Critical issues face this city. Its housing stock in the inner city, much of it falling in Stokes’ ward, is crumbling. The tax base is eroding. This is becoming a city of the wealthy and the poor. Missing in that picture is the middle class, which economists say bears much of any city’s tax burden.
Manufacturing jobs are evaporating in this new economy, leaving our shores for other shores where the work can be done cheaply. It used to be that City Council members were only responsible for issues pertaining to their part of town.
That approach has got to change. If we are to compete in this changing marketplace, leadership is going to have to think bigger, bolder and broader. The other night, I watched Stokes spend a good 10 minutes going on and on about $5 night at Smith-Wills stadium while his Council colleagues just sat there. A city employee was even summoned to tell the Council what he knew about the Jackson Senators’ baseball promotion.
But with Stokes, that’s about as deep as it gets, and the people who will ultimately make the decision about his future need to know that.
There are alternatives, however. This year’s slate of Council candidates, including incumbents, is impressive. It may be an unfair burden, but the city’s direction is left up to the people who prevail on May 3.
Jackson doesn’t have four more years to turn things around. Its leadership surely must know that the city can either take a cue from Memphis, its neighbor to the north, or from Gary, Ind., which watched the very core of its city rot away before taking action.
Despite some of its issues, Jackson is far from broken. It’s fair to say that it is teetering. The next mayor and Council could very well be the ones to determine the city’s course for many years to come.
Column by Ronnie Agnew