Jan. 7, 2001

By Staff
Inmate labor program works
To the editor:
I would like to commend the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office on the Inmate Work Program.
I think this is a wonderful program for the inmates. I am glad to see my tax dollars being used on something besides allowing them to play basketball and watch TV all day.
I have to work if I am able to eat and do things, it should not be any different for them. They have committed crimes and, at one time, they were treated better than the taxpayers. It is good to know that they are having to give back to a community that they have wronged.
The sheriff's department has had a great idea putting this into practice and I think they need to hear feedback from the community.
Angela Benson
Collinsville
Clearing up some misconceptions
To the editor:
In response to Chuck Hamrick's letter (Just Say "No" to New Taxes, Dec. 31), there are some apparent misconceptions that need to be cleared up.
He lambastes the spending policies of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, and plainly points out how there is no budget crisis. While he brings up some interesting points, he also brings up some misconceptions.
Mr. Hamrick foretells of "many more tax increase proposals," and goes so far as to mention gasoline taxes. Compared nationwide, Mississippi's gas taxes are about average, and so are not the high taxes that he indicates near the bottom of his letter.
Also regarding gasoline taxes, they are the primary source of funding for road projects, particularly at the state level, as well as for providing a match for federal funds. If you limit the amount of gas tax coming in, you limit the funds available for transportation spending. Likewise, bringing in more gas tax revenue allows more transportation projects to move forward.
Mr. Hamrick also points out what he perceives as millions of dollars spent by MDOT on projects that do not deal with roads and bridges, and gives three examples.
Unfortunately, this tells me that many people out there do not realize that this is the Mississippi Department of TRANSPORTATION. They no longer deal with just roads and bridges, but handle all transportation types, and have been such since the Legislature consolidated everything transportation-related into MDOT in 1991. It was this consolidation that necessitated the need for a new headquarters in downtown Jackson.
Regarding the other two examples cited, walkways and bikeways are valid forms of transportation facilities (to which the feds will kick in a little extra), as are railways, depots, and multi-modal facilities. Furthermore, regarding Union Station, it was federal and local money that paid for the Union Station upgrade.
The financial problems that are beginning to crop up in MDOT are only the tip of the iceberg, and are largely caused by the 1987 Highway Program.
While the Legislature can be credited for creating this excellent four-laning program, and provided a funding mechanism, that funding mechanism is not very stable, as it is largely a "pay as you go" system.
The Legislature did not provide additional funding for the additional maintenance that the four-laning program will require, which places additional strain on MDOT's maintenance budget. In addition, many of the targeted four-lane road sections have required a full reconstruction of the existing lanes. Given the condition of many of these old road sections, there was a necessary item, which has only added to the cost of the four-laning program.
Even with restructuring MDOT's leadership to improve efficiency, there are far more needed projects than there is funding available.
The lack of maintenance money for maintaining the highways just adds further to the money crunch. So it comes down to this query: Do you build the roads only to not maintain them? Do you let project go by the wayside in order to maintain what you have? Or do you increase funding in order to keep both?
The only way to have your cake and eat it is to pay for it.
Adam Froehlig
Lauderdale
Reinstate the Magnolia Flag' of 1861
To the editor:
Mississippi is on the verge of tearing itself apart over the flag issue. The truly sad thing is it can be should be avoided. Mississippi is in desperate need of leadership, but the politicians are running like neglectful parents.
If the South Carolina Legislature can find a compromise to their flag issue, why can't the Mississippi Legislature do the same?
A direct vote will not put an end to the issue. The racial divisions and feelings of resentment that have long festered over the issue will remain. In fact, they could grow stronger. Compromise is the only viable solution. The answer to the problem is obvious to anyone willing to look the Magnolia Flag of 1861.
On Jan. 9, 1861, Mississippi voted to secede from the Union and became the Independent Republic of Mississippi. On Jan. 26, the republic adopted a flag with the Bonnie Blue flag in its canton, a magnolia tree on a white background, and a red sash on the fly end. Mississippi didn't join the Confederacy until March 27, 1861.
The Magnolia Flag flew proudly over Mississippi from 1861 to 1894. In 1875, the conservative Democrats regained control of the state and initiated a period called "Redemption." It was during this period in Mississippi history that African-Americans were excluded from politics, economic enterprise and social justice.
In 1894, a committee was formed to redesign the Mississippi flag. They adopted a design incorporating the Confederate Battle Flag in the canton. Our state is about to tear itself apart over that very flag.
The solution to the flag issue is a compromise where all sides can claim a moral victory. First, reinstate the Magnolia Flag as the official flag of Mississippi. The flag of 1894 should then be designated a state historical banner and proudly flown over Mississippi historical sites.
It's a win-win situation for everybody!
For those who seek heritage and tradition, the Magnolia Flag offers real Mississippi history. This flag actually flew over Mississippi during the Civil War. In the Magnolia Flag you have the honor of the Independent Republic of Mississippi, a connection with Mississippi's Confederate past and a genuine symbol of Southern values.
For those who are offended by the current Mississippi flag, the Magnolia Flag offers a symbol untainted by hate groups. The Magnolia Flag also flew over Mississippi during the Reconstruction period. During this time African-Americans in Mississippi made great social and political progress in the state. Many served as state legislators and held other elected positions.
As a life-long citizen of Mississippi, I implore the Legislature to reach a compromise. Let the Magnolia Flag fly over Mississippi once again as a unifying symbol of her people!
Richard K. McNeer
Oxford

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