But first, a big congratulations to Terri Sewell. Terri won 8 of the 12 counties in the district, including Jefferson, where she trailed in the June 1 primary election.
Congratulations also to Lawrence McAdory who won another term as State House 56 representative, and to Annetta Verin who beat Dan King in the Circuit Court 12 race.
A call for leadership in Bessemer
In one of the more recent Birmingham mayoral elections (and there have been several) the Birmingham News published an editorial describing the characteristics their next mayor should have.
Let’s suppose that any mayor of any town should have those characteristics, and thus apply them to Bessemer.
1. We need a mayor who understands city finances and how to take control of the budget.
Bessemer’s finances are a mystery. For years there have been calls for an audit that would reveal where the tax money that the citizens of Bessemer fund the city with actually goes. The next mayor must not be shy. He or she must agree to a forensic audit. He or she should also present the budget to the council in a timely manner each year.
Time and time again, after such requests, nothing has happened.
Let’s just be blunt. The people do not trust the current administration, and it acts as though it has something to hide. Usually when someone acts as if there is something to hide, there is.
An audit of the city finances in 2002 showed that the city was $600,000 in the red at the end of the fiscal year. By 2006, according to these articles, the city’s debt had mushroomed to $2.7 million. The citizens wonder what the financial situation is now.
2. We need a mayor who has a vision for the city’s future and a plan to get us there.
“Bessemer has such potential." We hear this from candidates every year. Election after election we hear this, yet that potential remains untapped. I’m tired of hearing it. Instead of saying it, do something about it.
The perception is that the administration of this city does not work well with the business community within in or outside of the city. We need a mayor who will support and fund the Chamber of Commerce, and who will work with agencies or departments who work to bring both business and tourism into the city.
What is the candidate's vision for the city? Does this candidate see Bessemer in four years much the same as it is now? Does their plan merely involve treading water, in order to keep the city afloat? Does the candidate have a robust plan for development, bringing business and residents into the city?
Bessemer’s population now (as of July 2009) is 28,772. Bessemer has lost population since 2000. What is the candidate's population goal for 2014?
Median household income is $28, 816. What will the candidate do to help bring this number up?
Research has shown that when the "creative class" is retained or attracted to a city, that the quality of life for all the residents improves. The creative class includes people who use creative problem solving in their daily lives. Lawyers, health care providers, professors, writers, editors, artists, analysts, opinion writers and others are included in the creative class.
People who are creative in their daily work also bring that ability home and into their neighborhoods. In general, they enjoy outdoor life, and desire walking trails and parks but also cultural venues such as art galleries and theaters and concert halls. The entire community would benefit from these types of development.
What can the candidate, as mayor, do to attract these people to our city?
3. The mayor needs to be a person who can get along with city council and who can share information freely (among themselves and with the public).
The mayor and members of the city council have acted in publicly embarrassing ways in the past at official meetings (council meetings) and unofficial (town hall) meetings. These antics have been recorded and broadcast on television, and do nothing to improve the image of our city.
There is no reason to believe that those who behave in such a manner will change their ways.
4. The mayor must be committed to absolute transparency.
Making the claim of an open door policy does not indicate transparency. How can the candidate assure us of transparency in his or her administration?
5. The mayor must be squeaky clean.
We do not need to have the distraction of scandal or ethics investigations drawing our attention away from doing what is necessary to move this city forward.
6. The mayor must be committed to admitting we have a crime problem.
He or she should guide, yet allow, the police department to develop crime fighting strategies and hold the chief and police department accountable for levels of crime in our city.
7. The mayor must live in Bessemer, and support Bessemer in their everyday living.
As the election nears, these issues, and others, will be explored more thoroughly on Bessemer Opinions.
There will be other issues that are important as well, but these seven are critical, if we are to see our city move forward.
And to move our city forward, there will have to be some changes on the city council as well.
Candidates for council can look at this list and get an idea of things they can do to achieve this goal. We will have a separate list of issues for school board candidates soon.