MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Long-simmering tensions over Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s push to expand city limits boiled over Tuesday, with two black city council members pointing to race as a major factor.
In the past, council members have shied away from highlighting demographic concerns when it comes to annexation. However, council members William Carroll and Cory Penn made clear references to the white-black distribution of the city’s population.
“The elephant in the room in the black community is fear of dilution,” said Carroll, who represents District 2. .
Penn, who represents District 1, added, “You can’t deny that certain communities look different than other communities. You can’t deny it.”
Mobile only recently became a black town. This has been a key issue in the complex and sometimes contentious process of redrawing council district boundaries after 2020. census.
“You can’t deny that when I walk into a room, there aren’t a lot of black people in that room when it comes to important decisions in the city of Mobile,” Penn said.
Stimpson made stopping the city’s population decline a top priority before 2021. re-election campaign. The council rejected a previous proposal in 2019. The mayor has indicated that he intends to try again, with an even bigger annexation attempt. But he has yet to make a formal proposal and continues to face skepticism from black councillors.
Carroll and Penn, along with Council President CJ Small, expressed concern that annexing areas west of the city would divert resources away from their neighborhoods east of Interstate 65. Small said his constituents in District 3 often ask about inadequate city services.
“They feel the city hasn’t really invested back into their neighborhoods or invested in their neighborhoods between infrastructure and even trash collection,” he said.
Small said those are questions for the administration to answer.
“Until those questions are asked and until all the issues are resolved (on behalf of) the people who put me here in this seat, I’m not going to move,” he said.
Complaints that city spending is falling in the city’s older, black-majority neighborhoods drew strong responses from councilmen Scott Jones and Joel Daves. They said city projections show the new areas will bring in millions of dollars more than it would cost to service them.
“It’s all about the money. It’s all about money,” said Daves, who represents District 5.
Jones, who represents District 6, said before the end of the third quarter that the city spent $109 million on capital projects in the Carroll area. USD, and his – 13 million.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing how much money is going into West Mobile and West Mobile where this area doesn’t exist,” he said. “The facts don’t support that.”
The city’s population has dropped to 185,000. The Stimpson administration has said the increase to more than 200,000 is critical to receiving certain population-based subsidies. Jones said he supports it, adding that there is only one way to do it.
“If you block the growth of West Mobile, you will kill this city,” he said.
The mayor’s chief of staff, James Barber, told FOX10 News that the city always considers demographics when it comes to annexation.
“But I think a lot of them will have to answer their own questions about how much they think the wheat is wrong on the map or any plans they have with the race,” he said.
David Richey, who lives outside the city, told council members he would like the opportunity to vote to join Mobile. Richey, who is black, said he believes some people’s opposition to annexation is misguided.
“It seems to be based on the assumption that black people only vote for black people and white people only vote for white people,” he said.
Beverly Cooper, founder of Stand Up Mobile, addressed the council to criticize the lack of transparency in the process. She said it was clear from councilors’ comments that they had discussed the issue with the mayor.
“We believe these conversations should be held in public,” she said.
Cooper added: “Show us the plan and get the community involved in the discussion. We just might surprise you.
Mayoral spokeswoman Candace Cooksey said the administration is working on a proposal with the city’s law and revenue departments and is still deciding which neighborhoods outside of the city would be eligible.
“Basically, he’s not ready. … There will be many public conversations and opportunities for that,” she said.
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