Slabbed has learned that local businessman Jeff Harding aka the Poolman was arrested for Simple Assault and Disturbing the Peace after he had an altercation with “interim” Building/Code Department Director Charles Oliver. I just interviewed Mr. Harding telephonically, who indicated to me that he was arrested yesterday at his home without incident and posted a $1,000 cash bond. Harding indicated to Slabbed that despite the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approving his site plan, Oliver refused to sign off on the plans unless Harding agreed to construct a 6 foot privacy fence across the entire frontage of his property on Highway 90. In turn, today Mr Harding swore a battery affidavit against Oliver, a close and longtime associate of Mayor Les Fillingame. Harding tells Slabbed that unlike his treatment yesterday, City Attorney Donald Rafferty has indicated to him that Mr. Oliver will be served with a summons and not arrested. Sources at City Hall tell Slabbed Judge Maggio will make the final call on how Harding’s complaint will be handled.
Additionally sources at the City Council have told Slabbed that Tom Chain of the Technical Assistance Division of the Office of the State Auditor visited City Hall and the City Council Chambers gathering documentation including the November 2013 City Council meeting minutes this afternoon. This was the month the City took a $500,000 loan with The First, a loan Councilman Lonnie Falgout has referred to as an “illegal loan” as it has been alleged that it was made without any statutory authority in the Mississippi Code.
Stay tuned to Slabbed for further details as City Hall is buzzing on this Friday before a long labor day weekend.
The AP’s Jeff Amy nails it with his story on the City of Bay St Louis, which has now appeared statewide in the Clarion Ledger, the Hattiesburg American and the Sun Herald and nationwide in outlets like the Washington Times. Jeff is one of the proverbial smartest guys in the room and a seasoned business writer. Best of all he’s one of us, a Harahan guy made good that covered the post Katrina insurance battles for the Mobile Press Register. I always enjoy the chance to visit with him and I was lucky enough to have lunch with Jeff and AP Photographer Gerald Herbert last Monday here in the Bay.
I use the term the new normal because places like Bay St Louis and Waveland are fundamentally different places than they were on August 28, 2005 yet in many respects we haven’t changed much at all. Cities like Gulfport have done a very good job overall with the Urban blight that accompanied Katrina. Others not so much. Gerald Herbert captured the contrast and it was the photo that he took of the house around the corner from me that tells the tale of two cities:
It makes a heck of a contrast with the photos of the new Old Town Harbor that also appear with this story in other newspapers. Not more than a mile and a half from that Harbor, lots that once had houses on them are overgrown and derelict structures amazingly still stand nine full years after the storm. This despite a City Code department that is bursting at the seams with 6 positions that costs far more in salaries than the City takes in via associated permit and inspection fees. Something is clearly not right.
Low expectations come at a terrible cost in terms of money but more important and far more expensive is the opportunity cost of the foregone alternatives that most here accustomed to the new normal never perceive.
When you look at the City’s financial crisis through the lens of the politics of low expectations, what has happened since August 29, 2005 make tons more sense.
On the topic of whether Mississippi or Louisiana is the most corrupt state in the union my money would be on Louisiana and this saga involving the now convicted former Louisiana legislator Girod Jackson along with former councilman Byron Lee and his successor on the Jefferson Parish Council Mark Spears would be one of the reasons why. Only the DMR disaster approaches the scale of the annual looting of the “conprofits” in Louisiana.