Mississippi editorial roundup


Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Oct. 8

Daily Journal, Tupelo, Miss., on state university collaboration:

American higher education has long been a force for economic development through applied research in many fields.

Some areas of the country, however, have outpaced others when it comes to universities' involvement in partnerships that move the work done on campus into practical application in the wider community and marketplace.

The Research Triangle in North Carolina is an example often cited where universities not only team with state government and the private sector but with each other to maximize their potential as catalysts for improving the quality of life in the regions they serve.

Our state's two leading universities, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, have long made their own contributions to the state's development beyond the obvious job of educating our citizens. But for too long they were too competitive — or simply not interested enough in working together — to reach their full collaborative potential.

That is changing. Over the last 10 to 15 years, individual initiatives by current and former university leaders have greatly improved communication and cooperation between MSU and Ole Miss. Then in 2010, a task force of representatives from both universities was formed with the help of the CREATE Foundation to find ways to spur economic growth and social cohesion in Northeast Mississippi. As a recent report in the Journal noted, the task force hasn't met recently but work is ongoing in building collaborative partnerships.

Mississippi is too small and poor a state to have its two premier public educational institutions protecting turf or duplicating efforts. Competition in athletics is one thing, and generally healthy; beyond that, the competition can be counterproductive to the best interests of citizens and taxpayers.

We hope it continues in concrete ways until it becomes firmly embedded in the culture of both institutions — and in the expectations of their alumni and supporters. Mississippi needs every tool it can get to move out of the economic basement, and these two universities working together are potentially the most powerful tools we have.




Oct. 5

Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss., on judicial elections:

In an effort to remove politics from Mississippi's judiciary, the Legislature several years ago decided that judicial candidates could not run with party labels.

The reform hasn't worked.

Judicial elections are nonpartisan in name only, except perhaps, at the local level. It doesn't take much study to figure out in whose political camp a judicial candidate resides.

Only the labels changed. Instead of Republican vs. Democrat, it became pro-business vs. pro-trial lawyer. The candidates' campaign finance reports reflect these sympathies.

This was illustrated in McComb recently when John Baas, a lobbyist for the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, openly endorsed three candidates in the state Supreme Court races during a speech to the Rotary Club. Although Baas said his organization is non-partisan, he admitted that "more and more of our friends in the Legislature are Republican."

He could have added that the three candidates his organization supports — Mike Randolph in South Mississippi, Bill Waller Jr. in Central Mississippi and Josiah Coleman in North Mississippi — also are favored by the Republican Party.

The state political parties have further exposed the nonpartisan pretense by endorsing judicial candidates, particularly for seats on the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. In one of the more hotly contested races this year, the Republican Party has endorsed Waller, the current chief justice. The Democrats have endorsed his challenger, state Rep. Earle Banks.

As long as judges are elected, the campaigns will be partisan and political. The only way to minimize the politics is to appoint the judges, and even that won't completely remove politics from the equation. But it would help.




Oct. 9

The Natchez (Miss.) Democrat on the state economy:

Mississippi is back in recession, but few people probably paid much notice a few weeks ago when state economists made the announcement.

In mid-September, economists said Magnolia State payrolls had fallen for the fourth straight month in August.

The decline signaled the big "R," they said.

Current employment levels in the state are essentially at the same low level experienced in the depths of the recession in 2009.

Because Mississippi's economy was already bouncing around near the bottom, news that the official notice came wasn't much of a surprise.

But the news isn't all doom and gloom, or at least, it doesn't have to be.

Things can pick up if the state's leaders remain positive and working hard to create an atmosphere of business growth.

That's true from the Gulf Coast to Oxford and all points in between. It's especially true in the Natchez area, where we're fortunate to have two positive things going for it.

First, we have our natural resources, river access and available flat land, particularly in Concordia Parish.

Second, our business, civic and government leaders are committed to working together to make the business climate in the area as conducive to new growth as possible.

A number of promising business ventures have already been announced through the cooperation and public-private partnership of Natchez Inc. Most of them have yet to begin construction, but their announcement is enough to make the dreaded "R'' word just a little less painful since it means hope is on the way.



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