Frequent readers of this column will be familiar with one of the recurring themes we come back to often here — that of Weaponized Governmental Failure. Jackson, Mississippi, a benighted state capital in a pronounced state of decline, is one of the more advanced cases of what WGF can do.
It’s also a very good case in examining what happens when a state government, particularly in a red state, attempts to step in and reverse the manifest trouble a corrupt and malignant urban Democrat machine can cause.
In short, Jackson’s water supply went kaput a year ago. It’s one of the most egregious cases of government mismanagement in modern history; something like the Flint, Michigan, water crisis of the previous decade but in some ways worse. It isn’t that there were old pipes leaching lead into the Jackson water like was the case in Flint; this was a far simpler collapse than that.
The people running the water supply in Jackson, political minions of the city’s urban Democrat machine and in particular those of the current mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, simply let it go to pieces. They failed to staff the water system with enough qualified engineers to ensure its proper working, and they proved incompetent to produce accurate water bills. Things got so bad a few years ago that people stopped paying their water bills because they’d get statements from the water system that were clearly inaccurate, and the city started letting them get away with it. It’s been five years since almost anybody got their water cut off, and something like $100 million in bills have gone uncollected.
And so last year the system ground to a halt. Not only was what came out of the water faucets and shower heads in Jackson a nasty brown sludge; nothing came out at all.
This was a crisis, and all the usual Weaponized Governmental Failure apologists came out of the woodwork to declare that Jackson’s water supply failed because of “systemic racism.” That’s Urban Democrat for “middle-class people left the city because we failed/refused to provide them any basic services for their tax dollars, and now the people who don’t live here anymore aren’t paying us not to provide basic services for the people who couldn’t afford to move out.”
As most — but definitely not all — of the middle-class exodus in a city like Jackson was made up of people of pallor, it’s certainly all about racism.
Though the percentage of people belonging to racial minorities in the counties surrounding Hinds, the county Jackson is in, has risen along with the population and median income, which indicates that it isn’t “white flight” so much as it’s everybody-who-can-get-out-does-get-out.
Jackson is now 82 percent black, but more importantly, it’s dirt broke. According to statistics released by the Mississippi Department of Human Resources and Social Services, the poverty rate in Jackson is 24.5 percent. That’s 91.4 percent higher than the U.S. average and 26.3 percent higher than the Mississippi average. Some 43.6 percent of the people in the city make $30,000 or less, according to 2020 census numbers. Those are amazingly awful numbers for a state capital city where government jobs paying middle-class wages are generally plentiful (and it’s explained by the fact that the government workers also moved the hell out of Jackson to the suburbs).
It isn’t racism that explains Jackson. It’s failure. And specifically Urban Democrat failure, which isn’t the result of incompetence so much as a willful desire to steal money intended to provide those basic services and thus create a desperate and downtrodden electorate that is manipulated by the otherizing of those who’ve left.
It’s the white racists in the suburbs who’ve destroyed Jackson, not the black tyrants in the city who’ve blown up the police, the schools, the roadways, and the water supply.
This year, the state legislature has been busy attempting to empower the state’s capitol police to have jurisdiction into the city and not just in the buildings around the capitol so as to create a functional police force providing some semblance of public safety.
And the legislation being debated would set up a state-run court to bypass the completely corrupted, hug-a-thug revolving door that is the city’s courts.
The reaction to that? You guessed it — it’s “apartheid.” Never mind that Jackson’s murder rate in 2021 was FOURTEEN TIMES the national average, and that people barely even report car thefts in Jackson to the police anymore.
So what’s being debated in the Mississippi Legislature during the current session is a plan to regionalize the Jackson water system and get it out of the hands of the people who broke it.
And how’s that going? Well, here’s a taste from a report last week:
A House panel made changes to a Senate bill to put long-term control of Jackson’s troubled water system under a new “regional” authority, keeping the measure alive after a Tuesday-night deadline.
The changes were an effort to appease a special federal court receiver now overseeing the system and Jackson city and legislative leaders who have decried the regional water authority and other measures as a hostile state takeover of the capital city. The city’s water system, suffering decades of neglected maintenance, has routinely left residents with no potable water or at times no water at all.
“The city of Jackson would retain ownership, this makes that clear,” said Rep. Shanda Yates, I-Jackson, who presented the revised bill to the House Public Utilities Committee late Tuesday. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration, and if passed there would head back to the Senate since the House amended it.
Yates said she and SB2889 original author, Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, met with the federal receiver — who has said he would likely need about five years to true the system — on changes to the bill, some of which were minor tweaks.
The major change is the new authority would possess a “leasehold” on the system’s assets, not ownership as in the original bill. Also, any money obtained by the utility authority beyond what’s needed to operate and maintain the system would be returned to the city.
Here’s the payoff…
“All of [the bills proposing to reform governance of the water system] have been balled up into one, ‘We hate it all,’” Yates said. “… But everybody has said there needs to be some governing body other than the city running this system. My goal — I live in Jackson, I work in Jackson, I’m raising a family in Jackson, and I’m representing constituents of Jackson — is that when the third party (federal receiver) is gone, we have something in place, ready to go. I don’t want a year or two to go by with nothing new after they leave and things start to crumble again.”
Rep. De’Keither Stamps, D-Jackson, a member of the committee, successfully offered an amendment to the bill Tuesday to require one member of the authority board be a water customer from west-south Jackson, and that a well system in that area be maintained as either a primary or backup water system.
And this is just phenomenal…
Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson, on Wednesday said he had not seen the House-revised bill and, to his knowledge, most others in the Jackson legislative delegation had not been consulted.
That’s part of the problem with the regional authority and other Jackson bills this session, Bell said, lawmakers from elsewhere are trying to take over policing, utilities and other governance without consulting lawmakers representing the city.
“No, that usually doesn’t happen,” Bell said. “I can’t come up here and introduce legislation changing things in the Delta and not talk with people from there … It’s a situation of people from outside of the city thinking they know what’s best for the city. That’s part of the issue here.”
Bell said he generally believes, “Jackson should maintain its water system without any board having control over it.” He said he believes interest in taking it over came after about $800 million in federal money was secured to fix it. He questioned how the system would deal with emergencies under such a regional authority board, which he said would make things cumbersome.
Bell’s right that the interest in taking over the Jackson water system came after all that federal money was promised, but he misses — probably intentionally — that it’s only prudent for those now interested to be paying attention. Nobody in their right mind would give an $800 million reward to Chokwe Antar Lumumba and his merry band of public-sector pirates for what they’ve done to the water system.
But of course that’s the game, isn’t it? Screw things up badly enough and Uncle Sugar will rain cash down from helicopters to bail you out, and then you can repeat the cycle all over again.
And if somebody tries to break that wheel, you scream “RACISM!” as loudly as you can, in hopes it’ll scare them off.
It’s a moral imperative for Republicans from the suburbs, exurbs, and small towns in the statehouse to do something about the Jacksons and Birminghams and New Orleanses and Atlantas and other failing blue cities in red states. Mississippi’s governor, Tate Reeves, had the right idea, which was to fix the problem while wresting authority for it away from the villains.
There has to be a consequence of weaponized governmental failure. But Jackson is a good case study for how hard its perpetrators will fight to make it not worth the Republicans’ while.