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Some of our readers will know a good deal about the unsavory mess that is the water supply crisis in Jackson, Mississippi. If not, a quick synopsis: Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi, is 82 percent black and 43 percent dirt-broke; that latter number is the percentage of its residents making $30,000 per year or less. When you consider it’s where the state capitol is and where most of Mississippi’s state employees work, those numbers are nothing short of breathtaking.
It’s a terrible place, made so by the sheer buffoonery of the city’s ruling class. Jackson hasn’t had Republicans in a position of leadership since Reconstruction, and the Democrats who run the city have chased off virtually all of its tax base and productive citizens. What’s left is a city full of people who can’t do a proper job at honest work, and that degradation manifested itself in problems with its water supply.
This isn’t like Flint, Michigan, where the failure to replace lead pipes and other forms of neglect led to unsafe water. It’s worse. In Jackson the water first started to deteriorate into a brown sludge, then it stopped coming out of faucets altogether.
The problem with the Jackson water supply wasn’t really bad infrastructure. It was bad people. The water system went from 11 certified engineers running the system to two, mostly because the people running the place didn’t have the confidence of the people who knew how to make it work – and when they got fed up and left, there wasn’t enough institutional competence to hire replacements.
Worse, the water system bought an expensive software system for billing that they couldn’t operate, and the result was that people stopped getting water bills that were even remotely accurate. When the hue and cry that was sure to follow arrived, the city leaders, and particularly the city’s clownish leftist mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, decided they wouldn’t shut off anybody’s water for non-payment.
So the water system died for lack of revenue. In 2021, just before the system failed, it ran a $17.8 million shortfall. Now there’s a mountain of federal cash flying in to bail the system out and the state legislature is getting involved in an attempt to regionalize the water system so it won’t be run by the same intentionally incompetent and thoroughly corrupt idiots who broke it in the first place.
All the while getting hammered by the Usual Suspects on the Left for “systemic racism” which somehow is the reason Lumumba and his lickspittles can’t run a municipal water system.
But while that battle goes back and forth at the legislature, another hilarious fiasco is unfolding. From WLBT-TV in Jackson…
Just hours after the People’s Relief Campaign was launched, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba stood in front of reporters touting a $20 million grant received to fund the program as an example of promises made, promises kept.
The announcement was one of several made by officials including the mayor, JXN Water, and community organizers before and after the program began telling customers the funds had been made available to forgive their old water and sewer debt.
“We told you that we were going to find a way to provide relief and equity to residents. And now you see that happening,” the mayor said.
However, at the time those announcements were made, the city had not received the grant and just days after the program officially got underway, JXN Water learned the grant wasn’t coming in.
Even so, nearly $13 million in customers’ bad debt has been forgiven, with JXN Water “writing off” the amounts, rather than using grant money to pay it.
Interim Third-Party Manager Ted Henifin says the reason for the mistake is because of a miscommunication from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He said the funds were pretty much guaranteed to the city at a meeting with the agency prior to the kickoff date of the relief program. However, he only learned later that the information shared by department officials was incorrect.
“There were dollar signs floating in all of our eyes, thinking we were gonna bring in some serious federal dollars to Jackson,” he said. “It wasn’t until after that [kick-off] date that we get a notice from Health and Human Services person that was doing the talking in our… meeting… says, ‘Oh, I misspoke.’”
“The air went out of the room quickly when we learned that.”
There is a very serious question – which is putting it quite generously, as there isn’t really a question at all – about whether a municipal agency can write off debt under Mississippi law.
It’s almost comic in its idiocy. They’re offering free stuff to the residents, who are clamoring for it, and they don’t even have the funding in place. Or the legal power to do it.
This isn’t really incompetence. It’s worse than that. They just wrote down $13 million of other people’s money, which they will without question demand from the taxpayer some other way, on the basis of their own ill-conceived promises. And somehow you’re the villain if you object.
State governments will have to wade into sewers like Jackson and take away their municipal powers with respect to infrastructure, education and law enforcement. While that’s an unpalatable and thankless task, the alternative is to allow the Chokwe Antar Lumumbas of the world to utterly destroy all of our cities of size. And a great nation cannot have bleak hellscapes for cities.
Jackson is such a hellscape. It cannot save itself. It lacks the human resources to do so. Those must come from outside its city limits.