Three incumbents in Tuscaloosa’s City Council have been put out to pasture. One candidate lost in the general municipal election. Two more lost in a runoff election. The vox populi was expressed in the municipal election runoff, as reported in The Tuscaloosa News, in District 1 by a turnout of 12.2 percent of the district’s 7,676 registered voters and in District 6 by only 17 percent of the district’s 8,071 registered voters. Few eligible voters take time to vote.
Four candidates for the Council were unopposed. No one ran against Kip Tyner in District 5, which is in an area that was heavily damaged by the 2011 tornado. Tyner has anchored a local television show and has been active in amateur theatrics. He played such roles as the con man Harold Hill in Theatre Tuscaloosa’s production of the “Music Man.” Concerns over his notorious drug abuse history were probably eclipsed in his constituent’s minds by sympathy for his recent bout with cancer. District 3’s Cynthia Almond and District 2’s Harrison Taylor had no opposition. Almond’s largely upscale district and Council President Harrison’s poorer district were considered secure. In Tuscaloosa’s municipal elections for Mayor and the Council incumbents running with no opposition has actually been the norm.
Matt Calderone ran unopposed for Lee Garrison’s vacated seat in the 4th District which has been dominated by the vote of the University of Alabama’s “Machine.” The 4th District was recently redrawn to give the student vote even more clout. Calderone who’d recently graduated from the University had been a “Machine” candidate when he was elected as the Student Government Association President in 2012. There was a widely held assumption that he was handpicked for the office by Garrison ( who had himself been initially elected to the Council with the help of the “Machine” ) who successfully ran for Chair of the local school board.
Disclosures about campaign financing may have left a sour taste in the months of many voters. An attempt by business interests to takeover the local school board failed in spite of large sums of money that were poured into the race. Both defeated incumbents Lundell and Howard were among all the other Council members who had received PAC money and contributions from builders. They had supported almost all of the new housing projects, most of them to be primarily populated by University students, that had come before the Council. There had been enough public concern about too many student housing developments that Mayor Walter Maddox had established a Student Housing Task Force.
The 2700 Capitol Park project that abutted Tuscaloosa’s treasured Capitol Park was opposed by many Tuscaloosa citizens who were concerned about preserving the City’s dwindling historic assets. When the construction of this massive, block filling project that will be largely purposed for student use is completed the Old Tavern and Capitol ruins will be overwhelmed by its scale. ( There was a tent located outside of Bryant Denny stadium on Homecoming that gave out free pens and information about 2700 Capitol Park. Its marketing target seems to be either students or football fans. ) Defeated Council member Bobby Howard, in whose District the housing project was in, had been a enthusiastic backer of 2700 Capitol Park.
Whether voters in this years election were unhappy with the post-storm rebuilding efforts in Tuscaloosa, put off by the role of that money from special interests played in politics or had other reasons to vote for new blood in city government there has been a real sea change in the city that roots for The Crimson Tide. Will the same corrupting influences that were thought to have infested City Hall come creeping back? Only time will tell.