Mayor Quordiniah Lockley called for unity Tuesday, saying the ramp-up in negative remarks about McComb unfairly coincided with the election of its first majority-black board, which he said inherited many of the problems some cite when disparaging the city.
Reading from a prepared statement toward the end of Tuesday night’s work session, Lockley spoke for just under five minutes about rampant negativity leveled at the city and its leadership.
Lockley said remarks such as “McComb is going to hell in a hand basket” and “all white people need to move out of the city of McComb” have increased since he and four other black men were elected to the city board last year.
“I am one of those individuals who does not like to use the race card, but it is the elephant in the room that everyone has been dancing around,” he said. “... If it is not race, tell me what is it?”
Lockley said the city board’s makeup is a reflection of McComb’s 70% black population.
“Common sense tells me that if African-Americans come out to vote, the composition of the city board will change. On June 19, that composition changed to a majority African-American board,” he said.
Lockley highlighted some of the city’s problems, which he said were issues facing McComb before the election of himself and selectmen Devante Johnson, Shawn Williams, Ronnie Brock and Donovan Hill.
“This board cannot be blamed for the condition of the city of McComb,” Lockley said. “When I talk about the condition, I’m talking about the condition of the streets, I’m talking about the financial position, I’m talking about the decline of downtown McComb, I’m talking about the decline in population, and I’m talking about high crime.
“Commons sense will tell you this did not happen overnight or because of the election on June 19, 2018.”
Instead of dwelling on the city’s problems, residents should work together to fix them, he said.
“In order for the city of McComb to move forward, we — black, white, Asians, Latinos — we must all come together and push aside these attitudes that we have and start working together,” he said.
“... Therefore I am encouraging all of our citizens, let us stop using the negative comments from discouraging people from coming to come to McComb, from discouraging manufacturers from coming to McComb. It is time for us to push aside those attitudes and move forward.”
Lockley’s remarks received applause from the board, whose two white selectmen, Ted Tullos and Michael Cameron, were missing.
Later in the meeting, resident Vernell Simmons called out Cameron and Tullos for not showing up at work sessions.
“This is a regular work session and you see these two board seats are empty,” he said. “At the last board meeting, a senior selectman tried to force the younger selectman to tell him what went on at the last work session.”
At last week’s board meeting, Johnson proposed an equal pay ordinance and Cameron asked for information about it. Johnson said that information was presented at the previous week’s work session.
“I wasn’t here,” Cameron said last week.
“That’s your problem,” Johnson responded.
Simmons praised the leadership of Lockley and Hill, who as selectman at-large is “the selectman for all the people,” and, like Lockley, doesn’t “pick and choose” who to represent.