Gulfport mayor asks: Can we do better?

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -  A group of Gulfport leaders spent their Saturday morning taking a bus tour of the city. Mayor George Schloegel organized the trip for members of the city council, planning commission and zoning board.

They got a close-up look at how their decisions help determine the quality of life in Gulfport.

The two hour tour through every ward in the city was a real eye opener for these city leaders.  And that's exactly what the mayor had in mind.

"Seeing what we have done in the past that has allowed us to have a condition we don't want to have in the future. In other words, to learn from our past mistakes," said Mayor George Schloegel, at the start of the bus ride.

City leaders saw buildings boarded shut just off 34th street; right in the middle of a neighborhood.

"And it was supposed to be a very, very nice affordable housing development, close by the central business district, close to the schools and so forth," said the mayor.

A ride up Highway 49 prompted Mayor Schloegel to ask a question, "What impression do you get of this town, when you come down this corridor? Look north right now and look at the signs themselves."

"This area here, we've had numerous problems with work being done without permits. And also drainage issues," said city planner, Greg Holmes, as the bus toured another neighborhood.

Off O'Neal Road, a stalled housing development left behind slabs and building material.

"There's no reason for this to be left this way," said Holmes. "You look back here, and all the building materials are left there."

Examples of clear cutting trees led one council member to comment about ineffective fines.

"Against the tree ordinance that we have right now, it's not, it's just not that bad of a fine for a developer to have to pay," said R. Lee Flowers, Ward 6 councilman.

A recent housing project on Prudie Street was highlighted as a less than desirable development.

"What do you think this is going to look like very shortly. It already looks bad. Look at that retention pond," said the mayor.

Mayor Schloegel says he hopes the bus tour will get leaders thinking about what kind of city they'd like to live in.

"Just this week, named by a national magazine as the best place in Mississippi to raise children, but we can also be better. And the reason for today [Saturday] is to get better, to be as good as we possibly can in the future," said the mayor.

The mayor says one issue that must be addressed is the "surplus" of housing in the city. He's asked the governor to stop issuing tax credits or giving people incentives to build more houses they simply can't sell.

Governor Barbour has agreed to that request.

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