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Leaders should focus on cake, too

The mayor and board of aldermen must have a big sweet tooth these days.

As the city grapples with the most basic of city services, many of our elected leaders have demonstrated a preference to pursue ventures that are a little less boring than fire protection, police protection and garbage collection.

City leaders, evidently, like the sweet fancy icing rather than the cake.

Nowhere is this demonstrated more than with the city’s efforts to find a new waste collection agency for the city.

In August, the city decided to terminate its contract with Waste Pro for garbage collection services. With a November deadline looming, aldermen admitted they had not done the legwork necessary to seek proposals from alternative waste collection companies. Backed into a corner of their own making, the aldermen approved an emergency contract with Waste Pro to continue waste collection for a minimum of four months and a maximum of six months.

The emergency agreement temporarily suspended recycling pickup in the city.

Three and half months later another deadline looms and a request for proposals may be finally approved today. And then again it may not.

Given the city’s track record, a final agreement is uncertain until the final roll call vote is taken.

Since November, the mayor and board members have been content to travel across the country attending conferences and lobbying Congress for money for future projects — all the while the clock continues to tick down to another RFP deadline on waste collection.

Lobbying for a future interstate highway to run through the city or for money to build a monument to honor those affected by one of the ugliest chapters in the city’s history are certainly worthwhile efforts.

So too may be the information gathered and connections made at many of the municipal conferences attended in Washington, D.C.

When leaders let such pursuits take priority over providing the most basic of city’s services, residents must wonder what is happening in City Hall.

At the end of the Feb. 27 regular board meeting, the mayor and aldermen struggled to find a time when they could meet just to attend the city’s regular board meeting on March 13. Despite the fact that the board is scheduled to meet every second Tuesday and every fourth Tuesday of the month, the board could barely find a time to meet because of previously scheduled trips.

Three aldermen — Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Billie Joe Frazier and Felicia Irving — had already scheduled a trip to Washington, D.C.

When asked to make accommodations and take two hours out of their travel or D.C.  meeting schedule to conduct the city’s business by conference call, Arceneaux-Mathis refused, questioning whether such a meeting was legal and suggesting that the city’s phone system was too unreliable.

Shouldn’t the aldermen accommodate the regular board meeting, instead of the other way around?

Above all, residents should expect city leaders to guarantee a city that provides the most basic services without costly delays and setbacks.

Safe streets, clean water, a working sewer, fire protection, dependable garbage collection and a healthy school system are just a few of the local ingredients that comprise the basic recipe of city government.

Everything else is icing.


Ben Hillyer is the news editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3549.