With the goal of keeping local parents (and voters) as informed as possible about all things parent-related, the editors of Rocket City Mom compiled “4 Questions for the Candidates”. We asked all the Huntsville City and Madison City candidates to answer the same four questions, and have published their responses unedited and as they have sent them to us.
Get to know a little about each candidate and where they stand on serving local families in our full Know Your Vote series. We encourage all of our readers to exercise their democratic right and vote on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
4 Questions with Marc Highsmith
Q. What do you see as the top three most pressing issues facing Huntsville today? What are your plans to address those issues?
REVENUE: As COVID-19 continues its unpredictable course through our nation and our community, tax revenues decline. So far, federal relief funds have not gone to state and local governments. High unemployment and low revenues do not decrease our need for firefighters, policemen, EMTs, and utility workers, and deficit spending is not an option. High unemployment and underemployment may remain a problem for several years, and uninsured health care costs may continue to suppress spending. As Mayor, I will join with other local governments and with state governments to demand that COVID relief packages including the passage of The Heroes Act H.R. 6800 that contain adequate funds for local and state governments to continue to serve their people. In the future I will join efforts to increase home rule authority to create a local tax structure that best serves our community.
GROWTH: Growth in Madison City and its surrounding areas is overcrowding our schools, creating traffic problems, degrading our environment, and challenging our infrastructure. We do not need growth that diminishes our quality of life, and our present leadership does not seem to respect that. As Mayor, I will create and review all approval procedures that ensure local residents are aware of proposed growth and its effects on them, and that provides them meaningful input into growth decisions. I seek to create programs that require growth to pay to prevent degradations in our quality of life.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE: We as citizens decide what will be a crime, and how we will prevent and punish it. During the past fifty years, America has arrested and incarcerated increasingly more of its citizens. Today, a higher portion of our citizens are under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system than any other country. We reached that terrible distinction by deciding to punish crime rather than prevent it, by making many behaviors criminal, and by extending punishment periods. We are losing policemen to other governments, and our police are involved in violent encounters that are frightening and angering some citizens. As Mayor I will create programs to address the conditions that create crime. As crime decreases, I will use the money we save to better train and better pay our police officers. I will create a Citizen’s Oversight Board to examine police procedures and actions and require improvements. I will create an officers’ advisory board that reports directly to me to advise me of conditions affecting our patrol officers and detectives.
Q. Why do you believe you are the right person for this office?
I live in this city with my family. I volunteer to help the underprivileged people who live here with me. I have watched as the quality of life in our city has diminished, often due to inadequately planned growth. I read about policemen leaving for better paying jobs elsewhere, and conflicts between our police and our citizens. Then I hear our mayor say we do not need change in Madison City. I hear him say that if citizens in Madison City cannot communicate with him and his administration then it must be because they do not care. I see no effort to involve the public in discussions about COVID’s impacts on our budget, our city services, our jobs, and our futures. Unemployment is low in Madison in normal times. Only about one in thirty of our residents usually is unemployed. Many more are underemployed. According to the Madison City Industrial Development Board, about one in four of our residents are underemployed. Both unemployment and underemployment may get worse as the economic effects of COVID trickle down.
I spent my career planning and conducting operations on which many thousands of lives depended. I performed my duties without fail even when under enemy fire. As an Army Lieutenant Colonel, I led and coordinated thousands of people in performing critical tasks, often under time and resource pressures. As an Inspector General, I made decisions that required me to be fair and thorough in my investigations. As a college graduate with degrees in Human Resources and Criminal Justice, I can recognize opportunities for the city. I know Madison City needs change, and I know its people care about whether and how soon that change occurs. I am prepared to lead that effort by my training, experience, education, and commitment.
Q. What will you do differently than the incumbent?
Any mayor begins his job in Madison City having a lot with which to work. We have a low unemployment rate, a highly educated work force, exceptional schools, continuous growth, and a high median income. Neither Mayor Finley nor I created those conditions, but either of us who becomes mayor on August 25 will inherit them. Under Mayor Finley’s leadership, Madison City is straining to maintain its advantages. Our schools are continuing to become overcrowded, and we are going into debt to build new classrooms. Traffic problems are worsening, policemen are moving to other governments for better pay, and citizens are complaining that they are not being heard, or even asked, on important issues.
I believe that the lingering effects of COVID will exacerbate the problems we face, and that Mayor Finley and his administration are ill prepared to face that challenge. Even without those effects, the Mayor is allowing growth to occur that now is hurting our community more than it is helping it. I am prepared to plan for and reduce the effects of COVID in our community, and to do so in full view of the public that I serve. I also am prepared to ensure that future growth meet requirements that ensure our standard of living in Madison City is protected or enhanced.
Q. What is your overall vision/mission when it comes to families living in your city? What are your ideas about how to best serve them specifically?
I help families in Madison City that live below the poverty line, and live near families that are far above it. I know that all of those families want to be safe and comfortable, and to provide a rewarding future for their children. All of our families want good schools and crime-free neighborhoods, and I share that vision with them. The health and economic impacts of COVID-19 endanger the health and economic well-being of every family. We must operate our schools and conduct our daily lives to minimize that threat. Additionally, we must ensure that when growth again is an issue, whether tomorrow or further down the road, it will be handled to protect and enhance the standard of living for our families, and not merely to add to the wealth of a few individuals.
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Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.