November 4, 2009 9:51:00 AM
Steve Mullen - email@example.com
Well, at least we could say we got close this time.
This community has talked about building a soccer complex for years. After working to vet several candidate sites over the past several months, the city and county finally struck a deal on locating a soccer complex and community park in Burns Bottom -- not just a bunch of fields, but a plan to keep the land''s natural beauty intact. After out-of-town planners and architects showed us the property''s potential, most dissenting voices came around.
So far, so good.
Then, the city and county settled the money question, agreeing on how to split the funding. Miracle of miracles.
And then, they even agreed on a plan to renovate community parks as part of the deal, and forged a promise to renovate Trotter Convention Center up the road. This is the Red Sea parting. We have a clear path to the Promised Land.
Enter Larry and Becki Propst Vassar, who live near Little Rock, Ark. After the county appraised the land and made fair offers to the Burns Bottom landowners, who number more than a dozen, all agreed to sell -- that is, all but the Vassars.
The land held by the Vassars is critical to the project. The entire thing is scuttled unless they are on board.
Ironically, Becki Vassar is niece of former mayor Bill Propst, for whom Propst Park was named.
In truth, the Vassars can choose to do whatever they want to with their land. I doubt they care to play the role of villain in this saga. But that doesn''t change the fact that this project, a catalyst to transform downtown for years to come, can''t move forward without them.
Perhaps they have been out of town long enough to have forgotten how tough it is to get the leaders of the city and county to all -- all -- agree on something. For a refresher: Halley''s Comet comes around more often. The Ole Miss football team is ranked No. 4 more often. None of those things will happen again anytime soon either.
And to think we thought we had this thing in the bag.
The idea of beginning this process over again is too painful to consider. I for one hope that the Vassars will agree to the county''s price, or we can find another way to meet them halfway -- in a way that''s fair to all the other landowners as well.
Put up a plaque somewhere. Name a gazebo after them. Call the road to the parking lot Vassar Boulevard. But somehow, at long last, let''s get this thing done.
Switching gears now, to the economy, because we all need some cheering up.
The problem with trying to get a handle on the state of our economy is all the information out there. Unemployment reports. Factory orders. Gross domestic this and cost-of-living that.
How much of it is relevant locally? And how do we really compare with the rest of the country?
The Associated Press, with something it calls a "stress map," is attempting to boil down how the recession impacts each county in each state in the nation. The map takes three barometers -- unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures -- and assigns a number to each county.
What do these numbers mean for the state, and the Golden Triangle, in particular? Both good things and bad.
The good, looking at the map, is simple: It could be worse elsewhere.
And, things are worse elsewhere. Lowndes County has a stress index of 11.66 for September. That''s far better than the worst of all the counties in the nation -- Imperial County, Calif., which has a 33.51 rating. (The higher the number, the worse AP says you are.)
Lowndes, along with Oktibbeha (index of 9.00) are the Triangle''s bright spots, however. Clay County''s number is 19.27. For perspective, that''s roughly the same as Genesee County, Mich. -- the home of the city of Flint, Mich., which with its failed auto plants and high unemployment has been the nation''s bad-economy poster child for years.
Noxubee County is also among the Mississippi counties with the worst stress index. Its number is 18.11.
Still, matters are worse, according to AP, in southwest Alabama and west Tennessee than here.
If that''s the good news, what''s the bad? This may come as no surprise, but the recession, while allegedly easing up elsewhere, is still alive and well here. Our recovery is dragging behind the nation as a whole.
We can assume this by looking at a new quarterly Economy Watch report from Mississippi State University, which reports that "Mississippi consumers are much more pessimistic than most consumers in the United States." Compare this with the same report in the first quarter, which reported that Mississippians were more optimistic than the rest of the nation, during the recession''s national peak. It seems we have a delayed reaction here.
"Although the recovery seems to be beginning in the nation, Mississippi consumers are still waiting for the turnaround point," the Economy Watch report says. Count me as one of those guys.
Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.