Petition signed against proposed bond issue; first filed in decades|[11/4/06]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2006

A petition opposing a proposed bond issue was delivered to Vicksburg officials Friday afternoon, making history even before the signatures are verified.

Four representatives of the local NAACP, John Shorter, vice president; Charles Wright, legal redress chairman; Pearline Williams, former board member; and Robert Patterson, former vice president, delivered the paperwork to City Hall on the last day of the 30-day window for citizen protest.

No petition to block a decision by a board of mayor and aldermen has been filed in Vicksburg in at least 50 years.

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Shorter said the petition contained about 2,040 signatures. If the names of 1,500 are verified to be registered city voters, the city board will have to abandon its plan or call a special election. Only if half the voters plus one OK the bond issue, will the city be authorized to borrow.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said acknowledgement of receipt of the petition would be placed on its agenda for Monday’s board meeting. Assuming the board does not vote to abandon its plan, the process of verifying the signatures would start.

A month ago, the mayor and aldermen unanimously resolved to add $16.9 million to the city’s bonded debt.

They have shown figures that the amount is well within the city’s ability to repay, but Shorter and others, including NAACP President Mary Galtney, have said they suspect City Hall is engaging in cost-shifting. They’ve pointed to two consecutive years of utility rate increases and suspect more borrowing will result in a tax increase, too.

&#8220The citizens of Vicksburg cannot afford any more increases,” Shorter said, also citing residents’ concerns about their utility bills.

The city has been phasing out general fund subsidies to its water, natural gas, garbage collection and sewer businesses, which has, along with higher costs, led to the higher rates.

The bond issue is an entirely separate matter and, Mayor Laurence Leyens said Friday, the campaign against the bond issue has been based on misinformation.

&#8220I’m extremely disappointed that (opponents) have manipulated the truth so far in trying to convince people” that homes in the Oak Street area are to be acquired and torn down, Leyens said.

The resolution says that of the $16.9 million: