Yesterday evening, Mobile Mayor Sam Jones hosted a live web chat on Mobile’s website. The mayor took questions regarding problems and concerns with the city. The chat lasted approximately an hour and a half. Prior to the chat, the mayor released a “State of the City” document that can be read by clicking here.
There were a lot of questions about the upcoming budget shortfall. One citizen noted that Mobile pays some of the lowest property taxes in the nation, and that a simple solution to solving the city’s budget problems would be to raise them slightly. The mayor agreed, noting that it was a great idea, but it had one big problem. Property tax increases require referendums. The citizens of Alabama have not reacted to kindly to such referendums in the past.
Jones stated that he would prefer an increase in the property tax as it would level the tax burden on citizens. He would actually like to see the sales tax lowered, as he feels it is regressive. The difficulty in passing a property tax increase has left a sales tax increase as the only other revenue option.
Midway through the chat, Jones was asked if he planned to run for office again. He confirmed that he was. Jones was first elected in 2005, and is the first African American mayor of Mobile.
I was fortunate enough to ask the mayor a pair of questions myself. My first question had to do with the potential transformation of Three Mile Creek into a River Walk in downtown Mobile. Earlier this year, the EPA and city officials toured the site and expressed a desire to develop the area. When asked how serious the city was about the project, the mayor stressed that they are very serious about developing the area, and that it was a part of their long range plans. The mayor went on to say that he felt there was a tremendous amount of recreational and developmental opportunities along Three Mile Creek.
A River Walk would do wonders for downtown Mobile. San Antonio has one of the more notable River Walks in the country, and it has done wonders for their city. It has risen to challenge the Alamo as the city’s most talked about attraction.
When asked what attractions he would like to see come to the city, Mayor Jones had no shortage of answers. Topping his list was of course getting another cruise line. The city has been working diligently to replace the departed Carnival Cruise lines. Jones declared that he would also like to see the city get a zoo, an aquarium, and an aquatic center. He would like the city to get a new sports complex and municipal stadium. Jones stated that he was excited to see the GulfQuest Maritime Museum coming to town, and that further development along the waterfront was needed.
The web chat went very well. The mayor did little dodging, answering most questions very succinctly. I went into the chat curious about the mayor’s ambitions for the city of Mobile, and came away impressed with what I heard. The question now is can he transform those abstract ideas into real progress? If he can, then economic growth will handle all of Mobile’s problems.