By Brad Franklin
Jackson Advocate Managing Editor
I’m embarrassed by Hinds County politics. Sure, government is “running”, but on many levels it feels as if there are no adults minding the store. At times it feels as if I’m watching a real life version of Lord of The Flies play out. Are you familiar with the William Golding novel? A group of pre-teen boys are stranded on an uninhabited island and make a disastrous attempt to try and govern themselves. Watch a Jackson City Council or Hinds County Supervisors meeting these days, and I promise you it will appear that you’re watching middle schoolers argue the rules of a kickball game. And if the first few days of campaigning are any indication, the Hinds County sheriff’s race is going to be equally shameful. A lot of tension, emotional reactions, and in my opinion, a battle between morality and immorality.
Like most voters locally, I didn’t grow up connected to politics. My mother was the president of our neighborhood association so I had the occasional encounter with the mayor or a city council person. Every now and again, I’d get to meet the police chief or the sheriff. It was the early 1980’s, and not many politicians around town looked like me anyway. Elections came and went unbeknownst to me. Certainly, county elections didn’t make front page news. Even after Jackson elected its first Black mayor, and I started following local politics more closely, there was the occasional public scrum but nothing the likes of which we see now.
Politicians are supposed to be “public” officials – servants serving at the will of their constituents. Those offices are supposed to command respect in the community. Those titles are supposed to mean that you have been entrusted by the people to properly carry out the democratic process. No, it doesn’t mean that you will always agree with your colleagues. It doesn’t mean that you will be universally loved by the people you serve. It definitely doesn’t mean spirited debates won’t happen. What it shouldn’t be is a license to act a fool, be loud, boisterous, combative, contrary, and duplicitous in words and actions. And I think the voters of Hinds County have reached their wit’s end. The behavior of sitting officials and aspiring candidates (and their acolytes) has been deplorable. It’s no wonder why Generation Z frowns on politics.
The Hinds County Supervisors meetings have been disgusting displays of immaturity. Ironic because there’s not a sitting supervisor under the age of 50. Where there is supposed to be wisdom and decorum, there’s been “gavel gate”. And it’s broadcast live on social media for the world to see. Only months after the municipal general elections, the Jackson City Council has splintered into cliques. With issues like our water system and waste management looming, the meetings have been more contentious than productive.
And sadly, we have 13 candidates vying to fill the seat vacated by the late Sheriff Lee Vance. It’s the largest number of candidates running for sheriff in the last 20 years. And if you ask me, it’s probably 9 or 10 too many. And their supporters have already started taking shots at one another online. I liked it much better when aspiring lawmen and women were much quieter. Now, that race looks like one for high school student body president.
It’s apparent that the digital age has made politics and politicians more accessible to us. We can see meetings live-streamed on TV and online. Unfortunately, with the responsibility comes a modicum of celebrity. A lot of folks are running for offices now not because they are qualified or because they care. They’re running for a title, a seemingly easy check, and the perks and local prestige that come with an office. The loudest, most toxic of those get the most press. And the loser inevitably is the people.
I’m embarrassed by every single one of you. Shame on you all! It’s been exhausting watching all of you…sitting officials and candidates. The ones who have acted unprofessionally and the ones who sat quietly and didn’t loudly reprimand them. Know that I’m not the only one that has noticed. Get it in gear and start showing us more results rather than viral childishness, or you could find yourself being replaced.