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Potential candidates paying more attention to Meridian

By By Buddy Bynum
Dec. 16, 2001
Two potential candidates for statewide political office have visited Meridian lately as guests of The Meridian Star's editorial board. Both are sensible, conservative professionals who have good ideas and are already in positions of authority.
The first is Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, who made an appearance week before last and commented on several road projects that are either under way or planned for East Central Mississippi. Hall was also here when the only major road construction project in Meridian in a long time the 10th Avenue project  was completed.
The state transportation department MDOT was instrumental in that project, as it is with the interchange going to the new industrial park. Also, more than $20 million in overlay projects along I-20/59 east and west of Meridian fall under Hall's jurisdiction.
His comments reflected optimism about prospects for economic development in Lauderdale County and East Mississippi. He thinks we're finally getting it together and all of us should hope he's right.
A former state senator from Jackson, Hall headed the Senate Appropriations Committee before his appointment to the Transportation Commission by Gov. Kirk Fordice. He has been a good commissioner, attentive to transportation needs in a district that includes nearly a million people.
Hall believes any successful transportation system must include highways, rail, air and water and he has worked to achieve a more balanced approach to funding that is based on need and projected use.
He is frequently mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for governor.
Nielsen Cochran
The second visitor you can read more about in today's and tomorrow's edition. Nielsen Cochran has served since 1984 as Central District Public Service Commissioner with jurisdiction over an array of things we sometimes take for granted  like electric power rates, water, telecommunications, telemarketing, and regulation of 18-wheelers rolling through Mississippi.
Cochran, brother of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, has been a voice of reason and logic on the PSC. Shortly after his first election to the commission, a major issue arose divestiture of AT&T. The PSC went from regulating a single phone company to the 500-600 telecommunications companies that do business in Mississippi today.
So many choices and intense competition for customers has led to many consumer complaints related to telemarketing. "It's a constant hassle," said Cochran, whose office gets a half dozen complaints a day about overly aggressive telemarketing. He calls it an "attack by confusing" strategy that often leaves elderly people or illiterate people confused over their cost and service options.
Cochran is attentive to a wealth of consumer choice issues that get back to how companies do business in Mississippi. He is currently concerned over what he described as a decline in the quality of service offered by BellSouth.
Cochran has been mentioned as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor. More of Cochran's comments will be reported in tomorrow's issue of The Meridian Star.
A reader service
Not too long ago, one of our readers made an excellent suggestion. She said obituaries are such an important part of the newspaper that they should be printed without breaking over into another column. This would make is easier for family members and friends to clip out the piece so it can be copied and sent to others.
Over the past few weeks, we have made special efforts to try this and it's worked out most of the time. Our reader was right.
Given the constraints of space, it may not always be possible, but we will continue making every effort to publish obituaries without breaking them into another column.
Now, I know this column may send you to the obituary page, if you haven't read it already. And, as I write this, I have no way of knowing whether we have met the test today. I hope so. I also hope this is one of the little details that show we do respond to reader suggestions.
More about that next week.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com.

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