July 1, 2023 will fall on a Saturday. In Jackson, Mississippi, it’s likely to be a very hot day, or a rainy day, or both. It’s also the day when House Bill 1020 will take effect, and that the whole of the City of Jackson will be no more — at least with respect to the administration of its criminal legal system. Instead, the city will be partitioned into unequal halves: a Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) and an unnamed nowhere land. The bill was introduced and shepherded by Rep. Trey Lamar, a Republican and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, assisted by the house speaker who, exercising his prerogative, sent the bill there instead of to the Judiciary Committee.
Jackson, Mississippi - Jackson, Mississippi made international headlines last summer when from August 30 to September 5, water stopped flowing entirely for over 150,000 residents. In the past seven months since then, the Mississippi capital’s water system has been plagued with crisis after crisis. And yet, the crumbling water infrastructure remains largely unchanged. Why is this? The answer lies in the antagonistic and racist attitude that majority white state leadership has towards the Black officials of Jackson, which has one of the largest Black populations per capita of any city in the US.
Their effort to unionize really got underway in 2018 when thousands of workers came forward to allege wage theft totaling $100 million. Eventually the Department of Labor found wage and hour violations affecting 2,224 workers. The federal contractor at the time, General Dynamics Information Technology, agreed to pay $553,131 in back wages, according to a CWA spokesperson. Maximus bought the company out in November 2018. But despite the hefty settlement, the organizing began to fizzle because of high turnover. Then last year, workers walked off the job in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Virginia in March, May, and November, demanding voluntary recognition of their union and higher pay.
Beverly May, retired nurse practitioner and current epidemiologist at the University of Kentucky, lives maybe 100 feet from the house she grew up in Floyd County, Kentucky. She characterizes her community as “hillbilly country,” an area in central Appalachia that once served as a critical cog in the coal industry’s wheel. When historic floods ravaged the area in late July 2022, May decided to trade in her medical work for flood research and activism with the nonprofit community well-being organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I could not believe it when I saw helicopters going out to rescue people,” she says. “Never has there been this many deaths.”
Jackson, Mississippi - A white supermajority of the Mississippi House voted after an intense, four-plus hour debate to create a separate court system and an expanded police force within the city of Jackson — the Blackest city in America — that would be appointed completely by white state officials. If House Bill 1020 becomes law later this session, the white chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court would appoint two judges to oversee a new district within the city — one that includes all of the city’s majority-white neighborhoods, among other areas. The white state attorney general would appoint four prosecutors, a court clerk, and four public defenders for the new district. The white state public safety commissioner would oversee an expanded Capitol Police force, run currently by a white chief.
Jackson, Mississippi — The freeze of early 2021 wasn’t the origin of Jackson, Mississippi’s water system collapse. But the winter storm introduced the country to Jackson’s aging and improperly maintained pipes and water plants, which failed and left residents without clean water for over a month. The crisis surged back in the summer of 2022, leaving residents without clean water for two months and drawing comparisons to Flint, Michigan’s lead-poisoning scandal, another banner example of America’s ruinous infrastructure systems. Here, as in Flint, the federal government stepped in: In November, The Department Of Justice Appointed A Federal Manager to take control of the beleaguered utility, and less than a month later, Congress approved $600 million exclusively for the city’s water system. But the rescue effort is already running up against the realities of local politics, reflecting historic tensions between Jackson and the rest of the state.
Call center workers employed by Maximus went on strike at four locations—in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Virginia—on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Maximus is a federal contractor, and during the open enrollment period, workers there handle a nonstop stream of high-stakes calls from people trying to navigate the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid systems, but they have been pushed to their limit. As stated in a Twitter thread posted by Call Center Workers United, “We’ve been saying for years: during ACA open enrollment, we’re dealing with constant back-to-back calls. Some frustrated callers become abusive and subject us to racist and sexist slurs. We’re paid wages so low it’s nearly impossible to support a family. We’ve had enough.
Jackson, Mississippi - In August, clean water stopped flowing from residents’ taps in Jackson, Mississippi. The crisis lasted more than six weeks, leaving 150,000 people without a consistent source of safe water. The catastrophe can be traced back to a decision by a credit ratings agency four years ago that massively inflated the city’s borrowing costs for infrastructure improvements, most notably for its water and sewer system. In 2018, ratings analysts at Moody’s Investor Service — a credit rating agency with a legacy of misconduct — downgraded Jackson’s bond rating to a junk status, citing in part the “low wealth and income indicators of residents.” The decision happened even though Jackson has never defaulted on its debt.
The City of Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, is in crisis. Its 150,000 residents lack access to safe drinking water. Many have not had enough water to bathe or flush their toilets. Those with enough water pressure are being instructed to shower with their mouths closed. Public schools have been closed. The immediate crisis was brought about by severe flooding, which caused a water treatment plant to fail. But the problems with Jackson's water supply date back decades. The integration of public schools in the 1960s prompted an exodus of affluent whites from Jackson, eroding the city's economic resources. Jackson's declining economic fortunes also prompted the departure of middle-class Blacks, causing an overall population decline. The city went from over 200,000 people in 1980 to less than 150,000 people today. More than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation, but Jackson is even poorer than the state as a whole. Per capita income is just $21,906.
Jackson, Mississippi - Jackson, Mississippi Is Currently Suffering Through An Unprecedented Water Crisis. After Decades Of Systematic And Intentional Neglect Due To Environmental Racism, Capital Flight And Deindustrialization, The City's Water System Has Collapsed. This Collapse Didn’t Have To Happen. As A Result Of The City’s Declining Tax Base Over The Decade, It Cannot Pay For The Repairs By Itself. Nor Should It Have To. Jackson Is The Capitol Of The State Of Mississippi, Which Means It Is The Base Of State Government And Resources. In Addition, It Is Also Where The Federal Government’s Administrative Resources In The State Are Concentrated.
Jackson, Mississippi - Residents of Jackson, Mississippi, a city of 150,000 that is 82.5 percent Black, have not had reliable access to clean water for five days. On Monday, the Pearl River flooded from extreme rainfall, and caused the main water treatment plant to fail, resulting in low to no water pressure. A second treatment plant has simultaneously been having issues with its water pumps. If residents are getting any tap water at all, it’s brown. All this is happening while Jackson is facing extreme heat. Residents have faced long lines in order to get cases of bottled water, of which the city is running out. All schools have switched to remote learning since Tuesday.
Louisville, Mississippi - Until five years ago, Teresa Springs was always in heels and perfectly manicured. As a child growing up in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, she'd never even walked barefoot in the grass. Today, Teresa goes shoeless in rows of crops on her farm, grounding with the Mississippi earth as a part of her daily healing, connecting to the land at sundown before heading back with soil-covered hands and feet to her husband, Kevin, and their old farm house. Now five years into stewarding their farm—dubbed TKO Farming, an acronym for Teresa and Kevin's Oasis—they're still just as awe-struck by what they've built by hand. As self-described city folks who met in July 2013 while working on criminal-justice reform in Miami, the couple never envisioned living on, much less operating, a farm.
In 1932, only about 10% of rural America was electrified, as big energy companies had long avoided investing in rural areas for fear it wasn't profitable. New Deal legislation offering federal assistance to Americans living without electricity led to the formation of electric cooperatives. Thanks to their efforts, 90% of homes, businesses and farms in rural America were electrified by 1936. Co-ops are not-for-profit and made up of member-owners — community members who share collective ownership of the company from which they also receive electricity, and nowadays sometimes internet service as well. Co-ops are governed by a board of directors who are elected by member-owners to make policy decisions. Today there are more than 900 electric co-ops across the U.S. powering more than 20 million businesses, homes, schools, and farms.
A political time bomb is ticking in Greenville, and the explosion could transform the state’s public education environment for decades to come. Last Monday and Tuesday, between 13-20 bus drivers for the Greenville Public School District — some of the lowest paid employees in one of the most under-resourced school districts in one of the most under-resourced regions of America — skipped work to protest reduced pay and what they called poor work conditions. As far as anyone knows, this was the first organized work stoppage in Mississippi public schools since 9,429 teachers walked out in a 1985 strike, after which lawmakers passed the demanded pay increases but also enacted one of the nation’s most stringent strike laws. Lawmakers that year made it explicitly illegal for school employees to strike in Mississippi.
"This is the first time that we've ever had record-breaking, five to six straight days of below-freezing temperatures," Ronnie Crudup Jr., Member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and Executive Director of New Horizon Ministries told WURD radio in an interview on Wednesday. "Our infrastructure just could not handle that." The ice on the ground didn't help the speed of government aid either once Jackson's water treatment plant went down. "The local guys are doing the best they can," Crudup said. State leaders have done little to help with on-the-ground needs or longer-term efforts to replace the sewer and water treatment system, estimated to cost $2 billion—six times the city's annual budget. "We haven't seen the federal government at all." "Just that 'landmass' in between, right? It's just like that. We're always last.