Editorial Roundup – 08/19/15

This just doesn’t seem right

By Charlie Dunagin
Editor McComb Enterprise Journal

You’d think the state auditor’s office would have more pressing business than harassing former Waveland police officers who lost their weapons in Hurricane Katrina and had them replaced by a gun manufacturer.

According to an article in The Clarion-Ledger, “when the Waveland Police Department went under 12 feet of water, its employees survived by holding on to bushes, flagpoles, and the roof of the building. In order to carry as little weight as possible, they had to shed their duty belts and other equipment in the water.”

Waveland, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, doesn’t provide weapons for its police officers. The policemen furnish their own, so those that were lost or damaged were personal losses.

After the storm, as relief poured into the coastal communities, the Glock corporation donated 29  weapons to the officers of the Waveland Police Department. On Sept. 25, 2005, the officers signed a weapon control form that states: “The undersigned form is receipt of a Glock 40MM weapon that was donated by Glock and intended to replace officers’ weapons that were lost or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Signing this form insures that the undersigned officer will not sell, barter, pawn or give away this weapon for the life of this weapon. The weapon is not to be carried on duty or off duty until qualification by Waveland Police instructors.”

The  Clarion-Ledger reports that on June 19, 2015, former officers of the department, which was entirely laid off in 2011 and has been being built back, received this letter from the office of State Auditor Stacey Pickering: “Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, the Waveland Police Department was issued a number of Glock .40 caliber handguns by Glock, Incorporated. The Office of the State Auditor is currently investigating the loss of these firearms which belong to the City of Waveland. You were issued one of these firearms. Because the weapon belongs to the city and you no longer work for the city, you must return the firearm in question to the Chief of the Waveland Police Department within seven days, and no later than August 18, 2015, if you have not already done so.” The letter goes on to instruct them to provide a detailed explanation if they no longer have the weapon, and that if they can’t return it or reimburse the city, the weapon will be placed on NCIC as stolen.

The article points out, however, that the City of Waveland’s mayor says the city doesn’t own the weapons and they are not on the city’s inventory. Waveland Mayor Mike Smith said he called the auditor’s office twice on behalf of the officers.

Technically, the auditor probably is correct, although it seems to us a good argument could be made that the weapons were intended to replace those that were lost and the lost ones were personal property. Will Craft, spokesman for Pickering, said there’s no legal procedure that allows for donation of city property to an individual free of charge, and he maintains the donation was made to the city and not personally to the officers. “It’s unfortunate that the officers can’t just keep these weapons,” Craft said. “But it all boils down to the fact that the donation was made to the city, and by law they can’t donate public property to the individual.”

A lot of stuff — much more valuable than a pistol — went through the cracks during and after Katrina. Some companies and individuals made a lot of money from the funds that poured into Mississippi after the storm, and it seems to us that Pickering’s office is straining at knats on this issue.

Too bad Glock didn’t label the gifts “campaign contributions” to the mayor. Then, based on recent reports about Pickering’s personal handling of those, he could have done just about what he wanted to with the gift.

‘A flag for all of us’

  By Charlie Dunagin
Editor McComb Enterprise Journal

An impressive list of 64 distinguished Mississippians ran a full-page ad in a statewide newspaper Sunday calling for “a flag for all of us.”

They included business people, writers and authors, entertainers and sports figures: People such as football legend Archie Manning, basketball great Bailey Howell, the athletic directors and head football, basketball and baseball coaches at Mississippi State and Ole Miss, authors John Grisham, Curtis Wilkie and Greg Iles, entertainers Morgan Freeman and Jimmy Buffett and list of others that reads like a who’s who in Mississippi.

Here’s the content  of the ad that appeared in The Clarion-Ledger:
“Last month the South Carolina legislature set aside party differences and voted to remove a Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds in Columbia. This was not the official state flag, nor had it flown gallantly over the statehouse since the Civil War. Rather, it was run up the pole in 1961 as a symbol of resistance to the civil rights movement.

“The action by one of the most Southern of states should resonate in Mississippi. In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Twenty days later, Mississippi became the second. The time has come for Mississippi to follow South Carolina again, only now in another direction.

“The Rebel flag was never meant to fly over state capitols. It was a battle flag, usually carried by a color sergeant at the head of a regiment. With its bright red background and blue ‘Southern Cross,’ it was designed to be seen through the smoke of battle and to serve as a rallying point. After General Lee surrendered, he said, ‘It’s time to furl the flag, boys.’  The ones that were not surrendered were packed away as souvenirs, or, later relegated to museums.

“Thirty years later, in 1894, Mississippi redesigned its state flag and included the Rebel emblem in its canton. Of the eleven former Confederate states, only Georgia and Mississippi incorporate the emblem into their state flags. Georgia remove it in 2001. Mississippi retains it.

“Symbols are important. A casual glance can invoke a hundred images. For 2000 years, the cross has been the most cherished symbol in the Christian world. But the image of a cross set aflame makes us cringe. Black Mississippians look at the Rebel flag and do the same. To them, it’s a symbol of a war fought to preserve slavery and to advance white supremacy.

“General Lee also understood the power of symbols. He opposed the construction of monuments on battlefields. He advised Southerners  to ‘obliterate the marks of civil strive and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.’

“The Rebel flag meant one thing to Lee and his men 150 years ago. Today, to many, it stands from something different.

“It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved.
“It’s time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people.”

Well said.

What a summer in politics

 By Charlie Dunagin
Editor McComb Enterprise Journal

Let’s see if we have this right.

A 73-year-old Socialist from Vermont is leading Hillary Clinton in the polling for the Democratic nomination for president in at least one early primary state, New Hampshire. Meanwhile, an abrasive New York real estate magnate, who in the past has embraced certain Democrats and their principles, is leading the polling among 17 Republican candidates for the nomination.

And here in Mississippi, we have as the Democratic nominee for governor a truck driver who didn’t even vote for himself in the primary and a lieutenant governor nominee who — though he is a former state legislator — is better known as an Elvis impersonator.

What a strange season of politics.