Shows: 4th District part of Delta aid

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2000

AP and staff reports

President Clinton’s proposed $110 million in aid for the Mississippi Delta region could benefit parts of southwest Mississippi, including Adams County.

U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Natchez, said Adams, Amite, Franklin and Wilkinson counties are included in a proposed House bill that would create a Delta Regional Authority to administer $30 million a year through 2003.

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&uot;We’re certainly going to apply for our fair share of it,&uot; Shows said Thursday night, just after Clinton delivered a State of the Union speech requesting the $110 million in aid.

State Rep. Andrew Ketchings, R-Natchez, said he could not imagine an area leader not being interested in applying for some of the funds if the bill passes.

&uot;I think southwest Mississippi has really been neglected,&uot; Ketchings said. &uot;It’s time we had the same kind of aid other areas have been getting.&uot;

According to the bill, the Delta area — the agricultural region that tracks along the Mississippi River — suffers &uot;a great measure of poverty and unemployment,&uot; and any economic progress there would benefit the nation as well as the area.

Some Delta leaders were skeptical about Clinton’s proposal, which comes more than six months after the president toured poor neighborhoods in the Delta town of Clarksdale.

”What’s going to be good for the Delta has to be more than lip service,” state Rep. Robert Clark of Ebeneezer said Friday. ”President Clinton can go on national television and talk all he wants to. Until he gets something far removed from politics and gets the people from the Delta involved, nothing’s going to happen.”

Clark said national programs targeting the region are not working now. He said the Mid-Delta Empowerment Zone, which designates areas in which government help is available, does not include some of the poorest parts of Holmes County, which he represents. ‘The people in Washington who created the empowerment zone have never been out on a dusty road in their life,” he said.

Adams and other counties in southwest Mississippi applied for the empowerment zone designation last year but were turned down.

Clinton’s July visit to Clarksdale was his first in Mississippi since taking office. Clinton said then that corporate America needed incentives to invest in poverty stricken areas.

”While this country has had a remarkable run, … in the Delta, the poverty rate is much higher than the country as a whole, the unemployment rate is higher than the national average, and the investment rate is lower,” the president said then.

Clarksdale Mayor Richard M. Webster Jr. said Friday that while he is pleased to hear the latest talk about helping the area, ”I wish it had been a long time ago, I wish the Mississippi Delta and its unique characteristics would have been recognized long ago.”

Clinton leaves office next year, and Clark said the Southerner’s administration ”would have been a good time (for Mississippi), but nobody has really embraced the Delta.”

Webster said he hopes Mississippians are given a voice in Clinton’s initiative.

”It’s very difficult for bureaucrats to sit and write programs in Washington who do not know the local flavor of what we face here,” he said.