State of the City

2016 State of the City
Mayor Sandy Stimpson
As prepared for delivery May 25, 2016
Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center

Good Afternoon.

Two years ago I stood before you and asked you to visualize us being in a relay carrying with the baton in our hands. We have now run 2 ½ laps. Wow, what a race this has been! Mobile is on the move! Transformation is occurring everyday all across this city.

New airplanes are taking off! New warships are sailing! New restaurants are serving! New hotels are under construction, and old hotels are being renovated! Fiber optic cables are growing! GulfQuest is launched! Uber is here! There are high tech jobs on St. Louis Street! 1065 is rocking! Carnival will be cruising soon! Duck Boats are hatching! And the lights in Bienville Square are burning brighter.

In such exciting times, it seems as if anything is possible. If you doubt that for a second, just remember that we even had ice skating in downtown Mobile for more than 6 weeks.

If you look, you will see the pep in everyone's step; you will sense the optimism that tomorrow is going to be even better than today; and you will hear about the growing commitment to work together to realize the shared vision of One Mobile.

Speaking of working together, I would like to acknowledge my colleagues on the Mobile City Council. President Gina Gregory, Vice President Fred Richardson, Levon Manzie, John Williams, Joel Daves and Bess Rich. Would you all please stand?

Of course we're missing one very important person today and that is Councilman CJ Small who was injured while in South Africa. We hear that he is recovering, and we look forward to him coming home soon.

It's a long way from Mobile to Johannesburg, but I'm sure CJ will hear about this. So let's give a round of applause to him and his colleagues for helping transform Mobile.

When you consider that it takes a super majority to move items through the council's agenda, you'd have to agree they work well together.

Now, don't misunderstand me, they do disagree. In fact, every week we hear this running argument about which district is actually the best district in Mobile.

Of course, occasionally, I have to remind them that my job is to represent the entire city. But today, since CJ isn't here to speak for himself, I'd like to use his words and proclaim District 3 as "the place to be" in Mobile until his safe return.

There is one other group that I would like to recognize. They are our city employees. Please stand.

Mobile is fortunate to have dedicated men and women, implementing the plans and dreams we have for making Mobile the safest, most business and family city in America by 2020.

Daily they are designing, engineering, planning, inspecting, mowing, sweeping, picking up garbage, fixing street lights and signs, paving streets, answering emergency calls, and protecting our neighborhoods and businesses.

I am inspired by their work and their willingness to do whatever it takes to make Mobile great. They are working to transform Mobile. Please give them a round of applause.

Years ago, a famous Mobilian, Satchel Paige, said, "Don't look back. Someone might be gaining on you." With this in mind, I'm not going to look back, but I am going to cast my glance downward to make sure the foundation that we're running on is solid.

Over the last two years, much of our energy and effort has been to improve foundational issues which will allow us to do a better job in the future.

Let's start with our city finances, which provide the basis for everything we do. At the close of fiscal year 2013, the unassigned balance of our general fund was a negative $4.3 million. At the end of 2015 it was a positive $37.4 million.

That's a $41.7 million swing. Our cities financial condition has been transformed. It is as strong as it has ever been thanks to our finance department, dedicated executive directors, department heads and council members.

Recently, I heard an amazing statistic in a meeting with our engineers. If you add up the number of streets we're resurfacing this year, it would be longer than a marathon.

That's a lot, right? Actually, it's just a start. We've got a long way to run before we finish the $250 million backlog of broken infrastructure in Mobile.

But, we are making steady progress as a result of our Capital Improvement Plan. I'd like to thank the council for uniting with us in fixing the broken things in the city. Together, we are making Mobile more family friendly by investing in our parks, sidewalks, streets and drainage. I want to thank the County Commissioners and County employees for their help.

Also, our state legislative delegation needs to be thanked. We could not get done what's being done without their help. We're also becoming a safer city under the leadership of Chief Barber, through the police department's use of new strategies and innovative approaches to crime prevention.

Why is that important? Because the primary responsibility of government is the safety of its citizens.

I want to tell you a quick story about one of our policemen. The media did a lot of reporting about our efforts to address the homeless problem in downtown Mobile. Judging by the coverage, you'd have thought were launching some kind of military assault on the homeless living on Conception Street. The reality was something different. This was an unprecedented effort to identify every available resource and bring immediate help in the most compassionate way to every homeless person who would accept it.

Unfortunately, the media tended to focus on the divisive comments made by one or two of the individuals who simply didn't want help. And so you probably never heard about Lt. Billie Rowland who lead this effort.

Lt. Rowland knew every single person living in that homeless camp. He knew their backgrounds, their challenges, their needs and their potential. He knew all of that because he spent the time to get to know them personally.

Lt. Rowland went above the call of duty. He went into his own pocket to pay for things they needed to get back on their feet. He invested his own time to help them get driver's licenses or seek medical treatment. Of course, we also received help from other dedicated volunteers like Jenn Greene with Delta Dogs and other nonprofits and social agencies who stepped up to help us address this problem.

All across the city, you will find stories like this - stories where city employees and concerned citizens are taking the initiative to do what needs to be done to transform Mobile.

On another note, every day we're seeking to raise the level of talent in city government. Our last two training classes hired in the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department yielded the highest qualified personnel ever in a recruit class.

But talent is just part of the equation of transformation. It's also about giving our employees the right training and resources to do the job of serving you.

I have to ask, have you ever seen a firetruck at the scene of a fender-bender and wonder, why do they need such a big truck for such a small task?

  • Thankfully, Chief Pappas and the leadership in our Fire Rescue team are figuring out a better way.
  • In February, we took delivery of our fifth emergency sprint truck. They're basically Ford Explorers that we equipped with the same medical gear traditionally carried on the big trucks. Within the next few weeks you will also see 5 new pumper trucks on the streets as well as two new mini pumpers.
  • Fire trucks are big, slow and expensive to operate. These SUVs and mini-pumpers are right-sized, agile and much more cost efficient and they will get to you quicker during a medical emergency.
  • These are just a couple of examples of how we're transforming into a safer city by working smarter and investing in new equipment.

In addition to focusing on being a safety city, we spend time every day working on economic development and creating jobs for our citizens.

The delivery of the first plane by Airbus to JetBlue was a worldwide story. It was a tribute to our workers that the quality of the first A321 - named the "Blues Mobile" - was rated as outstanding.

In fact, they said it had only one slight defect: The coffee pot didn't work!

Airbus is laser focused on building great aircraft in Mobile. Meanwhile, we are focused on making the most of the Airbus opportunity.

Last month, we announced the 12th aerospace supplier to locate in Mobile since the opening of Airbus final assembly plant at Brookley. That's right - in 8 months, 12 new, global companies have a footprint in Mobile.

I must point out that Brookley is not the only place where exciting things are happening. While it may not have drawn worldwide headlines, the opening of RSI's new office in the renovated Buick building downtown was a huge milestone in our effort to establish a tech corridor on St. Louis Street.

Just down on Water Street, construction will soon begin on Meridian at the Port. This $46 million project will be the largest residential development in downtown Mobile in more than 60 years.

I say it all the time: There's no great city that doesn't have a great downtown. But we're very fortunate to be seeing signs of renewed confidence in every corner of our city.

The interest level in Mobile from prospective employers and investors has never been higher. We have some truly incredible prospects on the horizon.

If we can land one or two of these transformational projects, we will take our economy to a whole new level. Our goal is not only to create jobs, but to reestablish Mobile as a destination where executives choose to locate their corporate headquarters.

It's not just about new business. The story of Austal's incredible growth and the quality of its ships is helping change the image of what Mobile's workforce can accomplish.

Their newest ship, the USS Montgomery, just returned from sea trials flying a broom from the yardarm. In Navy tradition, that indicates a "clean sweep" of all their inspections.

When existing businesses are thriving in combination with new jobs and investment, that's a winning formula. That's how we're transforming Mobile into the most business friendly city in America.

In front of each of you today is a sticker of the "Iconic M." This is the new symbol or logo that my office is using across the administrative functions of the city. It represents our past through the inverted fleur de lis.

It promises a bright future through its colors and the high-reaching M. It represents progress, change, but most importantly it represents a historic city that is on the cutting edge of becoming one of the greatest cities in America.

Now with 1 1/2 laps to go in the race, one strategy is to lengthen our stride stride it out saving our energy for the last lap. Another would be to speed it up, to lengthen our lead. As we look around the turn ahead, do you see all the exciting things happening over the next 12 months?

Look and see if you see the new Federal Courthouse partially completed; the new renovations and businesses on St. Louis Street; and an innovation portal up and operational. Water Street is different. More people are walking and riding bikes along it. I see property values in neighborhoods are going up because there are fewer blighted houses.

It looks like we're becoming more business friendly due to addressing our zoning issues. There is significant progress made on the plans for the I-10 bridge. Wow! Do you see all the new job announcements?

And coming out of the mayor's office, there are new initiatives involving the Arts & Culture, mentoring, homelessness, and volunteerism. And all those college age interns, it seems they are trying to create a connectivity between our Universities and the city that has never existed. No, it's not time to slow down.

We must pick up the tempo. Every day that we're not engaging in fulfilling the vision, is a lost day. We can't afford to waste a moment.

Ladies and gentlemen, the State of the City has never been stronger. We hope you are excited about the direction of our city and the programs that have been highlighted today. Thank you for giving me opportunity to be mayor. Thank all of you for all you do.

In closing, let me point out that at your place is a One Mobile Card. You haven't seen it before. It expounds upon the One Mobile Vision. By reading it, you will come to realize that One Mobile will truly transform our City from one that has always been on the cusp… to a truly special place to live, work, play and pray.

Our location, natural resources, and people make us unique. We have been called to fulfill a higher destiny. This is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow and thrive as a united city. ONE MOBILE is OUR VISION. We can be a united city - a model for the world.

As such, I encourage each and every one of us to be humble. Continue to pray for one another and for our city. Let's not boast about tomorrow. Rather, let's acknowledge that God is blessing our city and let's thank Him. Let the glory be His.

Thank you very much. God Bless you and Mobile!