It took awhile for us to catch up with Mayor Billy Hewes regarding his position on House Bill 1523, the "religious freedom" bill. He said Gulfport was built on diversity and all are welcome in the city.
ICYMI, check out his full statement and our efforts to reach him.
Several astute friends pointed out on Facebook and Twitter that this is a nonresponse.
That is a good question, and you can bet I asked.
The mayor didn't want to talk about his opinion of the bill. Instead, he said he had prepared a statement. He texted it to my telephone while I sat across from him at his desk. I read the statement, then asked him whether he opposed or supported the House bill.
"I'm done," Hewes said, waving me off as he headed for the door.
During our conversation before he texted his response, I mentioned that he must be torn about taking a stand on the issue. How so, he wondered.
Well, I said, he is a Republican whose city received millions from the Republican-controlled Legislature for a downtown aquarium. The mayor has indicated the city hopes to land more state money for the project.
So there's that.
And then there are the tourists the city hopes to draw to this aquarium, a renovated downtown, the city's beautiful harbor and Centennial Plaza -- if it gets built.
As we see, several state governments -- including Vermont, Washington and New York -- have banned state-sponsored travel to Mississippi.
What's a mayor to do?