Butch Lee, Marcus Wallace and Willie Simmons spoke at Neshoba County Fair on their decision to run for Central District Transportation Commissioner.
Lee said he’s excited about seeing Mississippi products around the world, but that priorities need to be refocused on infrastructure.
“Exports are great, but the chickens better learn to swim if we don’t work on fixing these highways,” said Lee.
The mayor said he delivered results at the MS Fire Academy nearly 30 years ago.
“Results, not rhetoric,” said Lee.
The Transportation Commissioner hopeful said infrastructure impacts every aspect of Mississippi’s economy.
“If the roads aren’t fixed, stop, drop and roll becomes “chop, drop and roll” because timber will have to be floated down the river,” Lee said.
Lee said he’s tired of seeing studies and reports.
“You don’t talk about the problems, you get in there and fix them. I’m sick of studies, read a ton of them. They all say the same thing: infrastructure is falling away from us,” said Lee.
The Brandon mayor added there are five reasons he decided to run:
- Lawmakers don’t get it– they wouldn’t only talk about it during election season.
- Infrastructure hasn’t been updated in 32 years
- Lottery may not fix it–can’t place bets on what may be won
- The legislature has drifted toward telling cities and counties how to maintain their assets.
- Emergency Road and Bridge Fund– if the 102 roads and bridges, you’ll lose the federal funding. Over a billion dollars of projects requested that must be done now.
Wallace is currently serving his second term as mayor of Edwards and owner of a construction firm.
He says the first thing that has to be done is demolishing and disestablishing the relationships in politics. Wallace says he’s seen the process of allocations and its too political.
“I hate when I see a bridge being rebuilt and there are sources of revenue there…. But on other roads, dirt piles are being put up and folks have to drive 20 and 30 minutes out of their way. That’s not passion.”
Another goal of Wallace’s is beautification. Wallace said when you travel, you see things that excite you before you check-in. In Bolton and Edwards, the exit ramps are dark and you can’t tell they are open for business.
Willie Simmons will be leaving the Senate to run for Central District Transportation Commissioner. He spoke to listeners at the Neshoba County Fair on Wednesday.
Simmons says he has relationships established that would help to his advantage.
While traveling the state, Simmons said he has seen farmers, truckers, etc unable to drive across Mississippi because of the conditions of the roads and bridges, which has caused businesses to close. He added that on the way to the Neshoba County Fair, he crossed roads without shoulders and the bumpy roads add up to wear and tear on the consumer’s car.
Simmons said that roads without shoulders leave nowhere to go in an emergency situation, and he is working toward eradicating these issues and risks.
“On my way in, I saw no sign that said “Republican highway, Democratic Highway, or Independent Highway,” said Simmons. “Relationships would help me work across the aisle.”
Simmons said that he believes the gas tax needs to be increased. The user tax has been 18% since the 80s. His goal: Raise it 10 cents over three years. May equal $60 a year.
One of the former Senator’s primary concerns is that first responder can’t quickly access people who are on the wrong side of a failing bridge, which could mean life or death or full destruction of a home in the event of an emergency.
Chairman of Transportation, Dick Hall, also spoke at the 2019 Neshoba County Fair. He is not seeking reelection this year.
Hall has been in office for over 40 years. Education, healthcare, roads, and bridges were of top importance, and they’re still top discussion today.
“The one thing that happened with roads and bridges during that time, we passed that four-lane highway program— it became the 6th best program in the nation.”
But they failed to maintain it and now it’s one of the worst, said Hall.
1987 four-lane program was one of the best economic drivers in the last half-century.
“Why are we too dumb to do it again?” said Hall.
Hopefully the new legislature, new governor, and new Lt. Governor will have a plan to save our highway system, with the completion of the Philadelphia Bypass, according to Hall.
Hall calls for the adjustment of the fuel tax, saying once again Mississippi is behind the ball on it.
“Why are we always the last one?” said Hall.
Hall endorses Butch Lee, mayor of Brandon Mississippi to replace him as Transportation Commissioner for the Central District.
Hall says we cannot afford to fall further behind that what it is… and next week’s gubernatorial primary is important for that.