Lena Mitchell

LENA MITCHELL

What can good government do?

That’s a good question to ask as we head into a general election that will have significant consequences for our state.

We have problems big and small that are crying out for solutions.

Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation.

But the Women, Infants and Children – WIC – food and health care referral program for pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers was created in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address that need.

And the Children’s Health Insurance Program for low-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid tries to fill a gap in the health care continuum.

Mississippi has the lowest median income in the nation.

But the state has funded workforce skills training programs in its 15 community colleges to prepare people for the higher-paying jobs that the new economy of high technology requires.

Mississippi’s educational attainment level is the poorest in the nation.

But we have interest groups like the Parents Campaign – Better Schools Better Future that are working to shore up our public schools and help elect leaders who see public education as a priority.

Many of our counties have made a commitment to higher education through tuition assistance programs whereby the county helps pay community college tuition for all of its high school graduates.

A problem we face, however, is that many of the advances we have made to address the basic daily needs of people in our communities are being eroded by politicians who are paying more attention to business interests than they are to the people who make up their constituency.

These public officials are in your face during election season pointing out the same problems you are concerned about, so we know they are aware of what the issues and concerns are.

They present seemingly viable ideas to address the problems, yet once elected they listen more to other entrenched politicians intent on “working the system” to their own advantage and qualifying for a nice state retirement package, than pushing for the measures that will help constituents most.

Our Legislature this year passed laws that: give teachers a small pay increase – though leaving some qualified teachers out due to an administrative foul-up, give public funds to private schools, allow electric cooperatives to provide broadband Internet service, enact limited criminal justice reform, enact support for victims of human trafficking, allow some limitations on guns in courthouses, allow pay increases for county officials, place additional limits on abortion – though the law is thus far blocked by the courts.

The state’s roads and bridges are in the same dire need of repair as infrastructure across the nation, and in January Mississippi allocated $250 million of emergency repair funding for 163 projects across the state.

Driving our streets, county roads and highways every day shows us one example of how central that aspect of government is to our quality of life.

Electing public officials who strive to provide us with good government is one area where every qualified voter can have an impact.

LENA MITCHELL is a retired Daily Journal reporter who continues to write a regular column. Readers can contact her at lena.mitchell.dj@gmail.com.

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