Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The "As Good As It Gets" Election

Jackson mayor foes win endorsements (Clarion-Ledger, May 13, 2009)

So what now, Jackson? Former Jackson Police Chief and Mississippi Commissioner of Corrections endorses Marshand Crisler; State Senator John Horhn endorses Harvey Johnson.

I admit to some ambivalence at this stage. My main concern in the first primary was to prevent Mayor Melton from being re-elected. That was doubly accomplished on Election Night. As I see it, Harvey Johnson is well versed in the analysis of municipal government. He has studied, taught and consulted on urban planning throughout his career. He served two terms as Mayor and began several projects (Convention Center, Telecommunications Center) that are just now coming to fruition. My gut tells me that he's more able to call his own shots than Councilman Crisler.

But while Harvey Johnson knows urban government in theory, he was less than artful in practice in his previous terms. His relationships with the Legislature and other metro-area mayors were strained. His own former police chief, Robert Johnson, has endorsed his opponent.

Jackson is not a self-sufficient island. Can Harvey Johnson build the support we need to lead the City forward?

Marshand Crisler is young, assertive, and obviously connected to law enforcement and the business community. The endorsement of both Sheriff McMillin and former Chief Johnson speaks volumes in his favor. Also, the consolidation of city and county law enforcement, which Crisler supports by way of re-appointing McMillin to be Chief of JPD, may be a far more efficient and effective means for addressing municipal crime. Further, Crisler is the only former City Council member to run for Mayor; that is an experience that may bring a politics of consensus-building to city government that has been sorely lacking in recent years.

But one wonders about the slightly too "well-prepared" Crisler. Does he speak his own mind, or is he a little too "connected" to business and law enforcement interests? And Kingfish at Jackson Jambalaya has raised some critical questions
here and here that have yet, in my opinion, to be put to rest. We've suffered one "Lone Ranger" Mayor; would a Mayor Crisler follow the Constitution even when it's inconvenient to do so?

It's not an easy choice. The pay rate for Jackson's CEO can't be expected to draw out the "Best and the Brightest" -- and the job is a political graveyard, not a stepping-stone to higher office. So, to steal Jack Nicholson's line, this choice is "As Good As It Gets."

We have a week to decide . . .

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