Coronavirus: Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba Says Governor Does Not Trump His Authority

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Written by Ann Brown
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Coronavirus: Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announces the governor does not trump his authority over the city. Photo: Former mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, right, listens as Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, speaks after the announcement that Jackson, Miss., was named the winner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Public Art Challenge winner, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. The city will receive a grant up to $1 million for a public art project addressing nutrition and food equity in Mississippi. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many governors across the country have stepped into the forefront, taking the lead of the situation. For example, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, both Democrats, almost immediately ordered residents of their states to stay home instead of allowing the cities and counties in their state to make their own decisions. 

Governors are often called on to be “Consolers In Chief, and they seem to be taking it seriously during the pandemic, NPR reported. 

But not in Jackson, Mississippi. There Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has taken the lead and says he had the right to be the leader of his city, regardless of what the governor of his state says.

“As mayor of the city of Jackson, I have the authority to implement these restrictions,” said Lumumba, the mayor of the state’s largest city.

According to Lumumba, he has the ultimate authority, not the governor, to issue orders to help stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in Jackson.

Following an executive order recently signed by Gov. Tate Reeves, Lumumba, as well as other mayors in the state, have questioned what authority they have. Under Reeves’s order, there is a mandate for social distancing measures and limits gatherings to 10 or less but it permits restaurants to keep their dining rooms open with those restrictions in place. 

“That conflicts with an executive order Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba issued on March 18. In it, the mayor ordered all restaurant dining rooms to close and move to take-out only,” The Clarion-Ledger reported.

Lumumba’s order still stands. 

“The decision to mandate such restrictions was not one that was taken lightly and serves to protect the people of Jackson as much as possible. As mayor of the city of Jackson, I have the authority to implement these restrictions,” Lumumba said. 

Instead of challenging Lumumba on the issue, Reeves said at a press conference his staff is revising his order after he discussed it with several mayors in the state who had concerns. 

“We’re going to look towards some clarifying language so our mayors feel more comfortable. Many of them are working very, very hard and we want to allow them to do what’s best for their communities,” Reeves said. 

Reeves also added that city and county officials have the authority to issue orders as long as they don’t interfere with what’s considered an essential business.  

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“After discussion with the governor, we have mutually agreed that this order serves as a minimal standard for the state of Mississippi and cities have the right to implement more restrictive policies than that stated by the governor’s order,” Lumumba said. 

According to the Health Department, there have been 485 cases of the virus statewide as of April 2.  Six people have died.