Jackson City Council President Aaron Banks announced 10 committees and their leaders at the July 10 press conference at the City Hall. Photo by Kayode Crown
The death of George Floyd inspired newly elected Jackson City Council President and Ward 6 representative Aaron Banks to kick off his one-year tenure as president by including a law-enforcement committee among his slate of 10 reconfigured committees last week.
"Being that we have a negative perception of crimes in this city, being that our offices, as far as councilmen are concerned, have received numerous accounts of complaints and concerns after the George Floyd incident nationally and locally (with) Mario Clark, I thought we needed to start a committee where we can begin to take up issues of law enforcement," Banks said last week.
"During council meetings, when these items come up, we don't have enough time to talk about them,” he added about crime and policing issues. “So I think it is very important that we give those items the necessary time in the committee."
Among the law enforcement issues for committee attention include budgeting priorities, adequate raises and a review of how Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba’s recent order on policing is executed.
"The mayor did an executive order that banned choke-holds; we want to make sure that the general orders reflect that," Banks said.
The law-enforcement committee was part of Banks’ July 10 press conference announcing leaders of ad-hoc committees. Together with the new vice president, Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman, he created the law-enforcement committee, while merging the water-billing committee with the sewer committee to form the water billing and infrastructure committee, still retaining 10 committees.
Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote chairs the internal audit committee; Ward 2 Councilman Melvin V. Priester, Jr. heads the finance and the economic development committees; and Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes leads the planning committee.
Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps oversees the government operations committee, Tillman oversees the education/youth committee and Banks chairs legislative and law enforcement committees. Ward 7 councilwoman Virgi Lindsay leads the rules committee.
"Releasing this information makes people know that there is more to the workings of our government than council meetings," he said. "There is a whole lot going on behind the scene that deserves transparency, that deserves the knowledge of the public as well."
Banks said he wants more public engagement with the council, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a ban on the public attendance of the meetings.
"The council meeting does not give opportunity even for public comments, so through the committee structure, we allow more engagement," Banks said. "I will talk to the clerk of the council; we are going to figure out a way to have a virtual video presentation during those committee meetings."
Banks projected that the committees will be more functional than before to ensure that decisions are made after thorough discussion at the committee level rather than rushed during the twice-a-month council meetings.
"We have to make sure that as we make these decisions, not only with legal sufficiency, but that we are making them with the constituents in mind and that we get the needed input, have a valid conversation," Banks said. "Nothing should be rushed when it comes to how we spend the taxpayers' dollars."
Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.