As the city of Mobile considers multiple annexation plans, there is some pushback and concern about which areas could be brought into city limits. The city and a financial consulting company are currently studying four options on the west side of Mobile.
The study should conclude sometime in March, and at that time, the city council will take up the issue by voting on a resolution to allow residents in the annexation areas to vote to join the city.
Candace Cooksey, the director of Communications for the city of Mobile, said an annexation that would allow the city's population to grow could mean more federal funds for the city if the city hit the threshold of a "mid-sized" city.
"We realized that being a city with a population over 200,000 is really important to our federal grant applications," said Cooksey.
For years, the city of Mobile has offered services such as police and fire in a three-mile band outside of city limits. Cooksey believes that could incentivize people to want to be a part of the city.
Another reason to expand is to prevent Mobile from being landlocked by dozens of other smaller cities. An example of where that has happened is in Birmingham, Cooksey explained.
"Birmingham is an example of that," she said. "We don't want that to happen in Mobile with all the municipalities surrounding the city, and you've got duplicate services, duplicate mayors, duplicate police chiefs. It's a waste of tax dollars, and it's preventing growth."
A rushed proposal on a similar annexation plan failed in 2019, but Cooksey said this time that she thinks the effort will be much better understood because of the time and detail put into the plans.
But not everyone is happy about the city expanding. Some in Mobile say if the city is going to grow and get more money, they want to be sure those funds will be used to take care of what is already in the city.
Marvin Lue, the pastor of Stewart Memorial CME Church, addressed the council Tuesday. He said he had seen firsthand how parts of the city had been neglected, and he doesn't want that to continue.
"I stand in favor of us growing," Lue told the council. "I stand in favor of us moving and reaching thresholds in order for us to have the funding necessary in order for our city to be what it can truly be. But I also stand in favor of that expansion having a sense of inclusion and improvement. Because of the place that I pastor, the city in which I live, there's prosperity around the corner but blight in our sight."
Lue told 1819 News he doesn't want to see underserved areas continue to be underserved if the city gets more money. He wants to see revitalization of parks, cleaning up parts of the city and more opportunities for minority-owned businesses. He said this is the consensus among people in his community.
According to Cooksey, the city of Mobile has already addressed many of those issues. In 2019 when the measure failed, city leaders recognized a need to offer more affordable housing. Cooksey said the city is aware it must grow from the inside and the outside.
"We're spending more than ever on the affordable housing front than ever before," she said.
But to do more, Cooksey said annexation is the option that will help the city gain more funds. She said Mobile doesn't have the opportunity to enact an occupational tax, so expanding is one of the few ways to increase revenue.
Lue told 1819 News that after speaking with council members, he is hopeful for the future of the city, and he believes they will make the right decisions.
"It's about making sure that we keep the promises of inclusion as we expand, that these blighted areas are not looked over with these resources coming our way, and I think that will happen," he told 1819 News.
He also said in this new day, he wants his community to be able to trust city leaders after generations have been misled.
People in other cities, such as Semmes, have also expressed concern with the city of Mobile taking away future opportunities for them to annex as well.
The four annexation maps being considered can be viewed on the city's website.
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