Public safety, infrastructure and annexation were the issues discussed by candidates in the District 6 runoff at a forum Tuesday evening.
The Azalea City Republican Women invited Scott Jones and Josh Woods to the Connie Hudson Mobile Regional Senior Center to speak about issues in the district ahead of the runoff on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
Annexation has been a big issue during the entire 2021 election cycle and supporting it has been the difference for many candidates when it comes to fundraising. The two candidates were asked about growing the city and both support annexation as a way to increase the population.
Annexation has been a topic of political discussion since 2019, when Mayor Sandy Stimpson first pushed the idea of allowing some 13,000 residents of West Mobile to vote in a referendum to join the city.
The push failed because the council couldn’t collect a supermajority of votes in favor to approve the referendum. The vote, which occurred along racial lines, failed with the four White councilors in favor and the three Black councilors against. The current District 6 representative Councilwoman Bess Rich voted in favor of the annexation referendum.
Stimpson and others have argued that since the vote failed and the city has not crossed the 200,000 population threshold, that the municipal government has already lost out on about $100 million in federal funds.
Jones, a U.S. Army Veteran, agreed with those figures, telling the crowd that “annexation has to happen.” The additional funds could be used to fix infrastructure issues in the district, Jones said.
“What could District 6 do with a third of those funds?” Jones asked.
Woods, the executive director at The Grounds, also supports annexation as a part of overall growth strategy.
“Growth is kind of an equation,” he said. “In order to see growth in population, you have to grow from within, but to get to an excellent future, to improve the quality of life for residents, you have to add annexation to the equation.”
When it comes to public safety both men believe supporting police officers and firefighters is a key to success.
Woods called public safety a “team issue” and said the council has to provide the proper resources to assist. Woods added that firefighters can’t continue riding three to a truck and the city has to support police.
“We have to give them everything they need,” he said.
Jones said the “multi-faceted problem” with public safety starts with fixing issues at Mobile Metro Jail. Specifically, he wants to get those suffering from mental health issues out of the jail, but hold “criminals” responsible for crimes and stop giving “slaps on the wrist.” Jones also wants the city to bring back community policing.
“Community policing is police in the community,” he said. “You know who they are and they know who you are. Right now, police don’t engage …. Police have to get back in your neighborhood.”
A key to fixing problems in the West Mobile district is a focus on infrastructure and how that relates to traffic congestion. If elected, Jones said he would fight to make sure the district keeps all $3 million it is currently entitled to through the Capital Improvement Plan.
“CIP funds from this district have to stay in this district,” he said. “That $3 million goes a long way.”
As for infrastructure priorities, Jones said first he would meet with the leadership in every community and talk about the different needs of those neighborhoods. That being said, he believes traffic along Hillcrest and Cottage Hill roads would be near the top of the list, as well as potholes and drainage issues.
When it comes to infrastructure and all issues, Woods said he would be a “voice for all of District 6.” He called traffic a “quality of life issue” and would work to address areas of concern, like Cottage Hill, Hillcrest and Grelot roads.
“That’s a public safety issue you care about,” he said. “Traffic is a safety issue.”
Jones finished first in the general municipal election in District 6, securing 2,500 votes, or 43 percent. Woods finished second with 2,162 votes, or 37 percent.
While Rich has previously come out in support of Jones to take her place, she was joined by the two other previous District 6 representatives to council in that support, according to a statement.
Former District 6 councilwoman and Current Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson as well as former councilwoman Jane Baxter Conkin will support Jones in the runoff.
“Scott truly exemplifies servant leadership in every respect,”Hudson said in the statement. “His distinguished military career and community service involvement along with his strong commitments to faith and family have certainly earned my support.”
Rich praised his work as president of the Ridgefield subdivision’s homeowners association, in the statement.
“Scott’s maturity and experience as a neighborhood association president, along with his organizational skills, will be a great asset to our district,” Rich said in the statement. “He is responsive, transparent, and a man of core principles who I am proud to support and endorse.”
In the statement, Conkin said Jones would view the position on the council as a full-time job.
“He will make it his mission to continue full time with integrity, leadership and hard work,” Conkin said in the statement. “He has a wonderful, friendly, caring personality making it easy to endorse and support him.”
At the forum, Jones pointed out that the support comes from every person who had previously held the District 6 seat. Jones also received the support of the local firefighters association and the Police Benevolent Association.
Woods has received support from the 2021 race’s third-place finisher Tony Dugaish. Dugaish finished with 661 during the Aug. 24 election, or 11 percent.
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