Group cites issues with ball program operations

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Members of the Community Action Group gathered at Tuesdaynight’s board of aldermen meeting to protest what group spokesmanRoy Smith considered “civil wrongs” regarding the Dr. A.L. LottYouth Baseball Program.

The group’s main concern is that many of the children who were apart of the Lott program last year are not participating this yearbecause children of parents who may have trouble paying the leaguefees did not have them covered by some other source. At one pointduring the discussion, Ward Two Alderman candidate Darryl White wasescorted from the meeting after an outburst involving profanity inwhich he said the city was trying to “shut us up.”

Last year, Brookhaven Recreation Department officials combed thecity for corporate sponsors and individuals who donated scholarshipmoney for children who could not afford the $35 sign-up fee. Thisyear, however, scholarship money has not been available and signupfor the program has been low.

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Smith told the board, who was without Mayor Bob Massengill, whowas out for surgery, and Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson, that itis the city’s responsibility to make certain that the children wholive below poverty level have a way of playing baseball just likechildren who live above the poverty line.

“A few years ago our children requested a swimming pool, and yousaid no, and our children requested their own facility, and yousaid no,” he said. “They requested to play baseball and T-ball, andyou’re going to look them in the face and say no?”

Smith went on to say he believes race relations are worse inBrookhaven now than they were in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Headded he feels like the children of the community are being takenadvantage of.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell told Smith that his complaintsshould have been taken before the recreation board before comingbefore the board of aldermen.

Officials also said it is illegal to use city funds to buyuniforms for children involved in city programs. The $35 fee forthe Lott project pays for equipment and uniforms.

By comparison, the Dixie Youth Baseball League charges $100 perchild for the season.

“We’re not trying to change the laws, we’re trying to change thesystem, and the system is taking advantage of our children,” Smithsaid.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes told Smith that the money wasgathered last year from all over Brookhaven, and that it had notcome from just one side of the railroad tracks or the other.

“The railroad tracks are just something the train goes up anddown,” she said. “When I’m talking about community, I’m not talkingabout where you live or where I live or anything else. I’d like tosee us do some fundraising early in the season and look at it as awhole community, not a community here and a community there. Thereare white children and black children that are living on both sidesof the tracks, and there is poverty on both sides.”

White was ejected when a member of the audience who said he wasa parent of children interested in playing baseball tried to speak,but was told he was not on the agenda. White said city officialswere giving Smith a “tongue-lashing” and “trying to shut usup.”

After White left, Smith acknowledged that he did not feel he’dbeen tongue-lashed.

Smith, who is known for his almost daily protests at thegovernment complex and Brookhaven High School, made a rousingspeech about how he has been a thorn in Massengill’s and theboard’s sides.

“But I want the mayor to know, and you to know, and the city ofBrookhaven to know that I’m not a troublemaker,” he said. “I’m notan angry man, I’m not a coward man, but I am a proud honest decenthardworking God-fearing man who wants the best for his family andhis community.”

Mayor Pro-Tempore Terry Bates told Smith to contact RecreationDepartment Director Terry Reid and address the recreation boardwith his grievances. Then, both sides would meet together at thenext aldermen meeting on April 21.

In other activity, the board approved a proposal to nameTuesday, April 14, as “Jasmine Murray Day,” to honor theMississippi School of the Arts junior who recently made it to theTop 13 of popular reality show “American Idol.”

“I know Brookhaven is proud of her and I was angry when theykicked her off,” Bates said.

Also, Police Chief Pap Henderson told the board the sign is upin front of the new police station on Highway 51 south.

“I’d love for you to drive down 51 tonight or tomorrow and lookat that beautiful sign,” he said. “We really appreciate all you’redoing for us.”