Author: Virginia Martin

Birmingham Council Formally Opposes Cahaba Beach Road Project

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution opposing construction of a road and bridge project across the Little Cahaba River on Cahaba Beach Road.

The resolution was approved without discussion as part of the council’s consent agenda. It was discussed and approved by the council during a committee meeting earlier this month.

The road would connect Cahaba Beach Road off U.S. 280 to Sicard Hollow Road in Shelby County and to the Liberty Park development in Vestavia Hills. It would cross the Little Cahaba River, which flows from Lake Purdy, the area’s primary source of drinking water, to the Cahaba River near where water is withdrawn for treatment.

Councilors have expressed concerns about risks to water quality, including the potential for accidents, hazardous spills into the drinking water source and pollution from the road, along with degradation of the natural forest. The Birmingham Water Works Board is expected to consider a similar resolution.

Read the BirminghamWatch story on the earlier council meeting:
Birmingham Council Members Push Back Against Road in Watershed That Protects Drinking Water

Applicants for Vacant Council Seats Include Former BoE VP, Former Mayor’s Brother

Friday marked the deadline to apply for the two vacant seats on the Birmingham City Council — and the list of applicants is lengthy.

There are 14 candidates for the District 1 seat formerly held by Lashunda Scales; 18 have applied to fill the District 6 seat formerly held by Sheila Tyson. Both Scales and Tyson resigned from the council Nov. 14 to be sworn in as members of the Jefferson County Commission.

There are plenty of familiar names among the applicants, including some, such as Sherman Collins Jr. and LaTanya Millhouse, who ran unsuccessfully against Scales and Tyson for their council seats in the past. There also are several former members of the Birmingham Board of Education hoping to repeat the success of District 7 Councilor Wardine Alexander, the former school board president who was appointed to the council earlier this month.

The list also includes a former Jefferson County commissioner, the brother of former Mayor William Bell, a former chair of the Birmingham Public Library’s board of trustees, and a former member of Mayor Randall Woodfin’s transition team. Read more and see the full list.

Jefferson County Commission Approves Workforce Development Funds for Lawson

Sheila Tyson called a pair of rental assistance agreements “a Band-Aid on a bad wound” as the newly installed Jefferson County Commission met for the first time on Monday.

Tyson and her fellow commissioners had heard two items during their committee meeting that allotted money to pay the rent for a couple of Jefferson County households to keep each from becoming homeless.

Tyson, who chairs the commission’s Community Services and Workforce Development Committee, said poor persons in the county need training so they can provide for themselves.

During their meeting, commissioners also approved $75,000 from the general fund for Lawson State Community College for workforce development and job training programs. Read more.

Trey Glenn Resigns as EPA Regional Administrator After Indictment

Trey Glenn resigned Sunday as EPA Region 4 administrator for Alabama and seven other southeastern states following his indictment on multiple felony ethics charges last week in Jefferson County.

EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler accepted Glenn’s resignation, according to Region 4 chief of staff Ryan Jackson.

Glenn and former business partner Scott Phillips were arrested and posted bond following their indictments. They denied guilt in the charges. Glenn in his resignation letter called the charges unfounded.

Glenn and Phillips were caught up in the recent bribery scandal over pollution in north Birmingham that brought down former state Rep. Oliver Robinson and officials of Drummond Co. and law firm Balch and Bingham. Robinson pleaded guilty to charges and testified against Drummond executive David Robertson and Balch attorney Joel Gilbert. Read more.

A Q&A With Wardine Alexander: New Birmingham Councilor Cites Workforce Development, Clean Streets Among Her Top Priorities.

Wardine Alexander won’t be the newest member of the Birmingham City Council for long. She took her seat as District 7’s representative Oct. 30, following a narrow vote — and now, she’ll have a say in appointing the replacements for former councilors Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, who vacated their seats to join the Jefferson County Commission last week.

Alexander replaced Jay Roberson, who suddenly resigned from the seat in September, citing his wife’s new job with Alabaster City Schools.

BirminghamWatch conducted an interview with Alexander about her priorities and skills, her previous roles on the city’s library board and board of education, her impression of Mayor Randall Woodfin’s administration and why she wanted to a be a councilor. Read the Q&A.

In Soap-Making and Landscaping, ‘Creative’ Entrepreneurs Get Help Building Business Skills from Co.Starters

A designer, a scuba diver, an art curator, a furniture maker. They all share something in common – seeking and receiving help with the business side of their creative work from the Co.Starters program of Create Birmingham.

The Co.Starters program – prompted by research and aimed at unlocking economic potential – has 200 graduates and a new class of 15 people following their dreams to turn their passions into sustainable and thriving small businesses.

With graduates pursuing the business side of everything from massage therapy to landscaping, Co.Starters is a 10-week business training program designed to equip aspiring entrepreneurs with insights, relationships and tools to turn their business ideas into action, said Buddy Palmer, CEO of Create Birmingham, the nonprofit that administers the program. The organization is dedicated to the development of Birmingham’s creative industries that contribute to economic growth as well as enhance quality of life.

The 15 students, who meet on Monday nights, represent the 17th Co.Starters class since the program began in 2014 after a comprehensive study of the area’s creative industries and occupations.

Gathered around a U-shaped table at Woodlawn’s Social Venture building, members of Co.Starters’ fall 2018 class take turns telling about their week’s highs and lows and the number of customer conversations they logged for the week.

“My high for this week is this,” says Co.Starters student Joy Smith. She shows a glossy page of Birmingham Magazine’s food issue, in which a tempting slice of cheesecake from Smith’s Sorelle catering business is pictured as one of the 40 best treats in Birmingham. Her classmates applaud, then tell about their week’s progress, contacts made and business plans drafted. Read more.

Co.Starters Graduate Kim Lee Realizes Dream of Coworking Venue

Long before she enrolled in Birmingham’s Co.Starters program, Kim Lee had the dream and business plan for what eventually became The Forge, a downtown professional coworking space on the mezzanine level of the historic Pizitz Building. Read more.

Conquering Hero or Political Villain? How Alabama’s Conservative Voters Will View Jeff Sessions After Turbulent AG Tenure

The end of Jeff Sessions’ topsy-turvy time as attorney general came abruptly, a day after one of the nation’s most important mid-term elections. After nearly two years of being publicly berated by President Donald Trump, Sessions is out and free to return home to Alabama, the state that sent him to the U.S. Senate for 20 years.

How conservatives across the state will welcome him is an open question. Will he be greeted as a conquering hero or a political villain? For that matter, will he return to Alabama or stay in Washington, where any number of law firms, consultants and other political organizations would welcome the deposed attorney general with open arms and a fat paycheck.

And then there’s perhaps the biggest question of all. Will he cast a longing eye on the seat he once held, now occupied by Democrat Doug Jones? So far Sessions isn’t saying anything publicly.

Former State Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale, now a self-described “recovering politician” and radio and television talk show host, thinks Sessions is not “a mercenary kind of guy” and probably won’t slip into a job at a K Street lobbying firm in Washington.

But as far as the regard with which Republican voters back home have for Sessions, Beason thinks it will fall somewhere in between hero and villain. Read more.

Residents and Activists Oppose ABC Coke Air Permit

Jimmy Smith, an 86-year-old Collegeville retiree, held an 8×10 framed photograph of his four daughters in his hand when he stood Thursday to ask the Jefferson County Department of Health not to renew an air emissions permit for ABC Coke.

He says his oldest daughter died of cancer and another daughter gets cancer treatments twice a month. He’s also a cancer survivor and a survivor of a community he says has been plagued with pollution for years.

“Y’all can deny this permit, and I promise you they will get the message. They will clean up their act,” he says. Read more.