BW Listening: Young Voters Seek Transformative Leadership With a New Vision in Birmingham Elections

Gentrification, inequity, urban blight.
Disenchantment, nothing, renaissance.
Ignorance, opportunity, room to grow.

Those were quick descriptions of Birmingham offered by young city voters asked for a picture of their town. The group included professionals and entrepreneurs, an educator and a college student, an AmeriCorps member and community workers. Most were in their 20s and 30s, and they came from voting districts across the city.

BW Listening hosted the session Monday to hear what is important to them in the upcoming mayor and council elections. Read more.

Appeals Court Asks Whether It Can Legally Consider Gardendale School-Separation Case

The appeal of a federal judge’s decision in the Gardendale school breakaway case may hit an unexpected roadblock.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has issued a “jurisdictional question” asking all parties in the case whether the ruling issued in April by U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala could be considered a final judgment, since the ruling did not give complete and final control of Gardendale’s four schools to the city right away.

Instead, it allowed the city to take over Gardendale and Snow Rogers elementary schools in the coming academic year. The order laid out a process for the city to follow to ensure desegregation efforts over the next three years before she would hand over control of Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools. Read more.

Former Rep. Oliver Robinson Agrees to Plead Guilty to Federal Bribery and Fraud Charges

Former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson has been charged with having accepted bribes from a Birmingham lawyer and an Alabama coal company executive in exchange for advocating against EPA actions in North Birmingham, acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey announced today.

He also is charged with fraud in connection with campaign contributions made to him and contributions he solicited for events he sponsored. The final count in the information charges Robinson with tax evasion.

Robinson agreed to plead guilty to the charges and to never again seek elected office, according to a plea agreement released by prosecutors. He also agreed to pay restitution and submit to a forfeiture judgment.
Robinson, a 57-year-old Democrat, represented Alabama’s House District 58 from 1998 until he resigned Nov. 30, 2016.

“Mr. Robinson is charged with conspiracy, bribery and defrauding the people of Alabama and his constituents his honest services,” Posey said at a press conference.

“The gist of the charges is that Mr. Robinson accepted a valuable contract from a Birmingham law firm in exchange for using his position in the Alabama Legislature to advocate for the position of a coal company which was a client of the law firm.” Read more.

Birmingham City Council Debates Cemetery Funding, Transparency at City Hall

Much of Tuesday’s Birmingham City Council meeting revolved around issues pertaining to what councilors have labeled “a lack of transparency” from city departments. At several turns, councilors engaged in lengthy deliberations on resolutions presented to the body without completed paperwork or records on topics from cemetery upkeep to land acquisition deals.
They also approved $35,720.19 in travel for the months of May and June for the mayor’s administrative assistants and some council employees. Read more.

Birmingham Council Opens Door for 27-Acre Humane Society Campus in Titusville

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to transfer ownership of the 27-acre Trinity Steel site in the Titusville community to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society to develop a new animal care and control facility.

Despite several speakers who voiced opposition to the move during a public hearing, Councilor Sheila Tyson, who represents the district, said she supported the project because the majority of people she has spoken with support it.

“The community has voted yes for this three times,” Tyson said after the vote as people crowded the hallways outside the council chamber.

Before the vote transferring ownership of the property, the council also voted in favor of another resolution that rezoned Titusville land for residential use, potentially complicating the process the GBHS must go through to begin construction on the new facility. Read more.

The Mayor and Your Money

When the Mayor-Council Act was modified by the state Legislature last year amid continuous jockeying for power between the elected officials representing Birmingham’s legislative and executive branches, city councilors lamented that the changes would give too much power to Mayor William Bell.

Today, even as the mayor and some councilors continue at odds over various issues, one thing is clear: how the mayor has used his broadened powers in the past year has not eased the tension.

One example: Bell’s office has paid nearly half a million dollars to one lobbying firm, and at least $122,000 of that was done without the council’s approval as of January 2017. Read more.

JeffCo Commissioners Shut Down Residents With Bankruptcy-Related Petition

A largely uneventful meeting of the Jefferson County Commission ended Thursday with an effort by a resident to get commissioners to rescind their appeal of a federal judge’s decision to hear the county’s bankruptcy case.
The commission president told the visitors they could not present a petition because they were not on the agenda.
“You can rescind the appeal,” Bob Friedman of Committee to Save Jefferson County told commissioners who remained to listen. “As a result of all the chaos that’s going on with the Water Works, collection issues and (people) having their water cut off, you’re a part of it.” Read more.

Citing Improved Finances, JeffCo Commission Debates Reinstating Road Maintenance

June 6, 2017 – Two matters on the Jefferson County Commission’s committee agenda Tuesday showed that the county is on better footing than it had been. Commissioners talked about reinstating agreements to provide service for through roads in some area cities and renewing a resolution for the county to again participate in the back-to-school sales tax holiday. “The county has turned the corner and we’ve established a new baseline for service within Jefferson County,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. Read more.

As You Were: Federal Judge Stays Ruling, Allows Jefferson County System to Run Gardendale Schools While Appeals Play Out

The takeover of two elementary schools by the Gardendale Board of Education will not happen in the coming academic year, after a federal judge issued a stay of her original ruling in the city’s attempt to break away from the Jefferson County Schools.

U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala agreed to motions filed by both Gardendale officials and by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which represents the original plaintiffs in the landmark Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education case that resulted in racial desegregation of the county system in the early 1970s.

Both parties had asked Haikala to delay the ruling she issued on April 24 and amended a few days later. That order allowed Gardendale to do a partial takeover of the schools inside city limits; Snow Rogers and Gardendale elementary schools would have been under city control beginning this summer, while Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools would have remained part of JefCoEd for at least three years, until Haikala was satisfied that Gardendale had made sufficient progress toward desegregation. Read more.

Students Purportedly Wearing “Blackface” in Online Photos Rekindle Racial Allegations in Gardendale’s Bid to Form Its Own School System

Earlier Stories

Gardendale School Board Appeals Federal Court Ruling, Asks for Full Control of All Schools in the City Right Away

What’s Next? Residents Speak out About Next Steps for Gardendale’s New School System

Judge Stands with Order: Gardendale Can Take Steps Toward Separate School System
NAACP Asks Judge to Reconsider Allowing Gardendale to Start Its Own School System
NAACP Plans to Ask Judge to Reconsider Gardendale School Order; Ruling in Case Defies Conventional Procedure
Judge Haikala Is No Stranger to the Spotlight
Federal Judge Gives Gardendale Control Over City’s Elementary Schools, Lets JeffCo Keep Middle and High Schools for Now.
Read Haikala’s May 9 order
Read Hiakala’s initial ruling.

At $428 Million, the Mayor’s Proposed 2018 Operating Budget is the City’s Largest Yet. But Where is That Money Going?

Mayor William Bell last week revealed his proposed operating budget for the fiscal year 2018. At $428 million, the budget is Birmingham’s largest ever, which appeared to be a point of pride for the mayor.
But what is in the proposed budget? How is the growth the mayor spoke of reflected in spending choices? And what are the points of contention that will likely influence not only the budget talks but the upcoming municipal elections? Read more

Who’s running for the U.S. Senate?

Ten Republicans and eight Democrats are running for the open U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he took the U.S. attorney general job. Wednesday was the deadline to file papers qualifying to run for the office.
See the list.

Birmingham City Councilors Suggest Bell is Forcing Lundy out of Office

Birmingham City Councilor Marcus Lundy announced Tuesday he will not be seeking re-election, leading to an outpouring of verbal — and at times emotional — support from his fellow councilors, with some indicating they believe he was forced out. A majority of the council members, speaking on the record and anonymously after the meeting, allege that Lundy was pressured to not seek re-election by Mayor William Bell or else potentially lose his job at Regions Bank. Read more.

Gardendale School Board Appeals Federal Court Ruling, Asks for Full Control of All Schools in the City Right Away

Lawyers for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and for the Gardendale Board of Education agree on something.

They both want Gardendale’s takeover of two elementary schools in the city to be delayed by federal courts.

The Gardendale board filed two motions Tuesday. One informed the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it intends to cross-appeal a federal judge’s decision allowed the new system to take over operation of the two schools for the coming academic year. The other asked the original judge to stay her own ruling, delaying the order’s implementation until the board’s appeal and that of the NAACP are handled by the appellate court.
Gardendale is appealing Haikala’s late April ruling because it feels she should have ruled entirely in its favor, allowing it to take control of all four JefCoEd schools inside the city’s limits, including Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools.

The NAACP, on the other hand, is asking for a stay so it can argue that Gardendale shouldn’t be able allowed to take control of any of the schools. Read more.

Students Purportedly Wearing “Blackface” in Online Photos Rekindle Racial Allegations in Gardendale’s Bid to Form Its Own School System

Earlier Stories

What’s Next? Residents Speak out About Next Steps for Gardendale’s New School System

Judge Stands with Order: Gardendale Can Take Steps Toward Separate School System
NAACP Asks Judge to Reconsider Allowing Gardendale to Start Its Own School System
NAACP Plans to Ask Judge to Reconsider Gardendale School Order; Ruling in Case Defies Conventional Procedure
Judge Haikala Is No Stranger to the Spotlight
Federal Judge Gives Gardendale Control Over City’s Elementary Schools, Lets JeffCo Keep Middle and High Schools for Now.
Read Haikala’s May 9 order
Read Hiakala’s initial ruling.

Briarwood Presbyterian Church Police Department Bill Died for Lack of Action in the Legislature

Briarwood Presbyterian Church will not be ranking among an elite group of churches with their own police departments, at least not this year.

A bill that would have allowed the megachurch to hire certified peace officers died when the Legislature adjourned Friday, the second year in a row the measure has died.

Briarwood’s proposal to establish its own police force has been a controversial one. Critics said the move was unconstitutional. But Briarwood representatives cited the increasing rate of mass shootings at churches, schools and commercial venues as reasons for bringing police officers on staff. Read more.

Legislature OKs Redistricting Plan on Last Day of the Session

The Alabama Legislature this morning gave final approval to redistricting plans, finishing off one of its most contentious jobs on the last day of the regular session.

The plan to rewrite the House districts now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. The redistricting plan for the Senate was approved and sent to the governor Thursday.

Legislators redrew the districts after a federal court said 12 of them were the unconstitutional results of racial gerrymandering. Democrats, angry that the redistricting plan backed by Republicans had not changed enough on the map, threatened to lock down the Legislature by asking that the bills be read at length – a task that took eight hours in the House and most of the night in the Senate.

The Senate redistricting plan proposes to redraw 25 of the 35 districts, and the House redistricting plan would redraw 70 of the 105 districts.

Jefferson County has been one of the key sticking points in the plans throughout the process. Several districts cross into Jefferson County although the bulk of the population is in another county. The inclusion of those legislators on the Jefferson County delegations creates Republican majorities.

Democratic leaders had wanted district lines redrawn to respect county lines, thereby balancing power evenly between Democrats and Republicans on the delegations. The plans before the Legislature did not do that, leaving Republicans with a one-vote majority in both the House and the Senate.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh told the Associated Press on Thursday that the major dispute was “all about Jefferson County and the makeup of the delegation. … I get it. But based upon what I’ve seen I do believe that these will hold up in court.”

Democrats disagreed. “It seems like we are going to end up in court again,” said Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. “It’s clear. You can look at the map. There is racial gerrymandering.” Read more.

What’s Next? Residents Speak out About Next Steps for Gardendale’s New School System

May 16, 2017 – For residents of Gardendale, most of whom supported the city’s efforts to break away from the Jefferson County Schools and form a new municipal system, the question is, “What’s next?”

Many of those residents filled the council chambers of City Hall on Tuesday night to pose their questions or voice their concerns to the Gardendale Board of Education. It was the board’s first meeting since U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala issued a lengthy ruling that gave the board control of the city’s two elementary schools, with the possibility of taking over the middle and high schools in three years, if racial and financial issues are settled to Haikala’s satisfaction.

That’s far less than the full, immediate control that Gardendale officials sought. Moreover, the ruling also required that the city reimburse JefCoEd for the Gardendale High School property, or else allow the county to keep that facility and build a new school for itself. Gardendale attorneys had argued that Alabama law gave them a loophole to take over GHS for nothing, since JefCoEd issued no debt to pay for it; the debt was instead taken on by Jefferson County government.

With a strong contingent — at least by Gardendale standards — of local police on hand, attendees came one by one to the front to have their say before the board. Most of them implored board members and Superintendent Patrick Martin to keep pressing toward a full breakaway. Read more.

Earlier Stories
Judge Stands with Order: Gardendale Can Take Steps Toward Separate School System
NAACP Asks Judge to Reconsider Allowing Gardendale to Start Its Own School System
NAACP Plans to Ask Judge to Reconsider Gardendale School Order; Ruling in Case Defies Conventional Procedure
Judge Haikala Is No Stranger to the Spotlight
Federal Judge Gives Gardendale Control Over City’s Elementary Schools, Lets JeffCo Keep Middle and High Schools for Now.

Read Haikala’s May 9 order
Read Hiakala’s initial ruling.

Community Activists Accuse Mayor Bell of Campaign Finance Violations, Neglect of City’s Poor

Members of the community advocacy group the Outcast Voters League took to the floor during Tuesday’s Birmingham City Council meeting to castigate Mayor William Bell and the council for perceived inaction.

One activist, Iva Williams, alleged that Bell has violated state law by failing to regularly file finance reports for his reelection campaign. Williams announced that he has filed a formal ethics complaint against the mayor with the Alabama Secretary of State.
Read more.

Judge Stands with Order: Gardendale Can Take Steps Toward Separate School System

A federal district judge has declined to reconsider her ruling two weeks ago that allows Gardendale to break away from the Jefferson County Schools on a limited basis, even though she found that Gardendale’s motives for forming its own municipal school system were racially motivated.

In a 49-page supplemental memorandum opinion issued Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala turned down the request by attorneys for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, representing the original plaintiffs in the landmark Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education case. That case resulted in the forced desegregation of county schools nearly half a century ago. The attorneys contended Haikala’s finding of racial motivation did not match up with allowing Gardendale to proceed with its separation. Read more

Read Haikala’s May 9 order

Earlier Stories
NAACP Asks Judge to Reconsider Allowing Gardendale to Start Its Own School System
Read Hiakala’s initial ruling.
NAACP Plans to Ask Judge to Reconsider Gardendale School Order; Ruling in Case Defies Conventional Procedure
Judge Haikala Is No Stranger to the Spotlight
Federal Judge Gives Gardendale Control Over City’s Elementary Schools, Lets JeffCo Keep Middle and High Schools for Now.

What They’re Saying
Whites Only: School Segregation Is Back, From Birmingham to San Francisco (Newsweek)
Judge: Mostly White Southern City May Secede From School District Despite Racial Motive (Washington Post)
Judge Lets White Alabama Town Secede From School District Despite ‘Race’ Being a Factor (NBC News)
A Federal Judge Is Letting an Alabama School District Return to Segregation (Salon)
A Southern City Wants to Secede From Its School District, Raising Concerns About Segregation (Washington Post)

Quality of Life Issues Dominate Discussion in Forest Park-South Avondale Neighborhood

Heavy trucks are breaking storm sewer covers. UAB is working on an affordable, sturdier design.

New street lights will soon be installed; you can ask for shades if they’re too bright.

What’s going on with the missing trash pickup? Why won’t Birmingham allow speed bumps to slow traffic? Crime is down a bit this month, and offenses reported are mostly property crimes.

Everyday quality of life items dominated discussion at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Forest Park-South Avondale Neighborhood Association.

The mellow tone was notable as an election season cranks up in Birmingham. Read more

NAACP Asks Judge to Reconsider Allowing Gardendale to Start Its Own School System

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a motion that asks U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala to reverse her decision allowing the city of Gardendale to form its own municipal school district.

The motion, which was filed Monday, agrees with Haikala’s finding that the motivation for Gardendale to break away from the Jefferson County Schools is primarily racial. But it argues that the finding contradicts her order to allow the city to take control of two elementary schools in the 2017-18 school year, with the goal of taking over Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools after three years if racial balance issues are achieved.

Jefferson County school officials have fought Gardendale’s bid to break away and form its own system in part because they feared it would endanger their own efforts to be declared effectively desegregated and to be released from federal court supervision. Read more

Earlier Stories
Read Hiakala’s full ruling.
NAACP Plans to Ask Judge to Reconsider Gardendale School Order; Ruling in Case Defies Conventional Procedure
Judge Haikala Is No Stranger to the Spotlight
Federal Judge Gives Gardendale Control Over City’s Elementary Schools, Lets JeffCo Keep Middle and High Schools for Now.

What They’re Saying
Whites Only: School Segregation Is Back, From Birmingham to San Francisco (Newsweek)
Judge: Mostly White Southern City May Secede From School District Despite Racial Motive (Washington Post)
Judge Lets White Alabama Town Secede From School District Despite ‘Race’ Being a Factor (NBC News)
A Federal Judge Is Letting an Alabama School District Return to Segregation (Salon)
A Southern City Wants to Secede From Its School District, Raising Concerns About Segregation (Washington Post)

A Fix for Racial Gerrymandering? Legislators to Debate Whether New Plan Cures Voting District Problems

Legislators continued work this week on bills to redraw House and Senate districts a federal court ruled had been racially gerrymandered.

The Senate passed a plan proposed by Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, that would redraw 25 of the 35 districts in the Senate.
Earlier this week, a House committee passed a plan to redraw House districts.

Members of the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment hope to report progress on redistricting to a federal court on May 25.

But Democratic members of the Legislature have not been satisfied with changes made to the state’s districting maps and thought the committee had not changed lines enough. Read more

NAACP Plans to Ask Judge to Reconsider Gardendale School Order; Ruling in Case Defies Conventional Procedure

U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala has given Gardendale residents the keys to some of the schools in their city even though she asserted that their effort to withdraw from the Jefferson County Schools system is racially motivated.

It’s a contradiction that raised an eyebrow for former federal judge U.W. Clemon, and it’s why he and his colleagues on the legal team for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund plan to file a motion asking Haikala to change her order and halt Gardendale’s takeover.

“It’s called a motion to alter,” Clemon said Wednesday. “In light of her more important finding that the Gardendale school board did not carry its burden of proof that the new school system would not impede the desegregation of the Jefferson County Schools, then there is no legal basis on which to approve the formation of the new system.”

Clemon’s planned motion would be a step short of a formal application to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Read more

Off the Lawn: Discussion About Enforcement of Neighborhood Parking Ordinances Threatened to Derail Birmingham City Council Meeting.

Most of the business addressed at the Birmingham City Council’s Tuesday meeting was fairly streamlined, until an extended discussion of a proposed zoning ordinance change led to a freewheeling conversation about parking. Specifically, the issue was how to prevent people from parking on their front lawns, the width of the city’s right-of-way, and the responsibility of the Birmingham Police Department to enforce parking ordinances.

“We have gotten far away from the topic that is before the council, which is just the amendment to the zoning ordinance,” said assistant city attorney Julie Bernard at one point. “The issue that is before the council … does not have much to do with the issue that we have diverted to.” Read more.

Federal Judge Gives Gardendale Control Over City’s Elementary Schools, Lets JeffCo Keep Middle and High Schools for Now.

The City of Gardendale has tried for more than three years to break away from the Jefferson County Schools to form its own municipal system. The county system has tried equally hard to keep that from happening.

On Monday, a federal judge gave each side some of what they wanted, but maybe not enough to satisfy either.

U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala ruled that the Gardendale City Schools – a system that has existed as only a legal entity for three years, without any schools to operate – may take over Snow Rogers and Gardendale Elementary schools for the 2017-2018 academic year. But Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools will stay in the Jefferson County system, for at least the next year “and until this Court orders otherwise,” in the judge’s words. Read more.

Briarwood Presbyterian Church Police Department Bill Awaits Action in Legislature

Updated May 7, 2017 – Briarwood Presbyterian Church may soon join the ranks of the Vatican and Washington National Cathedral as a religious institution with its own police department.

Critics of the bill to allow Briarwood to establish its own police department say the move is unconstitutional. But Briarwood representatives cite the increasing rate of mass shootings at churches, schools and commercial venues as reasons for bringing police officers on staff.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved the legislation April 19, and it is pending before the Alabama House of Representatives. The Senate passed it April 11 on a vote of 24-2, so it’s now up to the House, and possibly the governor, to decide whether to allow the Vestavia Hills church to establish its own police department. Read more.

Birmingham City Council Approves Nearly $1.5 Million to Keep Grand Prix Race in the City Despite Concerns

Questions about budgets consistently being presented to the Birmingham City Council during the time of a vote took center stage in Tuesday’s meeting, including during the discussion of a three-year, $1,496,500 contract with Zoom Motorsports to manage Indy Grand Prix Racing at Barber Motorsports Park. Read more.

Alabama’s Political Corruption: Three Governors and One House Speaker Convicted of Crimes Give State a Reputation

With Robert Bentley’s resignation as governor, Alabama’s history of top elected officials who have had their careers end because of scandal continues.

In the past 25 years, three governors have faced criminal charges during or soon after their terms of office, and a speaker of the House was forced out after convictions on a dozen ethics violations. The state’s chief justice was removed from office twice – not on criminal charges, but for willfully disobeying federal judges’ orders.

With four top elected officials now convicted criminals, is Alabama leading the nation in political corruption? Read more.

Coverage of the Bentley Saga

Important Events in Bentley’s Tenure as Alabama Governor (Associated Press)

Robert Bentley, Alabama Governor, Resigns Amid Scandal (New York Times)

Robert Bentley: An Unlikely Governor … An Unexpected End (Montgomery Advertiser)

Spencer Collier: Bentley finally got what he deserved (

Why It Took Alabama’s Governor So Long to Resign (Governing)

Alabama Governor Resigns Under Threat of Impeachment Over Affair With an Aide (The Los Angeles Times)

Alabama’s Governor Resigns to Avoid Impeachment Amid Allegations of Affair (The Guardian)

Alabama Governor Resigns Amid Sex Scandal (The Hill)

Former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s Year From Hell, a Timeline (Washington Post)

Gov. Kay Ivey Makes History

Kay Ivey made history in 2002 when she became the first Republican elected state treasurer since Reconstruction.

She made history again Monday when she became the second woman to hold the office of governor in Alabama. Ivey succeeded Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned from the office amid threats of impeachment and looming criminal charges tied to his relationship with adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Read more.

Bill for Railroad Park Leads to Questions About How Money is Spent for Some Parks Over Others

April 4, 2017 – The Birmingham City Council approved a $220,000 appropriation to pay for services associated with the management of Railroad Park after a prolonged discussion about a lack of invoices for the services. Some council members questioned the amounts the city pays for Railroad Park while it struggles to fund other parks in the city. Read more.

After Spring Break, Legislators Confront Issues of Impeachment, Redistricting, Prisons and Budgets

Legislators will return to Montgomery on Tuesday after a two-week spring break still facing the controversial issues that were on their desks at the beginning of the session.

Prison crowding, budgets, impeachment and redistricting are just a few of the weighty matters legislators must grapple with in the rest of their session.

When they return, it will be for the 14th business day, just shy of the halfway mark in the 30-day session. Read more.

Buildings’ Age and Location: Issues In Debate Over Historic Preservation Tax Credit

Updated May 7, 2017 – How old must buildings be before they are considered historic? Should tax credits for their preservation be split evenly across the state or allowed to cluster in the cities?

Both are questions still in play as the Alabama Legislature considers restoring a program that supported renewal efforts, most notably in Birmingham and Mobile.

A version of the historic preservation tax credit, which has helped fund restoration of 51 buildings across the state so far, has been passed by the House, and a version was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. Because the Senate-passed bill was revised to address several issues that had been raised, it now must go back to the House to be voted up or down or be changed again.

Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives, said the important thing is to get the money flowing to the program again. Gaston said that not only do the tax credits help pay to restore often dilapidated buildings, but those projects create jobs for the construction workers and craftsmen employed to do the work.
Read more.

Birmingham City Council Report: Sticking Points

March 21, 2017 – The Birmingham City Council, mostly showing up on time this week, debated several contentious issues.
It delayed votes on whether to apply for World Trade Center designation and whether to conduct a study on the long-term placement of i-20/59. And after some discussion, it approved the sale of land in the Oxmoor Valley to a developer who wants to build a subdivision there. Read more.

Historic Tax Credit Returns to the Legislature With Widespread Support – in Theory

The newly renovated Pizitz Building sits on 19th Street North in downtown Birmingham, its pristine, wedding cake white façade belying its 94 years.

It’s the latest among dozens of historic downtown Birmingham buildings that have been renovated in recent years. But many more of them haven’t been. They stand nearby, vacant or sparsely populated, with fading signs and sagging woodwork.

Three such buildings in Birmingham – a total of seven from around the state – are on a list at the Alabama Historic Commission, waiting to see whether the Legislature will renew tax credits for historic renovation.

The tax credit expired last year because of concerns about the cost of the program to the state. But bills to overhaul and reinstate the tax credit program have pulled much more support this year – at least in theory.

The tax credit this year has 87 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 29 co-sponsors in the Senate. “It’s huge for Birmingham,’’ said Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, who introduced the bill in the Senate this year. Read more.

Amid Questions About Ties to the Mayor, Birmingham City Council Rejects Liaison for My Brother’s Keeper

March 14, 2017 – Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin slammed the gavel and the council session began at 10:53 am, nearly an hour and a half after the scheduled time, because there had not been enough members present to legally hold the meeting.

Mayor William Bell was among the absent, leaving councilors with questions on several items. Among the most contentious was an agreement between the city and the Birmingham Board of Education to appoint Bobby Benton to a full-time position “from the board to work with My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.” The job could pay up to $43,823, according to the resolution.

Benton has worked on political campaigns for Bell, and several councilors, including Austin, said they believed Benton had been named as the chairman to Bell’s re-election campaign.

Sunshine Week: League of Women Voters Recruits Citizens to Help Keep an Eye on Local Governments

The League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham is launching a new program to train citizens to observe local government bodies and report impartially on their actions.

The launch of the new Greater Birmingham Observer Corps coincides with this year’s national Sunshine Week, March 12-18. The purpose of the corps is to push for transparency in local government actions, and Sunshine Week is designed to highlight open government and freedom of information at the local, state and federal levels.

In Homewood, Neighborly Spirit Mutes Politics Despite Close Presidential Vote

(In the early days of a new president, BirminghamWatch has looked at what divides us and connects us close to home. This is the final story in the series.)

Edgewood resident Leo Wright has been an election officer in Homewood for the past four presidential elections, and Homewood Public Library has served as his base every Election Day.

It’s the largest voting location in Homewood and one of the largest in Jefferson County based on registered voters. On Nov. 8, 2016, a total of 3,381 residents voted there, enjoying free coffee and a collegial, jubilant atmosphere that Wright says is typical.

That atmosphere reflects the sense of community in Homewood, says Wright, who served as the registration list clerk and assistant inspector.

But it belies the division among voters in the Over the Mountain suburb, particularly those who cast ballots at the library, where Donald Trump won 49 percent of the votes and Hillary Clinton won 43 percent. Read more.

Other stories from this series:
Fairness and Safety. Education and Jobs. Similar Worries for Clinton and Trump Voters
From Jefferson County’s Trump Country: “I feel like I’ve been left out a lot.”
A Big Blue Dot in a Sea of Red. But Jefferson County’s Presidential Vote Tally Masks Deep Community Divisions

Guns for Graves: Birmingham City Council Delays Supporting Bill to Use Pistol Permit Fees to Fund Cemetery Maintenance.

March 7, 2017 – Birmingham City Councilor William Parker doesn’t see any hidden meaning in HB 34, the proposed legislation that would create and fund a Jefferson County Cemetery Board through gun permit fees.

“The funding is funding that has already been collected,” said Parker, who supports the bill. He said the intent was not to send a message – grave maintenance being paid for by gun fees — in a city that is plagued by gun-related homicides. “This is the way that the legislators are supporting the issue about addressing the needs of the cemetery.”

But questions about whether that’s a stable source of funding, how the money would be allotted and whether it was enough stalled a resolution the council was debating to support the bill. Read more.

Legislative Overview: Lawmakers Take up Bills on Abortion, Immigration and Death Sentencing in First Week.

Alabama legislators kick-started their session last week, with committees approving bills on abortion, sanctuary campuses and death penalty sentences, among other topics. Those bills could go to the floor of the House or Senate this week.

The governor’s recommendations for the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets also were introduced last week but have yet to come up for a vote. Read more.

Jeffco Legislators Predict Medicaid and Prison Funding Will Dominate Early Days of the Session.

Alabama legislators convened their regular session Tuesday facing some of the same problems that consumed them last year.

“The main thing for all of us is going to be the budget,” said Allen Treadaway, R-Morris.

The governor is recommending a $1.9 billion General Fund budget that is almost flat funding from this year, though he has said he was considering proposing a pay raise for state employees. His $6.3 billion proposed Education Trust Fund budget does not include a raise for education employees, who did get a bump in pay this year.

But the two biggest elephants in the budget conference room will once again be Medicaid and prisons. Read more.

As If We Needed Reminders, Anyway…

If you had been stricken with amnesia and couldn’t remember who was running for president, you wouldn’t have gotten any clues as you approached polling places in Jefferson County.

Despite the complete inundation of news and ads and chatter about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the past several months as they have pushed toward their epic showdown, there was literally no sign for either approaching precincts in Jefferson County.

Was this some new political strategy? Were party leaders here trying to give voters a break, fearing they suffered from candidate fatigue?

Nope. They just didn’t have any signs for the candidates at the top of their tickets.

There’s Just One Day to Vote, and It’s Nov. 8

The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department is on the lookout this afternoon for people posting or handing out fliers that erroneously tell Democratic voters they cannot vote until Nov. 9. After receiving several calls today about misleading fliers posted at polling places in Tuscaloosa County, Probate Judge W. Hardy McCollum notified the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Department, according to Lisa Whitehead, chief clerk in the Tuscaloosa County Probate Office. Images of the flier – which tells Republicans to vote today, Democrats to vote on Wednesday and independents to vote either day – have been posted across social media throughout the day. Whitehead said McCollum’s office received several calls about the fliers, which were written on what looks like the official letterhead of Tuscaloosa County.

Homewood Senior Citizens Center

Poll official Myra Mizerany said the biggest problem at the Homewood Senior Citizens Center polling place on Oak Grove Road today had been “voters wanting to camp out.” “I had one woman this morning who took 35 minutes to vote,” she said. “But we haven’t turned anyone away or had any problems.” Mizerany said voting lines were long first thing this morning. “It was bumper to bumper all the way across the parking lot this morning but it has died down now.

At the Polls

BirminghamWatch, in partnership with ProPublica’s Electionland project, is keeping track of activities at the polls today. If you have a tip about issues at the polls, you can text ELECTIONLAND to 69866. Or you can notify BirminghamWatch directly by emailing or calling 205-595-2402, and a reporter will check out your tip.

7:00 p.m. Polls just closed in Alabama, and several polling places reported they had lines of voters still waiting to vote. Under state law, the polls must remain open until all the voters who were in line at 7 p.m. cast their ballots.

4:24 p.m. The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department is on the lookout this afternoon for people posting or handing out fliers that erroneously tell Democratic voters they cannot vote until Nov. 9. Read more.

2:30 p.m. After complaints from some voters who thought poll workers were rushing them, Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King said there’s no set time limit for voters to cast their ballots, but he would not expect it to take more than about 12 minutes. Read more.

11:15 a.m. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill retweeted a reminder that those voting a straight party ticket do not also have to vote for individual candidates. There has been confusion over that issue all morning.

10:26 a.m. Lines were beginning to die down at Homewood Senior Citizens Center after a hectic morning. Read more.

7:20 a.m. Voters at Hoover Fire Station No. 8 had to put their ballots in a locked box in a voting machine after the machine broke. Similar reports have been made from other polling places. Read more.

Hoover Fire Station No. 8 Malfunction

Janet Haines, lead poll official at Hoover Fire Station No. 8, said the ballots are in a locked portion of the machine and will be counted later. The machine malfunction caused a bit of a line at first, but it dissipated quickly, Haines said. The polling place now is using its one working box. This tip came originally from Electionland, a ProPublica project that will cover access to the ballot and problems that prevent people from exercising their right to vote during the 2016 election.”

Long Lines Greet People Trying to Vote Early Today

Cameron Ydarraga turned 18 in September and has been looking forward to his first chance to vote. The John Carroll Catholic senior considered the candidates and he considered the amendments.

But the Hoover resident didn’t consider the incredibly long line in which he would have to stand at Hunter Street Baptist Church before casting his ballot.

Cameron wasn’t the only one taken aback by the crowd, which was “Way, way, way more than normal,” according to a poll worker who asked that his name not be used.

Voters at other polling places across the area also were facing long lines this morning. Read more.

Mail Delays Endanger Voting for More Than 100 Absentee Voters in Shelby County

More than 100 Shelby County voters who applied to vote absentee learned Monday that they could not because their applications had been delayed in the mail.

Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk Mary Harris said she received 122 applications for absentee ballots in the mail Monday. The problem is, the deadline for receiving those applications was Thursday.

The peculiar thing about those applications, Harris said, is that they were postmarked Monday, Oct. 31. Of those, 97 were from the metro Birmingham area, she said.

Harris spent Monday alerting people that their absentee ballots were not in the mail and that they must, if possible, go to their regular polling place to cast their ballots. Read more.

Pleasant Grove Results



Audrey Rutledge Boles                        509

Jerry Brasseale                                 1,625

City Council

Place 1

Mary Capps Hardin                          464

Philip Houston                                 958

Robert A. Sellers Sr.                       687

Place 2

Bob Crumpton                                 1,353

Priscilla J. McWilliams                       750

Place 3

Ken Hatfield                                     1,308

Yolanda Y. Lawson                            656

Marria McKinney                                 172


Hueytown Results



Steve Ware                   1,100

Delor Baumann           1,032

Joe Williams                  266

City Council

District 1

Franquala Zinnerman   219

Albert Duff Jr.                  159

District 4

Phillip Contorno         291

George White               100

Midfield Results



Gary Richardson                   406

Reginald Wilson            186

City Council

Place 2

David Beach                  194

James Reasor              406   

Place 3

Wendi Merriweather   399

Jimmie Robinson          204

Place 4

Janice Anderson         421

Vanessa Long Lewis    185


Fairfield Results



Edward May II                        925

Johnnie Wyatt                       717

Omar Young                           460

Jennifer Craig                         66

Rodger Davis                          44

Jack Cleveland                       27

City Council


Eddie Penny                          1,165

Darnell Gardner                      1,009

District 1

Fredrick D. Scott                   150

Barakas N. Taylor                 148

Garry Brandy                           51

James Reasor                         29

District 2

Susan Parks                           131

Gloria Matthews                      82

Wanda Shelby                         18

District 3

Cynthia Turner McDowell   182

Harry C. Lee                            78

District 5

Herman Carnes Jr.               274

Wanda Erskine                       84

Jerry Yarbrough                      36


Centreville Results


City Council, District 2

Don A. Mack, Sr. 101

Bobby Pratt              39


City Council, District 3

Dianne Epperson   89

Cliff Clemmons       22

Forrest Murphy      12

City Council, District 5

Calvin Elliott     126

Ken Cottingham  67




Dora Results



Randy Stephens   513

George Sides Jr. 319

Robert “Robbie” Busby   57

City Council:

Clyde Nix   140

Christopher S. Edwards   129

Arthur Lee Taylor Sr.    83

Marion Combs    78

Randy Spears      64

McArthur Sargent   63

Phillip Ballenger    62

Hezikiah L. Walker Jr.  57

John B. Jackson Jr.   47

Richard Lovelady   46

Wayne Sanford    32

Kelley Wolfe Browning   28

Kevin Martin   22

Phil Jones   18

David Ross 17


Parrish Results



Heather Hall                 151

Cedrick Ramsey           63

James Smith Jr.              59

Town Council, District 3

Jake Williams          49

Crea Howard             5

Town Council, District 4

Valerie A. Thomas     39

Jackie Shanklin           22

Willie Woods               16

Town Council, District 5

Kathryn A. Thomas   33

Charles D. Dean         17

Westover Results



Mark McLaughlin                    94

Larry Riggins                           161

Council Place 2:

Wayne Jones                      177

Branon King                            62

Council Place 3:

Annette Tyler                         138

Frankie Chappell Osborn    104

Council Place 5:

Jeanne Champion-Fish       166

Paul Grater   73

Montevallo Results



Hollie C. Cost                        492

Earl Cunningham                    321

Council, District 1

Joyce Jones                            43

Russell “Rusty” Nix                       145

Council, District 3

Tiffany R. Bunt                      70

Lee Waites                              25

Council District 5:

William (Bill) Glosson             107

Thomas “Matt” Walker        141

Pell City results

Pell City

Council, District 1

David Arnett           118

Jay Jenkins              170

Council, District 3

Blaine Henderson    163

Dot Wood 109

Council, District 4

Jason Mitcham            388

Sharon Thomas           230

Council, District 5

Jud Alverson             336

Terry Templin           193

Phil Roberson           143

Pell City Board of Education

District 5

Brenda Burrow              165

Sonia Dale                    181

Jeff Jones                    313

Wilsonville Results


Town Council:

Blake Ray                     294

Ricky Ray Morris        255

Richard B. Atchison   238

Melissa Rosetta           225

Larry Cohill                  213

Gordon Fluker   194

Ivan Greene                  182

Anne L. Phelps             170

Patricia “Pat” Johnson  161

Lane Ross                     156

Calvin Gill                      147

Terry Newman              109


Trussville Results



Buddy Choat                          1,854

Eugene A. “Gene” Melton      1,290

Anthony Montalto                 2,091

Place 2

John Payne                              1,499

Alan Taylor                             3,430

Place 3

Thomas “Tommy” Brewer      1,173

Jef Freeman                           2,656

Paul Anthony Irwin, III            794

Place 5

R. “Dave” Blount 1,373

Martha Franklin Driggers       1,071

Zack Steele                             2,502

Pinson Results



Richard “Joe” Cochran                   359

Hoyt Sanders                                  453

Council, Place 2     

Shannon Galamore                         459

Michael Brad Walker                      327

Adamsville Results



Christopher Allen James                  236

Pam Cairns Palmer                         411

District 3

Glenn Minyard                       85

Ricky L. Pierce                        41

District 5

Johnathan Charles Click     73

Reginald Crawford                  47

Oneonta Results


City Council

Place 1

Daniel Clem                                      453

Richard M. Phillips                        507

Place 2

Rob Rice                                            464

Tonya Harvey Rogers                   492

Place 3

Nathaniel “Nate” Butler              581

Mark Gargus                                    391

Place 5

Michael “Mike” Jackson               4

Danny Robinson                             658

City School Board

Place 5

Tracy Shea                                        516

Russell Smith                                   421

Springville Results


City Council

District 1

Ronnie Newsome                   22

Herbert Toles                         71

District 6

David Jones                 67

Gena Mullen                  55

District 7

Charles Jones               44

Sherry Reaves             129


Clanton Results



Billy Joe Driver           1,090

Lee Helms                     665

Jason Pierce                 146

City Council:

District 1

Jeffrey “Doc” Price     415

Danny Carter                166

Charles Powell                       16

District 2

Bobby R. Cook          214

Lynn Bush Best         130

District 3

Sammy Wilson           258

Al Headley                   136

District 4

Awlahjaday “Day” Agee      136

Greg DeJarnett                      95

Jasper Results



Jed Daniel                      369

David O’Mary               1,580

Greg Tinker                  1,792

Council District 1

Arthur T.J. Armstrong        247

Bill J. Cleghorn                 107

V.L. “Sonny” Posey          374

Council District 2

James “Jim” Brakefield          438

Daniel “Danny” Gambrell   486

Council District 4

Brett Elmore                            242

Jennifer W. Smith                 412

Council District 5

Kita Casey                               52

Willie Moore III                       313
Freda Webb                            162


Mulga results



Wayne Jones                18

Joy Smith                       55

Lester Turner                 20

Keith Varner 129

City Council

District 1

Mike Oden 34

Gwen Higgins Powers 25



Brighton Results



Eddie E. Cooper           195

Brandon Dean              376             

Tyrone Rudolph            42

Barbara E. Watkins       74

Annie Woods                 30

City Council

Place 1

Joseph Edwards Sr.     323

Marquise Moore           351

Place 3

Ashley L. Henderson  406

Bruce L. Taylor              263

Place 4

Shawndale Johnson 366             

Lamby Warren              311


Moody Results


Council, Place 1

Linda Crowe   646     

Clyde Jones    146

Council, Place 3

Matt Morris   683

Larry Synder   108

Council, Place 4

Jeff Green       344

Nick Rutledge 450

Irondale Results



Susan Meadows                  81

Charles Moore                    1,021

Craig Sanderson                  468

Council District 2

Bob Saunders                      87

David Spivey                       195

Council District 3

Christopher Crews             227

Stephen B. Marino            345

Council District 5

Aaron Sims                           69

Bobby Joe Wilson              147


Tarrant Results



Michael Miller                247

Jimmy Nelson Sr.          16

Loxcil B. Tuck              278

City Council

District 1

Tanyika Fields                       90

James R. “Jim” Franklin         30

Council District 2       

Laura D. Horton                     71     

Alvin Samples Jr.                    69

Council District 3

Cathy Anderson                    64

Douglas Howard                     27


Graysville Results



Mary Sue Morgan        260   

Mike Tatham                  20

Clark “Julio” Davis     266   

District 3

Betty Cash           38

Mitzi Lowe           59

Karen Bynum Lauderdale   51

Fultondale Results




Larry D. Holcomb                              620

Jim Lowery                                       864


City Council

Place 1

Josh Bryant                                      868

Timothy “TMAC” McWilliams           574

Place 2

Joe “Coach” Bolton                       983

Daniel “Bubbles” Kendall                 464

Place 3

Darrell Hubbert                                  682

Jimmie H. Lay                                  781

Place 4

Patricia “Lynn” Carlton                     509

Tommy L. Loden                             943

Place 5

Darrell Bates                                    913

Greg Morris                                       534


Warrior Results



Derek Crane                                        193

*Johnny Ragland                         485


District 1 Place 3

Ricky Bryant                                            60

James Edwards                                        62

Chuck Mosley                                   279

District 2 Place 1

Godfrey Chryssoverges                            72

James Jett                                            211


Legislative Update

Alabama lawmakers reached agreement Wednesday on a plan for spending BP settlement money that will give $120 million to Medicaid over the next two years, $120 million to road projects near the coast and $400 million to pay back state debt. Legislators adjourned their special session after reaching that agreement and will return to Montgomery in February. During the brief session called mainly to consider ways to fund Medicaid, 98 bills were introduced, most of which died for lack of action. Status of select bills follows. For more information about the bills, see the state’s legislative site.

June PFOA and PFOS tests on Coosa River water systems find none above safe level. July results due soon.

In June, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management tested for PFOA and PFOS contaminants in drinking water from three Coosa River Basin water systems and found mixed results: None tested above the safe level for contaminants, one system tested well below the top amount considered safe, and two others were near or at the safe line.

In response to those results, ADEM conducted another four weeks of testing in July for water systems in Gadsden and Centre, where higher levels of the contaminants were detected. No further testing was deemed necessary for the Coosa Valley Water Supply District.

The last of the results from July’s testing is expected next week, according to ADEM.

Read more.

Aug. 8 Is the Deadline for Registering to Vote in City Elections

Aug. 8 is the last day to register to vote in the Aug. 23 municipal elections. Citizens interested in registering should contact the Board of Registrars in the counties where they live. Voter registration forms also are available and may be submitted at state or county offices that provide public assistance, such as Medicaid, WIC and Department of Human Resources offices, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

Legislators end session with Alabama Medicaid, payday loans, prisons as they found them

When legislators adjourned sine die, they left the state in important ways as they found it at the beginning of the legislative session in March.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Bills that would have funded major prison construction, increased money for Medicaid, reduced payday loan interest rates and changed teacher tenure and evaluation laws all were introduced but died during the session.
That’s not to say legislators did nothing. Read More.

2016 Legislative Update

The long-anticipated rewrite of Alabama’s tenure and job evaluation law for teachers and school administrators was introduced in the Legislature last week. It would require regular evaluations of teachers and tie part of their performance rating to student growth. But it does not include the controversial proposal to tie teacher bonuses to student test scores, which was in the first draft of the bill. Also last week, a House committee passed an Education Trust Fund budget that would give up to 4 percent raises to education workers and that includes money to hire 475 more teachers and expand the states pre-K program. The Legislature is now dealing with more than 40 education-related measures.