Commentary: City Council not alone in needing correction

By Chris Young,

Contributing Writer,

We don’t know what we don’t know. Correction is a good thing.

God knows I am no pastor. That high calling and title is reserved for better men than me. I am a reader though, and read in 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

In reviewing many sources, there are a minimum of 2,000 people homeless in Jackson. Not couch hopping homeless – out on the street homeless. The City of Jackson has a Consolidated Plan and Actions Plans that attempt to address this and other problems, but the evidence is clear – it’s in need of correction.

Mississippi continues to have the highest prevalence of youth and adult substance abuse in the country. Jackson hospitals admit more people for substance use disorders than anywhere in the state. 

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health Addictive Services has a vast array of community-based services available to help. They also publish an excellent resource directory. Over time though, it always needs adjustment, improvement – correction.

Last week State Fairgrounds Director Michael Lasseter (and obviously State Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson; his boss), was going to let the Black Rodeo die this year. He told WLBT that “the promoter refused to provide security for requested gatherings on the south end of the grounds and tailgating on the north end.” He didn’t mention that increased fees for added security were mandated for the event, $6,000 to 10,000 in increased fees by some accounts. 

Enter State Senator John Horhn (D-26th). WLBT now reports that the Black Rodeo is back on for Saturday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. He coordinated efforts to bring city, county and state law enforcement, Visit Jackson, and others together to provide security for the annual event.

Horhn said, “We are not going to let these bad actors ruin our city and ruin tourism in our city because tourism is a major part of Jackson’s economy.” Our city – did you see Senator Horhn’s words? Senator Horhn took ownership – he said, not on my watch! Real live results oriented leadership. He knew the situation needed correction, and he went out and found a way.

Then there is the Juneteenth fireworks, $6,000 to $9,000, being voted down by the Jackson City Council. Have mercy. Hats off to the generosity of Downtown Jackson Partners. It’s more than generosity though. Downtown Jackson Partners has a highly diverse board, advisory council, and staff. Smart people who realize the importance of this date for African Americans, when nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, word finally reached Galveston, Texas that the slaves were now free. After the council vote of 3-4, a correction was needed. In this instance it was Downtown Jackson Partners that took ownership and embraced our city and it’s 85% African-American population.

Last week Jackson City Council voted down the payment of $808,000.35 to Richard’s Disposal for services rendered during the month of April by a vote of 5-2. This is connected to their earlier vote in February to vote down Richard’s Disposal for the solid waste contract by a vote of 4-3. Correction is needed.

Jackson’s trash is being picked up by Richard’s. There were plenty of speedbumps for the first few weeks, and why wouldn’t there be, there was no turnover from the previous company, Waste Management, and the mayor has acknowledged that they had the contract so long that the city had not been keeping up with the intricacies of the pick-up routes. For the last few weeks though things seem to be going much smoother. Instances of a trash pile-up are sometimes highlighted by some of our broadcast news outlets – enragement equals engagement – but by and large these are highly isolated incidents at this point.

Voting against Richard’s, an African-American owned firm was a mistake. This contractor submitted the low bid, $1.2 million a year lower. They are employing a large number of African-American workers with a living wage and benefits versus a high percentage of temporary workers with the last company, who had the contract 35+ years. What signal does it send to others to have a predominantly black council reject a black business who was the lower bidder on the garbage contract in a predominantly black city?

There are members of Jackson City Council who truly seem to be trying to move us forward, and they should be lauded. There are other members who don’t appear to be focused on our city’s advancement at all. Maybe they don’t see it that way. Perhaps they don’t see the infighting, lawsuits upon lawsuits, name calling, legal debt piling up at taxpayer expense, and juvenile-sounding justifications for their actions. So much energy is being expended to push back against this mayor; so much energy in a negative way, not in a positive way. This dynamic needs correction. 

Putting what looks like personal aspirations above the best interests of the city – that needs correction. Our city is hemorrhaging and our people are hurting. Lives are being erased – young lives. Lives are being permanently altered. A church on every corner, yet no longer a potent force of community building. Last week I floated an economic idea by a seasoned Jackson insider that would involve local pastors. I was told flat out it could never happen. When I asked why, he stated that even the pastors don’t get along with each other. This needs _______________(fill in the blank).

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