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Governor Reeves calls out Jackson mayor over water crisis response



Gov. Reeves infrastructure
Gov. Tate Reeves at press conference announcing massive infrastructure investments (screen grab from Live on governor's Facebook page).
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In a press release, Governor Reeves stated his objections to how Jackson Mayor Lumumba has handled the water crisis, stating there is “very little trust” in the mayor, calling him a “radical gambit”.

The press release reads:

We have been told by city officials that the Mayor of Jackson is planning to functionally end the city’s cooperation with the Unified Command Structure—the team that has been keeping Jackson water stable—by refusing to participate in the process of selecting a water operator alongside federal and state water experts as the Biden Administration repeatedly asked to be done. That would be a huge mistake by the city. They would be communicating through this action that they no longer desire state assistance and insist on going it alone.

President Joe Biden‘s EPA pressed the state to prepare a request for a water operator and take the lead in the logistical process of procuring it. The Department of Health had the city review the technical components of the request. As spelled out in the published RFQ, the City of Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Health score the bids and ultimately select the operator. None of them report to the Governor’s office. The only role of MEMA is in the emergency procurement process of opening the price proposals and communicating the prices to the scoring team.

Throughout this emergency, we have had to procure chemicals, workers, and materials for the city routinely because they were incapable of doing so. This is a continuation of that process in an unbiased way—led by technical experts.

The state has poured millions of dollars from taxpayers of every county into this effort to rescue the city from a crisis of incompetence. If the politicians of the city of Jackson are determined to reject every helping hand and regulatory enforcement action, they will find themselves in an even worse situation.

There is very little trust amongst any outside observer that the Mayor putting his thumb more heavily on the scale to select a vendor will lead to a better outcome than experts from the Department of Health and Environmental Protection Agency having a seat at the table and ensuring that there are no games. He has proven time and time again that the benefit of the doubt cannot be given on contracts and water issues. I hope that he will reconsider this dangerous maneuver. The people of Jackson cannot afford another critical water failure due to a contract dispute akin to his garbage debacle.

Although politics is clearly his priority, we are simply trying to ensure that Jackson water does not fail again. Ultimately, it may fall to the city council to rein in this radical gambit.

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