Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed lashed out at city council members Tuesday night, claiming their proposal to split federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding was a racially motivated attempt to "strip" and "gut" his authority.
The proposal, sponsored by Montgomery City Councilman Glen Pruitt, would divide up the city's remaining ARPA funds equally amongst the city's nine council districts and create a "council committee" to oversee bid processes for the funding. The Montgomery City Council and Montgomery County Commission had previously combined their ARPA funds of $85 million. Pruitt's proposal was ultimately carried over to the council's next meeting after a lengthy discussion between Reed and council members about the best process to spend the funds.
"It seems like there are some things that happen now that we've got a black mayor that didn't happen before, and I just want to call it out right now," Reed said at the meeting. "It seems like there's a willingness to try to gut the power of the mayor's office now."
Reed conceded "the council can do whatever it wants to do" but warned of what might happen if they go through with the proposal.
"What I get right now is that there is an attempt to strip the Mayor of Montgomery of some of the power and authority," Reed said. "You can do what you want to do. Those who want to be part of that can be part of that because your district is going to suffer, and you're going to have to talk to the people of your district."
Reed said he's "seeing an attempt to strip this mayor that I've never seen you try with no other mayors that just didn't look like me."
"When we don't get the federal funding, don't say I didn't tell you so because you know what I'm going to say I told you so," Reed said. "If you want to sign on to this and you believe that this is in the best interest just as you're trying to go back on the word that we gave the [Montgomery] County Commission and we gave the people of this county and this city on how we would work together on the ARPA dollars so you can have some short-term wins at the expense of water and sewer and infrastructure which we're not going to be able to do. You know we're not going to be able to do that water and sewer project because if you divide it into nine, which y'all just did, then I would encourage the [Montgomery] County Commission to divide it into five."
Pruitt responded to Reed by saying that his accusations of racism or usurping mayoral authority were "absolutely the furthest thing from the truth." Pruitt cited a presentation by the Carriage Hills Neighborhood Association about building delays related to a proposed community center as a reason to split up the city's ARPA funding by council districts.
"We've jerked these people around in Carriage Hills," Pruitt said. "My district is already suffering."
Montgomery City Councilwoman Audrey Graham said at the meeting about the proposal that "this is just a way that maybe we can get into west Montgomery and get something done."
"I'm a black woman, so I'm not trying to threaten you as a black Mayor," Graham said. "That's absolutely not my position, but my position is I got to fight for my people, and if there's one way that I think I can fight, I'm going to fight. It's not about you, Mayor."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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