Perspectives and priorities of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba on the development of Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson, Mississippi, is a city on the move. On June 4, 2013, the proud city of Jackson elected me to serve as its mayor to bring change to the city in the form of transparency, deep civic engagement, and economic reform and justice. By electing my administration, the people of Jackson made a clear statement that they are desiring fundamental change, are prepared to see it administered and, most importantly, want to play the leading role in implementing it.
Over the next four years, my administration will govern in accordance with human rights principles and standards. Our goal is to create equity for all. Through broad civic engagement, participatory and transparent governance and sound fiscal management, we will build a sustainable future for Jackson.
This future will be grounded in the highest provision of public services in public works administration, city planning, economic development, education, health care, transportation and public safety. We also aim to build a dynamic “new economy” rooted in cooperative development and anchored by green jobs, living wages and strong worker protections. The development of this new economy will be driven by the emerging human rights, workers, youth, immigrant and green social movements in partnership with my administration and socially responsible businesses, investors and philanthropies.
Contextualization: Where we stand
Jackson, like many urban centers, is struggling to overcome decades of economic divestment, deindustrialization, suburban flight, a declining tax base, chronic under- and un-employment, poorly performing schools, and an antiquated and decaying infrastructure.
While addressing all of these interrelated issues is important, the one that will receive the greatest attention during my administration is the infrastructure crisis. In order to ensure the health of our residents and rebuild our infrastructure to revitalize the economic foundations of our city, we must improve our sewage, water treatment and drainage systems, repave and rebuild our roads and bridges, expand our transportation systems and modernize our energy systems.
The Consent Decree gives the city of Jackson 17 years to overhaul our water treatment and sewage systems. The critical improvements to these systems will require hundreds of millions of dollars to properly address. If the city is unable to make these improvements at scheduled intervals, the consent decree may result in Jackson losing control of its sewage and water treatment systems. My administration is determined to ensure that Jackson will retain its control over these life sustaining systems.
Crises often present new opportunities. Jackson’s infrastructure crisis can be a major catalytic opportunity for our city and our residents. Over the course of the next 15 to 20 years, the City of Jackson will have to spend an estimated $1.2 billion to repair and upgrade its infrastructure. These infrastructure expenditures could potentially generate a short-term economic boom for the city.
However, the challenge is how will we finance these critical infrastructure expenses? The lion’s share of the expense will be financed through bonds and other forms of debt financing. But relying on these means of finance alone will place an undue burden on future generations that my administration is determined to avoid.
Privatization is also not an option, under any circumstances. Therefore, we are going to have to be very creative and innovative in our approach to solving this critical issue.
How we will govern
We believe that the creativity and innovation will come from the genius within our own community. We will stimulate and catalyze this genius by our practice and methodology of participatory and transparent governance. This methodology is grounded in my firm belief and grounding in human rights advocacy and promotion.
Human rights implementation
To ensure that the full complement of our residents’ human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled, my administration intends to implement the following policies and programs:
1. Human Rights Charter. The charter will establish the legal standing, policy framework and institutional support of our municipality for the promotion and protection of our residents’ human rights. We seek to institute the charter with the support and approval of the City Council, through the passage of an ordinance establishing its full standing under the law.
2. Human Rights Commission. The commission will serve as the implementing, enforcement and monitoring body for the charter and the general programs it commissions. The commission will specifically address issues of compliance, accountability, monitoring and documentation pertaining to how the government fulfills its human rights obligations. The commission will work in consultative status very closely with civil society and the social movements of the city to fulfill its mission.
3. Human Rights Institute. The institute will operate as a quasi-governmental but independent institution dedicated to human rights education and the broad promotion of human rights. The institute will focus on providing human rights education to all city employees and the community at large.
Participatory and transparent governance
There are numerous ways my administration will strive to elicit the broadest and deepest participation of our residents to resolve the challenges confronting our city. Our aim is to turn our challenges into opportunities for the empowerment of our residents and the revitalization of our city.
Two prominent ways my administration will foster and encourage broad civic participation amongst our residents are through “participatory budgeting” processes and “people’s assemblies.”
Our aim is to turn our challenges into opportunities for the empowerment of our residents and the revitalization of our city.
1. Participatory budgeting. Participatory budgeting is a process of democratic decision-making that encourages residents to directly deliberate upon and determine budgetary allocations for the municipality. Our objective in engaging the participatory budgeting processes is to place more power in the hands of our residents and to deepen democracy in our community by making governance more participatory.
My administration is beginning to collaborate with organizations like the Fund for Democratic Communities, the Democracy Collaborative and the Participatory Budgeting Project, preparing to introduce the participatory budgeting process to the city and to educate the government and the community on various ways it can be applied in Jackson. Our objective is to initiate the process in early 2014 to help us determine a portion of our 2014-2015 annual budget that will be more directly controlled by our residents via their direct determination on how these resources should be allocated.
2. People’s Assemblies. People’s Assemblies are self-organized instruments of people’s agency and power. As a human rights promoter and community organizer, I have always advocated and supported the development of People’s Assemblies as a means to give voice and power to those who have systematically been denied them in our society.
Over the years as a member of community organizations like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, I have participated in organizing assemblies to elect the first Black mayor of Jackson, to give voice to those internally displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and to give voice to the residents of Ward 2 and be directly accountable to them on an ongoing basis.
Good governance through human rights advocacy and protection, we believe, will encourage and mobilize our city to unite as a community and create the long-term solutions needed to solve our critical problems. In addition to human rights implementation and participatory governance, we believe that the implementation of our core campaign agenda will lay the foundation for the long-term revitalization of Jackson.
My vision for the future
“Building the city of the future today” – this is the prime directive of my administration. Through the practice of participatory democracy and transparent governance, we will establish the foundations for equity and prosperity that will sustain the city for the generations to come by concentrating on these four fundamental programmatic objectives for the redevelopment of Jackson.
Rebuilding and redeveloping Jackson’s infrastructure
As noted above, Jackson must overhaul and rebuild its infrastructure if the city is going to revitalize itself. It is imperative that we rebuild our water management and waste treatment systems, become more efficient in our energy consumption, diversify our sources of energy, overhaul our streets, highways and bridges, and create a comprehensive public transportation system.
1. Water management and waste treatment. We aim to completely overhaul these systems by removing all of our antiquated pipes, pumps and refineries and replacing them with the most sustainable equipment and materials that we can access. We also aim to reduce water consumption by installing newer, more accurate and efficient meters and by engaging in extensive community education campaigns to reduce extraneous consumption. We will also reduce hazardous runoff into our drainage systems by creating more stringent policies and penalties.
2. Energy efficiency. We aim to simultaneously diversify our energy sources and significantly reduce our consumption. We will start by retrofitting all of the city’s buildings and facilities to ensure that they are energy efficient. We will also convert all of the city’s light pole fixtures to ensure that they use solar power energy converters and efficient bulbs.
We aim to utilize as much solar and wind power as we can harness by supporting the building of solar power stations in several strategic locations throughout the city that are currently vacant or underutilized. We also aim to utilize several of these spaces to create wind farms to harness electricity. Further, we also aim to develop programs that will incentivize and subsidize the extensive cultivation of solar power in residential areas, businesses and governmental properties.
We aim to utilize as much solar and wind power as we can harness by supporting the building of solar power stations in several strategic locations throughout the city that are currently vacant or underutilized.
3. Repaving our streets and rebuilding our highways and bridges. We aim to repave all of the major thoroughfares, arteries and highways of our city (excluding interstate highways) that need repaving. In doing so, we will use the most eco-friendly and sustainable products currently available. We also intend on retrofitting all of the bridges in our city, all of which are vital for transportation and trade in our metropolis.
4. Creating a comprehensive public transportation system. We aim to lay the foundation for the development of a comprehensive public transportation in our city, based on a fleet of clean energy buses, an energy efficient metro-rail system, and a comprehensive system of bike and walking trails.
Making Jackson the greenest, most sustainable city in the Southeast
My administration is fully committed to building a sustainable future for our city and communities. Greening our infrastructure and transforming how we generate and consume energy is the critical first step. But it is only the first step.
Additional steps we are committed to taking include creating a comprehensive recycling system, developing a “zero” waste management system, eliminating the use of toxins in our community, creating a network of urban gardens and farms, and modernizing the city’s policies and codes for procurements, contract bidding and departmental operations to achieve this overall goal.
1. Recycling and zero waste. We are going to design and implement a comprehensive recycling program for the city. The program will address not only government facilities but all of the city’s residential and commercial facilities. We will also incentivize waste reduction at the source – in our households and businesses – by extensive education campaigns and policy change, such as “pay as you throw” legislation.
2. Urban gardening and farming. To effectively utilize our abundance of land, ensure the food security of our community, encourage and promote healthy eating habits and create long-term employment opportunities in impoverished communities, my administration is promoting the growth and expansion of urban gardening and farming. We are strongly encouraging the development of urban farming cooperatives to produce “to scale” agricultural yields and serve the health and employment needs of our community.
3. Policy alignment. In order to make Jackson the most sustainable city in the Southeast, we have to align our policies to meet our goals. In collaboration with the City Council, my administration intends to overhaul all of our zoning, permitting, procurement, contracting, and bidding processes to ensure they reflect our vision and priorities and establish the means for my administration to accomplish our goals.
To build equity in our marginalized and underserved communities, we are committed to concentrating our redevelopment resources to these strategic areas. Our objectives are to rehabilitate considerable portions of the existing housing stock in these communities to make them sustainable structures.
We are also going to develop new green, energy efficient housing complexes in these communities. We also aim to incubate and attract businesses to provide jobs and serve these communities. To retain and attract more youth and talent to our city, we are committed to building a dynamic network of arts and entertainment venues to enhance and highlight the talents and gifts of Jackson’s residents.
1. Housing. My administration is fully committed to improving the overall housing stock of the city to retain our existing population and attract new young, creative and enterprising residents. We aim to create thousands of new affordable housing units in our target communities, utilizing the most sustainable and energy efficient methods and products available. We also aim to rehabilitate a substantial portion of our existing housing stock for historic preservation and affordability.
2. Business incubation and employment. In order to revitalize our target communities, we have to attract and create new industries to provide employment for the residents in these communities and offer new retail and service businesses to serve their consumer needs. We are strongly encouraging the development of cooperative enterprises to serve these needs but are also aggressively recruiting businesses nationally and internationally.
3. Arts and culture. Jackson is deeply connected to the Delta Blues and the artistic craftsmanship of the African American community. It is also steeped in the history of African American people for civil and human rights. My administration fully intends on celebrating and promoting our culture and honoring the contributions of those who sacrificed for the fulfillment of many of our fundamental human rights as no Jackson administration ever has. Our aim is to use this cultural capital as an engine to spur economic growth via tourism and the creation of “creative zones” to support artists and cultural workers and encourage them to produce social and economic value for our community.
Building a dynamic ‘new economy’ based on cooperative development
We are also looking to encourage the growth of cooperatives in the health services, recycling, waste management, hauling, warehousing, retail, hospitality and housing industries. My administration is developing the institutional capacity to promote, incubate and develop cooperatives by committing a division of our Department of Planning and Development to this task.
We are also creating a strategic cooperative fund and developing technical assistance partnerships with organizations and institutions like the Fund for Democratic Communities, the Democracy Collaborative, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Mondragon – USA amongst others.
A central component of the economic development vision and strategy of my administration is the promotion and development of various cooperative enterprises.
The broader aspects of our work to develop a “new economy” for Jackson, will encourage the growth of the private sector in manufacturing, retail and entertainment sectors and foster the development of various public-private partnerships with cooperatives, labor unions, credit unions, private enterprises, socially responsible banks and investors, and philanthropies.
1. Cooperative development. Cooperatives are rapidly becoming engines of economic growth and employment stabilization in several urban centers struggling with historic divestment and deindustrialization that are comparable to Jackson, such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Reading, Pa., and Richmond, Calif. Jackson in many respects is poised to become the Mondragon of the United States, given its industrial infrastructure, strategic location along several trade routes (including I-20 connecting Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth and I-55 connecting New Orleans to Chicago), and historic knowledge and association with cooperative development from the mutual aid societies, credit unions and farmers cooperatives developed in African American communities throughout the state.
2. Cooperative incubator. As noted, the incubator will be housed in the Department of Planning and Development and will operate in partnership with numerous academic and nonprofit organizations from Jackson and throughout the United States and the world in order to aid our communities and socially conscious entrepreneurs with the technical support they need to build sound businesses. These technical skills include business planning, market research and analysis, sustainable financing, financial and asset management, and worker-owner management and democracy.
3. Cooperative fund. My administration is committed to creating this fund utilizing city and CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds. Given the infrastructure challenges we have noted, these funds will not be as substantial as we would like. However, our aim is to use these funds as strategic leverage to attract additional financial resources from philanthropies, credit unions, banks, socially responsible corporations, various types of capital funds, and individual donors and investors.
One of our first major initiatives promoting cooperative development is the “Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference.” The Jackson Rising Conference will be held May 2-4, 2014, at Jackson State University and focus on educating our community about cooperative enterprises and how to start and run them effectively, in addition to addressing how cooperative development can benefit the city of Jackson and how we will build cooperatives in our community to build wealth and equity. We encourage all of the participants of the Neighborhood Funders Group Conference to join us again for this conference in May 2014.
You can now register, apply for a workshop, make a donation, or become a sponsor or endorser of the conference through the website, www.JacksonRising.org. Visit our Facebook event page too, and follow the initiative on Twitter at @JacksonRising.
Moving forward: Developing strategic partnerships to our needs
To address our infrastructure crisis and accomplish this ambitious vision, broad unity and critical alignment will have to be achieved in our city. As stated before, we believe we can and will achieve the unity and alignment needed through the practice of good governance. Through this, we believe that we will be able to produce the majority of the resources we need to revitalize our community. But we won’t secure all of the resources needed on our own.
We are going to have to secure some resources from the state of Mississippi and even more from the federal government. Given the growing political divisions at the state and federal levels, we doubt if we realistically will receive enough resources from these sources to meet our projected expenditures of $1.2 billion for our infrastructure overhaul, let alone the resources needed to redevelop our communities and improve our public education system.
To become the city of the future, the sustainable, cooperative city we envision, the City of Jackson must form strategic partnerships with philanthropies and other non-governmental entities that promote and support human rights, social responsibility, transparency, civic engagement, participatory governance, community empowerment, sustainability and cooperative development. We encourage all those who share our commitments and support our vision to join us in a strategic partnership on this trailblazing effort to make Jackson rise!
For more information about this vision and about how to support and partner with my administration and the City of Jackson, please contact Special Projects and External Funding Coordinator Kali Williams in the Office of the Mayor, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-720-4638.