Decimal brings back trouble

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Well hey y’all, welcome to South Mississippi, where we don’t wear shoes, can’t read, spit, sweat all summer long, support the KKK, oh, and ask for $600,000,000 from the federal government.

That’s right. That’s us waiting on the handout.

At least that’s what the rest of the country is thinking lately.

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The stereotypes Mississippians are constantly fighting have filled one national Web site — and probably a lot of minds — all because of a misplaced decimal point. admittedly hasn’t changed any errors on their Web site, they said via e-mail Tuesday night. And because of that fact, Natchez remains at the very top of the list of outrageous money requests.

The site was designed to catalog all of the projects for which cities are requesting federal stimulus dollars. It gives site visitors a chance to vote in favor or against the project and its cost. And it lets readers post comments about the projects.

Understandably, Natchez is getting blasted.

Readers, some seemingly with Natchez ties and some without, have not only criticized the false request for $600 million they’ve also criticized Natchez, our state and all of us.

One commenter even said, “We might as well fork over some taxpayer cash to the KKK while we’re at it.”

But the truth is, Natchez didn’t ask for $600 million for anything, multiple city officials have said.

The project in question — the Forks of the Road Heritage Trail — would cost $3.1 million, City Engineer David Gardner said.

And as best Gardner can tell, the typo occurred after the request left the city’s hands. says its postings are drawn from a report published by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which has posted all city stimulus package requests. That site also has Natchez listed as requesting $600 million.

Originally, the city asked for $600,000, Gardner said. And a decimal point must have become a comma, he guessed.

The city has contacted And the Web site posted a note saying city officials said the $600 million figure was incorrect.

But the Web site has yet to change the listing.

So the blasting continues.

The Natchez listing was No. 1 on the “most active” list Tuesday.

FOX News reported Natchez’s request among the wild and crazy stimulus proposals. And several TV stations have furthered the news.

But the long-term effects might be more devastating, Gardner said.

“One of the main things any congressional person would tell you is, ‘Don’t come up here and ask for the sky,’” he said.

And despite the damage control the city is trying to do, the misinformation could be the only information some government officials and grant givers hear about Natchez.

The embarrassing number might later mean Natchez is passed over for being too greedy.

Hopefully the Web site will correct their error soon, but until then, the rest of us are back to fighting the old stereotypes, defending our state and pointing out that Puerto Rico has requested $17.5 billion in funding. And they aren’t even a state.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or