JACKSON Mayor Tony Yarber took to Facebook today to talk about problems facing Jackson. Here is his post, with no edits:
It took me at least 15 minutes to begin this post. It took so long because I actually didn't know where to start. In the City that we all love, it seems that everything that could go wrong is going wrong, fast. Like you, I'm asking how much more can one city endure. How many more potholes? How many more "takeover" attempts? How many more water main breaks? How many more murders? You've heard every excuse. You've heard that it's my fault; previous mayors' fault; the Council's fault; the State's fault. You know that infrastructure has been neglected comprehensively for longer than many of us have been alive. You know that love begins at home and that people have to love themselves to truly stop the violence. You know that the media will never show us as a City where more people get along than fight. All these things are what we know.
But, knowing these things don't get us any closer to seeing the problems solved in the City. I was challenged by someone on Twitter to ride around Jackson to see what's actually going on. While understanding his point, I was quickly reminded of the $1700 worth of work done to my car from riding these raggedy streets. So, I don't want to talk about what you already know. I want to briefly talk about what you don't know. What's being done to put Jackson on the right track.
If I'm you, there are a few questions I would want to ask and have answers to right now.
What's going on with the 1% money? Over the last 22 months, $25 million dollars has been collected. The only issue is there is a commission, that I am on, that the State placed over the approval of the money. In other words, the money can only be spent when the commission approves the projects. The commission has so far approved $13million dollars. That money was approved to purchase pothole patching and other equipment necessary to move improvements. It was also approved to start drainage work in places like Brookhollow, and some street resurfacing. Some bridges are redone as well. What we have also done is used the 1% to leverage $16.5 million dollars in grants to begin work on West County line Rd, near Tougaloo as well. The City has never received that grant before. We secured another $3 million for Mill Street. The next thing we will move to do is leverage about $118 million dollars for this year to see roads, work on water, drainage, and bridges repaired. While that seems like alot of money, in the grand scheme of things, it's not. But, it's what we can do for now.
Yes, it's taken 22 months to get here. Why? Because the potholes we see are just symptoms of the water (40%) that's lost once it leaves the plant and heads to your house. It gets in the gound and causes the groud beneath to be unstable, and you get....POTHOLES. It's like an infection. That means, we have had to begin dealing with what's REALLY wrong with the City. We have had to start dealing with horrible practices of spending and practices of management. We have had to deal with a contract with Seimens that has created a nightmare for everyone and created severe problems with billing that we are close to having solved. I KNOW the urgency you feel. I feel it too. I am always frustrated that I can't replace a terrible employee immediately. Or that we can't fix a ditch behind someone's house immediately or at all. But, the City has long systemic problems that must be fixed, or we will be having this same conversation again in 5 years, if the City is still ours.
What are we doing about the Crime? When I hear that question, I think of Othor Cain always saying that peole are only truly safe when they FEEL safe. Doesn't matter that crime went down last year and the murder rate dropped. If you don't FEEL safe on your porch, then you are NOT safe. When 6 people are killed over 5 days, that discredits the stats. So, we have found a way to potentially put an additional 40 officers on the streets to beef up presence/visibility. We are re-engaging YOU to help us help each other. We have initiated TIPS411 so you can annonymously text us what you think we need to know. Crime has to get better. In South Jackson, where I live, shootings outside of the house have to stop. And Chief Vance is working on it. We have started cleaning up abandoned property at a rate that we never have before. But, we are aware that it is not enough, fast enough. So, that's why I created the Neighbors First program. We wanted to give you a chance to help us clean up this place by giving you the opportunity purchase these properties.
What about businesses? Business in Jackson can be and will be better. How we treat businesses in Jackson must be better. Businesses need water to run effectively. Businesses need to have their investments and patrons protected. But, we have started to stabalize business flight. When we first got in office there were several businesses that were leaving or had planned to leave. Sam's left and we just announced that AT HOME would be going in to fill the space left there. Over 11 national chains have opened up in Jackson, with at least 2 more making plans for South Jackson now. We recruited the solar panel company to Larson St. and they are making an initial $50 million dollar investment with over 250 jobs.
There has been alot of talk about the airport takeover. Am I for or against? I have been against since day 1. When a conversation to purchase the airport first came up behind closed doors, my comment was, "It aint' gone fly". Because it DIDN'T fly, legislation was created by Senator Harkins to "fly" it. They used legislation because they know they have the votes. And now, the play is to use legislation we have been working on since 2014 to fund the Capital Complex which would pump money into the city, directly from the State, as leverage. So, there is no deal to be made. If they want to vote, they will do so with or without.
Our problems are many. But, we won't accomplish them by doing the same stuff we have always done. The same stuff is fighting each other while the rest of MS watches us unravel. Yes, it does seem like all hell is breaking loose. But, this hell is giving us the chance to fix it RIGHT, once and for all. Unfortunately, it just isn't happening fast enough. But, it WILL happen.