The organizer of the city’s only youth political forum said Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s campaign canceled the incumbent’s appearance after the date was changed to accommodate him.
Reggie Hill, founder of Success 4 the Future, a division of Mu Kappa Phi Music Organization, said he adjusted everything to allow Stimpson to attend, yet Stimpson pulled out anyway over a perceived attack from challenger Sam Jones on youth violence.
“I’m unsatisfied by the response,” Hill said. “The youth want to be part of the solution.”
In an email statement, Stimpson campaign manager Candace Cooksey wrote that Hill never properly coordinated with the campaign on the Friday, Aug. 4, date and there were conflicts in the mayor’s schedule.
“While we did receive an invitation to the forum, we were unable to confirm the mayor’s attendance,” Cooksey wrote. “Promotional material was created without confirmation from the mayor’s campaign.”
Stimpson has taken a recent focus to curb youth violence and introduced an internship program, Youth Empowered for Success, as part of the solution. Hill, for his part, said he applauds YES, although he believes more can be done.
Challengers for mayor and all City Council seats joined Bess Rich, the lone incumbent, at the Aug. 4 forum at the Fuse Factory downtown. Youth members of Mu Kappa Phi not only asked questions of the candidates, but also hosted and moderated the forum.
Each council candidate was given four minutes to speak. Mayoral challenger Anthony Thompson was also given four minutes to speak. In a different format, former Mayor Sam Jones was asked questions directly.
District 1 City Council challenger Perry Berens told the group Mobile needs to figure out how to keep young talent from leaving the city. Challenger Timothy Hollis explained the city could do a better job maintaining parks in the district, while Cory Penn, another District 1 challenger, said he wanted to take the area “to the next level.”
Berens, Hollis and Penn are all challenging Councilman Fred Richardson for the seat. Richardson did not attend the forum.
District 3 City Council challenger Leola Chaney told the youth in attendance her opponent, Councilman C.J. Small, wasn’t doing enough to push the community forward. Small did not attend the forum.
District 4 City Council challenger Robert Martin said he recognizes youth are the future of the city and would like to continue to be involved. Councilman John Williams, his opponent, did not attend the forum.
District 5 City Council challenger Arianna McArthur said the city is at a point where it can become anything residents want it to be. Incumbent Councilman Joel Daves did not attend the forum.
Both candidates for District 6 — incumbent Rich and challenger Deryl Pendleton — attended the forum. Pendleton said he is very concerned about crime, education and taxes. Rich said she wants to help keep communities stable.
Mayoral challenger Anthony Thompson said he believes everyone deserves a chance at success. He said he cares about people.
Jones was asked if he believed Mobile would vote along racial lines. “Yes, I do,” he responded. Jones said the political climate in Mobile has changed since his first election in 2005. At that time, he said, “I was judged by the content of my character” and won even though he was the only black person in the race.
Jones told the youth his top three concerns were crime, education and opportunity. On crime, Jones said it is important to get the community working with police and for the police to be more proactive instead of reactive. On education, he said the city should work with the school system to improve failing schools. On opportunities, Jones said it’s important to realize some don’t have the same economic opportunities as others.
In addition to an endorsement from the local transit union, Jones also picked up an endorsement this week from longshoremen in the port. Meanwhile Stimpson earned the endorsements of the local firefighters union, the Mobile Police Association, the Mobile County Law Enforcement Association and the Mobile Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.