We the People…..

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

This Margaret Mead quote graces my Yahoo profile. The quote and sentiment has accompanied my new found political activism on insurance issues, specifically Gene Taylor’s multi peril bill HR 3121 that has clung to life seemingly against all odds.  The resulting cyber journey has literally taken Nowdy and I across this state and country.

Trying to make a difference on an issue as large as Cat insurance has proven a tough nut to crack and is a long term project as insurance issue lifers like Brian Martin of Representative Taylor’s staff can attest. However I’m gratified that my work on insurance helped inspire one of my employees to take a stand on a local issue she feels strongly about, the Gulfport library and its relocation. I briefly mentioned Deb in an earlier shout out on another topic.

I easily could have written yesterday’s Sun Herald editorial because I share the sentiments expressed in it. I am uncertain where I stand on the issue of tearing the old storm damaged building down but I do know the topic is one that needed public conversation and input, just like the insurance issues we tackle here. And I was equally proud to see that Margaret Mead quote grace the editorial.

The WLOX story on Friday’s City Council hearing can be found here. The video report can be viewed here and here is yesterday’s Sun Herald editorial

A done deal almost came undone during a public hearing at Gulfport City Hall on the fate of the Gulfport Public Library on Thursday.

But Councilwoman Libby Milner-Roland refused to take any official action without the benefit of legal counsel. She abruptly left the council chambers, leaving her three colleagues without a quorum.

Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines’ motion to withdraw the city’s request to Harrison County to demolish what’s left of the library building perched above Beach Boulevard had the support of the other two council members in attendance: Brian Carriere and Barbara Nalley.

But the three were powerless to act.

The fate of Holmes-Hines’ motion – and of the library itself – may now be decided when the seven-member City Council reconvenes this week.

But something very important has already been determined, something that was finely phrased in a remark attributed to the late Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist who died 30 years ago. Mead is supposed to have said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

In this case, the small – but growing – group has at its core four women: Mary Ann Barkley, Betty Bittner, Debra Peterson and Patsi Spinks.

These four found one another as they were searching for answers to questions about the library.

Since December, they have pored over documents, trying to determine why city and county officials want to demolish the library.

During that tedious and frustrating process, they have encountered all the usual obstacles.

Public records that are not conveniently placed at the public’s disposal.

Public business being conducted behind closed doors in “executive session.”

Public officials progressing from one position to another with no public indication of what changed their minds.

Public pronouncements that wither under public scrutiny.

Public officials who are irritated at the thought of public involvement in public policy.

Protests that go unheard until it is so late in the process that a public hearing is likely to have little if any impact.

But before the end of Thursday’s public hearing, the odds shifted – if ever so slightly – in favor of Barkley and Bittner and Peterson and Spinks and the scores of supporters their efforts had brought to City Hall.

Councilwoman Nalley said that based on the information dug up by the library’s supporters, she was convinced that she had been “misled” by other government officials about the library and that she “made a mistake” when she voted to demolish it.

Councilwoman Holmes-Hines said due to the concerns of the library’s supporters, she inspected the library building for herself and found ample evidence that it could indeed be restored.

And Councilman Carriere expressed his belief that it would be “prudent” to delay demolition until he and his colleagues can make a more informed decision.

Whether deliberately deceived or innocently ill-advised, at least these three Gulfport officials are now uncomfortable with the idea of quickly demolishing the downtown library.

That in itself is testament to the determination of a few dedicated individuals to – and there’s no better way to put it – fight city hall.

The Sun Herald has not editorially endorsed either the restoration or the demolition of the building that housed the Gulfport Public Library prior to Hurricane Katrina.

What we wholeheartedly endorse is this effort by residents of Gulfport to better inform themselves about the decision-making process at City Hall, and to better involve themselves in it.

4 thoughts on “We the People…..”

  1. I don’t know what happened to my first comment – other than it’s been a bad computer day. At any rate, I’m very much like you and the Sun Herald in that I’m uncertain of the best outcome but certain these citizens are doing the right thing – getting informed and involved.

  2. Nowdy I am proud of Deb for stepping up. What the Op-Ed did not say was the library site was included in design plans for the entire Jones Park area as a commercial development. I’m solidly behind Mayor Warr and his vision for the City but public lands and public accomodations must be considered part and parcel to the redevelopment of downtown Gulfport. Even if it is better that a library not return to the site the building could still be restored to another public use. We need facts to make those decisions and facts is what the public has been lacking.

    With all our new readers I hope we can shine a spotlight on this very important local issue.

    Also Beau Gex of Gene Taylor’s staff needs recognition for cutting through the FEMA red tape and delivering information to these ladies they could not obtain despite repeated requests to city and county officials. I can’t say enough good things about Beau who also assisted me in a pro bono case involving IRS and a disabled elderly couple here on the coast.

    From Peranich in DC down to Beau Gex in Gulfport all of Gene’s staff are simply the best people who serve us for all the right reasons.


  3. The meeting to vote on the Gulfport Library will be tomorrow April 9th at 2:30 pm at Gulfport City Hall. Our hope is that a majority of the city council agrees there is enough evidence to warrent a vote to withdraw the section of the resolution to instruct Harrison County to demoloish this facility until their concerns and questions can be answered. If not the group will appeal. This vote will send a clear message to the residence of Gulfport how the City Administation and the City Council choose to handle the peoples business. Lets hope we leave tomorrow with a sense of trust when it comes to the way public issues are handled by these government bodies. We are looking for a strong public showing.

  4. Somehow I think the City Council will not buck 4 determined ladies on a very important mission. The public has an absolute right to participate in the process, a right that has thus far been denied them. Good luck tomorrow. 🙂


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