Last Friday night, the streets of downtown were alive, and Mobilians were celebrating like we were born to do. Laissez les bon temps rouler! Yes, even in August!
Mayor Sandy Stimpson and his wife, Jean, led a marching band, Joe Cain and some of his foot marchers, and even a few Mardi Gras Indians from New Orleans in a second line procession from Cathedral Square to Bienville Square during the “Celebrate the City” event.
And what a city we have to celebrate indeed!
There was so much positive energy in the air as a diverse group of Mobilians of every age and race waited to watch Yellowhammer with Jake Peavy and Luther Dickinson, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, George Porter Jr., and Doug E. Fresh perform in Bienville Square.
Even those who didn’t attend the concert enjoyed LoDa Artwalk and the activities in Cathedral Square. Galleries, restaurants and bars were packed.
It was a beautiful sight to see, especially for those who remember what downtown used to be like. Boarded-up buildings and maybe a handful of people. Tumbleweeds.
But that is no more!
Mobile is finally becoming the city we all knew it could be. We are proud to show it off and brag about it to out-of-towners, even lobby them to move here from whatever overpriced, fancy big city they currently reside in.
“I’m sure Atlanta/San Francisco/Austin/New York/L.A. is nice and all, but I mean, you just get so much more bang for your buck in Mobile and the quality of life is so much better. Did I mention anything about Mardi Gras or Mobile Bay or the Gulf of Mexico yet?”
The days of making apologies for it or calling it the “city of perpetual potential” are over.
The credit for this transformation does not belong to just one person or organization. It has taken decades and it has been a collaborative effort. And yes, our leaders do deserve a lot of credit but so do a lot of regular citizens who rolled up their sleeves and said, I think we need a better biking community or more youth programs or music festivals or a vibrant art scene … and I can go on and on.
There has been much discussion during this mayoral race about who should take the blame for GulfQuest or Carnival leaving or credit for Airbus, TK or even Carnival coming back. Most Mobilians at this point have made up their minds about who they are voting for on Tuesday and as such have assigned the credit and/or blame for these triumphs and failures where they believe it is due.
While these issues are important to consider, the candidates’ plans for the future are just as important as relitigating the past, if not more so.
Even before watching the debates and spending copious amounts of time on each of their campaign websites and social media pages, I felt Mayor Sandy Stimpson had earned another term in office just by his performance in his first term alone. His positive attitude and love for the city is infectious. He offered a bold vision for us to be “the safest, most business- and family-friendly city in the U.S. by 2020” and he started working to get us there. Sure, we haven’t reached that yet, but at least he articulated a lofty goal for us to aspire to. He has made plans and put them into action. That’s what leaders do.
Did former Mayor Sam Jones ever do anything like that while he was in office?
Even if you take the past out of the equation, Jones has just not made a convincing case about why he would like his old job back and what he would do if he got it — other than recycle or borrow some old, failed ideas like BayFest or the soccer complex.
It seems like he is fighting more for this because he wants to rewrite the past or revisit his perceived injustices of the last campaign rather than turn the page and focus on Mobile’s future. I have heard more from his supporters about a Stimpson campaign rally four years ago involving “Tucka” than his plans and vision for the future of this great city.
Unlike his opponent, Jones comes off as very angry and bitter. And I fear if he were elected again that could also be infectious.
The old saying goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Well, Mobile right now is more than just “not broke,” it’s pretty freaking awesome. There’s more energy and momentum than ever. Capital improvement projects are finally happening, jobs are being created and quality of life issues like biking and running trails are being addressed. It would be an absolute shame to see that halted, and a change in administration would do just that.
Even in just a practical sense, think about the massive amount of energy that would have to be expended on interviewing for and hiring a new executive staff and fights over new heads of public safety instead of moving Mobile forward.
What a massive momentum suck that would be! It would be even for a candidate we were all super excited about, and a lot of people lost their enthusiasm for the former mayor over his eight years in office. I just don’t see a good reason to give him another chance.
Sam Jones did serve this community for many years and he had some wins while in office, no doubt. And he should be commended for that. But he had some pretty big misses, too, some of which many Mobilians will not soon forget. But either way, his time came and went. The city has already turned the page.
And without question, Sandy Stimpson deserves to get to finish writing his chapter in Mobile history. I don’t know if he can make this city “the safest, most family- and business-friendly city in America by 2020,” but I sure want to give him four more years to try.