Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ward 2 race shaping up to be the best

Of the seven wards in the city of Jackson, the most coveted prize is the Ward 2 seat currently held by my former professor, Leslie Burl McLemore. There are rumors that McLemore will not run for re-election, but as the March 6 deadline still looms more than 60 days away, that may change.

Here are the players we do know about:

Chokwe Lumumba, a prominent attorney and human rights leader in Jackson. Lumumba was the attorney of record for the prisoners in the Attica (NY) State Prison rebellion and is the founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He is also a successful AAU basketball coach and motivational speaker.

Clarence Bolls, co-owner of Gloria's Kitchen restaurant. Bolls has been an outspoken supporter of current Jackson Mayor Frank Melton as well as a champion against crime in his adopted Georgetown and Virden Addition communities, where his restaurant is located. He is a frequent guest on the WOAD-AM talk show, "Straight Talk."

Wydett Hawkins, former owner of the successful WascoTown laundry chain in Jackson and former television personality. Currently, Hawkins is a real estate developer, his latest project being Hallmark Estates in Northwest Jackson. His claim to fame however has been his generational fight to re-open Lake Hico, a cooling pond for Entergy's Rex Brown Steam Plant, for recreational use, as it was during the Jim Crow era in Mississippi.

If McLemore decides to step aside, this race will be the one to watch in Jackson. All three men bring a flavor to the race that will give the residents of Ward 2 three good options to choose from. All are great speakers and they are passionate about one thing, improving the city of Jackson and their ward. The other dynamic is that more candidates may enter the fray should McLemore decide not to run, and Ward 2, unlike other areas of the city, does not have a drought on potential qualified candidates.

Ward 2 is the most affluent African-American majority ward in the city, as well as the state of Mississippi. It is also the ward with the highest voter turnout in Jackson. The makeup of the ward is primarily upper middle class African-Americans who have long generational roots in the city. Many were prominent educators and many currently are leaders in the Jackson business community. Some of the most active, and effective, neighborhood associations in the city reside in Ward 2, as well as a majority of the candidates seeking the position of mayor.

Despite its clout in city politics however, Ward 2 has a glaring problem of economic underdevelopment. When you compare Ward 2 with Ward 1, the Northeast Jackson White-majority area of the city, you can see Ward 2 has some catching up to do. Many of the leaders in the community feel that McLemore has not done enough to push that development, as well as address the basic needs that any ward wants, crime protection and infrastructure improvement.

Nevertheless, despite complaints, McLemore has been able to hold the seat for nearly a decade. Should he run though, this will be the stiffest collection of opponents he has faced since the seat became open eight years ago. Regardless of the result, this will be a watershed moment in that ward's history.

One would figure that the Ward 6 race would be as compelling considering, as for right now, it is the only open seat on the ballot. But the future of Jackson, especially in the African-American community, swings through Ward 2. I believe this year's election will live up to its significance.