You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling
Whoa, that lovin’ feeling
Bring back that lovin’ feeling
Now it’s gone … gone … gone … whoa

Not exactly sure what is happening behind the glass walls at GP, but the relationship between Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the Mobile City Council seems to be a bit chilly, despite the sultry summer heat.

Maybe it was the squirrel thing that really drove them nuts. Or perhaps it was the soccer-versus-park-improvements drama making the Mobile Seven mutter, “Talk about balls!” Or maybe it was the rollout of a new ridesharing option that got them Uber-ticked. Or maybe it’s a combination of all these things or something else altogether, but there definitely seems to be some irritation with Mayor Stimpson from some of the councilmembers, even from some of those who have always supported him.

So let’s take a closer look at some of the potential causes of conflict.

Things did get a bit squirrely.
So the councilors got a little miffed when the administration wanted to offer an ordinance making it illegal to feed squirrels in Bienville Square or any other animal on public property, for that matter, like the geese in Langan Park. Council Attorney Ricardo Woods, who sponsored the ordinance (also a cause of irritation because he put it on the agenda, rather than the mayor, and supposedly neither talked to the council first).

Councilor John Williams warned this could become a “spectacle.” And I get that. Are they really going to start fining little girls and their daddies or tourists for feeding these animals? But on the other webbed foot, there is an over-population problem so it probably does need to be addressed in some way, which is why it was put on the agenda in the first place. As reasonable human beings, we can all see where everyone was coming from. Yes, it probably should have been handled better, but is this really that big of a deal? I’m sure we can figure this one out.

So let’s just say, no harm, no foul (or shall I say fowl?) and move on.

Soccer v. Parks
The next thing that got the council all balled up was when Stimpson laid out a $1.9 million plan to make improvements to existing parks in every councilor’s district, promising such improvements as tennis court resurfacing, new restrooms and bleachers, among other things. But his plan came with a catch — that the council rescind a $1.5 million pledge they made to the county to help build a proposed soccer complex at I-10 and I-65, a pledge made during the budget process, which the administration felt derailed its promise to put money into existing problems, rather than brand new, oh-so-shiny “economic engine” projects.

But this really got the council all wound up, and they said the mayor was just playing politics with his proposal and pitting the projects against one another, with most councilors saying they had the funds to complete the projects he was proposing in their districts even with their pledge to the soccer complex.

I think everyone agrees a soccer facility would be a win, as long as it is done right and can sustain itself. The Copeland-Cox Tennis Center is an excellent example of just how much of a huge economic impact a top-notch sports facility can have on our community — again, if it is done right. I’m no soccer expert, but if we are going to spend millions on this, make sure the facility is actually going to be competitive in landing these big tournaments. Otherwise, what’s the point of building it? So that means big money. Do we have it?

But you can also understand how the community has grown so weary of these types of projects. They look at the cruise terminal, Hank Aaron Stadium and GulfQuest as examples of how the city gets left scratching out checks to subsidize these projects if they aren’t successes. Meanwhile, our own parks have fallen into disrepair. And maybe that’s not a fair comparison, but many citizens have a huge case of project fatigue.

So again, you can see all sides to the issue. And you see where the irritation comes from — the mayor was not pleased with the council for amending his budget to add this soccer complex commitment and the council was ticked he “played politics” with the park repairs versus the complex. And in this, I don’t think either side has really scored here during regulation. What do they call that in soccer, a nil? (I’m probably butchering those soccer references, sorry! I tried!)

Uber-stepped your authority?
Finally, the mayor helped roll out the ridesharing service Uber, to much fanfare and excitement, becoming the company’s first passenger in the city and saying he was “uber excited” about it. Uber is no stranger to controversy. It has fought cab companies and municipal regulations throughout this state and across the nation.

Though the council seems supportive of the service as a whole — as long as the playing field is leveled and fair to the cab companies — they were once again perturbed this was rolled out before an amendment was put on the agenda to make it totally legit under the city code. They will vote on the amendment in the coming weeks, hopefully without issue.

The city was quick to point out Uber launched this service, not the mayor’s office, as they have done in many municipalities.

But with the mayor having a press conference announcing it, you can see how it would look as if it were his launch, not the company’s. He was probably just trying to be supportive of a new business in town. This was more of an optics issue than anything else.

Once again, I understand where you are coming from, councilors. But please don’t let your irritation with the mayor regulate this company right out of our city. I have not seen such excitement about a new company coming to town since the Airbus announcement. And it’s because it’s so desperately needed — much more so than in big cities with many different transportation options. Our choices have been so limited for so long.

This is more than just a “rules” or protocol issue, which can be dealt with. This is a public safety issue. Ask any bartender downtown how many times they’ve had their tipsy customers call cabs to take them home on a busy night and the cab takes so long, the tipsy customer finally just gives up and drives home. Hopefully, without killing anyone. We need Uber.

But looking at the big picture, these issues seem to indicate we have a communication problem somewhere, so much so, Councilman John Williams has called for the mayor to have a council co-sponsor when he puts an item on the agenda. Apparently the mayor has agreed to a sort of trial run on this, but are we really at that point already? It seems a bit much. Can’t y’all just sit down and get back on the same page?

Our city is experiencing such amazing growth right now, as evidenced by all the phenomenal news coming out of the Paris Air Show. All of these little squabbles seem a bit petty. Or at least the back and forth on it does.

I hate to see this breakdown in communication, and I’m surprised by it. On his first day as mayor, Stimpson literally took the door off of his office to symbolize he would always be available to the council and the citizenry. The councilmembers who served under the Jones administration always complained they couldn’t see the mayor to discuss his projects, which is what prompted the door removal. So it would seem the channel is wide open.

Last I checked that door was still down. But if no one is walking IN or OUT of it, well then, there you go. It’s on all of you.

So come on, guys, it’s time for y’all to get together and bring back that lovin’ feeling. Whoa, that lovin’ feeling. Bring back that lovin’ feeling before it’s gone … gone … gone … whoa.

We’ve got too much stuff to do.