Wednesday, October 7, 2015
After months of being at odds, the City of Jackson and Mississippi State Fair Commission finally came to an agreement this week over security at the state fair, which begins today, Oct. 7.
Under the agreement, hammered out between attorneys from Jackson and the State, JPD will assign 20 officers to the fairgrounds for the two-week-long yearly event. The City will pick up the tab for half the officers, while the State kicks in funds for the other 10. State Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith also pledged to try to find more funding for JPD in the next budget.
Despite the fact that the matter wound up in court after the Fair Commission asked a judge to compel Jackson to provide police protection, in the end, the flap might be the best example of Jackson and the State working through a problem in a long time.
It's also a good example of Jackson's strength and why the capital city should flex its muscle more often.
Early on in the controversy, fair officials shrugged off Jackson's refusal to assign JPD to the fair, as if to suggest that they could take or leave the City's participation, saying private security could do the job of the state's largest municipal police force. As the fair's start date neared, they grew increasingly and publicly nervous about the absence of JPD.
Mayor Tony Yarber and the city council smelled blood in the water and held firm to their position. As Oct. 7 approached, the State got desperate and tried to sue, arguing, curiously, that because Jackson citizens will attend the fair, and the City has a statutory obligation to provide police protection to all citizens, Jackson was therefore required to spend more than $300,000 in overtime for JPD.
The Fair Commission's desperation is emblematic of how much trouble the State would be in if Jackson were not here to bail them out. Along the same lines, it affirms what Jacksonians have been saying all along: The State needs Jackson just as much as Jackson needs the State. The State of Mississippi should, therefore, pay its fair share for upkeep of infrastructure near State-owned properties, as well as for police and fire protection.
Recently, the City renewed its State lobbying contract ahead of the 2016 legislative session. As the City showed in its negotiations with the Fair Commission, Jackson and the State should be open to compromise.
However, the lesson here is that Jackson doesn't need to go to the Legislature hat-in-hand, happy for whatever budgetary scraps lawmakers are willing to throw out. Jackson has shown what is possible when the City stands up to the State and demands its fair share.
We look forward to seeing more of that.