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Opinion: Jackson water needs to be independent

Jackson’s water crisis demands action. The state government should create a special utility district for Jackson, independent of the city of Jackson.

There are dozens of existing utility districts throughout the state, often created to provide water. The status already exists. He just needs a few tweaks to suit Jackson’s needs.

The board must be named in a way that will create harmony with the funding sources needed to solve Jackson’s long-term water crisis, which will require a large sum of money to address.

One council seat is expected to be nominated by the governor, another by the lieutenant governor, another by the Speaker of the House, one by the city of Jackson and one by Congressman Bennie Thompson. Board members should receive a reasonable allowance to ensure the quality of board members.

One of the causes of the water crisis has been to use the Jackson Water Department as a political football. Independent advice would solve this problem.

In 2017, Jackson’s water utility billing was $61 million. This year’s billings are estimated at $40 million, a 34% drop in revenue. Meanwhile, earnings have fallen from $35 million in 2016 to negative $16 million in 2019. This is a financial disaster directly tied to the City of Jackson’s incompetence to manage.

The city stopped sending bills, then stopped cutting off slackers who wouldn’t pay their bills, then let huge billing errors go uncorrected. Straight piping has become rampant with few prosecutions. The result was predictable – total and utter disaster.

The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money. Jackson has run out of other people’s money so there’s no more water to drink.

A scathing and comprehensive EPA investigation was sent to the mayor in 2020. Yet he kept it under wraps, putting the health of the city at risk. It was only after his re-election that the report became public. Meanwhile, the free water surely helped Lumumba win votes. This is how politics is screwing up our water. An independent river basin district would not be subject to that kind of political pressure.

An independent water district could create its own hiring and purchasing policies better suited to managing a water system. The city of Jackson’s hiring process is a bureaucratic nightmare that lacks the flexibility and speed to deal with an emergency. Requiring water engineers to live in Jackson is a classic example. When you are desperately looking for qualified personnel, such demands are absurd.

Same for purchases. The City of Jackson has a cluttered and bureaucratic purchase approval system, requiring many forms and approval stamps. When there’s an emergency at the water treatment plant and you need replacement pumps within 24 hours, it just doesn’t work. An independent water district could set its own policies to meet its unique mission.

Importantly, an independent water district would be much more likely to get proper funding if those who fund appointed the board. Clearly there has been a split between the state and the city regarding funding. Lumumba refused to jump through state hoops. This is one of its major flaws. Instead of kissing the alliances of those who hold the purse strings, he galloped across the country talking nonsense about making Jackson the most radical city in America. Being the only city in the country without clean water is indeed radical, but I don’t think Jackson voters are very happy with that kind of radicalism.

The mayor also aroused the state’s suspicions with his bizarre antics over the city’s garbage contract. The bidding process was rigged and when the city council said “whoa”, the mayor accused the councilors of taking bribes. Talk about winning friends and influencing people! It was simply impossible for the state to give Lumumba a big blank check as a result of this fiasco.

Lumumba got a good hire as mayor – Robert Miller as director of public works. Miller had the skills and experience required to do the job. But Miller couldn’t stand Lumumba’s suppression of the EPA report and rightfully jumped ship. This was the turning point, because without Miller, there was no one who knew anything about the complexities of running a city.

The state is not without blame. The whole crisis started with the corrupt Siemens contract. The corruption came from the unqualified minority contractors that Siemens was required to engage with. They installed the meters incorrectly. Counters failed. People lost faith in the billing process, so the city stopped cutting users off and a freefall began.

The Minority Cancellation Act is a creation of the state legislature. It is horrible legislation that needs to be repealed. It only creates corruption.

But the culpability of the state does not stop there. Our state bid laws are also a disaster, the worst in the nation, allowing the “lowest and best bid” to prevail. In most states, the language is “lowest responsive bidder,” which means you meet the bid specifications and have the lowest bid. Performance bonds are used to ensure compliance.

But our state’s “lowest and best” language has resulted in RFPs, which means RFP, but really should mean friends and kindred. The tenders set aside the time-tested sealed tender process, allowing officials to choose their buddies behind closed doors. It was this RFP process that allowed Lumumba to choose Richard’s disposal over waste management, leading state officials to distrust Lumumba.

Of course, the left-leaning national media painted the bloody story of stingy right-wing Republican heads of state depriving poor Democrats of Jackson’s basic necessities of life, all driven by the white flight, which robbed Jackson of income. .

Except the city audits tell a different story. City revenue is growing, not shrinking, from $180 million in 2002 to $240 million in 2019. What nonsense.

It’s almost as if Lumumba deliberately let this crisis happen so that the National Democrats would give him billions that he can split into crony contracts. When Vice President Kamala Harris said this week on Meet the Press that billions were on their way to Jackson, you could only shake your head in disbelief. This is not the right way to run a city or a nation.

Lumumba defended himself at a recent press conference by waving three reports and saying he still had a plan. I have seen all these reports. One was a report by former city engineer Charles Williams seeking to raise wages by 30% at the water plant to facilitate recruitment. The only problem was that Williams refused to accept Richard’s elimination deal and was kicked out by Lumumba. No doubt his plan was abandoned.

A second report consisted mainly of a list of city streets to be paved and water pipes to be repaired. It wasn’t related to the OB Curtis emergency. The third report, “Plan to Hinds Co Delegates Oct-Dec ’21,” provides a detailed listing of 20 capital expenditures for the OB Curtis plant totaling $20.5 million. It was a plan. The problem was that the mayor and his staff did not follow the grant application protocol required by the state and federal government. The devil is in the details and Lumumba just didn’t pull it off.

State leaders tasked with matching US bailout dollars (ARPA) say Jackson is behind in his bid. That could add another $40 million to the $42 million the city has already received. That’s four times what is needed to fund the $20.5 million capital expenditure for OB Curtis.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, who represents much of Jackson, complained that he had yet to see a city plan to fix OB Curtis. Obviously, there is a lack of communication. It’s up to the Lumumba administration not to stroke the good bellies and follow proper funding procedures. It is the basis of competence.

When diehard Democrat Thompson gives up, you know it’s bad. Thompson told Mississippi Today, “I wouldn’t support the city being given the power to run it, because it doesn’t make any sense.”

No, that doesn’t make sense, so for God’s sake, let’s not. Heads of State should create the independent utility district as soon as possible.