Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Council Approves Legislative Agenda Without Measure Allowing It to Opt Out of County Personnel Board

Stephen Cook, president of the Birmingham Firefighters Association, Local 117, speaks to the City Council on 1.23.24 (Facebook)

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday approved its 2024 legislative agenda minus one item: a proposal asking for state legislation that would allow the city to drop out of the Jefferson County Personnel Board.

The vote to hold that proposal off the legislative agenda — a wish list city officials give state lawmakers for when their session starts Feb. 6 — came shortly after the president of a local firefighters association voiced concerns to the council about the personnel item.

“I was beyond frustrated. I was angry when I saw the agenda and after 60 something pages of weed abatement, an item that affects thousands of employees was placed on the consent agenda without even discussion with employee groups,” said Stephen Cook, president of the Birmingham Firefighters Association, Local 117.

Like many public boards, the Birmingham City Council uses a consent agenda to approve noncontroversial measures en masse.

Councilor Wardine Alexander asked to take the personnel measure off the council’s consent agenda to allow for discussion, saying she received questions from several rank-and-file employees concerned about its effects.

Councilor Darrell O’Quinn said the agenda item came about because the council has been dissatisfied with the personnel board’s efforts to deliver qualified candidates.

“We have great difficulty in filling certain positions that are advertised as openings for the city of Birmingham,” he said. “Under the current circumstances, we are prohibited from working with anyone who could assist us in filling those positions.”

Birmingham City Council President Darrell O’Quinn during a meeting 1.23.24 (Facebook)

O’Quinn said the intent of the measure is to allow officials to consider alternative employment services for the city. He stressed that the request request was to have state lawmakers grant the council the option to opt out of the board.

“It’s not actually asking to withdraw from the personnel board,” he said.

In his prepared statement to the council, Cook said there are ways to address employee hiring concerns without withdrawing the city from a board that ensures due process for thousands of city employees.

“Without a written plan by the city in place, prior to new legislation, that explains exactly how employee rights are guaranteed, our membership will continue to fight this legislative agenda,” Cook told the council.

Alabama lawmakers passed similar legislation in 2023 for the city of Trussville, which is in both Jefferson and St. Clair counties, O’Quinn said.

Approved Legislative Agenda

Legislative agenda items that were approved Tuesday include:

Amending provisions of the existing Alabama Land Bank Act to allow local land bank authorities to acquire tax delinquent properties in shortened redemption periods.

Enabling legislation allowing for advanced fines for littering, dumping and weed abatement.

A bill that, according to a city release, would create “the most equitable, efficient and effective code enforcement system for the City of Birmingham.” City officials say the bill is based on similar legislation for the city of Mobile.

Enabling legislation to establish a city Housing Trust Fund.

A bill that grants cities such as Birmingham “the authority to enact, by ordinance, provisions for vacant property registration, a fee for the registration of vacant properties and maintenance standards for vacant properties.”

Juvenile Justice

In other business, the council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement with Jefferson County Family Resource Center under which its Restore program will offer support services to at least 120 court-involved youth, ages 16 to 19, and their families. According to the council’s agenda, the program’s objective is to “reduce criminal activity involving young people residing in the city through proactive, strength-based, trauma-informed, mental health services and developmentally appropriate case management services.”

The agreement is for one year and will cost the city $225,000. Uche Bean, deputy director of Birmingham’s Division of Social Justice and Racial Equity, told the council that the city has supported the program for a year and has seen significant reductions in violent crime among young people.