My comments this past Wednesday about the items that were assumed to be part of Incumbent Mayoral Candidate Tim Kent’s platform were considered in error and corrected on Thursday by Mayor Kent via David Johnson, New Albany Gazette editor. Despite the fact that Mayor Kent was discussing these projects in answer to a question about what he would do if reelected, he insists that he was just talking about projects that have always been on his “wish list” for the City of New Albany.
He actually added another item to the “wish list” and indicated that the list was actually one the Board of Aldermen compiled, ostensibly, during the past four years or so. My immediate question, and yours, should be, “When were these items discussed in public?” How could there have been total agreement on these projects as part of any “wish list” when they have never been discussed in public and without public input?
While the lack of public discussion and public input for this mayor and this board of aldermen is SOP (standard operating procedure), at least we now have some indication some of their thoughts have gone beyond dissolving boards, forcing unwanted industry on our city or terminating department heads who had the nerve to stand up to them.
One of the items on the Mayor’s “Wish-List” bears some explanation since if accomplished, many hours, weeks, months and years of discussion and effort would be erased.
The building of a loop around the south and west sides of New Albany would divert a great deal of traffic from the historic downtown where tourism has been sought and nurtured for years. Downtown businesses, like so many in similar situations across the nation, would either close or move out to the loop. Some downtown businesses have loyal and wide-spread clientele and a loop around the city would probably not influence that business, but all are not so fortunate.
“Coffee Shop” discussions have revealed that the city, perhaps through the mayor, is the source of some sort of survey that was reportedly done by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) that showed 11,000 vehicles per day traveled directly through the middle of New Albany, I suppose on Bankhead. Further, as the story goes, the majority of these vehicles are 18-wheelers that should be traveling on the loop the Mayor proposes.
Granted, you will see some 18-wheelers in the downtown area, most of which are delivering merchandise to the downtown merchants, few, I would suggest, are just passing through. It’s hard enough to get through the part of downtown where cars are parked in the middle of the street in your automobile, much less a semi-tractor trailer truck, so they’re not just cruising downtown streets.
Someday, hopefully after we actually get a Comprehensive Plan developed by the people of this city, we will probably need to look at the possibility of a complete loop around the city. Until then, lots of merchants and communities that have been put out of business or disrupted would recommend being very certain such a project is in the best interests of the city.
The moral of this story is that without a Comprehensive Plan developed through the input of all the people, businesses and organizations, our city stays in peril of this kind of knee-jerk recommendations and probable decision-makings from politicians who prefer to perform free-lance, without accountability to the citizens they should be representing or with the guidance of a Comprehensive Plan for the city. Without that plan, our city is limited as to what it can do and what assistance it can receive. That plan should be the lead item of anyone’s “wish list” who cares about the growth and future of the City of New Albany.