Radio host Dave Hughes cited McComb’s declining sales taxes, an inability to appeal to young people and an unwillingness to focus on the future as reasons he believes the city is at a turning point.

Hughes, who broadcasts each weekday on Supertalk radio, spoke Wednesday to the McComb Rotary Club. He said residents should be concerned whether McComb remains the retail hub of Southwest Mississippi, because Brookhaven’s sales taxes have been increasing and have surpassed McComb’s.

He discounted the impact of online sales hurting local trade because Brookhaven’s figures are up. He said sales taxes in all four of Pike County’s towns declined in the past year and added, “We have an issue here, and we have to figure out what’s causing it.”

Hughes said sales taxes make up close to 60 percent of McComb’s annual budget, so “when that drops, we have a problem.”

He said the new city board has made some questionable choices, and recently decided to borrow money for street paving. The biggest concern is that the loan will restrict the city’s future borrowing capacity for a few years.

“Sometimes taxes have to be raised,” he said. “But it’s a slippery slope. If you don’t focus on the right things, it leads to a problem.”

He said McComb’s 2018 elections were focused in the wrong direction — on the past. One side wanted to keep things they way they were, he said, while the other side campaigned “based on deficiencies they saw in the past.”

He said this year’s county and legislative elections appear to have a similar theme, and added, “Focusing on the past is not going to solve anything. We have to work toward the future. We have to plan for the future.

“I don’t mean to be doom and gloom,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be bad, a horrible dystopian future that we can’t get out of. This can be turned around, but it’s going to take effort. It’s going to take a lot of effort.”

Hughes said people who are concerned about local issues should not hesitate to contact elected officials. He noted that the city board this year passed an ordinance reducing all misdemeanors to ticketing offenses. When residents complained, the board unanimously reversed itself.

“The problems are not all at City Hall,” he said. “But the problems are not easy to fix.”

He said McComb should strive to appeal to parents “that’ll raise their kids properly. ... We have to make McComb the kind of place those people want to be in. It’s a tall order because we’ve spent decades focusing on everyone but the young people.”

Hughes said many young people who grew up in McComb have left with no intention of returning.

“Do you want to be anywhere you have no fond memories of?” he asked. “There has to be something for the kids to do to stay out of trouble. A lot of times, that was sitting in the parking lots on Delaware Avenue, but that’s gone away.

“Right now, they’re all (going) out of town, or at somebody’s house, or in a field. And that’s it. We need something for kids to do in this town, where they can form memories and form bonds.”

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Editor’s note: Magnolia Mayor Anthony Witherspoon, who saw this story Monday on the newspaper’s website, noted that his town’s sales tax payments rose each year from 2015 to 2018. This included a 21 percent increase, from $420,000 to $507,000, in 2018. The city’s sales taxes fell by $14,000 in 2019.

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