By ARTHUR L. MACK
Mobile City Councilmembers on Tuesday voted 5-2 on an ordinance to establish salaries for City of Mobile elected officials beginning November 2021, even though the two councilmembers who voted against it — John Williams and Bess Rich — had reservations.
Currently, the mayor makes $89,000 each year, while councilmembers earn a $19,800 annual salary plus $175 for each regular and special meeting as well as a flat expense account of $325 a month. Under the new ordinance, the mayor’s salary will increase to $125,000 annually and councilmembers’ salaries will increase to $24,600 along with $300 for each regular and special meeting attended.
In addition, the new ordinance, sponsored by councilman Joel Daves, provides for an additional $500 stipend for the Mobile City Council president.
In voting against the ordinance, Rich said she wanted to cap the council’s yearly salary at $500 above the starting salary for a Mobile Police Department patrol officer. “It’s in line, and it’s somewhat of an improvement,” she said during the council’s work session. “I believe everybody is busy at these jobs. It was a benchmark for me during the 1997 term, and it still holds for me.”
Rich asked fellow councilmembers if they wanted to put it into the form of a motion. However, councilman Fred Richardson said if the formula Rich proposed was put in place in 1997, councilmembers would be making $25,000 a year.
“The point I’m making is that the police officers are going to be getting raises and the council is going to be frozen in time,” he said.
Rich said her proposal was keeping in pace with what was respectful of what the job entails, but at the same time not going above a part-time job.
“If you are concerned about the salaries freezing, you can write it where when those salaries (police officers) increase, so will the council’s salaries,” she said.
“People who say they work part-time can clock out and go home,” Richardson said. “Once you are elected, you’re on the clock for four years. In 1997, people had no way to contact us, but now they have 15 different ways that they can contact us. Our work is not done; I’m up at all hours of the night, texting and answering e-mails.”
Both Rich and Williams said they had no problems with the mayor’s proposed salary as it is in line with the rest of the state. Williams, in fact, said he understood Richardson’s position, but added the timing was not right.
“We have a record number of people in this city and in the country who are unemployed and facing devastating economic times,” he said. “It’s terrible timing and it sends the wrong message. While I support the mayor’s salary separately, I just can’t do it (vote on the council’s proposed salary increase) at this time.”
Another major item on Tuesday’s budget, a proposal urging Mayor Sandy Stimpson to present a capital budget amendment which distributes capital funds equally among all seven council districts (especially for city parks), failed when only three members — Rich, Richardson and council vice-president CJ Small — voted in favor.\
“The idea that some (districts) did not get park funding should be troubling,” Rich said. “Every district should have park funding.”
Richardson said the Zoghby Act had a passage that each district should be treated fairly and planned to present an amendment for distribution of funds to be done annually. However, council president Levon Manzie said he had some concerns about the proposal.
“If we go back and take something from other districts, they will be up in arms,” he said.
Other items that came before the council included:
- A presentation by Dr. Raoul Richardson and Damian Marks of the Mobile Police Citizens Community Relations Advisory Board, providing the council with an update on its plans to have ride-along and walk-along activities with Mobile Police officers, as well as engaging communities with MPD and informing media and churches of when such events will take place so the public can be involved.
- Amending the HUD Program Year 2020 action plan, Community Development Block Grants to allocate additional CARES Act funding.
- Revoking the business license held by Deep Water Marketing for rooming/boarding houses at 259, 261, and 263 South Broad Street. The boarding houses have been involved in various criminal activities, including a fatal shooting. In addition, there have been numerous complaints about poor living conditions.
- Appointing Robert Adams to the Mobile Police Community Relations Advisory Council. Adams is Stimpson’s representative on the council.
- Authorizing a grant application to the State of Alabama Health Care & Emergency Response Provider COVID-19 Relief Program in the amount of $15,000.