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Natchez, Mississippi

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Updated the 2nd Wednesday of each month


The Rinaldi Report:

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 Adams County Tax Assessor's Office informed them that assessments have risen, netting the county an additional $1.61 million for FY 2015-2016.


Walter Williams commentary:
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:
Natchez 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:
Her  boyfriend 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 texting miscommunication?

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.

Rallie 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 since 1987

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 Natchez 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 mobile-friendly.



Guest Commentary:

Public’s ‘sword’ can be used as shield by officials
by Charlie Mitchell 

OXFORD — 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 officials.

    No 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.

    The 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.

    The 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 compensated.

    In 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…”

    The 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.

    Why so broad?

    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 records.”

    The 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.”

    A 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.”)

    • As 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.

    At this writing, it’s not clear whether the “42 For Better Schools” organization will pursue appeals and such. Time is not on their side.

    As 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.

    The reasoning of both camps has been interesting, fully worth voters gauging all the pros and cons before casting their ballots.

    As 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 cmitchell43@yahoo.com.


Peter Rinaldi
Walter Williams
Top Local News
Amy Alkon
Dollars and Sense
Your Health
Thomas Sowell

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