A semi-retired contractor and lifelong activist with a focus on drainage issues is angling for the Mobile City Council District 1 seat.
Perry Berens said he got into politics initially four years ago because of the nuisance he said the roofing company GAF caused to his home and neighborhood. With GAF now shut down, he’s focusing on drainage and an election win.
“Being an activist all my life, as well as a concerned citizen for the safety and well being of my community, I’ve always felt participation in city government or county was an important part of being a good citizen,” he said. “My forte is drainage and this term, with a lot of infrastructure money coming to Mobile, I believe I can be of service because I’ve actually got hands-on experience bidding drainage projects for cities using dodge reports and awarded the bids and also completed the bids. I think the money we’re using band-aiding could be better put to use by putting in a new system of drainage.”
Berens believes the city’s infrastructure issues have to start underneath the road’s surface with drainage.
“It’s like they say, any good city or good home starts with a good foundation,” he said. “If you don’t have a good foundation, you’re going to get lesser results as a city.”
Berens wants to change the city’s drainage system by focusing on the major thoroughfares of Dauphin Street, Airport Boulevard, Government Street, Old Shell Road and others. He also believes installing drainage systems that can last in the future is important.
“So, we have to make a drainage plan that accommodates new transportation 30 years from now,” he said.
The former publisher of an environmentally focused newspaper on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Berens approaches the issue of public transportation with an eye toward natural resources. With that in mind, Berens prefers the idea of trolleys, or street cars, to what WAVE Transit does.
“I don’t like the buses,” he said. “I just don’t believe they’re serving the city well.”
The city could even manufacture trolley cars and sell them to other cities, Berens said. The money from those sales could be put back into the city.
In 2019, Mayor Sandy Stimpson pushed to allow a referendum that could’ve allowed about 13,000 residents of an unincorporated portion of Mobile County to join the city. The push failed with four of seven council votes in favor. Like most resolutions, it needed a five-vote majority to pass.
Berens said he prefers to see growth from within the city and pointed to better infrastructure as a way to attract new residents.
“I think annexing further out is just a lot of extra expenses for the revenue you can get in,” he said. “I think if we can create a good enough infrastructure we can start bringing people in.”
Berens also said the city needs to figure out why people are leaving the city.
While a debate over the return of passenger rail on the Gulf Coast continues to wind its way through the Surface Transportation Board process, the City Council still has a decision to make on whether funding commitments it made will continue.
Berens said Amtrak’s return is a “terrific idea,” even though he mentioned he’s seen it fail along the Gulf Coast before. He also would like the city to take more control of the port from the state.
“I think we should get more control of the port to begin with so we have a little more autonomy and we’re not being dictated by the state,” he said. “That plays an important role in what we do with Amtrak.”
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