The election – some might say “coronation” – of Democrat Frank Melton as Jackson mayor Tuesday excites great hopes, but not without some leavening caution.
Melton cruised to victory over Republican Rick Whitlow Tuesday after thrashing incumbent Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. in the Democratic Primary May 3.
Melton has presented himself as a man of action over Johnson’s more deliberative nature, and trounced the low-key Whitlow. For many Jacksonians, the prospect of a Melton administration is one of dynamism, to “get the city moving again” as promised by Melton’s slogan: “Help Is On The Way.”
This sense of optimism and vibrancy has been lacking in the Capital City and is a welcome change. But it also should be viewed in respectful context of Johnson’s foundation of detailed and worthy plans for Jackson’s revitalization.
The first order of business for Melton should be, as he promised, to fight crime – decisively. The city needs to dramatically change the perception and reality of crime and if Melton can do this, he will be a much-lauded leader.
Success would do much to invite investment, broaden the tax base, promote more residential development, increase property values, help stem if not reverse flight, and return the city as the bustling hub of the state.
The caution is that forceful slogans and even dynamic actions will not alone accomplish the aim of progress.
Long-term deliberative planning, as Johnson epitomized, remains essential. And Melton should be routinely reminded that he promised after the primary: “We’re going to piggyback off of where he (Johnson) left off.”
Today, Jacksonians can enjoy a new sense of optimism. But, long, hard, determined and consistent work remains.
Clarion Ledger Editorial