Lack of Transportation Could Affect Voter Turnout

In the city of Oxford, concerned citizens are advocating for an increase in bus routes for polling stations. A lack of transportation has often been cited as a major reason why voter turnout is low, according to a report by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.  

Bus routes are pre-approved in January and February for the upcoming fiscal year beginning in October, so the potential bus routes to the polls cannot be met until 2019-2020.

“It’s not happening this year,” Kate Kellum, vice chair of the Pathways Commission, said. “I’ve accepted that.”

Oxford Conference Center is one of the biggest polling stations in Oxford, and Oxford-University Transit currently does not offer a bus route to that location.

“We used to have a route that serviced the Conference Center,” Carol Pringle, Operations Manager for Oxford Transit, said. “It lasted for about a year, but the ridership wasn’t what it needed to be.” 

Kellum and Don Feitel, who is the chair for the Pathways Commission, both stated their concerns with the lack of sidewalks on Sisk Avenue and how Pathways has been trying to improve the access for bikers on that road.

“This issue just highlights the need for increased accessibility for alternative forms of transportation,” Feitel said. “We don’t want to limit access to only people who can afford to drive themselves.”

“I’m hoping to try to get the Transit Commission to include special routes starting the fiscal year ‘19-20,” Kellum said.

 Margaret Sysyn is a member of the Voter Empowerment Project and created a detailed map of bus routes that are in correspondence with the polling stations located around the Oxford community. In addition, she included the polling stations that do not have bus routes to highlight the need for routes in those areas.

“Sure, there’s a handful of polls along the OUT bus routes, but not nearly enough accommodations for those who lack transportation,” Sysyn said.

Sysyn is also concerned with the gap in transportation provisions for those who live in rural areas, as well as those who are elders.

“I wish we could take people to the polls,”  Pringle said. “That would be great.”

Due to regulations, the OUT bus system is not able to directly take voters to the polls. 

“We just want to help the community in any way we can,” Pringle said. “That’s why we open our meetings to the public. We want people to be able to express their concerns so we can do whatever we can.”

The Transit Committee meets on the second Wednesday of each month. Those who have concerns are able to attend the meeting and voice their proposals for new routes.

“When people come into our meetings, we will have the opportunity to look at [the proposal] and see if it’s something we can do,” Pringle said.

Amy Fisher is an Associate Professor for Social Work and has created a community-engagement project called The Voter Empowerment Project, which aims to inform students about the importance of community engagement in all aspects.

“We want our students to learn the skills around community engagement and actions to a better society so that they will understand how important it is to exercise the right to vote,” Fisher said.

Midterm elections are set for Tuesday, November 6. Even with the lack of transportation for those who are unable to drive, other organizations such as Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to the polls.

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Map created by Margaret Sysyn, member of the Voter Empowerment Project.

 

Week 10: Oxford Residents Reflect on Racial Changes

By Kennedy Pope and Abby Vance

Joester Brassell, or better known as “Mama Jo,” still remembers what it is like being looked at differently on the Square. Not only was this normalized in the 1960s, but it is also still prevalent today.

“I do feel like we still have stores on the square that do not welcome black people in their stores,” Mama Jo said. “I guess they think that black people do not have money when my dollar is the same as their dollar.”

Growing up in the 1950s, Mama Jo shares how the stores on the Square were interpreted to her by her parents growing up.

“Neilson’s was there when I was a little girl, but I never went until I was grown,” Mama Jo said. “When your parents tell you not to be on the square, you just do not go.”

Mama Jo said that her mom even gave her a “whoopin’” one day when she went into a store she knew she wasn’t supposed to go in.

”When the older people who owned the stores died, their children went to school with me and inherited the store, things got to where it did not matter if you were black or white,” Mama Jo said.

Mama Jo said that it has been over 20 years since she has been able to go to the Square freely. “However, when I go in a certain boutique on the Square, they look at me real funny and ask if I am paying cash. I respond, ‘No ma’am, I am paying in credit card, thank you.’”

Mama Jo grew up going to Taylor Wing’s Elementary School, which was the segregated school at the time. When she was 12, Mama Jo began attending the integrated school in Lafayette.

“It was hard at first, getting used to new friends,” Mama Jo said.  “Even though some of my friends came with me, it was hard getting used to going to school with new people.”

While she was at Lafayette, Mama Jo remembers when blacks and whites started to date each other and the controversy that followed.

“I remember her momma and daddy tried to kill that black boy because they did not buy that,” Mama Jo said. “They told her she was not allowed to date boys like that.”  

While she was attending school, Mama Jo said that she did receive some opposition from a few students; however, she did have one best friend, Donna, who was white.

“We were two peas in a pod and it did not matter the skin color,” Mama Jo said. “As time went on everyone blended in as one and growing and learning to be friends with each other.”

Mama Jo and her now husband, Bo, have been together off-and-on since preschool. They remember going on dates to “The Cream Cup,” which was located on University Ave. near present-day Walgreens.

“I worked hard to take her out,” Brassell said.

The couple split during Mama Jo’s college years but re-kindled their relationship when she returned and got married in 1980. They have three children and are proud grandparents.

“When my children were growing up, it was if they were normal kids,” Mama Jo said. “My daughter did not care if her classmates were white or black.”

Because she grew up living with her aunt, Mama Jo learned a lot about cooking from her.

“My auntie was a cook at Lafayette Schools, and let me tell you she was a great cook,” Mama Jo said. “She formed me basically into what I am today.”

Mama Jo served as a cook for the Kappa Alpha and the Alpha Omicron Phi from 1985 until 1999. In 2000, Mama Jo started working as a cook in Sky Mart on College Hill until 2008, when the couple opened their own restaurant.

In 2008, Mama Jo and her husband opened Mama Jo’s Country Cookin in Oxford and have had great success.

“Mama Jo’s is the hidden gem of Oxford comfort food,” Matt Lee, accounting major at Ole Miss said. “The lunch platter is the greatest ever.”

Mama Jo’s Country Cookin is a restaurant that serves both black and whites happily, which is still not something that is very often on the Square today.

“God is so good, and He deserves all the praise,” Mama Jo said.

Another Oxford resident, Taylor McGlawn, was born and raised in Oxford and describes his experiences throughout the years.

McGlawn never experienced the integration process at schools since he graduated high school in 1966, which was a different childhood than Joester Brassell.

McGlawn was in high school during the arrival of James Meredith to Ole Miss and remembers this event clearly.

“I remember watching on the television Federal Marshalls escorting James Meredith and Meredith standing on those same steps where Ross Barnett said that no blacks would step on the University as long as he was alive,” McGlawn said.“It was pure chaos from people outside of the Oxford community.”

After James Meredith was admitted to Ole Miss in 1962, it became normalized for African American students to attend Ole Miss. In 1968, McGlawn started attending Ole Miss and graduated in 1971.

“There were only a handful of blacks on campus when I was there, but we were not treated any different,” McGlawn said. “The problem we had at the University was the outsiders.”

McGlawn said that by the time he graduated Ole Miss, the amount of African Americans attending Ole Miss started to grow.

“I don’t remember any bad experiences. Everything was just kinda given,” McGlawn said.

In 1979, just 12 years after interracial marriages became legal, McGlawn married his wife, Sheila, who is white. They had two children.

“Our kids had struggles growing up,” McGlawn said. “But it got better as time went on. Our parents weren’t very accepting of it at first, but over time, they have grown to accept it.”

Even though Oxford has dealt with racism in a different manner than other surrounding towns, the issue was, and still is, prevalent today.

“It’s just as alive today as we speak,” McGlawn said. “If you look around the city, it seems to say, ‘We love everybody,’ but if you go into the banks, government buildings and clothing stores, see how many minorities are there.”

Even though many decades have passed and laws have changed, Oxford has seen a tremendous growth in efforts to alleviate the tension of racism; however, there is still room to grow.

“After almost 40 years, the climate has changed,” McGlawn said.

 

 

Week 10: Pop-Up Project Aims to Reduce Speed

Oxford Pathways Commission discussed recent updates to their “pop-up project” to reduce speed on Gertrude Ford Boulevard, including the installation of bollards and potential crosswalks.

“When Pathways was looking for a location for a pop-up project, we thought Gertrude Ford was perfect since it had a high incidence of pedestrian and motorist interaction,” Don Feitel, Chair of the Pathways Commission, said during the commission’s monthly meeting on Monday.

In April, bollards, which are frequently used to temporarily change traffic patterns, were installed along a 2,063-foot segment of the road. These bollards were placed on what would be the white line for bike lanes to perceptually narrow driving lanes, thus reducing speed.

Before the pop-up project, the 85th percentile showed that the average speed for driving down Gertrude Ford was 43 miles per hour, which is 13 miles over the speed limit. Another study was conducted in August and showed that the 85th percentile decreased to 38 miles per hour.

“This is a huge improvement,” Kate Kellum, vice chair for Pathways Commission, said.

With the addition of this project, Pathways has been able to reduce the average speed by 5 miles per hour without having to make any changes to the road width.

Feitel said that these temporary treatments allow them to test traffic patterns before the city decides to change things, which is usually more permanent and harder to change later.

“What our data shows is that we can affect the speed on the road using simple changes, but that there might be a limit to how much we can calm traffic with those methods alone,” Feitel said.

Because the University is continuing to expand, having these limited-time demonstrations are great ways to ensure safety in bikers, drivers and runners.

“We continue to work with public works to figure out what other changes could be made that would be in the interests of all users,” Feitel said.

Feitel and the rest of the board are currently developing more ways in which Pathways and the city can continue to reduce the speed to its intended speed limit.

“If we want to work on how people get to the crosswalks then we’ll need help from the University,” Feitel said. “If we want to change the road design any more then we’ll need permission from the City.”

Whatever further actions take place, Pathways wants to ensure safety among all of the road’s users.

In addition to the bollards, Feitel said that another issue along Gertrude Ford is the crosswalks.

“For the most part, there are only a few areas along that road that people are encouraged to walk,” Feitel said.

“As a runner, that’s just a really bad intersection. People have learned to avoid that crosswalk,” Meghin Burke, board member, said.

Because Gertrude Ford connects to Jackson Avenue, Pathways doesn’t want to impose on the overflow traffic coming from there.

Another idea Pathways is considering is the addition of a fence or some type of barrier along the road, similar to the one at Nutt Auditorium; however, that would have to be done by the university.

“We are going to explore other ideas that might require help from the University but that we feel will increase the safety for students and others who regularly cross Gertrude Ford,” Feitel said. “It really will take everyone working together to form something that is functional for everyone.”

Pathways Commission will have its next meeting on Monday, November 26 at 5 pm.

Week 9: Cherub, O’Neal to Perform at the Lyric

By Kennedy Pope and Abby Vance

The Nashville electro-indie musical duo known as “Cherub” will travel to Oxford to perform at the Lyric. They will be opened by Denver producer and DJ, Maddy O’Neal. During their 2018 “Free Form” tour, they plan to bring their unique styles together to the Lyric this Thursday night.

Cherub, consisted of Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber, was formed in 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. Kelley was playing for local bands, and Huber was writing what would later become their first album, “Man of the Hour.”  

In 2013, Kelley and Huber released the hit song “Doses and Mimosas,” which attracted the public and later landed them a record deal with Columbia Records. The duo now has 130 million Spotify streams and a gold record. Since then, Kelley and Huber have played all around the world with four U.S. tours, including the famous Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo festival.

Senior marketing major Nicole Sardi works as the Lyric’s marketing intern and has high hopes for the show.

“Cherub always puts on a stellar performance and they love coming back to Oxford,” Sardi said. “I know many students really like their vibe and this is gonna be a hot show to attend.”

Elijah Gaddy, Film and Digital Media major, has been a fan of Cherub for many years and is eager for their arrival to Oxford.

“I have been a fan of Cherub since high school so I am super excited to finally see them live for the first time,” Gaddy said. Many of their songs are nostalgic to me because they hold a lot of good memories of good times growing up, I can not wait to make a few more on Thursday.”

Earlier this year Cherub released four new singles “Want That” directed by the lead singer Jason Huber, “All In,” “Dancing Shoes” and “Body Language.” Their new collection adopts multiple genres while still keeping the vibe their fans love.

Maddy O’Neal, who is also on tour with Cherub, started making music in 2010 and started her solo project two years ago. O’Neal comes from a rock n’ roll family and has a passion for old-school hip-hop. She is using her family background in music to help develop her diverse electronic genre. Her hit single, “Wanna Know,” has 49 thousand views on SoundCloud.

O’Neal has never played in Mississippi but has had musician friends play here and is eager to play in this “new territory.”

“I expect nothing less than the rest of the tour, which has been amazing,” O’Neal said. “The vibes are high.”

The show will start at 9 p.m. on Thursday night at The Lyric Oxford. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $20-$25 and can be purchased online at thelyricoxford.com. IMG_0655.jpeg

Week 8: Small Town Business Owners Offer New Hang-Out Spot

By: Abby Vance and Pierce Morrison

Water Valley, Miss. –  On Saturday, October 6, Water Valley welcomed its newest business, The Humble Bee Cafe, to Main Street.

The Humble Bee Cafe serves a variety of coffees, teas, pastries and fresh-to-order beignets.

Sarah Stone and Maggie Richardson opened the cafe this past Saturday as mother/daughter partners and are hopeful the community responds the way they have envisioned.

“We can do just about anything Starbucks can,” co-owner Maggie Richardson said. “I can do hot, cold, frappucinos, lattes, anything.”

“I’ve always wanted to start my own business,” Stone said. “And at my age I finally decided to trust my instinct.”

Richardson lives in the upstairs apartment above the cafe and is currently their only worker. She was an Ole Miss student but withdrew for the semester to open up the coffee shop.

“When we opened, we opened with the mindset of wanting people to come hang out, like they do at Starbucks and other coffee shops in Oxford,” Richardson said. “We don’t have one of those in Water Valley, and the places in Oxford can be really loud.”

Water Vally resident Grant Thompson is hopeful that the coffee shop will be prosperous.

“With Water Valley, it’s all about location,” Thompson said. “If they make the right business moves, they will do just fine.”

Other members of the Water Valley community are supportive. Robert Turnage and his wife, Monica, own Turnage Drug Store right down from The Humble Bee Cafe and are eager and hopeful for the business’ success.

“This will be the third coffee shop in the past year or so,” Thompson said.

Heartbreak Coffee and Downtown Inn were both coffee shops located on Main Street but closed.

The previous shop was strictly a coffee shop, and then Richardson and her mother bought the building from the previous owners.

“This opportunity came up and it was absolutely perfect and fit exactly what we wanted,” Stone said. “We wanted a place for my daughter to live because if we bought the business then we would have to sell her house.”

Stone understands that with this type of business, there can be slow seasons; however, Stone and Richardson are prepared and want to keep their focus on coffee.

“We don’t want to have to change and we’re keeping from doing that by having the two rooms in the back,” Stone said. “So by renting out the two rooms in the back, we are able to offset any slow seasons in the coffee world.”

In addition to the coffee shop, they also have two bedrooms available for rent in the back of the cafe. Following the success of their first weekend, they are booked until the first week of November.

“We want this to become a place between work and home,” Richardson said.

“Coffee is a community thing,” Stone said. There are so many conversations that happen over a simple cup of coffee. We wanted to give a place that was nice and relaxing, so that people could have those conversation.”

The Humble Bee Cafe is located at 405 N Main Street and open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m-4 p.m.

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The Humble Bee Cafe offers coffee, tea, seasonal beverages and fresh pastries. Photo by Abby Vance.

Week 7: Dockless electric scooters could be the next transportation method for Ole Miss students

By Abby Vance and Kennedy Pope

 

With a growing demand for carless transportation options on crowded college campuses, dockless electric scooter companies like Bird and Lime are vying for more buy-in from universities. Founded last year in California, Bird and Lime are now partnered with 47 universities across the United States.

Mike Harris, Director of Parking and Transportation at Ole Miss, said that he has been researching the potential benefits of using electric scooters on campus for nearly eight months now.

“They wouldn’t come to campus until they’ve gone through the proper channels,” Harris said. “There’s a process it needs to go through before we say ‘Let’s do this.’”

Harris also stated that although there are many benefits from Lime and Bird, there are also concerns.

“To me, ADA is at the forefront of my thought pattern,” Harris said, “because the last thing I want is for a scooter to be blocking the sidewalk for ADA students.”

Located roughly 80 miles north of Oxford, the University of Memphis partnered with Bird in August of this year. The University was the first university in the country to partner with the company. The Daily News in Memphis stated that for them, it is all about student success.

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Photo Courtesy of bird.co
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Photo Courtesy of li.me.com 

“Bird is another affordable transportation option for students to get to campus and back to the community they call home,” stated Ted Townsend of the University of Memphis.

Similar to the riding companies Lyft and Uber, Lime and Bird are app-based services that can range from $3 to $20 via the app. The former executive of Lyft and Uber Travis VanderZanden founded the dockless scooter company Bird. Since then, Bird has launched in over 50 cities and partnered with 20 schools throughout the United States.

Expected to be the fastest growing companies to reach the valuation of one billion dollars, they are potentially detrimental effects that can come when riding these electric scooters. Within the past two months, there have been multiple injuries, including two deaths, related to riding the electric scooters.

In an article from The Washington Post regarding a death from a Lime user, the victim “was dragged about 20 yards, according to a witness,” and was pinned under the SUV he collided with. The Post stated that “a shoe and a pair of headphones were left in the roadway. Firefighters had to extricate the man from underneath the SUV.”

Ole Miss broadcast journalism student DeAndria Turner thinks that these scooters could be beneficial to the University, but she is also concerned if they will decrease physical activity among college students.

“I think they’re innovative, especially for people who don’t wanna walk,” Turner said. “I would like to see statistics on the health rate to see if it makes people more obese or more active.”

Heather Gilley, a resident of Oxford, believes that introducing Lime or Bird to Oxford could yield great results in both the University and the community as a whole.

“As far as you have to drive across campus, I think hopping on one of the scooters would be awesome,” Gilley said.

Travis VanderZanden, CEO and founder of Bird is hopeful that this form of transportation will eliminate the gap of students seeking transportation so that they can focus on what they are on campus for, and that’s education.  

As for the University of Mississippi, Mike Harris believes that conversations need to start among different organizations and committees across campus if this is something we want to do.

“A lot of conversations must be vetted to make the decision of whether we do it or don’t do it,” Harris said.

Pathways Commission discusses intersection changes in Oxford

By: Abby Vance

On Monday, September 24, the Pathways Commission Board held it’s monthly meeting at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

Pathways Commission goal is to assist in the transportation opportunities in Oxford by utilizing bike lanes, sidewalks and pathways. More information about their goals and projects can be found on their homepage.

As with any local government meeting, this meeting began with the approval of the agenda as well as the approval of the minutes from August’s meeting.

In attendance at this meeting was Chairman Don Feitel, Secretary Roger Kuhnle, Greg Surbeck, Michael Worthy and Vice Chairman Kate Kellum.

One proposed project is the addition of either a signaling light or a roundabout at the intersection of McElroy Drive and College Hill Road.

“An argument could probably be made for either one,” Chair Don Feitel said.

Feitel also added, “I think the city is leaning more toward the roundabout there just in terms of long-term maintenance and functionality.”

Though there are advantages and disadvantages of utilizing either the roundabout or the signal, the city of Oxford is still considering all options to ensure that the best and most efficient method is installed; however, the city is in favor of the roundabout.

“A study was shown that in the morning, a signal would be better,” Vice Chair Kate Kellum, said. “But in the afternoon, the roundabout would be better.”

This potential installment would be right across from Lost Pizza Co., which opened last fall and has brought in more revenue and traffic to the area.

Feitel stated that “The developer of Lost Pizza is still on the project.”

Lost Pizza Co. employee Rachel McKellar is also in agreement with Feitel that both the roundabout and signal would be efficient.

“I think there’s always so much traffic around 5 p.m. that a roundabout would be more efficient,” McKellar said.

McKellar also stated, “But I also see both sides. A signal would be safer, but roundabouts are faster, and speed is definitely an issue.”

The city is still in the birthing stages of finalizing which installment will be the most effective for surrounding residents and transportation users as a whole.

Pathways Commission will hold its next meeting on October 22 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.