STJ endorsement: Melton best choice to lead Selma forward

Published 11:53 pm Saturday, August 20, 2016

On Tuesday, Selma voters will head to the polls to elect our next mayor. There are five candidates seeking the position, including the two men who have led the City of Selma for the past 16 years.

However, in looking around our city and at the many issues Selma faces, we think it’s time to plot a new course.

The Times-Journal believes Darrio Melton would be the best candidate to lead the city going forward, and we offer him our endorsement for mayor.

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Over the past two decades, the city of Selma has tried to become a government that’s all things for all people. That’s how the city has come to own a hotel, a movie theater and an amphitheater and become a regular party and event planner.

None of those things should be a priority when the city has so many other basic needs.

Throughout this campaign, Melton has focused on two issues: public safety and infrastructure. Those areas should be the primary focus of city government.

In a meeting with our editorial board, Melton repeatedly circled back to those two issues.

When asked about the St. James Hotel, Melton said he would be in favor of closing the hotel if elected because it’s taking funding away from public safety and infrastructure.

When asked about the amphitheater and how to find money to finish it and schedule more events there, Melton said it wouldn’t be a priority ahead of public safety and infrastructure, before adding the city should look for public-private partners and appoint a committee to handle events.

That kind of laser focus on public safety and infrastructure isn’t splashy. It doesn’t make for ”grip and grin” photos across the front page of the newspaper.

It is actually what the city of Selma needs at this time. Our patrol officers are on strike because they haven’t received raises in nine years. Our crime rate is that of a city many times our size. We have streets caving in and buildings falling into the river.

It’s time to get back to basics and why city government exists in the first place.

If Melton stays committed to those two causes and does not allow himself to get distracted, he would serve the city well as mayor.

If you build it, they will come. Making Selma a safer and better place to live and work will bring people and businesses back to town and lead to growth.

At 37, Melton is young, but maybe that’s what Selma needs to turn a new page in a city constantly defined by its past.

Melton has served Selma well in the Alabama Legislature the past six years. His power has been limited considering he’s one of the few Democrats in a chamber controlled by Republicans.

He has been consistent in championing causes he believes in. Every year he has tried to raise the minimum wage in Alabama without success. He challenged his fellow legislators last year to live on a $5 a day food budget to show how difficult it is to live on minimum wage.

Melton is well respected in the state government. In 2011, was recognized as Freshman Legislator of the Year and was named the House Democratic Caucus Legislator of the Year in 2013.

Those connections would only help him if elected mayor.

Melton has also worked hard to stay in touch with his constituents and their concerns. Up until his campaign for mayor, he published a weekly column in the Times-Journal and other newspapers about what was going on in Montgomery, Selma and across his district.

He also communicates over social media and during the session will post bills being discussed and talk about issues with voters.

After Sen. Hank Sanders guided a bill through the Alabama Senate last year renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the Journey to Freedom Bridge, Melton responded to public outcry and came out in opposition to the idea, which gained no traction in the House of Representatives.

At the time, Melton said, “We have no choice but to embrace not erase, our history and heritage as a city. While the bridge carries memories of division, it also holds promises of hope and freedom. Currently, it symbolizes our opportunity to move into the future with a new perspective of inclusion.”

During his campaign stump speech, Melton discusses changing the city’s politics, ending the infighting and finding common ground. He talks about moving from a politics of fear and division to one of hope and unity.

It’s going to take a changing of the guard to make what some believe to be a pie in the sky dream a reality. With that attitude, his enthusiasm for Selma and focus on what the city needs, Melton would be the best choice for mayor.

Give Bowie another term as council president

Corey Bowie has had the unenviable task for leading the Selma City Council meetings the past four years. That’s comparable to walking into a field of land mines.

But we think Bowie has done a good job as ringmaster of the circus that can be a Selma City Council meeting.

He is a calm and rational influence on a council that at times needs calm and reason.

Hopefully, a new slate of council members and some fresh faces will make this job easier next term.

Bowie served as a council member in Ward 8 before running for council president and that experience is valuable in leading the city council.

The Times-Journal makes no specific endorsements in wards one through eight, but we encourage voters to vote and let their voices be known in this election. Despite whoever is elected mayor, it’s ultimately the council that passes a budget and controls the purse strings.

Moss most qualified to lead board of education

The Times-Journal endorses Johnny Moss for chairman of the Selma Board of Education.

Moss has a wealth of experience in education and business that makes him the most qualified candidate for this position.

He has a degree in finance from Tuskegee University and a master’s in business administration from Troy University.

He also has decades of experience in the classroom. He has taught math at Phoenix Alternative School and Selma High School, where he worked for 10 years.

He now works as director of marketing and college relations for Wallace Community College Selma.

He is the son of an educator, married to a teacher and has a daughter at Clark Elementary School and a son who will start kindergarten next year.

The Selma City Schools System was taken over by the state of Alabama in 2014. Though improvement have been made, there is still plenty of work to do.

Given his experience, time in the classroom and vested interest in the future of the system, we believe Moss is the best candidate to lead our school system.

The Times-Journal makes no specific endorsements in districts one, two, three or four.