A rose to all those who have responded to a call for help in the wake of Thursday’s fire at Chanticleer Apartments, which left 17 adults and five children with only the clothes on their backs when fire swept through all six units of the complex. Glenda Buckhalter-Richardson, community outreach coordinator for the city of Columbus, went to work immediately, reaching out to the Salvation Army, the Junior Auxiliary, Father’s Closet and The United Way to provide clothing and other necessities, as well as contacting the Columbus Housing Authority to find housing for the displaced residents. Coming so soon after Christmas, these organization’s provisions and funds are limited, so there’s a great need for the community to step up. Buckhalter-Richardson said individuals have already rallied to the cause, not only from Columbus, but from Starkville, West Point, Louisville and Tupelo. In a fire such as this, everything is gone in an instant, but not everything lost is needed immediately. For these unfortunate people, the needs associated with the fire will emerge over some length of time. Buckhalter-Richardson is encouraging donations of gift cards so those displaced by the fire can purchase items as the need emerges. We encourage readers to help that effort by calling Buckhalter-Richardson at 662-244-3525.
A thorn to Columbus Ward 1 councilman Ethel Stewart, who last week pushed for raising city employee pay despite not knowing how much the raises would cost the city and despite not having a clear picture of the city’s fiscal situation. She certainly wasn’t the only one pushing for a raise, but it was her comments about the city’s financial situation that earn her this thorn. “Who says the books aren’t in order?” she said. “Nobody can give us a definite answer on why we can’t give the raises. Mayor Gaskin’s administration say they aren’t sure what they have, but they’ve been in office for six months. It’s not like they came in one month ago and now it’s two months in and we’re asking about raises.” It’s an astounding statement, given that since Stewart joined the city council in 2019 there has never been a time when the city’s finances weren’t in question. Over that time, multiple accounting professionals — including the state auditor’s office — have said they were unable to ascertain exactly what the city’s true financial picture is. Additionally, the city has seen clerical errors derail budget plans, delayed audit reports, unclear totals of debt levels and habitual deficit spending, which is almost certainly in part caused by books being out of order. Let us answer Stewart’s question about who says the city’s books aren’t in order: Everyone does! Stewart is not only undermining good faith efforts to resolve the city’s finances, but she is also displaying an alarming lack of awareness of the city’s fiscal situation.
A rose to Starkville Fire Department Chief Charles Yarbrough, who was recently chosen to be the state director of the International Fire Chief Association. Selected by a group of fellow Mississippi fire chiefs, Yarbrough will be the first chief from Starkville to hold this position, as well as the first Black fire chief from Mississippi to serve as state director. The IFCA allows fire chiefs across the county to share new and innovative ideas, as well as offer symposiums and training opportunities for its members. IFCA is divided into eight divisions, with Mississippi falling under the Southeastern Region, which also includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yarbrough will serve on various IFCA committees as state director, including diversity and inclusion and rules and regulations. He said he sees how this organization allows fire chiefs to come together to handle issues the county is facing in regards to fire safety and emergency services. It’s a great honor for Yarbrouugh and the city, but it’s also a great opportunity to enhance fire services throughout the state. We congratulate Chief Yarbrough on this important appointment.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.