White Council Members Called "Environmental Racists"

A local environmental activist is calling the white members of the Gulfport City Council "environmental racists". Mississippi Business Journal writer and Sierra Club member Becky Gillette told a Department of Environmental Quality representative that the approval of a Turkey Creek development project will make flooding worse for the low income blacks who live in the area.

This accusation made on Statewide Public Radio isn't sitting well with some of the council members or Mayor Ken Combs.

On Mississippi Public Radio and in a letter to Gulfport's Mayor Ken Combs, Gillette said, "It is my belief that result of your actions is indeed environmental racism. I also believe that if a white community had these kinds of problems, if a white church was flooding when we had a big storm, the city would be making far more efforts to help."

At Wednesday's council meeting Councilmen Kim Savant, Billy Hewes, Ricky Dombrowski and Chuck Teston all went on record to say that they were offended at Gillette's name calling. Teston asked for a resolution condemning her slanderous remarks.

Mayor Ken Combs says she is not qualified to make such an assumption that the Butch Ward Turkey Creek development project would be harmful to the area.

But Ward 3 Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines told the council that her constituents do raise some of the same concerns as Gillette.

"We are alleviating problems, but we are not taking care of their problems, and they truly feel that it is racism. I am concerned about the Butch Ward project. I'm concerned about drainage in Turkey Creek," Hines said.

Developer Butch Ward will have to fill in 600 of the 1,800 acres he owns near the prime outlet mall for commercial development. The Mayor says the project will actually ease drainage problems and help North Gulfport by providing more roads, drainage, new businesses and jobs.