Emails between Ridgeland officials and their constituents show several exchanges over the changing racial composition of Ridgeland. Several Ridgeland residents complained about "Ridgeland school demographics" and the city becoming the "new Northeast Jackson". One email even called the demographics at Anne Smith Elementary School "a problem". Mayor Gene McGee wrote "You are so right" in a response to that particular email. The emails are posted below.
The southeast part of Ridgeland has changed over the last 25 years from a majority-white to a majority-black population. The area is dominated by apartment complexes clustered around Old Canton Road and Lake Harbor. Most of them are more than twenty and even thirty years old. The city seeks to "redevelop" the area but faces a court fight from the apartment owners. The city started cracking down on housing code violations on the apartments in 2010. Ridgeland then lowered the density requirements in the zoning ordinances without "grandfathering" in existing apartments.
Several apartment complexes sued Ridgeland in federal court over these re-zoning and code enforcement efforts. HUD also filed a complaint against the city as it claimed Ridgeland was trying to force thousands of minorities to leave the city.
Ridgeland is now 42% black while the school population is approximately 65% black. The schools are part of the Madison County School District and are not operated by the city. The 2010 U.S. Census stated 54% of the city's population are renters and not homeowners.
Here are the emails. Attorney John Scanlon represents the city and told JJ today that the city has no comment on the emails.
May 2007 email message
Author: Community Director Alan Hart
The board adopted the attached schedule for focus areas. I met with Ken and Gerald (Steen) to see the last presentation you did.April 11, 2009 email to Mayor McGee
They like it for the most part. Their concerns are with how the annex area shapes up. They are greatly concerned about how residential is done. They wonder if its possible to establish a use along County Line Road that would serve as a strong buffer, like the Natchez Trace does. The perception of property above the Trace is that it is protected from Jackson's rot.
Author:Miller, first name unknown
The fact that Ann Smith is Title 1 is embarrassing. I know alot of factors go into this and the blame (if applicable) cannot be laid at any one doorstep but it seems to me that this all starts with apartment dwellers. Ridgeland has too many apartments something should be done IMMEDIATELY to reduce them. The schools in Ridgeland are deteriorating and that will result in poor home values which leads to the city's decline.
(Response by Mayor McGee) I agree with you on your points... the apartment issue is something we are working on. .June 2009 email to Mayor McGee, Gerald Steen, Ken Heard
Authors: Phil and Kathryn Ayres (KF note: Ayres? The irony)
The Ridgeland School demographics have changed significantly over the past five years. The school demographics are not at all reflective of the City's current demographic data. This is very concerning to us as active citizens of the city and school supporters.... If the city delays action, Ridgeland will become the new Northeast Jackson.June 19 email to Mayor McGee
(Response by Mayor McGee) Our master plan sets out good development and redevelopment strategies for us to foster an environment that promotes home ownership... we are very aggressively developing a strategy for near-term improvements that involves redevelopment of older apartments into single-family housing.
Author: Charles Rafferty
The problem with Ann Smith is demographics first, last, and alwaysJune 2009 email to Jackson real estate broker
(Mayor McGee response) You are so right. (KF note: Ouch)
Author: Ridgeland Community Development Director Alan Hart
As I mentioned, the details about the location of our project are very sensitive... as noted in the subject line, there is a redevelopment component to the project. There are five old apartment complexes that are significantly in violation of the codes and need to be demolished.
August 25, 2010 email message.
Title: Apartments and what has migrated from Jackson!
Author: John Cleveland, Sr.
My email to you concerns exactly what I knew was going to happen when more apartments were allowed to be built under your watch. Now I know not all the older apartments were your doing but that should have been a leadership lesson you could have learned from your counterpart to the north. No apartments means no migration from Jackson by a race running from their own people. Its a shame, obviously people of all races have a right to live where they want but moving into white neighborhoods spells trouble especially rental apartments and properties. Where they go trouble follow, always has, and always will....
(Response by Mayor McGee) What you don't know is I am also working to get rid of a large number of apartments right now.
Kingfish note: Apparently there was much angst over the Ridgeland schools. Here are some statistics on the racial composition of the schools gleaned from the Mississippi Department of Education's website.
Ann Smith Elementary School: 57% black, 20% white, 15% hispanic
Highland Elementary School: 65% black, 20% white
Old Towne Middle School: 65% black, 20% white
Ridgeland High School: 65% black, 25% white
Here is more data published a few years ago in an earlier post with the current data and rating included:
Highland Elementary (C)
Anne Smith (C)*
Olde Towne Middle (B)
Ridgeland High School (B)
*Lowest math scores in district although it compared well to other schools on reading and science scores.
One final note: They have been working on this since 2007? What do they have to show for it?