Sunday Discussion: Candidate Endorsements


On this Sunday Discussion I am going to make my endorsements for the August 28th municipal elections in Alabama.  I am making my picks for mayor and city council in Anniston and Oxford and my mayor endorsement for Alexander City.  I first want to talk about the elections in Anniston and Oxford.  I have talked about the need to vote out ALL mayors and city councilmen in every city in Calhoun County.  This has made many politicians not happy with me Nathan Young or this blog Geek Alabama.  This could be a reason why I am sitting here in the apartment unemployed for 14 months now.  But I really want to get rid of this good ole boy politics system that has plagued Alabama for a long time.  And a good way to start this is to vote out all of the current politicians.  Many of my endorsements are not currently serving in office.

City of Anniston

Anniston has 11 mayor candidates running.  So the chances for a runoff is great after August 28th.  I am endorsing two mayor candidates who I feel like has the best chances to move Anniston forward without getting involved in the good ole boy politics system.  My first mayor endorsement is Vaughn Stewart.

Vaughn Stewart has been a long time member of the Anniston community who has served in numerous organizations and was a successful municipal judge in the city.  Mr. Stewart has the skills needed to serve as mayor in Anniston.  He would “remodel” the Model City by bringing in new businesses and revitalize downtown.  He would develop a plan to bring down crime and to improve the city school system.  But more importantly he would clean up city government and make sure the mayor and the city council will work together!  I think Vaughn Stewart would be a great mayor for Anniston.

My other mayor endorsement is Ann Welch.  Ann Welch is a business owner in downtown Anniston and she knows the reasons why downtown is stagnant and she has the plans to bring downtown back!  Mrs. Welch would make it easier for a business to locate to Anniston.  She would make sure the crime rate in Anniston is lowered and the schools in Anniston are top performing.  I hope both candidates are in the runoff after August 28th.  One of the issues I want to bring up is our roads.  Whoever becomes mayor in Anniston needs to pressure public works to better oversee our roads and traffic lights.  The links and the video below will show you what I mean.

http://geekalabama.com/2012/08/15/roadscapes-wednesday-broke-traffic-lights/

http://geekalabama.com/2012/08/23/roadscapes-wednesday-signal-problems/

My ward candidate endorsements are simple.  I want the right candidates to be elected into office who would work together and not fight each other and be arrested.  I endorse Andy Hatley in Ward 1 because he would work together with other councilmen and cares about animal welfare.  In Ward 2 I endorse David Reddick because he would work hard to bring Anniston back.  In Ward 3 I endorse Seyram Selase because we do not need Ben Little re-elected.  And in Ward 4 I endorse Millie Harris because she is involved in the community and cares about animal welfare.  Here’s the rundown:

  • Mayor:  Vaughn Stewart or Ann Welch
  • Ward 1: Andy Hatley
  • Ward 2: David Reddick
  • Ward 3: Seyram Selase
  • Ward 4: Millie Harris

City of Oxford

The City of Oxford Alabama has been doing well in the last few years.  Leon Smith has been the mayor in Oxford for the last seven terms (28 years) but most of the jobs that have been brought in has been retail or restaurant jobs.  Sure it’s a job but they pay very low rates!  I looked at the Oxford Alabama Wikipedia page and it said the poverty rate in Oxford is around 10%.  And for people under 18 the poverty rate is around 13%.  This is unacceptable!  (These rates are higher in Anniston)  So with all of these facts this is why I endorse candidate Cristy Humphries.  She held a rally at Lamar Field where former Gov. Bob Riley endorsed her and Steve Stephens from 97.9 WVOK was there!

Cristy Humphries answered the call from several people in the community to run for mayor.  She will focus on the 3 E’s:  Education, Economic Development, and Energy to Ensure Success!  She will work hard to bring businesses with higher paying jobs into Oxford.  She will make sure the schools are preparing students for the 21st century workforce.  She will oversee a city that has grown and make sure the growth is handled properly.  And most importantly; she will work with the City of Anniston so the entire metro area can grow!  Something the current mayor does not do much of right now.

For my Oxford Alabama city council candidates I endorse for Place 1 Phil Gardner; Ken Rollins for Place 2; Mike Henderson for Place 3; Greg Thrower for Place 4; and Steve Waits for Place 5.  The biggest thing that needs to happen to move this region forward is Oxford and Anniston working together to recruit and grow.  If we don’t do that this region will slowly fade away.  Here’s the rundown:

  • Mayor: Cristy Humphries
  • Place 1: Phil Gardner
  • Place 2: Ken Rollins
  • Place 3: Mike Henderson
  • Place 4: Greg Thrower
  • Place 5: Steve Waits

Since I am focusing on Oxford they really need to focus on their road issues as well.  Many people have commented on how bad the traffic light timing is on Quintard Dr. and Leon Smith Parkway.  Plus several roads such as Bynum Blvd. and Friendship Road needs widening!

 

http://geekalabama.com/2012/08/15/roadscapes-wednesday-broke-traffic-lights/

I-20 west ramp at AL-21 needs a light!

Leon Smith Parkway Lights needs to be re-timed!

City of Alexander City

Why I am endorsing a mayor candidate in Alexander City?  For one I lived there for half my life; and two I graduated from high school there.  So I do care about the city that is going down the drain.  The city has lost over 10,000 jobs from the Russell downsizing.  The city school system has a debt of $27 million and the city code officials are out of control.  The city is so broke that they are repaving their roads in tar and gravel!  This is a city that is out of control!  And the city and the tax money revenue needs to be brought under control.  If it wasn’t for Lake Martin; Alex City would be dead right now in my opinion.

So I am endorsing candidate Mark Lamborne for mayor.  Mark Lamborne is a 30-year business owner and Chairman of the Alexander City Economic Development Board.  Mr. Lamborne would provide the leadership necessary for Alexander City to be a vibrant, affordable, and ethnically diverse city where the citizens feel safe, enjoy their neighborhoods and have access to their city government.  And I feel Mark Lamborne would not be influenced by the good ole boy politics system.  I hope Alexander City will eventually come back and be the shining light it once was.

Here comes the road issue; if Alex City wants to grow and recruit businesses it needs to address U.S. 280.  What business is going to locate to a city along a highway with numerous traffic lights in between?  I feel like Alex City is going to have to pressure ALDOT and the state to upgrade U.S. 280 to a freeway or nothing is going to happen.  Plus the city needs to quit repaving with tar and gravel.  It makes everything look ugly!

http://geekalabama.com/2012/06/20/roadscapes-wednesday-tar-and-gravel/

So there you have it!  Go vote on Tuesday August 28th if you live in a city.  I hope my candidate picks win or I might be the one leaving the Anniston/Oxford area for good!  I hope I do not have to call U-Haul and rent a truck for the permanent departure from the Anniston/Oxford area because I can’t find a job.

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Seven Questions With Vaughn Stewart


Update:  This is the series of questions that I have sent out to the Anniston mayor candidates that I have been able to contact so far.

Today’s seven questions is with Vaughn Stewart.  Mr. Stewart is currently running for the mayor seat in Anniston Alabama.  Vaughn Stewart is fourth-generation Annistonian, and is a member of the Class of 1974 of Anniston High School.  He returned to Anniston and became a Municipal Judge for fifteen years and was known as the “GED and jobs judge.”  Vaughn has contributed thousands of volunteer hours to community organizations and boards.  For more information on Vaughn Stewart for mayor go to: http://vaughnstewart.com/.

1. With the extremely high crime rate in the City of Anniston. What are you willing to do to help lower crime in Anniston and to keep police from leaving Anniston?

It’s time to take back our streets. To accomplish this, we must increase the size of our police force. Some may say that we already have enough police officers in Anniston. I couldn’t disagree more. After fifteen years on the bench as your City Judge, I know that nothing deters crime like more boots on the ground. Our police officers deserve our support and our citizens deserve peace of mind.

When I’m Mayor, we won’t stop there. We’ll keep students out of trouble with after-school programs and engage the community with neighborhood associations. Moreover, we will institute community policing to foster positive interaction between police officers and youth. A partnership between APD and PARD wherein police officers volunteer as mentors would go a long way to improve this relationship.

 

We’ll also attack the causes of crime with stronger schools and better jobs. Employment both raises self-esteem and decreases the need to commit crimes. The three pillars of my campaign—safe streets, steady jobs, and strong schools—must be addressed together. Safe streets stimulate more jobs which, in turn, decrease crime. Stronger schools keep students in school by affording them a quality education. This negates the need for criminal behavior and greatly improves their job prospects. A better educated workforce stimulates economic development.

 

As Anniston’s municipal judge for fifteen years, it has been my pleasure to work alongside our public safety officers. They are professionals and deserve the support of the entire community. The Anniston police and fire departments, as well as the EMS, work cohesively as a unit. Their respective leaders are on the page; as Mayor, I will work toward maintaining this dynamic.

 

Public safety is one of the most important and fundamental services a city can offer its citizens. As Mayor, I will ensure that our public safety officers are equipped with the technology and training they need to protect themselves while they protect us. These officers put themselves in harm’s way every day for us. I salute them.


2. What are your plans to help the Anniston City Schools from failing the kids? What are your plans to keep kids engaged outside of school?
 
The education of our students is my first priority. Indeed, it is one of the primary reasons I ran for this office. In this country, education is the great equalizer. As the first person in my family to earn a college degree, I live it every single day. Education is the best investment a city can make. On average, Americans with a bachelor’s degree earn roughly a million dollars more over their lifetime than students with a high school diploma.

 

In Anniston, of course, we must first ensure that our students receive a high school diploma. Our public school’s dropout rate is unacceptable. Dropouts earn only half as much annual income as high school graduates. They are also much more likely to experience a lower quality of life than their peers with a diploma.

 

As a judge for fifteen years, I know first-hand the negative impact a high dropout rate can have on a community. Anniston’s high crime rate mirrors its high dropout rate. In the courtroom, I listened to youth with tears in their eyes recount their biggest mistake in their early years: not remaining in school. To end this pernicious legacy and give our students an opportunity to achieve the American Dream, I will propose a Summit on Education.

 

For too long, the City Council has skirted the issue of education in Anniston. It’s time to make education a priority. It’s time to address the issue head on, admit it is a problem, and rally the entire city around strengthening our schools. Our students deserve a City Council and City School Board that work in concert toward making the Anniston City Schools the best in the state. As Mayor, I will ensure they receive no less.

 

I strongly support the following proven education approaches to strengthen our schools:

  • Investing in early childhood education
  • Intervention programs aimed at at-risk student population
  • Strong, individualized curriculum with career-learning component
  • Strong and effective vocational training for students who choose not to pursue college
  • Recognition and support of excellence in teaching
  • Enforcement of Code of Conduct to ensure that learning opportunities are not disrupted
  • Advanced technology in the classrooms
  • Encouragement of academic clubs, math and sciences, for students and field trips
  • Development of a city-wide reading initiative for both youth and adults.

I was afforded many opportunities as a youth in the 60’s and early 70’s in Anniston. Sadly, these opportunities are no longer available to our young people. I feel strongly that we can and must do a better job in youth development. As Mayor, I will implement a Youth Advisory Council to provide feedback and recommendations to me on youth programs. I will request the Director of PARD, the Director of the Boys & Girls Club, and other youth directors to collaborate with the Youth Advisory Council.

 

Anniston’s youth want decision-making opportunities to develop their own activities and programs. I’ve witnessed this passion first-hand at the Carver Community Center. There, with the aid of the R.E.A.L. MEN of Anniston organization, a group of middle schoolers meet weekly to develop a series of youth activities. This process builds self-confidence, a sense of responsibility, and an understanding of their capacity to make a difference.

 

I would also like to implement a “Youth Leadership Anniston,” modeled after the successful Chamber of Commerce program, but targeted at Anniston youth. This group of young people would learn about their hometown, take frequent field trips, and be exposed to different educational opportunities. These youth would also serve as the official hosts and hostesses of Anniston when visitors arrive for special events.

 

Youth development matters to not only the youth themselves, but also to our community. As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

 

3. What are your plans to clean up corruption in city government? What are you willing to do to make the departments inside city government-run more efficiently?
My goal as Mayor is to promote an efficient, effective and economical city government. Here are a few accountability measures I will implement:
  • Utilization of benchmarks in performance measurement
  • Provide an open and transparent City Hall
  • Adhere to legal and regulatory requirements
  • Obtain and use citizen surveys
  • Obtain and use business surveys
  • Balance the City budget
  • Development of City website improvements to reduce City staffers time and expense
  • Move toward paperless applications in all city departments
 

Lastly, I strongly support term limits for Mayor and City Council. Too often, elected officials get comfortable in their offices and forget why they’re there: to represent us. Term limits ensure that new ideas and energy are regularly injected into our city’s leadership. 


4. What are your plans to recruit new jobs and businesses into Anniston? What are your ideas to transform the downtown area into a place people would want to visit?
 

Anniston needs more jobs and careers in order to grow the tax base and offer the quality of life Annistonians deserve.

 

First, we must support our local businesses. Annistonians already benefit from a passionate local business community. We must ensure these businesses continue to survive and thrive. I will create tax incentives to encourage local residents to “buy local” during the Back to School and holiday seasons. Moreover, I will start a marketing campaign to inform residents about our local businesses and the benefits of buying local. Lastly, I will initiate a Business Visitation Team that reaches out to local businesses to obtain accurate and up-to-date-information about their views and needs. As a business and real estate attorney, I know first-hand the challenges that local businesses face. Contacting City Hall should not be another one.

 

Secondly, we must encourage local entrepreneurs. As Mayor, I will work together with the Northeast Alabama Entrepreneur System to support new businesses. I will implement classes and provide seed money to budding entrepreneurs. I will also encourage property owners to offer short-term rental space to new business owners to help them get off the ground.

 

Lastly, we must recruit new businesses to the area. As Mayor, I will serve as salesperson-in-chief in our recruiting efforts.

 

I strongly believe that as the downtown goes, so goes the town. A vibrant downtown reflects the overall condition of a community. Unfortunately, Downtown Anniston is a shell of its former self. With a 65% vacancy rate, our downtown is stagnant and in desperate need of new leadership. A revitalized downtown will immeasurably strengthen the quality-of-life of Anniston. Anniston must chart a course of action for downtown that includes private funding sources and explicit benchmarks. We must seek out private and public grants to make our dream of a vibrant downtown a reality.

 

For decades, my parents ran two small businesses downtown. I have fond memories of Anniston’s bustling downtown and believe that with the right leadership, downtown can be vibrant again. My vision for downtown includes:

 

  1. A walkable and bikeable downtown;
  2. A mixed use of retail, office, entertainment, food and housing;
  3. Façade improvements;
  4. Loft apartments;
  5. User friendly code enforcement system;
  6. Attractive window displays;
  7. Extended store hours;
  8. Series of signs on bypass leading motorists to Downtown;
  9. New Community Theatre;
  10. Specialty Clustered Retail;
  11. Aggressive Marketing;
  12. Grant & Tax Incentives
  13. Outdoor Seating
  14. Public Art
  15. Entertainment

5. How do you plan to bring the people of Anniston together? What are your plans to keep people and neighboring communities engaged and working together?

 

Anniston must become one city with one vision. It’s time for all citizens of Anniston to rally around a common purpose to overcome the barriers impeding our prosperity. Controversy and conflict must and will end under my leadership. The myths and mysteries must and will cease.

 

I strongly believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant. As such, I will make transparency a priority so that vital information flows freely to all citizens. This will allow citizens to make informed choices based upon facts, not fiction.

 

The strategic planning process will undoubtedly serve as an impetus for unification. Citizens from every ward will be invited to formulate Anniston’s vision. Like in a town meeting, citizens will be presented with information about Anniston’s past and present so that they can chart its future. All organizations will also be invited so that they too can work interdependently and not independently.

 

As an attorney and a judge for 29 years, I have hands-on experience in consensus building. I know how to bring people with different understandings of a problem to the table and work for a common good. Everyone can agree that the City Council’s main mission is to improve the quality of life for all Annistonians. However, conflict arises in the best means to achieve this end. Too often, city leaders operate independently of each other on special projects. While their intentions may be noble, the city misses opportunities because important stakeholders are not consulted. This results in stagnation across the city.

 

6. There are talks of transforming Anniston into a eco-tourism hotspot. What are your plans to promote biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities in Anniston?

 

Tourism creates jobs and revenue. According to a recent study, each dollar spent by tourists yields twenty-five cents in salary increases for residents. Simply put, tourists pay taxes that can directly fund our schools, roads, and public safety strategies.

 

Smart cities take advantage of existing assets, which Anniston has done with our museums, gardens, and mountain bike trail. We must thank visionaries in the private sector for their leadership in those efforts. Our rich history, both civil and military, our majestic mountains, our Amtrak service, and our convenient geographical locations are all tremendous tourism assets. It will take strong leadership to take advantage of these resources and make Anniston a desirable tourist destination.


7. What are your plans to help improve infrastructure in Anniston? What will you do to our streets to make pedestrians, cyclists, and other people safe?

 
Anniston must become a safe and fun place to walk and bike. I support bike lanes and expanded sidewalks. I also favor fines for any motorist who drives too closely to a cyclist. 
 
This where you can add any remarks and make a statement on why the citizens should vote for you on August 28th.
 

There are several great candidates in this mayoral race. However, I think that my educational and professional experience uniquely qualify me for this position. I have lived my entire life here and remember when Anniston was considered one of the best cities in the entire state.

I have the experience to build a consensus to get things done. I have the vision to focus the city’s attention on real solutions with proven records of success. I have the intellect required to study the policy minutiae and forge the best path. I have the strength to stand up to any leader who prizes personal agendas over Anniston’s future.

And I have the character to make Annistonians proud to live here.

Vaughn Stewart for Mayor Launch Party


UPDATE:  Full text speech from the launch party is now available at the link.  http://vaughnstewart.com/2012/05/kickoff-speech-full-text/

On Tuesday night I went to Classic on Noble for the launch party for one of the candidates running for mayor of Anniston.  Many people turned out to hear Vaughn Stewart and guests speak about why Mr. Stewart should be the mayor of Anniston.  Vaughn Stewart threw his hat into the ring after he had a gut feeling telling him he needed to run.  In fact it was not on his bucket list to run for mayor of Anniston.

Vaughn Stewart decided to run for mayor of Anniston because he is worried for the city’s future.  He said that Anniston is traveling down a highway and they have lost their way.  And that Anniston needs to be treated with dignity and respect.  One of his most memorable quotes of the night was “Anniston needs someone to be real and honest.”  Something the city really needs!

Mr. Stewart said that Anniston is in real trouble.  Anniston has had a declining population, poverty, high crime, high dropout rate, and an uninviting business climate.  And it’s time for Anniston to turn a corner.  Another great quote that got a lot of reaction was “It’s time to remodel the model city.”  Mr. Stewart said all cities need three things; strong schools, safe streets, and steady jobs for all citizens. (still looking for work for 11 months now)

Mr. Stewart said that the school board and the city council needs to be on the same page. He also believes that the high school drop out rate parallels the high crime rate.  He also criticized the current leaders of the city for putting down the police.  He believes that the police deserves more support and respect from the city.  Everyone can agree with that.  He also wants city leaders to put their personal agendas aside.  (are you listening Ben Little)

Vaughn Stewart said that he would hold free submits focused on business, schools, and crime where all the citizens can come together and speak their mind.  He believes that Anniston can become one city that people can visit, live, and to raise kids.  And he does not tolerate the high crime rate seen in the city in the last five years.  He believes that Anniston will not attract new jobs without cleaning up the corruption and the city must change the business climate to be attractive to new and existing businesses.

Vaughn Stewart also wants the citizens of Anniston to believe again.  He wants to see Anniston to be the vibrant city it once was but it’s going to take the people working together to make that happen.  Overall Vaughn Stewart has some good plans for Anniston.  To learn more about Vaughn Stewart go to http://vaughnstewart.com/.  And at the end of the launch party.  The kids from the Community Actors’ Studio Theater performed some songs.  They are very cute!  More info. at http://www.castalabama.com/