A Tale of Two Cities
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."I know Dickens was referring to London and Paris during the French Revolution but as I sat at the resturant in Purvis and this quote popped into my mind, I realized that the vast difference mentioned in that passage could easily be applied to the cities of Lumberton and Purvis. After leaving the resturant and visiting the Purvis City Hall, I realized the differences were more vast than I realized.
As I entered City Hall in Purvis, I was greeted by two friendly, professionally dressed women that welcomed me with open arms and didn't hesitate to answer any of my questions. After a few questions, the older clerk stopped and said, you're the Lumberton Informer aren't you. I never responded. She went on talking as I admired all her Elvis memorabilia. I asked about the minute books and she immediately got up and asked which book I wanted to see. I told her I just wanted to know their procedure for accessing public records. She explained that we get the books and take them to the board room so they can be viewed. I asked if they sat there to monitor the person viewing the books. She giggled as she responded no. We have better things to do. If you need a copy of anything, we'll make a copy but we can't waste time monitoring public records. She then showed me the board room and a table where I could sit. I thanked her for her time. I also told her that it was refreshing to speak with a city clerk that give answers based on wisdom and not a whim.
At the last board meeting in Lumberton, the city attorney, Lindsey Carter, said the city clerk can deny access to public records if they're busy. Please keep in mind that he didn't bother looking at the law but he gave us an opinion that's not shared by the Mississippi Attorney General. I guess Lumberton has it's own set of laws. When I went to Purvis today, I didn't have any intentions of stopping by city hall because I thought they would be busy but despite doing their daily duties, the clerks in Purvis took the time to answer questions and give me a tour. Now why would a city clerk in Lumberton be too busy to take 5 minutes to go get a records book. What could have them so busy? Could it be processing all the paperwork from the businesses and resturants? Sarcasm intended. As I was eating lunch, I noticed all the traffic, the various resturants, I thought about the car lots with millions of dollars in inventory, the suite of doctors, medical facilities, attorney offices, an industrial park filled with industry and the booming school system but with all this going on and the city thriving, the city clerk in Purvis wasn't too busy to show me how a system works when her only agenda is serving the public.
As I looked around the Purvis City Hall and the Police Department next door, I noticed there was a lack of space compared to Lumberton. Lumberton's city hall was built to include a public records room but Purvis stores theirs in a small room but citizens can view them in the board room. It boggles the mind that Purvis is thriving, allowing unrestricted access to public records but they're housed in an building that's clearly showing it's age while Lumberton is decaying with a grand city hall, with plenty of room but has an administration that has no problem restricting access to public records. Interesting. Today just confirmed what I already knew. I guess some Southern trees still bear strange fruir but instead of hanging from the poplar trees, they use the justice system as rope. When a public official tries to claim that your request for public records, attending public meetings and taking photographs of a public facility as stalking is tantamount to an egregious malfeasance. They're attempting to villify accountability by attacking my first amendment right. The constant denial of public records is an abuse of power as well ad a violation of Mississippi State law; it's the blood on the leaves and blood at the root as well as a collective attempt to create more strange fruit swinging in the Southern breeze. But I will not give up because I know that sooner or later, someone in Jackson is going to take their heads out of the sand and end this system of corruption that has been allowed to fester in Lumberton for so long.
"I would have fainted had I not believed that I would see the salvation of the Lord in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13)