We are very blessed to live in south Alabama. We enjoy abundant natural resources, a vibrant culture, a diversified economy centered on a growing port, and wonderful people of all walks of life. The past few years south Alabama has realized many economic triumphs. Our container terminal consistently expands by double digits, we build wide body aircraft at AIRBUS and Navy ships at AUSTAL, we have a thriving petro-chemical industry, and assorted manufacturing. Downtown Mobile is in a remarkable renaissance and lovely new subdivisions are popping up on both sides of Mobile Bay, but we still face many challenges and not all communities are sharing in the progress and prosperity.
Baldwin and Mobile Counties account over a third of the state’s revenues, but always seem to be at the end of the line in Montgomery when competing for state resources. Our port is the beating heart of Alabama’s economy, but it seems to struggle to be noticed. We need a State Senator that will champion our port. Too many citizens in certain areas are disappointed and frustrated because they feel like they have been left behind. They long for representation that is accessible, that will listen to their concerns, and advocate for their needs – someone that will be in the community and part of the community. The people simply want to know their voices are heard.
Our top priority must be education reform. While there are some bright spots, overall Alabama is essentially last in education and failing too many children. Alabama needs real school choice and school vouchers where the money follows the child and the parents have control of their education. If a school is unsafe or failing, the parents no matter their socio-economic status should have the choice to provide their children a good education. This competition will allow good schools to thrive and failing schools to improve. Public education will not be defunded but will rather improve as we reduce the bureaucratic burdens and remove external intrusions by returning control to local school boards and parents.
One of the biggest impediments to continued economic growth is producing a skilled work force; companies are starving for workers. Community colleges and vocational training programs are stepping up, but kids can’t wait until 19 or 20; and we need more programs. These programs must be expanded and pushed down into high school, so kids at 14 or 15 know about the tremendous opportunities and are afforded access to become productive workers by 18 not 25. Many skilled workers earn more than college graduates; our economy needs them!
Crime is a grave matter in every community. While we must enforce the laws and keep violent offenders off the streets, much of our crime problems come from homelessness and substance abuse which are mostly rooted in mental health issues. Our mental healthcare system is failing the homeless and indigent; it must be reformed to ensure the allocated monies get to those most in need and not just relegate these troubled people to ever expanding prisons.
Our economic growth is surely positive, but it brings new problems if our infrastructure doesn’t keep up. We have aging water and sewer infrastructure that must be updated to serve existing customers and be able to expand to serve new residents. We need roads and bridges to carry the booming commerce coming through our ports, so we must get the new I-10 bridge built sooner rather than later. But we also need roads and drainage improved for people to get to work. And we need broadband internet available to everyone; it’s the future of commerce.
While the future is bright, it won’t just happen for everyone without aggressive advocacy, strategic planning, and determined leadership. South Alabama’s State Senate District 33 needs new energetic leadership that will engage all the citizens in every community, understand them and their needs, and then work tirelessly to give them the representation they deserve and have longed for. The people need someone to show up.
The first objective of our campaign was to give the voters of District 33 a real choice they have not had at the ballot box in a long time. Then the priority was to offer a candidacy that will listen to the people and work for the people. We will work with folks to find solutions and then ensure south Alabama gets the requisite support from Montgomery, so I humbly ask for your vote November 8th for Alabama State Senate District 33.
South Alabama is a special place. Spanish explorer, Alonso Álvarez de Pineda, knew it in 1519 when he named Mobile Bay the “Bay of the Holy Spirit.” There is a special spirit in the genteel people of south Alabama. God fearing and hardworking, they’re polite, they’re helpful, they’re respectful, and most of all they love their neighbors. There is more that binds us than divides when we come together in common cause for our communities. There is nothing we can’t accomplish when we show up and work together. United We Rise!
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).
Pete Riehm is a candidate for Alabama State Senate District 33. He is the host of Common Sense Radio heard 8 pm every Thursday on FMTalk106.5 or streaming at fmtalk1065.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or read all his columns at http://www.renewamerica.com/.© Pete Riehm
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.