A proposed extension of Jefferson County’s sewer billing relationship with Birmingham Water Works broached a discussion about why customer costs are rising.
County Attorney Theo Lawson told the Jefferson County Commission during Tuesday’s committee meeting that he has been negotiating with the utility company over BWW billing customers both for water and Jefferson County sewer service. Lawson said the current contract expires in December and must be extended six months while those discussions continue.
“We need to maintain the status quo,” Lawson said, “so that we do have collections in place until we can get this squared away.”
Commissioner Sheila Tyson said the dual billing relation has allowed some with BWW to blame Jefferson County for higher customer bills. “The collection method they have isn’t good because if it was, they wouldn’t be overcharging these people,” she said. Read more.
If all the schools in Jefferson County were graded together, they would have a solid B average. But of course, children don’t attend an amalgamation of schools. The spread of grades that schools in Jefferson County scored on the Alabama Department of Education State Report Card ranges from the top to the bottom. Read more and find scores for your individual schools.
The organizational meeting that followed the swearing in ceremonies for the Jefferson County Commission didn’t include a seating chart.
But Lashunda Scales didn’t need one as she swapped seats with Joe Knight after the commission established its leadership, with Knight succeeding Scales as president pro tempore.
That was one of two positions that Scales no longer has after commissioners did away with subordinate co-chairs of their committees. Scales had been co-chair of the economic development committee chaired by Steve Ammons, who said the change was done to provide greater efficiency.
“It’s just easier to have one commissioner,” he said. “We’re all on the same committee so there’s no need for a co-chair. We’re delivering information to all the commissioners. Since each commissioner is on every committee, then you just have the chair.”
“I’m at peace today because I recognize that a position or title don’t make you who you are,” Scales said in her closing comments. “You empower the position. The position doesn’t empower you.” Read more.
It’s been 20 years since Shunda Milhouse lost her daughter, April, to gun violence when she was 15 years old.
The mother of six said she finds joy in seeing her daughters happy, but she said the pain of losing a child never goes away.
“It’s almost like time has stopped,” Milhouse said. “I don’t look at it as being 20 years. To me, it’s almost like yesterday.”
Milhouse says April asked to tag along with one of her older sisters for Senior Skip Day. Milhouse said she would usually say no to that kind of thing, but that day she said yes. April and her sister went to a park to meet up with other friends. While they were out, a man in his 20s tried to hit on April, and April said no.
“So she walked away and somehow his ego got bruised,” Milhouse said. “And when she declined to speak with him, he went to the trunk of his car and he got out a gun and he just started shooting in the park and he shot my baby in her back.”
Milhouse said she never expected that something like this would happen to her child.
“A lot of parents say, ‘not my child. This wouldn’t happen in my home,’” Milhouse said. “But little do they know guns are being hidden right there in your home.”
She said in order for things to change — and for fewer shootings to happen — people need to be invested in their community, because when young people are taken care of, they take care of their communities. Read more.
At least 11 students in Birmingham have died due to gun violence since the beginning of the year, and their peers say the ongoing issue causes their mental health to suffer. Read More
Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway said his experience and the programs he has in place made the difference in him defeating challenger Jared Hudson during Tuesday’s election.
Pettway, a Democrat, took 52.09% of the vote against Republican challenger Jared Hudson, who got 47.84%, in unofficial election results released Tuesday night.
“Our numbers are good,” the reelected sheriff said during a celebration at the Canvass Center. “The numbers are trending down in the right direction so Jefferson County is safe. We’re doing a very good job. The deputies are all doing a great job throughout Jefferson County. We appreciate the work and we’re proud of the work that they’re doing.”
Pettway cited the Crisis Care Center, which is set to open in a few weeks, as an asset for his department. “That is gonna be a game-changer for everybody here in law enforcement, as well as those that are looking to get treatment.”
Congresswoman Terry Sewell also celebrated at the Canvass Center as she, too, was reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives District 7 seat.
“I’m excited that the Democrats went large and it was much better than people anticipated,” Sewell said. “We’re very excited to be here in Jefferson County.”
In other Jefferson County races of note, newcomer Stephanie Floyd, a Democrat, beat out incumbent Republican Donna Pike to take a seat on the Jefferson County Board of Education. Floyd took 62.07% of the vote to Pike’s 37.86%.
On the statewide level, Gov. Kay Ivey claimed another term and Katie Britt was elected to her first term in the U.S. Senate.
Voters also approved an editing and recompilation of the state’s constitution that in part removed defunct racist language that had remained in the 1901 governing document. Read more.
Voters went to the polls Nov. 8, 2022, to decide who will be the next state and local officeholders, along with 10 amendments and a referendum on a rewrite of the state constitution.
BirminghamWatch’s 2022 General Election Voter Guide includes profiles on the newly elected officials and candidates, along with explanations of the amendments and other election-related info. Read more.
Steve Ammons gave a 30-minute report during today’s Jefferson County Commission committee meeting, telling his fellow commissioners what he learned from countless meetings to address an ambulance crisis in the county.
“The problem is real,” one commissioner said.
“So, what’s the solution?” asked another.
As Rome wasn’t built in a day, Ammons said it will take time and continued effort to solve a problem that has been years in the making. He laid out short term, mid-term and long-term solutions to a situation that can leave county residents waiting hours for an ambulance. Read more.
The city of Birmingham has committed $1 million to expanding Birmingham Talks, a citywide program promoting early childhood literacy. With the funding, the organization is expected to more than triple its reach from 1,000 to 3,500 students across all 99 neighborhoods over the next three years. Read more.
Birmingham is optimizing its trash pick-up service. The City Council voted Tuesday to approve a three-year contract with Routeware, a software company that will collect and analyze data to determine ways the city’s garbage collection can be more efficient.
“Each day when we have drivers and supervisors leave (work), that’s historic knowledge that walks out the door with them,” Joshua Yates, the city’s director of public works, told the council. “This system will (place) an iPad in the truck, where anybody can sit in that driver’s seat and know exactly the route they’re supposed to be driving … . Consider this the infrastructure backbone for our fleet.”
The software will also include an “accountability” component in the form of video surveillance. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday approved a three-year partnership for conflict resolution programs in city high schools.
Birmingham-based nonprofit the Penny Foundation will implement and administer the Common Ground initiative, a program using the Habilitation, Empowerment and Accountability Therapy (H.E.A.T.) curriculum, which is “designed for people of color and/or others facing socioeconomic issues which applies a holistic, culturally relevant, responsive, strength-based model that emphasizes a positive and engaging approach to handling anger management and conflict resolution.”
For decades, the BCRI has educated everyone from local students to global leaders about Birmingham’s role in the Civil Rights movement. Read more.
A new micromobility service has been approved to operate in Birmingham despite open doubt from city councilors that such businesses are worth the trouble. Councilors approved allowing the Lime bike- and scooter-sharing business to operate in the Magic City, although some councilors suggested tightening city ordinances to make sure e-bikes and e-scooters don’t become a public nuisance, particularly if customers leave them randomly on sidewalks and streets rather than returning them. Read more.
Republicans continued their stronghold at the state level with Gov. Kay Ivey claiming a second full term and Katie Britt winning election to the U.S. Senate. Read more.
Birmingham will receive federal assistance to assess and improve the city’s stormwater drainage systems.
The city is one of 20 in the nation — out of more than 100 applicants — to receive a technical assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“There’s no direct funding that will be given to the city,” Kim Speorl, a zoning administrator for the city, told councilors Tuesday. “We will be given a representative who will work with our stormwater and our floodplain and hazard mitigation department to identify projects to apply for FEMA grant funding in the future.” Read more.
The Birmingham City Council has set a Nov. 29 public hearing over proposed changes to the city’s zoning code that would allow for medical cannabis production facilities and dispensaries within city limits.
It’s the next step in a process the council started last month when it approved an ordinance broadly authorizing medical cannabis dispensaries in Birmingham. The Alabama State Legislature, which legalized the production and distribution of medical marijuana last year, will maintain strict control over the licensing process via the newly created Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which is not expected to issue distributor licenses until July.
The new zoning code also would change zoning definitions for opioid replacement therapy treatment facilities, moving them from the “special exception” category to “permitted with conditions.” Read more.
A proposed $50 million amphitheater that could seat up to 9,000 people received a less-than-enthusiastic reception when it was presented during Tuesday’s committee meeting of the Jefferson County Commission.
Commission President Jimmie Stephens doled out copies of The Star Uptown Amphitheater Opportunity, a seven-page information booklet produced by Corporate Realty, to fellow commission members.
The plan calls for an amphitheater that could seat from 8,500 to 9,000 and would be owned by the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority and managed by Live Nation.
The downtown entertainment venue would be located north of Protective Stadium and west of The Star at Uptown development on the old Carraway Hospital campus. It would replace the “aging” Oak Mountain Amphitheater, which is managed by Live Nation.