Come home, Mr. Mayor, business awaits
June 20, 2001
In the week or so that newly reelected Meridian mayor John Robert Smith has spent studying government at Harvard University, several major items of city business have gone unresolved.
Police Chief Gregg Lewis announced his retirement, although he didn't announce an effective date except in vague terms. The city's chief administrative officer said he did not know what sort of process would be set up to choose another chief, did not know whether the search might produce a new chief from inside or outside current police ranks, and did not know when Lewis' retirement would be effective.
In the meantime, the Meridian Police Department is on the verge of being leaderless with no publicly-announced timetable or plan to fill the chief's chair.
The terms of two members of the city planning commission are still expired, with neither reappointment nor successors identified. One term expired more than a year ago.
The work of this commission has assumed a new level of importance in view of a Grow Meridian recommendation developed in cooperation with the city's Community Development Department that would encourage residential development in the city.
This is a touchy issue with many developers who feel that building homes in the county is their only option due to the high cost of administrative barriers and lack of incentives to build in the city. Given the population slide in Meridian, finding ways to attract more residents should be the top priority of Smith's third term as mayor.
The last time a Grow Meridian recommendation on encouraging residential development inside city limits came to the planning commission, five of the nine members attended the meeting, and the proposal was rejected.
A new state law allowing appointment of a city school board member from outside the bounds of the Separate School District takes effect July 1, the day before Smith is to return from Harvard. City council members say they have no insight from the mayor on who is likely to be nominated and will not rush to a decision.
This is a controversial subject for a handful of very vocal people who live outside the city but inside the city school district. It carries the potential for more than $800,000 in lost revenue to the city schools if appropriate action isn't taken soon.
Signs still detour traffic around 10th Avenue reconstruction, even though the road is complete and was officially opened on June 1. This must be baffling to visitors coming in for State Games. These signs should be taken down immediately so out-of-towners coming to State Games on Thursday will at least have the benefit of good traffic information.
Mayor Smith said when he announced he had been given a scholarship to attend a three-week session at Harvard that the meetings would focus on solving problems in city government. Academic analysis of hypothetical problems is not a wasted effort, but in view of the pressing business that awaits him, the mayor may want to consider coming on back and solving a few problems at home.