Category: Government

Small Fraction of Students Qualify for Birmingham Promise Scholarship

For urban students interested in college, tuition can be a major barrier. So when it was announced recently that the Birmingham Promise would offer a full tuition scholarship to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, many praised the partnership as a way to give eligible Birmingham graduates a much-needed financial boost. But there’s just one problem: most students aren’t eligible to apply for the scholarship. Read more.

Despite Pledges, Birmingham Barely Out of Gate on Energy Efficiency, Renewables, Sustainability

This story was written as part of a collaboration among InsideClimate News and nine media outlets in the Southeast.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin promised in December to pivot toward prioritizing sustainability during the remaining two years of his term in office, moving toward fulfilling a pledge he made during his 2017 campaign.

“We’ve got a whole lot more environmental justice and sustainability issues to address within the next two years,” he said, “but we’ve laid the groundwork and foundation to address these environmental issues in our city.”

But for some, Woodfin’s administration — and Birmingham’s municipal government as a whole — has been frustratingly inert when it comes to environmental issues.

“The bottom line is, the city doesn’t have a strategy for addressing sustainability or environmental justice or climate change or anything related to those issues,” said Michael Hansen, executive director of Gasp, a Birmingham-based nonprofit focused on environmental justice advocacy. “The mayor campaigned on all of those issues, and several of the councilors talk about them from the daïs, but they don’t ever actually do anything about them.”

Birmingham’s lack of a clear sustainability plan has placed the city at a disadvantage compared to other cities nationwide. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s 2019 city clean energy scorecard, for instance, ranked Birmingham as 72nd among 75 major cities in terms of sustainability efforts, saying the city “has substantial room to improve across the board” and should push toward codifying goals for clean and renewable energy “to jump-start its efforts.” Read more.

Caught Off Guard: The American Southeast Struggles With Climate Change

InsideClimate News

Reporters from Southeastern newsrooms hold leaders in their communities accountable for reducing carbon emissions and preparing for climate change-related emergencies. Read more.

Prisons Officials Request $42 Million Increase to Hire Staff, Improve Healthcare

Officials from the Alabama Department of Corrections and the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles presented their budget proposals to lawmakers Thursday ahead of the upcoming legislative session.

ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn requested a $42 million increase, bringing the agency’s total General Fund budget to $563 million. Dunn said much of the additional money will be used to recruit 700 more security staff, increase funding for inmate healthcare and hire about 100 mental healthcare professionals. Read more.

JeffCo Commission Approves Fees for Credit, Debit Card Payments to Revenue Department

Travis Hulsey was a bit late for the Jefferson County Commission meeting this morning at the courthouse in Bessemer.

“I got caught up in some traffic,” he said later.

Upon arrival, Hulsey learned that his request for convenience fees on credit and debit card use for over-the-counter payments to the county’s Revenue Department didn’t face the traffic jam it did two weeks ago. It passed on unanimous consent along with 49 other resolutions.

The resolution that passed was Hulsey’s original request of a 1 percent convenience fee, with a $1.95 minimum.
Read more.

Jefferson County Commission Will Discuss Revenue Department Card Fees on Thursday

The question of whether convenience fees will be added to over-the-counter transactions with the Jefferson County Revenue Department will be answered when the County Commission conducts its meeting Thursday at the courthouse in Bessemer.

Outgoing chief financial officer John Henry said nearly two weeks ago that a plan for addressing the shortfall in the Revenue Department’s budget that came because of increased use of credit cards and debit cards would be unveiled at today’s committee meeting.

Henry said the matter goes back to the commission meeting, as it previously had been discussed in committee.

“Because of the way they tabled it, they’ll have to bring it up on Thursday instead of Tuesday,” said Henry. Read more.

Birmingham Council Reallocates Unused CrossPlex Funds to Repave Roads, Under Protest

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to reallocate money from a completed capital project at the Birmingham CrossPlex to citywide road repaving, rebuffing the protests of District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt, who called the proposal “unfair.”

The $468,532.78 in question was left over from the construction of detention ponds, fountains, a walking trail and fencing at the CrossPlex; that money will be added to a $6.7 million repaving project the council approved in December. Last week, city engineer Mike Eddington told the council that the project was completed two years ago, and the money has sat untouched in that project’s fund since then.

Hoyt attempted to delay a vote on the reallocation by several weeks, arguing that funding should not be taken away from the still-developing CrossPlex. “Ain’t nothing complete out there, and you all know that,” he said. Read more.