The mayors of Alabama’s five largest cities, Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, met Thursday in Montgomery.
They’re working to push forward their priorities in the legislature.
The “Big 5” mayors meet every 3 months to discuss issues they can work on together.
Their meeting was intentionally scheduled to be in the capital city so they could also meet with lawmakers in the middle of the legislative session.
But as fate would have it, this meeting was also the perfect opportunity for Alabama’s Big 5 to meet with Alabama’s New Governor.
“We shared with her how excited we are about her effort to move us forward. She called each and every one of us not too very long after she had been sworn and we certainly appreciated that. And we pledge to work with her,” said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.
After having breakfast with Governor Ivey Thursday morning, the mayors feel confident to tell the world: Alabama’s open for business.
“There is a fresh breeze in Montgomery at the state capital level. And not, frankly in economic development and some other issues, we’ve just been stagnant because of uncertainty. And we talked about this earlier, the marketplace does not like uncertainty. Now we have some certainty,” Strange said. “We can do everything we can right at the local levels and we’ve all got great economic teams, but at the end of the day the governor is in fact the chief economic official, chief spokesman, chief marketer. So it’s important that we have someone that would stand with us.”
One of the topics they discussed with lawmakers was infrastructure and how to update Alabama’s methods before a potential infrastructure push from the President.
“If in fact President Trump comes with a new infrastructure funding mechanism, we need to be in the position both at the state level and the municipal level and county level to take advantage of that,” Mayor Strange said.
“All of us have infrastructure needs and those infrastructure needs turn into jobs, they turn into economy,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “If you look at I-75 in Georgia, it’s 6, 8, 10 lanes all the way across. Compare it to I-65 here in Alabama, there’s less economic development at each intersection in Alabama.”
The mayors would also like to see the historic tax credit renewed so they can continue renewing their cities.
“Those tax credits can be utilized to bring back buildings that have been depressed down through the years,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell. “We’re excited about the opportunity for that tax to be renewed.”
“There’s no great city without a great downtown and when you have historic buildings that can’t be renovated without that edge the historic tax credit will give, it’s just hugely important for the growth of our downtown areas,” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
The Big 5 all agree that there needs to be some type of infrastructure to support ridesharing services like Uber. But they don’t want a pending bill in the legislature to undo the work they’ve already done.
“Most cities in Alabama have ordinances already in place that look at vehicle inspection, background checks, requirements for commercial liability insurance,” said Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox. “These things are important to every city. We believe that these agreements are the standard by which we can ensure public safety. We’ve asked both the leadership yesterday and the Governor this morning is that they exempt out the 12 cities in Alabama who have already reached an agreement as it comes to ridesharing. And if other cities want to fall under a state act, that would be fine.”
The mayors also encouraged increasing the cap available for economic development in the Alabama Jobs Act.
The mayors began holding quarterly meetings a few years ago in order to work together and share ideas on how to move their cities and the state forwards.
Residents in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa make up more than one-third of the state’s population.