While the story behind Tony-Toni Wright’s name might not be that interesting, the reasons he feels it’s time to run for the Mobile City Council’s District 1 are more titillating.
Wright said when he was born, his father, Tommy, announced to friends his son had arrived. The friends greeted the news by saying the child’s name twice and Tommy decided to go with it and only changed the spelling the second time.
Wright grew up in Toulminville and said he always had an interest in politics, even from an early age. So, after graduating from Davidson High School, he decided to try the military route and went to Marion Military Academy.
“I didn’t know which avenues to go,” he said. “I thought the military would be a good way to get into politics, but my experience at Marion helped me find out the military wasn’t for me.”
From there, Wright accepted a basketball scholarship to Bishop State Community College and ultimately transferred to the University of Mobile, where he received a bachelor’s degree in government and law.
“I went overseas to pursue a career in basketball, but it didn’t work out,” he said. “I came home to work for Housing First, which is something I really wanted to do. I’m now a business analyst for Gulf Distributing.”
In his current capacity, Wright is continuing to learn about business and corporations.
Wright was in high school when President Barack Obama was elected to the nation’s highest office. It was a huge political inspiration.
“There was a person of color who could operate like that,” he said. “He was very classy. I wanted to do that.”
From that moment on, Wright worked to define words and improve his vocabulary.
Wright said District 1 has the same issues as all areas of the city. Specifically, he said he would focus on drugs, education, teen pregnancy and teen violence.
“For me, it’s not about one individual,” he said. “It’s about the people. I’m doing this for the people.”
To combat the issues at hand, Wright believes the city needs to invest more in youth and help the community create a better relationship with law enforcement.
“You’ll have a White man, who grew up on the other side of the city trying to police folks in the community,” he said. “Of course, he’s not going to understand what I’m doing, just like I’m not going to understand what he’s doing. There’s a disconnect there.”
Residents in the community also have to play a role in improving the relationship with officers, he said.
“We have to hold ourselves accountable,” Wright said.
On the issue of teen pregnancy, Wright said the city is not going to keep teenagers from having sex, but he would like to put resources toward parenting classes.
“We can’t just say, ‘You made a mistake, deal with it,’” he said. “We need to provide resources to help them become better parents.”
Wright believes these issues will get to the root of the community’s issues better than new greenery and repaved streets.
“New trees and new roads would be on the bottom of my list,” he said. “People should be the focus.”
Instead of the typical uses for funds allocated through the city’s capital improvement program (CIP), Wright would take the $3 million per year District 1 gets and put it toward the issues he’s already mentioned.
“We need to invest in youth, in afterschool programs,” he said. “We need something free, fun and educational.”
In addition to parenting classes, Wright said the city should provide diapers for young parents before money goes to infrastructure.
“I would use the money to simply focus on people,” he said. “For me, it’s going to be strictly focused on people.”
Members of the Mobile City Council differ on growing the city through annexation and the votes of the seven members were split along racial lines on a 2019 proposal to allow some 13,000 residents of an unincorporated portion of Mobile County to vote to join the city. The four White members of the council voted in favor, while the three Black members dissented. Because the vote needed a supermajority, the push by Mayor Sandy Stimpson failed.
If elected, Wright could be part of a future council that would decide this. He said his vote would depend on the facts.
“I don’t like to judge it based on the cover,” he said. “I want to know each detail before I reach a verdict.”
A new council could also have a say in what happens to $3 million in funding promised to Amtrak for a route between New Orleans and Mobile. The council had previously offered $1 million in funding per year for three years to Amtrak for the service, but the money was contingent upon the completion of a modeling study that would be designed to show not only the impact of the passenger rail service on the port, but also the cost to mitigate any issues.
Being fed up with the amount of time such a study was taking, Amtrak decided to forego it and instead filed with the Surface Transportation Board to use tracks owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern.
Wright said he found the passenger rail proposal “very interesting,” but has some questions he’d like to have answered before he makes a firm decision. For instance, he asked if the train would provide jobs or if it would benefit the city.
“I’d like to find out more about it,” he said.
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