State legislators representing Hinds County

By Chris Young,

Contributing Writer,

The current term for all twelve of our Representatives and all five of our Senators ends in 2024. It’ll be here before you know it. Let’s take a closer look at who is representing us, and what changes they are championing.

In the lower chamber, we have eleven Democrats, and one Republican; Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. Seven males and five females. Fifty percent are in their first term in office; Representatives Foster, Yates, Stamps, Summers, Brown and Crudup Jr. Two are in their second term; Representatives Bell and Gibbs. The remaining four have served 20, 22, 29, and 37 years in office; Representatives Gunn, Holloway, Sr., Banks and Clarke, respectively. Ten Representatives are black, two are white.

In the upper chamber, we have four Democrats, and one Republican; J. Walter Michel. 100% are male. None are in their first term. One is in his second term, this time around – Senator Michel served 12 years in the Senate, then was out of office for a term, and was then reelected and is now on his second term. Senator Norwood is on his third term. Senator Blount is on his fourth term. Senator Horhn has been in office 28 years. Senator Frazier has been in office 29 years, after first serving in the lower chamber for 12 years. Three Senators are black, two are white.

Salaries for our part-time legislators are $23,500 ($10,000 base salary + $1,500 per month when not in session) coupled with per diem when in session at a rate of $151 per day; so an additional $13,590 for a 90-day session.  Then there is 58 cents per mile for travel.

In the session recently ended, Senators proposed a pay raise for legislators of $6,000 for the first year of a new term, then $4,500 for the remaining three years of the term. They were also adding in the $1,500 per month for the full twelve months of the year, even when they are in session. The pay raise initially passed, but eventually died on the calendar – this time.

I can’t possibly quantify the good deeds that these seventeen legislators do for Hinds County each year but there must be many. Surely, it would be in keeping with the $630,530 (minimum estimate) that we pay them, though.

Hinds County has a population of 227,742 based on the 2020 Census, and showing a decline. 74% of the county are Black or African Americans and 25% are White alone. There are 88,000 households. 88% graduate high school, 30% graduate college. 62% are in the workforce. Per capita income is $24,463. Median household income is $45,380. A full 27% of the population of Hinds County lives in poverty; more than one in every four people.

The county also encompasses the City of Jackson with a population of 153,701 and showing decline. 83% of the city are Black or African Americans and 16% are White alone. There are 62,861 households. 87% graduate high school, 29% graduate college. 63% are in the workforce. Per capita income is $22,815. Median household income is $40,064. A full 25% of the population of Jackson lives in poverty; one in every four people. 

It’s true that Mississippi is the poorest state in the Country, but I have to ask our State Legislators – can we change – can we do better in Hinds County? Would you really like it to change? Would you like to see less poverty, homelessness, and crime? Would you like to see improved employment rates and less people running away from our region? Would you like to see Jackson vanish from the list of most dangerous cities in America? Most days I somehow get the impression that everyone just accepts the status quo.

Today, the frenzied topic of the day is crime. We throw millions into the Capitol Complex Improvement District, as if it will mitigate crime here. We see outrage over the shooting at the Mudbug Festival, yet barely a murmur about the very regular killing going on in parts of the city to the South and West. 

Crime does not occur in a vacuum, it has root causes. It almost always occurs against a backdrop of other issues. Always on the list are poverty and racism. Hinds County is rife with both. Mississippi’s national rankings have always been well earned – they are not an accident.

So I ask you, Hinds County legislators – what is the name of the next black economic engine in Hinds County? And what’s the name of the one after that? What’s the next Continental Tire, so to speak? Ask yourself the question, what can I do today to help create black economic engines to bring about positive change in my predominantly black district where I am a servant leader to my predominantly black constituents? 

I’m optimistic and prayerful that you are already working on it behind the scenes. Working with, not against, the Board of Supervisors. Working with, not against, the area mayors. These will be some awesome ribbon-cuttings. You will certainly be on the front row. We’re counting on you.

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