Mobile City Council
Council’s Focus: Keeping Mobile Moving Forward
Ahead of the expected vote on the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget at tomorrow’s meeting, City Council members are focused on keeping the positive momentum the city has experienced over the last few years going. Top priorities for the Council include adopting the proposed pay raises for Mobile Police, Firefighters and maintaining level funding for the city’s tourism efforts.
“As far as new expenditures go, these pay raises are the highest priority for the entire council,” said Council President Gina Gregory. “We also feel and have heard from members of the hospitality community, attractions, restaurant owners and our constituents that maintaining level funding for Visit Mobile is essential. Anything below could endanger all the progress and success our city has made in this area, which is heavily dependent on the tourism industry.”
Last week, at a meeting of the Council’s Finance Committee, council members voted unanimously in favor of proposed raises for Mobile Police Department officers.
At the meeting, members of the Council spoke directly to the dozens of police officers in the audience assuring them of their support for more competitive pay.
“One of the most fundamental reasons for government is to ensure the safety of our citizens,” said Councilwoman Bess Rich, Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “Our brave men and women of the Mobile Police and Fire Departments deserve our support and now, there is no doubt that they have it.”
The vote was in support of a $5,000 pay raise and 2.5% pay equity adjustment for every five years of service to a maximum of 20 years for eligible department officials.
“Year after year the City Council, along with the Mayor, have made the tough decisions which have put the City on a much more solid fiscal footing,” said Councilman Joel Daves, Chair of the Council’s Finance Committee. “As a result of that belt tightening, we are now able to do right by our first responders. It is important that we pay those men and women who risk their lives to provide for our safety a competitive wage.”
At the meeting, members of the Council also voiced their support for continuing level funding for the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“I have not always been of this position but, over the past year, I have closely examined the work and impact of Visit Mobile,” said Councilman John Williams. “I’m absolutely convinced they are key to the success of our efforts and we would be doing our citizens a real disservice by not at least providing them with level funding.”
As the lead in supporting and growing the City’s tourism industry, Visit Mobile has made extraordinary progress. The group’s work promoting the City on the regional and national stage has resulted in a record number of visitors and conventions coming to Mobile.
“The enormous economic impact of Visit Mobile’s work is indisputable,” said Council Vice President Fred Richardson. “More visitors means more city revenue, more business for our hotels, restaurants, shops and much more.”
In 2015, Mobile experienced over 3 million visitors including 90 conventions which generated nearly $1 billion dollars in total travel related expenditures.
This generated nearly $3 million in revenue for the 2016 Fiscal Year operating budget. It also generated over $1.5 million in county lodging tax revenue that went towards the Mobile County budget. In addition, indirectly, an estimated 16,000 people work at Mobile businesses that benefit from Visit Mobile’s tourism efforts.
Council members have also expressed interest in providing support for other items including pay raises for city employees, a youth program, the African American Heritage Trail of Mobile and restoring some funding for the Mobile Ballet, which was cut from the budget in recent years.
At the committee meeting, Councilman Levon Manzie, who first suggested the creation of a youth services program that would focus on creating summer jobs for young people throughout the community, asked whether additional funding for such programs might be found.
“I understand it will be extremely difficult but I’m hopeful that funding sources may be found ahead of our meeting tomorrow,” said Councilman Manzie. “One way or another, we are going to keep working towards a program for our youth.”
“My colleagues and I would all like to see these programs and many more receive the funding they deserve,” said Councilman C.J. Small. “At the end of the day though, we will do what we need to in order to keep Mobile moving forward.”
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