It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson. First she threw caution to the wind to all-out campaign for Margie Wilcox to join her on the commission, only to see her lose. Then last week the Alabama Supreme Court hammered the county in its fight to keep from giving the District Attorney’s Office more money. It was a fight Hudson and fellow Commissioner Merceria Ludgood continued even when it looked like the smartest thing to do was come up with a compromise.
So now not only does Connie get to serve four more years with Jerry Carl, who she worked so hard to defeat, but the fight she and Merceria pushed is likely to cost the county $3 million more a year. The county’s news release on the matter describes the ruling as having a “devastating impact” and “grave consequences.” Right here, please imagine one of those emojis with gritted teeth.
Sounds like the lawsuit was a high-stakes gamble by Ludgood and Hudson that didn’t pan out. Lower courts encouraged the county and the DA to come together and work out an agreement, but that never happened. Now, after losing the Supreme Court case 8-1, these two commissioners are talking about somehow trying to have four of those same justices reverse themselves on appeal. Good luck, ladies.
The first judge to hear this case ordered both sides to mediation in hopes of them hammering out a deal, and why that didn’t happen isn’t completely clear. I do know that not only did the county argue it didn’t owe the DA any more money, its attorneys actually argued the DA should pay money back to the county. The county’s position was clearly way off course.
Certainly there seems to have been a high degree of stubbornness coming from the two county commissioners in this instance. District Attorney Rich had made it clear publicly she was looking for a compromise, but as things wound on it just seemed like everyone dug in their heels more and more.
We don’t know the outcome yet, obviously, but it’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court is going to reverse itself and an attempt to do so is probably just wasting more taxpayer dollars on lawyers. If the county does indeed have to fork over $3 million more a year, some spending changes are going to be necessary. And that’s where Hudson may have hurt herself most.
In light of this “devastating” legal loss, pushing forward on her beloved $40 million soccer/swimming complex makes little sense. The Supreme Court just poured cold water all over “Connieville.” That’s not to say Hudson won’t dig in her heels again to try to make it happen, but she shouldn’t, at least not without letting the public vote on it.
Having spent the past two months immersed in the world of club basketball and volleyball, I can absolutely understand the gleam Connie and others get in their eyes when thinking about hosting bunches of soccer tournaments and swim meets at the proposed complex at the south end of Interstate 65. There is a lot of money involved. Just joining the team is expensive, then there’s food, entry fees, lodging, etc. I’ve been selling my cold blood for months just to make ends meet.
I’m sure soccer is exactly the same. And IF we could guarantee ourselves the necessary number of tournaments, maybe it works out in the taxpayers’ favor. Perhaps then the county would still have the money it needs to fix up soccer fields around the community that OUR kids could use while the soccer complex is full of kids from around the region.
Those are big “ifs” for a $40 million project — particularly considering the county’s budget is likely to go on a big diet soon. Don’t forget soccer complexes have already popped up all over the region and in Baldwin County — most of which didn’t cost as much as ours would — so there’s stiff competition for the same dollars.
The volleyball and basketball tournaments I’ve been to have taken advantage of existing gyms in communities and look to have done fine. It would be hard to imagine soccer is any more popular than those two sports right now.
There’s no doubt Mobile needs more soccer fields, but the complex project is sucking up money that could be used to repair old fields and build others around the community. If it goes through we may have a fine soccer complex, but how is that going to help neighborhoods and communities that aren’t nearby, assuming the complex would be at all usable by local league teams?
Making the soccer complex even more, um, complex, the site may take even longer to be environmentally ready and if it goes too long that could lead to the city having to vote again on whether it will allocate $1.5 million to the county for the project. As I said last year, the City Council should have just waited vote money to the county once things were ready and all was going well. That $1.5 million was supposed to go to fix up existing fields and might already have made a difference instead of sitting in an account to show political fealty to the soccer complex.
I know Hudson’s greatest hope is still that $40 million in BP money will be scooped out and used to fulfill her dream — something all of us should reject. Politicians look at the BP funds as “free money,” but that money should be used on environmental projects that could really impact the community — finishing the Three Mile Creek project or acquiring land for a bayside park and community pier. This blood/oil money doesn’t need to go to “economic development” projects.
I’m sure Hudson will follow her usual course of action these days and stick to her guns with no discussion offered, but fighting and losing this legal battle with the DA makes her soccer complex more untenable that it already was. At the very minimum she and her compadres on the commission should put the plan before the public for a vote and see just how popular an idea it really is.