Letter Questions Newspaper Coverage of Harrison County
GCN Editor's Note: The following letter was
published anonymously on GCN's Message board. The use of the name Publius
is important. Publius was the pen name used by the authors of the
Papers, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. This
collection of 85 articles, published pseudonymously in New York State
newspapers form October 1787 through May 1788, was influential in
convincing New York voters to ratify the proposed United States
Note: A response follows in another well-informed post to the GCN
Posted by: Publius () 11/26/2003 12:12
November 26, 2003.
An open letter to the Sun-Herald: (the Sun-Herald won’t print
letters like this, so I'm publishing it here where they still respect
freedom of the press)
Dear Sun-Herald: Your
editorial November 23, 2003 about HCDC “bickering” surrendered
whatever moral authority you may have had in this community. You haven’t
been paying attention. Taxpaying voters in two recent Harrison County
races elected incumbent leaders, Connie Rockco and Deborah Dawkins, who
stood for reform of HCDC. Their opponents were financed and overwhelming
endorsed by the keep-everything-secret clique of CEOs that runs the HCDC.
The voters see through it. You don’t.
“Bickering?” Excuse me, Mike Olivier and the HCDC clique are
BREAKING THE LAW! The Sun-Herald editorial called for the Attorney General
to get back in the picture. Where have you been? In July of 2003, the
Attorney General published an Official Opinion making it clear that the
HCDC is breaking numerous purchasing laws and other laws, but you refuse
to report the AG’s Official Opinion to the public. Lawbreaking is usually
newsworthy, but you ignore it in this case and demand editorially that
everyone shut up.
If HCDC Commissioners Richard Bennett and Paige Gutierrez had
exposed elected officials the same way they have Mike Olivier, you would
call them heroic whistleblowers. Instead they expose Olivier’s law
breaking, bad accounting and bad business practices, but you call it
“bickering” and “personal or political agendas.” What agenda is an honest
Commissioner supposed to have if it is not serving as the taxpayers check
and balance against bad government? Other Commissioners have tried to
exercise honest oversight through the years, but the Sun-Herald didn’t
back them up either. Ask former Commissioners Mary Bankston, Bob Sawyer,
Louis Elias and many others who tried to do right but were always in the
minority. The public needs to know the story, but the Sun-Herald won’t
Then there’s the alleged “jobs.” Do you not have a single
investigative reporter or editor who can cut through the hype and look at
the facts? Actually you do have some good reporters, but for some reason
you won’t put your resources on a story like this, so you’ll eventually
lose your best reporters, just as you have in the past. The truth is that
Mike Olivier and the HCDC have produced relatively few permanent jobs,
even though the taxpayers of Harrison County have made huge investments in
the HCDC industrial parks in its nearly 40 years of existence.
The Coast economy is presently healthy for two reasons:
casinos and U. S. Defense Department. Olivier and HCDC didn’t bring us
either of these economic pillars. State legislators, local elected
officials and tourism business leaders brought us casinos. Franklin
Roosevelt, Senator Pat Harrison and Biloxi and Gulfport’s depression era
Mayors and Chambers of Commerce brought us Keesler, the Naval Air Station
(now the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport), the Seabee Base, and the two VA
Hospitals; Eddie Khayat and Governor Paul Johnson brought us the Litton
Shipyard (now Northrup Grumman); Lyndon Johnson and Senator Stennis
brought us the Stennis Space Center and made Keesler the electronics
training center for the Air Force; Ronald Reagan and Senator Lott brought
us the Navy Homeport. If it weren’t for our U. S. Congressional and State
Legislative delegations through the years, we’d have been a ghost-town
before casinos came.
In a visionary attempt to diversify this economy, Mr. Eugene
Wilkes, your former publisher, founded the HCDC, but it has never lived up
to its promise, mainly because most of the Commissioners have never lived
up to the standards of public service envisioned by Mr. Wilkes. The
millions of public money invested in the HCDC have not been cost effective
in producing actual, permanent, new jobs. Your newspaper has never done a
story that actually accounts for the total investment and the actual
permanent jobs that have been caused by this investment. How could you?
Olivier won’t give you or anyone else the records.
Amy Tuck clams up. You sue her and say it’s not personal.
Oliver refuses to show the Supervisors how he spends his six-figure
expense account and refuses to give the Sun Herald the records. You don’t
sue him but say that critics who demand accountability are being personal.
What is going on here?
An investigative reporter given the resources and time by his
or her editors will find that the true HCDC cost per job is horrendous. No
one would run a private business with such a poor return on investment.
For example, Oliver’s HCDC recently pushed through a $1,674,000.00
ten-year tax exemption for a Dupont expansion at DeLisle for 10 jobs.
That’s $167,400.00 per job. There was no proof that Dupont could or would
have expanded anywhere else if they didn’t get the tax exemption. And
there’s still no proof that we even got the ten jobs! The $1.67 Million
would be better spent on something new that the private sector can’t do,
like helping USM create a teaching hospital at the Gulfport VA or building
a gaming management school at Gulf Park.
It is ludicrous for the Sun-Herald to describe the current
HCDC controversy as, “he-said, she said squabbles”. HCDC’s law breaking
and lack of accounting is a matter of written documentation and the lack
You don’t need to depend on what someone said, just look at
what the written records say and fail to say. You did report that Olivier
destroyed accounting documents. But you stopped there. He refuses to
disclose other documents, like his six-figure expense account and his
“private” consulting fees paid in part by the Sun-Herald, but you don’t
demand these documents, as you did with Amy Tuck. If Olivier were an
elected official, you’d call such behavior “denying the public the right
to know.” In any other context, you’d call for his head for breaking
The Sun-Herald has risen to the occasion before. Look at your
own newspaper archives. In the mid-1980s, the Sun-Herald did a series of
exposes about the HCDC’s failure to ever have an independent financial
audit. The Mississippi Power Company, under Alan Barton, chimed in
that the HCDC was not living up to its promise. Roland Weeks was called on
the carpet by the CEOs who think they really run Harrison County and was
told that the Sun-Herald was hurting the business climate by criticizing
the HCDC. Roland Weeks and Alan Barton did not cave in. Instead they put
the responsibility where it belonged: on the wrongdoers at the HCDC, and
it changed. Now we’re right back in the same situation. It’s similar to
the situation when Barry Goldwater rode down to the White House and told
Richard Nixon the game’s up. It wasn’t Nixon’s critics that made him come
to grips with reality; it was the senior spokesmen of his own party. So it
must be now with the HCDC: the Sun-Herald and honest business leaders must
tell the Emperor that he has no clothes. But will the Sun Herald and
Mississippi Power be able to do it this time, when they are part of the
Olivier clique that has created the problem?
You want economic development in Harrison County? You won’t
get it by ridiculing robust, public debate as “bickering” and “personal.”
Instead, speak up for good, efficient, conservative government. Abolish
the HCDC. Spend the money on education, or give it back to the taxpayers.
That would do more for an attractive business climate than more trips to
London for Mike Olivier and his buddies at taxpayer’s expense.
Sincerely your friend, --Publius
The Following was posted to the GCN Message Board in response to the
letter by Publius.
Posted by: Cato the Elder () 11/29/2003 09:40
November 28, 2003
Such idealism! Such naiveté. Your open letter to the Sun-Herald is a waste
of time. Why appeal to a journal so dedicated to the status quo? So
intellectually dishonest? So much a part of the disease; how could the
Sun-Herald become part of the cure? Those of us who have been in the news
room know better.
For that matter, why spend so much energy on reforming the Harrison County
Development Commission when it is but a pathetic symptom of the systemic
disease that eats away at our body politic? What ails our beloved Coast
and indeed our beloved Mississippi is the systematic betrayal of
fundamental conservative values by our corporate and professional elite in
order to maintain the status quo. They are not true conservatives. True
conservatives value limited government and oppose the creation of
government agencies like the Harrison County Development Commission. True
conservatives oppose government give-away programs like tax exemptions for
“industries” and selling public land below market. True conservatives
(like the ones who brought us the 1st Amendment: George Mason and other
Founding Fathers) value open government and oppose the Development
Commission’s recent destruction of records and use of secret ballots to
chose accountants and lawyers.
True conservatives become nauseous with shame when they see and hear a
senior executive for Beau Rivage, Bruce Nourse, state, as he did last week
on WLOX, that the secret ballot he presided over to chose the development
commission’s new lawyer was not intended to be secret; it was just
intended to make members comfortable about voting without their friends
knowing how they voted. Nourse sounds like Bill Clinton saying it depends
on what the meaning of “is” is. Then Nourse said he did it because a
former lawyer said it was OK, but he can’t tell us the name of the lawyer,
because it’s a secret! True conservatives are outraged that their elected
officials have made a petty influence peddler like Bruce Nourse the
spokesman for business in Harrison County. Can anyone out there really
imagine a true conservative businessman demanding, as Bruce Nourse did,
that the taxpayers pay his parking tickets when he goes to development
commission meetings, just so he doesn’t have to spend time finding a
parking place in downtown Gulfport? Even the Sun-Herald reported this
shameless contempt for the public.
True conservatives also remember that the Founding Fathers understood the
venal side of human nature and established checks and balances to stop
public “servants” like Bruce Nourse and Mike Olivier from abusing power.
That’s why Madison and Hamilton and Washington and Franklin established an
independent judicial branch, and why every state government established
the same. Be patient, Publius, the Courts will have a chance to check out
BruceMike. The bigger problem is that so many of their fellow business
“leaders” have also abandoned conservative values and will merely replace
BruceMike with other puppets.
My friend, Cicero, said, “The evil implanted in man by nature spreads so
imperceptibly, when the habit of wrong-doing is unchecked, that he himself
can set no limit to his shamelessness.” So, Publius, step by step, year by
year, imperceptibly, the local “conservative” business community and their
house organ, the Sun-Herald, have been accomplices to the erosion of
limited government and open government in Coast counties and have allowed
the Harrison County Development Commission’s abuse of power to go
unchecked. These are but a few of the many fundamental values of a
conservative society that have been betrayed by our governing elite. How
could respectable, honest businessmen have allowed such shameless
wrong-doing to become commonplace? How could honest, virtuous businessmen
like Dave Dennis, past President of the Harrison County Development
Commission, have allowed the Olivier-Nourse culture of secrecy, deceit,
and wasteful spending to take root and flourish without protest?
Adam Smith's friend, the historian and philosopher David Hume, noted that
NOTHING appears more surprising to those, who consider human affairs with
a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by
the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own
sentiments and pions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what
means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as FORCE is always on
the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but
opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and
this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as
well as to the most free and most popular.
Young Publius, the corrupt status quo will not change until the general
population forms opinions based on the truth about their governing elite.
Do not wait for good but timid men like Dave Dennis and Ricky Matthews to
speak up. You were mistaken to waste so much time on appealing to the
Sun-Herald. It is decadent and irrelevant. You are right, however, to use
the internet, for there are many of us out here in the real world of
business and journalism who are paying attention and who are spreading the
word to the silent majority. Keep it up, and the time will come when real
conservatives will restore conservative values to the leadership of
business and government. Delenda est status quo.
--Cato the Elder
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