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The Worst Mayor In America
October 23, 2007 11:57 AM   Subscribe

He once stopped a school bus on a busy interstate because he “needed a hug” from the kids inside. He’s been known to strap weapons to his chest and leg that he has no authority to carry or conceal, then wear them in public. He once bulldozed an elderly woman’s house, promising to build her a better one. He then forgot to build it. He recruited a team of kids to torch a row of dilapidated shotgun houses, without clearance or first turning off the utilities. Meet The Worst Mayor In America.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders (81 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
A past holder of the title.
posted by exogenous at 12:04 PM on October 23, 2007


A week ago, Melton announced that he was promoting one of his bodyguards, Michael Recio, to assistant police chief. Recio hasn't even passed the sergeant’s exam, ...

Well its good to see that White House staffing policies have trickled down to the entire nation! Yer doin a heckuva job, Melty!
posted by Avenger at 12:11 PM on October 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


The link doesn't work for me, which makes me sad, because it looked interesting.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:13 PM on October 23, 2007


Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., the man Melton defeated, was quieter, more methodical, and more focused on issues like development and infrastructure, and balancing the city’s budget. He sat back and allowed a professional police chief do the job of crime fighting—and presided over a steady drop in crime over his eight-year tenure.

Animals are crapping in our houses, and we're picking it up. Did we lose a war? That's not America.
posted by DU at 12:13 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


"When are people going to learn that democracy just doesn't work?"
-Homer Simpson
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:13 PM on October 23, 2007


Don't hate on Marion Barry. He's so awesome, he can smoke crack and get reelected. He is now a councilman; I saw him at a public hearing where he TURNED A MAN TO DUST just by scowling at him.
posted by fuq at 12:13 PM on October 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow. As I read each paragraph, I kept shaking my head. Wow.
posted by ericb at 12:14 PM on October 23, 2007


My God. It's like that episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer gets himself elected garbage commissioner.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:15 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


n\m
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:16 PM on October 23, 2007


Holy shit. I can't support my thinking, but my first thought was, "only in the South."
posted by notsnot at 12:16 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


What the
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:18 PM on October 23, 2007


they should rename it crazytown, he'd be perfect
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2007


I was thinking, "There's no way the story can back up that headline."

I was wrong.
posted by sacre_bleu at 12:24 PM on October 23, 2007


This is phenominal. Not even Mayor Barry was that bad. A drug addict, sure. A terrible mayor, proven. But not an egomaniacal nutbag. This is a great article. Thanks.

What's strange about these situations is why nobody runs against these people. Don't they have an election coming up in Miss.? I know their governor is up. Maybe we can give some money to his opponent.
posted by willie11 at 12:26 PM on October 23, 2007


Well! He certainly seems interested in the welfare of teenage boys with criminal records.
posted by maryh at 12:26 PM on October 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm not supposed to think this is funny, right?

I am? But also sad?

I guess 'black comedy' would be a bad description. I'm supposed to look at it like some sort tragicomic morality tale? Evidence that democracy gives people the representatives they deserve?

Right... and of course, in a town like this, I'm sure there's no election fraud AT ALL.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:28 PM on October 23, 2007


This seems like a perfect job for the A-Team to tackle.
posted by item at 12:30 PM on October 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


No, fuck you. I said plainly that I couldn't support my thinking. But way to knee-jerk.

(I'm from St. Louis, which is both the southernmost Northern city and the northernmost Southern city, so we get both the Mob and the KKK. Lovely.)
posted by notsnot at 12:30 PM on October 23, 2007


Wow! That's the town I grew up in (don't live there anymore). I used to enjoy his "bottom line" segments growing up, but I guess I didn't know everything that was going on. I liked what he was saying when he ran for mayor, but I never hear any good news coming out of the city of Jackson.
posted by longklaw at 12:30 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:33 PM on October 23, 2007


Saying "I can't support my thinking" is supposed to make it okay to stereotype a group of people?

I can't support my thinking, but my first thought was, "black people can't read."

I can't support my thinking, but my first thought was, "Jews are cheap."

Ignorant people can be tricked into voting for an asshole anywhere. I would argue that it happens more often than it doesn't and this is just an extreme example.
posted by ND¢ at 12:36 PM on October 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


this is incredible. each time i think it's peaked it gets more insane. a throw away sentence in which the chief of police is cooking and cleaning his house?!?! and that's just so minor compared to the rest of it.

it's like a benny hill version of the bush administration. i can just hear the music in the background and on some level he's gotta be looking at the audience like he's in on the joke. thanks for this, saved my day.
posted by andywolf at 12:36 PM on October 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


It works for me if "support" is used as a synonym for "justify, explain, defend or excuse."
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:38 PM on October 23, 2007


Holy shit. There was no part of that which seemed redeeming.
posted by OmieWise at 12:39 PM on October 23, 2007


I dunno about only in the south, but we certainly get our fair share here (Lester Maddox, anyone?). I used to live in MS, and while I'm disproportionately biased against the place, this surprised even me.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:40 PM on October 23, 2007


No, the phrase makes it ok to stereotype a geographic area.

I agree with your last statement.

I spent a few days in Jackson, and you can taste the fear in the air, even in the rich neighborhoods.
posted by notsnot at 12:40 PM on October 23, 2007


nd¢:Fuck you'all
(fixed that for you)
posted by rocket88 at 12:41 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Note, however, that the linked article was written by a local hack as part of her active campaign against the mayor. He beat her candidate, and Donna Ladd has continually used her publication, the Jackson Free Press, as a method of fomenting dissent with the mayor.

He's not all roses, and certainly hasn't lived up to his potential, but his actions have not been as outrageous as Ms. Ladd claims.
posted by marklyon at 12:43 PM on October 23, 2007


Move over, Buddy Cianci.
posted by gum at 12:48 PM on October 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


marklyon: This is pretty damning. I'd be interested to hear a supporter's, or at least partial defender's, take on the situation.
posted by willie11 at 12:50 PM on October 23, 2007


Damn. I thought it would have been John Street
posted by SPUTNIK at 12:51 PM on October 23, 2007


marklyon: Which part was a falsification? Did she lie?
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:51 PM on October 23, 2007


marklyon, out of curiosity, which of the actions listed in the article are false or blown out of proportion?
posted by SixteenTons at 12:53 PM on October 23, 2007


He's not all roses, and certainly hasn't lived up to his potential, but his actions have not been as outrageous as Ms. Ladd claims.

He only wanted to hug one kid on the bus...

They're not SWAT-style raids, just some guys with a battering ram and black baseball caps...

He just knocked that old lady down, not her house...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:55 PM on October 23, 2007 [6 favorites]


I'm interested in this comment from a Reason reader:

Sounds like a mash-up of Marion Barry and Robert Mugabe.

Can anyone think of any similarities between this guy and Barry and Mugabe, except for that they are Black Guys Who Shouldn't Be In Charge?
posted by stammer at 12:56 PM on October 23, 2007


He’s been known to strap weapons to his chest and leg that he has no authority to carry or conceal, then wear them in public.

I support the man's right to publicly carry, conceal, and wear his chest and leg.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:58 PM on October 23, 2007 [8 favorites]


I'm from Mississippi, and my feelings toward Mississippi could be likened to the feelings a father might have toward his ugly child. Damn, that kid is goofy looking, but you can't help but love him. I mean, he's your goofy looking kid.

Jackson, on the other hand...I can't think of anything redeeming about Jackson. That their mayor is absolutely insane almost makes perfect sense.
posted by gordie at 1:00 PM on October 23, 2007


Move over, Buddy Cianci.

I watched early-morning delivery trucks setting out bundles of newspapers with an article critical of Cianci, followed by police cruisers picking up the bundles and throwing them in their trunks. Never saw that reported.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:02 PM on October 23, 2007


I like the south about a billion times more than I like that hell that is the northeast, and I would much rather live there, but it's a verifiable fact that government is less responsive and less accountable in the lower south than anywhere else.
posted by koeselitz at 1:04 PM on October 23, 2007


No. Barry was a shitty mayor for all kinds of reasons, mostly associated with mismanagement and incompetence, and he was a felon, but he wasn't a whack job like this guy is. I remember the Barry years well, and he very rarely even said anything, until the time when he got busted, that made it seem like he was crazy.
posted by OmieWise at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2007


Hmm... marklyon seems to have taken part in his share of Melton-hating:

One of the largest problems we have right now is our mayor. He keeps his job by playing to the fears of the black community in our town, telling them that other people are out to take away what little they have. He constantly blocks any form of progress in the city, because in reality he benefits from holding the city back. It's the only thing that keeps him in the job.

I sure hope he comes back to defend this guy.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2007


I can't support my thinking, but my first thought was, "only in the South."

Every place has it's own brand of craziness.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2007


So: even if notsnot can't support his thinking, plenty of people can.
posted by koeselitz at 1:06 PM on October 23, 2007


ND¢ writes "Saying 'I can't support my thinking' is supposed to make it okay to stereotype a group of people?"

The word "Southerner" does not imply race or religion.

I'm from New Mexico. We get shit, too. People say things like, "Can you drink the water there?" Or, "Did you need a passport to travel to the US?"

Get over it.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:06 PM on October 23, 2007


I watched early-morning delivery trucks setting out bundles of newspapers with an article critical of Cianci, followed by police cruisers picking up the bundles and throwing them in their trunks. Never saw that reported.

Think about it. How would you?
posted by me & my monkey at 1:06 PM on October 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Ignorant people can be tricked into voting for an asshole anywhere.

*cough*
posted by eyeballkid at 1:07 PM on October 23, 2007


Move over, Buddy Cianci.

Comparing Buddy to "Frank" is like... I don't know. That's right up there with a Godwin. I really feel like Buddy and this guy are on completely different levels.

Buddy may have been kind of a scummy guy but he never said anything along the lines of "What time are y’all gonna' fuck so I can come up in here and catch you? … I want to make life miserable for you."
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:08 PM on October 23, 2007


I guess everyone's forgotten about Giuliani.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:11 PM on October 23, 2007


Reading only the link text I instantly knew this was about Melton. I'm in Jackson fairly frequently and even people who know better seem to regard Melton with a kind of sly pride. Yeah, he's a nut case, you can almost hear as they relate his latest hijinks, but he's our nut case.

Besides, they say there's no such thing as negative publicity and Melton just got Jackson, MS on the national news. Yay!
posted by localroger at 1:17 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


fandango_matt: I guess everyone's forgotten about Giuliani.
Ok, seriously though. Giuliani may be a crazy fascist presidential candidate and he pissed off a lot of people as Mayor. But he was not anywhere near the level of this guy.

Also, NYC went through the most amazing urban renewal in America's history under Giuliani. Like the guy or not, he presided over good times in New York.
posted by willie11 at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2007


He once stopped a school bus on a busy interstate because he “needed a hug” from the kids inside. He’s been known to strap weapons to his chest and leg that he has no authority to carry or conceal, then wear them in public. He once bulldozed an elderly woman’s house, promising to build her a better one. He then forgot to build it. He recruited a team of kids to torch a row of dilapidated shotgun houses, without clearance or first turning off the utilities.

He is ... the most interesting man in the world.

He doesn't always drink beer, but when he does it's Dos Equis. Stay thirsty my friends!
posted by Arch_Stanton at 1:19 PM on October 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


gordie: "I'm from Mississippi, and my feelings toward Mississippi could be likened to the feelings a father might have toward his ugly child. Damn, that kid is goofy looking, but you can't help but love him. I mean, he's your goofy looking kid."

"...Now I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?" "I dont hate it," Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; "I dont hate it," he said. I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the cold New England dark; I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!

-W. Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! last page
posted by koeselitz at 1:21 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hot damn. I just got Faulknered.
posted by gordie at 1:30 PM on October 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oh, Koeselitz. You just made this ignorant child want to read Faulkner.
posted by Marquise at 1:40 PM on October 23, 2007


The worst mayor in America is Kwame Kilpatrick.
posted by fusinski at 1:47 PM on October 23, 2007


posted by willie11 NYC went through the most amazing urban renewal in America's history under Giuliani. Like the guy or not, he presided over good times in New York.

Most of the "good times" over which Giuliani presided were the result of the work of his predecessors. The "urban renewal" for which Giuliani took credit involved arresting homeless people and giving them the choice of jail or a bus ticket elsewhere while ignoring civil liberties and tacitly endorsing police misconduct in the shootings of unarmed suspects, the torture of Abner Louima and the killings of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond. Giuliani was one of the most disgusting and corrupt people ever to hold public office, and he richly deserves every bit of scorn and derision heaped upon him.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:48 PM on October 23, 2007 [8 favorites]


it gives me chills just thinking about that book
posted by koeselitz at 2:01 PM on October 23, 2007


Oh, Koeselitz. You just made this ignorant child want to read Faulkner.

That is correct. After years of living in Mississippi, working in a well-known bookstore in Oxford, Mississippi, and often helping lead tours of Rowan Oak, this is somehow the first I've heard of the guy, and I would like to learn more. Wasn't he the dad on Frasier, or something?
posted by gordie at 2:02 PM on October 23, 2007


Well, yes. The guy who played Frasier's dad also played Faulkner in Barton Fink.

Where's mah honey?!
posted by fandango_matt at 2:06 PM on October 23, 2007


I think Marquise was talking about Marquise, not you.

...and ...you've led tours of Rowan Oak? Wow. Do tell.
posted by koeselitz at 2:08 PM on October 23, 2007


Whoops. In that case, my apologies to Marquise for being a thin-skinned prick.

Also, I've probably derailed this thread enough. We were talking about the zany mayor of Jackson. Start a thread on Faulkner and I'll jump right in.
posted by gordie at 2:11 PM on October 23, 2007


Quite a few mentions of the mayor's interest in thuggish young men in there. It feels like either he likes a bit of rough, or she's trying pretty hard to imply that he does without saying it outright (or both). Especially this: "He keeps a house full of young men, including minors and/or felons, without having the proper foster-parent credentials."
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:21 PM on October 23, 2007


Yep, I was talking about myself, though you can be part of my club of ignorant, poorly-read children, if you'd like. It's not so great, but our silk-screened sweatshirts are awesome.
posted by Marquise at 2:28 PM on October 23, 2007


First, though, Melton showed us his home, his mammoth bedroom, his swimming pool underneath his bedroom (the room is the same length as the pool, he said), his “TV room” with a huge theater screen and 10 gray recliners, his “bat cave” (as Judge Karen Gilfoy used to call his office), his kitchen overflowing with food.

Melton strapped on his bulletproof vest and weapons standing in front of his dresser mirror. A red telephone without a dial—the hotline for murders, he said—sat next to his huge and unmade four-poster bed.


The Awesomest Mayor in America
posted by Curry at 2:58 PM on October 23, 2007


fusinski: The worst mayor in America is Kwame Kilpatrick.

Not the best, but certainly not the worst by a long shot. He's sort of like a young Willie Brown.

He really does stand in stark contrast to the professionalism of Dennis Archer, but Detroit likes a bad boy.
posted by litfit at 3:28 PM on October 23, 2007


This guy would do quite well as the next president of Turkmenistan, I think. Kind of awesome.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 4:05 PM on October 23, 2007


Rowan Oak, pictures from my latest pilgrimage.
posted by ColdChef at 4:26 PM on October 23, 2007


fusinski: The worst mayor in America is Kwame Kilpatrick.

litfit: Not the best, but certainly not the worst by a long shot. He's sort of like a young Willie Brown.

Bah. There is no way Kwame is as smooth and slick as Willie. He's the master of BS and charm. The Kilpatrick lost it after the whistleblower trial show's he's not even in the same league as
Mr. Brown. Willie would smile and invite all the reporters for dancing and drinks after the press conference.

This is the same mayor who promised a underground MUNI linel from Chinatown to SOMA during an election cycle and it would cost, and the sad thing is 4 years after Da'Mayor left there are still little, old Chinese grandmothers waiting at the Stockton tunnel hoping the station will open up before their eggplants spoil.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:03 PM on October 23, 2007


We had the best mayor ever a couple years back, and he's still a member of our city commission.

(our city commission selects a mayor from their number each April to serve for one year; it's really a figurehead position and is used mainly to figure out who will be presiding over the five-member committee. It's the best municipal government structure I've ever lived under.)
posted by maus at 5:55 PM on October 23, 2007


Very interesting article.

Did anyone else know the seemingly scizophrenic way the author used the terms "African American" and "black"? I don't know if it's intentional, and I'm just missing the distinction between them that the author's trying to draw, or whether they just read in some style guide not to use the same term in the same sentence twice.

E.g.: "The African American TV executive from Texas defeated the capital city’s first black mayor in 2004..." and "The lawyers convinced a mostly African American jury that this black mayor was doing what nobody else had done in Jackson..."

Is 'black' a code-word for "poor dark-skinned person" while 'African American' code for 'educated dark-skinned person'?
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:15 PM on October 23, 2007


Good catch!
posted by litfit at 6:26 PM on October 23, 2007


Dad?
posted by mattholomew at 7:36 PM on October 23, 2007


I spent a few days in Jackson, and you can taste the fear in the air, even in the rich neighborhoods.

If he starts pulling some of this crap there, he's going to learn some pretty uncomfortable realities about race, money and political power.
posted by pax digita at 7:41 PM on October 23, 2007


Is 'black' a code-word

No, I think it's just careful writing to avoid using the same primary adjective twice in the same sentence. Without synonyms these sentences would sound clumsy.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:02 PM on October 23, 2007


I thought it was going to be Kwame too. Turns out there's more crazy mayors out there than I'd thought. sigh
posted by andythebean at 8:13 PM on October 23, 2007


fusinski: The worst mayor in America is Kwame Kilpatrick.

I suppose he might be the worst living mayor, now that Coleman A. Young has passed into hallowed memory. Detroit sure can pick 'em.
posted by BinGregory at 8:22 PM on October 23, 2007


Without synonyms these sentences would sound clumsy.

I dunno, a conjunction would be concise and make more sense. Using different adjectives seems to imply a distinction between two different groups of people. No reason to jump to conclusions, but sort of interesting.

And it's clearly impolite to mention a person's race unless it has bearing on the discussion. It usually doesn't.
posted by litfit at 8:25 PM on October 23, 2007


Is 'black' a code-word for "poor dark-skinned person" while 'African American' code for 'educated dark-skinned person'?

If you grep through the article for 'black' and 'african-american', she uses them interchangeably, but not twice in the same sentence. Sometimes the mayor is African American, other times he is black if she's already described someone else as African American.

She's just a shitty writer that would normally mine a thesaurus to build a larger pool of synonyms. Unfortunately for her, all the other synonyms are verboten.
posted by blasdelf at 8:54 PM on October 23, 2007


As soon as I read the headline, I was confident I would be reading about my mayor. I believe everything that the reporter wrote is true. And according to everything I've seen on all of the local news channels, read in the local papers, and heard from various acquaintances, it is probably worse than presented in the article.

I agree with some of the ideas and attitudes against crime that he has but he has a spectacular gift of failure in the execution of those ideas.

One thing I would like to mention is the fact that after Katrina, the city of Jackson doubled in population. It went from about 250k people to an estimated 500k in a matter of a couple of weeks. And I have seen a couple of articles that say that only about 100k of that influx have left. This created a large drain on the local government budget due to those new people using services such as welfare, WIC, unemployment compensation, etc. I'm sure that a lot, if not most, of those people have removed themselves from the gov't tit, so to speak, but the number of people still using these services is still much higher than previously. So it's not as if the city's budget has gone to hell just because Melton is a fucking fruitcake, as is implied in the linked article. But he sure as hell hasn't helped it either.
posted by CuJoe at 8:54 AM on October 24, 2007


The African American TV executive from Texas defeated the capital city’s first black mayor in 2004

It would be funny if one were a "lawyer" and the other an "attorney." That was how Chicago mayoral candidates (1983) Harold Washington and Bernie Epton described themselves, respectively, in the voters' guide.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:36 AM on October 24, 2007


Holy shit. I can't support my thinking, but my first thought was, "only in the South."

As opposed to New York, where you can be a judge without knowing anything about the law?

The word "Southerner" does not imply race or religion.

It doesn't have to for stereotyping to exist. Or do you really think that race and religion are the only bases possible for stereotypes?
posted by oaf at 7:02 PM on October 24, 2007


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