Mississippi’s secretary of state is running for lieutenant governor. Republican Delbert Hosemann says he wants to reduce the number of boards and commissions and make state government more responsive to the public. Hosemann is an attorney who grew up in Vicksburg. Democratic state Representative Jay Hughes, an Oxford attorney, is also running for lieutenant governor. Republicans running for governor include current lieutenant governor Tate Reeves and state Representative Robert Foster of Hernando; Democratic candidates include Attorney General Jim Hood and retired Jackson State University employee Velesha Williams.
How does this relate to Clarksdale?
As we all know Clarksdale has two different local governments. Most feel one would be quite enough, but that’s not the focus of this article (consolidation within each is known as “the C word”).
Both the County Board of Supervisors and the City of Clarksdale are ruled by their boards (theoretically), and each of these local governing entities has numerous other local Boards and/or Commisions that serve under them. The City of Clarksdale, for instance, has 10 other local entities that serve the public, and each of these have their own Board as well (see all of them here).
Numerous other entities, also with their own boards, also serve the County. Some of these include the Chamber of Commerce, Industrial Board and Tourism.
If the political platform for who will most likely become our next Lt. Governor (Delbert Hosemann is a Republican, after all) is to reduce and streamline the number of state boards to increase public responsiveness, one might also assume this adds increasing efficiency at the same time. If this is good for Mississippi, then it might make sense that this would serve us here quite nicely as well.
But we all know Clarksdale, and in particular our treasure trove of multiple governments and local boards, is steadfast to maintain status quo (our expressed regard to change is “we don’t do things like that down here”). Adding to that, certainly none in or on any of our dizzying number of boards will agree to seeing theirs “reduced” (it’s sorta like suggesting term-limits to Washington D.C.). So, what do we do about increasing efficiency across all boards?
The public can come to all meetings of all of our boards (not all hide what they do in executive sessions). If one chose to see what all of our boards might be doing, that would take pretty much every day in a month to catch them all. Since that’s hardly practical, it would be more responsive to the public if each board would provide the City and County with a monthly report of their meeting activities; they do not now. These reports should also be available to the press (the media regularly covers only a few of our boards, such as the City, County, CPU and Tourism).
Each of these monthly reports should also include a financial statement. Every city commissioner and county supervisor should have at least a general up-to-date awareness on each boards bottom line. This would help both the City and the County understand how to better fund public proposals, and how to quickly spot potential problems (had this been done recent Tourism issues would have been stopped immediately before getting out of hand).
Adding to that, it also would make sense that both the County and City would require each of the board’s they appoint with an annual business plan, or at least an outline of what they intend to accomplish for us. From that, the City and County could better track progress, and an annual report would give documentation on the outcomes and effectiveness of each board, or at least where a board might better focus to improve their public service.
One more thing, and this addresses what many of us already know. Only a scant few of our board members get paid (City, County, CPU). With so many boards, and so many board members though that aren’t getting paid, if we ask too much of them, well, you know, they won’t want to be on a board. And this makes perfect sense, of course.
So, if we reduce the number of boards, and pay more attention to them, and pay them, and increase accountability and responsibility, would we better served?
There’s also that “C word” that nobody wants to talk about too.