Adams County Supervisors
have already begun to run their public notice saying property taxes for
2015-2016 will be set at the same millage as last year. The
County Tax Assessor's Office informed them that assessments have risen,
netting the county an additional $1.61 million for FY 2015-2016.
Academics and public intellectuals,
who should know better, attempt to explain the highly visible and publicized
pathology witnessed in cities such as Baltimore,
Detroit, Chicago, Ferguson and others as a legacy of slavery.
The Miss-Lou’s breaking news:
family captures and shoots record alligator. New jobs boost number of those
employed. Jim Bowie Festival returns Aug. 25-26. Cathedral coach pleads to
lesser sex charge. Louisiana
elections schedule set.
The Advice Goddess:
will text if he's running late but says texting "isn't real communication."
He says that if I need to talk, she should call him. What's behind the
Terry Savage on money:
Terry is getting a lot of questions
about ex-spouses and Social Security lately, so she's
going to try to broaden her answer to cover a few more bases.
McAllister on health:
According to the American Foundation
for Suicide Prevention, rates of suicide are increasing significantly. In
2014, the suicide rate was 12.6 per 100,000 Americans, a level not seen
Thomas Sowell thinking clearly:
Even those of us who are not supporters of either Donald Trump or Jeb Bush
can learn something by comparing how each of these men handled people who
tried to disrupt their question-and-answer period after a speech.
Best buys classifieds:
Good buys sell well.
Take a look at our classifieds. Buy, sell or trade.
Tourists and pilgrims welcome:
Fall Pilgrimage begins this month.
It's the perfect time to visit
and Vidalia and sample some Southern hospitality.
Win cash or prizes!
Jenny Blunschi of
Ferriday won $200. Now you can win two tickets to the Saints-Giants game
Nov.1 at the Superdome.
More good writing:
Find more local news and another
edition of the Rinaldi Report on www.natchezsunxpress.com. This website is
Public’s ‘sword’ can be used as shield by
by Charlie Mitchell
— Mississippi’s access laws were designed as a sword for citizens seeking
truth, but can become into a shield in the hands of reluctant public
better illustration of this than last week’s fracas between the citizen
group that seeks to ratchet up public school funding and leaders in the
Capitol who like things just as they are, thank you.
situation started with Aug. 10 letters from Michael Rejebian of the “42 For
Better Schools” group, which is campaigning for votes in November in favor
of a citizen initiative to change Mississippi’s constitution.
One letter was to Tate
Reeves, lieutenant governor. Reeves is a statewide elected official. His job
includes presiding during Senate sessions, but he’s not a senator.
other was to Phillip Gunn, speaker of the House. In Mississippi, House
members chose their speaker by internal voting, so Gunn is a lawmaker. But
the speaker’s office is also freestanding; the speaker is separately
the letters, Rejebian asks for access, as provided by state law, to
correspondence and any and all types related to Initiative 42 or to
Initiative 42A, the alternative that the House and Senate voted to place on
statewide ballots to compete with the version arising via citizen petition.
To follow the spirit of
the law, Reeves and Gunn could have responded, “OK, here you go,” and made
the information public.
Instead, they turned the law into a shield by saying, “We don’t have to.”
The statute defines public records as those “…having been
used, being in use, or prepared, possessed or retained for use in the
conduct, transaction or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty
or function of any public body…”
law also makes clear computer and digital records are included and directs
that “each agency must ensure reasonable access to electronic records,”
which were also part of Rejebian’s request.
Because it’s the policy of Mississippi to have faith in the public to
discern what’s best for the state and, in keeping with that belief, to
maximize access to information about processes, not merely outcomes. In
dictatorships, no such rights exist. Governments act by edict. In
democracies, the power to govern, at least in theory, comes from the consent
to be governed. And consent without access is like signing a blank check.
Reeves and Gunn referred
the request to legislative committees, citing a provision in the access law
that preserves the power of the Legislature “to regulate access to its
law giveth; the law taketh away. Sen. Giles Ward, R-Louisville, chairs the
Rules Committee. His response was that Senate rules only require release of
expense records and, in all capital letters, “NO OTHER RECORDS
ARE SUBJECT TO RELEASE.”
couple of points:
Rejebian did not ask for legislative documents. That’s significant. He
specified correspondence of employees and staff of the Office of Lieutenant
Governor and the same for the Office of the Speaker. (In a different
scenario, it’s likely that both Reeves and Gunn would be adamant that their
documents belongs to their offices and were not “legislative records.”)
Sen. Ward’s carefully worded response indicates, there’s no legal
requirement that the correspondence be kept private. He says, in essence,
“We could if we wanted to, but we don’t have to so we’re not.”
So what we have is an
artful dodge. It brings to mind the late Chancellor Willard McIlwain who
wrote in a different access case about a public body was “using the law to
circumvent the law.”
Access statutes exist as
a safeguard against imperial acts by public officials. But they can be
parsed, and often are.
this writing, it’s not clear whether the “42 For Better Schools”
organization will pursue appeals and such. Time is not on their side.
for the merits of the matter, they’re pretty straightforward. The
initiative’s backers copiously followed state law and gathered petitions to
force an election on whether, upon judicial decree if necessary, public
schools will be properly funded. Lawmakers, who have increased K-12 funding
each year — but not to the levels they set in state law — used their power
to add a competing provision to ballots. The lawmakers’ provision is
expected to function as a “poison pill” by not getting enough votes to pass,
but enough to defeat the initiative.
reasoning of both camps has been interesting, fully
worth voters gauging all the pros and cons before casting their ballots.
things stand, though, Reeves and Gunn have taken the position, “Trust us.
We’ll tell you what you need to know.”
Charlie Mitchell is a
Mississippi journalist. Write to him at