/Lumumba ‘Paternalistic, racist’ Legislature didn’t help Jackson Mississippi Today

Lumumba ‘Paternalistic, racist’ Legislature didn’t help Jackson Mississippi Today

Lumumba stated that Jackson has not received enough state support over the years due to “racist” and paternalistic attitudes by legislative leaders toward one of America’s Blackest communities. Lumumba noted that the infrastructure funding Jackson received had strings attached and no oversight like other cities. Lumumba stated that this raises the question “whether Jackson has an equal protection claim against the State of Mississippi,” but he later clarified that he is not announcing any lawsuit. Lumumba also said he believes there’s a push at the state level for privatization of Jackson’s water- and sewer services. Lumumba noted that lawmakers allocated more than half the money — $13million — to a Jackson golf club as they did to fix the city’s crumbling water system and sewerage system. The city is also matching federal funds with the $25 million. READ MORE: Jackson legislators discuss why it is difficult to secure state funding. Below is the transcript. This transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity and length. Mississippi Today: How did the legislative session go for your city? What about funding for capital projects and water and sewerage? Lumumba: I’m sorry, in a time when you have more resources than ever before, it seems fair to say Jackson didn’t receive commensurate support. This is not only because of our size but also because of your contributions to Mississippi. As a city that is in desperate need of so many resources to address its many challenges, I am not in a position for me to decline any offer. We are open to accepting any resources offered. If you take a look at our requests and see how we were involved in this infrastructure conversation, not just in local conversations but also in a national manner… The president of the United States stated that when we look at the infrastructure bill, we must consider Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson was specifically mentioned by the president of the United States. This is a testament to how important we are in the creation of these resources. $25 million is still a small amount. Mississippi Today: Jackson is the only city that has not been given a check in relation to the state’s matching programs. The Department of Finance and Administration must be contacted to supervise Jackson’s work. Lumumba: Jackson has a duplicitous requirement. We have to not only go through regular proposals but also have to go to DFA once it’s been accepted. What we learned from the Jackson commissions that we had to have (to supervise state support) is that it does nothing except delay and hinder the delivery of services and repairs. It’s not a legitimate check and balance, but it’s a paternalistic approach to Jackson. I will be pointing out the details. I will beat them to it and tell you that there was an effort behind the scenes to get Jackson to privatize its water supply or make concessions. This has nothing to do the overall effort to improve conditions. Jackson is all about money. How do you make money from Jackson? This must be called out. It’s time to ask the question whether Jackson has an equal protection claim to the state of Mississippi. Not only is it in terms of equitable distribution of resources but also in the allocation of funds within the city. For example, we had inequity in the money we were allocated to South Jackson for the water system. This inequity interrupts the distribution to South Jackson more than any other area of our city. Mississippi Today: What are the inequities regarding certain communities? Lumumba, That’s still to be decided through this duplicitous procedure, but still, in the same legislative session we give $13million towards a 10 hole golf course. I don’t play much golf, but I do know very few people who are keen to play a 10-hole course. I am not against the project. As we ask for water to serve all residents, I’m against the project failing. We also know there was an allocation to the Fondren community. I love our Fondren Community. It is amazing to see it blossom. There are equity concerns when we offer $20 million in bonds guaranteed by Hinds County to support a development in this area. Yet, we can still ignore the basic water needs of people. This is also something I anticipate you will want to discuss: People bring up the question of Jackson fighting over a garbage contract. So, the state is fighting for taxes. Jackson is a larger city than any other, fighting over garbage contracts. We will continue to be featured in the news. Frustrations are not new. Anyone who believes that this myth is a valid excuse to not help others, I believe, should be ashamed. What excuse has Jackson had for not receiving the resources it required over the past 40 years? It is not a reason to claim that your people aren’t entitled to water sustainability or equity in how it is distributed. Mississippi Today: You mention a push for privatization of Jackson’s water system. Do some legislators support this? Lumumba: Yes. There have been discussions between leadership and — I won’t say — between the state and representatives. I also met with companies. I do more research than they give credit for. I know from personal experience that Detroit lost control of its water systems before it went bankrupt. I believe that this duplicitous process that we have to be authorized to repair our water system is to hang this over our heads. To force us to follow their lead. Jackson has no history of illegal contract steering. Anna Wolfe is doing a huge story about the state of Mississippi and the issues surrounding DHS as well as possible improprieties. This is at best hypocritical. It’s more about their unstated attitude towards Jackson, given the large amount of legislation that affects Jackson. It’s all about how we get from Jackson. What can we do to take our airport? How can we privatize our water system? How can we regionalize our water treatment plants? How can we approach Jackson’s finances every time? Mississippi Today: Do your meetings directly involve the governor and legislative leadership? Lumumba: I do. I met with the lieutenant governor… I met with Speaker (Philip Gunn)… I can’t report that I’ve ever had any negative interactions with Speaker Gunn. Although I don’t know his general position towards Jackson, I have never had a negative interaction with him. I don’t meet with the governor very often. I would like to have more interactions with the governor. I have met with the former governor 10 times more than I did with him. Bryant more than I do Gov. Reeves. We’re the largest municipality in Mississippi. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t sit down and have discussions. We have reached out to each other several times. We’ve heard that people succumb to Jackson’s narratives, and that they’re not able to build relationships. We can create relationships. All over the country, we can build relationships. It’s less about our inability build relationships, and more about their resistance to Jackson… This is why I have built national relationships. This is why we brought in philanthropic funding… We remain in close contact with national leaders… I have been to Washington and met with Administrator Michael (EPA) Regan, in addition to his Jackson visit. We are very interested to hear about the Justice40 initiative. I met with Mitch Landrieu (former Mayor) who is the federal infrastructure czar. How can we not see that value and intent right here? Mississippi Today: Some lawmakers claim that Jackson can get water work started for free if it spends $25 million, $50 million plus the match from the city. Next year, the state could come up with more. How do you respond to this? Lumumba: Let me tell you this. We have shown that we can do road work with the money we get. All the money that we have is used to fund infrastructure projects using local sales taxes. We have a commission of 1%. We are aware of the bureaucracy involved in studies, engineering and all other aspects. However, delaying the money allocation doesn’t make it move faster. We would be better prepared if we had better information about what we might have or if there was a steady flow of funding over time. But, we came into this legislative session with little to no idea of the resources that we would need to fix our failing water infrastructure. We need more than $500,000,000 just for our drinking water system. We all know we cannot expect to get $500 million. But, I believe we are left with a large gap between Jackson’s performance and the resources received from the state. This is compounded by the bubble that exists around certain communities. They receive money to ensure that they have a reliable water supply. The water towers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are there to ensure that they have water. They insulate some parts of the city to ensure they don’t face the same challenges as the rest. Mississippi Today: The legislative leadership’s view on Jackson has been called “paternalistic”. Does that sound better? Lumumba: Paternalistic. It’s racist. Is that what you want to hear? (Directed at city staffers present in the room during interview) It’s racially. It was not something I held back. It is what it is. There will be people who won’t like it when I say this. If they have heartburn, I’m not surprised. I dare you. I challenge you to prove me wrong. I don’t think that saying the things I say is going to make me popular with certain people. However, I am not here to be liked or to have friendships and/or relationships. It would be great to have friends and relationships. I am a very nice man. However, that’s not my goal. My goal is to represent my people. 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