Jan. 28, 2001
Mayor speaks out
To the Editor:
In response to The Meridian Star January 25 editorial concerning the so-called "private" meeting between U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering and local elected officials, the public needs to know that the meeting was not private, it was fully covered and reported to the public by WTOK-TV.
No one in my office and, to my knowledge, none of the public officials invited to meet with Rep. Pickering were told that the meeting was "private." We were invited to spend some time with Rep. Pickering discussing matters of vital importance to our community, and I would have been derelict in my duty to the public if I had not attended. Further, I freely discussed the time and place of the meeting with reporters who called to ask about it in advance.
By The Star's own admission, they were notified of the meeting a couple of hours in advance. If they believed the meeting was a public event, why didn't they attend and demand to be able to cover the discussions? Apparently, that's what WTOK did and they were not denied access.
It appears that The Meridian Star got scooped and, in retaliation, fired off an editorial blasting public officials who were doing the public's business as we are charged to do.
John Robert Smith
Mayor City of Meridian
Editor's note: Mayor Smith's letter has once again exhibited the arrogance that is one of his least attractive qualities … but in the spirit of fair comment, we support his right to be that way. The mayor obviously was not privy to the E-mail sent to the media from Pickering's press secretary, Quinton Dickerson, which clearly stated the congressman was in Meridian last Tuesday night and we quote "for a PRIVATE Meeting with the Mayor and board of supervisors. There is nothing top secret about the meeting, it is just a private meeting so Congressman Pickering can ask them about projects in Meridian and how they would like for him to help." end quote. Dickerson even took the extraordinary step of trying to disinvite a local television reporter with whom Mayor Smith has a close relationship. Surely Mayor Smith is aware that his practice of currying favor with selected favorites in the local news media diminishes his credibility with the public.
He is quick to defend his duty, but ignores the legal responsibility of certain elected officials to inform the public about meetings. In this case, the result was to exclude any member of the general public from participating in a discussion of things he describes as "matters of vital importance."
The Star was advised that the meeting was "private," the Mayor says he was not so advised. So be it. But with the haughtiness exhibited in his letter, is it any wonder the general public of this community has for years felt isolated and excluded from decisions made about their business.
In a gracious apology for his office's role in this episode, Congressman Pickering recognized the sensitivity of the situation "in the context of a larger pattern with local officials not being as open" as they possibly could be.
Since no public official has yet stepped forward to champion the cause of open government, The Meridian Star will continue to carry the banner for full disclosure and inclusion.
We do applaud the mayor's initiative at making his thoughts known instead of pouting and sulking. This is a welcome change in behavior. Is there an election this spring?
drop the ball
To the Editor
I read with great interest Mike Giles' column in The Meridian Star (January 19). Someone is finally saying publicly what most serious hunters and landowners' concerns have been about the thinning of the deer herds in this state.
The state wildlife people dropped the ball on the regulation now in place to equalize the doe and buck ratio.
I have hunted in the same place for 30 years and at no time have I seen the deer population at such a low number. I live on the same land I hunt, so I see the deer year round.
The way to equalize a buck/doe ratio of a deer herd and maintain the numbers is simply to stop shooting your immature bucks.
The old way of taking does during archery and three doe days during the holidays, along with taking bucks only 8 points or better is the way to go. Do this for only two years and the herd ratio would improve drastically.
The wildlife biologists could then regulate the herds in different areas of the state through doe permits.
A cattle farmer who has too many cows for his old tired bull doesn't start shooting his cows. He simply gets another bull.
John M. Semmes
Seeks Jimmie Rodgers support
To the Editor:
On behalf of the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation, I would urgently like to ask for the support of the citizens and businesses in the Meridian community to help ensure the survival of the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival and the Jimmie Rodgers Museum.
Never in the history of the festival has your support been so critically needed.
Over the past several years the festival has had increasing difficulty surviving due to a variety of factors. Clearly, the festival has not adapted to the changing times as well as necessary. To make the festival viable again, significant changes to the format and form of the festival have been initiated.
The festival has been shortened to three days to focus on one major "Blowout Weekend." We plan to concentrate our funds to book an absolutely top-notch act as the main attraction for this weekend.
Additionally, we have moved the date of the festival to a weekend where there will be minimal competition from outside events. Revenue from ticket sales and individual contributions has not been enough to offset the cost of the entertainment. As such, we are aggressively seeking the corporate sponsorship that will be absolutely necessary to continue the festival.
The Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival has been a cultural institution for over 20 years in the Meridian community, Lauderdale County and East Central Mississippi. Over the years the festival has become an integral part of our local culture and identity. It would be an absolute shame for the festival to cease to exist.
Some have said that the reason they have not supported the festival in the past is that they have not been asked. Please let this letter serve as a formal request for your help.
Make no mistake about it, the festival is in need of your financial support now to continue to operate.
I would like to thank all of the individuals and corporate sponsors who have given up much to the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival over the years. If you are interested in being a sponsor, please contact our sponsorship committee chairman, Carolyn Smith, at 693-9723.
Please help us keep the legacy of Jimmie Rodgers alive.
Jimmie Rodgers Foundation