Tree silhouettes along Black Warrior Riv

BEST Plan

I want Tuscaloosa to be the BEST city in Alabama!

I have a vision for Tuscaloosa: I want our city to be the BEST! I want Tuscaloosa to be a city that people come to, not one they move away from.  I want our city to have the best neighborhoods, the best jobs, the best facilities and the best opportunities for families and people of all ages to enjoy.  I want us to have not just one of, but the best school system in the state.  I want us to become the Gateway to the Black Belt not just in name, but in fact, and use that to open up our region to a new era of growth and prosperity.  I want us to be the standard against which all other cities in the region are judged.


I want our college students to do more than come here, get an education and training, then have to move away to get the jobs and salaries they want.  I want them to be able to stay here and get those good jobs and good salaries in Tuscaloosa. I want our city to be a safe and secure city that people want to come to--to work, live, worship, and raise a family. I want Tuscaloosa to be the BEST!


I want you to be proud to tell others that they’re from Tuscaloosa!


We can make my vision a reality if we have the Desire, the Plan and the Process.  That’s why I’m running for Mayor--to be able to lead and inspire people to come together to give us the city we all want and deserve.


Before I outline my Plans for our city, I’d like to share with you my Process.  It’s said that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’, and it’s true.  But, if you have a good plan in place, you’ll always be able to adjust your process to face all challenges--that’s how you win on the football field, in business, in government and in life.


My Process begins with listening.  As Mayor, I’ll have an open-door policy for every person who needs to see me.  It may not happen right then, but my staff and I will do everything in our power to make sure every person with an issue is heard.  Instead of handing down dictates from the Mayor’s Office, I’ll make every effort to gather the appropriate Chiefs and Department Heads, community leaders and stakeholders for important issues, and listen--not just to the answers, but to the questions that are being asked.


“If you never hear the question, you’ll never understand the answer.”--Martin Houston


As I said in my Operation Safe City Plan, I’ll work with our surrounding communities and Tuscaloosa County leaders and citizens to build better working relationships and foster cooperation across the area.  The City of Tuscaloosa isn’t an island, but we’re part of the county, the region and the state, so we all benefit when we’re growing together.  I believe with all my heart that we can only rise if we rise together, and that will be one of my main goals as Mayor of Tuscaloosa.


When I’m elected, I will lead the efforts to build a great Tuscaloosa by developing a Master Plan for Urban Growth and Development that includes:


  • Strategic Land Use

  • Visionary Economic Development

  • Infrastructure Planning (both for growth and maintenance)

  • Sound Fiscal Policy


Our Master Plan will begin with establishing a vision for when, where, how and why we want to grow as a city.  To do this we need to begin by anticipating our needs, both for the short and long-term--that will be the ‘why’.  Only after we establish the ‘why’ can we begin to intelligently plan for the ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ to meet those short and long-term needs as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.


‘Where/How/When’ planning begins with an accurate assessment of our current situation, our available resources, and our immediate limitations in terms of infrastructure, geography and regulations.  As we plan, we will be mindful of potential saturation areas and choke points that can slow our progress, and we’ll take steps early on to (hopefully) reduce the pain and aggravation these choke points will cause.  One way we will accomplish this is by setting limits and restriction guidelines where appropriate, to allow us to grow steadily while creating a sufficiently mature foundation for further growth.


Throughout every stage of the planning process, I’ll work with our city employees, community leaders and citizens, as well as the leaders and stakeholders from neighboring towns and areas and build coalitions and consensus.  I’ll also actively engage both our state and national lawmakers and elected officials to make sure the City of Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa County are receiving every bit of assistance to which we are entitled and require to meet our full potential.


My Master Plan will be centered around four pillars, to make Tuscaloosa the BEST:


  • Business and Economic Development

  • Educational Excellence

  • Safe and Secure Communities

  • Transportation and Infrastructure

 

Business & Economic Development

We must support our existing businesses as well as aggressively recruit and support new businesses across our entire city.  The COVID pandemic has been devastating to Tuscaloosa, just as it has nationwide, and many of our businesses, especially the small businesses that are the lifeblood and engines for job growth have been negatively impacted.  Also, our recent growth has concentrated on our ‘game day’, tourist/experiential economy, which has made the effects of COVID even more pronounced here.


We must be more aggressive in leveraging our local knowledge base in our institutions of higher learning to bring a more diverse range of businesses and industries to Tuscaloosa.  My primary focus will initially look to foster knowledge-based and tech-based companies, and I will pursue more ‘town-gown’ cooperation to make Tuscaloosa a more attractive location for these companies. I will increase cooperation with surrounding municipalities, the Tuscaloosa EDA and continue to work with the West Alabama Chamber to accomplish this goal!


We should also act to improve our infrastructure to support more traditional industries, not only automobile manufacturing-related companies but also agriculture and forestry-related businesses.  Alabama is an agricultural powerhouse, and we can’t forget this.  I hope that, within a few years, people will realize that Tuscaloosa is the true Gateway to the Black Belt, and I will work to build the infrastructure to support more agricultural and industrial products moving through Tuscaloosa to and from our southern neighbors.


One of the projects I intend to investigate is the possibility of building a true Port of Tuscaloosa to serve as an access point for our local manufacturing and Black Belt agricultural products to move by water down to Mobile or up the Tenn-Tom to the Tennessee Valley, the Mississippi, and beyond.  With a high-capacity Port, Tuscaloosa can provide access not only to the eastern half of the United States but, through the Port of Mobile, to the entire world.


Lake Tuscaloosa represents an undeveloped resource as an additional revenue stream for our city.  We must tap into one of our most valuable natural resources and figure out how to develop a more significant revenue stream, while improving the Quality of Life for all our residents!


I will also investigate the expansion of the services offered at the Tuscaloosa Airport.   We need to seek a partner to offer commercial non-stop flights to one or more major hubs (Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, Miami). We also need to increase our cargo capabilities to better serve our existing companies as well as use this increased capability to recruit additional businesses like an Amazon/FedEx/UPS Distribution Center.


I will make it a high priority as Mayor to build a more robust Public Transit System, because a better transportation infrastructure will:


  • Reduce roadway congestion by getting more cars off the roads

  • Reduce emissions, thus improving air quality for all of us

  • Help expand the field of employment opportunities by allowing people to go further from their homes to find better jobs

  • Aid our senior citizens with quality of life issues like doctor appointments, pharmacy pickups, running errands and grocery shopping


Other initiatives I will support to grow and develop our local Businesses include:


  • Build a more diversified and robust Industrial Park, to give a larger population of potential employers for job seekers

  • Build a Research Park with a focus on Technology-based companies, ideally with academic-public-private partnerships that leverage our collegiate resources to their fullest

  • Create Workforce Academies as cooperative efforts with the Chamber of Commerce, existing businesses, local schools and colleges to train a larger, more qualified pool of workers in the skilled/vocational/machinery trades


Our future growth should not ‘put all our eggs in one basket’, but should be spread over as many different fields as possible to give our business sector the most robust, diverse base we need to resist future disruptions and upheavals like the COVID pandemic.

Educational Excellence

As someone who works in insurance and finance, I’m all too aware that one of the first things people ask about when they’re considering moving to an area is ‘what are the schools like’?  Sadly, this is an area of particular concern in Tuscaloosa.  For years we have fought to get rid of ‘Failing’ schools!  We must continue this fight, because one failing school is one too many.  As Mayor, I will work diligently with the Tuscaloosa City Schools to give them all the support we possibly can.  I will also work to strengthen the parental involvement & community support that our schools receive, and encourage everyone in our city to do the same.


As Mayor, I will focus my efforts to build up our Tuscaloosa City Schools on:


  • Working with the Superintendent, School Board & Administration to eliminate failing schools--by turning them into successful schools

  • Working to give our schools the support and encouragement they need to become a Top 5 School District in the state

  • Fostering and supporting both College & Career/Vocational Ready Graduates, with college and career-ready paths that are appropriate to each type of student and their individualized needs

  • Seek state and national funding to Fully support Universal Pre-K versus lottery based

  • Work with Schools to develop program to bridge educational gap caused by Covid-19!

  • We will also work to develop private-public Workforce Academies to reach the most recent graduates who may have slipped through the cracks


The most effective assistance I can give our schools, our students, our teachers, and the communities where those schools are as Mayor is my unwavering support--and they will have it from Day One!

Safety & Security

I’ve posted my Operation Safe City Plan on this site, and I hope that you will all take the time to read it.  Public Safety is one of the most important tasks any mayor faces, and my goal is for Tuscaloosa to be one of, if not the safest, city in Alabama. 


As Mayor, I will:


  • Implement & Execute Operation Safe City

  • Rebuild relationships and trust between our citizens and all of our Public Servants 

  • Continue to Support, Honor, Train and Recruit the most qualified, most dedicated personnel for 2021 & Beyond 

  • Meet regularly with a Cross-sectional Coalition of Municipalities, Law Enforcement, Community Leaders & Vested Stakeholders to foster cooperation and mutual understanding, and to effectively address the problems we all share

  • Expand our safety infrastructure as needed for our First Responders and our communities

  • Address the funding shortfall and concerns with the Police/Firefighters’ pension, so they can focus on Protecting and Serving versus whether their retirement will be funded

Transparency & Accountability

As Mayor, I believe that it is my job to hear every voice, and make sure that every person who comes into City Hall is treated with dignity and respect.  Every city employee is there to serve our citizens, not the other way around.  I will lead by example in this, beginning with an open-door policy that honors the efforts of every person who has an issue they feel they need to personally bring to the city’s attention. 


My administration will also work to have complete transparency in how the city’s business is conducted, and we will show this by:

  • Seeing that everyone will have a seat at the table if they want it

  • Restoring the appropriate balance of power between the Mayor and City Council

  • Having a weekly interactive meeting via the internet (Facebook, possibly others)-- Morning Manna with The Mayor--where the public can see and hear Mayor Martin Houston discussing our city and taking questions from our citizens.

Additional City-wide Initiatives

  • Youth Division 

    • To engage, educate, equip and empower our youth in physical, mental and social activities, including sports, arts, educational (STEM-science, technology, engineering mathematics) tutoring and more.

    • To partner with State and National Departments of Labor to bring back Summer Jobs

  • Financial Wellness

    • To teach the financial disciplines of budgeting, how to use credit, debt management, savings, etc.

  • Attainable Housing

    • To help increase housing inventory and access, while removing the barriers to homeownership through merit-based incentive programs (for example a private-public funded down-payment program)


My pledge to you is that, as your Mayor, I will work with every one of you to create the great city of Tuscaloosa we all demand and deserve!