Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Senate Passes Jackson Utility District Bill

The Senate approved a bill that will transfer control of Jackson's water and sewer systems from the city to a new public utility district governed by a nine-member board of directors.  The bill passed on a 34-15 vote that broke down along party and racial lines.  

State Senator David Parker (R-Graceland) authored SB #2889, "An Act to create the Mississippi Capitol Region Utility Authority." State Senator Parker is Chairman of the Committee.  History and text of bill.

The Authority replaces the city of Jackson in providing water, sewer, and stormwater services to current Jackson customers.  The transfer of power will not take place until the court-appointed water manager's work concludes.  

A nine-member board of directors will govern the Authority.  The Mayor appoints four members while the Governor appoints three members and the Leftenent Governor appoints two members.  The bill originally stated the Mayor must confer with the city of Byram and the city of Ridgeland each for two of his appointments.  However, State Senator Parker amended the bill after discussing it with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.  

The Jackson Mayor will not have to confer with either city prior to making his appointments to the board.  The amendment requires the Governor to confer with the city of Byram for one of his appointments while the Leftenent Governor must counsel with the city of Ridgeland for his appointment. Ridgeland is a customer of Jackson's sewer service.   

All directors must be customers in the area served by the utility authority.  All meetings will be subject to the open meetings and public records laws.  The board hires a President to manage the Authority. 

State Senator Parker said similar utility authorities operate successfully on the Gulf Coast and in Desoto County.  Byram and Ridgeland can opt out of the district if they choose to do so.  

The utility authority must get permission from the Public Service Commission for rate increases (Line 471).  The annual audited financial statements will be made available to the public.  

Opponents of the bill claimed the legislature was creating the utility authority to divert the $800 million in federal funds meant to rebuild Jackson's water system to other parts of the state.   However, Section 4 of the bill makes such legislative thievery impossible: 

(5)  All funds provided by the federal government in H.R. 2617, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, and any other funds provided by the state or federal government in response to the water crisis detailed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in Case No. 3:22-cv-00686, United States v. City of Jackson, shall be spent according to the direction of the receiver and federal court within the service territory impacted by the water crisis and in accordance with federal law.

Start at 56:00 to watch the debate. 

State Senator John Horn (D-Patron) heatedly asked why the State Senator from Desoto County was so concerned with Jackson's water system.  Mr. Parker said he lives several months a year in Jackson and said the water problems have been a "black eye" on the state.  He stressed Mayor Lumumba did not create the problem but it occurred over many years.  Mr. Horhn repeatedly called the creation of the utility district "a taking."  Mr. Parker disagreed but the Jackson state senator compared the transfer of Jackson's water and sewer assets to a utility district to the airport takeover bill.  

State Senator Horhn's opposition focused on the alleged taking of a Jackson asset.  The Jackson State Senator said it looked like the state was "picking on some black folks.""We know Jackson needs help, but this is not it," said the State Senator in a rather impassioned plea.  Several members of the Black Caucus  made similar arguments as they followed their Jackson colleague.  

Some contention took place between the two State Senators when Mr. Parker said Water Manager Ted Henifin approved of the creation of a public utility district for Jackson.   Mr. Horhn challenged his claim, asking if he actually met with Mr. Henifin.  Mr. Parker admitted he had not talked to him although he is scheduled to meet him on February 13.  Mr. Henifin stated creating a utility authority was one of several possible options for the future governance of Jackson's water and sewer system (p.15 of his financial management plan.): 

The Water Manager did not recommend a particular model.  

A humorous moment occurred State Senator McMahon offered an amendment to move the state capitol to Tupelo.  State Senator Horhn brought the Germans into the discussion as he said the amendment was not germane to the bill.  Lieutenant Governor Hosemann agreed and rejected the amendment. 

The Senate adopted a reverse repealer for the bill. 

All Jackson State Senators but for Walter Michel voted against the bill. 

Kingfish note: It was rather comical watching State Senator Barbara Blackmon (D-CMU) raise hell about the bill.  Comical because of her firms, um, relationship with CMU. Wait a second.  CMU is an independent utility authority although the Canton Board of Aldermen appoints its Board of Commissioners.  Such an authority served Canton for decades.  Not going to say it.  



Anonymous said...

Any reason to play the race card.

Anonymous said...

If moving the Capitol to a different city were financially/politically feasible, Jackson would lose the Capital status that offers layers of now growing State protection from both its apparently inherent criminal and incompetency elements.

Anonymous said...

(D-CMU) Another zinger

Anonymous said...

The tears coming out of city hall are causing flooding downtown. Not to worry as for once it isn't a broken water main.

Anonymous said...

I intended "Capitol" status.

Anonymous said...

Is Babs still on TV? Damn, those were the days.

Anonymous said...

If Jackson does not like the plan there is something they can do. Quit electing crooks to office.

Anonymous said...

9:54, you had it right the first time. Capitol only means one thing, the actual building.

The Capitol building is in the Capital city. Moving the capital would mean the center of government would be in a different city. Moving the Capitol would mean disassembling the actual building and reconstructing it elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I mean why not cut to the chase and just relocate the capital, The new Capitol could be repurposed as a saturday/sunday brunch joint; a couple agencies could hang around waiting for their ticket out of town -- and the state could just operate out of a brick-fronted metal building in Gluckstadt.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Senator David Blount voted against this bill (didn't speak) but not too very long ago he was in favor of such a creation. Guess getting an opponent like the Rev in a Democratic primary makes what is needed fir Jackson and the state change.

FWIW, he also voted against the bill that would put his socialists buddy's radical rate structure out to pasture. I'm sure that's going to sell well among his traditional NE Jxn voters.

Anonymous said...

What else guarantees CL mayorship for life? The State taking control and making Jackson great. He can blame the state for votes, while enjoying reduced crime, clean water, well paved roads, and business opportunities.

Anonymous said...

"The board hires a President to manage the Authority."

Please clarify. Also give your opinion as to whether Kenny Ray Jones will qualify for that position. Or for that matter, Mayor Truly or any person now indicted for federal crimes in or around the Canton area.

Anonymous said...

And, like Jackson's sales tax and ad valorem tax,the money will go into The General Fund and Jackson will get nothing for water/sewer or for roads or infrastructure.
Would y'all please pay attention to "how things work?!
And, why oh why do you all think the neglect to the pipes and treatment plant and meters happened in barely 2 decades?
Is your memory or research capability that impaired?
Do you not remember in 1979 that the debris and growth in every creek and tributary and inadequate drainage played a role in the flooding?

Anonymous said...

And not a single public remark from Gibbs or Green!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful news!

Now, let's get Waste Management back to work and then take over the street maintenance.

CivilPE said...

11:04, “debris and growth in every creek and tributary and inadequate drainage” had absolutely nothing to do with the flood of 1979. Flooding in Jackson was backwater (it backed into Jackson from the Pearl River), not headwater (water that collects in and near Jackson drainages because the channels are inadequate to carry it to the Pearl fast enough). Every creek in Jackson could have been perfectly clean and it would not have mattered, water from the Pearl would have backed into them.

You are correct that the pipes are not the mayor’s fault, but the neglect of O.B. Curtis that caused last year’s crisis is all on him. That’s “how things work”.

Anonymous said...

Kenny Ray Jones will be applying in 3, 2, 1...

Anonymous said...

Good job G.O.P.

Have Had It said...

I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of better governance.
This is about stealing a city's revenue and siphoning federal money.
They,of course, didn't do anything to allow Jackson to get road funds.

Anonymous said...

“(D-CMU) Another zinger”, yes, Kingfish has been bringing the snark lately. I say bring it.

EFGAlterEgo said...

12:25 PM
Go ahead. Drink the boo boo water. Don't forget to smile and say how great Lumumba is at governing.

Anonymous said...

9:29 - I give up on figuring out what the hell your post means.

Anonymous said...

If it makes it to Taters desk for his signature, I hope he calls a press conference local live TV and threatens to veto it before signing it just to rub it in Chowke's face.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they can resurrect the old CMU (Canton Municipal Utilities) board. They certainly did an admirable job and I think they are all out of jail.

Anonymous said...

The reason the gentleman from Desoto is interested in the bill is because the constituents of his district have to pay for the ineptitude of the leadership of Jackson. This is a great bill and a great opportunity to get Jackson back on track to being a great capital city.

Anonymous said...

@9:29, I’m totally for this, but I cannot understand your “word salad” comment. Did you happen to go to an Ivy League University? Now, there can be some assurance that funds are not misspent. I was sure hoping the mayor was not going to have full control of the $600,000,000. I have to look at that a long time and ponder what were they planning on doing with all of that money if there was no oversight. There were mini mansions “planned” all over Hinds County I’m sure. Maybe lots and lots of “new” businesses sue to all of this money. I think I’m speaking plainly enough that you can understand.

Anonymous said...

12:25: "This is about stealing a city's revenue and siphoning federal money.
They,of course, didn't do anything to allow Jackson to get road funds."

You should do some research before you make such stupid comments. The water collections/money doesn't go into the City's general fund. It stays wit the water department to maintain and fund the water system. (And need I remind you that, because the City wasn't sending out bills, collecting any money, or cutting people off for failing to pay their bills, there was no money to maintain and run the system, hence it's crash.) So, assuming the system gets run by a regional water district, the collections will still stay with the district for maintenance and upkeep. The new operator won't be taking any more from the City, it will stay with the water district as it always has.

As for not allowing the City to have road funds, the water money didn't go to roads, and the Legislature passed a bill several years ago allowing Jackson to add another 1% tax to be used for road funds, which it has been collecting and using to fix the roads. (Granted a bill was just proposed to make that 1% now be spent towards water, but for years it has been an extra road fund the Legislature gave to the City the right to collect to improve its roads.

Anonymous said...

Despite the optics and predictable race-baiting, this is a great idea. It should have been done decades ago, but I guess no one back then envisioned that the city of Jackson would ever be as poorly run as it is now.

Anonymous said...

Senator Hohrn in a press conference today continued to pass crap that doesn't pass the truth meter (surprise, surprise) about this bill - or maybe he has a limited description of who is in the 'Jackson delegation'.

Hohrn says that no member of the Jackson delegation was involved in the drafting of this bill, and that no member of the delegation knew of the bill prior to it being dropped.

There is absolute proof that at least one of the city's "delegation" was involved in the drafting of the legislation, and more than a few have (or had) expressed support for the concept. But, that doesnt fit the narrative, just as his other claim made on the floor during the rant. But might not can blame Hohrn for his second claim that doesn't pass the meter, he could have heard the same lie told by the Mayor.

Moving the city's utility system to the new Authority would not take any money from the city of Jackson. The money collected by the water and sewer bills - when the city bothers to send them out and make users pay - does not go to the city, but to the enterprise fund. The city can not use this money for any city purpose other than the operation of the utility itself. The better statement for both the Mayor and the Senator to say would transferring the system would SAVE money for the city. Currently, the city uses general fund money to fund some of the operations, maintenance and repair of the utility; it also uses some of the special sales tax revenue; ARPA dollars have all been moved to the utility; and all of the Modernization tax receipts are spent on the utility. Once the transfer is made, the city would have the same amount of income, but they could take these expenditures and spend the money on other dire needs - roads, bridges, and police would be a good place to start, but I'm sure they would begin using that extra money on things like a Food Mart on Farish Street or some of the other hairbrain proposals that the Mayor proposed to use the ARPA dollars for prior to the council moving them all to water/sewer.

But, the narrative is much more important to these elected politicians than the truth.

Anonymous said...

Horhn is going to run for Mayor again.

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