Selma mayor blasts local media during state of city address

Published 5:31 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2019

By Adam Powell
Selma Times-Journal

During his annual Selma City State of the City Address, Selma Mayor Darrio Melton wasted little time taking the media and the Selma City Council to task on what he perceives as “personal attacks.”

After briefly thanking the council and city workers, Melton blasted the news media for peddling “fake news.”

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“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re not informed,” Melton said. “If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

Melton blamed the news for “destroying the image of our city.”

“Let us say no to the fake news,” Melton said.

Following this, Melton briefly discussed moves made by previous administrations to lift the city out of crippling debt, referencing the one-cent sales tax implemented after the closing of Craig Air Force Base and an increase in garbage fees instituted “at the turn of the century.”

These bold moves, Melton said, were similar to his attempts to implement “common sense solutions” that he claims have been wholly rejected or ignored by the city council.

“We did not get here over night,” Melton said. “The need for new revenue has been constant over years.”

Among the failures of the council, Melton cited a move to give “across the board” raises. Further, he noted that he was handed a “weak and fragile” financial situation when he took office and witnessed expenses increase as revenues remained flat.

“Good government demands that such policies are abolished,” Melton said. “Raise the necessary revenue to bring these workers back.”

Among the cost-saving policies his administration has implemented, he said, were a policy that Selma Police Department officers should not ride alone, the closing of the St. James Hotel and the cessation of hiring certain departmental positions.

All the while, Melton said, bills were not being paid.

In calling for the council to raise the funds required to bring back the more than 60 workers laid off in November, Melton also called for all of these workers to be paid a living wage and condemned the fact that many relied on subsidies from the state or federal government.

“It’s time for the council do their jobs,” Melton said, adding that he has presented the city council with three budgets that were never “seriously” debated or considered. “It is immoral and inhumane to ask city workers to make brick without straw.”

Melton added that “control of the city finance” is in the council’s hands and not the mayor’s.

Referencing a proposed piece of state legislation that would raise gas taxes by 10 cents, Melton called on the council to approve a 5-cent gas tax before the state approves a statewide increase.

“Let us be willing to sacrifice for our city,” Melton said.

Next, he took the council to task for failing to approve additional funds for the SPD, which has seen officers and vehicles shot, with 60 percent of those vehicles hit by rounds from high-caliber rifles, which the council has failed to provide body armor for, Melton said.

Melton called for new vehicles and technology for the department, as well as increase in officers from the current 45 to 70. He also accused the council of voting down a motion to give SPD officers access to license plate readers “without debate.”

“Selma has to pull itself together,” Melton said. “We have to think of one Selma and not individual wards.”

Melton also addressed corruption in the police department, which he says is being addressed, as evidenced by the three police officers currently facing charges.

“Corruption has no place in Selma,” Melton said. “These crises have been years in the making and we will not fix them overnight. The council cannot continue to say no to common sense solutions. Having temper tantrums is not how we govern.”

Melton then called for unity to build a “more vibrant city for the future,” before decrying the fact that he has been “crucified” for the last two years and noting that 61 percent of Selma voted for his ideas and, currently, he has not been given a budget to implement his vision.

“It’s time for us to make common sense decisions,” Melton said. “I will never back down. Selma is counting on us.”