As a child growing up in District 5, Wilecia Wright spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s house. She remembers the deep sense of community and the bonds formed between neighbors during that time. She hopes that feeling can return to Mobile.
The prolific local volunteer and Alabama A&M graduate hopes to use her experience in urban planning to bring that sense of community back. That’s why she has decided to run for a seat on the Mobile City Council.
“I just want to try to encourage some neighborhoods to take pride in their communities because community is very important to me,” she said. We should get more community participation [in city business] and get back to the old times where communities worked together. Get back to the sense of community.”
Wright believes a bachelor’s degree in urban planning will help her in a job on the council, she said, but leaning on that sense of community, she’ll rely on the public to help make decisions when it comes to the office.
“It’s not just solely going to be my decision, my ideas,” she said. “I want everyone to get involved because I’m here to serve them.”
Wright said if she’s elected to the council, she’ll work to bring equity to the job, something she has noticed is lacking.
“I believe in inclusion and fairness,” she said. “From what I’ve seen, some areas get more attention than others. So, I want, you know, to include everyone. I want to be fair, within reason.”
The sense of community, Wright said, should go into policing as well. She would like to see more officers build relationships within the communities where they work.
“I believe they should have a relationship with the community they serve,” she said. “So people can know who they are.”
Wright is campaigning for the seat against incumbent Joel Daves and challengers Rodney Toomer and Tex Copeland.
The city uses money from a sales tax increase approved about six years ago to fix infrastructure issues throughout the area. A portion of the roughly $34 million in revenue from the tax — or $21 million — is split evenly between the seven council districts. Councilors then use the funding to choose projects they believe will be popular among their constituents.
The so-called capital improvement program (CIP) is in the midst of a five-year extension, but Wright doesn’t believe it should go away anytime soon.
“We need it,” she said. “It has to stay.”
In fact, Wright said, infrastructure was the biggest issue facing her district. It’s not that there isn’t enough work being done; it’s that many of the neighborhoods where people of a lower socioeconomic class reside tend to be left out of the decisions.
“Certain areas need attention, but it’s not out of reach where it can’t be fixed,” she said.
In 2019, the council voted down a proposal pushed by Mayor Sandy Stimpson to allow about 13,000 residents of an unincorporated section of West Mobile to vote to join the city. If approved, the referendum could’ve made Mobile the second-largest city in the state at the time. However, the vote failed after not receiving a supermajority of five votes.
Wright said she supports annexation as long as the funding from tax revenue in the added areas covers the cost of city services.
“I am for annexation if they can pay for their own public services,” she said. “In other words, it’s like when mom says, ‘You’re grown, take care of your own bills.’”
The growth of the city is important, she said. Growth doesn’t just have to occur through annexation. A greater focus on economic development, entertainment and tourism can also boost Mobile’s population numbers, she said.
“I want to see more small businesses come into the community,” she said. “I also want to help the ones that are there and get some more big business, especially at the airport.”
On the tourism front, Wright agreed with Toomer that bringing BayFest back to the Port City is a good idea.
The council has approved $3 million over three years to help fund the return of passenger rail to the Port City in the form of a twice-daily, round-trip train to New Orleans. The funding was contingent upon a modeling study between Amtrak and the two local freight carriers being completed. Since Amtrak has decided to forego the study and has instead taken the issue of whether it can use the freight-owned track directly to the Surface Transportation Board, it appears the city’s investment might not happen.
Not only does Wright remember spending time at her grandmother’s house growing up, but she also remembers traveling with her by train from Mobile to visit family in New Jersey. It’s because of these memories that she supports the return of the train.
“It would take two days, but it was fun,” Wright said of the trips with her grandmother. “To me, it’s personal [and] it brings back good memories. It’s a fun way to travel.”
In addition to Amtrak, Wright is a big proponent of reestablishing the bus routes the Wave Transit System and the council cut due to funding issues.
She said the city’s buses ought to be available in closer proximity to where people live and work and as a member of the council, she would help to make that happen.
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