Hysterical society has you at heart

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 17, 2008

To listen to some residents, Natchez — or at least some parts of it — are akin to Nazi Germany.

Highly restrictive rules are the norm and a secret band of “enforcers” are constantly pulling strings in the background, an Axis of Evil, if you will.

Ask these conspiratorial residents and they’ll tell you that a rogue group of blue-haired old ladies secretly runs the city, waging war against all that’s good and all that’s sane.

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From the garden clubs to what the conspiracy theorists refer to as the Natchez Hysterical Society, lots of residents seem to take great pleasure in mocking the city’s volunteers.

These naysayers are among the first ones to move into the county or relocate their businesses to the bypass to avoid the “irrational” laws of the city.

Some of these bypass crusaders are misinformed, perhaps by generations of misinformation. Others just seem to have a doubtful gene bred into them.

A few of these folks have been expressing their opinions lately regarding two issues: the proposed hotel tax and the work being done at the former First Baptist Church building on Main Street.

These folks are against ALL taxes, regardless of who pays for the tax and where the taxes go.

In the case of the tourism tax under consideration, the tax would ONLY affect you if you were staying in a local hotel room. And the funds are intended to go to support marketing.

That seems to be a no-brainer to me. The only thing that would help the cause more is if the tourism folks who are pushing the tax would lay out a clear, concise plan of where those marketing dollars would be spent.

No one likes to be taxed for vague reasons.

The bypass crusaders also jumped on the Natchez Preservation Commission last week for delays in a project to convert the former First Baptist Church building into condominiums.

Members of the preservation commission have been accused of making decisions based on their making money off deals, seeking to control things or hoping to stop progress.

How ridiculous.

Preservation commission members are volunteers. They make nothing off of developments.

They’re simply good citizens trying to help the city by volunteering their time.

The fact that they continue to serve is a testament to their willpower. In the last couple of years, the current city administration has emasculated the commission by changing the appeals process and occasionally encouraging people to work outside the bounds of the law.

In the past, an appeal to a commission decision went to a court of law. Now it goes to the board of aldermen. That’s scary because we all know their law-abiding track record.

The city’s current administration has made a mockery of many of the preservation and planning laws that their predecessors so carefully crafted.

Look around and you’ll see evidence of a lack of code enforcement on almost every block — from dilapidated buildings and violations of the sign ordinance to businesses operating without licenses.

Some people say Natchez’s rules and regulations make it impossible to do business in the city. That’s nonsense.

We have highly successful businesses deep in the heart of downtown with a number of them renovated historic buildings restored by working within the planning and preservation rules.

Consider Bowie’s Tavern, a beautiful building. Look at Turning Pages Books & More, another beautiful restoration. Century Investment Group on Franklin Street is another good example. Pearl Street Pasta, Breaud’s Seafood and Steak, Center City Bistro, each is a downtown restaurant that lives in the heart of the city and seems to thrive despite the allegedly oppressive regime of the Hysterical Society folks.

They’re not the Gestapo, not even close.

In fact, they’re some of the people who care about Natchez so much that they’re willing to invest their time.

They must care a good bit in order to put up with verbal punishment from the true Axis of Evil in Natchez — negativity and ignorance.

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