City Council should boot the boot

The Huntsville City Council reportedly will vote on the “Fightfighter Boot” ordinance at the December 2 meeting.  The Firefighter Boot Ordinance would allow firefighters to collect money from motorists at city intersections to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Let me praise Huntsville’s public safety professionals for a minute.  I was in an accident several months ago and the firefighters who responded were compassionate and professional, as were the police and paramedics.  It is disconcerting to regain consciousness as firefighters are assessing your injuries – the firefighters were calm and thorough – I was in good hands.

Keeping that in mind, I agree with Police Chief Mark Hudson that the Firefighter Boot ordinance endangers public safety:  “I’ve been doing this 30 years and have never seen a pedestrian win a pedestrian-vehicle crash”.

I think that the Firefighter Boot ordinance promotes an unnecessary risk for the volunteers panhandling at intersections.  The firefighters proved that they can raise money for charity without the ordinance ($16,500 for breast cancer equipment).  I urge the Council to vote NO to the Boot.


Councilman Mark Russell “says the Rocket City needs a written policy spelling out what incentives it is willing to offer to lure new shopping”:

“It seems that over the past year, many more developers are calling me and asking for the City Council to get involved in their projects,” Russell said recently. “The environment’s changing … and I just want to make sure the city isn’t missing out on any opportunities because we don’t have a (retail incentive) policy.”

His resolution would allow any retailer that spends $30 million-plus building a new store in Huntsville to keep as much as half of the local sales taxes that it generates — up to $2 million a year.

In a rare instance of disagreement with Russell, I don’t like this “retail incentive policy” because it subsidizes only one class of business - major retailers.  I’m not a fan of government interference in the free market.  For example, this policy might reward a WalMart, but not a Star Market or Hibbett’s Sports or Mama Annies.  Note that I like WalMart but I don’t think they need a subsidy.  Also note that if the incentive brings IKEA or Nordstrom to Huntsville, I like it (ack! slippery slope).

Even worse, the policy subsidizes “new construction” while we have numerous empty big box stores.

I am all for City policies (and fairly applied incentives) to encourage and support retail and commercial business – but this doesn’t do it for me (the bike rack requirement didn’t either).


James at Huntsville Development News announced that he started working for the City this week as a retail specialist with responsibilities ranging from “mapping out vacant and underused retail properties throughout the city, to locating potential grocery store sites/chains for under served urban areas (like the NW and SW sides).”

Since part of my job is to come up with ideas to improve areas of the city, you may see more “Ideas” posts for general neighborhoods and corridors. My hope is that I will be able to get valuable input from you, the reader, on as many ideas as possible.

I encourage you to add Huntsville Development News to your favorites.  Thanks to Mayor Tommy Battle for making this happen - gathering data to support decision-making - what a concept!

3 thoughts on “City Council should boot the boot

  1. As far as I know, Darden Heritage has never received a dime from the city for Star Market expanding throughout several sections of town. Why give the big box retailers incentives! The only incentive that make sense is revitalization in underutilized areas.

  2. 1) To me, it’s just tacky to be soliciting money from people stopped at a traffic light.
    2) The article linked above says: “The firefighters association had its attorney draft an ordinance permitting such fundraisers that the council discussed at its Nov. 4 meeting.”
    How much did this cost? Will more liability insurance be required? What’s the point of spending $2 to raise $1 for a charity?
    3) Is anyone else overwhelmed by charity fundraising? Get the mail, answer the phone, and now stop at a red light – a lot of people probably just tune it all out after a while.

  3. Boot will pass…why ruin a perfect track record of silly agenda items that will end up costing the taxpayers millions in damages to settle out of court……