Whatever the election results, three mobile advisers will leave in 2021
When a new mobile city council is installed in November, at least three familiar faces will be gone as John Williams, Bess Rich and Fred Richardson will no longer be on the stage.
The three long-time members of the body said it was their last term on the board. Williams and Rich decided not to run again, and Richardson instead decided to run for the town’s leadership position by running for mayor.
Despite a tenure of success, disagreements and a division over who should serve as the body’s president, Williams said the council should be considered one of the best in the city’s history.
“The point is, the results speak for themselves,” he said. “We have never been in this financial situation, never have we restored infrastructure at this rate, the city has never had the safety record it has, the city has never achieved ISO-1 in the fire service. The parks are rebuilt and restored. It’s a good time in Mobile, Alabama.
Williams was chosen to complete the unexpired term of Ben Brooks, who left to become a state senator, and he has now served on the board for almost 15 years. During this time, he said, he believes every board member has been honest and has really done what he believes is in the best interests of his constituents.
“We have different views and maybe different opinions on the truth, but nobody, I don’t think, on the board is lying about what they did or what they think,” a- he declared. “It has been a strong and honest organization, trying to do its best to represent its constituents.”
Regarding what he wants to see from a future council, Williams said he would like future representatives to continue and maintain the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
Somewhat controversial at the time of its approval, the city’s CIP began with a sales tax increase equal to 1 cent on items purchased within city limits. The increase brings in more than $ 30 million per year, and of that amount, $ 21 million is distributed among the council’s seven districts and used for infrastructure improvements. The program provides $ 3 million per year per district for these improvements.
“It’s critical to the success of the city as a whole, to the proper management of this penny that not everyone could understand in the first five years of their life,” said Williams. “If we can do it, that opens everything. ”
Appropriate infrastructure leads to better economic development and a better quality of life, he said, because it means the city is successful.
“People want to live there, they want to do business there,” he said. “Let’s continue to light up the place, line the streets and make our parks a better place, just a more beautiful place.”
Besides the CIP, Williams said the city’s growth would be the most important issue facing the council. In his mind, this growth would come through annexation.
“Regardless of the administration, John Williams has supported annexation every time without a blink of an eye and the reason is that if you don’t, people will take advantage of the city’s services and never pay for them.” , did he declare. “They will say we buy in town, we buy here, we buy there. Well, sort of. You pay half the tax and if you can get by, you shop at Walmart which is just outside of our city limits.
The council rejected an annexation attempt in 2019 that would have allowed around 13,000 residents of West Mobile to decide to join the city. The offer lost with four of seven votes in favor because a qualified majority is required to approve everything except the annual budget or confirmation from municipal judges.
Although he recognized annexation as a major problem, Williams did not rule out an annexation vote when the advisers are lame representatives. The political motivations some felt in 2019 could change after the election, he said.
“There is not a single problem greater than annexation and it can be accomplished before this council and this administration ends this term,” Williams said.
Despite losing in the last annexation vote, Williams has said he would not be in favor of removing qualified majority rule.
Williams supports his replacement behind Ben Reynolds. Fred Rettig is also running for the seat. As for the mayor, Williams has said he supports Stimpson’s re-election.
Like Williams, Rich was chosen to serve Connie Hudson’s unexpired tenure in District 6. Rich had served as the District Representative before, serving for seven years on the Council of Mobile Water and Sewer Commissioners. In all, Rich’s time as a city councilor and on the water board represents 26 years of public service in Mobile.
In remarks on her retirement at a recent city council meeting, Rich said she hoped a future council wouldn’t be a “rubber stamp” board because she felt work had to be a control. administration, no matter who the mayor arrives to. to be. In an interview with Lagniappe, she didn’t back down on this comment, but said she didn’t want to interfere with the way an advisor runs her office.
As she always has, Rich said the needs of the city’s neighborhoods are among the main issues facing the council today and in the future.
“We are reducing the population because people live in areas that match their needs and their price range,” she said. “We have to make sure the neighborhoods are sustainable. Our city is as strong as our neighborhoods.
While Rich has not openly supported a candidate to take his place, she said she would rather support someone who has worked at the neighborhood level. The District 6 race has three candidates: Josh Woods, Daryl Pendleton and Scott Jones.
Like Williams, Rich is a “big supporter” of annexation and voted to endorse the referendum in 2019. However, she said she was disappointed with the way the administration presented the information in an attempt to sell it to the people. advisers. Rich said she asked for a breakdown of the costs associated with the annexation in terms of garbage, waste and other services, but never received the information.
“It surprised me a bit that we never received this information because it was available,” she said.
Rich said she supported the 2019 annexation campaign because it allowed residents to vote and maintained the city’s racial balance.
Rich, like Williams, said she hoped there was another chance to approve an annexation referendum.
“When you see a number of citizens asking to join the city, it’s flattering,” she said. “I have never seen so much desire to return to the city. It means that we are doing things right.
Rich did not support a candidate in the mayoral race between Stimpson, Richardson and municipal judge Karlos Finley. However, she called the management of the city’s finances by Stimpson and the late Paul Wesch “genius”. However, she accused Stimpson of having a blind spot when it comes to the needs of the neighborhood, especially in her district.
Like his two other colleagues, Richardson was also chosen to serve an unexpired term on council in 1997. Unlike his colleagues, he hopes to have a political future beyond 2021 as he runs for mayor.
Seeking a new office means he cannot get re-elected in District 1. The longtime councilor said it would be important for new councilors to “stay in their lane”.
“They need to be familiar with the Zoghby Law,” Richardson said. “It sets out the responsibilities of the council and the mayor. ”
Richardson said he hopes the council and the mayor have better communication in the years to come. He wants the council, the mayor and the heads of departments to all work together. He argued that this is not happening now under Stimpson and the current board.
“Right now we have a divided city,” he said. “As mayor, I will not fight the council. If the board says ‘no’ then it is ‘no’.
Stimpson sued current advisers in 2018 for attempting to rehire a media scholar he fired. The lawsuit sought to determine which branch of government could hire and fire city employees. The case was settled without any real resolution.
Part of the communication problem, Richardson said, stems from Stimpson’s practice of not fully facing the board when commenting at meetings. When first elected, Stimpson spoke from a rostrum with his back to councilors. Later, he spoke from a podium attached to the table where the administrative staff are seated. In this configuration, he has his side on the board. Richardson called this disrespectful.
“He’s not looking at us,” he said. “The rules of the board state that you must [us] and address the president. We don’t have meetings of mayors; we have board meetings.
As mayor, Richardson said he would hire a liaison officer to facilitate communication between councilors and his office.
“It is by all working together that the city can be the best,” he said.
Regarding the approvals of District 1 candidates, Richardson said he would leave the choice between Cory Penn, Tim Hollis, Herman Thomas and Tony-Toni Wright to voters.
“I think the community should make the decision,” he said.
Welcome new members
Reggie Copeland, former chairman of the board, knows what it’s like to welcome new colleagues to the board that runs the affairs of the city. Copeland was a member of the city’s first council after Mobile moved in that direction from commission-based government in the mid-1980s.
With all of the members fresh to the new form of government, Copeland said they attended seminars to help learn the rules and really understand how the city would operate.
To acclimate the new members, Copeland suggested the mayor invite councilors over to lunch or lunch and inform them of a list of priorities his office was considering for the next term.
“You want to be sure everyone is on the same page,” Copeland said.
A good way for board management to allow new members to acclimatize to the job is to allow them to suggest possible committee assignments. As a board, Copeland said, all sports-related business has fallen on his desk.
Another big tip, Copeland said, is to try and work together. Members won’t always agree, but it’s important to find common ground for the greater good of the city.
“We were discussing the things we wanted to do,” Copeland said. “We worked as a team. ”