One person’s pork another one’s pride

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

When is a pork-barrel project not a pork-barrel project? When it helps your community.

But looking over a list of projects in the spending bill Congress will consider next week, it’s easy to see why people get so frustrated with politicians and their wild spending habits.

Does Marshall University in West Virginia &045; which happens to be the alma mater of Sen. Robert Byrd, the senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee &045; really need $19.3 million?

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Maybe not. But it sure would be nice if Franklin County got $400,000 for infrastructure improvements for Okhissa Lake community development.

I’ve searched through the bill on the Web &045; you can find it at

:H25NO3-0028:0 &045; and I have found several projects for Mississippi but none for Natchez.

Franklin County and Jefferson County &045; which would receive funds for needed wastewater improvements if the bill passes &045; would be the only local recipients of funding as far as I’ve been able to find. But it’s a big bill; I might have missed something.

Criticism of &8220;pork&8221; projects is interesting. For every headline in every big city newspaper, for every editorial bashing senators and congressmen for their fiscal irresponsibility, you’ll find a community thankful for the dollars it receives, with headlines in weekly gazettes gushing over the couple hundred thousand that will help repave roads or build better sidewalks.

Even if Natchez isn’t mentioned in the bill this year, it’s not as if we haven’t received our share of pet project money. How about the millions that went into bluff stabilization, most of it federal funding? Or the grants and appropriations that paid for the Natchez Visitor Reception Center?

Some of these projects have been criticized even here at home, but the fact of the matter is that pork projects or pet projects or whatever you want to call them have an effect on small communities like ours &045; a positive effect. They end up creating jobs or boosting tourism or improving infrastructure.

A few years ago, the &8220;poster child&8221; for pork ended up being Vulcan, a 56-foot iron statue of the Roman god of fire which stands on Red Mountain in Birmingham, Ala., with a torch raised high in one hand and his bare behind mooning the fine people in the suburb of Homewood.

A large chunk of money was appropriated to renovate Vulcan &045; the world’s largest cast metal statue and the largest statue ever made in the United States &045; a statue generally regarded as rather unattractive.

The money put Vulcan at the top of those stories criticizing pork, but it made the folks in Alexander City, an hour’s drive from Birmingham, quite happy. That’s because the firm which won the contract to refurbish the old guy was one of the oldest and most respected in town, Robinson Iron, which kept Vulcan in parts and pieces in its workyard for the better part of a year. It was a huge investment for the town, where I once served as newspaper editor, and a point of pride for the hometown workers.

I’m all for fiscal responsibility. But I’m also all for letting the little guys have a piece of the pork pie every now and then.

Kerry Whipple

is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail at kerry.whipple@