June 4, 2007 Rotogram

A RETURN VISIT FROM CLAIRE

We’re proud to welcome Claire Crawford back to Rotary to give us an update on her nationally recognized project known as “Claire’s Bears.” She was honored last month with a 2007 Prudential Spirit of CommunityAward for delivering bears to youngsters who, like her, were born with cleft palates and face considerable corrective surgery.

MSU ALUMNI ASSOCIATION REPORT

Jimmy Abraham, Executive Director of Mississippi State University Alumni Association since August 2005, will be our guest next week. Roy Ruby is program chair.

MAY 21 MEETING REPORT

Invocation and Pledge: Jerry Toney.

Attendance: . There were 125 members (88 active, 33 exempt, 4 honorary) present and 74 members (47 active, 21 exempt, 6 honorary) missing. Membership now stands at 199 (135 active, 54 exempt, 10 honorary). Four members are on leave.

Guests: Guests included Bob Ratliff and Linda Breazeale of Ned Browning; Glen James of Debbie Nettles; J.C. Patton of Larry Mullins;Lynn Phillips Gaines of Russell Gaines; Opal Austin of Gerry Orgler; Paul Thompson of Warren Housley; Robbie Ward of Maridith Geuder; Stanley Shows of Hank Moseley; Steve Roberts of Doug Goodwin; Trey Breckenridge of Joe Thompson; and Club guests RYE students Marie Baran and Ruth Schorling and Skip Descant (Commercial Dispatch).

New Member: Chris Latimer attended his first meeting as a member of Starkville Rotary Club. Formerly a member of Columbus Rotary, Chris is a partner in the Perry, Winfield, and Wolfe law firm. He was sponsored by George Sherman.

Makeup : Jim Henry made up in Columbus May 15.

Meeting Note: Rotarian Roy Ruby, member of the Boys and Girls Club board of directors, accepted the Club’s annual $500 donation for youth work.

Rotary Minute : Highlighting the historical relationship of the Club with local Boy Scouts, Rotarian Larry Box read an article from the March 17, 1927 issue of the local newspaper that featured the organizational meeting for Troop 14.

The story included the statement, “Rotary Clubs all over the country are making [boys work] their major activity. Rotarians are earnestly striving to reach the boy life of America and plant the seeds of unselfishness . . . .”

THE QUESTIONS OF MEMORIAL DAY 

Looking ahead to the next Monday, Rotarian Jeff Donald challenged us with the question, “Is Memorial Day a special day or just another day?”

With a series of questions, he quizzed President Larry as to why he chose him for the task.

His first rhetorical answer was, “Sure, Jeff will do it; he has 34 years of army service.” Seven of those years were spent in Europe conducting Memorial Day services for visiting veterans and families. He escorted hundreds of vets as they returned and walked across battlefields visiting graves of their comrades, putting up monuments and telling countless stories.

Continuing with his ponderings, Donald asked:

“Was it because I often think of my friends who fought in the first Gulf War and did not return?

“Or, because I always think about my next door neighbor who didn’t return from Viet Nam?

“ Or, because Lorraine and I often talked about her only uncle who died in the foothills of a big mountain in Italy?

“ Or, because my only two sons are overseas; one in Baghdad and one on a mountain in Afghanistan? Both of them personally know the meaning of Memorial Day.

“ Or, because I conduct Memorial Day services every year in front of the County Courthouse? The monument on Main Street lists every Oktibbeha Countian who has died in America’s wars. Lately we’ve been working on a project to add the name of Courtland A. Kinnard, the first county native to die in Iraq.”

Asking for a show of hands, he closed with the challenge to all of us to remember someone, family or friend, who did not return from war.

SALTER HANDICAPS MS POLITICAL RACES

The Mississippi political race to watch this year is for the lieutenant governor’s seat, particularly in the Republican primary. Jackson Clarion-Ledger Perspective Editor Sid Salter said the contest between Phil Bryant, state auditor, and Charlie Ross, state senator, is too close to call.

Calling the Republican primary “a fairly new animal in Mississippi,” Salter explained that to predict it you need to look at 10 to 15 counties, with DeSoto and Rankin being the primary Republican strongholds. The Golden Triangle and several other strong Republican counties in east Mississippi will also be players.

“They’re fishing out of the same pond in Rankin County,” said the veteran political commentator. “Both have represented the same district there, so that could make DeSoto the pivotal county.”

Although Bryant has the most name recognition, Ross is leading in campaign fund raising.

Salter downplayed the governor’s race as “not much of one; not a lot of heat or light.” He predicts at least a 60 percent vote returning Haley Barbour to the governor’s seat, saying the campaign has only been interrupted by some major new business openings and some pretty effective hurricane recovery.

Looking down ticket, Salter sees the state auditor’s race as wide open. Stacey Pickering, R-Laurel, is leading both parties in both fund raising and name recognition.

“The Secretary of State race ought to be interesting,” said Salter. “Delbert Hosemann is the leading Republican candidate and John Windsor, a Corinth attorney, is the leading Democrat. Hosemann has most money by far and Windsor has trial lawyers’ backing.”

“Insurance Commissioner George Dale might have had some re-election problems had the Democrats not helped him so much by trying to throw him out of their party,” said Salter.

Dale seems to be bouncing back, but he will face a tough primary against Gary Anderson, who served in the Musgrove administration.

“If folks statewide think it’s a bad thing to change horses in mid-stream of the hurricane recovery, they’ll follow the same logic with Dale in all except the coastal counties,” said Salter.

Salter addressed the new legislative dynamic brought on by the paradigm shift in how Mississippi government operates. Party defections by the lieutenant governor and two key legislators changed the voting balance to a 27 to 25 edge in the Senate. This shifted power with the governor’s being aligned with the Senate against the House.

“For Barbour to be effective, he needs to control at least one chamber of the legislature,” said Salter. So, he will put a lot of his money into legislative races. That sets the primary issue in legislative races as whether the governor will be able to pursue his agenda in a second term. “

Turning from the election to other issues, Salter said support for review of the state tax structure persists. After 2 years of fighting the grocery tax versus cigarette tax swap, the governor says somewhat vaguely that he’s willing to look at overall tax reform.

Salter said, “If you want to tinker with the tax structure in a meaningful way, the personal income tax rate hasn’t been adjusted in 40 years. Corporate rates are incredibly low. With all the success we celebrate with Toyotas and Nissans coming, benefits of tax concessions are questionable.”

Another question is, “Do we really need to concentrate property taxes on car tags, or do we need a fundamental shift?”

He said, “It’s going to be difficult to ever reduce general sales tax. Tax on food could be reduced. We’re now one of only two states that charge the full sales tax rate on groceries.”

Another of Salter’s pet issues is college tuition. He said, “After at least a decade of neglect, the Legislature has had 2 back-to-back years of increasing higher ed support. However, we’re on the precipice of depending too much on tuition which tends to price people out of the opportunity to attend an IHL university. We have to adjust tuition more carefully or we are going to price good kids out of the opportunity to come to Mississippi State.”

In response to a question, Salter called term limits “baby food for grown folks,” saying, “You ought to be involved enough in politics that when a guy comes back for your support after 4 years, you will know what he has or hasn’t done. To me term limits says I’m not a good enough enough citizen to keep up with the world around me, so I’m going to let these limits do it for me.”

JUNE BIRTHDAYS

Fourteen Rotarians were born during the month of June. They are Robin Fant, Bill Fox, Paul Jacob, W.C. Johnson, Sonny Kelly, Steve Langston, Olin McBride, Jim McReynolds, John Stuart Moore, Melanie Mitchell, Debbie Nettles, Donna Reese, Nellah Taylor, and Steve Taylor.

A BIRTHDAY AND A GOODBYE

Thursday (June 7) is Rotary Exchange Student Ruth Schorling’s 17 th birthday. Today is one of the few meetings she’s missed during her 10+ months with us. She and Marie are in Atlanta with the Lewis family, seeing Alex off to Italy to visit host families and friends from last year’s youth exchange experience.

Next Monday will be Ruth’s last meeting with us. Next Tuesday, she and Marie will fly to Las Vegas and join RYE students from throughout the southern states for a 2-week tour of our western states. They’ll arrive back in Starkville late the night of June 25 and Ruth will fly home to Germany Thursday, June 27.

Marie plans to stay for another month to participate in the MSU Summer Scholars program.

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