The Mississippi Supreme Court appointed Senior Status Judge H. David Clark II a special judge on Feb. 7 to preside over a year-old lawsuit against Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba brought by the City Council over the awarding of an emergency garbage collection contract. All the regular judges of the state’s Fifth Chancery Court District, the Hinds County jurisdiction recused themselves.
If Richard’s Disposal had not collected the garbage from April 2022 until today, the City of Jackson would have been penalized $25,000 for each day the trash was left in place.
The old Waste Management contract ended March 31, 2022. Richard’s signed on with its 75 employees under an emergency contract that began April 1, 2022, but had to suffer the humiliation of working six months without being paid.
Richard’s sued in July 2022 and was awarded $1.6 million, the money the city owed it for its work from April 1 through the month of June. Richard’s continues to do the work without a contract. The current pay arrangement is unclear, although Richard’s was expected to be gone at the beginning of January 2023.
YEAR OF INDECISION
Since last March, the mayor and council have been awaiting the action of the courts to conduct a hearing to determine who has the power to issue city emergency contracts, especially critical contracts governing such necessities as trash pickups.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba filed a legal complaint against the council on March 9, 2022, after council voted twice to reject his issuance of emergency contract and the declaration of an emergency itself
Council voted 2-4 against an order to ratify an emergency contract for solid waste collection and a hauling agreement.
Then it voted 5-1 to rescind the mayor’s proclamation of a local emergency over the garbage contract.
On March 9, in a 5-2 vote, council members voted to hire Attorney Deshun Martin to represent them in a lawsuit against Mayor Lumumba.
Ward 2 Councilwoman Angelique Lee and Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay voted against hiring a separate counsel.
Lumumba has sometimes chided the council members with statements like, “I only debate with my equals. All others I teach.” A line, by the way, pilfered from the late John Henrik Clarke. Lumumba also in several public interviews has accused some of the council members of accepting bribes.
In turn, at least one council member has repeatedly accused the mayor of “smoking too much dope, while also insinuating that friends of the mayor regularly steal city revenues.
The Fifth Chancery Court District Chancellors who recused themselves are Dewayne Thomas, division I; Tiffany Grove, division II; Tametrice E. Hodges, division III; and Crystal Wise Martin, division IV.
As of press time Wednesday, no date has been set for the hearing.
Jackson pastor and voting rights advocate Vince Gibbs says the city’s mayor and council have wasted Jackson’s legal resources fighting over a garbage contract, while the state Republicans were walking away with over $1.8 billion of federal money, a large part of which belongs to the city.
“Last year, the city council and mayor were fighting over a garbage contract,” Gibbs said. “Money from the federal government in the amount of $1.8 billion was coming to the state. Instead of our city leaders going to the state to force them to turn loose Jackson’s share of the $1.8 billion, here they are fighting one another over a million-dollar garbage contract. Now, they’re doing the same thing this year.
“I think they’re all at fault, the mayor and the four council members who consistently oppose him. The mayor’s administration has the power to enter into a contract. The city council votes up or down on the proposals that come before them. But we had an emergency declared by the mayor which they tried to ignore.”
The mayor seems beholden to an ideological plan that does not apply in the real world of city government, Gibbs said.
“And you have a couple of council members who say, ‘Let’s turn the city over to the white men to see if they can make things work,’” he said. “Why does the council want to pay the higher fees to Waste Management when a Black owned company like Richard’s has carried the burden for over a year, sometimes going months without pay?
“What I’m disappointed in, for both the mayor and the council, is that they were focused in on a million-dollar contract last year. I know they had to get the garbage picked up. But it’s not what you do, but it’s the way you do it.
“Now, Biden has sent $1.8 billion to the state of Mississippi. We had nobody fighting to get us a portion of that money. They allocated the money to Madison-Ridgeland roads or whatever. There wasn’t one dollar out of that federal money that the state of Mississippi allocated under Tate Reeves to the city of Jackson.
“I understand what their motives were. They want the City of Jackson to flop. Now this year, while they’re playing games with this million-dollar garbage contract, they – white boys in the state government – are already going after the airport. Now you see the same with the water system, when they find out Jackson’s getting $600 million. They say let’s take over the water system.
“When the city had the one percent sales tax,” Gibbs said, “they successfully repaired a lot of roads and bridges in the city. Now, the white racists in the legislature want to send that money to the water department. But what about our roads and bridges? So, they have decided to take over the justice system, the court system, and expand the capitol police.”
Steven Harris, founder-director of the New Civil Rights Movement organization, says the City of Jackson is operating like a “tree full of roosters with machine guns. The back and forth and the name calling just doesn’t make any sense.
“It’s so crazy. And now the white folks are going to try to take over. Attorney Gen. Lynn Fitch will get this level of power where she can create a whole other judicial district and appoint judges. I think that’s really plantation politics.”
That lawsuit lets the world see the division in the city government, Harris said.
“And it’s going to help the plan of the white supremacists in the legislature to work their game on the city of Jackson. The white supremacist at the Capitol see that the city leaders are bickering day after day, week after week, and so they say to themselves, ‘Why don’t we come in with a slick maneuver that’ll allow us to take over? It’ll be a lot easier if we choose the side of the guy who filed suit against Lumumba, and if we choose the side of Kenny Stokes, we can play the two sides against each other and just sweep through the middle.’”
Councilwoman Angelique Lee exposed a similar plot by Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, who secretly met with select city council members in late 2022 and offered them access to the city’s money being held up by the state if the council would vote to deprive the mayor of his powers.
“There should be ZERO TOLERANCE for a racist plot like this among the people of Jackson,” Harris said.
DEFEAT TATE REEVES
A veteran of several election moves that benefited Black voters in the past, Gibbs said the Black voters of Jackson and Hinds County should employ the same strategy they used to take down right-winger Chris McDaniels in his attempt to defeat the late U. S. Senator Thad Cochran in 2014.
“It’s a simple strategy to deny Tate Reeves the nomination,” Gibbs said. “Tate Reeves doesn’t respect Black folk. We can all vote in the Republican primary against Reeves and vote for whoever he’s running against. Whatever political leverage we have we should use it to deny him the nomination. That’s just politics. Denying him the nomination by Democrats voting in the Republican primary will work. Then you can vote for the Democrat in the general election.”
Reeves is a throwback to Bilbo and Vardaman and those other redneck racists of the past, Gibbs points out. He’s continuing the same racist plans they had back during the Mississippi Plan of 1875-85, he said.