By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
The bulk of the concerns voiced Tuesday evening in Meridian City Hall were issues Mississippi state Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn had heard in five previous similar meetings with citizens across the state.
Everywhere he has conducted his Mississippi Solutions — An Ideas Tour stop, residents have told him that education and the state of Medicaid are hot topics. It was no different in Meridian.
"We are traveling the state to give the citizens a chance to voice their concerns," Gunn said. "We are not here to speak. We want them to come forward and tell us what it is we need to do to make this state, their area, better. Now is the time to speak up."
And speak up they did.
Roger Smith, who owns and manages the Temple Theater, told Gunn he came to Meridian to live out the latter part of his life. He told, or rather reminded Gunn, that it is the people who create this country and the government, not the other way around.
"But what is really slowing down this nation and this state is the lack of education," Smith said.
Time and again, education came up from regular citizens to school administrators.
Becky Glover, a parent coach for Parents for Public Schools (PPS) National, said she has seen the overriding problem with the public school system.
"Poverty is affecting the public school system," she said.
Gunn said the meeting was very productive, with some good conversations coming out of it. He said the tour is all about citizens and giving theme the chance to speak to someone in the Legislature.
"So many times we are not as available as maybe we would like to be," Gunn said. "We encourage involvement and participation."
Gunn said there have been a few "Oh wow" moments in which someone has really done their homework and come up with some interesting points.
"We've made note of those and all the other concerns and we will try to address them to the best of our ability," Gunn said.
This was the sixth stop on the tour. Gunn and his staff are scheduled to be in Hattiesburg and Biloxi Thursday. The tour winds up Friday in Brookhaven.