Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Featured Opinion

Reed calms fears, details city’s plans to address gun violence, other issues

Montgomery resident have demanded that Mayor Reed “do something” about crime. On Tuesday, he explained they’re doing a lot.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

About midway through Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed’s Town Hall on Tuesday evening, there was a question about a hypothetical city ordinance that would seek to hold parents accountable for the actions of their unmonitored children. 

The question was an important one, given the current plight of Montgomery, where citizens have become increasingly troubled by ongoing gun violence – much of it involving minors. The circumstances also highlight the complications faced by city and police officials as they try to address the gun violence, but also deal with the realities of a justice system not built to deter minors and parents who are absent or uncaring. 

But it was also a hypothetical. A complicated one. And such questions usually get an easy boot, especially from a politician facing tough situations, as Reed currently is. 

Except, this one didn’t. 

Instead, Reed went into an unusually detailed answer, in which he explained the potential legal issues with such a proposal. And said that while some lawyers thought it might be legal, others disagreed. But that he would likely support it. 

“And maybe it’s just one of those things that we do and they have to come tell us that we’re wrong,” Reed said, drawing a chuckle and applause from the crowd. 

That’s how Tuesday evening went for Reed and Montgomery. This was Reed at his best – dialed in, personable, ready with facts and details and open to any topic. From schools and homelessness to crime and economic development – Reed had a detailed explanation for what’s wrong, how the city is addressing it and what they hope the outcome will be.  

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

It was a performance that, while it might not quiet his critics, it’ll at least make their criticisms seem shallow and political for awhile. 

It was also a reminder that government, even good government, moves at a snail’s pace sometimes. 

For weeks now, Reed’s critics have lambasted the mayor for his lack of movement on the city’s supposed crime wave. (There is no evidence of such a wave, but, as numerous officials have pointed out, there has instead been a continuation of long-running crime issues that have spilled over into more upscale neighborhoods.)

Tuesday’s Town Hall made it apparent that Reed and city officials and employees have been doing quite a bit, but the work has gone unnoticed because so much of it – such as organizing intervention teams, meeting with nonprofit groups and speaking with various community leaders and law enforcement officials – has taken place out of the view of cameras. 

That work created a bit of a silent void. And in that void, rumors and crazed conspiracy theories filled the silence. Many of them became accepted as fact, and almost all of them only served to up the tension and drive interest in what was going on in Montgomery. State lawmakers began to pay attention, and to make calls. 

Reality, though, was something altogether different. 

Take, for example, the rumors of a rift between Reed and Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham. Why, it was a stone cold fact for weeks that Reed hadn’t even talked to the sheriff, and that Cunningham was out there saving the city against Reed’s wishes. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Not so much. 

Reed said Tuesday that there is and has been a working partnership between the city and the sheriff’s office, and that that partnership would continue. 

“They’ve been great. (Cunningham) hasn’t let up one bit and doesn’t plan to,” Reed said, while also noting that Cunningham has already met with new interim Montgomery Police Chief Jim Graboys to work out logistics. 

So much for that rift. 

Reed also talked candidly about the challenges of attracting new police officers to the understaffed MPD ranks. Long before the current crisis began, the city was working on a plan to increase officer pay by 15 percent (on top of a 14-percent increase two years ago). That should draw in more officers, and Reed said his true challenge now is making sure those officers hang around. 

At one point, Reed took an opportunity to say plainly that public safety is the number one issue in Montgomery right now. He acknowledged that, no matter the stats, the current perception is that Montgomery isn’t a safe city for families and workers and regular, law-abiding folks. He said he knows it’s his office’s job to change that perception and make people feel safe. 

That’s basically what the Town Hall was about. It was an opportunity to lay out what the mayor and city and law enforcement officials have been doing to address long-running problems and deficiencies. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

For several weeks now, a number of people around town have been screaming for the mayor and others to do something. 

On Tuesday, they found out that they have been.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

More from APR

Local news

Jim Graboys, a 33-year police veteran, said he plans to use every resource available to fight crime as Montgomery's new interim chief.

Local news

The shooting at a large party saw more than 360 rounds fired and party-goers diving for cover.

Local news

During an interview with Alabama Politics This Week, Reed talked candidly about the city's crime issues — both real and sensationalized.

Featured Opinion

A bill that would allow the AG or governor to select city's police chief is rooted in cheap politics, and it won't help anyone.