Moore tours state to back Big Brothers-Big Sisters

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
April 14, 2002
State Attorney General Mike Moore talked about the Big Brothers-Big Sisters program, state government and the state Legislature during a recent meeting with The Meridian Star editorial board.
Moore, now in his fourth term as attorney general, visited Meridian last week as part of a planned statewide tour to promote and encourage support of the Big Brothers-Big Sisters program.
The Meridian Star: Tell us about promoting the mentorship programs for Big Brothers-Big Sisters.
Moore: This particular tour is the brainchild of the Mississippi Economic Council and especially the Leadership Mississippi group that they have. They have about 600 graduates who were looking for a project and Blake Wilson, executive director of MEC, asked me to speak to them about the programs I do with kids.
I encouraged them to get involved with me on the mentoring programs because I think it's about the most important thing you can do. They adopted it as a program for the council and the leadership groups around the state.
The Meridian Star: Has the program changed over the years to be more about mentorship in schools than spending a lot of time with the participants away from school?
Moore: We have school-based mentoring, which is an hour a week to match a Big Brother or Big Sister with a child. Then there's community-based mentoring, which is a little larger commitment. It involves going to the home. It's taking them fishing, taking them to church just a little more of a relationship.
A lot of our school-based mentoring turns into that, but you scare people off when you say, "We want you to be a mentor." All of a sudden they think … I've got to form a relationship with this kid. I've got my own kids and I don't have any more time."
So what we are trying to do is ask them to give us an hour a week. That's really all we want. But we know sometimes it grows into a bigger deal.
We also do site-based mentoring. You can mentor to children at Boys and Girls Club of Lauderdale County, you can go to Hope Village for Children. We signed our first mentor for Hope Village this week, which was Superintendent of the Meridian Public School District Janet McLin.
We announced the "Bigs in Blue" program, too, which is getting the law enforcement community and firefighters involved. The Lauderdale County sheriff is already a mentor. The chief of police here committed and so did the fire chief.
The Meridian Star: With you being the chief law enforcement officer of the state, how does this tie in with your responsibilities?
Moore: For the past five or six years, I've been concentrating a lot of time on Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers-Big Sisters because I see that those programs actually make a difference.
You see education enhancement. You see a reduction in juvenile crime immediately, a lessening of drug and alcohol abuse. And you see a reduction in teen-age pregnancies.
The problem is we don't have enough resources. We're serving 52,000 kids with Boys and Girls Clubs in Mississippi right now; we need to be serving 150,000 kids. With Big Brothers-Big Sisters, we have 1,500 matches; we need 50,000. We're going to try to get it to 3,000 this year.
The Meridian Star: Ultimately the Legislature decided to use some money from the tobacco trust fund for Medicaid. What are your thoughts?
Moore: The big problem I have is two-fold: First, we set a standard for the rest of the country when we created a health care trust fund and the Legislature passed the law that said it will be held in trust forever and that they would only spend the earnings from the money.
Second: The first time they get into a budget deficit problem, they break the trust. They break the promise. It's not that I'm against spending money on health care, it's that I think you ought to live up to the law.
I disagree with using the health care trust fund money, but I also understand that you have a huge Medicaid deficit and there's nowhere else to get the money. I'm disappointed that it happened like it happened and it shouldn't have. They should have fixed Medicaid a year and a half ago.
The Meridian Star: Where are you on tort reform in the civil courts?
Moore: If someone files a frivolous case, the judges ought to hold lawyers and others accountable for that make them pay the court costs, dismiss their cases, whatever.
Many companies make the decision to settle rather than fight because of the risk of potential loss that would put them out of business. I suppose the response has been that we need to implement some caps on rewards. Caps may work for some folks, but what about the person who is really injured and has a huge loss?
The court system does a pretty fair job in most cases and there are rules in place that would take care of frivolous lawsuits that will protect doctors and nursing homes. The appellate process is under utilized. Folks settle cases when they don't have to settle cases.
The Meridian Star: Are you considering running for governor?
Moore: I've been very reluctant to run for governor over the years because that's not a job that I've always aspired to do. The only political job that I've ever really thought about serving in, besides attorney general, is the United States Senate. I think it would be a great honor to represent your state for the whole country.
I think it would be a great honor to be governor of the state.
I'm more interested in how I can make a difference, rather than what position I occupy. I'm in a place in my career where I can do a lot of good. I'm not sure I want to be governor.
If the question is, "Could I be governor?" Absolutely. I believe I could. If I ran against Ronnie Musgrove, I believe I would whip him. If I ran against Haley Barbour, I believe I would whip him. Who knows? But that's what I believe.
I've never had so many people from all walks of life encourage me to run for governor. I get letters every single day. I can't go anywhere without people saying, "We want you to run for governor."
If I convince myself that by being governor I can make a bigger difference than through any other choice that I have, then I'll probably do that.
The Meridian Star: Do you have a personal timetable for your decision?
Moore: Probably in the next couple of months because I have a responsibility to let folks know, plus you want to choose a path and get on it.

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