Senator Wicker speaks at pro-Trump rally

Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker spoke at a pro-Trump rally held in Tupelo last week. Joining him were local political figures like state senator Chad McMahan, Sheriff Jim Johnson and District Attorney John Weddle. I covered the the rally in the Daily Journal here.

Below, I have embedded some audio from Wicker’s remarks. Additionally, I have transcribed some of his comments.

Sen. Wicker began by turning his attention away from Donald Trump and onto what Wicker sees as the most important issues.

Said Wicker: “This is not complicated. This election is about the Supreme Court. This election is about the Second Amendment. This election is about repealing and replacing Obamacare with something that’s market driven and something that will work. This election is about jobs for hardworking Americans and jobs for the next generation of Americans. So it’s not complicated and on every one of those issues Donald Trump is right. Donald Trump is with the people of Lee County, with the people of Mississippi and with the people of America, and Hillary Rodham Clinton is dead wrong on all those issues and that’s what this race is about … This election is also about keeping somebody with Hillary Clinton’s worldview out of the White Press, and we might as well say that.”

After this this, Wicker criticized national press coverage of the presidential race. He claimed the coverage has been biased in favor of Clinton.

The senator also raised Clinton’s use of a private email-server during her tenure as secretary of state. A brief chorus of “lock her up!” erupted from the Tupelo crowd.

Wicker ended by again naming a litany of issues where he thinks Trump’s policy positions are better than those of Clinton: the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment, environmental regulations, energy policy, taxes and border control.


Tupelo City Council talks Mississippi state flag

The Tupelo City Council yesterday discussed a policy that would keep the controversial Mississippi state flag flying at municipal facilities where two or more flag poles are present. Read my full reporting on the issue here. The policy is expected to come up for a vote tonight.

During yesterday’s discussion, City Council President Lynn Bryan made several remarks about a private meeting last week with Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant. The Mississippi state flag was apparently discussed at that meeting. My story linked above mentions this and includes a statement issued in response by the governor. Below, I’ve reproduced fuller quotations from Bryan’s original remarks and embedded some audio.

Full disclosure: the comments transcribed from the first audio clip are from slightly different parts of a conversation. I’ve edited out some comments by other speakers to make Bryan’s comments easier to follow. In the transcribed comments below, I’ve used comments in brackets and ellipses to indicate where I’ve removed material.

The first speaker in the audio is Council President and Ward 2 Councilman Lynn Bryan. The second speaker is Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings. The last speaker is Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton.

Context: Bryan is discussing a potential resolution to be voted on by the Tupelo City Council.

Bryan: “The resolution is still to come before the state legislature goes into session which will be in January …[Jennings interjects] The resolution will go to the state legislature … It will ask the state legislature to adopt a flag that fairly represents the state of Mississippi.”

[At this point, Jennings suggested that such a resolution would have little influence.]

Bryan: “I disagree. I sat in a meeting with the governor on Thursday and he basically said he would like to see done what we’re going to ask to be done.”

Jennings: “So he’s agreeing to this if it comes to the legislature?”

Bryan: “He agreed and actually brought out exactly what the resolution is going to ask for. Is that not correct mayor?”

Shelton: “I don’t think any of us have any prerogative to speak for the governor.”

The following exchange occurred much later in the conversation. The transcription removes a few stray comments, but the audio is raw and unedited.

Bryan: “If the legislature sees fit to get around to changing this thing … we’ll fly whatever is adopted. Like I said earlier, the governor hopped into town. Jason [Shelton] called me and said the governor’s going to be here in 15 minutes would you like to talk with him So I raced up here and saw him. The mayor, the governor, myself and Chris Traylor, president of the Tupelo-Lee County NAACP, we met in the mayor’s office and Mr. Traylor brought up a number of issues that he would like the governor to address. I thought the governor was very frank and forthcoming in his discussion, and one of them was the flag. Mr Traylor stated that there’s a right way and a wrong way to get the flag changed. Mr. Traylor said that taking that flag down and defying what his organization has worked so hard to do to get the vote was the wrong way to change the flag and I believe that the governor agreed with him. And the governor said we ought to get both sides together, come up with a deal, come up with a flag that fairly represents all 3 million people in the state of Mississippi that everyone can rally around and let’s look at it again. And I agree with him. And I would hope that the mayor who was in that meeting would start that conversation in Tupelo, Mississippi and it would spread throughout the rest of the state so we could move in that direction.”

Bryan went on to say that though he supports a new flag the city should continue flying the Mississippi state flag, whatever design that flag contains. He referenced the governor again in these comments.

Bryan: “But right now, the issue we’ve got is I don’t want to defy the governor or the legislature because we’re a charter organization under them and they’ve asked us not to do that.”

Presumably, Bryan is at least in part referring to comments Gov. Bryant has made criticizing universities that have chosen not to fly the Mississippi state flag.


The Daily Journal reached out to the governor’s office for comment. In response, Gov. Bryant described comments he made to Tupelo leaders as consistent with his previous public remarks on the flag.

The governor’s full statement was as follows:

“As I have said many times before, the voters of Mississippi should decide at the ballot box what the state flag is or is not. I reiterated that to Mayor SheIton and Rev. Traylor. The issue will not be among my priorities for the upcoming legislative session.”


Tupelo City Council Agenda for Oct. 18

The Tupelo City Council will meet tomorrow, Oct. 18, at 6 p.m. for its recurring board meeting. Embedded below is the current agenda. No issues of major interest are on the agenda but a few items of note include:

  • Final ratification of contracts for the sale of several city-owned properties. I’ve reported on this before here. Nothing has changed since that article. The council’s action tomorrow simply offers one final approval of the actual contract documents.
  • The council may take action on possible asbestos abatement at a former hotel structure on North Gloster Street. This issue was tabled at the last board meeting. See my last reporting on this building here. Since that article, the city did solicit bids but has not yet awarded the project to anyone.
  • The council will consider donation of land. This is related to Mill Village redevelopment efforts. I should have more information on this tomorrow.

City-of-Tupelo-Agenda-10-18-16 (Text)


Tupelo City Council agenda for Sept. 20

The Tupelo City Council meets 6 p.m. tomorrow at City Hall. I have embedded the agenda below. There are at least two items of note:

  • The City Council will likely approve receipt of a $15,496 grant from the Department of Justice. The Tupelo Police Department and Lee County Sheriff’s Office will use the grant to buy tasers.
  • Tomorrow’s meeting will also include a public hearing on potential Development Code amendments. These Development Code amendments include some changes to the West Jackson overlay district. This overlay district is intended to regulate the design of homes built along the West Jackson Street area currently under redevelopment.


Forum scheduled ahead of special election

An open forum scheduled for next week will provide local residents with information to help them decide how they will vote in a May 3 special election.

That special election will determine the fate of a tax levy that amounts to nearly a third of the property taxes Tupelo residents pay to the city.

The forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Cit Hall in the City Council chambers on the second floor. Voters will have an opportunity to educate themselves about how Major Thoroughfare Program money will be spent if the program wins renewal at the ballot box next month.

A presentation will detail the proposed Major Thoroughfare Phase VI priorities and local citizens will be able to ask questions.

Out of the city tax rate of 32.47 mills, 10-mills goes toward Major Thoroughfare.

Those 10-mills must be renewed at a special election every five years and will once again go before voters on May 3.

Ahead of that vote, officials are working to make sure Tupelo residents have access to information about how the money would be used over the next five years.

Officials are also making the round of local civic clubs, neighborhood associations and other organizations to spread the word about the upcoming vote.

Estimates say a 10-mill levy would yield about $20 million over the next five years. Officials want to spend 25 percent – or $5 million – on maintenance of current major thoroughfare roads as well as “major collector” roads.

The remaining $15 million or so would go to numerous new projects. Go here to see the full list of new projects as well as streets that would be targeted for maintenance.


Absentee voting begins for special election

Tupelo voters, you can now cast an absentee ballot for an upcoming city election on the renewal of a tax that supports local road projects.

Absentee ballots may be cast at the tax office on the first floor of Tupelo’s’ City Hall ahead of the May 3 special election.

You can vote there during normal workweek business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. City Hall will also be open from 8 a.m. until noon on the two Saturdays before the election, April 23 and April 30, to facilitate absentee voting.

The May 3 vote revolves around only one issue: the renewal of a 10-mill tax levy that funds the Major Thoroughfare Program.

The renewal goes before voters every five years and those voters have chosen to support the tax five times now.

If it wins favor again at the May 3 election, the 10-mill levy is expected to produce about $20 million over the next five years and would fund various construction and maintenance programs.

Chief Financial Officer and City Clerk Kim Hanna also reminded voters that ID is needed to cast a ballot in Mississippi, a provision that was not in force the last time a Major Thoroughfare election was held.

“I’m sure most people have voted in other elections since the ID law went into effect, but we just want to remind everyone that they do need to bring one now,” Hanna said.

Here’s the list of projects that would be funded if the program is renewed

The election ballot should look something like this.

Tupelo audit documents

The Tupelo City Council received the annual audit on Tuesday. This audit, which examined the city’s records for the fiscal year that ended last September, offered good marks for the city’s financial health. I wrote about the audit here for the Daily Journal, but the full audit can be found here for those of you who want to see the actual numbers (and there are a lot of them).

You can see the FY2014 audit here and the FY2013 audit here.

“You’re in good to excellent financial condition,” said Greg Jarrell, an accountant with the firm that conducted the audit, while speaking with the City Council. “I hope you don’t take that for granted. Let your people know this is a good report.”

Mayor Jason Shelton was pleased with audit.

“This validates our belief that the city of Tupelo is very strong financially and that we continue to live within our means,” Shelton told council members Tuesday.

The mayor highlighted several facts about the city’s financial condition: general fund debt is decreasing, the city’s net position is increasing, there have been no tax increases during Shelton’s administration and the reserve fund remains strong.

“The things we are doing as a council and an administration seem to be working,” said the mayor.


(Greg Jarrell, above, an account with the firm that audited Tupelo’s books, speaks to council members Tuesday afternoon)


Tupelo City Council to hold called meeting

Tomorrow, March. 29, the Tupelo City Council will receive the audit for the most recently completed fiscal year – that would be the fiscal year that began October 2014 and ended September 2015. Here’s the full agenda for the council meeting as provided by City Communications Director Leesha Faulkner. A work session will follow the council meeting.


A special meeting of the Tupelo City Council is set for 4 p.m., Tuesday, March 29, in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall.
The agenda for the meeting is :
• Approval of FY 2015 City of Tupelo Audit
• Review/Approve Daybrite Roof Project Contract
Additionally, a City Council work session will follow the special meeting at 4:15 p.m. The item for discussion is an update on General Obligation Bonds.


Audio from Mississippi Supreme Court candidate

Judge Bobby Chamberlin of the 17th Circuit Court District announced his candidacy yesterday for the Mississippi Supreme Court. The full story is online here but I’ve  posted below some audio from my interview with Chamberlin following his Thursday morning press conference.

This first clip is in response to a question about why he wants to leave his current post and seek a seat on the state’s high court.


Chamberlin was a Republican lawmaker in the state Senate from 1999 until 2004. In this next clip, he discusses why he thinks that legislative experience is an asset.

This next clip has a little more on his Senate career. I asked him whether his legislative record might prove problematic for the judicial post he’s seeking. For example, he will be on record as supporting certain policies and positions.

Finally, Chamberlin discusses his judicial philosophy. He talks a bit about “activist judges” and judicial restraint.


Tupelo council tables vote on special election

Tupelo’s City Council halted plans this week to formally fix May 3 as the date of a special election on the renewal of the Major Thoroughfare Program’s funding, but this delay only amounts to a minor bureaucratic stumble.

A few days ago, I reported that the City Council would during its meeting this week probably approve a resolution ordering the date of the Major Thoroughfare Program special election. That didn’t happen, and here’s why.

The Major Thoroughfare Committee has recommended May 3 as the special election date. In council work sessions at which the subject has been discussed, council members seem amenable to that date.

Everything is still on track for that vote to occur on May 3 but a minor hiccup occurred in the process of setting up all the pieces correctly.

When a city council orders a special election by resolution, the election cannot be any less than 21 days from the date of the resolution’s approval but also cannot be any more than 30 days after the date of the resolution’s approval, according to state statute (Miss. Code 23-15-859 to be specific. See searchable Mississippi Code index here).

The City Council agenda for Tuesday’s meeting (March 15) indicated that a resolution to order the election would be considered. However, the desired May 3 date was more than 30 days after Tuesday’s date, a fact City Clerk Kim Hanna and City Attorney Ben Logan noted during a council work session Monday.

If the council approves the resolution ordering the election at its first meeting in April, the statutory requirements will be met, Hanna said.

The council subsequently voted Tuesday night to table the motion that would order the election and will take it up again later, presumably at the first April meeting.

The Major Thoroughfare Program is funded by a 10-mill tax levy that voters must choose to renew every five years.

If approved, the 10-mill levy would generate $20 million over the next five years for new road construction and maintenance.