Consider This: Jackson’s Water Crisis

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:09 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - We start today by repeating comments we’ve shared many times in the past.

Basic governmental responsibilities include public safety, like fire and police protection, public education, roads and bridges and, of course, water and sewer. It’s not complicated.

Do those first, do them well, and other opportunities will come, just like we are seeing in many growth cities across the Southeast. Sadly, the City of Jackson has fallen woefully short on fulfilling basically all those governmental obligations.

The current water crisis is due to inadequate staffing, lack of expertise and lack of investment in maintenance by the city. The city has proven over and over and over again that it can’t provide proper oversight of the water system.

The current administration has mismanaged the situation over the past five years, but the water operations didn’t get into this condition overnight; it has been 20-plus years of neglect by previous administrations. The can has been kicked down the road for decades.

Jackson businesses, Jackson families, and communities like Byram, that are dependent on Jackson water, have been under a boil water notice for nearly two months. Some businesses have closed, others have canceled plans to expand, and many are looking at options to move out of the city.

That will only make a bad situation much worse.

It’s understandable the people of Jackson just want the problem fixed. That is happening and it is great to see all the support coming in from across the country. The immediate fix, however, must become a long-term fix.

In a recent editorial, the Wall Street Journal compared Jackson’s crisis to those in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, where state receivership helped fix those chronic fiscal and management problems, suggesting that might be worthy of consideration here.

Unlike the Wall Street Journal, we think the idea is not only worthy of consideration, but we believe it needs to happen. It is imperative for Jacksonians, Byram residents and Jackson businesses that an independent water authority take over daily operations.

This has happened in other Mississippi communities, including along the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. The city, state and feds must work together to create a long-term plan. That is going to take cooperation, compromise and collaboration.

A three-legged stool if you will… and a three-legged stool won’t stand up with only one or two legs in place.

The Governor needs to call a special legislative session now. This can’t wait until the regular session in January. Jacksonians just want the system fixed, and want it to stay fixed, and that won’t happen if the city remains the sole entity in charge of operations.

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