Two-time NBA champion Jason A. Caffey is getting off the bench and taking his shot at representing Mobile City Council’s District 2.
Caffey, a Mobile native and former Chicago Bull, who won championships in 1996 and 1997, alongside Michael Jordan, believes he can improve the district he now calls home.
“All I’ve ever been about is being able to help people,” Caffey said. “When I came back to the Campground, I knew it had to change. I didn’t want to be a product of my environment; I wanted the environment to be a product of me. I was totally upset by the lack of care it was receiving, given it was a historical district.”
Living in Texas in 2012, the Davidson High School graduate began to miss the Gulf Coast and decided to move back home the next year. He purchased a house and started his first in a series of group homes. The business grew.
“We went to two (group homes),” he said. Then three to four, four to five and five to six. In 18 months, I was housing 68 people. In 10 years, I’ve helped more than 200 people.”
Caffey and his family now refurbish homes in the Campground area. Caffey also leads basketball camps. That’s where he got his first taste for politics.
“I was working with politicians all over the state in these basketball camps,” he said. “I didn’t want to do it then, but I knew I had the ability.”
Caffey admits his fast-paced life in the NBA didn’t always lead to the best decisions and he credits God for showing him a slower-paced lifestyle is the best for him.
Caffey said he was unable to pay child support in the past because it was still in the millions of dollars, even after he retired from the league. The rates have since been adjusted and he has been able to pay it.
District 2 issues
If elected to council, Caffey wants to do more to combat the high weeds and grass he sees on certain blocks around the district. He also wants to work harder to eradicate blighted structures that he said are havens for drugs.
“We need to make it possible to rebuild and allow for those homes to be purchased,” he said.
Caffey said the drug issues in the area are caused by a lack of leadership for the youth in the city.
“Young men need to be led,” he said. “We need more programs in District 2.”
Caffey applauded Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration for implementing the SCORE (Second Chance or Else) program, which gives a second chance to street-level drug dealers.
District 2 candidates are split on the importance of annexation to grow the city’s population. When Strimpson introduced a proposal in 2019 that would’ve allowed about 13,000 West Mobile residents the chance to vote on whether or not to join the city, incumbent Councilman Levon Manzie turned out to be the swing vote against it. The proposal failed despite a majority of councilors approving the measure on a 4-3 vote along racial lines. The proposal needed a supermajority of five votes.
Caffey believes the city must annex that portion of West Mobile in order to grow. In fact, he said the 2019 annexation would have resulted in more coronavirus aid coming into the city than the $58 million it is set to receive. The funding was tied to population, he said, and if the city had more people it would’ve received more help.
The city could’ve received more federal funding in general, Caffey said, which could’ve helped defray the cost of infrastructure like the new I-10 river bridge.
Caffey also argued the city provides services in West Mobile, including fire protection, that it already pays for. As part of the police jurisdiction, the area only pays half of the sales taxes and business license fees that the rest of the city pays.
“Where can you show me that’s smart,” he said.
Caffey also blasted current councilors for voting against annexation along racial lines. He said he’s “new school” and works with both Whites and Blacks to accomplish a goal. He also blamed Manzie for not educating the district better on the merits of annexation.
“Growth is important for the city,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re a failing city. Without growth, we’ll remain stagnant.”
The council had promised Amtrak as much as $1 million per year over three years to operate a passenger rail service from Mobile to New Orleans. However, the council’s resolution required the completion of a modeling study featuring Amtrak, CSX and Norfolk Southern to see what improvements needed to be made to prevent a negative impact on freight rail. The study was never completed, as Amtrak took its argument to use freight tracks to the Surface Transportation Board. The city funding is now up in the air.
Caffey favors another form of transportation to and from New Orleans. He said he personally loves attending Pelicans or Saints games and feels passenger rail could be better than driving in those situations.
“I don’t see it being a problem.”
He also advocated for a passenger train from Mobile to Tuscaloosa to help transport students to The University of Alabama, where he attended college.
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