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Jackson newspaper publisher largely blames mayor for water crisis

Wyatt Emmerich (L) and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba (R)

A Jackson newspaper publisher is claiming that Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is largely to blame for the capital city’s current water crisis.

Wyatt Emmerich, the publisher of The Northside Sun, faulted Lumumba in a recent interview on The Gallo Show for neglecting to hire qualified personnel to manage Jackson’s water system.

“If you took Mayor Lumumba and stuck him in a commercial airliner and asked him to land it, he would crash the thing into the ground,” Emmerich said. “Now if he said, ‘Let me go hire a good pilot to go up with me,’ everything would be fine. All he had to do was hire the pilot and acknowledge that he couldn’t fly the airplane. He had no experience whatsoever in running a city, or running anything, and all he had to do was hire a competent city manager, which he didn’t do.”

While Emmerich believes the city of Jackson’s leaders deserve a bulk of the blame regarding the decades long crisis that has appeared to reach a climax, he notes that the state bears responsibility for failing to overturn a significant piece of legislation that has enabled corruption in hiring subcontractors.

“This all started with the minority set aside legislation that came from the state, so there’s plenty of blame on the state too,” Emmerich said. “That minority set aside legislation laid the groundwork for an absolute plethora of corrupt subcontractors, which incompetently installed the water meters, which didn’t work, which created a billing disaster, which led people to quit paying their bills, and which led the city to declare a moratorium.”

The newspaper publisher took issue with the “lowest and best bid” element in the minority set aside legislation, stating that the concepts of “lowest” and “best” don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, subsequently opening the door to a subcontracting process based on subjective standards.

Furthermore, the disgruntled Jackson resident expressed his skepticism of reports saying that it would cost billions of dollars to renovate the O.B. Curtis water treatment plant.

“The plant cost about $25 million to build in 2001 and so, corrected for inflation, that’s about $40 million today, which is about what it would cost to build a 35-million gallon per day plant, which is about what we need,” Emmerich said. “If I had to guess…to go in and fix the computerized systems and get the software updated and just get all the deferred maintenance back to where it needed to be, I would say it could be max $10 million or $15 million — well within the capacity of the $42 million in ARPA money that the city got.”

The full interview with Wyatt Emmerich can be watched below.

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