By William C. Singleton III
In 2008, a councilman defeated a three-term mayor to become the new leader of the city of Homewood.
That councilman was Scott McBrayer who defeated then-Mayor Barry McCulley. Now, McBrayer, a two-term mayor seeking re-election, faces a challenge from Ward 1 Place 1 Councilman Michael Hallman for the mayor’s seat. Homewood residents go to the polls Aug. 23 to decide who will represent them as mayor.
Of course, McBrayer, 47, is determined not to let history repeat itself.
“We’ve got a lot of good things going on in Homewood, and we’re not done,” he said “We’ve still got a lot of things to do with our parks and our schools, with our neighborhoods and with our streets, and I intend to see that through.”
But Hallman said he believes he can unseat the incumbent. He is running on a platform of improving fiscal responsibility, honoring neighborhood preservation, improving roads and sidewalks and making government more transparent.
Hallman said he’s concerned about the $104 million debt the city has acquired.
“We need to address this issue so we leave Homewood debt-free for our kids and grandkids,” he said.
He also said he has supported neighborhoods in their fight against developments and institutions that threaten them.
Hallman mentioned the moratorium on Samford University’s rezoning. In a controversial decision, the council in July 2011 voted to allow Samford to rezone property north of its campus from neighborhood preservation district to institution so it could remove six homes and build parking spaces for new dormitories. Samford agreed not to ask to rezone any more neighborhood property for seven years.
“The moratorium on Samford is about to be up,” Hallman said. “There’s going to be a lot of neighborhood preservation issues that the city will have to deal with in the next four years, and I believe in the neighborhood preservation.”
Hallman, 40, said the city could use more transparency, particularly in its budgetary process.
He said the mayor should have to submit his budget in July instead of at the end of August. “That way, the city officials and the council will have time to look at it. And it gives our constituents an opportunity to see what the mayor is presenting and gives them 90 days to look at it,” he said.
In response, McBrayer said city government has been very transparent.
“Anybody in this city knows how to get in touch with me if they have any questions,” he said. “If there was an issue of transparency, the residents would have been complaining about it. There’s no transparency issue here. We’re as open as we possibly can be.”
McBrayer said the city could be debt free if it offered residents no amenities. But making improvements in Homewood costs money, and that often involves debt. McBrayer assured residents that the city is solvent.
“Standard and Poor’s and Moody have given us the highest rating you can have credit wise, and we have no problems borrowing money and no problems repaying any debt we have for projects we have ongoing,” McBrayer said.
At the same time, McBrayer pointed to Homewood’s ranking by Niche.com as the best place to live in Alabama, its top-ranked school system and its walkability.
“We’ve got great parks, great schools, and we continue to draw a lot of good, young couples to Homewood,” he said. “Financially, we’re better than we’ve ever been. We’ve had surpluses the past eight years so we’re doing great, and I just want to keep it going.”