Stan Smith Photography, 601-445-9762

Send your letters to Natchez Sun XPress, P.O. Box 17833, Natchez, MS 39122 or email natchezsun@hotmail.com. Anonymous letters will not be printed. Please include your name, address and phone number for verification.

Stewpot in Urgent Need of Canned Vegetables

Dear Sirs:

Please help feed the hungry in our community.

 

The Stewpot is very low on vegetables. It takes 9 large cans to prepare the 300 meals that we serve every day. Please consider getting together with your family, classmates, group, club, or Sunday school class to collect enough cans for one day or one week.   

 

Any amount will be appreciated. Vegetables can be delivered to the Stewpot Monday to Saturday from 7:30 am to 2:00 pm. Thank you!

 

Stewpot address: 69 East Franklin Street


Amanda Jeansonne, Natchez

Natchez Little Theatre Presents The Addams Family

Dear Sirs:

Natchez Little Theatre, a charitable non-profit volunteer organization and Mississippi's oldest community theater celebrating 85 years of entertainment proudly presents "THE ADDAMS FAMILY" August 17-20, 2017. An adaption of the popular 1960's TV comedy series, "The Addams Family," which became a cult favorite for the past 50+ years.


The television comedy series began in 1964 and ran for two seasons ending in 1966 (51 years ago). It starred Carolyn Jones as Morticia, John Astin as Gomez, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, Ted Cassidy as Pugsley, and Blossom Rock as Wednesday.


They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious, and spooky, and altogether OOKY! "The Addams Family," America's first family of ghastly giddiness, are here at Natchez Little Theatre in all their ghoulish glory as in the original TV series based on the delightfully demented imagination of Charles Addams. Tarantulas, torture racks, and tombstones have never been so much fun! Join Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandma Addams, and the rest of the Dead Addams Ancestors for a fiendishly funny and altogether kooky experience.


So, get your witches shawl on, a broomstick you can crawl on, and fly on over to Natchez Little Theatre at 319 Linton Avenue at Maple Street in historic Natchez, MS. Performances are Thursday – Saturday evenings at 7:30pm and Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm, August 17 – 20. Tickets are only $15 and should be reserved in advance due to early ticket sales! For reservations, call NLT at 601.442.2233, toll free at 877.4401.2233 or avoid the box office line by pre-purchasing your tickets securely on-line at natcheztheatre.org as over 100 advance ticket buyers already have.


"The Addams Family" is set in modern day with the children, Wednesday and Pugsley older. In fact, Wednesday has a normal boyfriend and she has asked him and his normal mid-western parents to her family's home for dinner. Hilariously, it is on the evening that the dead Addams ancestors rise from the grave for their annual family reunion.


I am thrilled to direct this talented cast! "The Addams Family" brings a cast of NLT award winning veterans and numerous stage debuts. Starring as Morticia Addams is Katie Adams of Jonesville, LA, in her NLT debut and as her husband, Gomez, is multi-award-winning NLT actor, Rusty Jenkins. Award winning NLT Youth actress, Hannah Hargis, stars as Wednesday Addams and as Pugsley Addams, the young Addams son, in his NLT stage debut, is Jackson Adams of Jonesville and son of Katie & Johnny Adams.


Award winning NLT actor, Bo Allen, portrays Uncle Fester; Derek Saxon portrays Lurch, the Zombie Butler, and Nicole Harris in her NLT stage debut plays Grandma Addams with the best brew of potions in town!


As Wednesday's boyfriend, Lucas Beineke, is Micah Riggs of Ridgecrest, LA, Playing the role of his parents from Ohio are Myla Waddill of Natchez as Alice and in his NLT stage debut Johnny Adams of Jonesville, LA, as Mal.


The remainder of the cast are the Dead Addams Ancestors portrayed by veterans and newcomers alike: Devin Arnold, Ginny Borum, Stacey Carden, Andrea Cater, El Day, Addison Laird, Lynn Mann, Janet McNeely, Julia Richardson and Jonathan Rosso. The sets were designed by myself and Jennifer Rosso, who beautifully executed and decorated the sets as she did for Disney’s “The Jungle Book. Serving as my Assistant Director/Stage Manager will be Lynn Mann with assistance from Janet McNeely.


This is hilarious family entertainment and will have you rolling in the aisles. So, don’t miss it! Hope to see you at “The Addams Family!”
 

Layne Taylor, NLT Artistic & Executive Director, Natchez
Director of “The Addams Family”

Blood Drive at Natchez High

Dear Sirs:

Natchez High School will be holding a blood drive with Mississippi Blood Services on Tuesday, Aug. 22, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The MBS Donor Coach will be at the school. Donors will receive a T-shirt (while supplies last). Donors can now check their overall cholesterol levels on their MBSConnect account. Donating blood is safe, simple and it saves lives. Donors must be at least 16 years old (16- and 17-year-olds need signed parental consent, visit our Web site for a copy of the form), weigh at least 110 pounds and have a valid ID. Visit us at msblood.com or call us at (888) 90-BLOOD (902-5663) for information.

Susan Ates, Mississippi Blood Services, Jackson

Parent's Campaign Responds to MDE

 

 

Dear Sirs:

Today the Mississippi Board of Education voted on an amended recommendation from MDE to:

  • Reestablish the accountability rating baseline (cut) scores for 2016-2017 using the same percentile ranking that was used to determine school and district ratings (letter grades) last year
  • Publish two ratings for each school and district - one based on the 2015-2016 cut scores and one using new 2016-2017 cut scores
  • Establish the official performance grade as the higher of the two grades for this year only
  • Assign letter grades in subsequent years using the new 2016-2017 cut scores

This action on the part of the state board and MDE officials is commendable in that it attempts to address the problem of inflated cut scores in some rating categories while avoiding lowering the grade of any school or district that earned a higher rating under the original baseline scores. Schools and districts will get the higher of the two grades.

The action is imperfect in that it does not address the issue of inflated baseline scores equitably across all rating categories. While using percentiles to set new scores helps to rectify the problem for schools and districts scoring at the higher end of the spectrum (where cut scores will be lowered), it exacerbates the problem for schools and districts scoring at the lower end of the spectrum. Though districts are held harmless this year, moving forward, cut scores at the lower end of the scale will be set even higher than they are now, despite data showing that they were already set too high due to inflated growth

When the new baseline (cut) scores are announced, The Parents' Campaign Research and Education Fund will conduct a thorough analysis of the impact of the changes and share that information with you.

Board of Education member Dr. Jason Dean asked that the Department of Education revisit the issue of baseline scores, with input from practitioners (educators) before grades are assigned next year. Kudos to Dr. Dean for making this recommendation!

Test scores released, the news is good!

Assessment results for the 2016-2017 school year have been released, and Mississippi students and teachers have reason to celebrate!  

  • 22 districts had greater than 45% of all students scoring proficient or better in English Language Arts, compared to only 14 districts in the previous year
  • 32 districts had more than 45% of all students scoring proficient or better in mathematics, compared to only 15 districts in the previous year

Our schools are making tremendous progress across the board. You can see proficiency rates by school and school district here.

Outcomes for our youngest students are equally impressive! Statewide, 65% of our kindergartners scored above the end-of-school-year target on the STAR Early Literacy. Additionally, kindergarten readiness results show that our pre-k collaboratives and other publicly-funded preschool programs, on average, are exceeding their target scores and doing a great job of preparing four-year-olds for kindergarten. Mississippi's investment in early childhood education is paying great dividends! 

School and district ratings (letter grades) will be announced in October. As Board of Education chair Rosemary Aultman said today, there are lots of good things happening in Mississippi's public schools! Congratulations, teachers and students - you are making Mississippi proud!

Nancy Loome, The Parents' Campaign, Jackson

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MHC Helps Present Mississippi Book Festival

Stuart Rockoff

Dear Sirs:

Not long after I started at the Mississippi Humanities Council almost four years ago, I had a meeting with Jere Nash, who spoke about his dream of creating a Mississippi Book Festival. Having been in graduate school at the University of Texas in the 1990s when First Lady Laura Bush helped launch the Texas Book Festival in Austin, I knew how great such an event would be for Mississippi. The Humanities Council quickly signed up as a partner. In addition to our providing annual support, our staff has been actively engaged in the leadership and programming of the festival. Of course, our involvement pales in comparison with that of Nash, Holly Lang, Emily Pote, and the many volunteers who plan and put on Mississippi's literary lawn party. We are proud to be a small part of the team.

The inaugural festival in 2015 was an overwhelming success with virtually every seat in every panel filled. Last year's festival was larger, with more authors and larger spaces to accommodate the incredible public response. On August 19, the Mississippi Book Festival will hold its third annual celebration of books and the authors who write them.

Each year, I get to select which panels the Humanities Council puts its name on as a sponsor. This year, we are excited to help present "A Conversation with the Librarian of Congress," featuring Carla Hayden, the first-ever female and African American head of the Library of Congress, and Congressman Gregg Harper. Congressman Harper, who chairs the Committee on House Administration, which oversees the Library of Congress, is a big supporter of the Library, the book festival, and the humanities. We are also presenting the panel "Write for Mississippi," a project of novelist Katy Simpson Smith, who arranged for Mississippi writers to teach public high school students around the state. An MHC bicentennial grant helped fund the publication of student writings from the program. We are also pleased to present "Capturing Mississippi," a discussion with Mississippi photographers, moderated by former NEH chairman William Ferris and featuring MHC board member Panny Mayfield.

With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities' Special Initiative on the Legacy of Race, we are presenting a Mississippi History panel that features six authors who have written on different aspects of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. If you aren't able to attend this session in person, you can watch it live on C-SPAN, which has broadcast panels from the festival each year. We are also pleased to help present a conversation with the editors of the recently published Mississippi Encyclopedia. This long-gestating project began more than fifteen years ago with a planning grant from the NEH.

Between panels, we invite you to drop by Room 204 of the State Capitol for the Mississippi Marathon Read, a program put together by the MHC and the Mississippi Library Commission with festival writers reading aloud the work of their favorite Mississippi authors throughout the day.

Since its first year in 2015, the Mississippi Book Festival has become our state's premier literary event, and the MHC is excited and honored to play an active role in it.

Stuart Rockoff, Director, Miss. Humanities Council, Jackson

City Ignores Statute Responsibilities

Dear Mayor Grennell and Alderpersons:

Pretty soon, we will be coming up on 10 years’ operation of the taxpayer-owned Natchez Convention Center by the third party contractor.

From my review of the Minute Books of the City and the Finance Committee minutes, I can find no audits of the convention center, no performance reporting, no financial numbers or details, no review of possible unlawful tying arrangements, no review of contract compliance, no review of public bid law compliance, no review of preferences to local vendors, no reports on or for NCC requests for deviation from contract terms, no review of private contract operator’s bank records.

In short, for 10 years, there has been no apparent oversight by the City of Natchez of NCC operations, either during the initial five year contract, nor after that contract expired when the NCPC contract expired and resumed its control over the facility under the state legislation.

Here is a list of the NatchezConvention Center contract clauses that the City has failed to address, based on its minute books:

1) Proof of preference given to local vendors, Art. 3, Section 3.3;

2) Annual approved financial plans, Sections 3.3.1 and 3.3.4;

3) Rental forms approved by City, Section 3.3.2;

4) Proof of caterers approved by City, Section 3.3.5;

5) Accounting for tickets and ticket revenues, Section 3.3.11;

6) Licenses and permits, Section 3.3.13;

7) Bank records of New Orleans Hotel Consultants, LLC, Section 3.3.14;

8) Proof of adherence to City property inventory controls, Section 3.3.18;

9) Business plans - required annual updates. I note that the now expired contract says, these plans are to "serve as a management blueprint to monitor Consultant's performance", Section 3.6;

10) Proof of City authority for leased space in convention center, Section 3.9;

11) Annual business and financial projections with projected revenues and expenses, Section 4.1;

12) True and correct Financial Statements, with any detail requested by city auditor, Section 4.3;

13) Variable Operations Fee, Section 5.2;

14) Accounting Records and City Access, Section 8.4. I note that while there is a 3 year limit on these records set forth in the expired contract, the expired contract also declares, in Article 1, that the consultant, New Orleans Hotel Consultants, LLC, is a fiduciary to the City, the highest legal standard under general law, which prohibits any self-dealing, and required all things to be done for the benefit of the City.

15) Operating Expenses are defined in Exhibit "C" – no reports found.

The City minute books do contain what I classify as “Blue Sky” reports, usually delivered by Walter Tipton, that talk about who has come, who is coming, and “projections” of expenditures and tax collections based not on results but formulas supplied by state agencies. It is noteworthy that many if not most of the conventions are MS public bodies that do not, as far as I can tell, pay the taxes that we need to fund City operations. It appears that Natchez continues to enjoy being a host, and the life of the party, but with no benefit to the City or its taxpayers.

Former long term city attorney Walter Brown stated (I am here paraphrasing) at the council meeting in July that “we (City) tried to run the convention center ourselves, and could not do it”. Thus was born the privatization of management of the NCC. I do not oppose privatization of functions that the City cannot perform, and in fact, I encourage the City to contract with the YMCA to run all recreation and parks activities and get completely out of any management of any public property other than those who house actually required city operations.

Like the North Fire Station, Duncan Park/Auburn, Splash Pad, and countless other City-owned properties, the City just does not seem able to manage City-owned property, including the NCC, and the other properties under the NCPC umbrella.

However, in this particular case, the City of Natchez has delegated operations to a third party without a written agreement in place, and does not appear, from its own records, to have even tried to demand the required reports under the expired contract in order to put itself into a position to even evaluate the performance of the third party contractor.

The current Administration has had over a year to gather the information set out above and has not done so to date, based on its own records. It is currently negotiating with a separate governmental entity, the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission (NCPC), which seeks to take over the hiring and firing of personnel and manage the public properties at issue, but I cannot see any progress by the City in the meantime evaluating the performance of the current contractor, since the City has not done what it obligated itself to do under the expired contracts, as outlined above.

When will the City get into the books of the third party contractor and taxpayers be given a status report on NatchezC onvention Center operations for the past ten years?

Paul Benoist, Natchez

Southern Pine Beetle Epidemic

Dear Sirs:

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that it has established an Incident Management Team to direct efforts to suppress southern pine beetle infestations that threaten to damage tens of thousands of acres of pine forests in Mississippi.

Forest Health officials have classified the level of infestations as a severe outbreak. “This outbreak is unprecedented in scope with beetle activity progressing at breakneck speed with infestations rapidly escalating in size, coalescing, and decimating whole plantations,” said Jim Meeker, an entomologist with the Forest Service.

Recent surveys conducted by flights and on the ground found more than 3,500 spots of infestation by southern pine beetles on the Homochitto Ranger District (southwest Mississippi), Bienville Ranger District (central Mississippi), Tombigbee Ranger District and the Holly Springs Ranger District (both in north Mississippi).

“We have put together a dedicated team of professionals to manage our beetle suppression and resource protection efforts as an incident. This approach provides an increased focus and additional resources as we work to protect resources on public and private forest lands,” said National Forests in Mississippi Forest Supervisor Gretta Boley. “We are working very closely with our state partner, the Mississippi Forestry Commission.”

The southern pine beetle, a native insect, is the most destructive forest pest in the South, both in economic and ecological impacts. In the absence of southern pine beetle suppression, large-scale pine mortality occurs, destroying endangered species habitat, recreation opportunities, timber, and other property values.

The southern pine beetle is a cyclical outbreak species, which becomes an area-wide and aggressive tree-killer during outbreaks.  Scientists believe there are several reasons for this severe outbreak

--- recent unseasonably mild winters and excessively dry, drought conditions in the summers and falls,

--- an abundance of moderate to high density pine stands, including more than 100,000 acres of unthinned loblolly and shortleaf stands that are highly susceptible to infestation by the insect, and

--- the inability to complete effective suppression activities in previous years.  

Staff from the National Forests in Mississippi and the Mississippi Forestry Commission are working closely with the incident management team. “We are working with and reaching out to private landowners who have questions or need assistance related to the southern pine beetle outbreaks,” said Mississippi State Forester Charlie Morgan. “We continue to work with and support our federal partner, the National Forests in Mississippi, in responding to the southern pine beetle outbreaks.”

“Our crews are working very hard in some extreme conditions including rough terrain and excessive heat,” Boley added. “They are doing an excellent job. Carrying out our work safely is of the utmost importance.”

Ground saturation, including frequent pop-up showers, has also created a significant challenge to suppression efforts. Because of the amount of recent and continued rain fall, logging crews have limited ability at this time to operate heavy equipment.

Forest workers are cutting infested trees to suppress the spread of the beetles and protect resources. Cutting trees helps prevent spot growth by disrupting the beetle pheromone communication system and thus their ability to effectively aggregate and mass attack new pine trees. It is generally thought that most southern pine beetles die before they can colonize trees in a new spot, particularly in the summer when survival outside of the tree is short.

Foresters generally use one of two suppression methods: cut and remove or cut and leave.

Cut and remove is the preferred and most effective suppression tactic because it eliminates all the beetle and their pheromone odors from the forest. Because of the markets and weather, cut and remove has not been available as an option. While less effective, cut and leave – a method that leaves the cut tree in the forest – is the primary suppression tactic at this time.

For more information about southern pine beetles, go to www.mfc.ms.gov/SPB-Prevention.

Mario Rossilli, Public Affairs Staff Officer

U.S. Forest Service, Jackson

 

 

Legislation Would Inprove Wildlife and Recreation

Dear Sirs:

Wildlife Mississippi has recently voiced its support for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ (EPW) passage of S. 1514, the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation Act, or HELP for Wildlife Act. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) is a member of the committee. The bipartisan bill, which includes a range of provisions designed to improve the management of fish, wildlife, habitat and outdoor recreation, passed by a 14-7 margin.

This is a truly bipartisan bill that would reauthorize important conservation programs, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It would establish a National Fish Habitat Conservation Act to conserve fish and fish habitat through partnerships that enhance fish and wildlife-dependent recreation.

HELP for Wildlife would provide funding and support for the construction and expansion of public target ranges on national forests. Public ranges are in short supply in many areas and this bill would help meet the increasing demand for safe places to shoot. In addition, expanded recreational shooting infrastructure will help generate additional conservation revenue by facilitating shooting sports activities that are fundamentally linked to dedicated excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment.

HELP for Wildlife makes sure normal agricultural practices are not mis-characterized as otherwise prohibited attempts to bait migratory game birds. It also exempts lead sport fishing equipment from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Now passed out of committee, the HELP for Wildlife Act next moves to the floor of the U.S. Senate to be voted on by the full Senate at a later date.

James L. Cummins, Wildlife Mississippi, Stoneville

Bruce TV: Adams County Board of Supervisors