The mayors from Alabama’s 10 largest cities adjourned a weekend of meetings with a press conference in downtown Huntsville this morning.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Madison Mayor Paul Finley cohosted the group at the AC Marriott Hotel in Downtown Huntsville Sunday and Monday, where they discussed statewide issues like public safety concerns. The Big 10 represent the 10 largest cities in Alabama, including:
- Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin
- Montgomery Mayor Stephen Reed
- Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson
- Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox
- Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato
- Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba
- Auburn Mayor Ron Anders
- Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling
Battle and Finley rounded out the group of 10.
1. Justice system delays
Stimpson addressed a common issue in many cities across Alabama and the nation: an escalation in violent crime. Though there are several factors that have led to the problem, Stimpson said court delays that arose from COVID-19 lockdowns and closures have also contributed to the issue.
To address the delays, Stimpson and others reached out to Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker to develop a plan to speed up trials in Alabama circuit courts and reduce the backlog.
2. Anaiah’s Law
Anders then took over to speak about Aniah’s Law, which would allow judges in Alabama to deny bond to violent offenders.
The law is named after Aniah Blanchard, a Homewood native who was attending Southern Union State Community College near Auburn, Alabama, when she was kidnapped and killed in October 2019.
The law was passed by Alabama House of Representatives in February 2020 and was passed by the Alabama Senate in April 2021. Before the law is added to the state constitution, Alabama residents must approve it in this November’s election.
“The Big 10 mayors agree that this is the best path and the safest path for our communities and our state going forward,” Anders said.
3. Constitutional carry
Maddox addressed potential changes coming to Alabama’s constitutional carry laws. Currently, local sheriffs’ offices handle firearm carry permits for their respective counties. Legislation has been proposed to allow concealed carry without a permit. While the Big 10 took no formal stance on the legislation, Maddox urged lawmakers to first focus on strengthening the existing system.
“We support the Sheriffs Association because they’re at the ground level,” Maddox said. “They know the people in their community. They understand the needs of their community. And they have the situational awareness that would be lost in a statewide database.”
Maddox also voiced concerns on behalf of the Big 10 that defunding local resources, like sheriff’s offices, could lead to negative public safety outcomes.
4. Public safety staffing
Woodfin and Finley each addressed staffing, particularly in the realm of public safety.
“There is a national issue right now as it relates to all of our abilities to fill our numbers for police officers as well as firefighters within our cities and communities,” Woodfin said. “And so with that, we’ve been talking collectively about that issue as well as best practices among us. … We will continue to have this conversation among us about how we close the gap on our current issues related to all of our cities, because public safety by far is the number one issue for all of us, to make sure our citizens are safe and we provide that service.”
Finley then addressed the challenges mayors face when seeking to recruit new talent, including the need to understand younger generations’ desires and priorities outside of work. A community with a high quality of life is important for attracting talent, Finley said, and mayors are focused on providing that.
Battle also briefly addressed redistricting plans, which many of the Big 10 cities passed in the last month after receiving 2020 census data. More information about the Huntsville redistricting plans can be found on the Huntsville City website.