Starkville Daily News hosted its third Town Hall meeting last Thursday at the Starkville Police Department, where citizens were able to address their concerns to legislators.
The new state lottery, allocation of BP settlements, education and health care were all topics of discussion during the meeting.
With $750 million dollars in settlement funds from the BP oil spill, legislators said Mississippi allocated 75 percent of funds to six coast counties on the gulf. Oktibbeha County received about $750,000 for road improvements, and Lowndes County received about $1 million for roads as well. Clay County did not receive any funds from the settlement.
Senator Angela Turner-Ford (District 16) said these allocations were not equitable and could have been considered based on need.
"I believe we just need to be fair in the way projects are awarded," Turner-Ford said.
Another popular topic was the implication of a state lottery. Mississippi recently passed legislation creating a lottery for the first time in the state’s history.
As discussed in special sessions, Representative Gary Chism (District 37) said the state lottery is expected to bring in about $40 million within the first year. Any earnings of $80 million and beyond are to be used by the state for roads and infrastructure, in both cities and counties. Early childhood development will also receive benefits of the lottery after the state gains over $80 million.
Chism mentioned sports betting was a part of the lottery bill, and this portion is expected to earn $40 million each year.
Starkville Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins said the Town Hall last week provided guests with a wealth of information. He also said citizens of surrounding areas gained a better understanding of what happened in the legislative session where legislators signed the bills.
Perkins said the feedback from citizens will allow legislators to better perform and relay information to state officials in Jackson.
"I think tonight’s session gave a very close-up view with legislators where the public could respectfully and professionally pose questions to legislators; that’s what democracy is all about," Perkins said.
Representative Cheikh Taylor said these town hall meetings are necessary and informative for citizens and legislators. Taylor also mentioned his admiration for Starkville and Oktibbeha County citizens’ awareness of issues affecting them.
"This is exactly what we need to be doing," Taylor said.
Understanding the importance of dialogue, Starkville Daily News editor Ryan Phillips said the Town Hall covered an array of issues legislators and citizens could discuss face-to-face.
"Everybody left with a good take away," Phillips said. "I don’t think anybody left feeling like their questions didn’t get answered."
Phillips said the Town Hall is a place where Starkville Daily News can provide the space for effective conversations between citizens and legislators.
"This is what we need," Phillips said.
With upcoming elections in November, and legislative sessions next year, Phillips said Starkville Daily News plans to continue providing a place of dialogue for citizens.