But let's go back to Johnny Waycaster for the moment, because his letter is really worth discussing.
The first question one has on reading the letter is why did he withdraw. There is no doubt that his candidacy would have hurt that of Dan Dillard, who is running for Alderman in Ward 6. Dan filed first, had been planning to run for quite some time, and had talked it over with Johnny ahead of time. So Johnny withdrew in favor of his friend and employee, and that says something positive to me about Johnny.
However, Johnny also cares deeply about Natchez and what he sees happening with its government. He has worked for years with the City and has an inside view of its workings that the rest of us can only guess about. He was so concerned that he was willing to put himself on the line and actually run for office - which so many are not. I don't think Johnny would have withdrawn if he didn't feel his opponent in the Primary, Gwen Ball, agreed with his basic principles and had a good shot at winning. I know Gwen and Johnny had several conversations before he made his decision. In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised if Gwen had withdrawn if Johnny had not. I guess they decided that running against each other wouldn't help them with their ultimate goal of getting rid of Bob Pollard. I also won't be surprised to see Johnny help Gwen with her campaign and continue to help her afterwards, if she's elected.
If you look at Johnny's letter, you can tell the concerns he had with Pollard and the rest of this Board. His letter was very eloquent and well written. Here is my interpretation in more down to earth language.
- Involve the public. Pollard and this Board do not ask for citizen's opinions - they just decide things among themselves. The only time the public is involved is when they absolutely have to do it. Then they make you sign up a week in advance and limit your remarks to 3 minutes. While you're speaking, they ignore you or make faces. They obviously could care less about the people's opinions.
- Act in public. The State Open Meetings law says very clearly that, except in rare, very specific circumstances, information sharing, debate, and decision making of elected officials is to be in front of the public. Pollard and this Board just meet in back rooms and over meals and entertainment provided by those looking for favors. When they vote in public, it is obvious that everything has already been decided ahead of time. In fact, I've caught them slipping and saying just that in public on occasion. And have you ever noticed that all the sneaky things they do come without any notice at the end of the meeting when most people have left?
- Obey the law. We all have to obey the laws, or we suffer the consequences. But not Pollard and this Board. They break the law regularly and then smile about it. The first time I noticed it was when they illegally raised their salaries. I wrote a letter - no response. I asked to speak to them - they changed the rules on speaking. I finally get a chance to speak - dead silence. They ignore the law all the time. The only recourse we have is to sue, and not many of us can afford that.
- Handle our money responsibly. We all have to learn to live with whatever our income provides, we know how to cut expenses when we have to, and most importantly, we know how to plan for the future. But Pollard and this Board don't have a clue about responsible financing. They didn't even pass a real budget this year. They spend money without knowing where it's coming from or what other programs it might affect. Neither Pollard nor any other Board member have any plan or vision for the future of Natchez. I once heard Gwen Ball ask the Board in a public meeting if they had a vision for Natchez. Dead silence - they probably didn't even know what she was talking about. Only one Aldermen even answered her. Alderman Middleton said his vision was "jobs". (Gee, how brilliant!)
- Manage our government. Pollard and the Board have no clue what a disaster area our city departments are, because none of them seems to know how to manage themselves out of a paper bag. This is not the fault of the employees. This is the responsibility of management, and in government, that's the elected officials. They also don't seem to understand the devastating effect this mismanagement has - not only on our daily lives - but on our economic development and our children's future.
REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU VOTE IN CITY ELECTIONS:
Don't vote for candidates telling you they are for jobs or recreation or any other good sounding promise. None of those promises can or will be kept if that candidate does not agree to these five principles of effective government.