Pro-annexation advertisements from a local non-profit group are raising eyebrows just a day before members of the Mobile City Council will decide whether to allow residents in three West Mobile communities to hold a referendum vote on joining the city.
Representatives of the Mobile Policy Forum, which is responsible for the advertisements, have not yet returned requests for comment from Lagniappe. Public documents indicate the group was incorporated by Donelson Foose, John H. Lewis Jr. and former Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce President Winthrop Hallett III.
The advertisements, some of which have been displayed on Facebook and in various mailouts, depict a number of inaccuracies, according to Council President Levon Manzie, who also said he believes the advertisements may end up hurting the pro-annexation supporters’ cause.
“To have this degree of misinformation being spread throughout our communities on an issue of such importance is deeply troubling,” Manzie wrote. “It also seems to have made many of our citizens extremely skeptical of the proposal as the majority of those contacting me have urged to vote against it. I’m hopeful we will not see these types of tactics again. These issues are too important.”
Manzie and residents within his District 2 communities have been the subject of many of these advertisements. One such advertisement posted to the Mobile Policy Forum Facebook page depicts a restaurant check with the sum of $27 million circled. The advertisement says that West Mobile residents receive that amount in “free services” every year.
In reality, West Mobile residents pay half-priced sales taxes and business license fees, and while Mayor Sandy Stimpson has said the city spends $27 million on police and fire coverage out there, that number includes the entire 3-mile police jurisdiction — an areas that includes around 70,000 people — and not just the 13,000 impacted by the newest annexation push.
The Mobile Policy Forum was established in July, according to an incorporation document from Secretary of State John Merrill’s website and information disclosed on its Facebook page. That was months before Stimpson began a public push to annex the areas that he claims will a net $2 million increase in tax revenue for the city.
On Thursday, Oct. 24, the Facebook page made its first post only a few hours after Stimpson made his annexation push public in various local media outlets.
In an interview on Monday, Nov. 4, Dell Sawyer, chairman of the West Mobile Annexation Committee that has supported joining the city, called the mailers “counterproductive.”
Jason Johnson contributed to this report.
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