By Wyatt Emmerich
It’s been seven years since Obamacare passed. My how time flies. Time to dust off my thoughts on the American health care system.
By Wyatt Emmerich
It’s been seven years since Obamacare passed. My how time flies. Time to dust off my thoughts on the American health care system.
In past 20 years the Mississippi Delta has become one of the premier cultural heritage destinations in the country. For decades U.S. Highway 61 was a major tributary for poor Southerners, both black and white, migrating to the promise of better lives in the industrial north. Today visitors from around the world travel this iconic highway to return to the rich cultural offerings of what has been called “the most Southern place on earth.
A few years ago, after many years of research and the development of a comprehensive management plan, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) was created by Congress. The official designation came in March 2009 when President Barack Obama signed into law the enabling legislation that was included in that year’s Omnibus Federal Land Management Act. The legislation was sponsored by Senators Cochran and Wicker and Representative Thompson. The geographic footprint of the heritage area includes Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, Desoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Yazoo Counties.
This vast alluvial plain has been referred to as “the cradle of American civilization;” and its importance to the fabric of America so great that it has also been named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is the nation’s only heritage area that can make that claim. The National Trust works to identify endangered National Treasures and takes action to raise needed funds, build coalitions to prevent demolition and fights in the courts to save sites from deterioration—all to make sure that these icons of the past remain with us in the future.
Research from the Mississippi Development Authority shows that in FY2015 (July 2014—June 2015) tourism in the 18-county footprint of the Delta accounted for $1,444,072,893 in revenue. The industry employs 19,292 people and provides $136,152,422 in state and local taxes. FY2015 saw $50,337,549 in tourism capital investment in the region.
With the opening of world-class interpretive venues such as the Gateway to the Blues in Tunica, the Mississippi Grammy Museum in Cleveland, the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola and Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum in Vicksburg the fascination with the mystique of the Mississippi Delta continues to grow. These attractions combined with the Delta’s collection of museums give visitors to the region great insight into the unique cultural heritage of the Mississippi Delta.
Here in Vicksburg in CY2016 we greeted over 100,000 guests at our visitor information centers. Over 30,000 guests arrived by passenger boats at our waterfront. Our guest register tallied guests from all 50 states and 45 foreign countries. The past ten years Vicksburg has seen hospitality tax collections increase by over 30%.
This is just the beginning. The best is yet to come! DBJ
Bill Seratt is the Executive Director of the Vicksburg-Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
By Delbert Hosemann
2016 was a milestone election year for Mississippi.
In 2011, 62 percent of Mississippians approved a citizen-initiated State Constitutional Amendment requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. This year, 99.9 percent of voters came to the polls on Election Day with acceptable ID.
While many other states re-main embroiled in expensive litigation over voter ID, Mississippi’s law has not been challenged.
The Secretary of State’s Office consulted a broad crosssection of key Mississippi and federal stakeholders in implementing voter ID. These included the heads of political parties, Circuit Clerks, Election Commissioners, attorneys, in-terest groups, and the U.S. De-partment of Justice. Litigation is expensive. Our schools need our taxpayer dollars.
On November 8, the Justice Department dispatched more than 500 federal monitors to 28 states. Their purpose included ensuring there was no prohibited racial discrimination on Election Day.
None were sent to Mississippi.
Rarely does the Justice Department exclude Mississippi from its list of states in need of observance in a Presidential election.
The credit belongs to Missis-sippi voters who showed up to their polling places, displayed courtesy to their friends and neighbors, cast their ballots, and departed to allow others to do the same. We trusted each other, and the result was a free and fair election.
Conducting an election is a human endeavor. The Secretary of State’s Office takes every single problem, no matter how minor, and every impacted vote, seriously. Our Agency, Circuit Clerks, and Election Commissioners are continually searching for ways to improve the process.
All in all, Election Day in Mississippi—with voter ID and without federal monitors—was a clear success. Governance begins at the ballot box. Mississippi voters turned a page in the history of our State’s electoral process on No-vember 8. Each of you who cast your ballot had a hand in turning that page.
By Trudy Lieberman
The fight in California over a ballot initiative that would begin to control the price of pharmaceuticals paid by state programs shows how difficult it is to “do something” about the high price of prescription drugs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. drug spending rose 7 percent this year—the biggest increase in 24 years—and most Americans now think drug prices are unreasonable. So it’s not surprising the pharmaceutical industry is running scared and, with its deep pockets, is spending big to convince millions of Californians to vote “No” on Prop 61, a Nov. 8 ballot measure that would “do something.”
It’s a simple measure, says Roger Salazar, the spokesperson for the group “Yes On Prop 61.” It would require the state to pay no more for prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spends for the same medications. The VA negotiates prices with pharmaceutical companies, and federal law requires that the department get a discount of at least 24 percent off the drugs it buys.
That may seem reasonable considering the state spends billions on drugs it buys through such programs as CalPERS, the state employees retirement fund, the fee-for-service recipients in Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, the state prison system, and an AIDS drug assistance program. Over time proponents say the measure could save the state billions. For CalPERS alone they argue the measure could save almost $4 billion over 10 years. The state legislative office says the financial impact is “unknown.”
If proponent’s estimate of potential savings is correct, that’s hardly chump change. CalPERS, one of the country’s largest healthcare purchasers, saw its costs for specialty drugs—high-cost medicines for complex, chronic conditions—jump 30 percent in 2015.
The pharmaceutical industry, though, worries that if the measure passes in California, it could open the door for other states to follow. Even worse, it might lead to the federal government negotiating prices with drug companies as most other nations do. “It’s a fairly straightforward expansion of price controls,” is how Stephen Ubl, president of the drug makers trade group, described it last summer in an interview with the New York Times.
The drug industry has fought against such negotiations for decades. Recall that Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating prices for the prescription drugs it pays for on behalf of 56 million beneficiaries. “We can’t negotiate for purchasing in one of the largest insurance systems in the world,” says former Medicare administrator Don Berwick.
The fight in California reveals one of the biggest political and powerful obstacles of all—money. Two weeks before the election, the drug industry had poured $109 million into its campaign to defeat the measure, a sum that makes it the most expensive campaign for or against a single ballot initiative in the state’s history, according to Salazar’s group,
High on the list of companies giving money to defeat the measure are household names like Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer, which each tossed in more than $9 million.
Their arguments have a familiar ring, similar to ones the drug industry has used before when price controls edged too close to their bottom lines. They argue that government interference with prices could lead to higher drug costs, treatment delays and even denial of coverage. They say the proposal offers little guidance for implementation.
Their tactics are familiar too. They’ve enlisted the help of several patient advocacy groups to support their position—groups like the California Hepatitis C Task Force and the Lupus Foundation of Southern California, which have received recent drug industry contributions.
When Los Angeles Times business columnist David Lazarus asked Kathy Fairbanks, the spokeswoman for the “No Prop 61” campaign,” if she’d characterize high drug prices as a problem for patients, she said no, that’s not how she would put it. “It’s an issue, how about that?” She added healthcare costs are top of mind for a lot of people, but “Proposition 61 isn’t the answer.”
It’s fair to ask: Then what is it? Two other weaker attempts in California to “do something” about drug prices failed this year. One was a measure to require insurers to give detailed information about drug costs and drug makers to give notice of future price increases. The other would have required more transparency about research and development, production and marketing costs for drugs with a wholesale price of more than $10,000 a year.
The battle is being fought on the airwaves, and voters are confused.
Money talks! The question remains: When will the needs of the public and the health system in general talk louder?
What do you think should be done to control drug prices? Write to Trudy at firstname.lastname@example.org. DBJ
Trudy Lieberman is Trudy Lieberman, a journalist for more than 45 years, is a past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and an adjunct professor of public health at the CUNY School of Public Health.
By Delbert Hosemann
Our public and private lands are one of our most valuable assets. They provide revenue for our public schools, income for Mississippi families and businesses, and a place for our wildlife to thrive. However, much of those lands have been damaged over the years by artificial flooding of the Mississippi River. My full statement, delivered to the Mississippi River Commission on August 17, on how to help protect Mississippi’s resources is as follows:
Artificial flooding of the Mississippi River is causing significant damage to 16th Section Public School Trust lands and private lands in Mississippi. Valuable farmland and hardwood bottomland south of Vicksburg is being inundated longer than prior history. Our public and private landowners face increasing siltation on these lands causing tree mortality as well as changes in timber stand composition from marketable species to undesirable species and consequently causing monetary damage to our public and private lands. In addition, these changes are adversely affecting habitat for Mississippi wildlife.
I am here to encourage you to (1) determine if the current allocations of water flow at the Old River Control Structure affects flooding and (2) recognize the land rights of Mississippi’s public and private landowners.
Our State seeks to protect our public and private lands from the results of this flooding.
Based on information obtained from NOAA, FSA, and local and county agencies, the frequency of flooding has evolved from slight to severe springtime flooding in the 1980s to almost yearly moderate to severe flooding occurring from the early 1990s until today. The river basin floods in the spring and is now prone to flooding during the months of August and September when the river is supposed to be at the lowest stages. Flooding at this time of year is critical because new crop and timber reproduction from the spring and summer is susceptible to damage.
The Secretary of State’s Office supports a review of Public Law 780 adopted in 1954 by the United States Congress to revisit the 70/30 diversion at the Old River Control Structure. We solicit the Mississippi River Commission to adopt a policy of a scientifically supported allocation of flood waters to protect both Mississippi and Louisiana residents and property owners with no fixed formula.
Almost a century has occurred since the flood of 1927. Curative and protective measures have consequences and we believe there exists a need for flexibility in amending and currently changing the allocation of water in the Lower Mississippi Valley.
After a general review, current flooding of the Mississippi River impacts approximately 10,000 acres of 16th Section Public School Trust lands from Warren County south to its border. A current investigation of 3,561 acres revealed the following information.
The total projected financial loss of timber revenue on 3,561 acres of 16th Section Lands which is directly or indirectly attributed to the flooding of the Mississippi River is $1,800,390 Million Dollars ($505.38 per acre).
This damage assessment includes 3,561 acres of 16th Section Land in the following Mississippi counties: Adams, Claiborne, Warren and Wilkinson.
• In Adams County, our current investigation revealed prospective damages of $1,011,580.
• In Claiborne County, our current investigation revealed prospective damages of $207,360.
• In Warren County, our current investigation revealed prospective damages of $70,500.
• In Wilkinson County, our current investigation revealed prospective damages of: $510,950.
In addition to the loss of timber revenue for public 16th Section Lands, it should also be noted there are many more acres similarly affected on private lands. DBJ
Delbert Hosemann is the Secretary of State for the state of Mississippi.
By Mike Barkett
Graduation season is a time to celebrate one of life’s most important milestones. The choices that students are making now will determine the course of their future lives and livelihoods. Naturally, we want them to pursue rewarding careers that provide long-term financial stability along with opportunities for advancement.
Many of Mississippi’s best and brightest students are choosing career and technical education programs as their preferred paths to success. Even though these programs are attracting many of our top-performing students, the belief still persists that career and technical education is a last resort for students who can’t excel in traditional, four-year degree programs.
The Mississippi Construction Education Foundation is doing its part to remove this stigma by educating the public about the tremendous potential of these career tracks and the success stories they’re producing for students who choose them. There’s an ever-expanding body of research proving that career and technical education is making a dramatically positive impact on student outcomes, and that the earnings potential for these graduates is on par with many four-year degree programs.
A recent study by Mississippi State University’s Research and Curriculum Unit confirms that career and technical education students have higher graduation rates and are more likely to be involved and stay engaged in their coursework. These students had a four-year graduation rate of 83.9 percent, compared to 75.5 percent for Mississippi high-schoolers overall.
MCEF is the leading provider of craft training in high schools, community colleges and apprenticeship programs across Mississippi. We partner with the Mississippi Department of Education to deliver craft training programs to 5,000 high school students enrolled in more than 100 career and technical education centers across Mississippi. Programs include carpentry, electrical, HVAC, masonry, sheet metal, industrial maintenance, construction trades and welding.
MCEF also has articulation agreements with 15 community colleges that enable graduates of our four-year apprentice program to receive up to 32 academic hours. Our craft-training programs have an 80 percent graduation rate, while apprenticeship programs have a graduation rate of 100 percent.
Today’s career and technical education programs are light years beyond what you may remember as “shop” class back in the day. These professions have been profoundly transformed by the computer age. Students must be able to quickly grasp new technologies and master multiple and complex skill sets. The coursework is challenging and requires academic rigor as well as critical-thinking skills. To be successful in these programs, students must be disciplined in their work ethic and knowledgeable of safe work practices and behaviors.
Students enrolled in MCEF programs are some of the most intelligent, talented and motivated people you’ll ever meet. They could excel at just about any degree program they set their sights on, and many of them go on to complete four-year degrees in fields such as engineering and architecture. Others are interested in starting careers directly after high school, and thanks to the variety of training programs now offered in Mississippi, 21 percent of high school graduates successfully transitioned to careers last year.
I’m proud of the role that MCEF continues to play in making sure these aspiring professionals have the training and resources required to achieve their dreams. Considering the reach of these programs across Mississippi, you may have a son or daughter, brother or sister, spouse, relative, friend or neighbor enrolled in one of our career and technical education programs. When you get a chance, let them know how impressed you are by their focus and dedication―and how proud you are of the investment they’re making in their futures.
As a former educator, Mike Barkett has seen the tremendous benefits of helping young people find their place in the world. In his current role as president of the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, he is working to introduce today’s students to opportunities that await them in career and technical positions.
By Jamie Smith
Much like the Sirens who lured ships onto the rocks in Homer’s Odyssey, the political philosophy of socialism is almost irresistible. As the ships were wrecked, so too are countries that go down the road to socialism. The history of the world is replete with the failed attempts to implement such an economic system, but as has been said, those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. That’s why Bernie Sanders’ popularity among the young is very high.
Give Senator Sanders this—he’s honest about his socialism. His view is that of a utopian society in which everyone has an equal outcome—a well-paying job, free health care, free education, free housing, and so on. The evil greedy rich people or the evil greedy corporations will be forced to pay for it all. Boiled down, socialism is really about the transfer of wealth from those who have it to those who don’t so that everyone is equal. The children’s book The Rainbow Fish is a perfect example of this (and of early age socialist indoctrination). This is why you see (up north) children’s activities with no scoring and everyone getting trophies.
The unfortunate reality is that having a planned economy never really works—the middle class evaporates, and a very small elite become very well off by controlling the rest. Having a centrally-planned economy ends up relying on force to make the population comply. By the time the people realize that they’ve fallen prey to the siren call, it’s too late. Orwell’s Animal Farm is a good primer on this—how under socialism everyone is equal, just a few people are ‘more equal’ than others.
Let’s use LeBron James as a case study. He’s a very wealthy basketball player, and obviously a winner at life’s lottery, which is unfair to those of us that can’t jump. Let’s say he’s going to throw a party, and blow $100,000 on it. Once again, unfair (since we won’t be invited) and a waste of money that could be put to better uses according to us, the intelligentsia. So we will get the voters to go along with taxing Mr. James by appealing to their jealousy, and distribute that out (paying for the votes), and 100,000 people get $1.00 each. That’s fair because we say it is. Did it help anyone really? No. Did it hurt Mr. James? Only in that he didn’t get to have his party. But the caterers, entertainers, cleaners and party planners all didn’t get the work, so they indeed were harmed. Who benefits? Why, we, political elite, who got the votes and thus the power. And there it is! Socialism’s dirty little secret: it’s really about control and power, gained through the false siren calls of ‘fairness’ and ‘economic justice.’
Capitalism is based on competition and achievement. LeBron James is not envied, rather he is celebrated and emulated. He earned his money by countless hours practicing and honing his natural talent. He is the best to decide how his money should be used, whether on a party or investments or charities—it’s his money, he earned it, and when he spends it, that creates jobs for a boatload of people. The children’s book The Little Red Hen epitomizes the idea that if you work for it, you earn it and it’s yours. If you win the race, you get a blue ribbon, not some participation trophy. If you don’t, tough. Clap for the winner and go practice harder.
The American education system is dominated by leftist thought and is indoctrinating our young with the socialist mindset. If we don’t push back by talking to the younger generations about the differences in the political philosophies, then President Obama and the rest will succeed in the fundamental transformation of America. We are pretty far down the road to socialism, and the crony capitalism we are seeing is giving capitalism a bad name. It’s time to push back. Sometimes a little humor will help with a discussion, so in closing, here’s the old “two cow” explanation of the different systems:
Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the government, and the government then gives you some milk.
Fascism: You have two cows. You give them to the government, and the government then sells you some milk.
Nazism: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.
By Hu Meena
Technology likes to show off. It’s easy to notice when the latest innovation has arrived because when technology gets better, we notice. In education-tech, we heralded the arrival of the SMART Board and interactive learning. Government-tech showed off its ability with advanced NSA surveillance. Every time you see a stunning new Pixar movie, you’re experiencing some of the best of entertainment-tech. But how far have we advanced in the health-tech sector? Think about the last time you visited your doctor. It probably looked pretty similar to the way it looked back when you were excited to get that sick day home from school. You signed in on a clipboard chained to the front desk, filled out your brick of paperwork on another clipboard, and followed the nurse down the hall to the room where she hung the clipboard on the door. The world must have been lawless chaos before the clipboard was invented. So aside from a few extra computers and iPads at your doctor’s office, where are we seeing technology affect positive change in health care? The changes I’m excited about are a little behind the scenes. Let’s talk about a couple of them. Big Data and personalized medicine Everyone knows the marketing world loves to collect data about us. They love to know our preferences and our patterns. It helps them sell the right stuff to the right people. By drawing from a huge pool of data, marketers are able to make very informed decisions.
This is Big Data in the commercial world. Big Data in healthcare is trying to improve your health with that same kind of insight—but with less pop-up ads. For a long time, the problem was the data on that clipboard needed to be converted into digital information. In the past 6 years, widespread adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) has provided enough digital medical data to benefit from data analysis. It went from data to Big Data. It’s easy to see how evidence-based medicine is immediately bolstered by Big Data: the pool of available evidence instantly becomes much larger. Doctors now can electronically compare patients’ conditions to similar patients and their respective health outcomes. This leads to better diagnoses and better treatment plans because you’re working with better intel. Your doctor’s perspective is no longer limited to what they’re most familiar with. Medical decisions can be more tailored and less standardized. This is the gateway to personalized medicine. Personalized medicine is still taking shape but has the capacity to really change healthcare delivery. A key tenant of personalized medicine is that the genetic information inside each of us maps out our susceptibility to most diseases. Researchers have begun recording the specific genes of their patients, aka “ sequencing their genomes.” Combine this genetic info with a personal narrative (diet, behaviors, health history, traumas) and a map legend begins to be formed. What exactly do all these patients with this very specific type of cancer have in common? What drugs do they respond best to? Big Data could answer this. But is data analysis really the highest level of general development for health-tech? Is this really state-of-the-art? You’d be surprised. These are huge amounts of data we’re talking about. Petabytes.
The Washington Post estimates that the current amount of human genomic data in existence is around 25 petabytes. That’s 2,500 times more data than every piece of text in the Library of Congress. Within the next decade, it’s estimated that genomic data will take up more data space than every video currently stored on YouTube. This is all raw data that has to be extracted, curated, compressed, stored, and ultimately made sense of. Only recently has the technology—the algorithms, the processors, the bandwidth—reached a benchmark that could carry such a weight. It isn’t cheap either. But innovation has dramatically lowered the cost. During his battle with pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs had the genome of his tumor sequenced multiple times to help decide which drug therapy to use. According to the New York Times, each sequence cost him $100,000. A decade earlier, in 2001, it would have cost $100 million. Now, just 4 years after his death, it costs barely over $1,000. That is a remarkable cost reduction resulting purely from an improvement in technology. Not only is DNA sequencing more efficient and cost-effective than ever before, but it’s also becoming more share-friendly. Fast Company reports that just last month the FDA released a website, precision.fda.org, that makes it easier for researchers to explore the existing community-based genomic information. This DNA library makes it easy for scientists to collaborate with each other, share genomes they’ve sequenced, and build off of each other’s discoveries. This socialization of genomic research, combined with thepower of Big Data, is important. Some experts believe it’s the way we’re going to cure the big diseases. So, we know Big Data analytics has the power to radically personalize medicine. But how are these broad concept macro-innovations being fueled on the ground level? Sensors In the past five years, we’ve seen a huge rise in the popularity of activity trackers. There’s a good chance you use something like a Fitbit, and if not you definitely know ten people who do. Such rapid adoption has encouraged companies and their engineers to innovate and make products that give us more and more insight on our health metrics and help us live healthier lives. But what about the really chronically sick? Sensor technology has an even bigger opportunity to help these individuals. In August, Y Combinator—a Silicon Valley incubator for startup companies—released their “ Request for Startups” report. In their healthcare section they state: Healthcare in the United States is badly broken. We are getting close to spending 20% of our GDP on healthcare; this is unsustainable. We’re interested in ways to make healthcare better for less money, not in companies that are able to exploit the system by overcharging. We’re especially interested in preventative healthcare, as this is probably the highest-leverage way to improve health. Sensors and data are interesting in lots of different areas, but especially for healthcare. This is the most prestigious startup accelerator in the country. Only 3 percent of the companies that apply to participate in their program are accepted and they’ve made an explicit request for innovators to explore the possibilities and the promise through use of sensors and data in healthcare. They see a gap and an opportunity.
In 2014, C Spire partnered with the University of Mississippi Medical Center in a pilot program to improve healthcare in rural Mississippi through remote monitoring and data analytics involving individuals with diabetes. Thousands of people in our state suffer from more than one chronic disease and live outside the reach of consistent quality health care. Our plan combined the power and ubiquity of our high-speed mobile broadband communications network with Intel-GE sensors that link UMMC specialists to patients in their homes to deliver more connected, collaborative and cost-effective care. Patients are issued tablets and sensors equipped to monitor metrics like glucose levels, provide educational health information, and transmit a seamless stream of data to specialists at UMMC. UMMC estimates $339,000 in combined savings for the 100 patients in the diabetes pilot program, resulting from the elimination of hospital stays and emergency room visits. Assuming 20 percent of Mississippi’s diabetic population enrolls, this could add up to $189 million in Medicare savings for our state every year. In fact, that pilot was so successful that C Spire, UMMC and Intel-GE Care Innovations have agreed to partner together on a five-year program that promises to dramatically lower the cost of care and improve the health of thousands of chronically ill and underserved consumers in the southeastern U.S. This approach helps to close the gap between the medically underserved and everyone else. This saves our state a significant amount of money. This even promises better health outcomes for the many individuals who struggle with chronic diseases every day. This is the medical equivalent of Fitbit, but with much higher stakes. So as far as health-tech goes, with Big Data and sensors, we’re in a pretty good place. And if history is any indicator, we’ll soon be heading to an even better one. DBJ Hu Meena, who grew up in Clarksdale, is president and CEO of C Spire, a Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services company.
Underneath the Bridge Issue
By Walton Gresham
Delta Council has never had a public discussion or a private visit with a public official about the condition of our roads and the need for major steps to be taken to rehabilitate our roads that ended in disagreement. Regardless of what statistical or factual measurement one utilizes, a needs assessment always comes out the same in any discussion about local, state, or federal road conditions: We are not doing enough in our State to maintain the infrastructure (roads and bridges) necessary to provide safety or encourage the expansion of commerce. And, any businessman, family, civic organization, or any local public body knows that you cannot maintain, much less improve, the status of local road and bridge infrastructure in 2015, with the same level of revenue that you placed in your budget 28 years ago, in 1987. So, for those who embrace the philosophy of “no new revenues” for road maintenance and improvements, your position guarantees us further deterioration in our local, state, and federal highway conditions. Delta Council Policy Highlights on Highways• Bridge replacements on Highway 6, Highway 49E, and Highway 32. • Funding for the authorized four-laning of Highway 6 between Clarksdale and Batesville. • the continued progress on I-69 construction. • Delta Council supports the concept of utilizing revenues from the sale of motor fuel to construct and maintain highways. • Delta Council opposes the diversion of future motor fuel tax revenues for other state priorities unrelated to roads and bridges. • Delta Council makes exception to the policy of “pay as you go” in the case of bridge replacements; therefore, long-term financing is an option that should be considered for the 50-year life of the bridge upgrades. • In any major program, additional funding should be dedicated to local road/bridge repairs. An estimated 2000 bridges in the State of Mississippi are categorized as “posted” or “structurally deficient”. This means that an automobile or a pickup truck might travel safely over the posted bridge, but as for a transporter hauling industrial or agriculture raw materials or retail/commercial finished goods, it is illegal for them to travel these roads because they cannot cross the low-weight bridges which are posted, even though they are carrying a legal road weight-limit according to State law. In the Delta alone, we have experienced the closing or the failure of more than 20 bridges since January 1, 2015. Delta Council is convinced that City, County, the State Aid Road Division, and MDOT are doing all within their resources to keep road and bridge safety at least at a level of minimum standards, until the public decides that commerce and public safety are too important for us to grapple over the adoption of the necessary revenue measure to support a major road program.
So, why have we not yet addressed this major public polity issue? We choose to think that in order for any public official to embrace the concept of raising additional revenues, those who pull up to a gas pump and are expected to pay more must organize themselves and send a message: It is not only time to do something about this problem, but it is also the right thing to do. The facts are that highway construction inputs have increased more than 300% since 1987, when we last added 3.6 cents per gallon to the price of motor fuel. Second, the fuel efficiency of modern automobiles, which is measured by miles-per-gallon, is 60% greater than it was in 1987. Third, in the same time period, the purchasing power of our per-gallon tax has declined by more than 40%. The options we are confronted with are unfortunately, very simple. We can oppose new revenues for local and state road and bridge improvements, and allow the deteriorating condition of our roads to continue in the reckless way we are headed; or we can speak up and lend our public support, as civic clubs, non-governmental organizations such as Delta Council, and individuals, to encourage our public officials to adopt policies that provide the necessary and additional revenues to be collected at the pump to support the rehabilitation and repair of vital infrastructure which protects public safety and ensures that our road system will not be an impediment to future economic development efforts.