By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Mayor Sam Jones has presented his case to the City Council for a one-percent sales tax increase to staunch the city's financial wound.
Now the City Council must decide whether "quicksilver Sam," who previously backed a 10 percent across-the-board pay cut for city workers, made his case well enough. For some, that may depend on public understanding of the issue and support for Jones' latest and presumably final solution to the $18.5 million shortfall and projected revenue issues over the next 12-24 months.
The proposal was "laid over" Tuesday to allow officials to "prep the patient" or position taxpayers to accept a greater burden. The vote will likely come later this week as City Hall seeks to contain a volatile issue.
Summing up the players:
Jones: As apparently flexible as the mayor would seem to be, given his Bob Beamon-like leap from a big pay cut reducing expenditures to a big tax increase to boost revenues, Jones is unmistakably emphatic in his refusal to consider laying off even one of the city's 2,500 workers. Five votes or bust.
Councilman Fred Richardson: Getting the moonpie maestro to back a tax increase is akin to getting a six-year-old to accept an ice cream cone. Yes, 1 - No, 0.
Councilman William Carroll: As chairman of the County's finance committee, Carroll had a higher profile in the deliberations. He nearly was the ball carrier on the game-winning drive, advocating a temporary garbage collection fee to bridge the city's financial chasm to better economic days ahead. The numbers and the politics of the garbage fee came up a yard short of paydirt. Jones can count Carroll as yes vote number two.
Councilman Jermaine Burrell: MIA. Burrell wasn't at the Council's pre-meeting conference Tuesday, but the City Council rookie was reportedly back in town and available later in the day. Yes vote number three.
City Councilman John Williams: Early in his second term in office, Williams hasn't been at government long enough to shed his "live within your means" thinking. No vote number one.
City Council President Reggie Copeland: Long involved in athletics, Copeland, at 80, maintains a team-oriented outlook. Politicians don't like tax increases, but Copeland will take one for the team and provide Jones with yes vote number four.
City Councilwoman Connie Hudson: Team or no team, wants to play by conservative financial game plan. In Jones' view, makes one sorry cheerleader. At City Hall, would be most likely to be voted off the island, only it isn't City Hall insiders, but District Six constituents who do the voting, and her game suits them fine.
City Councilwoman Gina Gregory: It's 4-2. Time out. A pause in the action. We'll be back back after this commercial break.
The Jones administration has to advance some real or really exaggerated steps to satisfy the public that all possible measures have been taken to tighten the city's 38-inch waist with a 36-inch belt. So for the next day or two, opinion leaders will preach the gospel of No Choice: the city's only viable solution is a sales tax increase that will roll back as the economy improves and could well expire altogether in a more robust business climate. Will they do the job well enough that Gregory -- even reluctantly, despite misgivings, most hesitantly, with the gravest of reservations -- gives Jones what he wants and needs, even if he has to listen to a lot of verbal hand-wringing, that fifth yes vote?
Would a yes vote be the hard choice in a tough situation or would it be the easy way out? Do you manage expenditures to meet revenues or do you manage revenues to meet expenditures? A no vote and the course is set toward significant layoffs in the city's 2,500-member work force, an outcome that the mayor has declared intolerable in a fierce manner that makes one curiously fearful or fearfully curious to see his reaction should it come to pass.
If memory serves, tomorrow -- Wednesday, April 14 -- is Jones' birthday. A new, even if not necessarily permanent, $28 million annual revenue stream is a present to put a smile on the mayor's face. Then again, Thursday is April 15, a date long noted among the taxpaying public.
For public officials, like Gov. Bob Riley when he completes his current term and hops on his Harley for a solo ride all the way
to Alaska, it's times
like these that he's
Among the points the
Jones administration is
expected to make in
rallying the public to
- A one percent or penny on the dollar sales tax increase that will generate $7 million for the remainder of this fiscal year and $28 million for FY2011;
- The proposed sales tax increase includes a sunset clause which states that the increase is automatically reduced to .5 percent or half a penny per dollar after the end of fiscal year 2012 on Oct. 1, 2012;
- By comparison, Mobile's sales tax rate would be equal to several municipalities including Birmingham, Montgomery, Prichard, Bayou La Batre, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach;
- City departments have already cut $21 million in costs since the beginning of the current fiscal year.
Gounares to open campaign HQ
GOP congressional candidate Peter Gounares will have a Grand Opening of his Mobile Headquarters Friday from 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. The headquarters is located on Airport Blvd. at the Loop in the 2032 Plaza shopping center. Refreshments will be available all day, and hotdogs will be served during the lunch hours as well, according to Gounares.
Nicrosi fund raisers
The Brutkiewicz Law Office in downtown Mobile will be the site Wednesday from 5:30-7 p.m. of a reception to raise funds for Michel Nicrosi's Democratic campaign for Attorney General.
A $250 contribution is suggested of attendees. A former assistant U.S. attorney, Nicrosi once headed the criminal section of the federal prosecutor's office here.
Members of the host committee are:
- Skip Brutkiewicz, Johnny Brutkiewicz, Raymond Bell, Pete Burns, William Eiland;
- Richard Gaal, Ed Hawkins, Michael Holberg, Jim Jeffries, Pete Mackey;
- William T. McGowin, IV, Steve Olen, William Pipkin, Michael Upchurch and Jim Yance.
The Brutkiewicz office is located at 56 S. Conception Street near Government Street and the county courthouse. For more information call 334-356-1432 or email@example.com.
A Rich dinner
A $25 per person barbecue dinner/fund raiser is scheduled Tuesday, April 20 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Inca Grand Hall at 3556 Halls Mill Road in the GOP campaign of Ashley Rich for district attorney. The casual event will feature barbecue pork and all the trimmings and a cash bar (beer, $2; wine, $3). For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rich and Mark Erwin vie in the June 1 primary for the GOP nomination to face Democrat Don Foster in November.
Dems get together
The Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee will meet Thursday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the library at Davidson High School on Pleasant Valley Road.
Bonner, Bentley top ESRW card
GOP political candidates Dr. Robert Bentley and U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner will address the Eastern Shore Republican Women luncheon meeting Monday, April 19 at 11:30 a.m. at the Fairhope Yacht Club. Guests and prospective members are welcome. Lunch is $16. Reservations should be made by Thursday, April 15 to Lucy Sundbeck, email@example.com or call 929-0081.
Bentley, a state legislator from Tuscaloosa, is running for governor. Bonner is seeking re-election to Congress.
Scheduled to speak to the Knollwood Republican
Women’s Club in coming weeks are:
- April 14 -- Bill Johnson, candidate for governor and Ashley Rich, candidate for Mobile County District Attorney
- May 12 -- Hank Erwin, candidate for Lieutenant governor;
- June 9 -- Open invitation to all run-off candidates.
The club meets at Gordon Oaks Retirement Community at 3159 Knollwood Drive, Building B Dining Room
at 2 p.m.