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OP: 10 Reasons – Stimpson vs. Jones Redux

17 Aug 2017

written by Valso

mardigraspark

mardigraspark

Mardi Gras Park under Jones (left) and Stimpson (right)

OPINION: 10 Reasons – Stimpson vs. Jones Redux

Some readers have asked us to do a repost or update of our 2013 Mobile Mayoral election analysis.

We seriously debated whether it was worth doing a factual opinion piece on the Mayoral election. Politics on both the local and national level has deteriorated to demagoguery fanning the flames of bigotry and ignorance. Why bother? Does anyone care about facts anymore? Can they handle the truth?

But, on the other hand, this is one of the most important mayoral races in the history of Mobile. Mobile can either take off or recede into stagnation and mediocrity. It finally has the ability to shed its “City of Perpetual Potential” moniker. But it needs several more years of serious, progressive and active leadership. 

Since two Mobile Mayors are running we have the advantage of actually having their records to review that can outweigh the demagoguery. If there is even one person out there who rationally votes based on facts and this gets them to vote then it is worth it. If you are such a person please read this and please vote on August 22.  

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Initiative and Accomplishments

Jones: Lack of direction / “just getting by”
In 2013, we stated that if we were a 8th grade teacher we would give Jones a C- and comment that “He just does the minimum to get through his work.  He has no desire to exceed or excel.  He has a serious motivation problem.”
Mobile stagnated in multiple areas, particularly Downtown development, while other Southern cities grew.  Jones did not have any concrete proposals for growth.
There best example was Mardi Gras Park which sat unused and surrounded with a chain link fence for years during his administration.  
Of course, the cruise terminal also sat empty – not only due to a lack of initiative to get another ship but a lack of imagination and an abundance of excuses for finding any other use for it.
There was little effort to encourage private development – or even just not being an obstruction to development for that matter.

Stimpson has been one of the most active Mayors in America. He was chosen out of a handful of Mayors from across the country to participate in the Bloomberg Harvard Leadership Initiative. The number of projects he has undertaken to lead Mobile to be a modern city is remarkable. And of course there is a list of accomplishments during his tenure which he is at least partially responsible for – Mardi Gras Park, return of the Cruise Ship, Broad Street And Water Street renovations, the Three Mile Creek Greenway, etc. etc.

We joked in 2013 that Stimpson must be a fan of Mod Mobilian because he campaigned on our own ideas for progressive growth – a focus on Downtown, promoting the arts, protecting the environment, recruiting and keeping educated young entrepreneurs, and relentlessly advocating for bike paths. But he has lived up to his campaign promises and made progress on every one of those ideas.

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Financial Management

Jones: Financial mismanagement.
Mobile’s debt increased from $167 million when he took office to $300 million by 2013. As a result, the credit rating agency Moody’s put a negative outlook on Mobile’s credit “due to a rapid deterioration in General Fund liquidity and reserves during fiscal 2012 and 2013.” During Jones’ last year in 2013 the city’s budget was $4.3 million negative. Under Jones there was no money in the rainy-day reserve fund and no money to be spent for Capital repairs like streets.


Stimpson: Mobile’s debt under Stimpson has decreased to $258 million by 2016. As a result “of a change in management” and “improving financial position due to new budgeting practices” Moody’s improved Mobile’s outlook and Standard and Poor’s raised its credit rating to AA-. Last year the City’s budget was $28 million positive. The city’s rainy day fund is back up to $21 million and $21 million a year is being spent on infrastructure like street repairs. Hallelujah.

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Small Businesses and Bureaucracy

Jones: During Jones’ term the City of Mobile’s bureaucracy was infamous for obstructing small business. A number of small businesses closed because the City bureaucracy refused to work with them (remember Hopjacks?). Anecdotally, the number of small businesses were stagnant for the last years of his administration despite national recovery. This means fewer jobs.

Stimpson has attracted many new small businesses to open around Mobile and has made the process much easier. Business still have problems with the state (including the ABC Board and the health department) but the city does their best to advocate for the small businesses. This is evident in the “Downtown Loves Sandy” signs hanging on downtown businesses. Many new businesses have said they’ve located in Mobile specifically because of the leadership of this administration. That means more jobs.

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Crime

Jones denied that there is a crime problem during his term but stated there was only a “perception” of crime, despite the fact that Mobile’s murders peaked at 42 in 2007 during his administration.
Police leadership was ineffective under Jones. Remember when the police were reportedly instructed to arrest everyone (zero tolerance) with non-approved cups under the new Entertainment District laws – potentially including tourists and a Thyssen Krupp executive? And this was done to secure more funding from the City Council? Crime misreporting and under-reporting were serious issues and the Police Explorers fund was admittedly in disarray.

Most importantly, there was persistent and worsening turnover rate in the police department that only recently has been reversed. Jones has been critical of the MPD and you have to wonder what that would do for morale.  That is probably why Stimpson won the endorsement of the majority of local law enforcement organizations.

Under Stimpson’s tenure by 2015, murders were the lowest in 10 years (23). Funny enough, although the crime rate is much lower now, suddenly Jones says it is not “perception” but a crisis.

Stimpson raised the salaries for the MPD for the first time in years and has improved morale and reversed the trends in turnover.

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Environment

Jones displayed overt environmental apathy. Waterway pollution in Dog River, Three Mile Creek and elsewhere had been a serious problem for years under Jones with minimal effort to correct it. Kayaker Rob Nykvist extensively documented the problem with video and Jones’ apathy towards it.  ADEM fined the city and made it enter a consent decree due to inadequate stormwater monitoring under Jones.

Stimpson oversaw the river litter management, land-based litter collection vehicles, single stream recycling and other measures that have improved the problem. Stimpson has, in our opinion, been the more environmentally-conscious of the two.

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Attitude and Availability

Jones: We have never had Jones return an email or phone call – except once when his chief-of-staff called to ask why we had never asked him for an interview as we did Stimpson (we had – multiple times) and why local media (Lagniappe and Mod Mobilian) had the gall to think that they should sponsor a debate.   
The supposedly-populist Jones is much more elitist than any of the other candidates.  You could not get a meeting with him unless you “know someone.”  A local citizen told us that after his was hit while riding his bike he tried for months to get a meeting with Jones – and it was only after one of the Mayor’s friends called on his behalf that he finally got a response.

Multiple media sources noted the difficulty in getting information from the Jones administration. WKRG’s Bill Riales wrote: “From a reporter’s standpoint, it was much more difficult to get an interview with Mayor Jones.” And don’t even start with Lagniappe.
Members of the Citizen’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee who were appointed to independently review the city’s finances said that their efforts were “thwarted by an unenthusiastic administration.”  This was after their report contradicted the Mayor’s contention that the city would face a $29 million shortfall in 2013, justifying the 1% sales tax increase. Jones should have made the MPD release documents or information as to who went on numerous trips – including ski trips – in conjunction with the Police Explorers program.  Instead, Lagniappe has had to sue the department for the records.

Stimpson: If you went more than a week without seeing Stimpson in public at all sorts of events then you need to get out more. The assertion by some of Jones’ supporters that Stimpson just got out during election time is either very ignorant or an outright lie on their part. There is quite possibly not a more accessible Mayor in the United States. This does not even include his door-to-door visits and clean up efforts in neighborhoods throughout the city that have occurred for every one of the four years of his term. We don’t recall Jones doing door-to-door visits or leading cleanup efforts for schools on DIP or Tricentennial Park in Toulminville.

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Community Unity

Jones: If none of the factors above has swayed your decision then this one should. It is by far the most important for the future of Mobile. The campaign that Jones has run has been divisive. His primary selling point was the percent of population of each ethnicity. That is, divide and conquer. We used to view Jones as a nice guy – a likable but ineffective politician. But now it is clear that he has put his own ambitions over the good of the city. Using pictures of his opponent with a Presidential candidate is a cheap “gotcha” but has no bearing on the job either will do as Mayor. And if you don’t believe that Jones would have greeted a visiting Presidential candidate (as the Mayor should) then you are delusional. Of course, using demagoguery to get away with corruption and mismanagement has been the modus operandi of  politicians for years. And as always, it is the people falling for the demagoguery that get hurt the worst (see: Mobile Housing Board).

Stimpson is a good man who truly cares about Mobile and about the quality of life and well-being of every person in our community regardless of skin color.  Racism and systemic inequality are serious issues that need to be addressed. And it is understandable that they arouse emotion. But Stimpson is the one that is more likely to make progress in this regard.  Some people have already forgotten that Stimpson took a lot of heat from some quarters for going along with the City Council decision to remove the Confederate flag from the Mobile City seal in 2015. Stimpson has encouraged community unity that occurred both through the bully pulpit and community meetings. Stimpson is not perfect – no one is – but he is the one that genuinely wants to unify our community and not divide it further.

We are not going to insult your intelligence by making an explicit endorsement. It should be clear who will be make life better for all of us. Mobile is at a critical point and we cannot let the political insanity of the rest of the country infect us. We have to remember that the most important thing for all of us are JOBS, PUBLIC SAFETY, AND QUALITY OF LIFE. These are the job of the Mayor. Which one will make the city progress and which one will make it decline? As these improve we can come together and be a stronger community. Or we can drift apart and the city can decay. It is up to us to do the right thing for us and for the next generation of Mobilians.

LET’S STAY POSITIVE MOBILE

 

Addendum:  it has been noted that this opinion is one-sided.  That is why it is called an opinion. We are open to criticisms and praise of both Stimpson and Jones in their role as Mayor in the comments below. Sam Jones did have some successes as a county commissioner and mayor, and it is unfortunate that his current campaign may have overshadowed those and tarnished his legacy. But then again, divisiveness is a really bad thing for our city so perhaps that’s justified.


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