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City should work together to see progress

Like any mystery novel reader can tell you, characters with ulterior motives and deception always cause problems.

Look no further than the murkiness around the City of Natchez’s redistricting plans to see what can happen when personal agendas collide with the public good.

Call it Natchez’s latest, ill-conceived tragedy.

Likely thanks to Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and her secretive work with the NAACP, the upcoming city elections are up in the air.

In October, residents learned of Mathis’ involvement in an alternative redistricting plan only when she apparently accidentally sent an e-mail about the matter to a private citizen by mistake.

Actually, using the word “involvement” may not be strong enough.

The language in the e-mail indicates she may actually have been driving the process to create an alternative plan that would modify the aldermen districts to ensure four had a majority of black residents.

Whether or not the City’s other two black aldermen James “Rickey” Gray and Ernest “Tony” Fields were heavily involved in Mathis’ work or just aware of it is unclear.

What is clear is that Mathis was extremely upset when her apparent typo wound up putting the e-mail in the hands of the newspaper.

The question that has yet to be answered is: Why was she working so secretively?

She’d made no bones about her dislike for the redistricting consultant the city hired.

Mathis was the lone dissenting vote when the city hired the consultant in the first place, meaning that Gray and Fields were on board with the consultant’s hiring, at least at first.

Their minds were changed by the time the actual vote was on the table and two plans — one created by the paid consultant and another submitted at the last minute by Mathis, under the guise of the NAACP — were up for consideration.

When the vote was taken in late October, the vote was along racial lines with the mayor having to break the tie.

Clearly Mathis has issues with the hired consultant, but it’s amazing to think her personal issues may wind up costing taxpayers money if the election is delayed or overturned.

Now, with the last-minute, alternative “wrench” plan thrown into the mix, nothing seems certain.

Things were quiet on the redistricting front until the U.S. Department of Justice requested more information before approving the city’s plans. Their request came at the 11th hour, just before the plan would have been automatically approved.

No one involved, it seems, knows what’s likely to happen, now.

The elections are set for May 1. The City and the hired consultant are answering the DOJ’s questions — questions, no doubt, raised by the last-ditch effort to throw an alternative plan in the mix.

It’s unfortunate that in this day and age our so-called leaders still cannot get along long enough to communicate their differences in public instead of simply lurking around making secretive plans behind closed doors.

Hopefully, voters will oust these secretive leaders during the next election — whenever it’s ultimately held — and choose adults who can communicate clearly and openly with one another.

Natchez has had enough of the secret deals and personal-agenda driven decisions. It’s long time to work together.

 

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

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