Incumbent Mayor Sandy Stimpson was not present as other candidates for mayor and council spoke about accessibility in office, crime prevention and COVID-19 on Monday, July 26 at a forum hosted by the Mobile Baptist Sunlight District Association.
Stimpson campaign manager Stephen Worley wrote in a text message that the two-term mayor was not invited to the forum held less than a month before the municipal election.
Sunlight District Association Chairman the Rev. Milton L.Saffold called Worley a “liar” and said Stimpson was invited.
“It doesn’t matter what they say because he was invited,” Saffold said.
Contacted before the event, Saffold said candidates who did not confirm their appearances ahead of time would not be allowed to speak. He added that they had shown “disrespect” to the community.
Stimpson’s challengers including Councilman Fred Richardson, Municipal Judge Karlos Finley and Michael Young did attend the forum. The trio was asked about ways to deal with crime in the city.
As mayor, Richardson said he’d assign an officer to each of the city’s 48 specific neighborhood beats. The name and phone number of that officer would be given to the public and residents would be able to interact with the officer on a routine basis, he said.
“The officer would have regular meetings in that beat,” Richardson said. “You would know who that officer is.”
Richardson added the gunfire tracking technology ShotSpotter would be placed in every district and every neighborhood would have street captains to help report crime and keep the neighborhood safe.
Young said he would work with the police chief to come up with new ideas to help fight crime. Mental health is also an important aspect to crime prevention and Young said he’d take a trauma-informed approach.
“A lot of non-violent crime is drug related,” he said. “A lot of times folks are self-medicating.”
Young, who is the owner of a cleaning company, said he believes it is time for new and fresh ideas in city leadership.
Finley believes having police officers live within the communities they serve will help stop crime in neighborhoods. As mayor, Finley would start an initiative that would provide housing to recent police academy graduates.
“We can provide these incentives,” he said. “The federal government does it. When you return from boot camp, the federal government provides housing in the community where you will live.The funds for it come out of your paycheck.”
Mental health is also an issue that should be addressed, Finley said.
The mayoral candidates were also asked about how they would increase Mobile’s seemingly low rate of vaccination against the coronavirus.
Richardson said he’d combat misinformation related to the vaccine by relying on parents to “step up” and educate young people about the vaccine’s benefits. This would prevent those same young people from getting vaccine information from social media.
Young mentioned providing more pop-up vaccine clinics around the city. He said the city and the Mobile County Health Department should provide more opportunities for vaccination to those living in neighborhoods.
Finley said the issue takes leadership. He implied Stimpson lacked that leadership because he said the incumbent was “angry” at MCHD for initially closing restaurants to indoor dining.
Finley added that the city should “aggressively” go into neighborhoods and educate residents about the vaccine.
Districts 1 and 2
Candidates for City Council districts 1 and 2 were asked about their approach to the job and their accessibility to concerned residents if elected to their respective offices. The only candidate to not show for this portion of the forum was District 2 candidate Jason A. Caffey.
Cory Penn, a pastor and educator running in District 1, said he’s already visible in the district, even before the election. He said he goes around and talks to school principals regularly and many of the students already know who he is.
John Westbrook Jr., a pastor also running for District 1 , said he takes a hands-on approach in most situations.
Perry Berens, a former newspaper publisher and semi-retired contractor running for District 1, said while running his environmentally focused newspaper on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he took on and was able to stop a public water project over improper bids. It’s that kind of hands-on approach he would take if elected.
Herman Thomas, a former judge who has been disbarred and is running for the District 1 seat, said all leaders should be visible within the community. He added that his record on that front “speaks for itself.” Thomas is the founder of the Crichton Community Development Corporation.
Tony-Toni Wright, a business analyst for Gulf Distributing who is running in District 1, poked fun at Thomas, saying he lives near the former judge and never sees him out in the community “unless he’s jogging with his bowtie on.” As a child growing up in the district, Wright said he never saw his city councilman and didn’t know what he did. As a councilor, Wright said he would work to change that.
Timothy Hollis, who is also running for District 1, said he is actively lobbying the council on behalf of the citizens and that wouldn’t change if elected to the body.
Chamyne Fortune Thompson, a facilities supervisor for the city’s parks and recreation department who is running for District 1, was quick to point out that she is not a politician, but a public servant and that wouldn’t change, if elected. As a member of city staff, Thompson said she has experience working with folks of all ages and walks of life.
Incumbent District 2 Councilman and Council President Levon Manzie said he’s always been accessible to constituents and has held 74 community meetings in seven and a half years on the job.
William Carroll, the District 2 councilman prior to Manzie, said he will be accessible and has a track record of approaching things with a hands-on mentality. When a burglar entered his home and many others about three years ago, Carroll said he worked with neighbors to help police apprehend the suspect.
District 2 candidate Mark Minnaert, a real estate agent and appraiser, said if elected to council he would hold weekend office hours to allow residents who work during the week time to chat with their representative. He said going through security to meet a councilor in their office at Government Plaza can be intimidating.
Kimberly McKeand, a digital outreach coordinator for Aids Alabama South and District 2 candidate, said as an LGBTQ activist and Civil Rights organizer she takes a hands-on approach and would do so as a member of the City Council.
District 2 candidate Reggie Hill, founder and director of the non-profit Success 4 The Future, said he is an outspoken advocate for residents currently and almost weekly in front of the Mobile City Council. That wouldn’t change, if elected to the position.
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