POLITICS

Mississippi editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Nov. 9

The Commercial Dispatch, Columbus, Miss., on the Ole Miss election night incident:

The recent ugly incident on the University of Mississippi campus is a stark reminder that race relations in Mississippi continue to be an issue, not just for the university but for our state.

Late Nov. 6 evening, in the hours immediately after President Barack Obama won re-election, approximately 400 students gathered in the Grove to protest, throw rocks and shout racial epithets. According to reports, the incident was fueled by the "gloating" of some black students over the re-election of our nation's first African-American president.

In turn, an undetermined number of Ole Miss students met in a confrontation. A student was quoted as saying that white students gathered on one side of the street, with black students on the other side. White students yelled racial slurs at the black students, according to the reports.

The university said there were no injuries. Two students were arrested, one for public drunkenness, the other for failure to obey police orders.

A report by Mississippi Public Broadcasting carried this particularly disturbing sound bite from one of the white students who was on the scene:

"(We were supporting) the Republican and Confederate side and they (the blacks) had their side."

The Confederate side?

It has been 151 years since the beginning of the Civil War and, paradoxically, 50 years since James Meredith enrolled at Ole Miss, prompting a deadly riot that remains one of our state's ugliest episodes.

Surely, we have moved beyond the idea that there is a "Confederate side," to embrace and defend. ...

The harshest assessment would be that Ole Miss is still the school of choice for those who embrace the Old South, with all its glories and all its prejudices and biases. In some quarters, at least, there is still some "white pride" defiance among Ole Miss supporters, despite the best efforts of the university's leadership to create a post-racial Ole Miss. It seems likely that the students who shouted racial slurs emerged from this mindset.

Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi suffer for it.

Our state has made progress, it is true. But we are not there yet.

Not even close.

Online:

http://www.cdispatch.com

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Nov. 13

Northeast Miss Daily Journal, Tupelo, on the state budget and economy:

Mississippi's 2014 revenue estimate, approved by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and Gov. Phil Bryant, begins the long process of agreeing on state spending priorities for the budget cycle beginning July 1, 2013, and almost certainly some adjusted spending for the current budget because of a revised, higher revenue estimate.

The 14-member committee, by law, sets the revenue estimate every year before the next legislative session convenes, and the governor must concur.

In most years that's about as far as agreement extends because what the governor proposes will be followed by what the Legislature proposes, followed by the debates in the session.

The $5.02 billion estimate for 2014 is 1.6 percent higher than 2013 revenues, which is mildly encouraging, but in almost the same breath the state's chief economist, Darrin Webb, says we're still in a mild recession that started earlier in 2012, but we could pull out of it this quarter.

The official economic forecast from Webb and the other experts operating under the umbrella of the public universities has been consistently very cautious since late 2007.

The official economic forecast for the fourth quarter released this month explains Mississippi's situation in more detail:

— The growth rates of output and employment in Mississippi have been lower than the U.S. rates this year. The annual growth rate of real output in 2012 is expected to be under 1 percent, but will gradually accelerate in the coming years, reaching a peak of 2.7 percent in 2015.

— Employment in the state has fallen every year since 2007, and no growth is expected in 2012.

— The heavy reliance on lower-skill workers is more vulnerable to cuts, due both to competition from imports and to changing consumer preferences, which are shifting toward technology-related services. Professional and business employment has expanded at rates of over 3 percent nationally since 2010. Mississippi growth here has turned negative, with the demand for professional, scientific and technical services hit especially hard.

The health care, transportation/utilities and government sectors are the only ones with positive growth since 2008.

Along with making a budget, basic re-examination of our developmental liabilities is in order.

Online:

http://www.djournal.com

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Nov. 11

Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss., on the Voting Rights Act:

For residents of Southern states, one of the most-watched U.S. Supreme Court rulings will be in the next few months, when the justices consider whether it is time to relax the Voting Rights Act laws, originally passed in the 1960s to deal a death blow to racial discrimination in politics.

There is little doubt the Voting Rights Act, aided by the passage of time and the return to sanity of Southern politicians, has had the intended effect. Across the South, black political access is greater than it has ever been — both in the right to vote and in the number of black candidates running for office and winning elections.

The question is whether this access would continue without strict oversight at the federal level.

Inflexible sides are already forming.

The director of the non-profit Project on Fair Representation, which is paying for the legal challenges to the Voting Rights Act as well as one on affirmative action, correctly notes that America has changed greatly since the 1965 enactment of the voting legislation. In his view, the law is stuck "in a Jim Crow time warp."

The acting president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, meanwhile, says voter ID laws are no more than a clever update of old tricks to keep blacks from voting, and that a federal court has ruled that a Texas redistricting plan discriminated against Hispanics.

The court, which often has a five-member conservative majority, may well rule that the Voting Rights Act has served its purpose, and that there is no need for Southern states and parts of a few others to get Justice Department approval for any electoral changes, ranging from redistricting to annexation and even the relocation of polling places.

Complicating matters for the conservative-liberal divide is that in 2006 President Bush, with strong support from a Republican-led Congress, signed a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act. Now Republicans, who are on the short end of the balance of power, are likely to support dropping the requirement for federal approval.

Hopefully the Supreme Court will figure out a way, or at least instruct Congress to do it, to give individual states, counties and cities the opportunity to show that there are no barriers to voting or to minority political representation. It's probable that some states have a better track record in this regard than others. Those who have treated all voters fairly should be recognized for these efforts. ...

Online:

http://www.enterprise-journal.com

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