My pie' mindset frustrates cause of local unity

By By William F. West / community editor
Dec. 10, 2002
The president of the Montgomery Institute on Monday used a lemon ice box pie to explain the need for unity in regional economic development.
Bill Crawford, speaking to a luncheon of Rotarians, said the problems with Meridian and Mississippi can be found in leaders who persist in thinking:
Walking around the room with the pie in hand, Crawford said those who don't believe the lack of unity can go look at the bottom line: Statistics.
Crawford said 19.9 percent of Mississippians live in poverty. And he said the rate is worse for Lauderdale County and its adjoining counties in Mississippi and Alabama 22.9 percent.
People in the audience cringed and gasped when Crawford also told them Mississippi has a 46 percent birthrate to unwed mothers highest in the nation. He said the rate is 46.6 percent in Lauderdale and its adjoining counties.
Crawford said the problems with East Mississippi and West Alabama are hardly new. That's the reason for the Montgomery Institute, a regional think tank named in honor of former U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery.
Crawford said the institute is working to address problems from nurturing the development of a regional commission to working with economically hard-hit Clarke County on a strategic recovery plan.
But Crawford didn't confine his criticisms to the Meridian area. He also criticized Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for last month's firing of longtime military base closure consultant Barry Rhoads.
Musgrove instead chose a new firm whose vice president is Wilson Golden, a former Mississippian with longtime ties to the national and state Democratic parties. Musgrove is a Democrat.
Crawford said, "There's going to be hell to pay over this for a little while because the governor approached it thinking: This is my pie. This is through the MDA (Mississippi Development Authority). This is where the money is. My executive order created the state council on military bases and if I want to do this, I can do it.'
Crawford, former president and still a member of the state College Board, said the state's universities have long been a bastion of the same thinking but are working to change. Five of them have agreed to centralize their computing services to help cut costs.