A year ago, we were in a much different place than we are today. Going into the 2013 Democratic primary for mayor, we supported an incumbent who possessed encyclopedic knowledge of the mechanics of capital city government, its problem and its opportunities—even if he wasn't the kind of change agent that other candidates represented.
One of those change agents, then-Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, not only prevailed in the election, but also in throwing preconceptions of him based on his activist past out the window. Lumumba worked with the white corporate community, and they reciprocated, getting a sales-tax hike passed through ballot referendum, and creating a sense that Jackson was on the right track even if we weren't quite sure where that track was heading.
Sadly, Lumumba won't be on that journey with us, and we find ourselves faced with the task of selecting a new leader for Jackson. We, and voters, face a difficult decision. The same hunger for something different that resulted in Lumumba's election remains evident in two young men, selected from a group that included more experienced pols. Their ages averaged together wouldn't meet the constitutional requirement to seek the American presidency, but they will compete in the upcoming runoff.
Tony Yarber, 36, is a former educator and well-respected member of the city council. Chokwe A. Lumumba, 31, is the late mayor's son, protege and law partner. We stand by what we said about Councilman Yarber earlier this month. He is a success story—on the council and for Jackson—and a powerful, personable leader with good ideas.
We like that he wants to strengthen the city's relationship with Jackson Public Schools, which briefly devolved into a legal dispute. A Yarber administration could be the strongest advocate for public schools we've seen out of city hall in a long time.
In re-affirming our endorsement of the younger Lumumba, we also stand by our previous stance. Yes, he is young. True, he hasn't been elected to political office. But in our view, neither youth and nor outside-of-government experience are negatives. From what we know of Lumumba, he is a bright, thoughtful attorney who manages a good team.
He is a product of Jackson—his father was born in Detroit—and enjoys a loyal, enthusiastic base of supporters, both among the voters and his campaign volunteers and staff. We are hopeful that wide-eyed optimism and energy following Lumumba to City Hall and spurring perhaps unconventional solutions—such as a human rights commission (see pages 8-9)—to some of the city's lingering problems, while continuing the best of his father's ideas.
And we believe he is sincere about shaking up key personnel, including some of his father's controversial appointments. Despite Yarber's and Lumumba's youth, this election isn't about change: it's about building on the foundation that Mayor Lumumba had started to lay. It hasn't been a full year since Jackson said it wanted a Lumumba, whom many people believed at the time to be a risky proposition.
The JFP continues to support Chokwe A. Lumumba for mayor on April 22 and look forward to Yarber's continued leadership on city council.