Author: Dale Liesch

HUD seeks $1.2 million from MHB for conflict of interest

The Mobile Housing Board will take a $1.2 million hit, after U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials found that a conflict of interest did exist between the board’s nonprofit arm, Mobile Development Enterprises, and a contractor hired to make apartments ready to rent. The conflict occurred when the board hired Superior Masonry to do work on some of the agency’s apartments, Pettway said. Superior Masonry is owned by Frank Seltzer, the half-brother of MDE President and State Rep. Adline Clarke. The conflict was mentioned in detail, as part of a scathing HUD Office of Inspector General report...

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City sells youth employment plan to local businesses

Starla Pierce has opened doors for herself since transferring to Citronelle High School as a sophomore. For the past two summers, she has gained experience through an internship at the Outokumpu stainless steel facility in Calvert. The McIntosh resident and CHS senior will soon decide whether to start college immediately upon graduation, or begin working at the mill and take advantage of its tuition reimbursement program. “It changed my life,” Pierce said of the Mobile County Public School System’s signature academy program. “The internship basically helped me to do everything I thought I wouldn’t be able to do.” While a student at CHS, Pierce was able to take advantage of the school’s signature academy for industrial manufacturing. As a result, she has worked in quality control at the mill in various departments for the past two summers. During the experience she said she learned she can “work with adults and do what they do.” “The experience changed me,” she said of the internship. “My self-esteem skyrocketed.” Building on successes similar to Pierce’s, the city met with business leaders on Dec. 12 to discuss a new youth employment initiative, which would not only hire interns in city departments but would also help facilitate the signature academy program — as well as the SWEET-P program through the Mobile Housing Board’s nonprofit arm, Mobile Development Enterprises. The Youth Empowered for Success, or...

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AL Supreme Court rules for neighborhood in street closure case

After a legal battle that lasted almost a year, a group of Mobile residents will not be able to stop the Airmont Property Owners Association from closing off access to Azalea Road. In a decision reached Friday without an opinion, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed an earlier Mobile County Circuit Court decision to allow the closure, which the City Council approved in January 2015. Airmont Property Owners Association president Eaton Barnard said the vote and subsequent ruling was mainly about safety concerns for the neighborhood’s residents. “Mobile will be safer because of this ruling,” he said. “Crime will go down as a result.” Barnard said everyone in the neighborhood supported the move, but the group got resistance from a number of neighbors in adjoining communities. Dr. Janice Morton Hunte, who was the named plaintiff in the suit, raised concerns in a letter to Mayor Sandy Stimpson and councilors before the initial vote. In the letter, she questioned the amount of crime the neighborhood suffered. Other opponents said the move would create a safety issue and be inconvenient for them. Meanwhile proponents of the move have said all along that crime was the primary factor in the request. The closure was not intended to be exclusionary, Barnard said, but rather for safety. “It was to stop or substantially deter crime taking place,” he said. In fact, Barnard said the crime...

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Mobile Bloomberg team up for innovation award

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized the Mobile Innovation Team’s Blight Index as part of the 100 programs named as semifinalists in this year’s Innovations in American Government Awards competition. The Mobile Innovation Team will compete to be named a finalist in the competition and have the chance to be awarded the $100,000 grand prize in Cambridge, Mass. this spring. They advanced from a pool of more than 500 applications from all 50 states and were selected by the innovations award evaluators as examples of novel and effective action whose work has had significant impact, and who they believe can be replicated across the country and the world. “I am very proud of what the Innovation Team has accomplished in such a short period of time,” said Mayor Stimpson. “They have worked closely with other City Departments to identify the scope of our blight problem and near-term solutions. Because of their hard work and collaboration, we are well on our way to revitalizing neighborhoods every single Mobilian can be proud of.” Through funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Mobile Innovation Team is the first in America to develop a comprehensive, digitally-mapped inventory of every blighted residential structure. To conduct the city-wide survey, the team utilized Instagram to geo-locate blighted properties while documenting the impact to residents of...

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Council committee takes up street closure debate

In a meeting that at times pitted neighbor against neighbor, the Mobile City Council’s public safety committee heard from residents in favor and against closing public streets with security gates. Twenty-one speakers from a number of neighborhoods across the city voiced their opinions on the issue today, as committee members assured those in attendance that councilors were far from making a final decision. “We had an opportunity and I’m really glad we took it,” Councilwoman Bess Rich, committee chairwoman said. “I don’t believe the committee will make any recommendation at this point. It’s too early in the process.” The...

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