Archive for January, 2009

Fire In The Belly: Economic Development Leadership

Friday, January 30th, 2009

The Neshoba Democrat editorialized this week about Capstone partner Brian Wilson’s leadership program for economic development in Noxubee County.

Nearby Noxubee County is taking a novel approach to leadership.

The county’s economic development office has partnered to present a leadership development program designed to provide Noxubee business and political leaders with the essential skills for decision making and, perhaps most importantly, taking action.

Leadership development is the prerequisite to good community and economic development.

For Noxubee County, - with one of the highest unemployment rates and a huge challenge with poverty - starting a leadership development program was one of the priorities identified by residents in a strategic planning exercise.

“It is a powerful tool for self development and to help diverse groups learn how to work together,” said William Oliver, president of the Noxubee County Board of Supervisors.

Noxubee County officials recognize that leadership training is essential.

“All of us want to live in a community where things get done,” said Brian Wilson, executive director of the Noxubee Economic and Community Development Alliance.  “That’s what happens with leadership training.”

Getting things done is the aim.

You can read the full editorial here: Neshoba Democrat / Fire In The Belly

RR: Election legislation, restricting issue criticism of candidates

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

There are 72 bills pending before the House Apportionment and Elections Committee, and 46 bills before the Senate Elections Committee. These measures range from the quirky to the noble, from election reforms to election deforms. This week Reasonably Right looks at four of those measures.

Representative Bill Denny (R-Jackson) introduced a measure (HB 318) to repeal the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act which prohibits judicial candidates from running as Democrats or Republicans. Senator David Jordan (D-Greenwood) has a measure (SB 2889) to apportion Mississippi’s presidential Electoral Votes one per congressional district and two at large. And while there are various voter ID measures, I note that Senator Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall) seeks to conduct a statewide initiative to collect the necessary signatures to force voter ID onto the ballot for voters to make their own decision. Republican Party Chairman Brad White has committed resources to assist Fillingane. Here are Fillingane and White on WAPT on Monday to discuss the matter.

House Apportionment and Election Chairman Tommy Reynolds (D-Charleston) introduced legislation (HB 650) that really sticks in my crawl, as a challenge to free political speech.

Currently, no person may attack a candidate for any reason “reflecting upon the honesty, integrity, or moral character” pertaining to his private life, unless it is true. Even if true, these charges can’t be made within the final five days of the election (beginning the Friday before the election).

Reynolds’ bill changes the whole meaning of the section by removing the context of private life and including provisions like “past practice” and “voting record.” He then extends the time period from five days to fifteen days. Whereas now you cannot attack a candidate’s private life within five days of the election, Reynolds would prohibit even truthful criticisms of a candidate’s voting record up to two weeks before the election. Effectively, any truthful criticism of an incumbent within 15 days of the election would be illegal. This would dampen many of our state’s editorials, but would also prohibit you from criticizing a candidate’s vote in an e-mail to a friend.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: PERRY/Election reform

Haley Barbour and the RNC Chairman’s race

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

This week’s Reasonably Right discusses the race for RNC Chairman. The Chairman will be chosen at the RNC meeting next weekend (Jan 29-31).

Six declared Republicans seek the chairmanship: Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, incumbent RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, and former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman. Saltsman’s campaign has vanished: a disappearing trick performed by the “Barack the Magic Negro” satire controversy.

There are 168 RNC members so 85 votes will win.

Mississippi has three votes for chairman. Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour and Mississippi Chairman Brad White are voting for Dawson of South Carolina. Mississippi’s Republican National Committeewoman Cindy Phillips of Madison is supporting Duncan.

In 1993, Haley Barbour was elected on the third round of balloting. At publication, tallies at showed Duncan leading with 23 endorsements, Anuzis and Steele in second with 14 pledges each, Dawson with 13 commitments and Blackwell with 12 supporters.  [Those numbers have already changed.]

In a couple of e-mails to the members, supporters of Duncan have invoked Governor Haley Barbour’s - a former successful national chairman - name as if to somehow link his name to the Duncan camp. But Barbour has said he is not for or against anyone, but that he questions the symbolism of maintaing the status quo.

Henry Barbour elaborated to this column his uncle’s meaning of symbolism, “It’s not about whose fault it is, it’s about moving forward. Our leadership in congress did not change. If we do not change the leadership of the party, what does that say to the electorate? It says we didn’t hear you.”

Henry Barbour continued, “I like Mike Duncan personally, but this can’t be about personal friendships. It’s about getting back on the right track. We’ve got to make a change: a real change and the perception of change. We can’t do that with the same chairman. The symbolism and the substance are very important. After a season of catastrophic defeat, you might like your coach and he might be a good coach, but to keep him invites further disaster.”

White, who also endorsed Dawson, had this to say of the Duncan campaign.  “It’s a simple question of effectiveness,” White said.  “Mike Duncan, while a fine person, can no longer be effective.  Perception alone has killed him.  Let there be no mistake, we are at war over the heart and soul of America.  The Republican Party must elect a leader who can communicate our message to the American people in a manner that will resonate.  Duncan has proven he cannot do that,” said White.

The chairman’s election next weekend will determine the tactical and operational direction of the national Republican party. “It’s no secret that the Republican brand has real problems,” Henry Barbour said, “and I can’t imagine going back to our grassroots and telling them that the National Committee decided to keep our same leadership.”

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: Perry/The Republicans have problems

RR: Charter schools a stone’s throw away

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

In Reasonably Right this week I discuss the efforts by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy to improve Mississippi’s charter public school laws to provide that alternative choice for parents. Here are some excerpts:

The MCPP produced a DVD on charter schools distributed by mail to thousands of Mississippi parents. Entitled “A Stone’s Throw,” it shows parents in the Delta do not have the opportunities and choices that parents possess just a stone’s throw away in Arkansas and Tennessee. You can view the video at their charter school web site

“A Stone’s Throw” shows the successes in communities neighboring the Mississippi Delta with charter schools.

The Delta College Preparatory School (DCPS) in Helena, Arkansas is one of 66 KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) public schools across the country in states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia. DCPS serves 300 students (fifth through tenth grade). The schools cites their scores from the Stanford Norm tests to show students in three years moved from the 22nd to the 76th percentile in language, and 20th to 82nd percentile in math. Teachers and students subscribe to the school’s motto in all their lessons, “There are no shortcuts.”

Curtis Weathers traveled from the football field at Ole Miss, to seven years with the Cleveland Browns. Now he tackles public education in Memphis as the executive director of the Memphis Academy for Health Sciences, a public school chartered by 100 Black Men of Memphis.

“There are two things that make a great school: one is order, the other is great teachers,” says Weathers in the video. “The most beautiful thing about a charter school is our autonomy. We can do it the way we want to do it. Our whole idea is to make school really different. It’s a serious endeavor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it. So when you think that way, you do things a little different from time to time.”

Weathers speaks of the greatest advantage charter public schools have over traditional public schools: freedom. No one assigns a student or a teacher to a charter school; they choose the charter school. Charter schools do not have more money or more teachers or higher paid teachers or newer facilities. They have flexibility and choice: freedom with accountability.

Weathers says if students don’t succeed, then no one cares about anything else. Forest Thigpen, president of MCPP, echoes those sentiments in a new radio brief on charter schools, “Charter public schools are given freedom from some rules and regulations that traditional public schools have to follow, and in return for that freedom, they are held to a higher level of accountability….When a traditional school fails, it gets more money from the state. When a charter school fails, it closes. Now, that is accountability.”

You can read the full column in the Neshoba Democrat: Perry / Charter schools a stone’s throw away

Barbour, Bryant announce legislative agendas

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

This week in Reasonably Right I write about Governor Barbour and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant’s legislative agendas.  Barbour discussed his priorities at the Stennis-Capitol Press Corps luncheon where he also announced some good news from Toyota.  Bryant released his in a press release. Both have been hitting talk radio and conservative groups to get their folks engaged. Here are some excerpts from the column:

[Barbour's] priorities for 2009 are protecting and adding jobs, completing Katrina rebuilding, a “fair, permanent, sustainable funding solution” for Medicaid, Voter ID, workforce development and job training, and a health insurance exchange.

Barbour spent the bulk of his time addressing the budget.

Barbour is in his final term as governor; he seeks conservative executive governance. Bryant doesn’t hide his future political ambitions; he promotes conservative legislative priorities.

Bryant released his priorities list last week calling it his “2009 Common Sense Legislative Agenda.”

Bryant’s education proposals seek the full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) and innovative policies: enhanced charter school legislation, health care savings funds for teachers, allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom in critical areas with pay in addition to retirement, and removing underperforming school board members (elected or appointed).

He seeks passage of The Child Protection Act of 2009 that stiffens penalties for statutory rape laws. It regulates abortion practices when terminating pregnancies resulting from the violation of those laws. It would also hold any person who assists a minor in obtaining an abortion without parental consent civilly liable. Last year this measure threatened the leadership of the House of Representatives when despite being held in committee it was nearly forced to a floor vote. A deal allowed the committee process to save face and the bill to be reconsidered this year.

Bryant seeks to spur the economy through tax cuts: income tax reductions, phase out of inventory tax, increase homestead exemptions, and reduce by half the sales tax purchases of forestry equipment.

His ethics reform package seeks to remove the legislature’s exemption from the Open Records Act, restrict state agencies from hiring contract lobbyists in order to obtain state funds and prohibit the acceptance of campaign contributions by legislators during the regular or any special session.

Bryant also seeks to implement Voter ID, create a Senate Drug Policy Committee, and enact stricter penalties against illegal immigrants.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: Perry / Barbour, Bryant announce agendas.

The need for journalists in a digital world

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Here are two recent columns on the value of professional reporters - journalists - in reporting the news. Charlie Mitchell says “the world needs reporters” who “do yeoman-like work.” He says they

sit through the trials. They go to the city council and school board meetings. They listen to the athletes and coaches and to the campaign speeches. They pore over the public records, interview the sheriff, spend hours on the phone tracking down a state trooper for information on a wreck. They go to the ribbon-cuttings and press conferences. They read more bills than most legislators.  And then they relate their findings in a straightforward manner.

Mitchell predicts newspapers “especially smaller, community newspapers - will be around for quite a while.” (More on this subject at the Mississippi Press Association blog, InkBlots.)

Paul Mulshine, an opinion columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, has a piece in the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal titled “All I  Wanted for Christmas Was a Newspaper: Bloggers are no replacement for real journalists.” (Hat Tip: Jackson Jambalaya: Blogs v. Journalism). Mushine also writes about the need for serious and trained journalism and the challenges newspapers face with new media.

The problem is that printing a hard copy of a publication packed with solid, interesting reporting isn’t a guarantee of economic success in the age of instant news. Blogger Glenn Reynolds of “Instapundit” fame seems to be pleased at this. In his book, “An Army of Davids,” Mr. Reynolds heralds an era in which “[m]illions of Americans who were in awe of the punditocracy now realize that anyone can do this stuff.”

No, they can’t. Millions of American can’t even pronounce “pundit,” or spell it for that matter. On the Internet and on the other form of “alternative media,” talk radio, a disliked pundit has roughly a 50-50 chance of being derided as a “pundint,” if my eyes and ears are any indication.

The type of person who can’t even keep track of the number of times the letter “N” appears in a two-syllable word is not the type of person who is going to offer great insight into complex issues….

The common thread here, whether the subject is foreign, national or local, is that the writer in question is performing a valuable task for the reader — one that no sane man would perform for free. He is assembling what in the business world is termed the “executive summary.” Anyone can duplicate a long and tedious report. And anyone can highlight one passage from that report and either praise or denounce it. But it takes both talent and willpower to analyze the report in its entirety and put it in a context comprehensible to the casual reader.

This highlights the real flaw in the thinking of those who herald the era of citizen journalism. They assume newspapers are going out of business because we aren’t doing what we in fact do amazingly well, which is to quickly analyze and report on complex public issues. The real reason they’re under pressure is much more mundane. The Internet can carry ads more cheaply, particularly help-wanted and automotive ads.

So if you want a car or a job, go to the Internet. But don’t expect that Web site to hire somebody to sit through town-council meetings and explain to you why your taxes will be going up. Soon, newspapers won’t be able to do it either.

RR: Playing the race card

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

At the end of this month, members of the Republican National Committee (the Chairman, National Committeeman, and National Committeewoman from each state), will meet to elect a the chairman of the Republican National Committee. There are several candidates for the seat including the incumbent Mike Duncan, Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, former Tennessee Republican Chairman Chip Saltsman, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Katon Dawson of South Carolina, Saul Anuzis of Michigan, and others. I wrote about how the race turned nasty this week in Reasonably Right. Here are a few excerpts:

On March 19, 2007, the Los Angeles Times published a column titled “Obama the ‘Magic Negro’” by David Ehrenstein, a writer on Hollywood and politics, who is black. Ehrenstein wrote, “The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture…there to assuage white ‘guilt’ (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history…Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help…. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn’t project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him.”

The column wound up in Rush Limbaugh’s “stack of stuff” and conservative satirist Paul Shanklin composed a parody to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Shanklin performed it in the style of Al Sharpton equipped with a bullhorn: “Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.; The L.A. Times, they called him that; ‘Cause he’s not authentic like me. Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper; Said he makes guilty whites feel good; They’ll vote for him, and not for me; ‘Cause he’s not from the hood. See, real black men, like Snoop Dog,; Or me, or Farrakhan; Have talked the talk, and walked the walk.; Not come in late and won! Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C.; The L.A. Times, they called him that; ‘Cause he’s black, but not authentically. Some say Barack’s ‘articulate’; And bright and new and ‘clean’; The media sure loves this guy; A white interloper’s dream!”

The song ridiculed blacks who questioned Obama’s “authenticity” and whites who need a black trophy friend to prove their non-racism. He quoted now Vice President Elect Joe Biden for the “articulate” and “clean” remarks, but the rest simply paraphrased Ehrenstein’s column.

Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman gets the joke. As part of his campaign for Republican National Chairman, he bought a copy of the CD for every member of the Republican National Committee. Saltsman is a grassroots guy. A Rush Limbaugh Republican. A non-establishment type, he ran Mike Huckabee’s campaign for president and publically opposed his own Republican governor’s tax hikes in Tennessee.

Washington Republicans know how to play the race card against other Republicans. Mike Duncan, a banker from Kentucky who was George W. Bush’s pick to run the Republican National Committee in 2007 is seeking reelection. Under his leadership, Republicans lost the White House, Senate seats, House seats, and gubernatorial seats. Now this CD (and possibly Saltsman’s momentum) has Duncan “shocked and appalled.” He condemned Saltsman and created a national story on Republican racial insensitivity.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, one of two candidates for chairman in the race who are black, said his “concerns are minimal” and blamed “hypersensitivity in the press.” He disagreed with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who said this should disqualify Saltsman from contention.

Saltsman buys a CD of political satire promoted on the Rush Limbaugh Show. One track on the CD satirizes a column written by a black man that criticizes whites who demean Barack Obama. For this, RNC Chairman Duncan attacks him, and the press is happy to spread the news.

Saltsman is likely thinking, with Republicans like this, who needs Democrats?

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: Perry/Playing the race card

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