After months of discussion and studies, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration presented a proposal Tuesday for growing the city through annexation.
The plan to annex property west of the Mobile city limits stems from city leaders' desire to expand the city, avoid being landlocked and get more federal funding. Four plans were originally proposed. PFM Financial Advisors reviewed the four proposals and analyzed expenses and likely revenue for each plan.
The mayor’s office believes Plan A, the plan with the most property, is the best for the city. The proposal was introduced Tuesday in the form of three separate resolutions.
The city council would have to approve the plan, but it would not approve the annexation. The council’s approval would be to allow for a vote from citizens within the proposed annexation area.
The mayor’s office said it has four goals with annexation: preserving a black majority in the city, ensuring the voting age population in four of the seven districts within the city remains majority-minority, bringing the population over 200,000 and providing extra revenue.
Several residents have come forward with concerns that areas they believe are “underserved” will be overlooked if the city takes on more property. There are also concerns about the demographics of districts within the city.
Former Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson addressed the council in opposition to annexation.
“The black majority will end if you vote for annexation today,” he said. “… [I]f you add others [non-black] to the white population, they’re not going to vote for you. They gonna take you down. They gonna take you down.”
Richardson also used annexations he witnessed as examples of how projected revenue did not help some neighborhoods.
However, the 139-page study showed that the city would likely continue to lose population and overall revenue without annexation.
District 1 Councilman Cory Penn said the narrative of race being an issue in annexation had been spread in his district, and he said some of the information being shared is not factual.
“I think it’s also dangerous to put ‘others,’ when you think about others, you can say Hispanic, Asian, whatever a person considers their race,” Penn said. “To put them in a category of ‘Caucasian,’ I think is very disrespectful. To say that an Asian group or a Hispanic group or whatever type of group is going to vote with what other type of group is very disrespectful.”
Penn said former city leaders have spoken in the past about how there is one race, “the human race,” but he said now it seems those same leaders are focusing on different races and how those races are presumed to vote.
“I’m sure you haven’t spoke to every Asian and every Hispanic and asked them, ‘are you going to vote with the white people?” he said.
In an emotional outburst, Penn continued to say the information being shared around his district was incorrect and disrespectful.
"If you're going to stand, just say the truth and that's fine if that's what you believe," he added.
Penn said he had seen the study and confirmed there would be a revenue-positive outcome. He said any misinformation being shared did not come from him, although he was disappointed to see his photo in literature with that misinformation.
Rev. Clinton Johnson, also a former councilman, spoke in favor of annexation, saying it would be a way to bring the city forward. Johnson, who claimed he coined the phrase of Mobile being "a city of perpetual potential," said extra money could take the city from ordinary to extraordinary.
There is no word on when the council will vote on the proposal. However, the majority of council members expressed support for growing the city.
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