Mobile mayoral candidate Michael Young has the city running through his veins. Not only was he born and raised in the Port City, but his paternal grandfather was a Mobile firefighter.
While three other mayoral candidates have been campaigning since the first part of 2021, Young said it was their platforms, especially on how to fix the issues in the city, that encouraged him to run.
“It’s something I’ve been talking about for several months,” he said. “… After seeing what the three candidates are bringing, I’m not really seeing any new ideas to move the city forward. So, we finally decided to be that new person.”
Years of having the same issues pop up and the city government incumbents unwilling or unable to fix them convinced Young to run for mayor this year. His campaign promises a fresh focus on issues like crime, infrastructure, public transportation and more.
“We have so many issues and we’re seeing issues getting worse, but we’re not seeing any new or fresh ideas from the candidates really,” Young said. “That’s why we’re here to bring something new.”
Many candidates for municipal office are citing crime as a barrier for the city to reach its full potential, but overall crime numbers are a mixed bag. While the number of homicides in 2021 is currently outpacing by double figures the numbers reported at the same time last year, Executive Director of Public Safety Lawrence Battise noted that the most serious Part 1 crimes are down by about 8 percent to 9 percent. Concerning, however, is that the city had been, until this year, seeing a double-digit decline in these types of crimes.
To combat crime, Young said he would take a “roundtable” approach and speak with his police chief, residents and other department heads to come to a consensus.
“People just don’t feel safe in Mobile and that’s what’s going to be — moving forward — probably our No. 1 focus is what can we do to make people feel safe in this community,” he said. “The plan with that is to meet with the police chief, meet with other departments and sit down and have a roundtable discussion on what we can do working together because I can’t do that myself. The police chief can’t do that by himself. I plan to get out in the community and talk to people.”
Young received paramedic training from The University of South Alabama, but has left the medical field behind to start a cleaning company. Owning a business has prepared him to be mayor in a number of ways, he said.
“There are a lot of challenges in running a business, especially last year,” Young said. “We saw a lot more challenges than we ever expected. (I) learned how to multitask; learned how to work with a variety of different people, especially people with different backgrounds and cultures, and (I) learned to communicate and really learned how to work together as one.”
Young has a unique take on the city’s ongoing annexation debate. He believes the entire city, plus the areas impacted by such a move should be part of a referendum to decide who joins the city.
“So, my thought on annexation is that it should be left up to a vote of those residents and the residents of the city,” he said. “Everybody should have input on that.”
In 2019, the Mobile City Council voted down a referendum that would’ve allowed 13,000 residents of West Mobile to decide to join the city or not. The vote failed despite a 4-3 majority. An annexation vote requires a five-vote majority.
Despite his unique approach to a referendum, Young still believes the city should focus on its bigger issues first.
“I believe the city should look at its current issues and take care of its current issues at the same time,” he said.
On the issue of transportation in the city, Young said he favors both bringing back passenger rail and enhancing WAVE bus service. He said it’s not just a quality of life issue, it’s vital to help residents get from place to place.
“I think we need Amtrak,” he said. “We have citizens here who would visit other areas, like Biloxi and New Orleans and some who probably don’t have a way to get there themselves.”
The City Council has previously voted to help fund Amtrak’s return to the Gulf Coast with a promise of $1 million per year over three years. However, the funding was contingent upon Amtrak’s completion of a modeling study, along with freight carriers Norfolk Southern and CSX. Instead of completing the study, Amtrak has taken its case to use the freight rail infrastructure to the Surface Transportation Board, where it awaits an expedited hearing on the issue. Amtrak hopes to begin service from Mobile to New Orleans in the first part of 2022.
To increase Mobile residents’ ability to move from one place to another, Young also wants to increase the number of bus routes and the times when busses are available in the city.
“There are, once again, a lot of residents who can’t get back and forth to work or school, doctor’s visits,” he said. “It also helps eliminate some of the congestion on the roads as well.”
The City Council voted to cut funding for WAVE by $750,000. The cuts essentially eliminated WAVE service outside of the city limits.
Mental Health Court
As a co-founder and co-chair of the Gulf Coast Mental Health Coalition, Young is committed to working with the county courts and District Attorney Ashley Rich’s office to bring a mental health court to fruition in the county.
The diversion program based on mental health issues would give those arrested the help they need, which isn’t jail time, he said.
“… Right now an individual with mental health issues is being tried for a crime that might be related to their mental health condition and they’re being put in jail,” he said. “That’s not a solution. It’s sad. We need to find a way to get those individuals help.”
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