Flaggs clarifies his views on changing the city’s form of government: ‘I’m not in favor of change’ – The Vicksburg Post

Flaggs clarifies opinion on changing city form of government: ‘I’m not in favor of change’

Posted at 18:38 on Saturday, July 6, 2024

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. issued public statements Saturday that he said were intended to clarify his position on the idea of ​​altering the river city’s form of government.

“I am not in favor of changing the form of government to any form,” Flaggs said. “I have already tried to make the change and have met with too much resistance. The benefit is not worth the pain.”

Flaggs’ remarks come after a push for change on social media, as well as a meeting between him and members of the group advocating for a change to the current governance structure.

Among them is Vicksburg resident Marilyn Terry, who recently met with Flaggs to discuss her position on a petition she says is currently circulating. According to Terry, the pro-government change citizens group is working to gather enough support to justify a special election on the issue.

“A diverse group of several hundred community members have signed a petition that will require a vote on Vicksburg’s current form of city government, which has been in place since the 1880s,” Terry said in a prepared statement. “The petition, if signed by 10 percent of Vicksburg’s registered voters, would require a special election to be held to allow Vicksburg voters to directly determine how their city will operate in the future.”

While Flaggs did not directly address the petition in Saturday’s comments, he did reference a recent Facebook post he attributed to Terry and said many of the statements made were misleading.

“There is a Facebook post circulating that was written by Ms. Marilyn Terry that says I am advocating for a specific change in government, which is flatly false,” he said. “However, I will say publicly, as I told Ms. Terry when I met with her on Monday, June 10, 2024, in my office with Community Development Director Jeff Richardson and my chief of staff present, that I will not be advocating for a change in government, now or during my re-election campaign.”

Both Flaggs and Terry said the idea of ​​changing Vicksburg’s form of government is not new, and Terry added that there are several obvious reasons for residents to consider changing the city’s current government structure.

“The current form of government consists of a mayor and two council members who control how approximately $136 million in local tax dollars are spent during their four-year terms,” he said. “Talks about changing Vicksburg’s current three-person form of government, with a mayor and two council members, arose in 1996 and again in 2015. With the upcoming municipal election in 2025, several community members have again raised concerns about the city’s form of government and how it affects citizens from all walks of life.”

Terry said the petition currently in circulation advocates not just for a general change, but for a change to a specific alternative.

“The petition calls for a change to a council-manager format in which voters would elect a five-person city council, including a mayor and five council members. The council would then exercise the city’s legislative power and hire a city manager, who would be the city’s chief administrative officer. While the council would be the city’s policy-making body, the city manager would handle day-to-day operations, including managing city employees, preparing the budget, and managing taxes.”

Terry also said a public meeting to discuss the ballot initiative is scheduled for Thursday, July 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Warren County Courthouse. Dr. Dallas Breen, executive director of the Stennis Institute for Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University, is scheduled to be present to discuss the current form of government in Vicksburg and the proposed council-manager form and to answer questions from the community, he said.

Breen also explained how the structure of the proposed form of government would work.

“In the council-manager system, you have a city manager who is somewhat removed from politics, who is a professionally trained person, appointed and hired by the city to run the city,” Breen said. “City managers are available 24/7 and are responsive to people, or accessible to people. That’s usually the way people ask the most questions. You have someone who, more often than not, is an outsider who says, ‘I’m going to make this local government efficient and effective. ’ There’s a clear vision of what needs to be done and there’s a little less political pressure.”

Flaggs also stressed that the July 25 meeting is not affiliated with the city of Vicksburg and is not something his administration supports.

“I also do not support the meeting that will be held on Thursday, July 25, where the change in the form of government will be discussed,” he said. “This event is not a public event sponsored by the city of Vicksburg. I also do not support the form of government that is being advocated, which is the council-manager form of government.”

Terry said the council-manager form of government would allow a trained professional (city manager) to work alongside city department heads and the city council to ensure city employees receive competitive salaries to effectively promote employee retention and productivity.

“The council-manager form of government is one of the most popular forms of government across the country, although few cities in Mississippi use it,” he said. “The city of Jackson, for example, does not use the council-manager form that is being proposed for Vicksburg, but instead uses the mayor-council form of government, which is considered a strong mayor form of government, with the mayor serving as the chief executive of the city.”

Terry said those interested in signing the petition can access it at the Levee Street Marketplace, located at 1001 Levee Street in Vicksburg, or by calling or texting 769-293-4622.

This is a developing story. Additional information, as well as updates on ongoing developments and a full history of Vicksburg’s debate over its current form of government, will be available in next week’s print and online editions of The Vicksburg Post.