As summer winds to a close and our politicos get back to “takin’ care of business every day, takin’ care of business every way” (Bachman Turner Overdrive, 1974), an issue between the city and county over police jurisdiction, or PJ, as the cool kids like to call it, is making me “go hmm, hmm, hmm” (C+C Music Factory, 1991). I am not sure why this column requires a soundtrack full of songs — some good, some horrible — from different decades, but it does. So just deal with it and “come with me now, come with me now!” (Kongos, 2012), “Whoa come with me now, I’m gonna show you how!”
“Don’t mess with my Toot Toot” (Rockin’ Sidney, 1984) … or my Police Jurisdiction
Mayor Sandy Stimpson, along with councilors John Williams, Gina Gregory and Bess Rich, introduced an ordinance at the Aug. 23 council meeting to reduce the police jurisdiction from 3 miles to 1.5 miles, so they can allocate more public safety resources within the city limits. Though it seems to have support by the majority of the council, it was held over at that meeting so it could be reviewed by the council’s public safety committee.
This ordinance was prompted by a new state law passed earlier this year, which allows municipalities with a population greater than 6,000 to reduce their jurisdiction coverage by this margin. It must be approved by Oct. 1, however, in order to go into effect by Jan. 1, 2017. Otherwise it cannot be implemented until January 2018.
But not everyone was happy with this measure.
Mobile County Commissioners Merceria Ludgood, Connie Hudson and Jerry Carl passed a unanimous resolution the day before, asking the city to at least delay this until 2018 so they would have time to adjust to the measure. But in addition to the request for time, they all expressed hurt feelings over the move. (“Don’t Do Me Like That, Don’t Do Me Like That,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1979).
Commissioner Ludgood even went so far as to say she felt like the city was “kicking us [the county] to the curb.” She said they had spent decades not being “insular,” and it was contrary to their “team” approach. “I don’t believe that out of one side of your mouth you can talk about us acting as a region, then out of the other side of your mouth, pull it back, saying ‘just us.’”
Hudson reiterated the need for more time. “Four months is not enough time to understand that and then try to react to that,” she said. (“Give Me Just a Little More Time,” Chairmen of the Board, 1970).
And Carl added, “Most people don’t realize how much we do to support the city.”
Hey, at least they can all three agree on this issue!
But according to the city’s calculations, it will save them $1.5 million (“Money, Money, Money,” ABBA, 1976) and allow the city to respond to 30 percent fewer calls. This will certainly help fund the mayor’s 2017 budget request for raises for the city’s first responders, some of the lowest paid in the country, not to mention improve service to the citizens of Mobile.
Stimpson’s spokesman George Talbot said of the commission’s request, “We value our partnership with Mobile County in which we share a commitment to improving the quality of life for our constituents. When it comes to our proposed changes to the Police Jurisdiction, our reasoning is simple: It will allow us to better serve the citizens of Mobile.”
As a taxpaying citizen who lives inside the city limits of Mobile, I tend to agree. (“So put me on a highway, and show me a sign, and take it [my tax money] to the [city] limit one more time,” The Eagles (with slight modifications), 1975).
I get that they are going to have to scurry around to get this done, but the county is updated on all of the changes the Legislature makes, so they had to have known this was coming when it became state law this past spring.
It would be extremely fiscally irresponsible for any elected Mobile city official to delay this another year. This just makes good financial sense for our city. Remember council folk, you are elected to represent those of us who choose to live inside the city limits and pay more taxes, not those folks who have chosen or have even fled to the PJ.
And while I understand this is going to affect people in 50-something miles of the county, it also affects many, many more people who live within the 100-plus miles of the city limits, who have wanted more resources for public safety for years and years. Don’t delay this yet again.
Furthermore, you can’t talk about this without examining the optics of it. While I know a mega-soccer complex (or even a mini one) is proposed as a revenue generator, most people aren’t going to make that distinction. The attitude is going to be if you can afford to build a $40 million complex, then you can take care of this. And that attitude is going to persist and be expressed any time the county balks about having to spend more money to do anything.
While I know Ludgood and Carl refused to borrow money to finance the complex, the perception is still that it was a possibility, so therefore the county must be rolling in the dough. And, as we all know, perception is sometimes greater than reality.
I am sure there are ways the city and county can work together in the coming months to ease this transition and, heck, it may even work out better for everyone in the PJ in the long run, as their response times may improve once new plans are put in place.
But I’ll have to say it’s nice to live in a city where I am FINALLY getting updates every week on park and road improvements and seeing real change happen. And now I am looking forward to seeing my tax dollars go to much-needed public safety improvements as well. (So, Mobile City Council, just remember, “It’s a Beautiful Day, Don’t let it Get Away,” U2, 2000). Vote for this ordinance! Bono approves.