs their new business with CVB money.
Has it worked? Has it increased visitation? Are things better in tourism? I don't think so.

The CVB needs to terminate that contract, hire two or three marketing people and spend the greatest portion of their income on getting the word out. Then you'll see things start to happen."

Since then TWO things have happened that even more severly restricts the CVB's ability to market Natchez.

1. The city's $2,000,000 (+?) bond issue will be partially repaid by sending ALL Hamburger 1&2 (that's the special taxes on food and lodging that provides all of the CVB funding) receipts from the new hotel to the bond repayment. This will amount to a DECREASE of $50 - $70 thousand a year effectively reducing the remainder of the total receipts available to advertising to practically nothing.

2. The CVB has voted to EXTEND the contract for 5 years even though the City will effectively shut down the Dept of Tourism Management and turn it over to the new management group (the hotel - well same thing).

Shush, complicated? "You ain't hurd nuthin yet"

The County should have stayed involved.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The County shows the City how AGAIN

The prospect of a Federal prison in Adams County sounds like a good idea. A multi million dollar construction project and hundreds of permanent jobs sounds like a very good thing.

The prison "business" (and it really is a growing business) has become one of the major employers in this part of the country. We've seen them built in Fayette, Woodville, and Concordia Parish and I know people who work not only in these facilities but some who travel to Angola and Jackson (LA.) to their jobs.

The County has insured that the public will have ample opportunities to get information and give feedback. This time the "people" won't be kept in the dark and presented a fait accompli (as has happened so often with the City) before the decision is made. They even remembered to remind us that if a (statutory) percentage of the voters petition it an election will be held to approve or disapprove. I wonder if they and the City will remember that the next time a Bond Issue is proposed.

Good show.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

You gotta do the right thing

I received an email from a reader and thought it would be worth sharing:

"(Received) The Democrat should not waste printer ink on this story. Phillip West will not be charged because no jury will convict him. The prosecutor would be wasting his time, and he knows it.

(Reply)If you believe in the "system", as I do, you run the string all the way out regardless of what miscarriage of justice may result. You must follow the rules.
Sometimes the "people's" wisdom amazes you.
The folks in the DA's office are paid by the month not the hour.
The Democrat buys their ink by the barrel. is FREE.
What a wonderful world. "

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wouldn't it be something?

Wouldn't it be something if the Mississippi Gaming Commission, meeting today, approves an application for the Lane Co. to place a casino in Natchez. That could very well mean that the new h(m)otel on Canal Street could have been built without $2,000,000 (that's MILLION) of our money going out of the window.

The final approval for the new h(m)otel came after the negotiations for the new casino had begun and the City could have insisted that the casino developers include a Canal St. Hotel in their plans. RIGHT? Then we'd all be $2,000,000 (that's MILLION) better off.

But NO. They just had to do it their way.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It's working

Not long ago I posted that I had withheld judgement of the "Pecan Factory" issue because I believed that the "system" would resolve the problem. Well like a "stopped clock that's right twice a day" it seems I was right.

The State Attorney General and the MDAH are on the "Pecan Factory" case and I trust that it will be resolved in a fitting and proper way.

The resolution may not be punitive enough for some of you but it will be judiciously correct. I have noticed that it is the posting relative to matters of this kind that get your attention and that's understandable. Take a look at the number of comments and the subject matter of the posting and you'll see a clear trend. Stories about a 'man biting a dog get more attention than stories about a dog biting a man'.

In addition the Democrat has taken up the gauntlet and is giving the matter the attention it deserves. No less than three editors and reporters have recently published stories and editorials. I think I'll be able to follow what's happening just by "reading the papers".

I think the time has come to acknowledge that the "people" have spoken and been heard.

Let's give it a rest and watch it play out as it should.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Wakening Giant

The recent excellent editorials regarding the problems in our City and County governments by Ben Hillyer and Kevin Cooper are just the latest of a series of ever more probing and insightful observations in the Democrat.

The basic obligation of a town's (only) newspaper is the keep the Community informed about things that impact on its people. We can't know the things we need to know to make rational judgements if we only have an informal "grapevine" to spread the word. We NEED a document of record to sort things out and make the record public and permanent. The Democrat is making giant steps to fulfilling that need.

Our Paper is coming of age and we and they will be better off for it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What now?

When the issue of the Pecan Factory rose(and heated) up I didn't get mentally involved because it was one of those things covered by:
LAWS and
My Lord what's the point in ME deciding what's right. I'll just wait for the process to work its way through and live with the results.

WELL - sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.

The City (Mayor) has:
1. Snubbed the State Legislature by violating the State Antiquities Act.
2. Snubbed the State Attorney General by directly defying the injunction issued while the Pecan Factory was being demolished
3. Snubbed the Miss. Supreme Court by destroying a property that is at the heart of a legal matter that is currently before the Court!
4. Snubbed the Miss Dept of Archives and History by not even attempting to get a permit and by TEARING THE THING DOWN WHILE THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY (HANK HOLMES) was in Natchez for the History Conference.
5. Snubbed the Historic Natchez Foundation by tearing down a official state LANDMARK BUILDING in Natchez during the annual meeting and conference of the Historic Natchez Foundation (attended by preservation professionals from coast to coast). This is a time when the HNF is supposed “shine” and show off Natchez for the world.
Check out the Radio interview with West: WQNZ-FM 95Country - The South's Country Giant
Mayor Philip West: ”Many people are going into the facility, they are taking things out of the facility, they are playing in the facility, doing all kinds of things because of the nature of where it’s located on the bluff. If somebody gets hurt, then either the city or the developer or a combination of both would be liable. And there was no need to allow that sort of situation to exist. That’s why I issued the executive order yesterday.” As for the landmark status of the site, West says that what is protected as a landmark is the land, not the building, and therefore no law had been broken.
Why doesn’t he know this?
Did he just “forget?”

I remember

I'm going to bore you with the following because in the midst of thinking about a post re: The Pecan Factory a missive arrived "over the (email) transom" that said it better than I could. I've replied to the sender and asked if I could use it as sent (anon of course). So while waiting I remembered something I think quite apropos.

In the mid 50's most every college had a clever guy who played the piano and sang ribald songs (he wrote). Sometimes they were so good records were released by major companies. I remember one in particular (well part of one anyway). In the middle he stopped singing and broke into a spoken bit (with an affected east European accent) that went something like this:
"I am never forget the day I am fierst meet the great Lofachesky
in one word he is teaching me the secret of success in academics (pause) plagiarize"
Then going back to singing:
"Plagiarize let no one Else's work evade your eyes
remember why the Good Lord made your eyes
but plagiarize - plagiarize - plagiarize"
Back to spoken:
"But remember please always to call it (pause) RESEARCH"

So, I'll be looking for your help. When something good comes in I'll plagiarize (and sanitize for your anon if you wish). I'll call it research.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The second team is in

Let's win one for the Gipper.
I don't have many contacts and don't get around a lot. But, I've put my email address on my Profile so if you've got anything you want to see brought up just let me know.

Oh, just one thing I don't care (in a public way) what folks do with their personal life. I get fired up about what public people do in meeting their public obligations. Outside of that, let're rip.


The Blog Is No More

This blog and all my local political activities will cease because of the adverse effect on the Library, where I am employed part time.

UPDATE: Hopefully others will take over the blog. Keep checking.

City Defies Law - Tears Down Pecan Factory!

The Pecan Factory is being torn down as I write this, without any notice to the public. The Mayor and Board of Aldermen obviously decided to do this in their Executive Session Tuesday. (See last paragraph in this article. Also, be sure to check the Natchez Democrat website, as they will undoubtedly cover this story there.

And this is being done as the Department of Archives and History is in town along with hundreds of people for the Historic Natchez Conference. Our hypocritical Mayor spoke to the group last night telling them how important historic preservation is to the city.

You may remember that the Department of Archives and History has to approve demolition of that property because of its landmark status. After a hearing, the Department gave permission IF certain conditions were met and documented. No documentation has been received by the Department that those conditions have not been met. Therefore, I understand that the Department is in contact with the State Attorney General's Office to request an injunction. This action on the part of the City could result in serious fines being levied -and this would be paid by your tax dollars.

This property is also tied up in court because of a lawsuit by courageous citizens objecting to illegal sale of the property. The City is very frustrated that mere citizens would challenge their decisions and even considered suing those citizens.

The City will most likely be sued again by citizens for its illegal actions. Not only that, but the City is demolishing a building owned by private citizens. Why? This could possibly be construed as an illegal gift to the developers.

The City is obviously taking serious legal and financial risks. Why is the City taking these risks to benefit a couple of rich developers? Good question.

I will be updating this article as I learn more information, so check back.

PS Here is an interesting piece of information about the Mayor who is so willing to risk our taxpayer dollars. As you may know, about a year or so ago, the Mayor's house was listed in the Legals in the newspaper as going to foreclosure. However, he somehow bought a new house. A few days ago, there was notice in the Court Records section of the paper saying that the Mayor had obtained a mortgage from United Mississippi Bank. Most people who have homes go to foreclosure cannot get mortgages. Wonder why he's different.

UPDATE I: We are rally at the Pecan Factory at 12 noon today (Thursday) for a protest of the City's outrageous behavior regarding the Pecan Factory. PLEASE come if at all possible. We need all the help we can get. Now is the time for citizens who care about their town to stand up to these arrogant elected officials, who think they can do whatever they want - and the public be damned.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What Can Children Do?

I attended an organizing meeting for the Natchez Council for Arts and Culture this week. One of the major problems we have in Natchez is there is so little for visiting children to do, thus we have trouble attracting tourist families. This is an issue the Council wants to address. I know this is a problem whenever my grandchildren visit, and I imagine you have faced this dilemma as well.

There are several excellent one time events for children in the area: Natchez Little Theater's Summer Workshop, Natchez Festival of Music's Education Program, Conner Burn's Kids Clay Camp, Natchez Needle Arts classes for children, the Armstrong Library's Summer Library Program, etc. But these activities are mainly directed at children who live here. What can we do for visiting tourist children and their families?

We need most regular Natchez events to include a segment for children, like the Balloon Festival does. I know my grandchildren will always be visiting me on the weekend of the Balloon Festival, because there's something fun to do for children and adults. That's undoubtedly one reason why it's such a big success.

However, we are in desparate need of ongoing activities for children. We brainstormed some ideas, but we need your input, too. And let us know of any activities that we might not be aware of.
  • Wouldn't it be nice if the antebellum homes that are open all year round would have ongoing programs for children? They could provide storytelling in period costume - or have a interpreted display of how children lived in antebellum days.
  • Some venues would be appropriate for a scavenger hunt where children must find certain items to earn a prize.
  • What about a cooking demonstration for kids on weekends at a caterer or restaurant?
  • Or some of the artists in town could do quickie lessons for children on the weekend.
  • Wouldn't it be popular to offer father/son (or mother/daughter) fishing or hunting trips?
  • We definitely need boat rides on the river which would attract the whole family.
  • Maybe it's time for another putt-putt golf course.

Of course, there's my all time favorite fantasy - a children's museum. However, I realized we don't have to have the whole thing. For example, click on the Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena, California. There are tons of exhibits there, many of which are outside. We could take just one of their exhibits and bring it here, and it would be a huge success. Any entrepreneurs out there interested in this?

Okay, let's have some comments on this. Together we can make Natchez a child friendly town!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

City to Citizens: Shut Up!

We all know our Mayor and Board of Aldermen don't like to hear from the citizens - they seem to forget we are also voters. They NEVER ask for our input on any issues. The only way we can express our opinions about anything is in the part of the Agenda for Visitors. Isn't that lovely? No matter how long (or how many generations) we've lived here, we're considered Visitors to our elected officials.

However, they decided a few months ago, that we visitors were talking too much, so they resurrected a rule that was supposedly already on the books. They told us if we wanted to say anything, we had to make a request - in writing, mind you - a week in advance. That is so preposterous!

But this week, they really got carried away with their boredom. Apparently, we talk too long. From now on, we visitors will be limited to only three minutes. There are rarely more than two visitors per meeting, so for a meeting that usually last at least two hours, the public gets six minutes. How generous of them! Oh, by the way, this rule was also supposedly already on the books.

This brilliant new policy was announced right before the two Visitors on the Agenda were scheduled to speak. The first speaker, Mrs Dunkley, made the remark that she wished she could limit their terms to three minutes. (Right on!) She had several concerns she wanted to bring before the Board that she had to rush through. Afterwards, she was furious and walked out. The second speaker, Mr Boxley, had prepared a very comprehensive report that he wished to discuss - the topic had previously been discussed by the Board. Somehow he was supposed to reduce it to three minutes - and he was cut off when that time expired.

The President of the Adams County Board of Supervisors wished to address the Board. However, I guess he was considered a visitor too. Since he had not requested in writing to be on the Agenda, there had to be a motion to suspend the rules to allow him to speak. He was also limited to three minutes. Is this not unbelievable? I can guarantee you that any member of the Board would have been more than welcome to speak before the Board of Supervisors for however long was necessary. However, I somehow doubt any of them would lower themselves to speak to our county government. I wonder how they would treat a representative of the state or federal government, from whom they are always begging for money.

You have to wonder if any of these yahoos are running for reelection. Do they really think no one is going to remember how the public has been treated? Their arrogance never ceases to amaze me.