Crime, COVID, and water meters were at the focus of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s 2021 State of the City Address Tuesday night. In a pre-recorded address delivered virtually, Lumumba discussed his plans to fight rising crime in the city. Jackson now stands at 122 homicides for the year, putting it close to last year’s total of 130.
“All deaths are tragic, but I immediately think of 5-year-old Queenyanna Davis and 11-year-old Jordan McCoy and too many other innocent children who have died or been injured by gun violence,” he said.
Lumumba touted initiatives the administration has put in place to deter crime. He said he wants to raise officer salaries and use federal funding to upgrade equipment. He said there will also be a renewed focus on getting high powered weapons off the streets.
“Everyone wants to talk about the murder rate but no one wants to discuss the unprecedented proliferation of illegal weapons in our communities,” he said. “We are willing to challenge ‘bad law’, and we encourage you to do the same.”
In a commercial that aired before the speech, the Department of Public Works talked about its restructuring plan and modernizing the water billing and metering system. The city just launched a new website and residential meters will be totally replaced by Spring 2022. Lumumba says this move will divide the department into three areas: facilities, engineering and capital projects, and water/sewer. This, he said, will provide more accurate bills.
Quality of life was another high point of the mayor’s speech. He talked about creating a “dignity economy” where affordable housing, safe environments, and access to quality physical and mental health care is the norm – a norm that extends to city employees as well.
Lumumba said this administration was able to give workers their first cost of living increase in 12 years.
“When workers know they are valued, they are more productive. We have been plagued with turnover and an inability to recruit quality personnel,” he said. “We are committed to finding a way, within our tight budget, to provide city employees with a living wage that truly reflects the value of what they do.”
Lumumba said he wants companies who contract with the city to show similar value in its workers.
While the threat of COVID still looms, Lumumba talked about the immediate actions he took during the first stages of the pandemic.
“I was one of the first mayors in the state to institute a mask mandate. We created a COVID task force and set up a tracker database. The biggest regret could be that we didn’t do enough,” he said.
Lumumba closed out his address with new developments at the Jackson Zoo, the Russell C. Davis Planetarium, JTRAN, and the installation of new parking meters in downtown Jackson.
“Many of Jackson’s problems are historic and will take time to set pathways to sustainable progress. But, we are on our way and the best is yet to come,” he said. “We will continue to fight for Jackson’s renaissance. We believe in an economy radical enough to include the happiness and well-being of our residents.”