Alabama gubernatorial candidate and Huntsville’s mayor Tommy Battle shared his political platform at Samford University last Thursday in Brooks Auditorium at 10 a.m. He addressed Samford’s College Republicans.
Battle’s father worked at Samford University and Battle said he grew up closely connected to Samford.
Battle said he’s improving Alabamians lives by creating jobs and investing in education and infrastructure.
“Quality of life is something different for everyone,” he said.
For some, Battle said it’s bikeways,walking trails and parks.
“It’s Railroad Park and baseball stadiums here. Quality of life is why you want to be part of this community,” Battle said.
For others, however, Battle said it’s jobs. Unemployment is driving many away from their communities. Battle said he’s has personally experienced this.
After graduating college, Battle said his son left Huntsville and searched for banking jobs in Birmingham, Knoxville, and other large cities.
Battle said people leave Alabama due to its racially tainted past and limited job opportunities.
Since becoming Huntsville’s mayor in 2010, Battle said he has repaired the city’s image by advertising its opportunities and accomplishments.
For example, Battle said Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park is the second largest research park in America. Huntsville also has the world’s only human genomic medical clinic, where they map the human genome.
Besides these accomplishments, Battle said Huntsville also has more engineers and debris professionals per capita than anywhere else in the world. As a result, Huntsville is also building rocket engines and leading space exploration.
“We’ve changed the conversation about Huntsville and got rid of preconceived notions. These now signify who we are. We’ve been able to bring in jobs because it’s important to provide opportunity,” he said.
Battle said he’s also prioritizing Huntsville’s future by creating 10-year capital plans. These plans predict Huntsville’s expenditures for the next decade and ensure companies Huntsville’s continued growth.
Due to these plans, Remington, Polaris, GE Aviation, Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne built factories in Huntsville. Together, Battle said they invested $3 billion into Huntsville and created 23,000 jobs. Battle said these companies invested in Huntsville because the city invested in itself.
“What if we did that in every congressional district? That’s 161,000 jobs,” he said.
Battle said he’s also preparing for the future by modernizing Huntsville’s education system.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m running for governor. We need an education system that provides for K-12 and young students who aren’t going to college. They need to be career ready and ready to go into industries,” he said.
Battle said he has digitally connected students and teachers through laptops. Teachers can track student’s progress and see where students need help.
Battle said recent school shootings prevent students from enjoying their education. Battle said he’s personally experienced these tragedies in his community.
In 2010, while he was Huntsville’s mayor, a faculty member at the University of Alabama in Huntsville shot three other faculty members.
Just last month, a student was shot at Huffman High School in Birmingham.
“If you have ever been to those funerals, it’s one of the hardest things to do as a government official,” he said.
While attending the funerals, Battle said he would stop these shootings from happening again.
In response, Battle said he spent $250 million on new schools. A fence surrounds each school’s parking lot. There are three ways to enter the parking lots and there is only one entrance after 8 a.m.
Huntsville’s schools also installed a new security system, and visitors must be buzzed into the schools. School officials then ask the visitor why they’re at the school. Finally, visitors must sign in on a computer.
As an added protection, school resource officers patrol the schools.
However, Battle said solutions differ based on the community.
“There’s not a one size that fits all, but I think we have addressed the problem. I think that’s the way we should solve the problem across the state,” he said.
After improving Huntsville, Battle said he wanted to impact the whole state and ran for governor.
Battle said he wants to advertise Alabama’s other achievements.
For example, in Mobile, Battle said Austral shipyard is building the world’s most highly technical destroyer. Montgomery defends the U.S. Air Force against cyber attacks.
Besides military innovations, Battle said in Dothan International Beams has created laminated wood that will compete with the steel industry. Eventually, Battle said this material can serve as building’s foundations.
“In Birmingham, UAB is curing cancer. What happens in Alabama doesn’t happen anywhere else. Each of these places deserve the same chance we were able to give to Huntsville,” he said.
Battle said Alabama also influences the world’s culture.
“Muscle Shoals is making music that’s heard all over the world. When you hear that music, it might shape the way you think,” he said
Besides cities, he is also investing in Alabama’s crumbling infrastructure.
“We need the road systems that can provide for your business and get you home. If we don’t do I-10, we will squeeze Baldwin County. It won’t grow because it can’t get a workforce,” he said.
Maintaining Huntsville’s roads required $25 million per year. Battle raised funds by increasing the city’s sales tax from 8 to 9 percent.
Due to Huntsville’s new roads, the city’s average commute time decreased. Battle said he spoke to voters from Boston and the West Coast whose commutes lasts for hours.
“Their round trip is two hours, versus ours which is 36 minutes,” he said.
Battle said statewide roads will cost $240 million. However, even with the money, Battle said repairs will require 10 years.
Battle said infrastructure also includes internet access. Expanding access will create a shadow economy.
“If a spouse decides to stay home with their children, they can also work from the home,” he said.
For example, Battle said he spoke to a woman who creates new exhibits for Orlando’s Disney World from her home in Huntsville.
Besides tackling issues, Battle said he is traveling directly to voters. He has been to Alabama’s all 67 counties.
To better represent Alabama, Battle said his campaign staff comprises people from across Alabama.
“My campaign staff reflects my governor staff because a governor has to represent everyone,” he said.
William Marlow, News Editor