By Terri Ferguson Smith / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Citing problems with the city's education system and youth-related crimes, along with 40 years of Republican administrations in Meridian, Randle Jennings announced Friday that he is seeking the office of mayor.
He announced his candidacy at First Union Missionary Baptist Church.
"Having been back home now a good while, I realized this town has some serious issues with corruption. It's corrupt in a lot of ways to the point where we're seeing things and we're acting like we don't see them," Jennings said. "We're waiting on officials to step up and tell us what we're seeing, but no one is stepping up to tell us anything."
In his statement, Jennings, who is running as a Democrat, said in order for positive, real change to take place, communities and schools have to grow together.
"God has told me to liberate the people. So God is telling the Republican party; let the people go," Jennings said. "The number of incidents, in the recent past; incidents like the accusations of running a school to jail pipeline, illegal gambling and racketeering, violation of a federal school desegregation order, along with high crime rate versus police department dissension are just a few examples as to why it's time for the Republicans to let the people go."
Jennings said the community is concert at the lack of interest or outcry not coming from elected officials. Drugs, high crime, poverty, and slow economic growth come with the territory as communities deteriorate, Jennings said.
"The Republican administration has operated a conservative platform for over 40 years now here in the city of Meridian," he said. "The rich has gotten richer and the poor suffer the consequences. It's time for a more liberal approach toward changing Meridian."
Jennings, who is education chairman of the Meridian Branch of the NAACP, has serious concerns about the DOJ investigation that led to its suing the city, county, Division of Youth Services, and local youth court judges over what has been called the school-to-prison-pipeline. He said local officials have not been forthcoming with information about the investigation and lawsuit.
"I've just taken the initiative to say that if they are not going to be transparent and open and honest, just go ahead and remove them," Jennings said. "I've taken the initiative to go ahead and run for office, the top office. It's going to take someone from the top office to first of all admit where we are and then find common solutions for all the people."
Jennings said as mayor he would work to improve the image of Meridian, which he said has been damaged by its reputation during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He also pledged to implement the Promise Neighborhoods after school program.
"After 3 o'clock, we have to make sure we secure the foundation of the future — getting our children off the streets," Jennings said.
Other plans, he said, are to encourage bipartisanship, boost education through implementing a community involvement plan, hosting monthly community forums, and monthly open door meetings with the mayor, removing neighborhood blights, educating the formerly incarcerated on voting rights, forecasting Meridian's future, and working for community faith-based initiatives.
Meridian is his hometown, he said, and he wants to see it grow for all people.
"When you ride around and you still see the same people in the same conditions in the same neighborhoods and the same settings, and it's 40 years later, something is wrong," Jennings said.