April 20, 2009 Rotogram

SAVING OUR SOIL

Glover Triplett, research professor in MSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, will explain how no-till planting improves crop sustainability and profitability.

NEXT WEEK: STARKVILLE DEVELOPMENT

Rotarian Jon Maynard, Greater Starkville Development Partnership president and CEO, will brief us on current economic development efforts.

LAST WEEK

Invocation and Pledge: Ernie George

Attendance: There were 114 members (35 exempt, 1 honorary) present, and 86 (18 exempt, 9 honorary) absent.

Guests and visitors: Bob Ratliff of Ned Browning, Brace Know and Ensley Howell of Ben Howell, Devonte Robinson of W.C. Johnson, Doug Feig of Warren Housley, Joe Brown and Wayne Bennet of Chester McKee, Jud Skelton of Prentiss Gordon, Larry Lane of Pat Lane, Martin Harpole of Sandra Harpole, and Opal “Mama O” Austin of Judy Webb.  Guests of the Club were Paul Sims, Starkville Daily News, and Jarred Reneau, Ambassadorial Cultural Scholar.

Makeup: Andy Gaston in Aberdeen, and Nancy Hargrove at a board meeting.

Kudos: The Rotary Classic Rodeo was one of the featured venues in the latest ProRodeo Sports News. Bricklee Miller reported that the official magazine of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association included our event in its focus on “Rodeos Thriving Despite Recession.”

Sandra Harpole, associate vice president for research, has been recognized as the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women’s Outstanding Executive/Administrative/Managerial Woman for 2009.

Harpole and Francis Coleman, MSU dean of libraries, also were complimented for their roles in the Mitchell Memorial Library’s receipt of Hunter Cole’s collection of Eudora Welty memorabilia.

Carey Hardin is a proud new grandpa.

COTTON DISTRICT ARTS FESTIVAL

President Chip asked Briar Jones to doff his Rotary hat and don his Starkville Area Arts Council president’s hat to accept the Club’s $750 donation for the Cotton District Arts Festival. We fund the Chaucer’s Village, focusing on literacy, at the annual event.

NEW OLD MEMBER

“This is the first time in a long time that I’ve been called a new anything,” quipped Rodney Foil as he reintroduced himself to the Club. The emeritus Mississippi State vice president for Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine had been a Rotarian in the `70s and `80s under the “Littlejohn system.”

Beginning his MSU career in 1969 as head of the Forestry Department, he became dean shortly after. A decade later, he became director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. Succeeding Louis Wise as DAFVM vice president in the mid-80s, he served until 1999.

“In my first two years after retirement, I was on a temporary assignment in Washington,” said Foil. “Since I gave away $240 million in record time, I guess I’m qualified to be back there now.”

The money was research funding that had been tied up in bureaucracy for several years.

As he left the podium, he noted that he already had done his time on the Christmas float committee.

MISSISSIPPI OBSERVED

Sid Salter, Jackson Clarion Ledger Perspective editor, brought his annual observations of Mississippi politics and economics to the Club last week.

“I’ve gotten to the age when I can say ‘no’ to requests, but not to Starkville Rotary where I have so many friends, friends that seem like relatives, and relatives,” said the MSU 2004 Alumnus of the Year.

Commenting on the state of the newspaper industry, Salter said, “It’s tough all over the country with newspapers closing, downsizing staff, and even cutting the size of the newsprint.”

For the top 100 daily newspapers, including the Clarion-Ledger, it’s a struggle with an uncertain outcome. Salter noted that the C-L’s parent company Gannett is the world’s largest newspaper corporation. It has reacted with furloughs, downsizing, cutting the Web, and by drawing in its circulation areas.

“If we make it through the recession with our core news gathering staff intact, we’ll be okay,” the former Scott County Times publisher said. “If not, then we’ll know what the telegraph operators felt at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Technology stops for no one.”

“If you lose daily newspapers in your life, you’re going to miss them,” he said. “But, you won’t miss them until they’re gone. Nobody will be there to provide depth on issues of public import. The Internet has changed journalism, but there is an erosion of accountability.”

One of the state’s best known political columnists, Salter now is a talk-radio host.  “I started out in radio as a kid of 14 in Philadelphia,” he said.

After 6 weeks of his daily show, “On Deadline with Sid Salter,” he said he’s learned “there are a lot of angry, frustrated people out there and they all have telephones.”

“If I have a slow day, I just talk about cigarette taxes or immigration,” he said.

“I know where I am and would be remiss if I didn’t talk about university funding,” said Salter. “But, to do that, I need to talk about the state budget.”

The state budget already has seen two cuts and a third one probably is on the way in June, the last month of the fiscal year.

“We charge the poorest people in America the highest sales tax on food in the country,” said Salter. “We should have done the right thing and raised cigarette taxes to cut grocery taxes.”

“We didn’t raise cigarette taxes because of the impact on public health care spending. And, we didn’t even do it because there was a significant inequity between them and other ‘sin’ taxes,” said Salter. “We will raise them for one reason only—If we don’t, car tag prices probably will as much as double.”

Salter sees the financial crisis hurting universities for 2, maybe 3 years. At best, he sees university funding staying level. Or, it will decline, a strong probability in Salter’s thinking.

As institutions of higher learning have come to depend more on private giving, the resource crisis is further complicated by endowments’ investments dropping drastically. In 9 of the last 10 years, Mississippi college tuition has gone up.

“There has been a fundamental shift away from state funding and toward individual, private sector, or federal loan funding,” said the dad of a recent college graduate. “Now, on some planets they don’t call that a tax increase, but not the one I live on. Tuition increases are a tax increase on a very targeted group.”

Salter noted that this is no different from singling out smokers for a specific type of tax, and that everything that government does is only going to cost more.

Finally, Salter observed that the issue of lobbying is a necessity in our form of government. Everyone has an interest in “how the pie’s divided.”

“Now, do we need 478 lobbyists walking the halls to influence 174 legislators?” asked Salter. “The highest paid lobbyist represented everyone from the tobacco industry to the Mississippi Loggers Association. What’s bad is when government comes more about serving the lobbyists than the folks back home.”

A FATHER REJOICES

Salter repeated an announcement that he made the day before at the Forrest United Methodist Church.

“Each week, the pastor asks for prayer requests and joys,” he said. “After they got everything else out of the way, I stood and said, ‘You know Easter is about coming out of a dark place into light. Well, last Friday, my daughter Kate with an Ole Miss diploma got a letter confirming that she will be an MSU English graduate student.’”

The dyed-in-the-wool MSU alum said, “After four years of having to put up a tent in the Grove and act like I liked those people, and be nice, it’s a relief not to be at that ‘dark place’ up the road.”

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