Defunding Natchez, Inc. is ill-advised idea

Published 12:01 am Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Natchez Board of Aldermen’s move to consider pulling funding from Natchez Inc. is disturbing at best.

Just considering such borders on governmental incompetence.

On Tuesday, led by Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and supported by all aldermen except Sarah Carter-Smith, the board asked city attorney Bob Latham to study whether the economic development funds administered by the city to Natchez Inc. could be redirected to Film Natchez, a group supporting the film industry here.

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Of course, the city cannot pull that funding, and we are confident Latham’s research will show that. As Mayor Darryl Grennell pointed out, the $90,000 to $100,000 the city “gives” Natchez Inc. each year is tied to legislation specifically designated to fund Natchez Inc. The money comes from tax millage created by legislation to fund Natchez Inc. and its economic development efforts on behalf of the city and Adams County. That money cannot simply be given to another group on a whim.

In September, representatives of Film Natchez, which is a group formed to support the work of the film industry, asked the aldermen to give it $200,000 annually to do its work.

Arceneaux-Mathis’ suggestion to redirect the funds is a threatening move meant to show off perceived power.

There is no logic to support such a change because Natchez Inc. is one of the few public entities working well in Natchez and Adams County right now.

Chandler Russ, who leads Natchez Inc., is a professional who is well respected in Mississippi for his work in economic development. In fact, he was recently appointed president of the Mississippi Economic Development Council, a group that works closely with and advises the Mississippi Development Authority.

Over the last 10 years, Natchez Inc. is responsible for bringing hundreds of jobs and attracting a number of cutting edge manufacturers, which are at work now and employing our residents.

Did the aldermen who went along with Ms. Arceneaux-Mathis’ motion think about the message such a move sends to decision makers who may be considering bringing their manufacturing business to Natchez?

Do the city’s aldermen want to cripple the only entity working to bring jobs industry and jobs to the Miss-Lou right now? It certainly seems that way.

We are in favor of supporting the film industry here, and Film Natchez is a good organization doing important work here. It is unfortunate the aldermen have made Film Natchez a victim of being associated with this misguided idea. The money and infrastructure the film industry could bring to Natchez is wonderful and welcome and needed. We are certain that group does not seek funding in a manner that would hamper the good, long-term work Natchez Inc. has done here, and is poised to do if allowed to continue.

What is happening in Natchez? Where is our common-sense leadership?

These kinds of decisions by some of the aldermen make it abundantly clear government in the City of Natchez is broken, and perhaps beyond repair.

This newspaper has long been in favor of the consolidation of city and county government, and short of that, has promoted combining services now between the city and county in an effort to make both more efficient and save residents their hard-earned tax dollars.

We have stopped short of supporting Paul Benoist’s OneBoard, which advocates dissolving the Natchez city government completely and forcing the county to take over governing the city, thinking a less drastic more cooperative approach the better way to go.

However, actions like those taken Tuesday by the city’s board of aldermen make us wonder if Benoist’s approach in the end is what will save our city from this sort of incompetent “leadership.”