In one unexpected stroke that caught even commissioners off guard, Mayor Sandy Stimpson has silenced the broader voice of the people by replacing over half of the experienced commissioners on the very powerful Planning Commission with newcomers who seem to represent a single voice – that of industrial development and those who sell them their property. Further, it was not helpful that the only variances from that model were members of his own administration, placing them in the position of having their impartiality questioned.
Planning Commission members serve their community as volunteers and each brings his own expertise and interests to the table, as it should be. That is exactly why it is unfair at best to give the commissioners only one tool for decision-making, while removing from their toolkit those other viewpoints and areas of expertise which a broader range of backgrounds would ensure. We do not accuse any commissioner of bias; we expect that their decisions will reflect their varying fields. It is the Mayor who must assure that all viewpoints are represented. On behalf of the many Mobilians who have spent the past year following energy development in our city, we are only asking to have a voice on the Mobile Planning Commission that is at least equal to the voice of heavy industrial interests.
Under state law, the Planning Commission is mandated to ensure the welfare OF THE PEOPLE and development FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE. In light of this law, Mayor Stimpson’s actions do not demonstrate a good faith effort to represent all the citizens by providing a balanced Planning Commission which those citizens have confidence will represent their welfare. We ask that he reconsider his Planning Commission appointments to absolutely achieve a balance between industry and other important sectors of our community.
It’s important to note that the greatest economic sectors in Mobile are healthcare and education (as stated in a recent Mobile Chamber of Commerce report). Yet, not one of the Mayor’s new appointees represents those interests, and in fact, he removed those who did. And while industry represents 18 percent of Mobile’s economy, they are now disproportionately represented on the Planning Commission. Certainly Mayor Stimpson has the legal right to make these appointments, but we question his actions in light of his pledge to lead “One Mobile.”
We ask the Mayor to reconsider his choices and achieve true balance within the Planning Commission. Additionally, the Mayor has dismissed two of the three Planning Commission sub- committee members charged with a study of the Citizen Ad Hoc Committee consensus recommendations . Thus, we urge the City Council to reclaim their authority under Code of Alabama 1975, Section 11-45-1 and act now to translate into ordinances the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations.
This letter, written by a “coalition of concerned citizens,” was sent to Mayor Sandy Stimpson,the City Council and the Mobile County Commission Monday, July 21.