UPDATED: City Approves $10 Million For Street Resurfacing | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

UPDATED: City Approves $10 Million For Street Resurfacing

City Council President Tony Yarber called for a vote on the $10 million street resurfacing measure against the wishes of mayoral candidate and Ward 2 City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba.

City Council President Tony Yarber called for a vote on the $10 million street resurfacing measure against the wishes of mayoral candidate and Ward 2 City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba. Photo by Trip Burns.

Council Rejects Street-Repair Project

In February 2013, the Jackson City Council voted down a proposal to pave streets.

City Using 'Old Money' for Paving

After Mayor Johnson returned to office in 2009, he spent money that Frank Melton never bothered to spend on paving around the city.

A Matter of Time

Rural Mississippi legislators killed a bill to allow Jackson voters to decide to use a local-option sales tax to fund paving and infrastructure needs.

— After voting down a $10 million bond issue to repave Jackson streets just a month ago, the Jackson City Council voted Monday to capitalize on low interest rates and borrow $10 million to $12 million to be paid back over 10 years. The work will be conducted in all seven wards and could start as early as this summer.

The measure passed 3-1, with the lone opposition vote coming from Ward 2 Councilman and mayoral candidate Chokwe Lumumba. He asserted that he was more likely to vote for the bond this time around, but ultimately favored sending the motion back to the budget subcommittee.

"The thing that makes me feel a little bit different about this than the last time we broached it is the explanation of the interest rates and how they might change, so I think it's important to note that we should take advantage of those," Lumumba said. "On the other hand, my slogan is that the people must decide and so what I'm trying to do is make sure that the people have a voice on this issue, because it is a question of putting the city into some additional debt on top of the $27 million, and I believe we already refinanced some of that, that the city already has."

Lumumba also pointed to the absence of three council members--Ward 3 Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes, Ward 4 Councilman and mayoral candidate Frank Bluntson, and Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman--as reason to shelf the issue until the next full meeting of the council. He noted that the four representatives in attendance were the minimum required to call a vote, and that such a significant motion should not be voted on in a "special session."

But the special meeting had been on the books since before the new year, and City Council President Tony Yarber called the vote anyway.

"Councilman Lumumba, typically I would agree with you on that," he answered. "The reason I do not, at this point, is that we've had issues getting folks to come to work over the past three months, and I'm not so sure we should be bidding to people who don't come to work, and hoping they come to work next time. You come to work, and I come to work, and we're going to vote on this today."

The bond is to be paid off over a 10-year period with the money allocated to normal street resurfacing, and Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell expressed his concerns over diverting all of the city's funds to repaying that debt. Johnson addressed that concern by assuring the council that money would be diverted from other areas to refill those resurfacing funds so that work can continue over the next decade.

In a city constantly strapped for cash, Jackson has spent $10 million to pave 87.3 miles of streets in the past three years. That's good enough to cover roughly 7.5 percent of the nearly 1,200 miles of streets Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. says lie within the city limits.

City spokesman Chris Mims told the Jackson Free Press today that the city has spent $26 million since 2009 to repave 87.3 miles of streets, replace critical bridges, install sidewalks and provide matching dollars on major road construction projects receiving federal funding.

Johnson held a teleconference town-hall meeting last week, and in a poll of the more than 3,500 participants, roads rated as the top concern, just ahead of crime. Johnson seized the opportunity to tout his record on reconstruction and paving and talked about future projects he has planned.

"In the past three years, we've paved 87.3 miles of street," Johnson said. "We also have $25 million reserved for reconstruction of major thoroughfares."

The previous proposal the city council voted down would have allowed the city $10 million for street repairs in February. The lack of oversight and a list of streets to see construction were among council concerns. Ward 4 Councilman Frank Bluntson said he was concerned the proposal allowed funds to go beyond streets and sidewalks, and Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell said the annual millage would have to go toward repaying the bonds for the next 10 years if the proposal passed. That, he said, would take away all of the council's power over street projects.

"(A bond) is not the best way to pay for street repairs, but our streets are in such a condition that we need a big injection of cash," Johnson said last week. "I had proposed to the city council a $10 million bond issue to pave about 40 miles of streets in the city. What I was proposing is work on three or four major thoroughfares in the city of Jackson, like State Street between Shepherd and Northside Drive, or Northside between State and (Interstate 55) or Capitol (Street) between Rose and Crandit ... That's what I was proposing, but that was rejected.

"I still want to do that. We need to do something about streets right now. I am prepared to do it, but I really need some cooperation from the city council to do it."

Johnson got that cooperation on Monday, but even prior to that vote, the work has been constant and is still ongoing.

City Crews finished work Monday on repaving the intersections of State Street and Rankin Street, as well as West Street and South Street.

The projects included in Monday's bond bill include work on high-traffic areas on Mill Street, Jefferson Street, Mayes Street, Ellis Avenue, McDowell Road, Capitol Street, Clinton Boulevard, Robinson Road, Lynch Street, Northside Drive, State Street, Watkins Drive, Flag Chapel Drive, Meadowbrook Road and Ridgewood Road.

The release also announced the mayor's plan to repave 28 more streets as part of the regular Residential Resurfacing Program by the first week of April.


Editor's Note: After this story appeared in the Daily today, it was edited for two reasons: (1) It led with information about a van that was not adequately explained and was supposed to have been cut before publication and (2) to add more information about the mayor's recent history with street paving that city spokesman Chris Mims emailed after the story appeared. That email stated:

"We have spent $26 million since 2009 to repave 87.3 miles of streets, replace critical bridges, install sidewalks and provide matching dollars on major road construction projects receiving federal funding."

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Comments

robbier 7 years, 4 months ago

NEWS FLASH: Stokes was absent.

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timothysjackson 7 years, 4 months ago

It's amazing that streets begin to get paved and resurfaced during an election year. Mayor Harvey Johnson has a record of only serving the people of Jackson one year out of a four year term. One can guess what year that is. Yep! You guessed it! ELECTION YEAR!

Mayor Johnson has become a large reason why the city of Jackson is not moving forward. He does not have real and tangible ways to fix Jackson's crumbling roads and water system, controlling crime as well as plans to further economic development.

When many of the smaller communities around Jackson are prospering, Jackson is mired in high crime statistics, loss of businesses and a shrinking tax base. Mayor Johnson is nearing the end of his third term as Jackson's chief executive and has had nearly twelve years to affect change for this once proud city and unfortunately, he has not done that. It is now time that we take a look at all of the mayoral candidates and choose someone who has a vision to this get this once "Bold, New City" and the "Best of the New South" back to where it should be--AT THE TOP!

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Knowledge06 7 years, 4 months ago

The bond proposal for street paving was mentioned by the Mayor last summer. Further, a proposal was going through the legislature to give the City of Jackson the opportunity to present to 'The People' a 1 cent sales tax increase that would be used specifically for the paving of streets and other infrastructure needs. That proposal died in the legislature last month. After that, the Mayor proposed the initial $10 million bond issue for street paving. This is all said to say that you aren't very informed. The Mayor is only one person and if you don't have willing partners there isn't much you can do on your own. Where is your disdain for the leaders of this state who continue to block everything that would be positive for the City of Jackson. I guarantee you have complained about any on them!!

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sarahmina 7 years, 4 months ago

After reading why the council voted down the street repair proposal the FIRST time, I don't understand what changed for the second vote. The only councilman who voted to do it "RIGHT" with transparency was Councilman Lumumba. There are STILL no named streets and specific projects. We STILL have a 10million dollar bond that has to be paid back and we are STILL using materials to repair streets that will need to be REDONE BEFORE THE BOND IS EVEN PAID. Smells like an election is coming up and the incumbent needs to do "SOMETHING". It smells like the incumbent thinks the citizens are dumb and will buy that swamp land he wants to sell in Florida. Interesting, I remember voting for the incumbent the last time when he "PROMISED" to repair the pot holes and streets - 8 years? REALLY?

Lumumba is right in wanting to involve the citizentry in the process. Otherwise you have the same old thing - certain people getting the benefits and the majority getting ignored. Wake Up JACKSON AND STOP BEING USED !!!!!

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robbier 7 years, 4 months ago

Citizenry can't be involved in the running of the city day to day. That's why we have publicly elected officials.

Lumumba wanted to vote no to oppose the incumbent Mayor Johnson, and used an effect of populism as his reasoning. Don't fall for it Sarah.

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sarahmina 7 years, 4 months ago

Don't be paranoid. Unfortunately, it is the elitist who would call an effort for open dialogue from the citizens, a play on populism. All one has to do is to look at Lumumba's record to see an HONEST desire to include citizentry in the decisions that directly affect their lives. It is only the elite who would have a problem with hearing their interests and concerns, Additionally, you appear to be confused, NO ONE has EVER said that hearing what the citizens have to say about how their city responds to their needs, means that they would run the city on a day to day basis. That's the problem with elitist, they have no real desire for inclusioin because they ALWAYS think they are the only ones whose ideas and suggestions are worth listening to. W R O N G !!!!!

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donnaladd 7 years, 4 months ago

Heads up: After this story appeared in the Daily today, it was edited for two reasons: (1) It led with information about a van that was not adequately explained and was supposed to have been cut before publication in the daily and (2) to add more information about the mayor's recent history with street paving that city spokesman Chris Mims emailed after the story appeared. That email stated:

"We have spent $26 million since 2009 to repave 87.3 miles of streets, replace critical bridges, install sidewalks and provide matching dollars on major road construction projects receiving federal funding."

There is one other paragraph that Tyler is working on clarifying now that we will report back on:

The Department of Public Works has done this repaving and reconstruction despite the Jackson city council voting down a bond issue that would have allowed the city $10 million for street repairs in 2009. The lack of oversight and a list of streets to see construction were among concerns stated by council members.

We apologize for any confusion.

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donnaladd 7 years, 4 months ago

OK, Tyler figured out his error. We've replaced the above paragraph (in my last comment) with this one; we apologize for the error:

The previous proposal the city council voted down would have allowed the city $10 million for street repairs in February. The lack of oversight and a list of streets to see construction were among council concerns. Ward 4 Councilman Frank Bluntson said he was concerned the proposal allowed funds to go beyond streets and sidewalks, and Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell said the annual millage would have to go toward repaying the bonds for the next 10 years if the proposal passed. That, he said, would take away all of the council's power over street projects.

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donnaladd 7 years, 4 months ago

Knowledge does make a good point (if you ignore the insults). Part of the reason these bond proposals are happening now is because the city's legislative proposals for infrastructure tax money failed. Regardless of what you think of the mayor, arguing that he is just now trying to find money to pave roads and fund infrastructure is just inaccurate. Careful about believing the hype. It doesn't help anything.

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sarahmina 7 years, 4 months ago

The proposals failed because there is no concerted LEADERSHIP to advocate for the passage of these initiatives. We KNOW what kind of legislature we are up against. Most of us are not naive enough to believe that if this weren't a Black run city, money would be pouring in from the state. You can either be constantly on the defensive, grab what you can for yourself, OR organize the people to put pressure on the legislature to advocate for their own needs and do an IN-Run. That kind of boldness from a Black man scares white Jacksonians which is why the current mayor won't and why he won't consider other more creative ways to get what you need than by keeping your citizens in more and more debt. Look at all the other urban cities in the country who are doing exactly what the mayor is doing - they are dying and whites are still moving out OR moving back in when the city turns. There is one thing white people understand, MONEY!!. They will stay if the schools are competitive, the infrastructure is good and business (foreign or domestic) is moving in. We can make that happen by thinking more gobally, more creatively, and yes, more inclusively. But we need BOLD leadership, unafraid LEADERSHIP, a visionary for the CITY and one that "BLEEDS HUMAN RIGHTS".

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sarahmina 7 years, 4 months ago

People who have lived in Jackson most of their lives KNOW who gets the city contracts and who doesn't They KNOW that street repairs and projects start ONLY when an election is near. They KNOW who has HISTORICALLY worked in their interests and who hasn't. At the mayoral gathering last night at Bethel, a question was asked of Councilman Lumumba about working with whites. It implied that he had a problem with white people. I was curious to see what they were talking about and I looked back at his history. This man has had a STELLAR record promoting HUMAN RIGHTS. For those that didn't know, HUMAN RIGHTS are for "ALL" people regardless of color. What I DID see was that he fought tooth and nail AGAINST the injustices of "JIM CROW" segregation and discrimination in the south and throughout the country. He fought to make sure that young men of color were treated farily in the justice system. He fought to make sure that children of color had access to educational opportunities. He fought to expose government contracts that did not include Black businesses - and he is still fighting. EQUALITY IS NEVER EXCLUSIONARY - IT IS NEITHER BLACK, WHITE, OR BROWN. If fighting against injustice is in someway radical and anti white, then you may as well tear down that statue of Dr. King, remove Malcom's name from history, and that of DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Fannie Lou Hammer, Goodman, Schwerner, Medgar Evers, Chaney, Viola Liuzzo, and all of the known and unknownb Black, White, and Brown "RADICALS" who worked over forty years with men like Councilman Lumumba to correct injustice and bring about an equal and open society. Speaking truth to power!!!

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donnaladd 7 years, 4 months ago

Well, to be fair and ACCURATE, sarahmina, Mayor Johnson did start a repaving project right after returning to office. It's not convincing to speak "truth" to power if you're not going to get the facts correct. With due respect.

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sarahmina 7 years, 4 months ago

BACK TO YOU Donnaladd - whose TRUTH? If it was that transparent we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Starting and carrying it through are two different truths. If you want us to believe that the paving and pot hole filling NOW has NOTHING to do with this election, save your prayer for another day. You can fray the edges all you want,, even when you color it slightly, truth will shine through - WITH ALL DUE RESPECT!.

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Knowledge06 7 years, 4 months ago

sarahmina is ok for you to come on here and campaign for YOUR candidate. You should get YOUR facts straight before you start talking. Perhaps you should ask YOUR candidate why the streets in his ward have not been paved. He serves on the Council that approves the budget and that is privy to what streets eventually end up on the list. The City budgets street paving every year. That's right every year. Perhaps you should get out more and leave your glass house. If your argument is that more streets should be paved then that's another question. Your argument is weak and uninformed!

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sarahmina 7 years, 4 months ago

KNOWLEDGE06, you don't have to tell me it's okay to promote my candidate for mayor. Your permission is not required nor desired. Anyone who goes to the city council meetings and sits in on the discussions, which I do, knows how closed off council people are from having a say in what gets done in the city and where. This is an autocratic mayor and is the VERY last thing this town needs. I have been living in Jackson since the mayor was elected, and drive the streets EVERY day to work. I have had to repair my front end, replace my tires, repair my oil pan, etc., etc., because of the STREETS. If the mayor has been working on the streets of this city in "ANY" concerted way, the PEOPLE of Jackson who live and work in the city, would NOT be as peeved as they are because of the lack of movement on the infrastructure and the apparent lack of a cohesive PLAN. Say what you will, but actions SPEAK volumns'

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donnaladd 7 years, 4 months ago

Sarahmina, "truth," as in basic facts, doesn't really belong to anyone. Some things either happened or they didn't. During campaigns, a lot of rhetoric passes as fact. That doesn't mean there's nothing good up in there (including in your posts), but it gets clouded when people try to support their candidates using unfactual statements. It is common, but that doesn't doesn't make it effective, or right.

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sarahmina 7 years, 4 months ago

Are you really saying that what I've stated is Rhetoric????? I know that the Jackson Free Press is probably more comfortable with Harvey Johnson and I would venture to say that the majority of Jacksonians understand why. You call it rehetoric but in the inner part of the city where most of us LIVE, the pot holes and the infrastructure problems are severe every day. We are not denying that the mayor did some street paving but nothing NEAR what he promised and what we expected for over all of the years he has been in office. There is absolutely NO excuse for his lack of leadership. Take that TRUTH !

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donnaladd 7 years, 4 months ago

One thing certainly seems to be true: "paving" is the "crime perception" meme of the 2013 campaign. Likewise, it is important to get our facts straight on it so we have a good foundation to discuss on top of. I told someone the other day that I'm really a glorified factchecker: I can't stand all the falsehoods people throw out to try get a vote or convince someone of something.

Take "crime perception" eight years ago. The meme went around (thanks to The Clarion-Ledger and TV stations) that the mayor and/or the police chief (depending on who you asked) said that "crime was just a perception." Neither never said that. (I was actually there for the original press conference when Chief Moore tried to warn a dumbed-down media that the perception that crime is out of control actually hurts in the quest to fight it -- which was quickly taken out of context). We reported over and over ahead about this falsehood -- but that didn't stop politicians from picking it up and running with it, building their campaigns on a lie.

Fortunately, candidates don't seem dumb enough this time around to trot the "perception" saw out there (although I saw a tweet or two from one that tested the water). If you hear this, recognize what you're seeing and hearing: a candidate willing to be dishonest to get the fearful vote. We'll hope that trick stays in the vault.

Likewise, though, we have to watch the meme that the mayor has done nothing on the paving front. That's just not true on its face. Discuss what he's done and what he hasn't on the merits and honestly. But let's try our best to have a smarter dialogue this time around, whether or not the candidates choose to do the same. And if candidates choose to be dishonest, pay close attention. That not bode well.

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sarahmina 7 years, 4 months ago

Since you seem to be implying that the "other" candidates are giving out false information and since you have described yourself as a "fact" checker, why not idenify the candidates that are giving out false informaiton. Be up front Missy Donna. I just may be that those that are closer to the action than you are, may just have more direct insight into how things play out in city hall.

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mscbo39 7 years, 4 months ago

Re: Donna's statement " the city's legislative proposals for infrastructure tax money failed". My understanding is that 2 years ago the State Legislature passed the bill giving Jackson authority to have a referendum on imposing an additional 1% sales tax levy for infrastructure (including water supply, sewer, and paving). The original legislation gave the city 3 years to call this vote. City leadership took offense that the legislation established an appointed commission to oversee spending the funds and the city did not have the majority of seats on the commission. City leadership's failed efforts on "infrastructure tax money" the last two sessions had the main purpose of seeking to undo this requirement. Here we are with little time left to vote on this funding source ALREADY IN EXISTING LAW that by some accounts would generate enough revenue to fund $20 million in bonds a year toward infrastructure. Jackson residents must recognize that the State Legislature took unusual action on Jackson's behalf. Across the country state governments are loath to give city governments too much taxing authority. Mississippi is not unusually restrictive in this regard. From my perspective our leaders are making a mistake not giving citizens an opportunity to vote on this tax levy. The Legislature WILL have a long memory on this one. I would bet that most citizens would vote to impose the tax, "state dominated" commission and all, if it would get a few more pipes replaced and streets paved.

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donnaladd 7 years, 4 months ago

Mscbo, the city should take offense that the state, and its power structure, are trying to tell Jackson what to do and how to spend our taxpayers' money. We cannot go along with that. The mayor is correct to stand firm, and anyone who would give up the Jackson farm to people without our best interests at heart should not be elected to hold public office in our city.

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justjess 7 years, 4 months ago

@ donnaladd "The mayor is correct to stand firm, and anyone who would give up the Jackson farm to people without our best interests at heart should not be elected to hold public office in our city."

Thanks ladd: You are always able to put things in perspective and sort the facts from the fiction.

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donnaladd 7 years, 4 months ago

You're welcome, justjess. The mayor is not a perfect man, but he has maintained his independence and stood firm on this kind of power play by the state. It is vital that whomever serves the next term have the courage to do the same thing. This is a bright-line point for us over here.

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