Editor's note: The headline has been updated to clarify that this is a reader-submitted Letter to the Editor. To submit your own Letter to the Editor, send an email including your name and city of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the municipal elections just a few weeks away, Hoover residents have important choices to make about who will lead our city through the challenges and opportunities to come.
The upcoming elections have turned out to be a serious race, with all seven city council seats contested and three candidates running for mayor. As citizens, we have the great opportunity and responsibility to choose the winners by voting on Aug. 23.
First and foremost, we urge every eligible voter in Hoover to register, spend a few moments learning about the candidates and vote.
When it comes to winning, legendary football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant may be the most respected figure in Alabama. He said this about winning and leadership: "If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you."
These words of wisdom about a football contest have broader implications for the upcoming election contest, particularly for those who seek to lead. We respect and appreciate the time Mayor Gary Ivey has dedicated to public service. However, the question facing voters on Aug. 23 is this: Which mayoral candidate is willing and able not only to run the city but to lead it? To answer that question, it is important for voters to consider Ivey’s record.
Flashback to July 2013: then-Superintendent Andy Craig, school board members and some city councilors had been raising the issue of a school funding shortfall for years. Then, to the surprise of everyone, the school board voted to discontinue school bus service.
Parents were shocked and angered; business owners and residents living near schools raised serious questions about traffic that would result. Some speculated that the move was intended to force low-income and-moderate income children — predominantly minorities living in apartment communities — to move out of Hoover. The decision, and its aftermath, prompted the NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice to weigh in and sparked national media attention portraying the city in a poor light.
To be clear, Mayor Ivey was not directly responsible for the vote to discontinue school bus services and is prohibited from exerting undue influence on the superintendent or school board governance. In fact, he has made that point time and again when asked about Hoover City Schools. Regardless of that, Mayor Ivey had numerous opportunities to demonstrate leadership during the prolonged, divisive and emotional debate over bus service and school funding, and he repeatedly failed to do so.
Parents, grandparents, business owners, teachers, administrators and many other Hoover residents reached out to city hall to express serious concerns about the future of the school system. Standing-room-only crowds attended school board and City Council meetings seeking answers about the decision to discontinue school bus service and the state of school funding overall.
Why had the school board — a board appointed by the City Council — allowed it to come to this? These are serious questions that reasonable people expect their mayor to address. Regrettably, Mayor Ivey did the opposite. Instead of engaging in productive dialogue about our schools, he distanced himself. Instead of listening to his constituents’ concerns, he deflected and dismissed them — repeating the mantra that the school board and superintendent are independent and, as a result, his hands were tied.
As recently as November of 2015, after passing a 2016 budget that included the same $2 million amount the city has given the school system since 2009, Ivey defended the decision not to provide Hoover City Schools with any additional funding, indicating that during the course of extensive conversations with Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy, she had not requested an increase in funding. In response, Murphy respectfully, but firmly, contradicted the mayor’s account.
“I certainly want to be very clear that any and all increases that our city can give to us are wanted and are needed,” Murphy said. “I have fairly well, I think, articulated that need.”
The future of our schools is an issue that is of great importance to us as parents. However, it is only one of the challenges and opportunities that our elected officials will face over the next four years. Based on his track record, it is reasonable to believe that Mayor Ivey would approach new issues and challenges the same way that he has approached concerns about Hoover City Schools.
Case in point: the most recent decision to spend up to $80 million on a Sportsplex with no traffic study, no feasibility study and very little notice to Hoover residents before the project was approved. To be clear, we are not opposed to a Sportsplex, but the mayor has not shared sufficient information that justifies the cost or its impact to our community.
During Mr. Ivey’s eight-year tenure as mayor, he has demonstrated the ability to effectively run the city; however, he has failed to demonstrate the transparent and collaborative leadership that we believe our city needs to move forward. Mr. Ivey will not be getting our vote on Aug. 23.
Jacyn and Shanalee Dombrosky
Jacyn, Shanalee, Christine, Steve, Rachel, Evelyn and Dennis are residents of Hoover’s Ross Bridge community and parents of children attending Hoover City Schools.