Montgomery mayor Steven Reed knows “what the headlines say” about the capital city, he told a crowd at his State of Montgomery address Tuesday night.
“I hear the same noises at night that you do,” Reed said.
But Reed said Montgomery’s struggles with gun violence don’t tell the city’s whole story and emphasized what Montgomery has achieved during his administration.
One major project recently completed for the city is its new manmade whitewater facility.
“Our world-class, Olympic-standard recirculating whitewater channel opened,” Reed said. “In the months since, thousands of rafters, kayakers, enthusiasts, and first-timers have taken to the course. It has hosted several concerts and festivals, and in just a few months, it will host the 2024 Canoe Slalom and Kayak Cross Olympic Team Trials.”
Reed also touted the city’s readiness for economic development.
“When talking to economic development site selectors around the country, the first question out of their mouth is, ‘What are your sites?’ What they are asking is what do you have to offer us,” Reed said. “Our answer is simple: We are the only top-tier, ready-made ‘Gold Level’ development site in the country. What this certification means is that we can recruit better, we can expand our tax base better, and expand existing businesses better.”
Reed highlighted the renovations and reopening of McIntyre Community Center, and said work is underway to update the Crump Center and Sheridan Heights Center. Plans for the new Calmar Drive Community Center are proceeding.
“I heard from a number of people questioning why so much emphasis on community centers. Let me tell you why,” Reed said. “I was recently introduced to a fifth-grade student named Ladarius. Ladarius is one of six boys in his family. All under the age of 16. His two oldest brothers stay in and out of trouble. They have been expelled from school. Sent to alternative school. You name it.
“Instead of following in their footsteps, Ladarius goes to McIntyre after school. He plays in the basketball league. He gets help with his homework. There he receives mentorship. Support. And a positive male role model. Today, Ladarius is an A/B honor roll student, and he tells the staff at McIntyre routinely that because of them, he knows someone care about him.”
Reed later said these kinds of options are crucial to curb the city’s gun violence problem by giving young people opportunities.
“Yes, in Montgomery, if you commit a crime, especially a violent crime, we will find you. We will prosecute you. There is a price to pay,” Reed said. “But what if, instead, when that person was still in high school, we could provide him with better career counseling and skills training? More apprenticeship opportunities and pathways to obtain workplace certifications, so that he can have a better shot at making not just a livable wage but a prosperous wage?
“What if, instead, when that person was still in middle school, we could provide him with a mentor who inspired him? Protected him? And set an example that he will want to follow.
“And what if, instead, when that person was still in elementary school and younger, we helped him learn to read? Instead of giving him a ball, we gave him a book. What, then, would our community look like?”
As part of his criminal justice reform platform, Reed said he wants to forgive municipal fines and fees that have been unpaid for more than 10 years, including unpaid traffic tickets and second-degree possession of marijuana.
Reed also touched on many other topics including more recreation improvements, supporting military families, improving schools and more.