September 29, 2011 1:19:00 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
The Columbus-Lowndes tourism bureau continues to take one step forward and two steps back.
After months of debate, Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders and Columbus Mayor Robert Smith finally came to a decision about the ninth Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau member.
The two decided to name Harvey Myrick to the board, after going back and forth over potential board members.
Myrick has been an enthusiastic booster for the community as the organizer and proponent of the Grillin' on the River cooking contest. The festival-type cooking competition has grown every year since its inception and provides a family-friendly draw to downtown.
But on the heels of that welcome news, the CVB offered a disappointing display at its Tuesday budget meeting.
The board passed a $1.53 million budget, without allowing at least two board members to review the details to their satisfaction.
Whirllie Byrd voted against the budget and threatened to call in the state for an audit of the CVB. Byrd often has been the squeaky wheel of the board, calling for openness in meetings, though it hasn't always gone over well with her fellow board members.
Byrd was ousted as CVB board president in June when she pressed the board to hire an attorney and conduct more business in open session. She also called for a review of CVB credit-card records, suspicious of improper spending.
While we question her methods, we applaud her audacity. More members of more boards should ask tough questions.
Bernard Buckhalter also voted against the budget, saying it had not been reviewed by the entire board prior to Tuesday's meeting.
According to CVB officials, it's the same budget the board went over at a recent retreat, where they named Nancy Carpenter the full-time director of the CVB. Still, the board's obvious division is cause for concern.
When Columbus and Lowndes County leaders called for the CVB board seats to be vacated and legislation to be rewritten clarifying the CVB's duties, we hoped new board members would quell controversy and outline a clear mission.
But since the board was reconstituted with new members, they have held what appear to be illegal meetings and been difficult in responding to requests for public records.
The Columbus-Lowndes Development Link has and option to purchase the Gilmer Inn in downtown Columbus. To that we say, hooray. A boutique-style hotel in the heart of downtown could be a treasure for the CVB and the community.
The aging motor court of late has been a hotbed for crime and seedy characters.
This new development could give downtown a breath of fresh air.
High-end downtown hotels, like The Alluvian in Greenwood, have proven to be a boon for their cities.
But it's hard to get excited about the potential of the CVB when its credibility seems to shrink with each board meeting.
roscoe p. coltrain commented at 9/30/2011 6:41:00 AM:
I would think the Dispatch would know all about shrinking credibility given it's refusal to publish the qualifications of those applicants who were rejected for the Columbus Police Chief job.
The public should be given access to the information (LOL, look who I'm telling, good ole "Open Government" but not from us Birney and Co.) so they can see for themselves that the Downtown WonderMonkey's are actually searching for the best, not just another "good ole boy" fix.
Again, I suggest to you Birney: Pot/kettle.
columbusrealitycheck commented at 9/30/2011 8:48:00 AM:
It is outrageous that the seven devious members of the CVB board, who, hereafter, shall be referred to as D7, have, once again, ignored the reasonable and responsible requests of Whirllie Byrd!
Mr. Imes, you are right to laud Ms. Byrd's efforts to keep the board open and honest. However, before we question her methods, we should consider the fact that desperate times call for desperate measures. My guess is that Ms. Byrd tried to reason with D7, but was forced to resort to being the squeaky wheel, when she realized that it is not possible to reason with unreasonable people.
I would like to offer a comparison of the two factions on the board, D7 and The Voices of Reason (Ms. Byrd and Mr. Buckhalter), hereafter referred to as VOR:
VOR: Called for openness, especially as it relates to financial and personnel matters.
D7: Condoned potentially illegal meetings.
VOR: Has advocated for the board to keep its word.
D7: Has ignored previous agreements, as well as previously-approved resolutions.
VOR: Has always had the best interests of the taxpayers of Columbus at heart.
After considering the above, as well as the widely-reported shenanigans of the D7, there is only one question that you should ask yourself: Who would you rather have representing your best interests (as well as tax dollars)?
raider commented at 9/30/2011 10:27:00 PM:
Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! What could we expect from a board that believes it can do whatever it wants to do, with impunity. They appear not to care what any of the regular citizens think and appear to have at least the tacit approval of the mayor and President of the BOS.
Well this is an open letter to Mayor Smith and President Sanders. The CVB spends money that is appropriated via taxes. The citizens have a right to have an honest accounting of monies appropriated and spent by organizations that use tax payer funds. The honesty and integrity of the CVB has been called into question on numerous occasions. The CVB has also engaged in a pattern of secrecy that is indicative of someone with something to hide. I believe that at the very least, this board has given the appearance of improprieties and their actions warrants an investigation. Since you two are responsible for appointments to the CVB and the you are the ranking county and city officials, I am appealing to the two of you to appoint and independent investigator to investigate the expenditure of funds and the actions of the CVB.
columbusrealitycheck commented at 10/1/2011 12:43:00 AM:
However, I don't believe that either the Mayor or Harry Sanders are capable or willing to appoint an independent investigator. Fortunately, we as citizens have access to two sources of independent investigators. They are better known as the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor (www.osa.state.ms.us) and the Mississippi Ethics Commission (www.ethics.state.ms.us). Who wants to race me to be the first to call them?
By the way, all of you bad, bad members of the CVB Board (excluding Ms. Byrd and Mr. Buckhalter), now would probably be a good time to turn to page 20 of the current Yellowbook telephone directory. That is where you will find listings for attorneys.