Lumumba dismisses governor’s turkey-pardoning ‘tantrum’ as ‘patently false’

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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Days after Gov. Tate Reeves ratcheted up the rhetoric in his ongoing feud with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the mayor has turned the tables, saying it’s the governor who is playing politics.

Last week, the governor took the mayor and his administration to task over the city’s ability to run its water system. He pointed to the fact that Jackson had issued a request to manage its water plants, despite the state having issued one days earlier, and cited the numerous interviews with national media, where he said Lumumba had insulted the people of the state.

On Monday, Lumumba refuted the governor’s claims, saying he loves the people of Mississippi, and that the people of the state should not be lumped into his “failure to fund Jackson over time.”

“You will find at no time, in any of my comments, have I ever spoken poorly about the people of Mississippi,” he said. “I love the people of Mississippi. What I have done is challenged the leadership of the state in order to address the failure to fund Jackson over time.”

Weeks into Jackson’s ongoing water crisis, Reeves made his comments at turkey-pardoning ceremony outside the Governor’s Mansion.

At the heart of the matter is dueling efforts to bring on a company to manage the city’s water system. Earlier this month, the state issued its request for qualifications to bring on a firm for one year. Lumumba said the city would not go along with the RFQ because the state did not consult the administration in drawing it up, and Jackson issued its own RFP in response.

The governor, in his comments, said the mayor wanted the city to issue its own request, so Lumumba could steer the contract to the firm of his choice.

“I was really a bit afraid that the turkey might not get pardoned, you know, [with him] thinking of me during the entire process,” Lumumba said.

The mayor also took issue with claims that he had broken the unified command structure put in place to respond to the city’s water crisis.

“I met with the unified command today, as I do every Monday… every Monday in order to assess what is taking place, in order to get an update on the current status, intermediate status, or [to find out] plans for our plant,” he said. “And so that was patently false.”

Meanwhile, while the governor claims Lumumba has been lying about the people of Mississippi, the mayor says Reeves has on numerous occasions shows how little he cares for Jackson.

“It’s a somewhat bipolar analysis that the governor has… On some days, you know, it’s ‘I want to be the savior of Jackson’s water system. I want you to know everything that we’re doing and how we’ve rescued Jackson from this place.’ Then, on other days, it’s ‘I want you to know how much distain I have for Jackson,’ by saying ‘It’s always a great day not to be in Jackson,’” Lumumba said.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, left, and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba discuss elements of...
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, left, and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba discuss elements of a coordinated response with federal agencies, that they believe will help deal with the city’s long-standing water problems, during a Wednesday news briefing, Sept. 7, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. The two men also conferred with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan, unseen, and other officials to explore options. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)(Rogelio V. Solis | AP)

“People joked about my expression in the press conference after he said it, when he talked about the $200 million that he had given Jackson, only for him to issue a list that you yourselves know was laughable,” he said. “It was laughable because it had funds that were loans that the city has to pay for. Unless they are forgiving these millions and millions of dollars in loans that we have to pay on, that we have to pay the administrative cost on, that we have to pay the low interest on, then I don’t know what you gave us.”

In September, Gov. Reeves said the state gave Jackson $200 million over the last five or six years to address its litany of infrastructure needs. That $200 million included loans/emergency loans from the Mississippi State Department of Health and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and $86.7 million from revenues generated by the city’s one-percent infrastructure sales tax. A list provided by the Governor’s Office also showed it had given Jackson $42 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, although that money was given to the city by the federal government through a direct allocation.

“So, the governor isn’t giving anything when the residents of Jackson are deciding to add a penny on the goods and services that they purchase in order to address their infrastructure,” Lumumba said. “Even when you take the CCID, the CCID is just an offset of Jackson tax dollars… So, it’s Jackson residents paying for Jackson infrastructure.”

The CCID is the Capitol Complex Improvement District. The legislature created the district during a previous session and provides state sales tax revenues to make improvements within it.

“Now, the reason that time and time again, that I have decided to not address the governor… not go tit-for-tat and instead encourage cooperation…. Every time a statement is made, every time he has a tantrum, what do I come back [to you with]? I come back to you with facts. I come back to you with the details,” he said. “And then, I say, ‘Governor, I hope that we can cooperate and work together.’”

“And the reason that I do that is, first and foremost, I don’t care what the governor thinks about me. Secondly, I would say that we both have to understand that the challenges that we are addressing are bigger than me and bigger than him,” he said. “It’s about How do we restore a functional, dependable system for the residents of Jackson?

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