A rose to the Columbus Exchange Club, which is using its weekly luncheons as a candidate forum for those running for local office. This week, the three candidates for Lowndes County prosecutor – Corky Smith, William Starks and Steve Wallace – spoke to club. Future meetings will bring candidates for other positions, including sheriff and chancery clerk. These races generally don’t get a lot of publicity, so providing the candidates an opportunity to make their cases before the club is an important way to inform voters. We applaud the Exchange Club for this effort.
A thorn to the Lowndes County School District for a pair of blunders that threaten to undermine the reputation of an otherwise successful district. First, the district failed to properly put together a realistic budget, refusing to either raise taxes to cover expenses or reduce spending to make budget. The district’s recent efforts to remedy this situation – eliminating teacher positions – is not only pointless (the state pays all but $3,000 of teachers’ salaries) – but is a case of using a “last resort” as a first option. Cutting teacher positions has a direct negative effect on education. On top of that, the district has failed to properly verify the residential status of students in a timely manner. Last year, 32 students who lived inside the Columbus Municipal School District enrolled in the county’s schools, but weren’t returned to CMSD until after the county received state funding for those students. That’s patently unfair. The district should be able to verify students’ residential status when those students enroll. Ultimately, it is the job of the county’s school board to address these problems.
A rose to the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors which approved the purchase of a camera that will allow residents to watch board meeting online. Supervisors unanimously approved the $750 purchase, which will allow the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to buy a camera and set it up to put meetings online on the county’s website. It is often difficult for working citizens to attend the board of supervisors meetings, so giving residents an opportunity to view the meetings online is a great way to keep county residents informed of what their elected representatives are conducting county business. This not only keeps citizen informed, it provides another layer of accountability. We applaud this move.
A rose to Mississippi University for Women for its efforts to encourage, education and support women in elected positions. There are 174 elected members of the Mississippi Legislature. Only 26 of those seats are held by women. Locally, neither the Columbus City Council and Lowndes County Board of Supervisors have a woman member while Starkville Board of Aldermen and Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors each have one woman seated. To encourage women to run for local office and prepare them for that role, MUW offers a National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership program each summer at the university. MUW political science professor Chanley Rainey, who serves as a program coordinator, said NEW accepts any woman enrolled in public, private or community college, to the six-day residential program geared toward building young women’s confidence in politics. This year’s program will be May 19-24. Each year about 24 students are chosen to work with program alumna and women in leadership positions, covering topics ranging from women’s roles in politics to running a campaign. They also work on an “action project” where they prepare a mock legislative committee hearing, earning two-hour college credits in the process. For too long, women have been under-represented at every level of government, from local to state to national. We congratulate The W for its efforts to address this problem.