Breakfast of politicians City, county, state officials belly up for chat

Published 12:03 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Over thick-cut french toast, hearty bacon and scrambled egg sandwiches, four Warren County supervisors and a single Vicksburg city board member talked money matters Monday with two-thirds of the area’s state legislative team.

“It’s good to have everybody at the table — to see what you can come up with,” said North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, who shared laughs — between updates on public transportation funding and court fines — over a Dutch treat breakfast at the Courtyard by Marriott.

Like a last city-county lunch over ham sandwiches 14 months ago, lighthearted banter filled the conference room with greater ease than ever-stressing topics such as developing a new jail, continued funding of public transit and what looms for the local economy.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The towering Mayfield happily inherited half a plate of syrup-slathered french toast from state Sen. W. Briggs Hopson III, an avid runner.

“You realize we’re going to be on the front page of the paper doing this!” Mayfield boomed with a smile.

“When I was with the county, I could afford $10 for breakfast,” Mayfield said, alluding to his 10 years as supervisor for District 2.

“Well, we’ll have you in District 3 if you want to come back,” said District 1 Supervisor David McDonald in a dig at Charles Selmon, who was the lone supervisor absent from the morning meal. Selmon said after supervisors’ regular board meeting held later in the day he’d “been down the road before” with joint sessions of local government but liked the idea in principle.

Reasons varied for the other no-shows. Mayor Paul Winfield reportedly cited a prior commitment for missing the get-together, announced a week ago in an e-mail from District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale and sent to members of the city board, Hopson and state Reps. George Flaggs and Alex Monsour. Space inside the hotel’s conference room was reserved for 7 a.m., in advance of the county’s regular board meeting at 9 a.m. and the city board at 10 a.m.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said he “had been to so many of those meetings” in the past for skipping the session, the e-mail for which was also sent to official state House of Representatives e-mail addresses for Vicksburg’s two House members. Monsour, who arrived for the back half of the hour-long chat, told supervisors and Flaggs said when reached they don’t check their official House addresses often outside of a legislative session.

The sunrise session ended with a loose pledge to meet again in a month — which, if it happens, could signal the relationship between the city and county is warming after eight icy years during the Leyens administration and no meetings since the 90-minute ham lunch less than a month after Winfield was sworn into office.

Mayfield mentioned the city’s struggles over incorporating the NRoute mini-bus system into its budget this year. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Friday to pick up the tab for an independent audit of the system’s operations during 2008 and 2009. The item allows the city to spend up to $10,000 on each year’s report and passed without Beauman’s presence, or, according to the three-term official, his knowledge of it being on the agenda.

“You’re always going to subsidize NRoute — same as the airport and anything else,” Mayfield said, though supervisors cut county support for the buses by 10 percent the past two years along with state-allowed nonprofit funding. “If you think you’re not going to subsidize it, you’re fooling yourself.”

Mayfield said the local economy has fared better during the current sour economy than in previous recessions because layoffs came in small bunches and not waves.

“I can remember when one laid off, everybody laid off,” he said.

Uncertainty about the economy’s performance over the next year prompted supervisors to idle the early stages of building a new jail, though the topic came up in conversation. Board President Richard George said the size of a bond issue needed to pay for a $30 million jail is “staggering.” Taking Vicksburg and Warren County detainees awaiting trial across the Mississippi River to Louisiana came up, but has been nixed by Mississippi’s state lawmakers in committee many times, mainly over insurance issues and other jurisdictional problems, Hopson said.

George, often given to framing the jail’s current state as part of large, over-arching social ills, took that issue in that direction again

“We often listen to people who say, ‘The better facility to build, the better they behave.’ Well, they weren’t behaving when they were outside, you know!”

Local and private legislation, filed by lawmakers usually by request of cities and counties for a specific purpose, may have better chances with better communication between the two entities, both state lawmakers said.