Lt. governor just doesn’t care about Southwest Mississippi

Published 12:01 am Sunday, March 31, 2019

Last week my 6-year-old daughter Anna pretty much summed up the way many people in Natchez felt about an arbitrary decision from the Mississippi state capitol.

“Well, that man is just mean, then,” she said.

I couldn’t help but laugh a little and think, “I know a bunch of people who would agree with you baby.”

The man, in this case, is Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who is also a GOP candidate for governor.

Anna’s declaration came at the dinner table last week after I told my wife that the $6 million in state funding to help the City of Natchez renovate the former Margaret Martin School into a cultural arts center had been killed at the last minute.

Retiring Natchez Sen. Bob M. Dearing, who now has nothing to lose by offending anyone, squarely placed the blame for the removal on Reeves.

“I am so very sorry to report this but the Senate Conference, with instructions from Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, removed the language for the Margaret Martin Jr. High bond bill even though both the House and Senate have included the language in their individual bond bills,” Dearing wrote.

Some people don’t realize just how much power the lieutenant governor’s position holds. And unfortunately, Reeves makes lots of decisions like this, mostly behind the scenes.

At the dinner table, however, the 6-year-old was struggling to get her mind around it.

Realize that she’s familiar with the Margaret Martin building having taken ballet classes and gymnastics classes there, along with seeing some of the Natchez Festival of Music performances in the building’s auditorium.

And she knows what’s right and wrong. She’s also always listening when adults have conversations.

Her mother asked me what happened to the money since most of Natchez thought it was a done deal after getting the Senate’s unanimous support and nearly unanimous support in the House.

I told her that the lieutenant governor yanked it.

Anna chimed in asking for details.

Her concept of money and budgeting matters are fairly naïve, but she understands that if you’ve committed to do something, you should stick with it.

Her assumption that the decision was just “mean” probably has some merit.

In the grand scheme of things, the $6 million from Margaret Martin is relatively small in the state’s overall budget, but it’s important to Natchez.

The problem that Reeves probably isn’t going to verbalize is that he doesn’t really care about Natchez. Adams County isn’t a Republican stronghold, and our relatively small population means on a statewide basis, we’re pretty insignificant.

For Anna’s part, she hasn’t given the matter much thought after the dinner conversation, but for the group of people who have been working to raise funds and lobby for the Mississippi Landmark building’s future, the disappointment probably lingers a little longer.

The Friends of the Natchez Centre — that’s what they’re calling the planned facility at Margaret Martin — aren’t slowing down.

The group’s first fundraiser will be tonight at 7. They’re hosting a private screening of Travis Mills’ latest film, “Son of a Gun.”

Tickets are $25 each with all the proceeds benefiting the center’s plans.

Interest in the film screening was so great that the group had to change venues to allow for more people. It will now be at the Natchez Grand Hotel, thanks to the courtesy of owners Warren and Nancy Reuther.

The group driving the Friends of the Natchez Centre illustrates the determined, not-going-to-get-us-down attitude that Natchez has had for years. Just like the building’s namesake, the fabled Margaret Martin, Natchez isn’t going to let a petty political move by the lieutenant governor dampen our spirits or divert our drive.

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