Friday, May 6, 2022

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

Six weeks ago I told you about Mason, Tennessee, a tiny majority black town with a part-time local government trying to fix the embezzlement issues from a white Republican local government that trashed the town's finances.  They got no help from the state at all, and managed to get their heads above water anyway.

The NAACP stepped in to help Mason with its legal issues, and the good news is now we have a preliminary settlement in the works.

After alleging that Tennessee’s top leaders were placing unfair scrutiny over a predominantly Black town’s finances, the small town of Mason announced Wednesday it had reached a deal halting the threat of a state takeover of its finances.

The settlement marks a victory for town officials who had argued the state was treating Mason’s majority-Black leaders differently than they have white administrators who also struggled with finances.

“This settlement agreement is a good thing for the citizens of the town and it’s a good thing for African Americans across the country,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson.

The issue began when Comptroller Jason Mumpower asked Mason’s town leaders to surrender their charter, pointing to ongoing years of financial mismanagement. After Mason voters refused to do so, Mumpower later said the state would take over its financial supervision.

The news of the pending takeover quickly sparked national attention as many pointed out that Mason is located near the site of a future $5.6 billion Ford electric pickup truck factory, which is expected to employ about 5,600 workers at the plant, and construction of the factory will create thousands more jobs.

The 2020 Census shows Mason’s population at about 1,330. But that fell to less than 800 after a private prison closed recently.

“For far too long, we’ve seen highways going through our cities in our community, or hostile takeover by states,” Johnson said. ”Here’s an opportunity for the citizens to retain their charter, implement best practices and participate in the opportunities that the economic development we’re bringing for this community.”

Town leaders quickly filed a lawsuit — with the help of the NAACP — hoping to stop the takeover, alleging the pending Ford plant has sparked extra scrutiny. In particular, the suit sought to challenge the state’s edict that Mason get approval to spend more than $100 — a strict requirement that town leaders said would make it impossible to do business.

“They set up Mason to fail,” said attorney Van Turner Jr., president of the NAACP Memphis branch who represented Mason’s town leaders
But they couldn't sweep this under the rug after the outrage six weeks ago. While Mason will continue to work in good faith reporting open books and town expenses to the state, the state will leave the town alone.

I fully expect the state to cut the town out of any revenue from the impending Interstate 40 construction or Ford's Blue Oval City project in the months ahead, but that's not going to stop Mason from getting visitors and customers to local businesses.

Keep an eye on Mason.

Black Lives Still Matter.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails