JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Governor Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) issued a statement after he said Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba is planning to end the city’s cooperation with the Unified Command Structure.

The Unified Command Structure is the team that’s been working with the city to fix Jackson’s water crisis. According to Reeves, Lumumba is planning to stop cooperating with the Unified Command Structure by refusing to participate in the process of selecting a water operator alongside federal and state water experts as the Biden Administration requested.

Reeves said President Joe Biden’s EPA pressed the state to prepare a request for a water operator and take the lead in the logistical process of procuring it. The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) had the city review the technical components of the request.

The City of Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and MSDH score the bids and ultimately select the operator. The only role of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is in the emergency procurement process of opening the price proposals and communicating the prices to the scoring team.

Throughout this emergency, we have had to procure chemicals, workers, and materials for the city routinely because they were incapable of doing so. This is a continuation of that process in an unbiased way—led by technical experts.

The state has poured millions of dollars from taxpayers of every county into this effort to rescue the city from a crisis of incompetence. If the politicians of the city of Jackson are determined to reject every helping hand and regulatory enforcement action, they will find themselves in an even worse situation.

There is very little trust amongst any outside observer that the Mayor putting his thumb more heavily on the scale to select a vendor will lead to a better outcome than experts from the Department of Health and Environmental Protection Agency having a seat at the table and ensuring that there are no games. He has proven time and time again that the benefit of the doubt cannot be given on contracts and water issues. I hope that he will reconsider this dangerous maneuver. The people of Jackson cannot afford another critical water failure due to a contract dispute akin to his garbage debacle.

Although politics is clearly his priority, we are simply trying to ensure that Jackson water does not fail again. Ultimately, it may fall to the city council to rein in this radical gambit.

Gov. Tate Reeves, R-Miss.

The mayor responded to the governor’s statement later Monday afternoon.

The City of Jackson has made no mention of ending the City’s cooperation with the Unified Command Structure. In fact, we continue to work closely with the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi State Department of Health. 

What the city will not do, is agree to a Request for Qualifications, without the entire Unified Command Structure, which includes the City, having had an opportunity to first contribute, revise or approve the language. The funds that will be used to hire any firm working at the water treatment facilities will come from the City and its citizens. 

Therefore, the City, with support from those who truly are invested in the repair and maintenance of the water treatment facilities, will have the final say. The third-party management company will be working for the City. It is only reasonable to expect the City to play a role in hiring that company. 

Instead of issuing erroneous new releases, we invite the Governor to have an actual conversation with City leaders and our federal partners about the City’s water treatment plants. We have been ‘going it alone’ after years of asking for state support. We appreciate state leadership finally stepping to the table and supporting the residents of Jackson. We look forward to productive conversations that lead to an actual agreement…. instead of a headline.

Chokwe A. Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson