Incumbent Mark Pettway, who made history four years ago when he was elected Jefferson County’s first Black sheriff, on Tuesday won the 2022 Democratic primary for the office and likely reelection to a second term in November.
According to unofficial results with 98 percent of the precincts reporting, Pettway received 35,368 votes or 76 percent, against three challengers — Felicia Rucker-Sumerlin, a former sheriff’s office deputy of 30 years; Kareem Easley, a Birmingham Police Department sergeant and Wilson Hale, Alabama State Trooper and former U.S. Army First Sergeant. Read more.
The races for governor and a seat in the U.S. Senate are at the top of the ballots Tuesday, but there are far more offices at stake. Seats in the Alabama House of Representatives and the Senate are up for grabs, along with the county sheriff’s office, county board of education seats and judgeships.
Voters in Jefferson County will be selecting party nominees for more than 30 races. Almost 125 candidates are on the Republican and Democratic ballots combined.
The candidates who win their primary bids will be on the ballot in November. If no candidate in a race receives a majority vote, the top two votegetters will go head-to-head in party runoffs June 21.
Before you go to vote, you can read about each of the candidates, get printable versions of the sample ballots and see more coverage from our media partners in the BirminghamWatch Voter Guide. Read more.
Woodfin’s Budget Proposal Would Increase Police Funding, Fund City Pay Raises, Neighborhood Revitalization, Transportation and Other Services
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin presented his “whopping” FY 2023 budget proposal to the City Council on Tuesday, describing it as a reflection of “an unprecedented time of investment and growth” for the city.
The $517 million budget is up roughly $61.5 million from last year’s budget, which at the time was the city’s largest-ever. Most of that money, Woodfin said, came from increases in business tax revenues — particularly business license revenue, which are projected to rise $23 million compared to last year. As a result, Woodfin said, “appropriations are up across the board.”
Roughly two-thirds of the budget would go toward personnel costs — a priority for Woodfin’s administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Neighborhood revitalization, another of the mayor’s key issues, is also a focus, with $2 million earmarked for blight removal, $1.5 million for weed abatement and $15 million for street resurfacing.
The biggest increase in revenue would go to the Birmingham Police Department, which would receive $118.5 million — up $18 million from last year. Read more.
Birmingham has changed its zoning ordinance to encourage the reuse of historical structures throughout the city.
The changes, which were approved Tuesday by the City Council, will provide “incentives and exceptions that are intended to foster the reuse of historical properties and further the goal of maintaining historical character within the city,” said Chief Planner Tim Gambrel.
This will promote the conversion of “older, economically distressed, historically significant buildings” into apartments, live-work units or mixed-use developments while excepting them from zoning requirements that would require significant structural changes. Read more.
Since the fall, Birmingham city officials have sued or taken other measures to shut down the businesses. Read more.
After months of planning, several cities in the Gulf South are finally ready to give guaranteed income a test run.
Birmingham, New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana each received a $500,000 grant to pilot a guaranteed income — the idea that one of the best ways to help people in need is to give them regular cash payments without any strings. Participants for each city’s pilot have been selected and, in some cases, money has already been sent out.
Those unwilling to wait to see results from these roughly year-long pilots to can look to Jackson, Mississippi. For the past three years, Springboard to Opportunities, a local nonprofit, has been successfully running its own guaranteed income program focused on helping Black mothers living in affordable housing. Read more.
Water Board Asks to Change Settlement to Lighten Requirements for Protecting Land Around Lake Purdy, Cahaba River
The Birmingham Water Works Board and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall are asking a Jefferson County court for permission to change parts of a 2001 settlement agreement requiring conservation easements to be placed on board-owned Cahaba watershed lands.
This request comes just more than a month after the Alabama Supreme Court sided with environmentalist groups in a lawsuit alleging that the board had violated the settlement agreement.
The argument centers on the Cahaba River and Lake Purdy, which is a major source of Birmingham’s drinking water. Not only does development on land close to the bodies of water risk contamination, it also drives up the cost of filtering and cleaning the water, which raises rates.
Last year, the Cahaba Riverkeeper and the Cahaba River Society sued the BWWB, claiming that in the 20 years since the settlement had been reached, the board had never placed any legal conservation easement on its properties surrounding the lake and the river, despite it being a condition of the board’s purchase of the land. The board unsuccessfully tried to get that suit thrown out of court.
Environmentalists say the board’s request to change the agreement directly conflicts with its past claims of compliance. Read more.
World Games’ High-Risk Rating by Homeland Security Will Mean Extensive Federal Security Assistance, CEO Tells Jefferson County Commission
Birmingham’s upcoming World Games will get the highest level of security attention from the federal government.
The games has been given a level-one Special Event Assessment Rating by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a move that designates the games as a high-risk event but that will bring in federal officers to help secure the area.
Nick Sellers, the games’ chief executive officer on Thursday briefed the Jefferson County Commission on the move. The level-one designation is reserved for major events with large crowds, such as the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 — usually about six events per year. Read more.
County Manager Cal Markert has moved into the office of his former boss. Now he has someone to move in next door, in the office where he worked as deputy county manager. Jefferson County has hired Dave Strahl to fill Markert’s former post. Strahl comes from Illinois, where he served as interim village manager of Schiller Park. He has more than 30 years of experience working with municipal governments of all sizes. Markert said being short-handed has made things pretty difficult because there are vacancies in some director positions, including human resources. Read more.
A jubilant Sheila Tyson celebrated with supporters Tuesday night after she won a second term representing District 2 on the Jefferson County Commission.
As the DJ at L.I.T on 8th played McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” the former Birmingham City Council member declared that she had defeated the Rev. Steve Small Jr.
“With 55 percent of the boxes in, I am at 86 percent of the vote,” Tyson declared. “Our goal was 52 percent of the vote.” At the end of the night, Tyson had held onto that lead, logging 86.5 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Read more.
Probate Judge James Naftel spent part of Tuesday afternoon driving around to precincts to check voter turnout and to determine whether there were any problems.
There was one glitch in the morning, when county election staff had to reconnect some precincts that were without Wi-Fi earlier Friday, Naftel said.
As of 2:30, an estimated 45,035 voters, or about 10% of Jefferson County’s registered voters, had voted, although Naftel said that number was tentative and changing throughout the day. Polls close across the county at 7 p.m. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to deny a rezoning request from developers of a proposed mini-storage facility in the city’s Oxmoor neighborhood after outcry from residents. The proposed development, which would have been at 801 Tom Martin Drive, would have repurposed a property vacated by the Internal Revenue Service in 2018. It would have created 166 new storage units for boats and recreational vehicles as well as a wash bay for those vehicles. Read more.
Federal health officials have moved three northeast Alabama counties out of the COVID community low-risk category into a medium-risk level. The counties are Madison, Jackson and Limestone. The move comes after state health officials have watched the average number of statewide COVID cases grow from 100 a day around the first of May with a 2.5% positivity rate to 400 cases per day with a 9.4% positivity rate this week. Read more.
UPDATED — Jefferson County’s chief election official is warning that a new voting security measure will delay returns from the May 24 primary elections.
Probate Judge James Naftel said Friday that county officials have worked with Secretary of State officials to find a way to expedite returns.
At issue is a new security measure imposed by Secretary of State John Merrill that moves all precinct returns to central computers provided by his office. These two computers cannot be connected to a network and therefore cannot communicate with each other, so there will not be any results released until all precincts have reported and all results are in, Naftel said. Read more.
A federal judge in Alabama ruled to block part of a law that makes it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to minors on Friday. Families with transgender kids tell WBHM they are cautiously relieved. Read more.
As More Dilapidated Structures Are Demolished, Jefferson Commissioners Discuss Ways to Redevelop the Properties
During its committee meeting Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commission applauded the demolition of public nuisance properties but expressed concern for blight that could follow.
Mike Thomas, building inspection services manager with the county’s Department of Developmental Services, presented a resolution for about 30 nuisance properties to be torn down. County Manager Cal Markert commended Thomas, who has 17 demolitions under bid already and another 30 in line.
“That’ll be 77 within 24 months,” Markert said, “so I’m superexcited.”
Said Thomas: “We’ve always been reactive, looking at when we have complaints. Now we’ve had the opportunity to go proactive and try to clean up some communities and make things better for the people who live there.
“What we want to do is make an impact. We don’t want to do one house here and one house there.” Read more.
BirminghamWatch contributor Solomon Crenshaw Jr. has been named Communicator of Achievement of Alabama Media Professionals.
That distinction puts Crenshaw in the running for the national Communicator of the Achievement of the National Federation of Press Women, the parent organization of AMP.
Additionally, seven of Crenshaw’s works from 2021 were recognized in AMP’s communications contest. Read more.
While nothing officially changes until the Supreme Court delivers its decision, advocates on both sides of the issue are preparing for an end to legal abortion. Read more.
The news media that cover the White House have a really great plan for combating the common public perception that they are elitist and out of touch with the rest of the world.
They hosted a black-tie dinner in Washington to schmooze and hobnob with government leaders and politicians. Really.
The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner returned Saturday night after a two-year absence because of the pandemic. The gala event featuring Beltway journalists, leading political figures and celebrities presents such a terrible picture.
The message to media consumers (and haters) says this: The D.C. press and politicians are quite cozy, actually, and what we see 364 days a year is just a game they play to fulfill prescribed roles and maintain access. It makes one wonder if the independent and sometimes adversarial relationship that’s needed to produce accountability journalism truly exists in untempered form. Read more.
Mountain Brook High School has been ranked the No. 1 high school in the Birmingham area as part of U.S. News and World Reports’ annual Best High Schools rankings. The school’s scores placed it in the 200th spot nationwide.
The top-ranked schools in the state was Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School in Montgomery, which also was ranked No. 17 in the nation. Read more.