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Three Big Things

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  • Murder Rate Rose More Than 30% In Two Years, FBI Report Suggests

    The number of murders nationwide rose by approximately 30% during 2020 and 2021, according to the FBI National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

    The estimated aggregate national murder volume increased by 4.3% in 2021, adding to the 29.4% rise from 2019 to 2020, the FBI’s NIBRS trend analysis report said. The bureau cited a 1% decrease in violent crime in 2021 compared to the year prior, stating that the crime rates were “consistent,” according to a 2021 release.

    “It should be noted that the violent crime figures for 2020 have had a significant increase over the respective value(s) reported in 2019,” the report said.

    Criminals appeared to increasingly attack seniors in 2021, the report suggests. The estimated volume of violent crimes against persons aged 65 and up rose 8.9% compared to the previous year.

    Illegal drug-related violations seemingly surged as well. Every drug crime category saw an increase in offenses involving stimulant drugs per 100,000 people surging by 17.5% from 2020 to 2021, according to the report. Marijuana is the only drug category that decreased.

    “The FBI UCR Program’s role is to collect, compile, and publish crime statistics for the nation,” the FBI’s national press office informed the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The FBI UCR Program does not analyze or comment on the statistics.”

    Only 11,333 of the 18,806 law enforcement agencies eligible to report crime data to the FBI in 2021 had done so, calling the statistical reliability of comparing the 2021 and 2020 data into question, the report suggested. Along with New York City and Los Angeles, numerous states including New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California’s agencies failed to give the FBI’s crime statistics collection program any 2021 data, The Marshall Project reported in June.

    Murder Rate Rose More Than 30% In Two Years, FBI Report Suggests | The Daily Caller

  • Council committee can’t decide on path forward for Civic Center

    Although it was advertised as a discussion about a possible new master plan for the Civic Center property, Tuesday afternoon’s council committee meeting didn’t get into specifics. 

    Instead, the administrative services committee spent almost an hour debating the merits of a plan for the 22-acre site created by architecture firm Populous and a separate master plan, which has previously been approved by the Mobile Planning Commission. 

    The meeting ended without any action being taken, but with another meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 19, with stakeholders. 

    The current plan breaks the previously unzoned site into six subdistricts with varying height, use and size restrictions. Another part of the plan calls for an office building near Canal Street to house the Mobile area operations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

    The council’s inaction comes as a project manager for the Corps told councilors that the group’s inability to have a plan in place for a new building by January could complicate the issue. 

    “We’re still hoping to break ground in January,” Corps Project Manager Willie Patterson told councilors. “We hope to possibly carve out our project to keep it on schedule. It is a bit problematic for us.” 

    The Corps plan calls for a separate developer to enter into a ground lease with the city and construct the office building at no cost to the city, Patterson said. The city would be on the hook for a $25 million parking deck with between 800 and 1,000 parking spaces. 

    Council Vice President Gina Gregory, who also serves on the committee, asked councilors if they could move forward with the Corps project and let the rest of the plan “fall into place” later. 

    District 2 Councilman William Carroll, who serves as committee chairman, criticized Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office for arguing the plan approved by the Planning Commission incorporated 15 years’ worth of master plans into a single document. 

    “There have been countless plans developed over the last 15 years, but the council hasn’t voted on one,” he said. “There have been so many changes over that time there is a need for a plan and for a plan to be complete.” 

    District 6 Councilman Scott Jones, a member of the committee with a seat on the Planning Commission, told Carroll there is currently a plan and he supports it. 

    “We do have a plan in front of us now that lays out zoning codes for the Civic Center,” he said. “I think it’s solid. It is flexible. I think what I would like to see is take what has been developed and add to it. I don’t want to throw away what’s in front of us.” 

    Stimpson’s administration delivered the plan Jones referenced to councilors earlier on Tuesday, Carroll said. Although the plan has been discussed and approved previously by the Planning Commission. 

    “I haven’t had time to digest it,” Caroll said. “It’s unfair to discuss it right now. We got it this morning.” 

    Executive Director of Public Works Jim DeLapp said the plans for the Civic Center over the decades have largely all included the same basic things, like plans for hotels, mixed-use development, housing and office space. Those ideas are all present in the current plan, he said. 

    Carroll pushed back, saying “zoning is not a master plan.” 

    “It’s part of it,” he said. “A master plan has a binding agreement on the site. This concept has no binding agreement.” 

    The master plan proposal brought to the city by urban designer Jeff Speck, Carroll said, fills in gaps the current plan didn’t address. 

    Carroll also asked for opinions on the mayor’s current plan from downtown business and residential representatives. Both Elizabeth Stevens, of Downtown Mobile Alliance, and former council attorney Wanda Cochran, from DeTonti Square, said they disagreed with the plan currently before councilors. 

    “Two of the three biggest stakeholder groups in my district are against this,” Carroll said. “It’s important those voices are heard.” 

    While Carroll also brought up concerns over the $100 million price tag on renovations to the Civic Center arena and theater and how the city was going to pay for the project, some councilors believe the city can find a corporate partner to lighten the financial load. 

    “I think when we get this fleshed out and start to advertise this, we’ll find a partner to partner with us,” Jones said.

    Council committee can’t decide on path forward for Civic Center - Lagniappe Mobile

  • OPEC and Russia vote to slash oil output as they ignore Biden’s pleas

    The Biden administration’s scramble to avoid another surge in US gas prices took a major hit Wednesday after OPEC and Russia approved a significant cut in oil production.

    Oil jumped to $87 on Wednesday after the OPEC+, a group of oil-producing nations that includes Russia, slashed output limits by 2 million barrels per day. The cut would mark the largest drop in OPEC+ oil production since 2020 and add additional pressure to global energy markets already reeling from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Bloomberg reported.

    The cuts were approved even after the Biden administration attempted a “full-scale pressure campaign” in a bid to convince OPEC+ not to slash output , CNN reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

    OPEC+ ministers are seeking to bolster the price of oil, which has declined in recent months as fears mount about a potential global recession. Experts had already warned that tightness in energy markets this winter – with Europe on the verge of a full-blown energy crisis – could send oil prices much higher.

    Meanwhile, the national average price of a gallon of gas hit $3.83 on Wednesday following days of steady increases. The trend is a political headache for President Biden and other Democrats ahead of midterm elections that will determine which party controls Congress.

    On the national level, GasBuddy oil & refined products analyst Patrick De Haan said he expects US gas prices to rise 15 cents to 30 cents higher than they would have without the cuts to output.

    In regions where prices have been roughly flat in recent weeks, such as the Northeast, Southeast, Gulf Coast and the Rockies, De Haan expects the OPEC+ cuts to “start pushing prices up 10-30 cents per gallon over the next couple weeks,” he told The Post.

    Meanwhile, the OPEC+ decision won’t stop prices from falling in regions where conditions had improved due to refinery repairs, such as on the West Coast and near the Great Lakes. However, “prices won’t fall as far after repairs are completed” in those areas, De Haan added.

    “Long-term, the OPEC decision has the potential to put upward pressure on oil prices, which could, contingent upon developments in other global issues, cause an increase in gas prices as we head into the last few months of the year,” GasBuddy spokesperson Nicole Peterson added.

    Republican lawmakers and other critics accused the Biden administration of prematurely taking credit for falling gas prices as they receded from a record high of $5.016 in June. With prices once again on the rise, there are signs White House officials are scrambling to avert the resulting political backlash.

    The White House has tapped the Energy Department to project the impact of a potential ban on experts of US-produced gasoline, diesel and other refined petroleum products, Bloomberg reported.  Domestic oil producers oppose the idea, arguing a ban would disrupt struggling energy markets and only lead to higher prices for American motorists.

    Meanwhile, Biden has publicly targeted US oil companies during the recent uptick in prices.

    As the destructive Hurricane Ian approached last month, Biden issued “a warning to oil and gas industry executives: Do not — let me, repeat, do not — do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people.”

    As The Post has reported, experts say the Biden administration’s restrictive policy stance on domestic energy producers have exacerbated the price problem.

    The OPEC+ cuts mark another snub for the White House. Biden visited Saudi Arabia earlier this year to request additional oil output, but the trip was widely deemed a failure after OPEC only announced a modest increase.

    The cut, while sizable, was “less than the market had predicted,” according to Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial.

    “Russia, heavily dependent on income from oil exports, was seeking a much larger cut in order to push prices higher and ensure a stream of revenue to support its war effort,” Krosby said.

    OPEC and Russia agree to slash oil output by 2M barrels a day (nypost.com)

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