Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bill Billingsley states his position on Oxford House

State Senate Republican Candidate Bill Billingsley submitted this statement to Jackson Jambalaya:


Billingsley Position on Oxford House

Many people have asked me how I feel about this controversial issue, and I have been forthcoming with them all. Not a single question has been avoided, and not a single person has walked away without knowing exactly how I feel. Some chosen to ask anonymously on a popular local blog, and I have chosen not to respond simply because the issue is too important and my position too detailed to adequately state it in a blog post. Additionally, that particular blog allows readers to post anonymously, and it’s easy to be impolite when nobody knows who you are. I prefer to discuss the issues with people who don’t mind telling me their names.

This is an important issue to all Mississippians, whether they’re recovering addicts in search of a safe place to continue their sobriety or people who simply want to keep their neighborhoods safe and their property values steady. That said, there are multiple aspects to this issue, and all must be considered in forming a position on the future of government supervised sober living homes in Mississippi.

First, I agree with the neighbors in northeast Jackson who want the Oxford Houses relocated. However, short of a change in the Fair Housing Act that would remove the exemption from local zoning regulations, I don’t see a way within the law to force this action. Even if the Oxford House residents weren’t exempt from the city of Jackson’s current zoning regulations, the homes would still legal as long as they housed four or fewer unrelated adult residents. I believe there’s a business solution to this problem if all the interested parties are willing, and I will be happy to act as an intermediary to move the process along, but the law is the law and it should be followed.

I also believe strongly in personal property rights. I think real estate owners should be able to do whatever they want with their property as long as they act within the law and any legal covenants of the property. I think restrictions within homeowners association agreements that are within the law and agreed upon in advance by the residents should also be followed, but neighbors should not be able to dictate conditions outside those agreements to other neighbors. Further, I believe that anyone who is legally living in a house should be able to enjoy it without purposeful neighborhood interference. The free market provides numerous ways to settle neighborhood disputes, and contracts between willing participants should be honored.

Next, I think the concept of sober living homes needs to be reexamined in light of the Oxford House developments. In all the excitement about their locations no one has asked about their effectiveness, and that should be the most important factor in determining their future in Mississippi. I have family experience with addiction, as many of you doubtless do, and I feel like we need to help – or at least try not to hurt - these people who are trying to recover and get their lives back on track. The DMH plan for the Oxford Houses from the beginning was to evaluate the program to see if it was effective, and I think they should continue to do that without legislative interference. The legislature appropriates money and sets the budget, and the DMH budget that included the Oxford House federal grant money has been approved by the legislature every year since they opened their first house on the coast in January of 2013. Once the budget is approved, the DMH experts are the ones who should be making operational decisions on the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction, and sober living programs are properly included under the purview of the department. They may decide to continue the program as is or they may scrap it altogether and leave the recovering addicts to fend for themselves, but I am confident in their qualifications and prepared to support their decision in the State Senate. I am absolutely against abolishing the state Board of Mental Health and placing the DMH under the Governor’s office unless there are multiple other significant reasons to take such extreme action. I think the Department of Mental Health is doing a good job, and it’s short sighted to consider reorganizing the entire department because of a house at 2230 Northside Drive.

I believe homeowners in the area have been hurt by the publicity that has arisen from this issue, and that publicity didn’t start until Senator Longwitz entered the battle. Councilman Foote has been working with the city on the zoning issues on the Oxford House on Forest Park for some time before the first of April, and not a single story had been reported in the Clarion Ledger or other print media, and no news stories had been featured on local television or radio programs. At this point it was a neighborhood issue that was being handled quietly, and I would have followed Councilman Foote’s lead and tried to work privately for as long as possible in order to protect my constituents from the negative effects of the unfavorable publicity. I think it was a mistake to force the participants – the owners of the houses, the recovering addicts, the concerned neighbors, the Department of Mental Health, and Oxford House corporate – to take such public and adversarial positions before private efforts had been exhausted. The media coverage might have eventually happened, but I think more of an effort should have been made to reach a solution before purposely fighting the battle in the media. This was clearly the Senator’s choice, since he made multiple posts to his Facebook page before his first meeting with the Director of the Department of Mental Health. It’s been my experience that public disagreements, especially when egos like these are involved, tend to harden everyone’s stance and make negotiation more difficult, and I think a business solution might have been possible had the negotiations taken place in private. I realize I have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, but as a businessman I believe private negotiation produces better results than public confrontation.

I am grateful that Senator Longwitz has responded to his constituents, as he should have and as I will if elected in August, and is helping them try to resolve a difficult issue. However, his constituents – one of whom is me – deserve an explanation of his April 2 statement that he had known about the Oxford House situation “for several months” before he contacted anyone at the Department of Mental Health to ask questions or see if he could find a solution. The legislature was in session when he made his first public statement, and - depending on what he meant by “several months” - his knowledge could have preceded the legislature convening on January 2. At that point had I been your State Senator I would have sought out the Department of Mental Health director to at least try to gather more information and possibly find a solution that might have prevented the house at 2230 Northside Drive from opening. We also deserve to know how he came by the private letter that was sent by the Governor to the Diana Mikula, the DMH director, and the Board of Mental Health members, and whether he had the Governor’s permission to release it to the public, further evidence that it was his choice to make this a public battle regardless of the negative impact the publicity might have on the neighborhood. Further, he continued in his April 2 statement by making the claim that “many of these recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are also sex offenders.” In fact, had he checked with the DMH at any point in his research – which, by his own admission he had ample time to do - he would have found that not a single sex offender has ever lived in an Oxford House in Mississippi. His blatantly false accusation, made without any effort to seek the facts, served only to promote fear among the people in the neighborhood and was hurtful to the many recovering addicts and their family members who struggle to maintain their sobriety. I am a plain spoken man with no patience for double speak. While you may not always like what I say, you will be able to depend on it being the truth.

In closing, I am pleased at the polite and encouraging reception so many of you have given me when I have appeared on your porch. I have learned much about northeast Jackson in my neighborhood walks. I have seen beautiful homes, wonderful old tree lined streets, great schools and plenty to make every resident proud. Unfortunately, I have seen other things – pot holes, security fencing, double locks, above ground sewage pipes – that need to be fixed, and I promise to work in the Senate to try to find a way to help the city of Jackson to make the much needed repairs to its infrastructure and assist in stopping the crime that seems to have expanded well into your community. The state capital belongs to all of us, and we all need to do our part to help solve its problems. The citizens of northeast Jackson and throughout District 25 will be able to count on my support in the Senate, and I will work tirelessly to protect their interests.

As always, I’m available to discuss this further or answer any questions, and can be reached on my cell phone at 601-940-9954.

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112 comments:

Anonymous said...

A terrible job of damage control Bill.

bill said...

Sorry you feel that way, 7:27. I don't see it as damage control. I have heard for weeks that the people who read JJ wanted to hear from me, so here it is. I'll answer any questions any of you have. Bill

Anonymous said...

Horrible. Sad. Desperate. Words really fail. Why don't you come back to my door in Jackson so I can tell you how many people I'm going to personally take to the polls to defeat you.

bill said...

I'll be happy to. What's your address? Bill

Anonymous said...

At least it would give you an opportunity to meet me and learn a little about me. Most people who have done that don't regret it. Bill

Anonymous said...

The heck with Oxford House. Position on the state flag? You want to be in the Senate and they will probably have to revisit that issue very quickly.

Anonymous said...

Typical politician trying to make both parties happy by being a "negotiator". Some advice Bill, be a man and take a position, no one has respect for someone who tries to be be middle of the road. Your interest should be in your taxpaying constituents, not an out of state organization.

Anonymous said...

It takes you that many words to say "I support Oxford House"?? I'm not sending you to the Capitol. You would join your pal McDaniel in the band of 3 or 4 people who talk all the time and have nothing to show for it.

Anonymous said...

BB position in a nutshell - yada yada yada...I support OH and MDMH.

Yes Bill, you have seen double locks, security cameras, walls, and security fencing as you walk NEJ. We have no choice and having an UNSUPERVISED, UNREGULATED, boarding house in our neighborhood makes us even more fearful. One block from that house a man in RELAPSE bludgeoned his girlfriend to death in 2007. Here is the WLBT report if you have forgotten; http://www.msnewsnow.com/story/7062390/man-jailed-for-girlfriends-death-after-standoff

The level of double speak in your position in incredible. For heavens sake...if you are an OH fan and supporter of MDMH just say so.

How would the nursing home industry work if we had no oversight? We know, it had none for years and it was a mess. Thank goodness the industry is regulated now as should be any industry that purports to help, care, provide, or house those that cannot care for themselves without outside assistance, i.e., OH.

OH is a self licking ice cream cone - no outside inspections,reports, or oversight - just their internal numbers and cheer-leading. Is it so wrong that we should expect just a modicum of fair play from MDMH? They are so in the tank with OH it is scary. And apparently you don't have a problem with that.

Anonymous said...

Where do you stand on the State flag, Bill?

Anonymous said...

Bill, I appreciate your taking the time to post your positions. Can you let us know where you got your information regarding the criminal backgrounds of the 400 plus individuals who have resided in the Oxford Houses located in Mississippi since 2013? You state as a "fact" that "not a single sex offender has ever lived in an Oxford House in Mississippi." I am not saying you are incorrect, I am just wondering why you are so confident that you know this as a fact. I do not believe that DMH even knows the identities of the residents, so they cannot have performed a background check. And, Oxford House Inc. has publicly stated that they have done no criminal background checks on any residents in Mississippi. Again, please do not confuse this question with an assertion that there are or have been sex offenders living in an Oxford House. I am just wanting to know the source of your information and confidence. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I get it. I get you're pro Oxford House and don't care what happens to people in Northeast Jackson. Please don't come to my house anymore. Just go to 2230 E. Northside Drive... There are at least 3 vacancies there.

Noah S. Sweat said...

My friends, I had not intended to discuss the controversial issue of Oxford Houses at this time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, or several stands, if the situation requires. You have asked me how I feel about Oxford Houses. All right, this is how I feel about Oxford Houses.

If when you say Oxford Houses, you refer to those dens of iniquity, those flop houses for dope fiends and criminals, operated by conniving slum lords; if you mean those hovels that game the system of federal laws to enrich privileged little shits at the expense of neighbors and neighborliness, then I am certainly against them.

But, if when you say Oxford Houses, you refer to those bastions of Christian charity that help poor souls bedeviled by addiction; if you mean those exemplars of free market capitalism and self-determination that enterprising young families rely on to establish themselves in the world; why then I am certainly in favor of them.

In sum, as a business man with magical business powers to create business solutions to business problems even where one business side has exactly zero business incentive to compromise with the other --business, business, business-- let me say that this is my stand. I will not negotiate it, and I will not compromise.

Anonymous said...

Bill, you took 1,583 words to say...I support OH and MDMH.

bill said...

Not the case at all, 8:26. As I clearly say in the statement, I am in favor of finding a way to relocate the existing residents and reexamining the program to see how it can work better for everyone. I will work hard to represent the people of northeast Jackson. Bill

Anonymous said...

There are people in the neighborhood who are disappointed this was used as a media event and not resolved as a private neighborhood matter. They feel this has made them more vulnerable as a neighborhood and that the public scrutiny has hurt their home value more than the OH. Obviously, they question the motives to turn this in to a public forum. In addition, there are neighbors who have had loved ones addicted to drugs and alcohol and they feel compassion for those attempting to straighten out their lives.

bill said...

8:34, I admit it took a while to completely explain where I stand, and you're half right - I support the work that MDMH has done and is doing. The Oxford Houses are just a small piece of it. Bill

Anonymous said...

This guy is all over the place. Make them relocate. They should be able to rent to whomever.
Scrap OH. Let MDH give it more time.
How can Longwitz know if there were any sex offenders. But this guy knows there aren't.

How does he know? OH said they don't ask, and so how exactly can he say this?

Anonymous said...

Dear Candidate Quisling,

We KNOW what you are, now. Thanks for making that clear.

Anonymous said...

Billingsly and Longwitz.

Where do each of you stand on the State flag? That's a deciding factor for me. I feel you'll both do all you can to make your constituents happy when things like oxford house come up.

Where does each of you stand on the State flag?

bill said...

Not sure where you all are seeing me say I'm such a staunch supporter of Oxford House. I have explained that's not the case. I said the program needed to be reexamined. I'm not qualified to make a judgement on the Oxford House program, and unless you're a professional in the treatment business, neither are you. I'd like to see them out of your neighborhood as much as you would. Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill, it does not take a "professional mental health expert" to pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.

bill said...

8:26, thanks for your post and question. I got my information from the public reports and answers to questions that have been posted here, along with other publicly available information from DMH. No, there were no background checks and the people who applied for residence at the Oxford Houses had to be taken at their word. I should have clarified that, but there's no evidence to support the notion that sex offenders have ever lived in a Mississippi Oxford House. Bill

Anonymous said...

Noah S. Sweat, for those of us who are students of Mississippi history you are the hands down winner of comments on this blog tonight. Outstanding and I am crying laughing as are the other two people I just read this post to. For those of you not familiar with the famous Whiskey Speech - look it up. He nailed it.

Anonymous said...

Extremely thoughtful and straight forward discussion of the "Oxford House" controversy. The current State Senator has employed half truths and some outright misinformation to inflame residents. It is shameful to resort to these type tactics.

bill said...

8:17, no one has forgotten about Heather Spencer, and we all should be worried that an addict could relapse and do the same thing. I'm not sure how DMH or any other state agency could have prevented it, though. As far as state oversight of nursing homes is concerned, I completely agree with you, but the Oxford House isn't a licensed treatment facility. Are you suggesting that the state should provide oversight for private citizens who are trying to recover from addiction in their homes? Bill

Anonymous said...

You dolt. This is a multistate corporation with years of experience running over weak morons like you. These are not horses you alternately whisper to and strike until you have them subdued. Please, please stop your little retirement hobby you're playing at my expense. It scares me that the incumbent could die tomorrow and I could be stuck with your bloviating delusions.

bill said...

8:31, you win best post of the night! Bill

bill said...

I'll be glad to talk about the flag at another time. Tonight let's please stick to questions and comments about Oxford House. Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill - when OH took taxpayer money and MDMH acted as the funding agency, they opened themselves to the same questions that should be asked of ANY taxpayer funded operation, no matter how small the amount of money they take. And MDMH refuses to answer questions or take responsibility.

When you take the king's coin you owe the king an explanation. If they had not taken public funds there would be no discussion.

bill said...

9:04, I neither whisper nor strike the horses. In fact, I don't do much directly with them - that's more my wife's talent. I appreciate the remainder of your commentary, though, if for no other reason than to enlighten the other readers as to the new words they can learn. Bill

bill said...

And unless you've donated to my campaign, which I'm betting you haven't, I'm not doing anything at your expense. Bill

bill said...

For the ones who want me to skip your house when I'm walking in the neighborhood, just shoot me your address and I'll be sure to honor your request. My cell is 601-940-9954. Thanks. Bill

Anonymous said...

Stick with nursing homes - you will be happier and so will we.

bill said...

9:13, I agree that any public funding being used, state or federal, opens them up to scrutiny, but I thought the correspondence back and forth between Senator Longwitz and the DMH, along with a letter from Oxford House corporate, addressed a lot of the questions. I think that if the DMH decides to continue the program that they will certainly be open to questions from the public, which should be promptly addressed. Conversely, it will be difficult to regulate them if no taxpayer dollars are used on future sober living homes. Bill

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you work for the DMH. Maybe you should go work there. You are carrying their water so well they might be glad to have you.

Anonymous said...

"... before private efforts had been exhausted."?

Like the "private efforts" by the "experts" you trust at MDMH and OHI that covertly shoves these Oxford Houses down the throats of unsuspecting neighborhoods? Those sort of "private efforts"?

"...tend to harden everyone’s stance and make negotiation more difficult, ..."

Negotiations? You've got to be kidding. Negotiations? After the fact? After an OH has been surreptitiously foisted upon others? Negotiations then? Only a fool and someone totally ignorant of OHI's nationwide modus would be that naive.

Billingsley the residents of Mikula's Belle Terre wouldn't tolerate an OH, neither would the residents of Avery's Sherbourne. I sincerely doubt you would treat them with the disdain you are treating NE Jackson.

Anonymous said...

Bill, I don't want to be too hard on you here, but here is how I feel. Are politicians' ACTIONS motivated by politics - of course they are. Are politicians' WORDS motivated by politics - of course they are. But here is the difference. Longwitz has been taking ACTION, and you have only written WORDS - and very late in the game, I might add. In your post you state "I agree with the neighbors in northeast Jackson who want the Oxford Houses relocated." If you believe that, what concrete ACTION have you taken to get that accomplished? I don't need you to believe it - I need you to do something about it! I don't care what leaders SAY, I care what they DO. (And please don't respond that you will take action when/if elected.) You have criticized Longwitz's tactics and questioned his motives, but at least he is TAKING ACTION. I much prefer a leader who may make a tactical mistake but at least TAKES ACTION! Citizens crave action from their leaders and would-be leaders. The publicity that Longwitz has brought to this issue through his public actions has not hurt us. Would-be leaders quietly/privately agreeing with us but taking no action - that is what has hurt us.

Anonymous said...

How can you say Mental Health is "open to questions"??? Have you not read this Watchdog.org article?? IT'S LITERALLY IN THE TITLE:

"Resident has concerns, but Mississippi Board of Mental Health doesn’t want to hear about them"
By: Steve Wilson

Here's the link if you could please have somebody read the piece to you: http://m.watchdog.org/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwatchdog.org%2Fcategory%2Fmississippi%2F&utm_referrer=#2729

You are blind and unqualified for any serious position if you are willing to be led on by the wastrels at MDMH.

bill said...

9:29, I'm retired. I'd like to go to work for you, though. Bill

Anonymous said...

You know what? You never see Bill Billingsley and Bill Denny in the same place at the same time.... Think about it....you know Denny can't still be with us. I think BB ate BD's heart.

Kingfish said...

Some of you need to learn some manners. The candidate came on here and stated his position. He has been responding to your questions about this issue. Have any of you bothered to say thank you? Nope. Just treat him like a damn dog. No wonder people don't want to run for office. Some of you think it gives you a license to rain fire on them whenever you're hiding behind a computer screen. Both candidates have made themselves accessible in this race and I can assure you that is the exception and not the rule in most races. But then, some of you are so miserable that you like to bash 13 year olds from Mississisppi who get published in the New York Times or tear down schools that are named top 20 nationwide.

bill said...

9:30, from everything I have read and heard about what happened, I believe there was room for negotiation before everything hit the media. I think some of the anger on all sides prevented it initially, but I think things might have cooled to the point that talks could have been reopened if the publicity hadn't painted all the parties into their respective corners. I could be completely wrong - I wasn't there - but that's my opinion, and I would always try to talk to the other side privately before I started talking in public.

For what it's worth, the house next door to mine is available. It might be too expensive for you to make a lot of money on the rent they pay, but buy it and put an Oxford House in it and I'll bring them a welcome gift. As I said in my statement, I have family experience with this and I feel for anyone trying to beat addiction. Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill, KF says we need to say thank you...ok, thank you.

bill said...

9:31, I appreciate your comment and completely agree. I wish I had standing to become directly involved with this, but I'm not a State Senator, not a part of Oxford House, not an employee of DMH, and not even a resident of Hinds County, never mind the affected neighborhood. In my case the only action I could have taken would have been to improperly insert myself into a situation where I wasn't invited and had no business. I suppose I could have made inquiries with DMH the same as any private citizen can do, but that was already covered by our State Senator. I'm not sure what action you think I could have taken.

As I said in the statement, I think at least a courtesy call from Senator Longwitz to the DMH could have been made before the controversy hit the media. I know when you're up against roadblock after roadblock you sometimes have to take the fight to the public, but I don't believe that was the case with this issue. Bill

bill said...

9:34, I'm not blind nor am I being led on by anybody. I can read, and the reports of the last monthly meeting are clear - the lady who wanted to speak wasn't properly on the agenda. Me, I'd have let her talk, but while I'm sure the Chairman has some latitude, the rules for speaking before the board are available and clear, and it would have saved her a trip if she'd just followed them. Bill

bill said...

You're welcome, 9:53. Bill

Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing up but you've not done your homework and you're damn late.

We know more than you do. You've obviously bought Mikula and Avery's BS. Blaming media coverage for entrenchment is simply a categorically false assertion. Molloy doesn't negotiate and there is a reason why they use stealth to insert these houses. Nowhere in your statement do you condemn the tactic and subterfuge. You're misguided, or you've been duped, to believe there was ever going to be any "talks" or reconsideration.

bill said...

9:20, I've never worked in a nursing home in my life, and other than visiting relatives who are in them, I don't know anything about them. My experience is in hospitals and home health care. Bill

Anonymous said...

So one minute you say DMH is being open and transparent and the next minute you say it is ok that the Board wouldn't let the lady speak? Even though they let several Oxford House people speak last month for over an hour who weren't on the agenda?
Who is it you want to work for? The voters, or the DMH, or Oxford House? You can't have it every which way. Option #2 and #3 maybe you can have. It seems like the poeple at DMH do work for Oxford House.

bill said...

8:47, I think you're being a little melodramatic with the Quisling reference, at least I hope you are. I have no desire to end up on the wrong end of a firing squad. Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill - having an OH in our neighborhood is a very sensitive subject. Their management and MDMH officials have belittled our concerns and disparaged our residents. You don't live here so you really cannot say how you would feel - you may sympathize, but you cannot empathize. Senator Longwitz does not live here either, but he has made a true effort to help the people he was elected to represent. Rare in a politician, perhaps that is why we are so supportive of him. You drew a bad hand in terms of when the election is held. I wish you well as a fellow Republican but you have real hill to climb.

Anonymous said...

Bill, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to be with us tonight. I have a lot of respect for you. Thank you for your military service and charity toward animals. However, as I understand you were once a big supporter of Will. Why did you decide to run against him?

Anonymous said...

Bill - I fundamentally disagree with you on OH and therefore will not vote for you, but I do applaud your willingness to take the heat tonight. Not a town hall, but about as good as we will get before the election.

Thank you KF for allowing this exchange.

bill said...

10:14, I understand and agree that I haven't walked a mile in your shoes. I also agree that Senator Longwitz has responded to his constituents, which is his job and one that I would do just as enthusiastically. He definitely enjoys the incumbent advantage, and its one I'm working hard to overcome. As I said in an earlier post, I don't have any standing to be involved in this issue other than to state my position and pledge to continue to work on behalf of my constituents if I'm elected. I haven't seen the evidence that DMH has belittled your concerns or disparaged your residence, but I promise you I'll do neither of those things, now or later. This is a serious issue that deserves serious action. Bill

Robert P. Wise said...

Bill: I live one door from the NSide OH so I know the history. You say that Will should have approached MDH privately first. He did! The first thing Will did before any public statement was to set up a meeting for the neighbors with MDMH. I know. I was there. But it became clear in the meeting that the MDMH Staff were OH devotees who felt no need to do anything substantive to help us. They were committed to OH as the decision they had made.

I later learned that the Staffers making the decisions for us all live outside in the burbs, well insulated from the consequences of their decisions. So the easy thing for them is just to defend what they did by inviting OH to North Side Drive. After all, the Staff does not have to actually live with the issues they unleashed on the rest of us, Their children are safe and sound in the burbs. They do not care.

The persons who care are Will, Phil and Delbert. I think Will and the Governor have at least slowed down the recruiting from the prisons. I think Will and Phil have kept the situation from getting worse. MDMH at least knows we neighbors and Wll 'n Phil and Delbert are watching closely, demanding answers, and will respond.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill for your point of view. You have to be crazy to come on here and subject yourself to 30 posts from the Longwitz house. It is unrealistic to ask you why didn't you do anything? You are not an elected legislator. It never fails, I never ceased to be amazed at the level of blatant idiocy by some that post on here. Kingfish you are a saint and have the patience of Job to regulate this mess. Good night now.

bill said...

10:07, you might be right, and you may well know more than I do, but I've done the best I can with the information I have to formulate a position. I am late to the game in your eyes, but there are a number of people who have asked me about this issue who will tell you that I have given them essentially the same answer I posted here tonight, some of them weeks ago. I chose to do it privately, in one on one conversations with people who were interested enough to ask me. I gave you my opinion about the media coverage and you disagreed. That doesn't make it false for either of us. I have never met Mr. Molloy or anyone else at the Oxford House corporate office, but I know he has a reputation for being unwilling to compromise. I don't know that about other interested parties in this transaction. I haven't condemned the tactic because I'm not qualified to do that, but the people I've talked to who are professionals in the treatment community tell me that it's a sound model that works for a lot of recovering addicts and alcoholics. I don't believe I've been duped by anyone. Still, right or wrong, you know my position, and that was the purpose of this post tonight. Bill

bill said...

10:11, if you'll read my post again you'll see that I said I would have let the lady talk. She didn't notify them ahead of time so she didn't get to speak.

I have no desire to go to work for DMH or Oxford House, but I would welcome the opportunity to work for you and the rest of the citizens of District 25, including the ones who are trying to recover from addiction, either in an Oxford House or not. Bill

Anonymous said...

No,, Bill. I have read all the 10,000 words of yours above, and I can't quite make out your position on OH. hat is it?So I can understand, what is it?

bill said...

Robert, thanks for your thoughtful post, and I enjoyed meeting you and your wife the other night at Mike's event.

Senator Longwitz made his first Facebook post on April 2, and posted on April 3 that he had set up a meeting with DMH. It was my understanding that the meeting didn't occur until April 6, after the inflammatory public comments had already been made. I may have been misinformed as to the date of the meeting, and if so I stand corrected and apologize for my error. It's also my understanding from reading Mr. Rowzee's letter and following the issue through the media and other publicly available information that the DMH's priority is in the recovery of the addicts, not the success of Oxford House, although the argument could be made that one begets the other. The reason that Oxford House was contracted in the first place to oversee these programs was that the DMH believed them to be the best qualified. Although I have suggested that they revisit this in their evaluation of the program, I support their decision and stand by them.

Yes, it's true that the decision makers at DMH live outside northeast Jackson, but I'm sure you see that they can't live in every neighborhood that their decisions might affect. They have to do the best they can and can only live in one place at a time. While I certainly can't speak for them, I'm guessing that they now understand your concerns and will consider them in future decisions.

I agree that Senator Longwitz, Governor Bryant and Secretary Hosemann have been supportive of your efforts, but it's unfair to presume that would not have acted just as quickly had I been your State Senator. In fact, had I had the knowledge of the Oxford House when Senator Longwitz claims he had it - several months prior to his April 2 Facebook post - I would have been working in the State Senate to see if I could find a legislative solution, or at least make sure the right questions were asked during the budget process, to try and prevent the house at 2230 Northside Drive from ever opening. I'm not sure what could have been done, given the federal protections the residents enjoy, but I would have tried to do something.

Thanks again for your input, and I'd love to visit with you personally about this and any other issue that concerns you in this election. Bill

bill said...

10:59, maybe it would work better for me to explain it to you face to face. Coffee sometime? Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill - think back to your days as a young platoon leader. Would you take 7 soldiers, all with alcohol and drug issues, all with Article 15s and some with Leavenworth time served and put them in a barracks with no supervision or oversight? No CQ or an occasional visit by the SDO? And only two latrine stalls for seven men? That is the OH model. Throw them all together and they make their own house rules. Oh boy.

bill said...

Okay, it's time for me to call it a night. We old guys need our rest. I have a breakfast meeting tomorrow morning but will check back in after it's over to resume the discussion. Thanks for the posts so far and I hope we can continue tomorrow. Bill

Anonymous said...

@Robert Wise, as you may have seen, DMH had a media timeline they presented to the group in meridian. It clearly showed Longwitz posted to Facebook very derogatory comments And untruths before he even asked DMH the first question. A responsible leader does not attack and make public statements like that. That along with the fake web site and non existent admin that was created for the sole purpose to praise Longwitz and to win over people who are sympathetic to those in recovery. Shine the light on OH or whatever it's called, claiming to be administered by a person in recovery that wants to get rid of OH. Seriously? Amazing how ad agencies think they can fool the masses with nice facebook pages and staged media opportunities. We are like sheep being led to slaughter.

Leave the flag alone said...

Gotta love Jackson Jambalaya. Bill, you go up a notch in my book just for subjecting yourself to this.

Anonymous said...

Bill,
Sorry to break this to you 5weeksbefore the election: you don't get to say nitey-nite. Being a legislator means bring on call at all hours, for anything. I'm sorry you didn't think this through.

Anonymous said...

11:29 - hellooooooo MDH!!!!!! Looks like Dept counsel is off the clock tonight!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Billingsley. As a resident of an OH (not ENSide) why do you feel the house on ENside needs to be moved? And do you feel all the houses need to be moved? My OH home is within your voting district as well. I'd also like to know where would it be acceptable to move us? I do appreciate you pointing out that the senetor falsely accused us of being sex offenders. There is a site we can go to, to verify registered sex offenders. What I personally feel is that no one gets the fact that OH isn't a treatment facility. We are individuals who just want a safe home to recover in. We are not here to bother you, Rob you, or hurt your children. In fact while you are safe in your home having precious time with your children you are harming us and our families. My children have been coming weekends for the last 6 months but now because of false statements and lies told by the senetor all of a sudden it's to dangerous. My others question to you Mr billingsley is does this part of the story matter to you? Or are you just like the senetor and just want votes by stating you want the home moved from ENSide? Thank you, a concerned tax paying voter in north east Jackson.

Anonymous said...

I haven't condemned the tactic because I'm not qualified to do that, ...

You aren't qualified enough right now to condemn the secretive insertion of these homes without recourse into unsuspecting neighborhoods?

But you are somehow qualified enough already to state emphatically that there should be no legislative interference with MDMH, no changes to the MDMH board structure and no placing MDMH under the management of the Governor.

You seek a re-examination of the sober living home concept but also don't call upon MDMH for an immediate moratorium on the opening of new Oxford Houses until after the completion of any reassessment.

Mr. Billingsley you won't find one member of the Legislature right now, today, who will go to their constituents, tell them the whole story about the Oxford House approach and their hardball tactics, then who will look those same constituents in the eye and tell them that these "homes" will be deposited right into their neighborhoods and nothing can be done about it. You will not find ONE Senator or House Representative in all of Mississippi that supports these clandestine Oxford House plantings under the cover of virtual darkness into their respective districts.

I'm sorry sir but you are not ready for prime time.

Anonymous said...

Bill, I thank you for stating your position. I respect that you have given the issue more study than most candidates seem to do and aren't just catering to emotions...yours or the voter.

There are points , I'd like you to further address.

First of all, neighborhood covenants expire, and the local and state laws make it too difficult for those covenants to be renewed. Our covenants did not allow for multi-family rental and that's what 4 unrelated adults are or should be. The city ordinances are so weak that if a property owner ONLY mows the yard, it doesn't seem to matter if the house literally falls apart while remaining vacant and becomes a hazard as critters and termites attack the dwelling. From a practical standpoint, the law has left neighborhoods helpless. Are you saying this cannot be legislatively addressed since it was legislatively created?

You seem to accept that the Oxford Houses are non-profits rather than businesses. It seems to me that if the homeowner is profiting by rentals and that they are doing so by being paid by a group that claims to be charity, it is a major loophole in the law that should be closed.

I'm struggling to understand the charitable aspect as well as the therapeutic basis of Oxford House other than that they claim themselves.

Please explain how the Dept of Mental Health is providing oversight? If the information is simply provided to them by Oxford House, then they cannot rely upon that information without an established means to test the validity. How is that being done? How are they keeping the number to 4 and no " guests" join the residents?

How is it Oxford avoids the requirements of other charitable homes?

I accept your position that the current laws are allowing this to happen. What I'm struggling with is accepting that changes in the laws and regulations aren't possible.

I am in favor of " fair housing", but " fair housing" has to be " fair" to neighborhoods as well.

As it currently exists, neighborhoods are , from a practical standpoint, unable to enforce those laws that are in theory suppose to offer them protection. There are outstanding claims on negligent property owners who are in violation of the laws that exist and the cities don't have the resources to force property owners to minimally maintain their homes. Those living in neighborhoods don't have the money to hire lawyers for cases that get postponed over and over and drive up legal costs in the process. Even when there are lawyers living in the neighborhoods, their firms aren't going to be interested in them using up billable hours as they'd have to do since government functions during working hours.

I understand there's a difference between the " is" law and the " ought to be law". I know you have heard that sentence before. I want a legislator who can think outside the box and think in terms of creative ways to close loopholes in the laws.

I agree that first, a legislator has to understand the " is" law, but they have to understand the issues from other disciplines and if the " is" is rational. I would suggest to you that you look more deeply into research on addiction.

I would also want you to try to think of ways that scams cannot be run so easily hiding behind religion. In less than 5 minutes, I can become an ordained minister on line. I can marry people and claim to have a church. You can be a Universalist minister , Bill and add that to your resume.

I would respect Oxford House and see them as a " Christian charity" if they were using the money they raised to fund or supplement rent for recovering addicts in individual rental housing with local church sponsorship for that addict. Then you'd be giving that addict a new group of " friends" and social as well as job help from those who were never addicts. But, that's not what they are doing. But, that is what works!

Anonymous said...

7;37 am I am glad you are now sober.
I am the child of an alcoholic who got sober and stayed sober. It took many years before I believed in his sobriety.
The first thing he did right was to stay away from those who shared his addiction in the past and he lived on his own and made new friends through meeting neighbors and going to church. He got a job and he got first a studio apartment which you could do with less money than Oxford is paying your landlords.
You will not have your children's confidence while in an Oxford house. That will only come once they see you functioning responsibly on your own.
So it bothers me not a little that you think you are a victim somehow and that you not seeing your children is because of someone else and not because you screwed this up to start.
It took a lot of time for him to screw up and it took a lot of time to forrebuild his relationship with me...for me to believe him.
But, he did and the last 45 years of his life were years of contribution as a good citizen who was greatly loved by me and his grandchildren.



Anonymous said...

Someone asked Bill why he supported Longwitz 4 years ago and is now running against him. I think who you need to ask that question are the many volunteers that also worked very hard to get a Will elected but are now for Bill. Ask those in the legislature and the lobbyists that know Will best. I have. I think you will have a much clearer understanding of the differences in these two candidates. I suggest you ask this question of people you know and trust, not on a public forum where lies are easily told behind anonymity. I have made comments on here in the past of things I know personally about Will that in my opinion makes me support Bill 100%. However, these comments were never published. Again, I ask everyone reading this to do your homework. Look at the people who have come out publicly and ask those on that list, that you trust. You rarely see that many elected officials come out against an incumbent State Senator. That in itself should say a lot.

Anonymous said...

OMG. He completely contradicts himself. You cannot be for keeping OH and for choosing where they locate. He is trying to have it both ways. If they are running these houses badly and they are concealing relapses, we should stop subsidizing them with taxpayer money. His position seems to be "Keep Oxford House."

Don't Know Bill said...

Rudeness is indeed the order of the day regarding this thread. I don't know Bill Billingsly. What I do know is he reported that many people had asked for his opinion on this Oxford House thing. He came on here (as a long time poster) to state his position. He clearly said he did not favor the location in this neighborhood and would have done what he could legally do to have prevented it, had he been in a position to do that. What the hell more do you want?

If you don't like or intend to support Mr. Billinglsy, fine, that's everybody's right. But to stomp him down for coming here to give his thoughts on this subject is a bit, no a LOT, immature.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 8:19. You actually do a pretty good job hiding whether you are from MDH or from Maryland. Y'all have made a noble effort attacking Longwitz personally for asking questions on this issue. Just please don't insult our intelligence by expecting us to take your bait.

Anonymous said...

8:31
Thank you Bill Soggy Sweat for your speech.

Anonymous said...

A bunch of rude and smart ass comments as usual. I don't have a dog in this fight but I can't stand to see anyone post hateful and rude comments just for laughs. Some of you people need to grow up and learn how to make a point without being so rude.

bill said...

Okay, I'm back and I'll try to get caught up. I'll start with 11:55's suggestion that political candidates aren't allowed to sleep. That's nonsense. Elected leaders, while holding the office 24/7, aren't required to stay up all night just in case someone needs them. The next comment that I will be happy to address - yours - was made 40 minutes later. I should have stayed up just to tell you that I shouldn't have to stay up? Tell you what...my cell phone number is 601-940-9954. If you have a campaign emergency that you need to talk to me about I'm glad to take your call anytime. For non-emergency conversations, such as this one, I'd rather you wait until a reasonable time. Thanks...Bill

bill said...

7:37, that's a great question. I'm just trying to be practical. I think it was a mistake to put an Oxford House in that location. There was already some resistance from neighbors because of the OH on Forest Park, and I think stronger neighborhood opposition should have been easy to predict. I am for moving the residents from the 2230 Northside Drive location simply because they have lost their anonymity and I think their chance at maintaining their sobriety will be greater if they can start over in a new place. They are under pressure from neighbors and the community in general, and I don't think that's conducive to a good recovery environment. I think they'd have a better chance if they were in a neighborhood like yours where the neighbors are more accepting of them, and I think a lot of the furor that has been raised over this issue will dissolve if those residents can relocate. That said, I don't think there's a legal basis for anyone to force them to move. It has to be their decision, and as long as they are following the law I will support them regardless of where they live, just like I will any resident of the district. Bill

bill said...

7:49, you are rearranging my words to mean what you want them to mean. I am saying that I am not qualified to make a decision as to the model that OH employs, which includes them placing recovering addicts into homes without prior announcement, and neither is anyone else in the State Senate. Again, I'm told by treatment professionals that it's a model that works for many, but I'd be glad to hear an opposing viewpoint from someone else in the business.

DMH had already decided to suspend the opening of new houses at a certain point, so there's no reason for me to demand that they suspend the opening of new houses. You're right in that I don't think this is a significant enough issue that the State Board of Mental Health should be abolished and the DMH put under the Governor. There are a lot of other things the DMH does and does well, and I think it's irresponsible to suggest a complete reorganization because of this issue. Frankly, while you might be right about the members of the legislature not wanting to have to explain to their constituents that they may have an Oxford House in their neighborhood in the future, I'm not sure that they have much choice. Frankly, though, I don't think there are many members of the legislature who will be ready to reorganize the DMH and put it under the Governor either. I do think, however, that a lot of the legislators who had the knowledge your Senator claims to have had would have done more to try and stop the one at 2230 Northside. I may not be ready for prime time, but I'm always ready to tell the truth, and you won't have to guess at my position on anything. Bill

Anonymous said...

I live near the intersection of Northside/Northstate. Move them over here. They'll be a refreshing change from the dog-abusing, pistol-firing, girlfriend beating crackheads we've endured over here.

Anonymous said...

Bill Billingsley is the Oxford Houses in Jackson candidate. Plain and simple. It is all out there now.

Anonymous said...

Good local zoning can prevent this no matter what fair housing Federal laws state. A city can just have a well written long range land use plan that placing these type of homes in another part of town. This is a simple over view but it can be done with sound professional advice. The real trick is can not want til there is a problem to take action and must have good local leadership.

bill said...

7:51, thanks for the questions. I'll try to take them one at a time.

I have always been in favor of government at the level that's closest to those being governed, and I think that works until it doesn't. At that point the next level up needs to address the issue where the local government has failed. Zoning and code enforcement are clearly city of Jackson issues, but if the city is shirking its duty to its citizens then it's reasonable for the legislature to intervene. It has happened all over the country. I guess Michigan is a good example. With the Public Act 4 in Michigan in 2011 the Governor was granted the power to appoint managers to financially troubled cities to institute austerity measures. I don't think something of that magnitude is necessary in Mississippi, but you're right when you say that legislators need to be thinking outside the box when it comes to finding relief for our Capital city, and I'd be open to exploring that.

As I understand it, covenants are filed with the county when the land is developed and are difficult to change and easier to enforce. Association agreements must be agreed upon by the residents, and the recourse when they're broken is usually through a lawsuit. I would like to see the legislature address the issue of enforceability of both, because a restriction that would have kept OH out of the neighborhood could have been agreed upon in advance and the issue would have never come up.

Oxford House International is a 501c3 entity. They have failed to comply with state requirements for charitable companies and I think the Secretary of State was correct in his ruling. However, I also think that they will be able to submit the proper paperwork and the Secretary will not be able to unreasonably withhold his approval. As far as the local houses are concerned, my understanding is that they are rental houses just like any other rental house, and the renters are the residents, not Oxford House. I don't think someone who owns a rental house should be required to be a charity. I agree that if a loophole is allowing a 501c3 entity to profit from a rental house then that loophole needs to be addressed, but I don't think that's the case.

I need to continue the discussion on another post. I've exceeded the allowed character count. Bill

bill said...

Okay, Part II.

My understanding is that the DMH oversight comes from them being the conduit for the federal grant money being spent for this purpose in Mississippi. As such, they have chosen Oxford House to oversee the operation, but the outreach workers have a dotted line relationship to the DMH. I'm not sure how that works on a day to day basis - remember, I'm a private citizen of Madison County with no official standing in this - but that can be changed if the federal money is turned back and we appropriate state funds for the operation of a sober living home program in Mississippi. Short of that, the residents are simply renters who have no more reason to be regulated than any other renters.

I too have long been frustrated with how many organizations can claim to be religious organizations and take advantage of the tax and other laws. It's especially vexing when you're in the hospital business and your charitable competitors are making millions of dollars in profits every year. However, I don't think religion or charity have anything to do with this transaction. Again, it's a rental agreement between the landlord and the tenants, and neither are claiming any religious exemption.

The Fair Housing Act, whether we agree or not, gives disabled status to recovering addicts and essentially exempts them from local zoning requirements. Even if the city of Jackson had great zoning laws that were being vigorously enforced, the Oxford Houses would still be exempt. It's a federal issue, and the state legislature will be wasting its time to try to overcome it. We can all lobby our Congressional representatives to try and get it changed, but that will be a long process. Business solutions to problems like these are much more expedient.

I would love to see churches and other private organizations become more involved in helping disabled and disadvantaged people. That's the way it used to be back in the old days, but we decided that we'd rather have the government do it for us, so here we are. I don't know how successful we'd be trying to get private entities more involved, but I am confident that the government isn't going to relinquish its control over this or the tax dollars they're using on it.

Sorry for the long answer but there were a number of thoughtful issues that needed to be addressed. Please ask for more clarification if you need to. Bill

Anonymous said...

I know this is a sensitive topic, and I don't live in NE Jackson and therefore I can't fully put myself in the NE Jacksonians shoes. However, Bill never said he is completely FOR Oxford House, but that he wants to work in legislature to make a compromise, whereas Longwitz would like to abolish the entire operation and have cameras follow him as he does so haha. I'm more of an economic republican than I am social, and so I obviously support something like the Oxford House. I think that being a Republican inherently means you should support ventures like the Oxford House. So many people call themselves Republican and choose only to focus on the controversial social issues rather than the economic issues that really make our country work. For example, Republicans believe that through hard work, anything is possible without the need of government assistance. Using this definition, a private sector rehabilitation home that runs on a democratic system and teaches residents to become productive citizens is one of the most Republican/Conservative ideas I can imagine. It seems like people who live in NE Jxn are focusing more on what this could do to property values and not focusing on the fact that this is a fairly simple concept based off of ideals of liberty for the OH residents and the belief that they can better themselves. Republicans can't have it both ways. They can't complain about recovering alcoholics receiving welfare checks but oppose a privately run organization conditioning these people for the workforce. Unless they favor throwing these people on the streets, they have to choose one or the other. I look at these two options and see one option (welfare) that reinforces a big government and a liberal agenda and see the other option (Oxford House) as a libertarian opportunity for self-improvement. Not only this, but if they would actually read the way that the OH house functions (they have house leadership, each resident has a vote, etc.) they would see a miniature representation of the way that the US government functions. Lastly, President REAGAN was the one who expanded the concept of Oxford Houses when he authorized the war on drugs. I doubt any of these "Republicans" who are so vehemently against this realize that, but it's an interesting tidbit.

bill said...

8:22, I am for the DMH deciding whether to keep them or not, and I'm not willing to conclude that they're being run badly based on the word of one person. My understanding of the law, however, is that there's not much anyone can do about the existing houses if Oxford House and the DMH both step out of the picture. The only things that go away are the seed money loans and the outreach workers, neither of which are required for the residents to continue to rent the houses. Arkansas stopped taking the federal grant and stopped opening new houses, but the existing houses are still operating. You'll have to enlighten me on how the residents are being subsidized by taxpayer money. That's not my understanding. They're renters, and they can do what they want as long as they're paying the rent and following the law. As renters, they might eventually be looking for another place, maybe one where the rent is cheaper, and at that point I think there's a good chance that a business solution can be found to move them from their current location. Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill - you stated the following: "I would like to see the legislature address the issue of enforceability of both, because a restriction that would have kept OH out of the neighborhood could have been agreed upon in advance and the issue would have never come up."

By your own admission the FHA has been successfully used to be exempt OH from local zoning laws, covenants and restrictions. They use the FHA to go into ANY neighborhood regardless of zoning or restrictions. They feel they are exempt from ANY restrictions anywhere.

So the real question is would you, as a State Senator be willing to lead the fight to change the FHA and ADA to comply with local zoning restrictions?

bill said...

I have a lunch meeting to attend, and will be back to finish up the forum this afternoon. Bill

Anonymous said...

Wow. This guy has just taken almost 5000 words to try and explain his position on Oxford house. I know this guy is in his mid 60s. He does not have enough shelf-life left to dance around every issue that comes up. And this one's no even all that complex!

Anonymous said...

Didn't Will say that there will be Sex Offenders and Pedophiles with the CJ Stuart Foundation and that is why they should not locate in Madison?

Just asking, I think I see a pattern.

Anonymous said...

Bill, I'd like to respectfully suggest to you in talking to experts in the treatment of addiction ( and there are actually very few in this State and I believe you have), you may be getting answers based on Oxford House as it's described by Oxford House or else are asking the wrong questions. You have to know the right questions to ask as well.
?"
The first one is" how many patients have you had Oxford House?" and "have you seen the actual research done by Oxford House and not just reported results?" Unless you know how the research met empirical criteria, the results are meaningless. And, " How does the success rate of Oxford House compare with other treatment models?"

Many former substance abusers get " counseling degrees". That is not the same as being experts in the study of substance abuse and addiction.

There is a difference between a supervised half way house and/or being with those who have successful time in sobriety playing a supportive role, and the Oxford House model.

One element is whether or not this State has the resources to make this work by providing necessary oversight as is the adequate selection of participants.

Another important element is that housing in this State is not nearly as high as it is in States where this sort of transitional housing might be necessary for various reasons. And, those with higher costs of living tend to have more of the necessary resources to make sure it worked.

In short, " not one size fits all" . Oxford House might be the best alternative available elsewhere, but it's not the best alternative in a State with a low cost of living and where church involvement in addiction programs is at a high rate per capita.

The bottom line is that taxpayer money ( even that to address this at meetings)) is a waste here.











Anonymous said...

June 26, 2015 at 11:07 AM = Yada, yada, yada

All that garbage has already been posted here 20 times already.

Anonymous said...

Bill, if Oxford House and DMH step out of the picture, then the residents will pay the landlord, will they not and the money will not be guaranteed by the taxpayers?

Isn't Oxford House claiming charitable status as a Christian group or did I misunderstand their press release?

Aren't they the contractual party in many states to ultimately receive this federal grant money? Aren't they then, federal contractors but with the status of a Christian charity complicating matters so they are subjected to the same regulatory demands?

Was this a " no bid contract"? Do they have competitors and/or does the State have other options or is it Oxford House or no grant money? If it's Oxford House or nobody then that is enough reason to be suspicious and opposed.

How much of the grant money does the State keep? Is this simply an "enticement" to fund Oxford House?

Why would the federal government or MHD not have a local substance abuse program manage the contract? Why create a " middle man" when none is necessary?

Have you looked into how much privatization has escalated in costs to the taxpayers since it first began?

Has any independent, unbiased research been given you or anyone else to demonstrate this program is cost effective and a successful treatment option?

This looks to me like a program created to benefit home flippers and landlords so they can turn houses they can't sell or rent into an income producing property. Some lobbyist probably stuck in a few sentences in some mental health bill and this is what we end up getting.

I understand you can't fix it at the federal level. That you recognize the economic damage to home owners and thus residential tax base and then say you have no reason not support the concept is problematic. You could call for hearings if elected if nothing else. You could ask for the legislature to provide funds for independent research on how this program is working.

If a private citizen cannot get the financial information about where the money goes and how it compares to costs of alternative treatment or housing costs in the market, then that's something to run against.

If you are elected, Bill, I hope the first two questions you ask on every piece of legislation is " Who benefits? " and " Who profits?"





Anonymous said...

1:16, Bill isn't going to ask all those questions. He's already made his position pretty clear. He supports DMH and their decisions. He says the Oxford Houses are not a problem. And while he writes that he sympathizes with property owners, he says you have to grin and bear it. AND he said he'd be fine with an Oxford House next door to him and he'd take them a welcome gift.

He isn't going to do one thing about it if elected.

bill said...

11:11, I have always been for decentralized control of our government. No one knows what's best for the city more than the people who live there. I would be very happy to work toward cities having more control, not just over their zoning rules, but over everything else.

The only place where neighborhood association agreements would have had a chance in this case would have been if the purchaser of the house had agreed to not turn it into an Oxford House and then turned around and violated that agreement. I think a breach of contract lawsuit would have a successful outcome in that instance, and if the landlord had known in advance that he had to agree to that before he bought the house then maybe he'd have looked elsewhere. Bill

bill said...

11:24, I know I tend to be long winded, but this issue is too important to the people on this thread for me to cut any corners. I feel like the position is too complex for me to simply give one line answers, so I'm going to try to explain myself fully. Bill

Anonymous said...

1:16. I'd like to answer your first question. I am a resident of OH. WE pay our rent every month from our shared EES. There is NO money given to the houses or the landlords. So even if the MDMH and OH does withdraw funding, the house will go nowhere because they are SELF run. We Pay our own bills. MDMH NOR OH pays our rent.

bill said...

12:12, those are good points. My friend who's a treatment professional said he's had patients who have lived in an OH after inpatient treatment, and he even has some - I don't know if that's two or ten - who live in an OH who are continuing to receive outpatient treatment from him, and his opinion is that the model works for a lot of people. My point isn't to try to defend it or castigate it. I'm simply trying to convince you and the others who are so against it to seek out the opinions of people in the business. In all the OH posts that have been on this site, I've never seen any of the people against it say anything about treatment professionals who have said it's not a good model.

I'm not sure that continuing any type of sober living program is the best way to spend taxpayer money, whether it's federal or state. Once someone is out of a treatment program - or a jail, or thrown out of their house, etc. - I'm not sure it's the state's responsibility to find them a place to live and to monitor their activities. Does the state monitor people after they get out of the hospital for other reasons? This has become a state issue because of the federal grant that was offered and accepted, so now we have to deal with it, but these are private citizens who are trying to lead a productive life. I think the DMH is the best agency to make that decision, and I'd like to see their reasoning before I decide in advance that they're wrong and that I must know more about it than they do. Bill

bill said...

1:16, you ask lots of good questions, some of which should probably be directed to DMH, but I'll do my best to answer them. I'll remind you that most of my answers will be based on my understanding of the situation. If that is wrong, I'll be happy to stand corrected and adjust my position.

Whether or not DMH and OH are involved, there is no taxpayer money going to the residents or the landlord unless the residents are otherwise eligible for it - SS disability, state retirement, etc. I don't think there is a guaranty on the lease - it's an agreement between the residents and the landlord. The only taxpayer money being spent is when the residents are loaned $4,000 at the beginning of the lease, and that is paid back into a revolving fund over two years. The original amount of the federal grant into this fund was $100,000, and I don't think it has been added to over the years it's been used. In fact, if you do the math you'll see that even if all 18 Oxford Houses in Mississippi either open or planned for opening borrowed the full $4,000 that would only amount to $72,000. I think all the existing houses are current on their repayment, so this fund may be around for awhile. The only other taxpayer money is the pay for the four outreach workers, and I think that's between $100,000 and $150,000 a year. I'll continue in the next post. Bill

bill said...

1:16 continued.

Oxford House International is a 501c3 organization. I don't know if their religion had anything to do with it.

I think you're right about them being on the receiving end of the grant money. I think it starts with the federal government granting them the money to send to the states, and I don't doubt that they take a percentage of that money for their expenses before it gets to the states. Once it is in the state, the DMH or equivalent is responsible for administering the grant and spending the money according to the grant requirements. Many states contract with third party entities to manage the program, and Mississippi contracts with Oxford House. The outreach workers are OH employees that are paid out of the grant money. So, that part of the original federal grant is given back to OH in the form of salaries for the outreach workers. I don't think there is another grab for corporate expense money at this point, but that's not clear in the information I have. The state isn't keeping any of the grant money that I know of, and Oxford House isn't making anything beyond that first cut they take for corporate expenses. I don't know if it was a no bid contract, but the amount is certainly below the requirement for bids. My understanding is that OH got the contract because they were the best choice for the job since it's their model and they've been running these things for 40 years. I think it would be a great idea to get a local program involved, but none that I know of have shown any interest.

I have looked at what I thought was independent and unbiased research, but again I have to say that the DMH is the state agency best equipped to make the decisions about this program, both before now and going forward. The research I have read shows good results, but I haven't tried to dig into it to see how valid the results really are. Depaul University is a good school, the scholarly journals I've read are good journals, and I don't think any of them would risk their professional reputation by rigging the results of a study because OH gave them some money.

I'll continue in the next post. Bill



Anonymous said...

Bill, This is my first - and will probably be my only - comment on this thread. Was out of pocket all day yesterday when this started so have just now gone through the diatribe being put in comments over and over with little or no basis for the anonymous statements.

I want to compliment you on what was a well stated explanation of your position on this issue. And even for your willingness to attempt to address the questions that are being thrown your way by those that are truly concerned neighbors of the OH along with the typical JJ commentator that just wants to be obnoxious, and by the staff of my friend Longwitz.

When this issue first arose a few months ago, with the little information I heard about it at the time, I was aghast with the prospects of more of these terrible 'state funded, drug houses'. Over time I have learned much more about what actually exists, how they are funded, and what the purpose of these houses whether they are established by Oxford House or by others. With that actual knowledge rather than what the opening rumors were being spread, I support your position on this question and think Will has gone off the deep end for political purposes. Your stand - and Will's grandstanding - has convinced me to change my vote this coming August.

This is not to say that I would like to have an OH established in my neighborhood in NE Jackson. But I do recognize that it is not a state funded entity but rather a private landlord's project. I recognize that there are many recovering addicts living in my neighborhood already. By checking the register, I know that (right now) there are no sex offenders in my neighborhood, and understand that the hypercrap that was being spread in the early rumors there are no sex offenders in the Oxford Houses in Mississippi either.

Instead of continuing to try to answer each and every one of the dozen of folks here that continue to throw their crap out, get back to walking neighborhoods. We need more folks like you that are willing to state your position on hot issue topics, even in forums where they are not going to be well received.

Anonymous said...

11:07 said, "A private sector rehabilitation home that runs on a democratic system and teaches residents to become productive citizens is one of the most Republican/Conservative ideas I can imagine." Thank you for saying that.

Billingsley has given us a logical and realistic view point. Just because he's not telling the few NE residents who are opposed what they want to hear everyone is up in arms! They don't even want to listen to what he has to say but would rather threaten him if he knocks on their door.

I would like to hear Longwitz's solution on how he plans to use the money he stated he wants appropriated to help those in recovery. Who would he have oversee the funding since DMH is such a mess? In other words, if he's going to make us lose a program that costs us nothing to then have to spend state funds, he needs to have a plan in stead of just saying something to appease both sides. That would also be a good town hall meeting KF.

bill said...

1:16 continued.

Again, I'll defer to the professionals, but it seems to me that the program can work. The problem is that the house at 2230 Northside Drive is one of those one in a thousand houses that is a low to middle of the road house in a high end neighborhood, and it was available for the right price at the right time and was scooped up by someone who already owned an Oxford House so they knew what they could do with it. I don't think that will happen again. I've walked through the neighborhoods of Precincts 34 and 35, and I don't think there are any other houses that can be bought for $104,000, and no landlord is going to get into this if there's not a profit. I think if the DMH had more control over this program they could have suggested the outreach workers look elsewhere. The house still could have been purchased and turned into a sober living home without any help from the DMN or Oxford House, as can any other house anywhere else, but the seed money and oversight would have had to been provided by the landlord, not the taxpayers. That's why if the DMH decides to continue the sober living home concept I think the legislature should appropriate sufficient money to them to be able to make sure they have more control over where they're located. There are plenty of rental houses available in good neighborhoods - there are three others in 39211 that no one is complaining about - and that's where the future houses need to be.

Yes, we can have hearings and appoint commissions and pay for independent research, all for a problem that costs far less than any of those solutions would. At the end of the day we'd still have federally protected residents living where they're not wanted. I don't want to put the cart before the horse. I think we should let the DMH do their evaluation and see what they say. And trust me, "follow the money" is always part of my calculus. Bill

bill said...

1:30, you're almost right. I have tried to make my position clear. I do support DMH and will continue to do so until I see a reason not to. I certainly sympathize with property owners but I don't see how action by the state legislature can remove the Oxford House residents from their neighborhoods. I would be fine with an Oxford House next door to me, and I'd take them a welcome gift, although if they were following the model I probably wouldn't know it was an Oxford House. You're wrong about me not being willing to ask questions. Ask around. Anyone who has worked with me knows that I'm a great question asker, sometimes to the point of pain when the meeting has already lasted too long, and I expect to be just as much of a thorn in the side of authority as a State Senator. I have never said that Oxford House is not a problem, and more importantly I wouldn't be sitting here if I thought that. It's a problem that I'm making a good faith effort to address, and will continue to address it if I'm elected. Bill

Anonymous said...

FUCK YOU KINGFISH.

Anonymous said...

All of you posters are slap ass crazy. Good Lord step back and look at the wasted energy above. Bill, you can't win on this site ever....EVER. When you dig yourself into a hole, quit digging. You won't gain or lose votes based on your responses here. The only ones responding are the freaks, who have already made their minds up anyway.

Good Lord can all of you nut jobs give it a rest. This is like 2 months or so of all this OH shit. Damn.

Anonymous said...

Bill,
Missed you when you came by my house. Wish I hadn't. Bottom line: you've got my vote. You've got my wife's vote. Takes cojones to subject yourself to this. Waiting for Longwitz to do the same, I'm sure it'll be a looong wait.

Anonymous said...

Thank you KF and Mr Billingsley. I am in support of OH and though there are a few points I didn't agree with, your overall point of view was fair and much less biased than the other opinions stated here. I'm glad to see someone running for a political position can be candid and come answer hard question on a blog like this. Takes a whole lot more backbone than just catering to those who can throw money at you.

bill said...

Okay, it's been two hours since the last question, not counting Shakespeare at 3:25, and I think it's time we closed up and moved on to the next issue. I really appreciate the questions and comments from the people who are interested in this issue, even if you clearly won't be voting for me, and I hope I answered them to your satisfaction. I'll be continuing to walk in the NE Jackson neighborhoods, so please stop and say hi if you see me on the street. I also will post to my campaign Facebook page when I'm going to be at Broad Street, the Kroger on 55, Whole Foods, and any other coffee gathering, and I'll be happy to continue this discussion or any other in person. Thanks to my supporters who posted here as well. I'm grateful for all of you. Kingfish, you can continue to post the comments if you want, but I have to go pass out some push cards. Thanks, everyone! Bill

Anonymous said...

3:37: I agree with you. I will vote for him, as well. Will doesn't have the knowledge, patience, or objectivity to do what Bill is doing. Will is sneaky (going around trying to get people fired for supporting his opponent) and just letting his attorney "friends" lead him around like a lost puppy dog. From what I know of Bill (and how he's conducted himself on here), he's an upstanding man. He's a successful business man. I would rather him represent me ANY day over what we have now. He could get more done in a week than what Will's underhanded sneaky tactics attempt to do.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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