2-hour talk outlines platform

Published 12:46 am Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Andalusia mayoral candidate Blaine Wilson spoke to supporters for more than two hours at a campaign event last night, touching on city finances, recreation, utilities, and allegations of domestic violence.

The supper event, which was held at Oakwood Lodge and featured hamburgers, hotdogs and BBQ, drew a crowd of approximately 70 people.

Wilson, 37, said, “I may not be the most qualified candidate for mayor, but I believe I am the most passionate.”

Since announcing his bid for mayor, Wilson has used radio commercials, his Facebook page, and yard signs to promote a platform to “stop the spending.” Tuesday night, voters were given specifics in his plan – starting with dissolving the city’s utility board, hiring a fulltime jobs recruiter and “cutting the locks off Springdale.”

Wilson said if elected, he would immediately begin to explore a YMCA. He also credited Johnson for efforts to beautify Andalusia.

“He did a great job at this,” Wilson said. “But now it’s time to pay for it. How did we go from just under $14 million in debt to $38 million in debt?

“(Current) Councilman Terry Powell said, ‘The sky is not falling,’ but the numbers can be made to look any way they want them to. The fact is that it might be debt at the (South Alabama Regional Airport) and with the school board, but (the city) co-signed on it.

“So, what happens when they can’t pay?” he asked. “You do – the taxpayers. The bottom line is we’re $38 million in debt, any way you want to spend it.”

Wilson was referring to information presented by Andalusia City Councilman Terry Powell in a forum on the city’s finances held Aug. 2. Powell confirmed that the city’s total indebtedness is $38 million when debts owed by the utilities board, the board of education and South Alabama Regional Airport are included. That grand total has increased by about $7 million over the last four years as the city refinanced its old debts at lower rates and borrowed money to complete several projects, Powell said.

Tuesday night, Wilson promised to dissolve the city’s utility board and redirect the board members’ salaries –to fund a fulltime job recruiter to “beat on the doors of the steel mill Thyssenkrupp and Mobile’s Airbus, to knock on the doors of the state capital” to bring jobs to Andalusia.

Wilson claims that board members earn $350 per meeting and that the mayor is paid $60,000 by the utilities board.

Utilities board office manager Cathy Alexander, who handles the organization’s financial affairs, told The Star-News in an email last week that each member, including the mayor, earns only $350 per month, or $4,200 per year.

Wilson described Springdale Estate, which the city purchased in August 2010, as a “$900,000 cash cow” – a description allegedly given to him by a representative of the city’s audit firm.

“First, (the city bought it), then they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the house and grounds,” he said. “They like to say it pays for itself, but it doesn’t.”

Wilson said the facility, which rents for $1,800 per three-day weekend, is booked approximately 30 times a year.

“How many of you can afford to pay $1,800 to rent it?” he asked. “I can’t. Tell me, do you have to pay to go to a ballgame at Johnson Park, other than a tournament? Do you have to pay to walk around Dream Park, Coleman Park? Try it at Springdale and see what happens.

“If I get elected, I’ve got a set of bolt cutters in the back of my truck,” he said. “We’ll go cut the padlock off the gates where each one of our families can enjoy it because you paid for it.”

Wilson called last week’s DRS Technologies jobs announcement a “hoax” and a “political ploy” by Johnson. At an announcement last week, attended by approximately 200 people including Gov. Robert Bentley, Rep. Martha Roby, Rep. Mike Jones, and Sen. Jimmy Holley, company officials said they will bring almost 100 jobs to SARA.

“This company has two people there and there is no contract,” he said. “Why didn’t the city say we’ve got this tenant willing to sign a year lease and they hope to get a contract? Don’t tell a bald face lie that 100 jobs are coming.”

Wilson also said Johnson sent at least two threatening letters to his business, WAAO, about the Federal Communication Commission’s rules governing equal time for political candidates, including one before Wilson qualified to run.

“He not only wanted to take me off the air, but he threatened to pull WAAO’s FCC license so I couldn’t provide for my family,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t a ‘nice, please do this letter.’ It was a ‘do it or else letter.’”

Wilson said the second letter referred to the use of his voice in commercials, which Johnson said was a violation of the equal time law.

“As long as I personally do not endorse a company, it’s perfectly legal,” he said of his pre-recorded commercials.

Wilson also referred to rumors of domestic violence incidents involving his wife. Earlier this week an anonymous blog spot posted copies of two domestic violence reports filed with the Andalusia Police Department by Wilson’s wife.

“We don’t want to hide behind a Facebook page, a blog spot,” he said. “Am I a sinner? Yes. Will I try to do better? Yes.”

Wilson said he had never beaten his wife, Andrea Beam Wilson.

“If I had, do you think I would have been an officer for the Andalusia Police Department?” he said, before reading a letter written by Chief Wilbur Williams.

Wilson said he served as an auxiliary APD officer until June 28, 2012, when after qualifying to seek office, he was terminated.

But Wilson did not formally announce his candidacy until the last day of the qualifying period, July 17, 2012.

Wilson told the crowd the basis of his termination as an auxiliary officer was that his workat WAAO prohibited from working the required hours with the department.

In closing, Wilson said, if elected, he would stop beautification projects and concentrate on creating jobs.