Holloway on future; other news and notes

Biloxi is closing out 2005 in historic fashion – with two resorts now offering shore-based gaming – but Mayor A.J. Holloway says one of his goals in 2006 is to spark more-focused public discussion on the city’s long-term recovery.

In a front-page column published today in The Bay Press, Holloway says that while residents of Biloxi can see tangible progress – such as the opening of the Popp’s Ferry bridge and U.S. 90, and the re-opening of three casino resorts – the city must now work on a vision for the long term.

“This promises to be a huge task, and it’s one that we’ll be addressing in the near future. Meantime, I ask that you consider this: We’ve survived an unprecedented event, and we’re a stronger community as a result. We’re now in an unprecedented position, where we can realize unprecedented potential.”

You can read the mayor’s complete story by clicking here.

Council to eye casino zoning on eastern portion of Back Bay

The City Council will soon consider a measure that would change the zoning of nearly 20 acres of waterfront land on Back Bay east of Oak Street from single family and heavy industrial to waterfront, which would allow casino resort development on the property.

The issue is on the council’s agenda for its meeting Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., but a vote would not be taken until a second reading, likely at the council’s Jan. 11 meeting, since city ordinances generally must have two readings before a council vote.

Individual owners of the land, which comprises 22 parcels in all, had approached the city several months ago seeking the change, and noted that the residential lots were sandwiched between seafood processing plants and a marine dry dock and marina. The City Council directed the Planning Commission to study the issue.

To see the complete agenda and individual resolutions, click here.

Piles and piles of storm debris

Jonathan Kiser, known as the city’s debris-removal czar in some circles, reports that of the 1.52 million cubic yards of debris that had been hauled from Biloxi as of Dec. 28, 336,000 cubic yards were burnable, 1.16 million cubic yards were unburnable debris, 21,544 cubic yards were appliances, and the overall 1.522 million cubic yards would amount to a debris field that would cover a football field and stand more than 71 stories high. It is believed that as much as 2.5 million cubic yards of debris remain to be hauled from rights of way and private property.

To learn more about the city’s debris removal plan, click here.

Hands On USA still on the job

Among the thousands of relief volunteers that have worked in Biloxi and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29 is a group called Hands on USA.

Since the organization arrived in Biloxi four months ago, it has hosted more than 1,000 volunteers from across the country, and at the end of January the group will be changing the focus of its efforts in Biloxi.

Find out more about the group by clicking here.

News and notes

CNN coverage: Mayor A.J. Holloway is tentatively set to appear on CNN’s ”American Morning” on Monday at 6:30 a.m. CT.

NPR coverage: David Schaper, a Chicago-based correspondent for National Public Radio, reports that NPR is scheduled to air his story about Biloxi’s business interruption insurance policy on Monday between 7:10 and 7:20 a.m., CT. “Of course,” David reports, “that could change due to breaking news.” You can hear NPR in Biloxi on 90.3 FM.

Webcasting: Sgt. Jackie Rhodes, public information officer for the Biloxi Police Department, offers holiday driving tips in this week’s “City Desk” webcast. To listen to the program, click here.

New Year’s Day holiday: Non-emergency city offices will be closed on Monday in observance of the New Year’s Day holiday. All offices will re-open at their usual time on Tuesday.