The race to replace Councilman Fred Richardson on the Mobile City Council is heating up, with two candidates who ran four years ago and a former judge acquitted of charges related to inappropriate behavior with prisoners and ethics violations.
Herman Thomas is the latest name to enter the race to represent District 1 on the council. Thomas was indicted by the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office in 2009 on a number of charges primarily related to allegations of having sexual relations with prisoners, paddling them and transferring cases from other judges’ dockets to his own. The charges against Thomas were eventually thrown out by an appointed judge overseeing his trial — which ended with a hung jury on several charges — but he was disbarred from practicing law in Alabama and has not been able to restore his law license since, despite multiple attempts.
In an interview with Lagniappe, Thomas said he was acquitted of all the charges — either by the jury or the judge at the time — and is looking to move forward.
If elected to City Council, Thomas said he would continue to do what he’s done as a member of the Toulminville-Crichton Community Redevelopment Committee.
Among the accomplishments of the group, Thomas said they’ve sponsored major cleanup events in Crichton, placed welcome signs throughout the community and have worked to rehabilitate homes in the district.
As for his views on city issues, Thomas said he’s still working out the planks in his platform, but said support for his campaign so far has been wonderful.
Thomas previously ran for and lost seats in the State Senate and State House.
Timothy Hollis has also announced his run for District 1. Hollis, an Air Force veteran, ran for the same seat in 2017 and is focused this season on “bridging the gap.”
“I’m focused on every area of the district,” Hollis said. “I want to provide economic opportunities for the district. There areas of District 1 that look like they’re part of Prichard — that shouldn’t be the case.”
One way to bridge the gap is to provide better transportation options in the district, Hollis said. This includes helping to improve what the WAVE transit system is already doing, but also focusing some energy on a citywide transportation authority.
Almost six years ago the council approved more than $400,000 on a contract with TASER for police body cameras for all patrol officers. The contract called for an annual payment of more than $400,000. However, the city did not purchase enough cameras to have supervisors and others within the Mobile Police Department wear them.
Hollis believes it’s time for every officer to be outfitted with a body camera, regardless of rank or job.
“I definitely believe if you’re out there on the street, you need to have a body camera,” he said. “It’s about accountability.”
On the issue of capital funding, Hollis said he believes the areas of District 1 frequented by tourists seem to get the most attention, while other areas are ignored.
“Many areas are not seeing many capital projects,” he said.
One example is St. Stephen’s Road. Hollis said he wants to work to make the highway “more usable.”
The failure to properly address issues in District 1 could be remedied by a more equitable approach. As Hollis pointed out, a more equitable approach to capital funding would give his district what it needs, regardless of how much money is allotted to it through the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
“The district isn’t getting what it needs,” he said. “I don’t believe we’re seeing any economic justice when it comes to the CIP.”
On the issue of annexation, Hollis said he’s for it if it’s going to make the city better.
On crime, he said the issue could be minimized if the city was a more “equitable” place for children.
“We need to provide more opportunities for them,” Hollis said.
While Hollis declined to comment on Thomas’s entrance into the race, he did provide a comment, generally, on previous leaders who attempt to hold onto power a little too long.
In the more than 20 years Richardson has held the District 1 seat, Hollis said multiple young community leaders have entered the fold. A former leader who continues to run in campaigns like these prevents younger leaders from emerging, he said.
“It just prevents the future and the youth from having a say,” Hollis said. “Just get out of the way, man.”
Multiple attempts to reach Cory Penn were unsuccessful, but a statement from his campaign announcing his candidacy called him a “family-centered father of two and pastor at Right Way Christian Center.”
“My entire life has really been centered around District 1,” he said in the statement. “I graduated from LeFlore High School. My ministry and work are here, so I’m excited to share my vision of securing the resources necessary to empower the citizens of District 1 and form a stronger, more resilient community as a whole.”
In the statement, Penn said he plans to embrace grassroots strategies aimed at “establishing safer streets, ensuring economic development and building a more robust, resilient and adaptable District 1.”
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