New leadership needed for rec committee

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 13, 2014

This week the City of Vicksburg’s ad hoc recreation committee went high tech with a petition on inviting city and county residents to sign a petition supporting a multi-purpose recreation complex.
According to committee chairman and attorney Omar Nelson the petition, titled “River Bluff Park at Vicksburg,” was developed “to put more pressure on the (Warren County) Board of Supervisors and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and generate support for a sports park.”
When did that become the job of the committee chairman to put pressure on the board that appointed him? The committee was appointed in May by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to examine the city’s recreation programs and present recommendations to improve the overall program over the next five years by Dec. 31.
Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield and South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson advised the committee not to rush into finding a location for a recreation complex, but to prepare a report on their findings of what the city needs.
The committee’s petition and its title accompanied by a photo of the river and the bridges taken from what appears to be near the entrance of Riverfront Park, indicates the committee may have a site in mind. The ostensibly fictional names evokes the Mississippi Bluffs property off Warrenton Road, which was eyed for a proposed casino/golf resort complex in the early 2000s.
Nelson said the site’s name is not an indication that the committee has a site in mind.
“We’re don’t have a site,” he said, adding “River Bluffs at Vicksburg” was selected “because we wanted to get people’s attention. Vicksburg is on the river and it’s on a bluff. It just seemed like a catchy name. There was no rhyme or reason.” Usually an attorney doesn’t do things without rhyme or reason. Why give a name to a park that doesn’t exist and evoke images of a complex atop the bluffs of the Mississippi River?
Nelson and committee member Linda Fondren tried to meet Wednesday with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in executive session under an item titled “real estate,” but Mayor George Flaggs Jr. stopped the discussion, saying any discussion about land was premature. “Real Estate” is a vague reason to go into executive session and possibly violates the spirit of the open meetings act. The reason for executive session needs be more explicit.
“At this point, land is irrelevant,” Flaggs said. “That’s what caused the last attempt at a sports complex to fail, everybody was talking about buying land. I don’t want to talk about land. All I want is a comprehensive report on recreation in Vicksburg.”
Land is irrelevant and right now the city’s recreation committee smacks of impropriety. They have chosen to ignore the mandate set before them and have tried to engage in secret closed-door meetings, which violate the open meetings acts. At the behest of Nelson the Warren County Recreation Committee went into executive session in August to discuss personnel. Before they settled on personnel they tried to close the meeting for discussions of funding until members of the public objected. The closed session portion of the meeting was not on the county’s agenda when the meeting began. The Vicksburg Post has filed a Freedom of Information request for the minutes of that meeting as soon as they are ratified.
Back room deals have been a blight on our political landscape for too long. If our community is to realize the dream of a recreation complex then all meetings need to be open and transparent. New leadership that understands the mandate of the committee is also needed. Most pressing is the need for the city and the county to work together, perhaps with Mr. Nelson as a spectator.

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