Category: Government

Mayor Woodfin Previews FY 2019 Budget, the City’s Largest Ever

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin gave members of the City Council a preview of his proposed FY 2019 operating budget during a committee meeting Wednesday.

While his brief presentation included few specifics — the full operating budget will be presented during the City Council’s meeting Tuesday — Woodfin did address the pressing issue of the city’s unfunded pension liability and encourage neighborhood associations to be more proactive in their individual revitalization efforts.

At $436 million, the new budget will be the city’s largest to date, edging out the previous year’s budget by $8 million. Woodfin is using a zero-based budgeting process, meaning that each budget item is considered anew, not based on its inclusion or lack thereof in the previous year’s budget. Read more.

2021 World Games Projected to Bring in a Quarter of a Billion Dollars (Yes, With a B)

April 24, 2018 – Jefferson County commissioners were told during their committee meeting Tuesday that the metro area should see a huge economic impact from the 2021 World Games.

D.J. Mackovets, CEO of World Games Birmingham, said the economic impact is expected to be a quarter of a billion dollars.

“That’s with a ‘B,’” Mackovets said, “with 100,000 visitors.” Read more.

New JeffCo Courthouse Mural Replaces Race-Tinged Message With Race-Blind One

Ronald McDowell was excited – and nervous – as a crowd gathered to see his latest handiwork – a mural that brings an up-to-date picture of Jefferson County to the courthouse lobby where two other murals have been displayed for more than 80 years.

“I’m just hoping and praying that the public will appreciate what I’ve done and that I’ve done something that represents them,” said McDowell, the artist commissioned by the county to create the work.

Dozens of people crammed into the westside lobby of the Jefferson County Courthouse for the unveiling of the new mural, which was met with applause and cheers. It complements the Old South and New South murals done by John Warner Norton when the courthouse was constructed in 1932.

Those murals “reflect a different time and a different place in our history,” said Commissioner Joe Knight. “They were created in the Jim Crow Era where the reasoning was such that it is no longer prevalent or acceptable in our society today.” Read more.

Birmingham Pursuing Grant for Titusville Pedestrian Bridge

The Birmingham City Council passed a resolution Tuesday authorizing Mayor Randall Woodfin to pursue a grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation to build a pedestrian bridge across a Titusville railroad track. The bridge would allow students of the neighborhood’s Booker T. Washington K-8 School to safely cross the track. Read more.

National Rifle Association Dominates Gun Votes in 115th Congress. How Alabama Representatives and Senators Voted.

Florida students rallied hundreds of thousands of protestors near the U.S. Capitol in late March to advocate tougher gun-safety laws after a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland high school. They called on Congress to enact measures ranging from bans on bump stocks and semi-automatic assault weapons to raising to 21 the minimum age for gun purchases. But for all their youthful passion, the students fared no better than the adults who have been carrying the banner for decades.

Seven gun-related votes have been taken during the first 15 months of the 115th Congress – six in the House and one in the Senate. In none of them did the gun-control side prevail. Among Alabama’s senators and representatives, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, is the only one who voted in favor of increasing gun-control measures. Sen. Doug Jones, R-Alabama, was not in office for any of the votes. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, and Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, each did not cast votes on one measure.

Read more about the protests, the bills, the votes and the influencers. And see how each of Alabama’s senators and representatives voted.

A Hole in the Balance Sheet: Birmingham’s Impending Pension Crisis

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s transition report, “The Woodfin Way,” features assessments of most major issues facing the city’s nascent administration. But during the March 15 presentation of those findings, one issue in particular drew murmurs of alarm from the crowd: the Transparent and Efficient Government Committee’s finding that the city has been underfunding its city employee pension plan for more than 15 years, leaving a pension liability of $750 million.

“On the surface, the (city’s) finances don’t seem so bad,” said the committee’s co-chair, Daniel Coleman, during the presentation. “We’re close to a balanced budget, we’ve had small deficits, but we’re able to cover those. But if you look back at the next level, we’re creating new deficits, big deficits that won’t go away — holes in our balance sheet.”

The nature of the presentation meant that Coleman was unable to address the pension liability issue with any real depth, drawing cries of frustration from the audience, a large portion of which consisted of city employees.

“You want to break that down?” yelled an audience member at the end of Coleman’s presentation. But by that point, Woodfin was moving on to the findings of the next transition committee, leaving open the question of just how dire the pension issue is and what can be done to fix it.
Read more.

Questions Raised About Legal Protections for Historic Monuments in Court Hearing Over Linn Park’s Plywood Screen

After nearly three hours of debate, lawyers for the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama left court Friday with homework instead of a ruling on the matter of the Confederate monument in Linn Park.

The city erected a plywood screen around the monument and sought to challenge a state law signed in May 2017 that protects monuments. But in court Friday, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Michael Graffeo raised questions related to older laws dealing with Confederate monuments. He asked lawyers for the city to address his questions by May 4. Attorneys for the state will then respond.

Lawyers also argued over whether, if the judge does decide to fine the city, that find should be a flat $25,000 or $25,000 a day, which would be more than $6 million. Read more.