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Surratt: Of hurricanes and elections

We hit June 1 this week, a time for warmer weather and a reminder that hurricane season and the municipal general elections are upon us.

At first glance, it seems like unusual topics to be combined in a column, but when you stop and think about it, they have a lot in common. Both are preceded by a lot of wind — election time with the multiple political rallies and speeches adding to the already hot climate and hurricanes with their feeder bands reaching far ahead of the storm producing winds in excess of 40 mph (and definitely cooler and wetter).

But the real connection between hurricanes and elections is the long-range effect each can have on a community.

Put the wrong people in office, and the community suffers. If we don’t take precautions ahead of the storm, we all suffer from the storm after it passes.

June 1 is the traditional start of hurricane season, a time when these massive sources of energy form in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and move toward the nearest source of land. When they make landfall, streets and roads flood, buildings are damaged and people left homeless.

And if you think being in Central Mississippi hundreds of miles inland from the coast protects you, think again. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit the Alabama Gulf Coast, damaging that area, and then moved north up the Mississippi/Alabama line to hit Meridian and cause more damage there than on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

In 2005 Katrina — need I say more? The storm was so large it covered Mississippi and Louisiana, and many Mississippi towns far from the beaches recorded 100 mph winds as she came ashore. I remember that storm; I lived on the coast and I’m a survivor.

Elections can affect a community in a different way.

A municipal government is an interesting body to watch. This isn’t the state Legislature or Congress; the actions the members of a city council or board of aldermen take affect all of us immediately. I’ve watched many a city board fight and argue and make dumb decisions. My tongue and upper and bottom lips are full of scars from me fighting the urge to yell at some mayor or alderman or council member that they’re making a stupid mistake.

What makes this election so important is it could decide where we’re headed in the next four years. In the 10 years since I came to Vicksburg improve and prosper while other cities where I’ve worked have deteriorated.

We have some pretty good candidates on the ballot, but we need to remember that for our city to continue its growth and to prosper we need a board that is progressive and willing to work together — that they are able to discuss matters and disagree without taking those arguments personally. In other words, no eternal enemies, no eternal enmities, just good government.

Tuesday when you go to the polls, remember that. Do your homework. If you see a candidate, ask questions and press them for answers.

Hurricanes and elections have something in common — they can hurt a community for a long time. It’s time we prepared for both so our community is better.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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