As the debate about taxpayer funding for football facilities at the University of South Alabama (USA) rages on, it seems citizens across the city of Mobile are focusing on two central issues that need to be addressed and answered for the written record before a final decision is made. No matter what source provides your news and information, these two questions always surface.
Mobile taxpayers are looking for the city government to show the leadership to address these two questions, debate them and answer them. The questions require the local city government to show due diligence, total transparency and basic governmental administrative ethics.
Because the proposed funding commitment is for many years, it is very likely the current mayor and City Council members will not be in office when the last provisions of the proposed funding are completed. So, is it ethical for the governing body of Mobile not to answer these fundamental questions now ?
Question 1: Like it or not, the question of why the president of USA and his athletic director have not formally requested funding from the USA Foundation will not go away. This question is not going to be forgotten or allowed to fade away.
USA Foundation Director Maxey Roberts is on record as saying that funding of sports activities is not the mission of the USA Foundation. So, if a suggested venture does not support the school’s academic programs it is likely not to be funded by the USA Foundation.
Perhaps Roberts should be challenged with a formal request and forced to reply in writing and explain her logic and decision. It seems the submission of such an application is too hard for the president of USA and seeking public funding is a safer route.
Maybe the officials at USA do not want to apply for foundation funding because they fear a refusal in writing. One might come to the conclusion that neither foundation funds nor taxpayer funds should be diverted to building sports facilities. Maybe it will be clear to all that a campus football stadium, just like the Mitchell Center, the new football practice facility and Stanky Field have been and should be considered university campus business, dependent on university and private funding … period.
So, if the city government helps to fund a USA football stadium on Alabama state property, then they are doing so knowing that local taxpayer funding used for a sports facility has nothing to do with the core reason the University of South Alabama was chartered.
Question 2: What are the general or specific plans for Ladd Stadium? Any business decision-making process would include an answer to the “Ladd issue” before entertaining any funding proposal from USA officials. Surely the mayor of Mobile and his City Council understand that prudence and civil responsibility demand that all city of Mobile taxpayers and most importantly the local residents around Ladd Stadium hear a specific development and/or demolition plan for Ladd Stadium.
One would think the City Council would not allow this issue to be discussed later. If Ladd Stadium is an albatross, then let’s have the business and political courage to say so. If Ladd Stadium has a bright future that will benefit the local neighborhood and the city of Mobile in general, let’s hear the plan, timeline and specific funding ideas. No kicking the can down the road.
This letter is submitted with respect and with high hopes that the City Council members remember they themselves do not fund anything — they only allow funds from the city of Mobile treasury to be directed for a stated goal. All Mobile taxpayers deserve that every member of the City Council does their required fiduciary duty.
Allen E, Cleghorn
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