Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Notes From the Political Forum

Cissy Jordan called the meeting to order and Henry Harris lead us in prayer and the Salute to the Flag.

The Habitat for Humanity Project (off Brodnax Road) has finally been defeated for good, the court upheld the decision by the Planning Commission and The Board of Supervisors.

Singing River Electric Power Association is experiencing problems with their phones. Cissy asked for a show of hands to see how many people it was affecting and discovered it was not affecting many people.

Everyone was invited to the January Meeting where we will elect officers.

Read the Initiatives that will be on the November 8th Ballot.
No 26 Persoonhood - NO
No 27 Voter ID - NO
No 31 Eminent Domain - YES

Recognized Michael Watson.

Candidates were allowed to make a 5 minutes speech.

The candidates running for School Board went first.

Duane Dobson - Wants to improve our scores so that our schools are not just first in the State, but also in the top percentage Nationally instead of ranked last as we currently are. Wants to see the funds distributed fairly and everyone working together. Is for comprehensive sex education in the schools and will research uniforms to see if there is a valid reason to do away with them if someone ask.

Lori Ramsay Massey - In the interest of full disclosure we are friends.  Concerned with school bus safety, proper hand-washing  to prevent germs from being picked up and in insuring that special needs children get the therapy they need.

Karen Ray Tolbert - wants to make sure we have winning athletic teams.

Candidates for Jackson County Sheriff

Jeff Barnes - maintains there is serious issues with Sheriff Byrd's leadership, that he waste our tax dollars and wants to know where the money goes.

Mike Byrd - was unable to attend due to a mix up in the dates. The Civic Association allowed a letter he wrote to be read on his behalf.

Walter "Bo" Bohl - did not attend

Candidates for Jackson County District 4 Supervisor

Bo Alawine - In the interest of full disclosure he is my spouse.  Since I have a copy of his speech I am including it here. 
My wife, Sandra, and I both consider it a privilege to be part of the Latimer community and citizens of Jackson County.  We moved here 24 years ago and have loved it.  However, as much as I love Jackson County, we could be doing far better. 

I believe government is often used to benefit the well-connected, while the rest of us pick up the tab.  For example, giving tax breaks to large businesses leads to more jobs which leads to more revenue. Unfortunately, this is usually an article of faith that results in a significant shift of the tax burden onto homeowners.

Overall, Jackson Countians pay higher property taxes despite the presence of several large industries here.  Our total assessed valuation is fourth in the state, whereas Harrison County is first. Yet we have the 26th highest total millage assessed while Harrison County ranks near the bottom in total millage.  Despite having the second highest millage for Fire Protection in the state, the fire ratings for the unincorporated areas remain at 7 or above and those for the incorporated areas are 5 or higher.  Higher fire ratings translate into higher insurance costs.

This begs the question:  Are we getting a good return on our investment for the tax breaks granted to large employers in the county?

I believe in using tax incentives to attract and retain businesses but those businesses should be held accountable for upholding their end of the bargain and we need to know for sure that they are.

We need a more diverse economic development plan, one that relies less on heavy industry and more on small to mid-size businesses which offer competitive wages and benefits.  Aggressively promote our natural attractions such as the Pascagoula River basin and  DeSoto National Forest as well as other venues such as downtown Ocean Springs and the proposed USS Ticonderoga project in Pascagoula.  Adding quality of life improvements such as bike paths, more parks and public boat launches when we upgrade our infrastructure.

Additionally, everyone should be able to know what their elected and appointed officials are doing without having to attend every meeting. There is no reason all county information should not be readily and publicly-accessible online 24/7.  As noted by the Sun Herald, Jackson County is the lone holdout here on the Coast with making its spending information publicly available. That is inexcusable. 

It boils down to this:  We deserve a county government which looks to the future and doesn’t rely on the “business as usual” approach in which the public’s business, OUR business, is discussed behind closed doors.

Why did I decide to run for supervisor?  Well, besides the fact I arguably have no better sense, I have two very important vested interests: Jonathan and Sean.  Jonathan graduates from college this December, while Sean has a couple more years.  I want them to be able to find good-paying jobs here in Jackson County.  Not in Alabama or Louisiana, but here.  I want them to be able to afford homes, put down roots, raise families, without worrying about whether their county is cutting backroom deals that will mean a lower quality of life for their families.

It’s conventional wisdom that money often buys political influence.  That’s why you should know that, with one exception, I have not received any political campaign contributions.  I am a self-funded candidate and I have copies of my campaign finance report here to prove it.

I’d rather risk losing an election due to insufficient campaign funds than win one bankrolled by special interests that come calling after Election Day.  When it’s all said and done, I do not want to owe anyone anything but a “Thank you!” for their vote. 

Sandra has more than once told me she honestly believes I’d make a great supervisor but I definitely make a lousy politician.  I personally think that’s a great compliment.

I don’t want Jackson County to be just a good place to work. I don’t want it to be just a good place to do business.  I want Jackson County to be a great place to live.  A great place to start and raise a family.  A great place to enjoy the company of friends and family.  A great place to grow old and retire.

A great place for all of our children to build their futures.

Please consider me for your next supervisor. - Bo Alawine

There was some confusion and his time was cut short as he wanted to clarify that even though he is a member of the Latimer Civic Association the Association is apolitical and does not endorse any candidates, therefore he did not get to give the speech in it's entirety.

Troy Ross - He is currently the Alderman at Large for Ocean Springs.

The meeting was adjourned.

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