Mississippi editorial roundup
By The Associated Press
Sep. 13, 2017
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Greenwood Commonwealth on the state flag:
As we have predicted before, it's only a matter of time before Mississippi's flag will be replaced with something less offensive to a large segment of the state's population. It's going to happen, and the sooner the better.
One of the more significant voices that came out recently for changing the state flag is Andy Taggart, an attorney and GOP activist, who is urging his fellow Mississippi Republicans to take a leadership role in "the charge for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from our state flag."
In a memo circulated widely by Taggart and published in the conservative political blog "Y'all Politics" and in a guest column in The Clarion-Ledger,
Taggart urged GOP officeholders at all levels, as well as Republican committees and organizations throughout the state, to join the effort. And, unlike some of the current GOP officeholders in Jackson — namely Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — Taggart is calling for his party, which dominates both the legislative and executive branches of state government, to handle this issue without punting it to a statewide referendum.
"Mississippi Republicans can today demonstrate that we understand that leadership is not simply taking people where they want to go, or even 'letting the people vote' on hard issues," Taggart wrote. "Sometimes, leadership requires encouraging and urging people to go where they should, even when they don't particularly want to go there. Mississippi Republicans have a powerful opportunity to lead now on the issue of the state flag, and we should."
Taggart was chief of staff for Gov. Kirk Fordice during the 1990s and has since been a political commentator and author. He is the latest prominent Republican — joining House Speaker Philip Gunn and U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran — to call for a new state flag.
In his memo, Taggart notes "the simple fact is that the flag itself is highly polarizing, when the whole purpose of the state flag is to provide a symbol of unity around which all our state's citizens should be proud to rally. Arguments that Confederate monuments and the like will be the next to fall if we change the state flag don't wash. The state flag is different from monuments, street names, portraits, headstones and the like, because the state flag is supposed to be a symbol of all Mississippians' civic identity. Sadly, we just cannot say that it is today."
Taggart wants GOP lawmakers and state officials to lead the way during the 2018 legislative session "to strike the Confederate battle flag by statute."
Just because someone of Taggart's stature is suggesting it doesn't mean it's going to happen next year. But as Taggart urges, it would be the right thing for Republicans and Mississippians of all political persuasions to support and resolve sooner rather than later.
The Enterprise-Journal of McComb on flood insurance:
The images and stories from the devastating flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, are heart-wrenching.
If Hurricane Irma's damage in Florida is as bad as anticipated, the same will be true there.
When America's coastlines are devastated by hurricanes, or inland areas are swamped by rain-swollen rivers, this country responds with compassion — and buckets and buckets of taxpayer-funded aid.
But, as when Hurricane Katrina devastated Mississippi's Gulf Coast a dozen years ago and tens of billions of dollars of federal aid were poured into this state to help it recover, questions remain over how much responsibility property owners in disaster-prone areas have to protect themselves.
Last week, The Associated Press released an analysis that paints a troubling picture of how many homeowners along Florida's 1,350 miles of coastline are taking their chances.
Florida has about 2.5 million homes in hazard zones, meaning they are susceptible to hurricanes and other natural disasters. Yet only 42 percent of these homes are covered by flood insurance, according to the AP. Even worse, that figure is down from what it was five years ago.
Apparently, a number of homeowners dropped their policies after the rates were hiked starting in 2012 for the government-operated flood insurance program, by far the most dominant provider of coverage. Those premium increases were approved by Congress to try to reduce the program's $24 billion debt, which had been caused by a run of natural disasters and underpriced policies.
Where coverage has been allowed to lapse, in many cases it's been done in spite of mortgage regulations that require the homeowner to have insurance. Private lenders as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is ultimately responsible for enforcing the flood insurance requirements, have been lax about keeping up with whether homeowners have kept their flood insurance current.
Although there have been some horror stories about astronomical premium hikes after flood-risk maps were updated, on average the cost of flood insurance is reasonable given the risk. The AP reports it ranges in most cases in Florida between $300 and $500 a year.
This is not to pick on Florida. In Houston and other parts of southern Texas hit by Harvey, it's estimated that less than a third of the damaged property that could have been protected by flood insurance had the coverage. Nationwide, only half of the 10 million properties that need flood insurance have it, according to officials with the National Flood Insurance Program.
So what do you do when disaster hits? Do you let those who neglected to protect themselves suffer the consequences of their poor decision and let lenders be swamped with water-logged repossessions?
Or do you bail the victims out, knowing that every time you do so, it makes it more likely that those who live along America's oceans and rivers will continue to take their chances and pass on flood insurance?
It's a dilemma, choosing between compassion and logical consequences.
No one wants to be heartless toward those whose home is washed away. And, at least in the case of Houston, the deluge from Hurricane Harvey was so unprecedented — a once-in-a-1,000-year occurrence — that it's understandable why parts of that city would have been uninsured for floods.
In designated flood zones, however, it is irresponsible of homeowners not to buy the coverage. Lenders and the federal government should work harder to make them do right before disaster hits.
The Dispatch of Columbus on helping Irma refugees:
The devastation of the past two weeks, first in Texas and then in Florida, has touched our generous nature.
Americans everywhere have responded to the call for help after hurricanes Harvey and Irma destroyed billions of dollars in property while driving tens of thousands from their homes.
This week, evacuees from Florida began arriving in the Golden Triangle. For a few, this was a planned destination, a place where they could find shelter until they are able to return home. For the majority, however, the Golden Triangle was the first destination on their flight north with available hotel rooms. Hotel parking lots are filled with cars with Florida license plates.
In times of these disasters, we often look for ways to help. We donate money to relief organizations such as the American Red Cross or Salvation Army, participate in clothing and food drives, even volunteer to work on recovery efforts. All of these efforts are important and commendable.
But the presence of these Florida evacuees presents us another opportunity to give in a unique way.
Hundreds of evacuees are among us and while they are physically safe, they carry with them the burden of not knowing what they will find when they return home or, at this point, even when they will be allowed to return.
For many, a return to normalcy may be weeks, even months away and the psychological burden can been a heavy load to bear.
For us, it is an opportunity to live up to our reputation for hospitality yet again.
In your daily travels, you may well encounter these displaced visitors. We urge you to offer support, sympathy, encouragement. Maybe even a hug or two. It may seem like a small thing, but sometimes even the smallest gestures are powerful.
There may also be another opportunity that carries a greater commitment. Because Mississippi State University has a home football game on Saturday, the hotel rooms currently occupied by evacuees are not available this weekend. Many evacuees may not be able to return home by then, so they'll either have to leave the Golden Triangle to find hotel rooms or find some other accommodations. For those who can, there is an opportunity to turn evacuees into weekend guests at their homes.
That, we feel, would be a great act of compassion. Who knows? It could be the beginning of a lifetime friendship.
So, whether it's the small gestures of kindness we provide over the course of the next few days or an invitation to open our homes, this situation provides all of us opportunities to help.
Let's make sure we make the most of that chance.
It is, after all, what we are famous for.