And if county supervisors don’t take strong action, it should be 2015 campaign issue
Some people might ask why the financial problems of the Singing River Hospital System (SRHS) in Jackson County on the Gulf Coast is receiving so much attention from the press and several bloggers. One reason is that the county-owned system is just one of many county-owned hospital systems throughout Mississippi, and they all have one thing in common: a lack of transparency and financial accountability to taxpayers.
When the subject comes up about pork barrel spending and congressional earmarks, one of the favorite references is known as the “Bridge to Nowhere.” The $398 million project in Alaska was to build a bridge to an island that contained an airport and a grand total of 50 residents. Mississippi can now stand with Alaska. At NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. we can proudly claim the rocket-testing tower to nowhere.
Was Delbert Hosemann’s and others’ flight to DeSoto County on state’s King Air for a political event just a coincidence? I think not.
Last Monday evening the DeSoto County Republican Women held their annual Christmas dinner. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was the guest speaker for the event. Shortly before 2 p.m. on Monday, the state-owned (i.e., taxpayers) Super King Air 300 left Jackson and flew to Olive Branch in DeSoto County. After the GOP women’s dinner the state plane (“Air Mississippi”) left Olive Branch about 9 p.m. and returned to Jackson. Others on the flight included State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, two Hosemann staffers, Cory Wilson, who is running for the legislature next year and works for Fitch, and even more interesting, State Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who had driven to North Mississippi with two staffers earlier in the day for insurance department business, flew back to Jackson on the plane for the return trip only.
The national debt as of this post is $17.9 trillion and still climbing. Add the zeros needed to write out that entire number and if doesn’t make you sick, it should. On the other hand, some of this nation’s biggest deficit hawks and defense hawks are handcuffing the Pentagon as it makes recommendations to at least make a dent in defense spending. That includes Mississippi’s two Republican senators and the three conservative Republicans who are members of the U.S. House from our state.
There is a site that I don’t think is getting enough attention in Mississippi. It is Watchdog.org. After going to the home page of Watchdog.org you can take it step further, as Mississippi is one of almost 30 states where individual Watchdog reporters are based. Watchdog.org is a collection of independent journalists covering state and local governments.
The program, which started in September 2009, is a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity (http://franklincenterhq.org). The center is a non-profit organization. The participating investigative journalists dig into investigations that are valuable, because as its home page notes, “the fourth estate has begun to fade in recent decades.” The Watchdog.org journalist covering Mississippi is Steve Wilson (@gulfcoastsage). A journalism and political science graduate of the University of Alabama, he has worked for newspapers in Mobile, McComb, Biloxi and Vicksburg, as well as out-of-state newspapers. A recent post by Wilson should certainly be of interest of Mississippi taxpayers. The post is titled, “Mississippi radio group has gotten $8 million from taxpayers.”
The Prentiss County School District is one of 14 Mississippi school districts that have signed on for former governor Ronnie Musgrove’s lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit seeks money that Musgrove and those counties say they were illegally shorted by the underfunding of the Mississippi Adequate Educational Program (MAEP). Maybe Prentiss County school officials would be better off money wise if they made the decision to consolidate the four high schools that currently exist in the school district.
Prentiss County is in northeast Mississippi. The county seat is Booneville and is located one county below our state’s border with Tennessee. According to the 2010 census, the total population of the county is 25,275. According to the Prentiss County School District, there are only 2,325 students enrolled from Pre-K through the 12th grade. Yet incredibly, Prentiss County has four high schools: Thrasher HS, Jumpertown HS, New Site HS, and Wheeler HS. The enrollments range from 399 at Thrasher to 222 at Wheeler.
There is “considerable evidence that suggests that there’s no clear relationship between what’s spent on schools and student performance.”
–Eric Hanushek, education expert at Stanford’s Hoover Institution
Hanushek further comments that his research and evaluation of teachers indicates that there is too much focus on the amount that states spend and not enough on how they spend it.
There have always been people, in Mississippi and elsewhere, who believe that the answer to improving public education is to throw more dollars at the problem. That is certainly the case with former governor Ronnie Musgrove and other trial lawyers that have filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the Mississippi Legislature to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). In a later commentary I will go into more detail about the lawsuit and the lawyers who want to fatten their bank accounts.
There is another group at odds with Musgrove’s lawsuit but wants to accomplish the same thing with an amendment to the state constitution. The end result of such a constitutional amendment would be just as bad for Mississippi as Musgrove’s lawsuit.
Help to be a better legislator or taxpayer funded junket?
Earlier this month 37 members of the Mississippi Legislature attended one of the annual meetings of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Was the trip to the NCSL meetings one that will improve legislators’ service to their constituents, or was it a taxpayer funded junket? It was probably a little of both.
We are apparently near the end of the road in the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources scandal. In a news release State Auditor Stacey Pickering said that with the recent guilty plea of former DMR official Tina Shumate that “the investigation nears conclusion.” There are many people on the Gulf Coast and elsewhere in the state that still feel the investigation should have gone further. There’s also a lingering suspicion, despite Pickering waving the flag of victory for the taxpayers against corruption, that Pickering himself was not as aggressive with the DMR investigation as he and his agency should have been. It might also be safe to suggest that based on the FBI investigation of DMR that the U.S. Attorney’s office could have gone further as well.