Huntsville Mayor Battle touts strong year in face of pandemic in State of the City address
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle gave a virtual State of the City address on Wednesday, where he gave an overview of the Rocket City’s most recent year and a glimpse at what to look for in the future.
The mayor discussed how, in a year dominated by COVID-19, his city was able to keep up its rapid economic expansion and investments in quality of life improvements for its citizens.
Battle noted near the beginning of his speech, “2020 has been defined by our perseverance, our resilience and our ability to adapt and change,” before adding on a more humorous note, “If 2020 were a fish, I’d throw it back.”
“Throughout the pandemic and the waves of political and emotional unrest, City Hall and our municipal offices have remained open for business. We thought it was important for us to be here, every day, for the people we serve,” Battle relayed in his address.
Battle was recently overwhelmingly reelected by the people of Huntsville, garnering 78% of the vote after a four-year term that saw him run in the Republican primary for governor, endure drawn-out protests and weather a pandemic.
“I still have 22% of the population to win over,” remarked Battle on Wednesday with regards to his reelection. “I will continue to work daily for the 78%, and also for the 22%, because our administration represents everyone in the City of Huntsville.”
In the summer of 2020, Huntsville, like almost all major cities in the United States, saw extended protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody. During a peaceful demonstration, Battle joined the crowd in recognizing the unfair treatment visited upon many of America’s black citizens.
However, the protests did not remain always remain civil, and crowd control tactics employed by the Huntsville Police Department drew the ire of some in the state and became a frequent talking point for the liberal columnists at some Alabama news outlets.
Through it all, Battle stood by his police department, defending the city’s officers and their mission of keeping the people safe as anti-police sentiment bubbled up nationwide.
“I have the utmost confidence in our chief, Mark McMurray, and in the men and women of the Huntsville Police Department who serve as officers on the front lines,” the mayor said on Thursday.
Battle also made sure the city invested in its police; he recently cut the ribbon on a new joint training center between the Huntsville Police Department and FBI, which he remarked about in his address.
In addition to standing by the police, Battle, in his speech yesterday, recognized his city could do more to include all types of the people living there. He announced that his Office of Multicultural Affairs would become the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, with an expanded staff “to represent the needs and goals of our community.”
Even amid the unrest and pandemic, Battle reported the city was “building new roads at a roaring pace” in 2020 and listed projects like widening Research Park Boulevard and beginning construction on the Northern Bypass, two projects highly valued by commuters in the Huntsville area.
“Pandemic or not, we’ll continue to push forward to make sure we have the road infrastructure to get you to work,” Battle told his constituents.
The mayor also detailed three new greenways where Huntsvillians can walk or ride their bikes, four new turf soccer fields and a redesign of John Hunt Park the city completed work on in 2020.
Public infrastructure and services were not the only thing Battle reported as continuing on amid the coronavirus.
“By the end of this year, in the middle of a pandemic, we will have created another 960 new jobs and put another 2.1 billion dollars in new product on the ground in Huntsville,” he detailed.
In the middle of his speech Battle made the surprise announcement that a Trader Joe’s grocery store will soon begin construction in the Rocket City. The mayor said it was Huntsville’s “most requested” store among residents.
“Industrial investments keep coming too. Mazda-Toyota announced another $200 million investment at its automotive plant, and Toyota’s engine plant is planning the county’s largest solar power plant at its campus in North Huntsville,” Battle relayed.
The mayor joked, “The unofficial bird of Huntsville is now the ‘construction crane.’ It now populates our skyline.”
Battle further said that his city gave out permits for $220 million of construction work in September 2020, an all-time record for Huntsville.
Near the end of his speech, the recently reelected mayor looked to the future.
“The City is well-positioned for 2021. We’re moving forward with a balanced budget and another year of triple-A credit ratings. We’ll use this stellar rating to fund in 2021 our new city hall, a world-class amphitheater, a new fire station,” he reported.
“In Huntsville, we’ll keep doing what we do, the way we always do: through innovation and teamwork,” Battle concluded.
Those interested can watch a video of the entire address on Facebook.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95