Mobile addressing issues raised during annexation discussions

As the city of Mobile considers multiple annexation plans, there is some resistance and concern over which areas could be brought into the city limits. The city and a financial advisory firm are currently reviewing four options on the west side of Mobile.

The study should be completed sometime in March, at which time the city council will take up the issue by voting on a resolution allowing residents of the annexation areas to vote to join the city.

Candace Cooksey, the city’s communications director for Mobile, said an annexation that would allow the city’s population to grow could mean more federal funding for the city if the city hits the threshold of a “medium-sized” city.

“We realized that being a city of over 200,000 people is really important for our federal applications,” Cooksey said.

For years, the city has offered mobile services such as police and fire services in a three-mile band outside the city limits. Cooksey thinks this could inspire people to be part of the city.

Another reason for expansion is to prevent Mobile from being surrounded by dozens of other smaller cities. One example of where this has happened is Birmingham, Cooksey explained.

“Birmingham is an example of that,” she said. “We don’t want that to happen in Mobile with all the communities around the city and you have dual services, dual mayors, dual police chiefs. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money and hinders growth.”

A rushed proposal for a similar annexation plan fell through in 2019, but this time Cooksey said she believes the effort is much better understood given the time and detail being put into the plans.

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But not everyone is happy about the expansion of the city. Some in Mobile say if the city wants to grow and make more money, they want to be sure those funds are used to take care of what’s already in the city.

Marvin Lue, pastor of Stewart Memorial CME Church, addressed the council on Tuesday. He said he’s seen firsthand parts of the city neglected and he doesn’t want it to continue.

“I’m in favor of us growing,” Lue told the council. “I am in favor of us moving and reaching thresholds so that we have the resources necessary for our city to be what it can truly be. But I’m also in favor of this expansion having a sense of inclusion and enhancement. Because of where I’m a pastor, because of the town I live in, there’s prosperity around the corner, but plague in our eyes.”

Lue told 1819 News he doesn’t want underserved areas to remain underserved if the city gets more money. He wants parks to be revitalized, parts of the city to be cleaned up 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 these issues. When the measure failed in 2019, city leaders recognized the need to provide more affordable housing. Cooksey said the city is aware it needs to grow from the inside and out.

“We’re spending more than ever on affordable housing,” she said.

But to do more, Cooksey said, annexation is the option that will help the city garner more funding. She said Mobile doesn’t have the ability to pass an employment tax, so expanding is one of the few ways it can increase revenue.

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Lue told 1819 News that after talking to council members he is hopeful for the city’s future and he believes they will make the right decisions.

“It’s about making sure we deliver on the promises of inclusion as we expand, that those blighted areas aren’t overlooked when those resources come our way, and I think that’s going to happen,” he told 1819 News.

He also said on this new day he wants his community to be able to trust city leaders after generations have been misled.

People in other cities, like Semmes, have also expressed concern that the city of Mobile is depriving them of future annexation opportunities.

The four connection plans under consideration can be viewed on the city’s website.

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