What’s in it for West Alabama? Legislature back in session

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Tuesday at noon the Alabama Legislature was back in session and ready to take on issues facing the state. However, one section of the state found itself without much of a voice.

The Black Belt does not have a great deal of representation this year, as areas such as Greene, Perry, Marengo and Sumter are not completely covered. However, some local leaders hope officials will still look out for them.

York Mayor Carolyn Mitchell Gosa said she hoped to find help from a local representative.

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“I think that Mr. Bobby Singleton has a well laid out plan that will be very beneficial,” Gosa said. “Of course it will be very difficult to get as much done as we would like with a lack of representation, but I think he has a well laid out plan and hope he sticks to that.”

Gosa said she felt Singleton was eager to get started and would look out for the entire Black Belt.

“I think he will hit the ground running,” Gosa said. “He has had a lot of people whispering in his ear with no representation so he has a full plate.”

Uniontown Mayor Phillip White, who hopes to join the group in Montgomery in the future, said he hoped the legislature would look into developing the Black Belt to improve the job market.

“I hope mostly that they will help us with community and economic development,” White said. “I am hoping in time they can do that. Of course it will take time for them to help with that. These things do not always happen fast. It takes a lot of planning and work.”

Marengo County Commissioner Ken Tucker said there were three major areas he hoped to see the legislature address for the Black Belt.

“When I look toward progress I normally look to education, economic development and infrastructure,” Tucker said. “If you don’t work on those three it is hard to help Marengo County and the Black Belt.”

Another issue Tucker was concerned with was the General Fund. Tucker said the numbers have not been up to par and he would like to see a plan to correct them.

“We have got to find a way to balance the books,” Tucker said. “You can look at the general fund and see that it is $250-300 million short. We have got to come up with the revenue or find funding or cut costs so we are not adversely impacted by that.”

One item on the legislature’s agenda that directly impacts the area will be the Black Belt Action Commission. Livingston Mayor Thomas Tartt said he is eager to see what type of support the group is given. Tartt said the backing for the commission would say a lot about how far the area can progress in the next year.

“I think the main thing we have an interest in is Gov. Riley’s Black Belt Action Commission,” Tartt said. “We hope that the legislature will give him the authority, power and money to support it.”

Tartt said many positive things could happen for the Black Belt if the commission is able to work with the support of the legislature.

“Through the commission we hope to see jobs and a lot of improvement for the area,” Tartt said. “We also hope they will take a look at transportation, healthcare and some of the other problems we see in rural Black Belt counties.”

White said the most important thing Black Belt citizens and leaders can do now is remain patient. White said it would take time for the improvements to come together.

“None of this can happen overnight,” White said. “We just have to do what we can to start driving the nail. I think if we can get it started we will see a better Black Belt.”