The Mobile City Council on Tuesday honored a colleague injured in a weekend robbery of a South African tour group.
Councilors, council staff and city staff, including Mayor Sandy Stimpson, wore white lapel ribbons in support of District 3 representative C.J. Small, who was shot in the face Saturday when the tour bus in which he was riding in Johannesburg, South Africa, was ambushed by robbers.
Small was listed in stable condition and has been transferred to a private hospital, according to a statement released Monday afternoon by Raymond Bell, the family’s attorney.
“With the cooperation and the assistance of many friends and supporters both in Johannesburg and here in Alabama, Mr. Small was recently transported to a private hospital and is receiving the best of care, as he awaits the opportunity to return home,” the statement read. “He is in stable condition and both his short- and long-term prognoses are positive.”
At the meeting, councilors voiced support for Small and his constituents. Councilman Levon Manzie and Councilman Fred Richardson also offered to handle the needs of the residents of District 3 until Small is able to return.
During a pre-conference meeting, Councilman John Williams joked he might lose track of the meeting without the help of Small, who normally sits beside him.
“He normally tells me when to pay attention,” Williams joked. “If you see me and I’m not paying attention, it’s just that I’m missing C.J.”
In his remarks at Tuesday’s meeting, Stimpson said he was also praying for Small’s “speedy recovery.”
Councilors and others also signed a board with his picture and well wishes attached.
On Sunday, county spokeswoman Nancy Johnson released a statement on behalf of the County Commission wishing Small well in his recovery.
“County officials are saddened by the incident and praying for both the councilman and his family and for a speedy recovery and return home,” the statement read in part.
Small was in Johannesburg for a conference of the South African Funeral Directors and Morticians Association. It is unclear whether any other conference members were aboard the bus Small at the time of the incident. An email to the SAFDMA was not returned as of press time.
Small’s family is working with U.S. officials to get him home as soon as possible, according to the statement. The statement specifically thanked Sen. Jeff Sessions’ office, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, as well as members of the Alabama House and Senate for working with South African officials.
“Additional gratitude is given to the Consulate General of the United States and everyone else that has assisted Mr. Small and his family during this time,” the statement read.
Details and additional information on the actual attack are scarce. Two different spokespersons within the State Department could only confirm the department was “aware of reports” of the incident.
“We are aware of reports regarding a tour bus carjacking incident in Johannesburg,” read an email from Niles Cole, with the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
“We take our obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad seriously.”
Drew Bailey, a State Department spokesman, couldn’t add any further information, citing privacy laws.
In business from the meeting, the council approved more repairs for the City of Mobile, Alabama Cruise Terminal ahead of Carnival’s return next year. The board approved a $116,930 contract with ADELTE Ports and Maritime for corrective works on the seaport passenger boarding bridge. The council also approved a $13,400 contract with Thompson Engineering for mooring at the cruise terminal.
The council also approved a $641,129 contract with Sunset Contracting, Inc. for Bolton Branch Creek channel repairs from University Boulevard to Azalea Road.
The council held a public hearing on the adoption of amendments to the 2012 International Property Maintenance Code, which would allow the Bloomberg Innovation Team to better handle blighted or open structures in the future.
Executive Director Jeff Carter told councilors the amendment would be “another tool in the toolbox” for his team and would be “more measured than demolition, but more effective than ticketing.”
The resolution the council could vote on as early as next week would streamline the legal process involved in fixing blighted structures. Instead of being forced to take an owner to court over an abandoned home that simply needs to be boarded up or repaired, the resolution would allow the city to make the needed repairs and then charge the owner or future owner through a lien on the property.
According to a statement from Stimpson’s office, the move would reduce resolution time for these types of structures from two years to between one and three months.