Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Dispatch on remembering the importance of unity ahead of a historic presidential election:
Americans are nervously awaiting November in anticipation of what many feel may be the most consequential presidential election of our lifetime, whose outcome will likely divide our troubled nation to an even greater degree.
But here in our community, there is another reason to anticipate November, one that serves to unite rather than to divide, heal rather than wound, affirm rather than condemn.
From now until Nov. 1, the Oktibbeha County Unity Park committee will be accepting nominations of those who have worked to bring unity to the community. From those nominations, the committee will select one or two people to be memorialized at the park.
Unity Park was established in 2013 by the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors, which donated the site of the park, located on Dr. Douglas L. Conner Drive, just north of Main Street.
The park has been expanded and improved during the intervening years as it became clear Unity Park had succeeded in its mission.
The first honorees at the park were A. Philip Randolph, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gov. William Winter. Since then, the focus has been on recognizing “home grown” honorees and, up until now, one event — the “Game of Change” story of the 1963 Mississippi State men’s basketball team, which defied the Governor to play against an integrated team in the NCAA Tournament.
While some memorial spaces are built only to fall into obscurity, Unity Park has remained a poignant gathering place at times when division, injustice and dissent have threatened our community. The Mississippi State football team had staged a Black Lives Matter rally at the park while a city-wide BLM march made the park its staging area and rallying point.
In these times of bitter division, we are served well to look to those enshrined there — the work they performed, the manner in which they performed it — for inspiration.
As noted 19th century theologian Charles Spurgeon observed, their contributions are often neglected.
“Fame is not an impartial judge; she has her favorites,” he wrote. “Some men she extols, exalts, and almost deifies; others, whose virtues are far greater, and whose characters are more deserving of commendation, she passes by unheeded, and puts the finger of silence on her lips.”
At Unity Park, those gentle voices are recognized and revered. Their words and deeds echo through the generations. They remind us of our shared values and bring us together.
As November approaches, we cannot be too often reminded of that.
The Vicksburg Post on changing plans for local school reopenings:
In the days leading up to the start of the school year, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and others called on the Vicksburg Warren School District to hold off the start of classes. They asked district officials to delay the start of school due to the ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases.
There was a back and forth between school leaders and city leaders, and Flaggs readily admitted he had no authority but was simply asking that children not go back in the classroom on the Aug. 7 start date.
And even though school officials decided to move ahead, a delay in shipments of crucial personal protective equipment and other safety supplies ultimately forced them to push back the start to Aug. 17.
That delay in those shipments may very well have been a blessing.
On Aug. 8, the day after schools would have started, Warren County marked its highest one-day total for new COVID-19 cases during the months-long pandemic with 56.
During that same me, the county was close to being declared a virus hot spot by state health officials and the number of new cases over the previous 14 days was at its peak.
During the 10-day delay, the number of cases began to decline, albeit slowly, and the reopening and safety plans of the VWSD, as well as Vicksburg Catholic School which also delayed their start, were fine-tuned.
Since then, more than a month later, our community has been beyond blessed with just one confirmed case among students and three other confirmed cases involving school personnel.
Vicksburg Catholic School has reported just one teacher being quarantined for possible exposure.
And, during that time, the number of new and active cases in Warren County has plummeted to numbers not seen since the early days of the pandemic.
Monday, Flaggs complimented school officials on their reopening plans and the safety protocols in place that protect those children attending in-person classes and those teachers and staff joining them in our schools.
As with every decision during this pandemic, hindsight is, yes, 20/20, and all we can ask is that our leaders — both in the public and private sectors — do their best. It is our hope, our prayer, that the numbers continue to decline and that our children and our school personnel remain safe and well.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on yet to be used funds for job training and retraining in Mississippi:
When Congress earlier this year enacted several trillion dollars worth of COVID-19 relief funding, it wanted to be sure the money got spent quickly.
The desire for speed was predicated on a main focus of the enormous allocation: to keep the economy from completely tanking. If the money were allocated to the states but the states dragged their feet disbursing it, it wouldn’t do much good in softening the impact caused by business shutdowns and the layoffs of tens of millions of U.S. workers.
Haste in spending, however, also creates more avenues for waste, fraud and abuse. It’s almost certainly going to result in waste, if not worse, in the spending on workforce training in Mississippi.
Recently, Mississippi Today reported on the dilemma this state is facing in getting $55 million of pandemic relief money spent before the end of the year to provide job training and retraining.
Most of the program, which is being called ReSkill MS, is being directed through the state’s community colleges, which have rightly become the leading entity for providing workforce training in the state. Apparently, though, they aren’t geared up to act this quickly, perhaps because they were themselves largely shut down for months during the early stages of the pandemic.
According to Mississippi Today, nearly $49 million of the $55 million allocation was directed toward the two-year colleges. The colleges have proposed spending $44.2 million on purchasing equipment to be used in the training and the other $4.4 million for tuition vouchers — enough to cover 5,200 students.
Through August, however, only a fraction of the money has been spent or committed, the online news organization reports. Less than a quarter-million has been spent on equipment and just $50,000 on tuition vouchers. That leaves more than $48 million still to go in just four months to meet the federal government’s deadline.
Since it’s “either use it or lose it,” there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the community colleges to get that money spent, and there will be people coming out of the woodwork to help the community colleges spend it. The schools have already heard that backlogs in the supply chain could prevent them from being able to spend all of the equipment money in time.
State Auditor Shad White announced last month that he has a plan in place to watch over all of the $1.25 billion in coronavirus-related money coming to the state. He has hired three CPA firms to help his in- house auditors keep tabs on the spending. ReSkill MS needs to be on the “watch closely” list.