One of the difficulties every politician will face, sooner or later, is the choice between telling the people the truth or couching issues in terms of easy-to-digest pabulum and paternalistic "everything will be OK" talk.
While the second path might get them re-elected (or at least make them popular), it's not particularly effective for getting things accomplished. Telling the truth is a much harder—and unpopular—road. Just ask one-term former President Jimmy Carter how well telling tough truths works out in the political arena.
In Jackson, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba seems willing to tell the truth.
The city is faced with hundreds of millions in infrastructure repair, as decreed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And citizens need only to drive down one of Jackson's pockmarked roads to feel the need for massive road repairs deep in their spines. None of that is conjecture, and all of it costs money.
A big part of Lumumba's solution to raise those funds comes in the form of raising Jacksonians' water and sewer rates.
This past week, the Jackson City Council passed the mayor's proposed budget of $502.5 million, an increase of 43.3 percent from the previous fiscal year.
During his campaign, the mayor promised to involve the people of Jackson in his decisions. He also said that leaders need to do the right things, even when some people disagree. Lumumba took his budget proposal to the people in the form of town-hall meetings. We're fairly certain that many of the citizens remain unconvinced that the rate increases are actually necessary; in fact, some are downright annoyed. Nonetheless, Lumumba did not back down on what he believes is the right course of action for the city.
We applaud Mayor Lumumba for standing his ground on this issue. Regardless of how unpopular tough measures may be for Jackson, the city must improve its infrastructure if it hopes to attract the kinds of businesses and young, creative professionals that will put Jackson firmly on a path of economic growth and prosperity.
The Jackson Free Press did not endorse Lumumba, as is well documented. The mayor comes with a good bit of controversial baggage that may yet be difficult to overcome. He has not faced the state Legislature to fight for the city's financial well-being, a difficult, and sometimes impossible feat for former mayors.
Time will tell whether Lumumba will find success in that arena.
Still, while it is very early in his tenure as Jackson's mayor, Lumumba's willingness to swim against a popular tide and speak truth bodes well for his tenure and for the city of Jackson.