Arrogance left city planner-less

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 8, 2009

Common, homespun logic tells you when something looks fishy, it likely is.

To that end, we’re highly suspicious of the recent layoff of Natchez City Planner John “Rusty” Lewis.

Mayor Jake Middleton says Natchez needs a planner, yet the one the city had was laid off.

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Being the Natchez City Planner is a bit like being a 12-point deer running through a hunting camp on the first day of deer season — everybody has their sights set on you.

City planners — especially in Natchez, a city filled with historic properties and sound historic preservation ordinances — are always under fire, if they’re doing their jobs well.

Decisions must be made and city regulations must be interpreted. That’s rarely a clean process.

Given the city’s history of late with city planners — we’ve had more than half a dozen in the last 15 or 20 years — only a masochist would want the job now.

And almost without exception the current board of aldermen and the previous board seem confident that they know more about planning than the city planner.

Lewis seemed to do a good job, but, in trying to be fair, ruffled some feathers along the way. Specifically, a couple of aldermen had direct conflicts with Lewis over specific issues in which he held his ground.

One in particular, Alderman Dan Dillard, seems to have a direct conflict of interest in any vote he made related to Lewis or the planning department’s budget.

Dillard works for a local architect whose work on such controversial projects as the Fat Mama’s building became embroiled in battles with planning and preservation folks.

Dillard should come forward and explain how he managed to be involved in the decisions, but not have a personal conflict.

Otherwise his motives — and that of other aldermen — will continue to look fishy.