What citizens want in a neighborhood counts

Published 7:32 pm Thursday, July 15, 2021

Over the past few days, I have been disappointed in some discussion that has taken place with regard to the future of the old “General Hospital” property located on Oak Street and owned by the City of Natchez.

Some disturbing allegations have been made, and I think it is important to clear the air.

For the past several years, controversy has surrounded a proposal that would have transformed this building into a federally-subsidized housing project.

This controversy culminated in a decision by the city last November to nullify this proposed project.

We took this action in response to unanimous opposition in the neighborhood surrounding it. The vote by the Board of Aldermen was split, and I as Mayor broke the tie vote. I could not in good conscience support something that would go against 100 percent of those who would have been most impacted by it.

Just recently, this issue has been reopened, due to the fact that a property owner adjacent to this dilapidated building has presented an offer to the city to purchase it, clean it up, and return it to the tax rolls.

It has been made even more controversial by a few determined individuals insistent that their chosen project be done, even if it goes against the entirety of the community that would be affected.

I have made my position clear. I do not support a dictatorial action by this city that would inflict upon any neighborhood something completely against their wishes. If we allow this to take place in this instance, we set a precedent for this to happen all over our city.

I believe that as elected servants to the public, we have a duty to be sensitive to the concerns of our citizens when it comes to projects that directly affect them.

It is the only fair and right thing to do.

Because I have taken this stand, I have been accused of “redlining” and the race card has been played. I want to say for the record that I do not condone and will not bend to divisive tactics such as this.

Building division by using heated words such as these has created significant problems in our country. It is this type of politics that are being used every day to divide America, and Natchez has no place for them.

This issue has nothing to do with race or “redlining.” To me, it matters not whether the neighborhood be Oak Street or Daisy Street, Main Street or MLK. What matters most to me is what do those citizens who own homes, pay taxes, think about something that directly impacts them in their neighborhood or on their street?

Whether it be this situation or any other, their voices matter. And we are falling short as leaders if we ignore them.

I was not elected Mayor to represent just one group or agenda, or provide special favor to only one area of town. I was elected Mayor of the entire city.

It is my job to be fair. And in doing this job, I will continue to look at the big picture, and citizen’s voices will always be heard. This is not a dictatorship. It is a city. And I will do my best to take care of everyone – Period.

Dan Gibson is mayor of the City of Natchez.