Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook.
Look no further than Birmingham to see what happens when areas outside the city limits incorporate (for whatever reason) and strangle the life out of a municipality’s ability to grow, and, in turn, produce more revenue and prosper.
We’ve already had to deal with Spanish Fort, Daphne, Fairhope, Semmes and Saraland stealing our citizenry; do we really want to have to also battle what is certain to be the newly incorporated city of WeMo (or whatever name they decide on), too?
Because if the Mobile City Council decides to vote down an annexation proposal next week, that is exactly what will happen, and sadly that looks like exactly the direction we are headed.
Councilors John Williams, Joel Daves, Bess Rich and Gina Gregory have already said they are voting to allow roughly 13,000 people in three neighborhoods to vote on whether they would like to join the city. Councilors Fred Richardson and C.J. Small have said they will vote against it. And although Council President Levon Manzie seemed to be the only one who was undecided (and the swing vote), it looks like he too is leaning toward voting against even allowing the referendum.
The arguments from the councilors who are voting against this have been that they think “we should take care of the current districts first.” Ironically, this is a very Trumpian argument from the three Democrats on the council. So we need to build a wall around the city of Mobile and not allow the “others” in, so we can Make Mobile Great Again?
Small said if we annexed in these areas we would be “slumlords,” saying it would be like a rental house owner, who doesn’t fix the “leaks” in their current houses and buys more.
But if those “new houses” bring in more revenue, you could fix the leaks in the “old houses.”
In order to grow, you must constantly find new revenue streams. In the case of a city, that stream is new residents and businesses where more taxes can be collected.
Trust me, I get what Councilman Small is saying. I live in Councilman Richardson’s district and I would love more lights in my neighborhood and for the city to fix the drainage problems we have dealt with for years. But the way I look at it, we have a far better chance of that happening by growing our city and getting some new sweet, sweet coin from Cottage Hill and Schillinger, Airport and Snow, King’s Branch and even beyond than if we do nothing.
It is estimated there will be a net gain of $2.2 million per year in tax revenue by annexing these areas. The city would also cross the 200,000 population threshold and would be eligible for up to $10 million in much-needed federal public safety grants.
I look at this and really can’t understand the “we need to take care of our leaky houses first” argument. Ten million dollars in grants alone would do a lot to address some of those “leaks” in public safety.
The dissenting councilors have disputed the projected tax revenue numbers the mayor and his administration have provided. They definitely have some trust issues, and I guess that is understandable considering the lawsuit they recently settled and all of the animosity that arose from it.
But even still, even if Mayor Sandy Stimpson is indeed the evil guy they think he is and has exaggerated the numbers in an insane fashion while laughing — “Muhahahahahahahaha!” — even if we netted out only $100,000 more per year in tax revenue and received those federal grants, I still just don’t see how you can argue against this, if you are looking at it from purely a practical perspective.
Even if it was only $100,000 and nowhere near the $2.2 million Stimpson projects, either way that is just a drop in the bucket for a city budget, BUT it’s still a net positive, and that amount will certainly only grow over time. But if the city doesn’t allow this annexation vote, these areas will definitely incorporate into their own city, and we will NEVER see one dime from it and the chance of growth (at least in that direction) is lost forever.
Allowing a bunch of little tiny cities to spring up on the outskirts of Mobile will only weaken the city as a whole. Again, just look at Birmingham: Whose school systems are regarded as excellent and whose real estate values are soaring? It ain’t inside the city limits of Birmingham, I can tell you that. And that sucks, but they let that happen. We have the opportunity to prevent it.
It has been said Mayor Stimpson is doing this simply to make the city “whiter,” but that doesn’t really make sense since adding these areas would not change the overall racial makeup of Mobile, we would still be a predominantly black city.
It absolutely sickens me that we even have to think in those terms, but looking at this long term and big picture, voting against this would only further divide our city along racial lines, and we don’t need that. Again, look at the ‘Ham. What’s the racial makeup of Mountain Brook? It’s almost 97 percent white. Vestavia Hills? It’s at almost 91 percent white.
I have always been proud Mobile has not allowed itself to be fragmented — at least as markedly and extremely — along these racial lines as Birmingham has. We are certainly not perfect, but we are better. Cynics would say maybe that is exactly what some people want to happen here, but I just refuse to believe that about our city and our leaders. I know — or at least I hope — we are better than that.
Bottom line: We are stronger together as one large, strong, thriving, diverse city made up of rich, poor, black, white, young, old and everyone else in between. And we have a much better chance of solving the very real problems or “leaks” we do indeed face, together, as one vibrant community, rather than breaking apart.
I hope Councilors Richardson, Small and Manzie will reconsider and vote in favor of annexing these areas so we can make sure OUR Mobile can grow into an even more spectacular city than she already is.
We are stronger together.
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