field reports:


curious citizen: Michael McDonald

The building was at first imposing when I walked around the perimeter on my way to the entrance. The dome rose far above where I could comfortably crane my neck to see the golden eagle atop the structure.I was nervous when approaching the front entrance, partly because I was unsure where the entrance was located and what kind of security would await me on the other side. Thankfully, my nervousness was alight as I met a smiling security official at the front desk.

Passing through security I met two lovely women who offered educational materials and directed me to hallways and floors of interest. Roaming the governor portrait galleries, I noticed a few interesting details. Typically, the portraits are around the same width and height; there are a few outliers though. I later learned the size difference corresponds to the popularity of the former governor. In other words, can he fund raise to pay for the painting? Examining paintings like these are illuminating; they show time period based on facial hair, fashion, even pose of the painted figure.

Once I entered the hall for twentieth and twenty first century governors, the poses change to standing and manufactured whereby a capitol or office scene is behind him. I noticed several prominent names: William Sharkey, Benjamin Humphreys, James Alcorn, Henry Whitfield, W.C. Claiborne and Walter Leake. However, the most surprising moment came when I ventured across the infamous governor Ross Barnett, who served only four years. I had always thought his time in office was eight years.

As I wandered from floor to floor I noticed peculiar nods to the past. Many doors included slots for passing letters. Rather than opulent light fixtures, exposed bulbs were common, reminiscent of flashing Broadway theatre signage. Some door frames were quite low at a height of no more than six feet. These were located primarily on the fourth floor.

My final stop was the gallery above the House chamber. For some reason, the scene that flashed before me were newscasts about a proposed bill either debated or voted upon. The representative desks did not seem livable. Scant few contained signs of life like a family picture, jar of candy, or seat cushion. The relatively small room was notable as I pictured them all seated side by side, realizing the totality of their presence was representative of nearly three million Mississippians.


curious citizen: Dorothy Fort

On January 8, 2019, Curious Citizens of Significant Development CEO Daniel Johnson, sponsored a "Capitol See" tour. This tour coincided with the opening day of the 2019 Legislative Session.

Curious Citizens participants were Dorothy Fort, Melvin Priester, Amber Helsel, V. Robinson, and Kiara Cummings. The tour began on the south steps of the Capitol. Daniel provided an introduction, Curious Citizens pins, and the goal of increasing citizens engagement. The group toured the archives, several floors: the House and the Senate. The Capitol was buzzing with opening day activities: a choir, special interests group, and the legislators-some who were very familiar. We were greeted warmly and welcomed by all the staff and members. The House and the Senate staffers provided contact information, lists of names of all the Senators, and Representatives, their counties, their committees, and a schedule of the timetable for processing legislation for 2019.

Parking at the Capitol was a concern which was clarified by Daniel. Parking is available on the parking lot of the First Baptist Church without issue.

This was an informative tour and a very valuable experience. I am now aware that the Capitol provides open access, and I am more familiar with its protocols. The "Capitol See" was most beneficial.


curious citizen: Dylan Tompkins

Today at the Capitol, I learned about the Senate Docket Room and Clerk of the House of Representatives. Both offices handle all the processing of bills in the Senate and House respectively. The Docket Room is located on the 3rd floor East corridor, and the Clerk's office is down the hall on the 3rd floor West corridor.

First, I walked into the Senate Docket Room, and Linda, a receptionist in the Docket Room, and her co-workers greeted me. She was happy to answer any questions I had about the law making processes in the Senate. She even offered me a colorful handout that illustrated how a bill becomes a law.

After leaving the Docket Room, I walked down the hall to the office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives where Gloria greeted me from her desk. I learned that besides processing bills, the Clerk's office is also responsible for getting the bills that are passed by both Houses to the desk of the Governor to be signed into law.

I was curious if the ladies in the office had ever received any interesting calls from the public, since Gloria told me it's part of their job to answer questions from the public. Gloria's co-worker, Lisa, told me that often times people will mistake the Clerk's office for representatives' offices. She said people often call to complain about issues and laws that they don't like. Lisa in turn will ask the callers if they voted in the last election, to which many callers will ironically reply "no."

Overall, it was a fantastic visit. I was apprehensive at the beginning about walking into the two offices. I didn't know if I would be interrupting any official business. However, upon walking by and seeing the "welcome" desks filled with public information sheets in the offices, I was put at ease and reminded that it was ok to be curious and go inside the rooms.


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