Hours before District 2 residents went to the polls to select their new representative on the Mobile City Council some citizens were greeted with a flyer warning of doom and gloom if one candidate is not elected.
The runoff between Levon Manzie and Greg Vaughan for the council seat is unique for the area in that it is the first time District 2 will specifically select between an African-American candidate and a white candidate. Manzie is black and Vaughan is white.
The letter, which comes from The Ordinary People Society (T.O.P.S.) and signed by T.O.P.S President Robert Battles, states African-Americans “must act now and stick together” to keep three African-American people on the council. Battles is also the director of the Africatown Welcome Center.
The letter was distributed on front porches and in mail boxes around District 2 on election eve and many found its message incendiary as it warned of dire consequences for African-Americans in Mobile if Manzie is not elected. Those include charges there would be efforts to annex more whites into the city to dilute black voters and the black community would be “cut out” of the coming economic benefits derived from Airbus, among others.
Manzie has denied any involvement with the letter.
Under the 1985 Zoghby Act, the Mobile City Council was set so a supermajority vote of 5-2 was needed for issues like appointments and financial decisions. This was specifically done so minorities would have a voice in city government. Historically there have been three African-American councilors representing districts 1, 2 and 3.
However, when the polls close on Oct. 8 that could change.
“(The letter) wasn’t against Vaughan and it wasn’t anything personal. This is about giving African-Americans the opportunity to participate in city government. There is nothing against Vaughan,” Battles said when asked about the letter this morning.
Although Battles said the letter he penned is not about race, some of the claims say white communities would work against minorities.
“If Manzie loses — ‘Old Mobile’ will annex surrounding white communities to dilute the power of black voters and eliminate our voice in the Mobile City Government,” Battles wrote in the letter. “If Manzie loses — the black community will be cut out of the economic benefits of the city’s multi-billion dollar windfall in Airbus jobs, contract, tax revenue.”
Battles told Lagniappe he feels without the third African-American voice on the council a whole community’s voice would not be heard during the new Mobile police chief selection, approving the budget and/or reaping the Airbus business. In his letter he said if Manzie does not win, blacks will not hold leadership positions in MPD and African-American citizens would face unfair treatment.
“This is not about Vaughan. This is about African-Americans having their voices heard,” he said.
Vaughan did not offer much commentary on the letter.
“I disagree with the positions stated in the letter and will not honor them with a response,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan has said in previous interviews with Lagniappe that he would represent all of District 2. Vaughan has held clean ups in several minority communities.
“Instead of saying what needs to be done, I decided to actually go out there and do it,” he said previously.
Polls close at 7 p.m. today.
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