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New year must be one of accountability

One word clearly dominated the year just closed — flooded.

The Mississippi River flooded and voters flooded to the polls to make changes in local leadership.

So what will the word for 2012 be some 365 days from now? Let’s hope the word is accountability.

That word will be applicable to some of the biggest issues likely facing our community in the next 12 months.

Here are a few things that should be on the community’s “top priority” list.

Keen-eyed and sharp-witted readers will have a few more to add, I expect. If so, please drop me a line and share.

First, all eyes will be on the city elections soon. Although many people are all in a dither about who will be sitting in the mayor’s seat, the real power rests in the six other chairs in the room, each belonging to an alderman.

Look for some surprises there and, hopefully, some folks who can stand up and make tough decisions — in a calm, constructive manner.

During the city elections, accountability will be a constant thought on the minds of smart voters. Each of them should ask themselves: Is candidate X actually doing a good job? Has he or she really done anything other than keep a chair warm during meetings and collect a paycheck.

Voters — as evidenced by the recent county elections — are losing patience for politicians who look the part, but don’t play the part of a leader.

A prime example of that is the city’s lingering issue with the proposed Roth Hill Casino complex. The absolute baffling thing is: why are we dealing with these folks?

No one — perhaps the mayor excluded — seems to know all of the developers’ plans, their backgrounds or the source of their investment capital or even exactly what they plan to invest in the community.

Our city already has one half-developed casino site with financial issues just south of the bridge.

Why on earth did the city potentially lock up its only remaining riverfront site in a sketchy deal that may hold the site hostage for 99 years?

Even members of the board of aldermen question the legality of the so-called lease.

Getting an independent, third-party’s opinion, rather than the opinion of the lawyer, who drafted the lease, is key.

A reader last week suggested that if the city’s elected officials were really being open and honest representatives of Natchez residents, they’d put the Roth Hill Casino on the city ballot as an up or down referendum.

Doing so wouldn’t really cost anything and it would give everyone a chance to voice his or her opinion on the crucial matter. Who better than to help determine the fate of the city’s most beautiful spot on the river than the taxpayers who own it? It would be awful if a few politicians signed away a lifetime of ownership for something that the majority of residents did not want in the first place.

Other issues of accountability will likely come with the city and county budget again in the fall. Both entities will probably be mulling the T-word unless spending cuts are made or more services consolidated.

Finally, we all better hope for success in the effort to wrestle the ownership of our only railroad spur from the current ownership. Clearly, with a current rate structure that is approximately three times that of comparable lines, the railroad is hurting our economic prospects. And the owner — like our local elected folks — must be held accountable in 2012.

Happy New Year, and thank you for reading us.

 

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.