The mayors of Huntsville (Tommy Battle); Mobile (Sandy Stimpson); Montgomery (Todd Strange); and Tuscaloosa (Walt Maddox) joined Birmingham mayor William Bell on Monday morning for a press conference to mark the third time the five men — chief executives of the state’s five largest cities — had met as part of a one-year old initiative. The men gathered along with their chiefs of staff and police chiefs to talk about common issues related to public safety. Their remarks followed those made by Governor Bentley related to last week’s announcement about Birmingham’s successful bid for the 2021 World Games. The governor had just finished a meeting with the mayors related to his comments about a proposed re-tooling of the state’s financial incentives packages — changes he hopes will be taken up during the 2015 legislative session. The Birmingham City Council hosted the Jefferson County legislative delegation Tuesday for lunch at the Birmingham Crossplex to discuss it and the issue of board governance at UAB in light of current beliefs related to the December 2 announcement discontinuing three athletic programs.
The remarks made by the mayors related to public safety centered on proposed initiatives, including each city’s investigation into the use of body cameras by police officers. Mayor Stimpson said, “If you don’t have a safe city, you’ve lost the foundation for having a city.” Mayor Bell shared how their conversation had all of them considering things like “storage of data, the size of the camera,” and the idea of leasing versus purchasing the devices in order to keep up with the latest technology.
Mayor Maddox pointed out his belief that “innovation begins at the local level,” while also highlighting what he said was each man’s “uncompromising commitment to their citizens.” Mayor Battle, an individual some wanted to see run for governor in 2014 before announcing he would not seek a nomination shortly after the group’s first meeting concluded, said, “we [the cities] all sink or swim together,” pointing to the potential benefits all five cities could see as a result of Birmingham’s successful big process.
The five men have previously met in Clarke County near Jackson, Alabama at Stimpson’s family lodge last January and, most recently, in Montgomery in September. The idea for the collaborative sessions, however, were “hatched” here in Birmingham last January according to comments made by Mayors Bell and Stimpson; the result of Stimpson, then newly-elected, seeking advice and pointers as he began his term in office. The mayors directly represent more than 20% of Alabama’s residents. Their cities serve as the economic centers of the state’s five largest metropolitan areas, representing approximately 56% of Alabama’s total population. Previous topics covered include infrastructure and education.
Only one of them is up for re-election before 2017; Mayor Strange recently announced he would seek re-election. One of the individuals preparing to run against the incumbent is former United States representative for District 7, Artur Davis, The former gubernatorial candidate announced his plans via YouTube video on Thursday, January 22.
Photo: L to R – Mayors Stimpson, Strange, Bell, Maddox, and Battle taking questions during a press conference at the Westin Birmingham on January 26, 2015. File photo.