2020 VISION: TUSCALOOSA MAYOR HAS BIG VISIONS FOR CITY
This is Part 1 in a two-part series. Part 2 will be broadcast Sunday, Jan. 12.
It’s a new year, and just like people with their New Year’s resolutions, municipalities are kicking off their plans for 2020.
In Tuscaloosa, Mayor Walt Maddox has several things on his mind, from fighting crime to continuing along with his Elevate Tuscaloosa plan.
“I think our vision is really encased in Elevate Tuscaloosa,” Maddox said. “Last year when we laid out this bold idea that we have to invest these dollars into elevating our community to be relevant in the coming decades, that’s been our vision.”
This year’s $235 million budget assigns $165 million for the general fund, $56 million for water and sewer and $15 million for Elevate Tuscaloosa.
But that $15 million is small potatoes, because Maddox said he predicts Elevate Tuscaloosa will be generating $500 million worth in investment over the next 30 years.
At Tuesday’s City Finance Committee meeting, the committee gave the OK for spending $110,000 on a feasibility study that will determine if a conference center or athletic facility has a place in Tuscaloosa.
Last year’s announcement of the Saban Center reflects the idea of education, the economy and the experience are all important factors that will help Tuscaloosa dominate in the 2020s, Maddox said.
Maddox is also making a commitment to crack down on crime.
Tuscaloosa saw 15 homicides within city limits in 2019, nearly double 2018’s eight homicides. The mayor set aside $1.2 million for public safety this year, but said overall crime is down.
“Last year we saw a spike in violent crimes, and that means we ned to be active in doing something about it,” Maddox said. “My budget provided six new police officers, allowed us to invest into a new ballistic technology system. We have invested more than $1 million in a cyber intelligence unit to use technology in fighting crime.”
Maddox said new announcements leading to public safety improvements are coming soon.
But with all the good happening, Maddox said there are still plenty of challenges. The Department of Corrections is under a federal court order to add new employees throughout the state. The Pardons and Paroles Department is underfunded. The Juvenile Justice System is not performing as well as it should. The state’s mental health system is fractured.
“All those things that are not the responsibility of the city are falling on the people of Tuscaloosa, so we’re going to continue to work with our state’s legislature to get them to address those issues while we continue to make these key significant investments,” Maddox said.
The city is getting much-welcomed assistance from the faith-based community, the mayor said, but it also depends on its residents to keep issues at bay.
“We need people in our community to not resolve conflicts with weapons, and we’re at a point in our history where there’s more accessibility to firearms and those firearms are being used to resolve disputes,” Maddox said. “And we just cannot accept that in Tuscaloosa.”
On Sunday, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox will talk about his 2020 Vision for riverfront development, renovations at the Tuscaloosa Police Department Headquarters and his search for a new police chief.