Parades dominate discussion at Tuesday board meeting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Parades took up much of the discussion at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, as city officials discussed the Confederate parade that was held Saturday in downtown Natchez.

Alderman Ricky Gray said it was insulting for the parade to travel down Martin Luther King Jr. Street &045; and that the route should be modified to exclude that street if similar parades are held in the future.

Gray said he has gotten a number of calls from residents upset about the parade and its route.

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&uot;I feel like Š with the war and the loss of jobs, we do not need anything negative to tear this community apart,&uot; Gray said.

Such an event was not appropriate &uot;with our efforts to try and pull this community together,&uot; said Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West, adding that such instances reinforce a perception of Natchez as a divided community.

&uot;We can find a way to keep these (types of incidents) out of our way,&uot; West said. &uot;We need to take into consideration who we let into town to divide this community.&uot;

Gray also mentioned the fact that Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith spoke briefly to those gathered for a memorial service preceding the parade. &uot;The mayor endorsed it,&uot; he said.

&uot;I was elected to represent this entire community. Š I don’t have the luxury to deny somebody their constitutional right&uot; to hold such an event, Smith said. &uot;And I’m not going to be subject to a lawsuit by doing so.

&uot;They wanted a chance to recognize and celebrate their heritage,&uot; he said. Family reunions, black history events and other gatherings also celebrate heritage and are welcomed to town, he said.

Angela Terry of Natchez said after the meeting that &uot;that’s the longest route any parade ever took. Why were they given that route?&uot;

Police Chief Mike Mullins said the parade took the route other parades take &045; through downtown, disbanding on Martin Luther King Jr. Street. &uot;Only they didn’t disband on Martin Luther King Street&uot; because they were on foot, not in vehicles, he said.

Richard Crook, one of the parade’s local organizers, could not be reached for comment.

Earlier in the meeting, Darrell Smith, owner of Dixie Furniture and spokesman for a group of concerned downtown business owners, asked aldermen to change the city’s policies regarding the times of parades.

Smith said parades held during peak business hours make it difficult for customers and freight trucks to reach downtown businesses.

A recent survey and meeting of downtown business owners yielded three parade options businesses could accept.

Those include having parades on Sundays or late Saturday afternoons and not barricading streets until 4:30 p.m. weekdays or 4 p.m. on weekends, Smith said.

City officials asked the city planner to check into other cities’ policies and report back to the Board of Aldermen.

Also in Tuesday’s aldermen meeting:

4The board discussed the placement of campaign signs within the city limits.

City Attorney Walter Brown reminded those present of a city ordinance that states that campaign signs can only be displayed in the 60 days before an election and seven days after an election.

West asked Brown whether those restrictions also apply to campaign signs placed on private property.

The answer? Yes, under the current ordinance, which was passed in 1993.

&uot;Some large signs can obstruct (motorists’) view,&uot; Brown said, adding that the purpose of the ordinance is to reduce clutter.

Some who were present at the meeting said they believe such restrictions on signs on private property violate free speech and property rights.

&uot;Some people have the Rebel flag on their property, Š and that’s their right,&uot; said resident Annie W. Reed. &uot;I pay taxes. It’s my property. My question is, why can’t I put it up if it’s on my property?&uot;

&uot;We will look at the ordinance,&uot; Smith said. &uot;I don’t necessarily agree with it, but that is the way (the ordinance) is now.&uot;

No action was taken on the matter in Tuesday’s meeting.

4The board voted to deem the sinkhole in front of the post office on Canal Street an emergency to allow the Public Works and City Engineer’s offices to use labor and purchase materials to correct the problem.

4Aldermen voted to accept a $22,680 bid from Edgin Construction for an emergency erosion control project on College Street.

4Aldermen voted to allow Fire Chief Paul Johnson to apply for a $75,000 federal grant for new firefighter gear. The city would have to come up with a 10 percent match.