How a ‘Radical’ Southern Mayor Ran Up Against Reality

When it comes to Jackson’s streets Lumumba also had limited success. He has estimated it would cost $ 2 billion just to replace the city’s torn streets and repair its centuries-old water pipes and sewers. But Jackson’s tax base has been declining for years. In the meantime state legislators killed a local 1 percent sales tax Repair Jackson’s infrastructure despite the city council approving the tax and Lumumba lobbying heads of state for it; Mississippi lawmakers are required to approve such tax increases in the state. A federal infrastructure law would of course help, but Lumumba has no control over it.

“Making sustainable models work in local government is the foundation of the movement,” said Larry Cohen, chairman of Bernie Sanders-affiliated progressive group Our Revolution, which Lumumba first supported and continues to support. “The concern is, where do you get investments from? … Otherwise it will be an almost impossible challenge. “

Mississippi Republican governor Tate Reeves says he and Lumumba have a good working relationship. But Reeves says the state is already investing heavily in Jackson and that it is up to the city to better manage its finances. “We want to be helpful. We want to do our part, ”Reeves said in an interview at the governor’s mansion. He also said the city should fix its water billing issues before levying taxes: “They understand now that they need to fix this well before being asked to ask other taxpayers across the state or other taxpayers across the country to do that Save Jackson Water System. ”

Many in Jackson’s democratic leadership have been disappointed not only with Lumumba’s vision, but also with his youth, audacity, demeanor, self-confidence (or arrogance, depending on who you ask), attempts to bypass them and to put them aside throw.

Last year, for example, Democratic presidential candidates visited Lumumba as an important confirmation of the 2020 primary. In February Lumumba held a so-called “People’s Caucus”, at which representatives of various campaigns spoke in Jackson and the participants voted on the candidates. The around 100 participants, according to Mississippi Today, mostly voted for Sanders. Days later, Lumumba approved the Vermont Senator. While it looked like Lumumba was channeling its constituents’ views, Hinds Counties, including Jackson, overwhelmingly voted for Joe Biden in the primary. Democratic lawmakers in Jackson and other southern cities – like Randall Woodfin of Birmingham, who was also supported by Our Revolution – also endorsed Biden.

The process has shown Lumumba is not keeping up with Jackson, says councilor and pastor Aaron Banks, who served as the representative of the constituent ministries of the elder Lumumba. “When it comes to a left-wing approach, I don’t think this is the best route for the City of Jackson,” says Banks, pointing out that Mississippi is still a very republican state. “If the city is to prosper and prosper, we have to find this way in the middle.”

Lumumba pushes back, pointing out that the Mississippi area code came a week after Super Tuesday. At this point, Biden’s victory was far from certain. He also stands by the process that gave residents the opportunity to hear the candidates’ platforms.

Lumumba has also earned the wrath of many local black contractors, a group of powerful enemies. Marcus Wallace, Mayor of Edwards, a small town west of Jackson, owns a construction company that has done business with previous mayors. A few years ago, Wallace invested $ 200,000 in equipment to repair potholes in Jackson, but he told me he didn’t get a deal from the current mayor. Wallace drove through downtown Jackson on a Saturday morning pointing out potholes and cracked streets in the city that Lumumba had not repaired. He argues that Lumumba focused on repairing high-visibility streets but neglected those where poor black residents live.

“This government is doing a lot,” says Wallace.

He told me that he and others were doing local construction work Entrepreneurs tried to attract more candidates to the mayor’s race, but few were interested in challenging Lumumba.

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