Following 18 days with no garbage pickup, services will resume for Jackson residents on Wednesday after Special Chancery Court Judge David Clark mediated a temporary settlement between the feuding Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba and the City Council for a one-year emergency contract with Richard’s Disposal.
Curbside garbage pickup services ended citywide on April 1, leaving garbage piling up in front of many people’s homes in the weeks since.
“We are pleased that there is a resolution that does not lead to people having to deal with a health concern in their homes, a health concern on the streets of Jackson,” Lumumba told the press Monday afternoon. “And so we’re grateful that we can now turn the page, in a sense, towards other relevant and critical matters in the city, and so we look forward to doing that.”
The City Council negotiated a reduced price from what the mayor presented to the body at the last special council meeting on April 12, Ward 1 Councilman and Council President Ashby Foote said at a separate press event with four other council members Monday afternoon.
“The council was able to reduce the cost by about $160,000 a month from what they had presented to us last week,” Foote said. “So that was one of the silver linings behind this situation.”
Uncertainty remains as to what will happen after the new emergency contract ends on March 31, 2024. Ward 5 Councilman Aaron Banks reiterated the need for cooperation between the mayor and the council.
“Although this is a relief, this is not completely over because we have our legislative duty, the mayor has his executive duty and we’ve got work to do to make sure that we don’t end up here again and that we do end up with a long term contract with you know, a lowest and best bidder,” he said.
Banks said unresolved issues remain even after the council approved a one-year emergency pickup contract with Richard’s Disposal at Tuesday’s special meeting. It is the third emergency contract in two-and-a-half years.
“Do we still have disputes? Are there still things that we’ve got to flesh out and talk about? Yes.
When it was made abundantly clear that the judge was not going to deal with those matters today, then we knew that the best thing for us to do was to compromise,” he said.
The Council has complained that the mayor repeatedly brought the same vendor, Richard’s Disposal, before it despite repeated rejections.
The mayor accused the Council of wanting to steer the contract to Waste Management, which managed garbage pickup for the City of Jackson for decades, and said that his priority all along has been going for the lowest cost option.
Richard’s Disposal sued the City in the Hinds County District Court after the Council voted down a six-year contract the mayor presented on April 1.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said at the Council’s press conference that the Monday negotiations did not include details of a future request-for-proposal process.
“We made the conscious decision not to focus on an RFP today or even a discussion about an RFP, but our focus today was on getting the garbage trucks running and getting the garbage picked up for our citizens,” Lindsay said.
The council sued in February for the right to negotiate a contract, citing inaction by the mayor, but the court chose to mediate between the body and the mayor with a hearing Monday morning.
“The peculiar circumstances are that there’s no cooperation between the City Council and the mayor,” Judge Clark said in reaction to the council’s request for power to negotiate a contract. ”There’s no compromise between the City Council and the mayor; the governing authorities of the City of Jackson are dysfunctional, and thereby we want to bend the Constitution kind of a little.”
After the mayor’s attorney Felecia Perkins presented a motion to stay the proceedings at the hearing, the judge rejected the idea and described the issue before him as a “failure of leadership.”
“I’m going to deny your motion to stay. I think there are legitimate issues regarding all of that. But I think there is a more important issue, and that is what’s happening in the City of Jackson—the capital city of this state. This is a travesty,” he said. “We’ve got trash on the streets. It’s dysfunctional. We’re not going to fix this in a court of law. We’re going to fix it in the ballot box, to be honest with you. This is not really a legal issue.”
“This case should never be here,” he added. “This should be about compromise, cooperation, looking after the best interest of the citizens of this City, and that’s the only reason I’m spending the time I am spending here because, ultimately, this is not a legal issue in this context.”