Mobile is on a roll, but of course there are a few minor things keeping our fair little burg from being an absolute utopia. As the theme song to the ‘80s sitcom “Facts of Life” so wisely informed us, “you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.” There was no mention of taking the “ugly” in that song, but I have taken the liberty of looking at all three to examine the “Facts o Mobile Life.” Care to join me?
Mobile is on fire economically. Business is booming. I don’t think there is a part of town where some major construction project isn’t underway, but nowhere is this energy more palpable than the heart of our city, our beautiful downtown.
Downtown isn’t all about just one street anymore. It now sprawls far beyond Lower and Upper Dauphin Street. Olde Mobile Antiques, Fowler Lighting and the precious new Cheese Cottage have joined Rogers & Willard on St. Louis Street. Also on St. Louis, the Innovation Portal and the new federal courthouse will be opening their doors soon.
The renovation of the beautiful Staples Pake building will give St. Michael an additional boost when the Ruby Slipper Café opens up there, along with additional commercial and residential tenants.
Construction is in full swing on the stunning $51 million residential development on Water Street, Meridian at The Port. And efforts to make Water Street more pedestrian friendly are ongoing.
Thanks to the Gulf Coast Ducks (a wonderful tour to take any of your out-of-town friends on), Fort Conde feels alive and like a vibrant tourist center again. Once the permanent open-air market opens in the new Mardi Gras Park, adjacent to Fort Conde, just imagine how cool strolling through there is going to be.
Lagniappe has officially moved into our new, freshly renovated digs on Government Street across from the Mobile Public Library. We are happy to call the new Serda’s Brewing Co. our neighbor and look forward to the Mystics of Time’s renovation of the American Legion Building, also in our neck (of the Hank Aaron Loop) woods.
If you don’t believe me, just try to find a parking spot downtown during lunch or dinner on any given day of the week. It ain’t easy, but it’s a “good” problem to have.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson boldly proclaimed during both of his campaigns he wanted to make Mobile “the safest, most business- and family-friendly city in America by 2020.” As I just discussed, we seem to be well on our way to being the most business friendly. And with new walking trails, sidewalks and park improvements being constructed throughout the city with great frequency, he seems to be making good on his pledge to be the most “family friendly” as well.
But how are we doing on safety?
Last year, during a press conference discussing 2016’s crime stats, Public Safety Director James Barber and Police Chief Lawrence Battiste pointed to a fall in overall crime in Mobile but a spike in homicides. In 2015, there were 23, and there were 44 in 2016. Though they have not yet released the overall crime stats for 2017, homicides were up again to a total of 54. Battiste and Barber attributed the rise in 2016 to an uptick in teenage gun and domestic violence incidents.
It is not clear yet if overall crime numbers are still down in 2017, but either way it will be hard to argue we are the “safest city in America” while our homicide numbers continue to rise each year.
So what can we do to change this?
Battiste and Barber were hopeful mentoring programs could help thwart teenage gun violence. In addition, the growth the city is experiencing and the improved economy should provide more employment opportunities for these kids and, in turn, get them off the streets.
It’s really a sad situation and one area where we still have a lot of work to do to become “One Mobile.” As a parent, the thought of my kids having guns or being around other teens with guns seems absolutely inconceivable. But I know there are parts of Mobile where just the opposite is true, where not having a gun is just an inconceivable notion to a 17-year-old and nothing good is ever going to come from that.
I’m not out in the trenches like law enforcement and social workers are, so I won’t even pretend to say I know the answers to this. But Mayor Stimpson still has a couple of years to accomplish all three of his goals, and seeing how much progress we have made on the other two, I am hopeful we will at least be a safer city by 2020, if not the safest.
And the ugly
Former Mobile Mayor Sam Jones confirmed last week he will run for the Democratic nomination for the State House seat in District 99. This office opened up when Rep. James Buskey, who has held the seat for many years, announced in August he would be retiring. Former Judge Herman Thomas has also announced his plans to run for the seat, as has local attorney Greg Harris.
With Thomas and Jones in the race, this one is going to be ugly, y’all.
Jones ran two unsuccessful and very racially divisive campaigns against current Mayor Stimpson. And he’s not even the worst candidate in this race. Looking at you, Judge Thomas.
Just in case you may have forgotten, Thomas was indicted on a number of charges related to paddling and having sexual relations with inmates who were appearing before him.
The charges were ultimately thrown out by an appointed judge overseeing his case, but not before his attorneys basically admitted he had paddled young inmates in his charge. Ick!
If the state Democratic party had any sense, they would try to do everything in their power to keep this man from running. This case will no doubt be re-litigated over the course of this primary campaign, which will just be an ugly mess for the party and the city. Do we really want to have to discuss how semen ended up on the floor of the not-so-good judge’s secret office again?
If by some miracle, if you can call it that, he ends up winning the primary, it will be even uglier for the state and would certainly once again garner us the kind of national media attention we do not want.
After U.S. Senator Doug Jones just won in an upset against a man who was merely accused of chasing teen girls, how is it going to look for the Dems to have a man as a candidate who wasn’t just accused but admitted spanking teen boys with a paddle? Ick! Ick! Ick!
The powers that be need to put an end to that candidacy before it even gets started. If they can’t, then hopefully Hermie will get the spanking at the polls he so richly deserves.