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The City of Jackson is one step closer to losing sole ownership of its troubled water system, after the Senate provided tentative approval to a bill Tuesday to pave way for the new system to be run by a nine-member board.
According to The Clarion Ledger, that board, which would take over upon the departure of the system’s federally appointed administrator, would be comprised of four members appointed by the mayor of Jackson, three members appointed by the governor and two appointed by the lieutenant governor.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, said it was important to give the mayor the most seats on the board, and to list the mayor first in the bill despite traditionally listing the governor first due to that being the highest executive office in the state.
With an overwhelming percentage of Black residents in Jackson, critics have pointed to the historic and infrastructural shortcuts which led to the lingering effects of environmental racism.
Though the transfer of ownership appears imminent, the ongoing water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, has reluctantly become a new normal for Glenda Barner and her family.
“I do not trust the water. I do not drink it. I haven’t drunk that water in years. I always have bottled water for me to drink,” Barner, 69, told ABC News.
Barner, a grandmother of seven, says she often has to prepare meals for her entire family using bottled water, going through two to three cases for just one meal.
“There are days when you sit and just say, ‘we shouldn’t have to go through this.’ And I think about it not just for myself, but as a city. We shouldn’t have to go through this. We really shouldn’t. But, what can we do? We rely on our officials to do what they need to do to fix it and it’s not getting done.”
Mississippi’s GOP has failed and insulted Jackson
As he spoke at a groundbreaking event in Sept. 2022, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves joked about his disdain for his state’s citizens, “I’ve got to tell you it is a great day to be in Hattiesburg. It’s also, as always, a great day to not be in Jackson.”
The crisis has left residents of Mississippi’s capital without consistent access to running water and has aggravated divisions between the Democratic-led city and the Republican-controlled state government.
Mississippi’s capital city has had more than 300 notices in the last two years that require residents to boil water before using it, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The water crisis has caused repeated outages in which many of the city’s 150,000 residents have gone days and weeks without water to drink, cook, bathe or flush toilets.
ABC News reports the bill passed in a 34-15 vote and will move to the House for more work.
“If we’re so concerned about our national reputation, are you aware of how we look right now?” said Sen. John Horhn, a Democrat from Jackson. “Mississippi looks like the old Mississippi that we heard about and some of us have lived through. We look like we are doing a taking on some Black folks.”
Jackson is an 80% Black city. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is Black, as are most of the lawmakers who represent the city in the state legislature. Lumumba has said he wants the city to maintain control of its water.
Sen. David Parker’s district is in northwest Mississippi, but he lives with his daughter at an apartment complex in Jackson when the Legislature is in session.
He said scooping up water from the building’s swimming pool to use in their shared apartment’s toilets is part of what prompted him to introduce the bill.