Mississippi editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

May 10

The Vicksburg Post on long-sought sports complex:

Have you ever sat at a keyboard wondering what to type? Have you ever been afflicted with writer's block, an ailment that prevents ideas from flowing from your mind, to your fingers, onto a keyboard and then to your computer screen?

On more than one occasion this has happened to this newspaper's editorial board, the brave few who each day discuss what would become the newspaper's opinion for the next edition.

For us, the solution to such an ailment as writer's block has been what many of you over the years must have thought was an unhealthy obsession with the idea of a new sports complex.

In just a brief review of editorials and columns written over the past four years is no less than a dozen — and more — of those focused on the idea, the development of, the election of and construction of the new sports complex that Thursday became an reality with the ribbon cutting.

While games and events have been hosted at Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi since February, the official opening was delayed due to construction and weather to Thursday. And for a good portion of our community, the opening of the park puts to rest one of those "pie in the sky" ideas that had been discussed in Vicksburg for nearly a generation.

And in those opinion pieces we compiled, most were in support of the idea. We believed in the economic impact forecasts that showed how a completed, multi-use sports facility would help local businesses, specifically restaurants, convenience stores and hotels.

In December 2015 we wrote, "We have long endorsed the idea of expanded and improved facilities in Vicksburg. We have endorsed the public-private partnership needed to make the facility financially feasible and a good use of tax dollars."

In January 2017, we said the following, "Sports complexes like the one planned — with nine multi-use fields that can be used for soccer, baseball or softball; championship fields for baseball, soccer and softball, all made of synthetic turf, as well as a splash pad, ropes course, walking track and other recreation activities — are economic drivers for a town."

And since the park has opened in February, we have seen the impact just these few months have had on local businesses, especially those on the Halls Ferry exit and Pemberton Boulevard corridor.

While we did not agree with the site selected, believing such a location would create traffic issues through the Fisher Ferry area, we have been pleased to see the installation of a traffic signal at the park and the ongoing hope and prayer of a connecting road between Fisher Ferry Road and U.S. 61 South, located near the park.

In more than one editorial we have taken a stance that was unpopular with the readers or those we have written about. We have made endorsements in political races that we would like to do over again, and given opinions that proved to be flat out wrong.

In this case, we were glad we were on the right side of the issue.

In an editorial written in October 2017, we quoted Mayor George Flaggs Jr. saying, "This is one of the game changers for this city; getting the sports complex." We then went on to write, "We have in the past supported the concept of a sports complex for Vicksburg, and we hope the completed facility becomes the game changer the mayor expects."

Now, with the park open, the ribbon cut and hundreds of games already played, we can say the mayor was right, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen were right in pushing the plan, the voters were right in approving the tax plan and . thankfully . we were right in giving it our support.

The Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi is not just going to be a game-changer for Vicksburg and Warren County, it already is.



May 9

The Commercial Dispatch on surveying historic structures in Starkville:

Progress and the past can often find themselves in competition.

This is particularly true when it comes to development.

In recent years, the city of Starkville has enjoyed a building boom, but for all the benefits of that trend, there are some costs, too.

One of the biggest casualties has been the loss of the city's historic homes and buildings. The full weight of that loss is beginning to resonate in the community, thankfully.

In April, the city was awarded a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to conduct a survey of the remaining historic buildings, which suggests a newfound awareness and appreciation for these old buildings. While many of the city's historic homes and buildings now exist only in memory and photographs, a new sensitivity could mean a concerted effort to make these buildings a complement to the development rather than an impediment.

The presence of these buildings lends character to communities in a way like nothing else can.

Another factor in the survival of these buildings is their functionality. The market for large, antebellum homes as single family residences has grown smaller and smaller. Today, families want modern, efficient homes built around their lifestyles. In the face of that, the survival of many of those old homes and businesses may rest with finding new, relevant uses.

In fact, that is what is happening with one of the city's oldest remaining homes right now.

Lee Carson and his wife, Jennifer, have purchased the Cedars -- more commonly known as the Montgomery House -- an antebellum home on Old West Point Road, built in the 1840s. The house is, along with the Gillespie-Jackson house at the corner of Louisville Street and Highway 12, one of two remaining antebellum homes in Starkville.

The Carsons intend to convert the home into a bed-and-breakfast, tapping into the ever-growing demand for housing on Mississippi State sports weekends. As the city's survey identifies similar historic properties, preservation efforts should focus not only on the history these buildings represent but how they can continue to be relevant now.

Breathing new life into these old homes and buildings should be viewed as a part of the city's development plans. Progress and the past need not always be in conflict.



May 9

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on Rev. Jesse Jackson's comments regarding Mississippi:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Push Coalition recently announced they are looking into whether officials properly handled justice for a Pontotoc County girl and her family.

A'Miya Braxton was killed when she was struck by a car after getting off a stopped school bus in front of her house on Oct. 4, 2016. An SUV following the bus failed to stop, striking and killing the 7-year-old North Pontotoc Elementary student.

Two grand juries listened to evidence, but neither indicted the white driver, Karen Michelle Carpenter. Braxton was black, and the Rainbow Push Coalition has said it will study allegations of racism in the case.

Jackson is considering a visit to Northeast Mississippi, as reported by the Daily Journal's William Moore.

There have been numerous questions asked about the case through the years, and we are glad to see the prominent civil rights leader bring greater attention to it. We appreciate his interest in seeing that justice is done for the young child and her family, and we welcome him to Mississippi.

However, comments Jackson made about the state are concerning.

"Mississippi is still hell, but we got the water to fight back," Jackson said during the coalition's annual conference last month, as reported by Moore. "We'll put out the fire. We will win Mississippi. We will not give up until there is justice in Mississippi."

Jackson's remarks show how unfamiliar he is with today's Mississippi and the progress it has made in terms of racial reconciliation.

Without a doubt, the state has much room to grow and continues to face numerous challenges in race relations. But it's also true that much improvement has been made over the past 60 years. Those gains haven't happened by accident, but have been achieved by much sweat, vision, dedication and courage by countless Mississippians.

Jackson's comments are an insult to their work and to all Mississippians.

More so, by playing to a stereotype from Mississippi's Jim-Crow days, Jackson may grab national attention. But he distracts from Braxton's case and causes it to lose credibility.

Jackson has said at least two members of his staff would be traveling to Mississippi, although it is unclear at this point whether or not he will accompany them and what they can legally accomplish.

We hope Mr. Jackson is able to visit and to better understand the nuanced portrait that is Mississippi - both its successes and its challenges. And we hope that with a more complete picture of our state, he is able to help the existing efforts to move Mississippi forward as a more unified, equitable and just community. But, if the nature of his comments is any indicator, we won't hold our breath waiting for a measured and unifying message.