As the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi continues, Republican Governor Tate Reeves thinks he may have a solution: privatizing the city's water services and turning it into a for-profit enterprise.
During a press conference Monday morning, Reeves announced the crisis had improved according to health officials, and that the city may be just days away from being able to lift its boil water ordinance.
Given the improvements, Reeves said he is now eyeing long-term solutions, including leasing the system's management to a private corporation.
\u201cGov. Tate Reeves (R-MS) says "privatization is on the table" for Jackson's water system following its post-flooding collapse.\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
Despite improvements, Reeves was careful to point out that Jackson's water system is not yet out of the woods and future problems loom as possibilities.
“We know that it is always possible that there will be more severe challenges. This water system broke over several years and it would be inaccurate to claim it is totally solved in the matter of less than a week."
But he acknowledged that the crisis has been substantially abated.
"We have however reached a place where people in Jackson can trust that water will come out of the faucet, toilets can be flushed and fires can be put out.”
He went on to say that in the long-term, all options for fixing Jackson's water system are being considered, including privatization.
“Privatization is on the table. Having a commission that oversees failed water systems as they have in many states is on the table. I’m open to ideas.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba opposes the idea of privatization, though he said he is willing to consider a "maintenance agreement" with a private company to alleviate staffing shortages that impact the system.
Reeves criticized Lumumba's handling of the crisis, saying he has failed to deliver a clear plan for how to fix the city's water system so that state and federal governments can fund the improvements, and he expressed doubts in Lumumba and his administration's capability of adequately running the system.
But Reeves' comments left many angry, particularly because he vetoed a bipartisan bill in 2020 to fund improvements to Jackson's system that would have avoided the system's current problems.
And previous privatization measures, most notably a $90 million deal with infrastructure technology company Siemens, only exacerbated the city's water issues, directly leading to the present crisis.
And on Twitter, many were outraged by Reeves' push for privatization.
\u201c@therecount Have a look at this thread to see what handing $90 MILLION over to @Siemens has already done to the water system:\n\nhttps://t.co/YTjKmGvgZh\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount Republicans don\u2019t want solutions \nRepublicans like Tate want to make money\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount Privatization, which is happening more nationwide, will do nothing but compound these catastrophes. Companies squeeze every last $ of profit out of the utility while only providing minor upgrades. Local/state governments are then on the hook when the system inevitably fails\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount Better idea? Committing state, city, and regional government to solving the problem\n\nWhy do Republicans in office act like they have no ability to accomplish anything? They're the ones with the power, either executive or legislative.\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount @KlassCarol Tate Reeves failed. That\u2019s the bottom line. He knew the Jackson water system was in major trouble, but vetoed a bill that would have repaired the faulty system. \nHe decided. \nHe didn\u2019t care who it would hurt.\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount This is out of control. I\u2019ve worked with water districts and this is NOT how they operate. Where is the money the state already received to update its water distribution systems?! It\u2019s not ok to say we don\u2019t know how long before you have safe water and now this\u2026 \ud83d\ude21\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount oh like that will fix the problem - it will only INCREASE the price of water if someone can make a profit off it.. #JacksonMississippi\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount Haha Mississippi is Russia in the 90s.\n\n"We have this expansive infrastructure that needs to be fixed or else"\n\n"Sell it."\n\n"What"\n\n"Just give it to my buddy lol"\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount "I failed. Therefore people should make money off my failure." -- @tatereeves\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
\u201c@therecount @AnthonyHegler \u201cPrivatize\u201d is basically him wanting to charge the black people for their water at an exorbitant price, instead of appropriating the funding needed to fix the issue\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1662477930
Jackson has been under a boil water ordinance since July 29 after cloudy water with risk of causing digestive issues was found by the state Health Department.