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Residents, city leaders devise Mississippi capital’s future

July 3, 2021 GMT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Residents and city leaders in Mississippi’s capital are working together on a vision for the city to cover the next two decades.

At a meeting this week in south Jackson, five key issues were discussed: housing, the environment, neighborhoods, administration and mobility.

Residents spoke openly and in depth about each topic, with some conversations turning to the issue of crime, The Clarion Ledger reported.

The meeting was part of an effort to include residents’ voices in the development of a required 20-year, comprehensive plan for the city. City officials have collected over 2,100 citizen surveys regarding their top concerns about Jackson, and have held more than a dozen focus groups with residents.

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The last plan was completed in 2002 and much has changed since then, said Jordan Hillman, director of the Department of Planning & Development. Historically, Jackson has been plagued by inequities and disparities covering a wide range of issues, including housing quality and affordability, education quality and economic development, Hillman said.

“There’s a lack of equity that is deeply rooted in the city of Jackson,” said Chloe Dotson, deputy director of planning for the city. “Policies and practices have grown beautiful communities for some and left desperate conditions for others ... It has affected generation after generation.”

Some residents said before tackling other issues, the city first needs to get a handle on rising crime.

Sondra Hatcher-McNeil, who lives in west Jackson, said she can’t sleep at night due to the ongoing flurry of gunshots and sounds of drag racing in her neighborhood. She endorsed cleaning up and investing in Jackson parks, but said the city needs to mitigate more urgent problems, such as clearing Lynch Creek to prevent flooding.

Renee Howard, who also lives in west Jackson, said she won’t go to any city parks after dark out of fear of potential crime.

“I hear shootings nightly,” echoed resident Kerry Caston. “I have bullet holes in the roof. There’s just not a lot of police presence, visibility.”

Council President Aaron Banks encouraged those in attendance to spread the word about the upcoming plan, and asked residents to contact their state representatives to also share their vision for the city.

“We need to let our state delegation know. If they see hundreds of people gathering to say this is what we want our state to do, this is what we want our capital city to look like, it’s more likely they’ll respond,” Banks said.

The city will continue to collect residents’ suggestions and concerns to help develop a framework for moving forward before making recommendations about possible changes to any city ordinances and policies, Hillman said.