Election season is heating up and hundreds of people turned out for a Mayoral debate Monday evening at Grissom High School. Mayor Tommy Battle is facing two opponents, former Mayor Loretta Spencer and Community activist Jackie Reed, in his bid for re-election.
The event was sponsored by the South Huntsville Civic Association. Candidates answered questions on a variety of topics including the renewal of the education property tax.
All candidates agreed that the renewal of the 6.5 mill tax is greatly needed in order for the city's school system to flourish.
Mayor Tommy Battle says fiscal responsibility is key to city government and has used the city's AAA credit rating as an example of his good leadership; but former Mayor Loretta Spencer says Battle didn't have much to do with it. Battle took office in 2008, on the heels of the Spencer administration. The AAA credit rating was awarded a short time later.
"I don't know why the mayor continues to do that because it took us over two years. You are judged on your debt service, how you pay your debt down, and what your reserve is. I had gotten the reserve to over 22 million dollars," said Spencer.
But Battle disagrees saying he went to New York to speak before bond rating analysts and was able to secure the rating.
"They look for fiscal leadership and we had fiscal leadership and we got the AAA bond rating and we've had it for three years in a row and it's kind of hard for somebody else to claim it," Battle said.
Also a hot topic, the Huntsville Housing Authority and the controversial state law that requires the Authority give advance notice of property it intends to purchase. Nelson Chatelain says this issue is one of the main reasons he came to the debate.
"I'm concerned, very concerned, about the Huntsville Housing Authority. They seem to have somewhat of a free reign," said Chatelain. "I can't imagine what's wrong with the public knowing what is going on in their community," he continued.
After senate bill 205 passed the city received a letter from the Housing and Urban Development office saying the bill could violate fair housing and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"We were put in the middle; the city of Huntsville was put in the middle. You have a state law and you have a federal law that are in conflict with each other, at least they could be in conflict with each other," Battle explained. "We asked that HUD look at this and tell us is this an impediment to fair housing? Does it violate fair housing? Does it violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964?" he continued.
Both Spencer and Reed say they are in support of the state law.
"Being chairman of the Planning Commission through the 80's we always notified people of zoning changes because one thing some people only have is their house, that property, and I understand communication," said Spencer.
"I would say that I would have to support the bill that was passed through the legislative because I believe the Housing Authority and the city of Huntsville has gotten way too friendly in the past few years," said Reed.
The municipal elections are August 28th.