Category: Government

Birmingham Council Passes Budget Before the New Year Starts, for a Change

For the first time in several years, Birmingham’s city government will enter the new fiscal year with a budget already in place. During Tuesday morning’s regular meeting, the Birmingham City Council voted unanimously to approve the city’s FY 2019 budget, nearly two weeks before the fiscal year’s July 1 start.

That timely passage of the $436 million budget — the city’s largest to date — represents a victory for first-term Mayor Randall Woodfin and the current council. Budget delays in recent years often had been viewed as symptoms of a communications breakdown between Woodfin’s predecessor, former Mayor William Bell, and the council. But speaking after Tuesday’s meeting, Woodfin said the new budget represents a renewed focus on governmental cooperation.

“Collectively, the message we’ve sent today is, ‘We know how to pass a budget on time, thereby knowing how to work together, negotiate, compromise and communicate with each other,” he said Read more.

Brighton Pleads for Mercy in Its Fight Against Weeds

Brighton Mayor Eddie Cooper threw himself “on the mercy of the commission” Tuesday, requesting surplus grass-cutting and debris removing equipment.

Ultimately, two commissioners – Sandra Little Brown and George Bowman – pledged $5,000 apiece so that Brighton can get the equipment it needs.

“We’re in dire need of any equipment to help clean and move debris,” Cooper told commissioners during their committee meeting. “We throw ourselves on the mercy of the commission this morning to give us any relief. If there’s any road equipment or grass-cutting equipment or debris removing equipment that you have that is available, we thank you for honoring us with it.”

Brown read the resolution from the Brighton council that authorized the mayor to make the request. She said there is tall grass everywhere in Brighton, calling it “horrible.”

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said meetings had taken place to discuss creating a fund in the upcoming budget to address the needs of distressed cities. But that relief would be a year away. Read more.

No Hackers Here: SOS Says There Were No Attempts to Tamper With Alabama’s Primary Elections

After instituting cybersecurity measures to protect the state’s voting system, the secretary of state said there were no attempts to hack into or otherwise tamper with Alabama’s June 5 primary elections.

In fact, despite worries about cybersecurity and implementation of e-poll books and on-line registration for voters, election officials said the voting came off with no major glitches.

The state’s top voting official, Secretary of State John Merrill, said there have been no attempts to hack into the state electoral system since 2017. Alabama was one of 21 states notified by the Department of Homeland Security last year that hackers had attempted to infiltrate and manipulate the electoral system. Suspicious IP addresses and the attempted scanning of voting records were noticed, and the hacking attempts were blocked for the most part. The hackers were successful in only one state, Illinois.

Some election observers have said the hackers can be traced back to Russia, but DHS did not identify their whereabouts. Concerns about future cyberattacks have persisted nationwide.

Merrill said that, since Jan. 19, 2017, his staff and all voter registrars statewide have been trained in cybersecurity, and the training continues.

“It is our position that all people with access to voter information be trained and equipped to function in the ‘new normal,’” Merrill said. Read more.

Jones Introduces Bill Requiring Reports on Money Forfeited When States Bypassed Medicaid Expansion

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, has introduced a bill that would require a federal agency to show how much states such as Alabama have left on the table by refusing to expand Medicaid.

The Smart Choices Act would mandate that the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, or MACPAC, annually publish reports showing how much states receive under expanded Medicaid. In particular, the reports would show how much the states that refused expansion under the Affordable Care Act would have gotten if they had joined the program. Read more.

Bessemer OKs Tax Rebate, Fee Reductions and Transit Services to Bring in Amazon Center

The city of Bessemer on Tuesday put the final two local pieces in place as incentives for Amazon to build an advanced robotics fulfillment center on Powder Plant Road in Bessemer.

The City Council passed three resolutions to stamp its approval on the move early in the afternoon. Later, the Bessemer Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a variance of the city’s height requirements to allow Amazon to build a facility that is as much as 60 feet in height.

Those were the last local hurdles for the company. The State of Alabama must now sign off on incentives for the company.

“Amazon saw what we’ve consistently said, that Bessemer’s a great place to live and do business,” Mayor Kenneth Gulley said. “Obviously God has shown favor on the city of Bessemer because this is tremendously huge.” Read more.

Birmingham City Council approves funding for metal detectors, enrichment programs for city schools

Security in Birmingham City Schools will be getting a boost this fall, after the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to allocate $3,665,000 in funding to the city Board of Education.

According to the agreement, which was passed unanimously, that funding will be divided among school security, academic and athletic support, and after-school care and summer enrichment programs.

Of that $3,665,000 — which comes from the city’s general fund — $1,362,000 will go toward the purchase of 14 walk-through metal detectors, 20 handheld scanners, door alarms, security officers, and crossing guards and substitutes.
Read more.

Hey Brother, Can You Spare a Firetruck?

The Birmingham City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to provide the neighboring town of Mulga with one of the city’s surplus fire trucks, in a move the council referred to as “a great example of regional cooperation.”

Mulga Mayor Keith Varner said the deal happened as a result of discussions he and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin had looking for ways to implement a “big-brother, little-brother” relationship between the two municipalities. Read more.

The Way Things Used to Be: Officials Recall Bessemer’s Heyday While Approving Incentives to Lure in Amazon

Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, recalled days gone by in Bessemer when he spoke to the Jefferson County Commission Thursday morning before commissioners approved their incentive package to lure Amazon to the area.

“I can remember walking through downtown Bessemer when we had a Loveman’s, Pizitz (department stores) and everybody was working,” he said, conjuring images of U.S. Steel, U.S. Pipe and Pullman Standard, then one of the nation’s largest producers of railway cars.

“Then things started shutting down and Bessemer started suffering.”

But Bessemer can see a brighter day on the horizon as commissioners signed off on Amendment 772, which is their part of the equation to bring an Amazon advanced robotics fulfillment center to Powder Plant Road in Bessemer.

“This is going to put Bessemer back like it was 50 years ago,” Farley said. “We’re going to have families that are going to be growing. We’re going to have families moving to Bessemer instead of moving away from Bessemer.

“This is huge.” Read more.