News & Updates
April 29, 2017
Alabama’s leaders have led it into a swamp, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says, and if he’s elected governor in 2018, he’ll lead the state out. “We need to make this state a better place,” he said Friday. “Somebody’s got to step up and do it.”
Battle, who was elected to his third term as Huntsville mayor in 2016 and is running as a Republican, announced his candidacy Thursday. He said in an interview that he can take statewide the process that has made his city Alabama’s fastest-growing urban area.
The goals of that process, he said, are “how to add jobs, how to add better paying jobs, how to bring back some leadership, how to get people to have confidence in this state again, because over the past year people have lost confidence.”
It’s done by having an end game, a way to get there and clear results, Battle said. “You have to explain it time and time again,” he said, “but when we do that, people start to understand there’s a system in place, and this is what we’re trying to do.”
‘In a quagmire’
Battle said Alabama has “been in a quagmire.” He cited state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was suspended and resigned from office; House Speaker Mike Hubbard, a convicted felon; and former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned after a sex scandal.
“All those actions make people lose confidence in their government,” Battle said. “We need to turn that around.”
Battle’s administration has lured thousands of new jobs to Huntsville and Madison County. “What’s going on in Montgomery” has cost Alabama jobs, he said.
“There have been some who have looked and said, ‘Maybe it’s not time for us to get into that,'” Battle said of prospects. “They moved somewhere else. I can’t give you names, but I will guarantee you that if you look and compare us to other places, that’s happening.”
Asked what he can do given Alabama is strapped for money and voters don’t like new taxes, Battle said he faced a similar situation during his first term in Huntsville. America was in a recession and money was tight, he said.
“The first thing you have to do is freeze hiring, and you have to cut outside agency spending by 10 percent, which we did,” he said. “We did all the things to make ourselves fiscally responsible. You’ve got to be fiscally responsible.”
Slowly and surely
You don’t fix every problem the first year, Battle said, “but slowly and surely, you take your challenges and turn them into opportunities and move forward. We’ll take it challenge by challenge by challenge. I’ll tell you I don’t know all the answers, but I but I know the people to ask.”
“You help them with infrastructure,” Battle said of Alabama’s cities. “Look at the industry around the inner sections of I-75 in Georgia versus the industry around the intersections or cloverleafs of I-65 in Alabama. In Georgia, they have distribution centers, restaurants, hotels, employment centers because it’s a 3-, 6-, eight-lane interstate. In Alabama, we’ve got a four-lane that’s over capacity. Every once in a while we have that slowdown that we always have in Calera…. We have to have a transportation system that supports our cities.”
Mobile just won a new Walmart international distribution center, Battle said. Goods will arrive by ship and be trucked to other distribution centers and eventually stores.
“What does that do to I-65, which is already over capacity, when we add all those trucks to I-65?” he asked. “What does it do to I-10 where Mobile already has a problem? We’ve got to take on those challenges.”
‘Buy-in by the public’
He did the same thing with Huntsville roads, Battle said. “We went from place to place and held news conferences at every one and talked about the need for roads and how that was important. By the time we got finished, the public realized we needed to do this, this was something important. There was buy-in by the public. We’ve got to do the same thing in the state.”
Battle said Huntsville voters can be assured that the city’s momentum will continue if he goes to Montgomery. He noted he wouldn’t be sworn in until 2019 – “a long time.” The city’s capital plan, road improvements and downtown development push are working, he said.
“The hard part’s been done, and we’re ready to move forward,” Battle said. “It’s going to take five- to 10 years to build out, and I feel very good about where Huntsville is now.”
Battle also said he won’t “back up an inch” on trumpeting Huntsville’s success even when much of it is based on federal spending at Redstone Arsenal and NASA.
“Missile defense is going to be done somewhere in the U.S.,” Battle said, “and if it’s done in Huntsville, Ala., it’s done cheaper than anywhere it will ever be done in the United States. We save the federal government money.”
“If you look at the last successes we’ve had,” Battle said, “Remington, 2,000 jobs, not Redstone Arsenal; Polaris, 2,000 jobs, not Redstone Arsenal; GE Aviation, 300 jobs, not Redstone Arsenal; Aerojet, 700 jobs, not Redstone Arsenal. You go down the list. We’ve had success because we have had a strategy that has kept us moving.”