We want a divorce.
It’s been a good 200 years, but now it is time for us to go our separate ways. Ever since Alabama was created, we have always been used as your piggy bank, and now it is time to cut that spigot off. The I-10 Mobile River Bridge project and the resulting $6 each way toll was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Mobile and Baldwin Counties generate over 30% of all revenue that goes into the state coffers, yet we routinely get looked over when it comes to projects and needs of our area, coincidently projects that could help us generate even more revenue for state coffers.
When the devastating tornadoes struck West Alabama in 2011, our legislative delegations didn’t hesitate to step up to the plate and help the victims recover. When we had our own disaster just a few years later, the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill, not one other area of the state stood up for our defense, quite the opposite, when BP settled with the state of Alabama for economic damage claims, all the other areas of the state teamed up to ensure that Coastal Alabama, the area that not only was the only area of the state to be impacted by the oil spill but the area that generated the economic activity that the State of Alabama was able to sue BP for, was left with the short straw from that money. When all was said and done, Coastal Alabama received less than 20% of the total funds received from that settlement.
Ironically, if the state legislature had not raided our settlements funds, the state could have dedicated those funds to expanding our Interstate 10 Bayway and building a new bridge of the Mobile River that would probably have been enough money to build that project without any tolls at all. Which brings us to our second gripe. The state department of transportation wanted to use a tolling scheme to build our new bridge instead. That tolling scheme could have seen Coastal Alabama residents and commuters shouldering over 60% of what could have turned out to be 10 times return on the initial investment to the private investor. Did the state do the same thing to Birmingham to rebuild the I-59/I-20 overpass? Did the state require that for the I-565 expansion in Huntsville? The answer to both of those questions is no they did not. As a matter of fact, the state and federal governments invested more money into those projects in real dollars than it ever was going to do for the Mobile project. This would have hindered our growth both at the beaches and the port. It would have companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon, both of whom have recently invested in Warehouse and Distribution projects in the Mobile area, think twice about investing future similar projects.
When the state of Alabama does invest in projects down here, it is either for the pet projects of state leaders or projects of high profile significance, that will make the politicians look good when they come to town to wear hard hats and break ground. Two projects that received BP oil spill money down here that were necessary expenditures where the restoration of the Governor’s Beach House, a pet project of former Gov. Robert Bentley, especially after his wife got their beach house in their divorce settlement, and the restoration and remodeling of the Gulf State Park Convention Center and Hotel complex. One of the pet projects of ALDOT director John Cooper that would be an unnecessary expenditure of funds would be building a third bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway whose only purpose would be to take traffic from an east-west county road and dump it into the Gulf State Park. More lane access over the Intercoastal Waterway is needed, but this project is unnecessary. Instead, they should be focused on building a second bridge span over the canal on the Foley Beach Express and eliminating the toll there. Also, if there is a third bridge span needed over the canal, a better place for it would be near Wolf Bay.
Many detractors from my arguments will say that the State Docks down here got an infusion of cash from the recently passed gas tax to widen and deepen the ship channel into and out of Mobile. They are correct. However, that money would not have been included in the Rebuild Alabama Act if it wasn’t for the fact that the director of the Alabama State Docks wasn’t able to successfully convince legislators from other parts of the state that that activity at the port has a positive direct economic impact on their areas of the state.
Alabama is even further hampering our growth in tourism done here by superimposing their moral beliefs on us by not allowing us to have Casino and Lottery Gambling. This would not only lead to a construction boom down on our coast but would aid our efforts to get a second and third cruise ship out of our port.
There are many other examples that can be given to illustrate why we believe we are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to the state of Alabama, but that list us too long for this space. Any good separation movement isn’t complete without a list of grievances, and this starts our list. It’s time for the Coast to say goodbye to Alabama and either go at it alone as our own state or team up with the coastal areas of the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Mississippi to form a new state, which would encompass to the old territory of the Colony/Republic of West Florida. So, it is time to bid farewell and go our separate ways. The only question that remains is will the rest of the state allow us to leave amicably or will they make this an ugly fight to the end?