By Shanderia K. Posey
The Coalition for Economic Justice has joined a list of supporters against legislation that would lead to the state taking over the Jackson-Medger Wiley Evers International Airport.
The coalition, which includes members of the Legislative Black Caucus and other organizations such as Cooperation Jackson, held a press conference Tuesday at the State Capitol announcing its stance against Senate Bill 2162 authored by Sen. Josh Harkins of Flowood.
The legislation would change the makeup of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority’s Board of Commissioners by allowing the governor to appoint two people from Hinds County, two people from Rankin County, and two people from Madison County, and an at-large member. Currently, JMAA’s board consists of five people appointed by Jackson’s mayor and confirmed by the Jackson City Council.
“We believe that this bill represents politics of old,” said Attorney Chokwe Lumumba Jr., who is a coalition member. Lumumba also emphasized the airport is now operating “in the black.”
Akil Bakari, a business owner and coalition spokesperson, said Harkins’ bill is a “false flag” and it’s introduction “doesn’t make logical sense.” He noted that supporters of the legislation have indicated use of airport revenue beyond Jackson would be fair. However, Bakari said he doesn’t recall officials of Madison and Rankin counties finding it necessary to discuss those counties’ revenue with the city of Jackson.
The real reason the state wants to take control of the airport centers on “money and power,” said Bakari. “This is essentially about the systematic dismantling of the economic viability of Jackson.”
The coalition will host a people’s assembly at 3 p.m. Feb. 20 at Word and Worship Church, 6286 Hanging Moss Road to educate, motivate and get residents organized on the issue.
“I think we have to educate the populace of what exactly is at stake,” said Lumumba, who noted about 3,000 acres of airport land is incorporated property of Jackson and the JMAA Commission has a vision for using the property. The public needs to know that, “We do not feel that this is an issue to compromise,” he said.
Press conference speakers talked about keeping Jackson’s money in the city and said concerns about costly airfares at the Jackson airport should be attributed to the industry as a whole and not the local leadership. Baker addressed concerns over Southwest Airlines departure from the Jackson airport.
“It’s very interesting that Southwest Airlines left under the previous executive director’s leadership … that was about Southwest, not the airport commission,” Bakari said.
“The problem of this airport proposal is that it is a symbol of the continuing undemocratic process where political leadership makes decisions that impacts us directly,” said Sacajawea Hall of Cooperation Jackson, which is a part of the coalition.
Other organizations and local entities who have come out in support of JMAA and against the legislation include the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, Jackson City Council, Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber, Sen. Hillman Frazier, Rep. Earle Banks and the Business Ministerial Alliance of Mississippi.
Rosie L. T. Pridgen, JMMA chairman of the Board of Commissioners, is encouraged by the support and plans to attend the assembly meeting later this month.
“I believe that it is the basic responsibility of all citizens to take charge of their lives and seek to improve their spiritual, educational, emotional, physical, political, emotional and economical conditions,” Pridgen said. “I further believe that once this happens on an individual level, it will also manifest itself in our communities. It is encouraging to have our citizens get involved in this process to help save our airports. It is great that citizens are realizing the potential this could have for future generations. All citizens should identify a way to make their voices heard, speak out against this legislation, contact their legislators and work together to help defeat this legislation.”