Ex-British politician criticizes media framing of Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis

As the causes of Jackson’s summer water crisis are pointed out, Mississippia proponent of the free market and individual freedom examines how local and national media coverage concocted two culprits – racism and climate change – to fit a narrative that denigrates the state while downplaying what he said was the real one reason: incompetence.

For Douglas Carswell, President and CEO of Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP)—a nonprofit that advocates for low taxes, light regulation, higher education standards, and American exceptionalism—the gap between the media narrative and what Jacksonians saw from their own eyes has become a significant revival. appeal to the state capital.

Douglas Carwell. (Courtesy of Douglas Carswell)

“Every time something goes wrong in Mississippi, the media will attribute it to events that happened 50 to 150 years ago to say it’s all a consequence of white racism,” Carswell told The Epoch. Times. “It’s a ready-made model that reporters dust off every time Mississippi pops up, but I think the water crisis was a tipping point for this narrative because ordinary Mississippians got to see through themselves how ridiculous it really was.”

National and local media platforms blamed the water crisis on systematic racism within the majority-black city. Some reports have been dead wrong in stating outright that the city has run out of water due to climate change, when, as Carswell pointed out, Jackson has one of the largest reservoirs in the southern United States.

“The Romans successfully mastered the technology of putting water through pipes to supply a city with fresh water 2,000 years ago,” Carswell said. “There’s no excuse for Jackson not mastering this technology today. It’s incompetence, and the folks at Jackson can see it.

“Environmental Justice and Divestment”

While Carswell claims the city government’s mismanagement is transparent, the Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) alleged that the Republican Governor. Tate Reeves divested funds from Jackson that could have been used to fix the problem.

The NAACP called on the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights to investigate the matter, indicating in its letter to Reeves“We have watched closely Jackson’s long history of getting less than his fair share of public funding from the Mississippi state budget and at times being denied funding when it was deserved.”

The NAACP filed a complaint with the EPA under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, bolstering the claim that the water crisis was caused by racial discrimination.

The External Environmental Justice and Civil Rights Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the investigation.

On October 17, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack, launched his own investigation into state spending, asking to Reeves with data on how he plans to distribute American Rescue Plan Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding.

President Joe Biden has pledged millions to fight “structural racism”, which has led to the appearance of equity, diversity and inclusion departments in government agencies.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a statement from the city“We know that the state of Jackson’s water system did not happen overnight, but is due to decades of disinvestment in the city’s infrastructure.”

However, many Jackson residents have been watching for years and point to the city government’s underinvestment in its water infrastructure, which has deprived 150,000 citizens of clean drinking water.

According to Reeves in an October 17 Press release“Throughout this emergency, we had to regularly supply chemicals, workers and materials for the city because they were unable to do so.”

Reeves added that the state has “poured millions of taxpayer dollars from every county into this effort to save the city from a crisis of incompetence.”

On October 20, in a traditional turkey forgiveness ceremony to support a campaign to raise money for families in need for Thanksgiving, Reeves responded (the discussion from 2 p.m.) a question from a reporter about problems with the city’s water system.

“The mayor went on national television and blamed it on a lot of things,” Reeves said. “But what we have proven over the past 52 days is that the water struggles in Jackson were specific to the incompetence of this administration.”

The state stepped in on Aug. 29, Reeves said, and established a unified command structure, naming both the Department of Health and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency as leaders.

Within 72 hours Jackson’s water was restored, Reeves said, and the boiled water advisory was lifted 15 days later.

“Operating running water systems isn’t that difficult,” Reeves said.

In his 19 years in office, with more than 1,100 water systems in the state, Reeves said it was the only time he had to sign an emergency proclamation to ensure the water was delivered to the city.

“grotesque incompetence”

Carswell said much of the problem stemmed from a simple failure to bill its citizens.

“In 2017, Jackson’s water billing system collected $61 million in revenue, and the city’s water system operating costs were approximately $54 million,” Carswell said. “This left a healthy surplus that the relevant management could have allocated to cover maintenance costs.”

In 2022, the amount of revenue collected will likely be closer to $40 million, Carswell said, “well below running costs.”

“Not only is there no surplus to spend on maintenance, but there also doesn’t seem to have been much maintenance even when there was a surplus,” Carswell said. “How on earth does a municipal water board manage to lose almost a third of its revenue in the space of five years?”

In any city, water is what Carswell called a “cash cow” because it has a captive market.

“Citizens are billed and they have to submit a check to the city government,” Carswell explained. “What Jackson did was he monstrously failed to charge people.”

Several years ago, the city government contracted an engineering firm to implement a new billing system, Carswell said, which resulted in the company being sued for $89 million. , consequently leaving more money to spend on the city’s lawyers than on improving the city’s water. system.

“If a private company doesn’t bill a third of its customers, it will go bankrupt,” Carswell said. “We’re here in Jackson with the authorities failing to generate a third of its revenue because they couldn’t get their act together and issue bills.”

In addition to a billing failure, the city did not have qualified personnel to manage the water facilities, he said.

“The state has repeatedly offered to help, and those offers have been ignored,” Carswell added. “Eventually things got so bad that the state had to step in and take half the cost and fix things.”

After federal and state governments intervened, the total bill came to less than $200,000, he said.

“It was a miniscule amount of money to fix a problem that was largely caused by the grotesque incompetence of Jackson’s civic leaders,” Carswell said.

The City of Jackson did not respond to The Epoch Times request for comment.

“Stunning the Mississippi”

“Anyone in Jackson could see the incompetence, which is why I think it was an important moment when people could for the first time in a long time honestly assess the cause of public policy in the state without constantly being beaten over the head by reporters with an agenda and a nonsensical narrative,” Carswell said.

It’s not just national reporters with no ties to the state who engage in the reprimand, but also local reporters, he said.

“It’s almost like some of the reporters who write for these newspapers are trying to show the world that they’re somehow sophisticated by dumbing down Mississippi,” Carswell said.

An example of Carswell’s statement might be how a local media outlet framed Reeves’ response to the reporter’s question at the turkey forgiveness ceremony as a rant, omitting the part about the reporter asking the question, which which implies that Reeves – unsolicited – launched a tirade.

As a former Member of Parliament from the United Kingdom (UK) for 12 years, who came to Mississippi not only with an outward view but also with a love of the state, Carswell said it was unfortunate.

“I think it’s one of the most wonderful places in America, and there’s nowhere I’d rather live,” he said. “Yet some of these reporters who write for Mississippi media seem to think their success can be measured by how often they hit their own state.”

Carswell’s effort as a politician in the UK was to advocate for Britain’s exit (also known as Brexit) from the European Union which took place in 2020, he said.

“Once I realized what I wanted to do, I quit,” he said. “I didn’t want to play politics to find another excuse to live at taxpayers’ expense.

Now in Mississippi where he is president of the MCPP, Carswell said he continues to champion what he calls American exceptionalism, which is often mistranslated as racism in Marxist ideologies such as critical race theory ( CRT).

The MCPP drafted a bill that caught on and was signed by Reeves.

The bill prohibits the teaching of divisive and racist concepts found in the CRT that promote the idea that one race is inherently superior or inferior to the other.

“A Sublime Legacy”

For Carswell, America – including the state of Mississippi – is not an archaic paradigm of racism waning in a shadow of irrelevance, but a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world that is not deprived of its full potential only through a lack of vision.

“The reason we live and work in air-conditioned rooms instead of mud huts is because of decisions made in a Philadelphia courthouse in 1787, and we need to make sure the next generation of Americans appreciates that. sublime legacy because, if they forget about it, America will become just a giant version of California,” he said. “It will be a disaster not only for the Republic but also for the free world.”

Matt McGregor

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Matt McGregor covers news and features across the United States. Send him your story ideas: [email protected]

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