Category: Birmingham City Council

BPD Chief Briefs Council on Crime

Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith presented the City Council with an update on violent crime Tuesday, sparking a discussion that delved into poverty, youth initiatives and some councilors’ dissatisfaction with Mayor Randall Woodfin’s proposed FY 2020 budget.

Smith began his presentation by looking at the recent history of crime in Birmingham, which he said dramatically spiked between 2014 and 2018. “In 2014, the city of Birmingham had only 51 homicides within the city,” he said. “But in 2015, we moved up to 78. In 2016, we went to 92. In 2017, 99. In 2018, we reached 100.

“So somewhere in there, something happened and we didn’t make the turn to make changes in what we do, make changes in our policing patterns and what we needed to improve the city … . We’ve got to do more to reach out, to help people, to save people in our community.”

Smith added that 2019 was so far on par with 2018’s homicide rate, and he warned that summer months — June through September — would likely be the “most violent time of the year,” based on precedent. Read more.

Woodfin’s Budget: Money for Pensions, Paving; Changes for Education, Discretionary Projects

Mayor Randall Woodfin presented his proposed FY 2020 budget to the Birmingham City Council Tuesday, pointing to changes in city funding for education and councilors’ discretionary projects. At $451 million, the budget is the city’s largest to date — although, as Woodfin emphasized, several major financial requirements resulted in a “lean” approach to appropriating funding.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Woodfin highlighted what he called the “moral obligations” of the budget — fully funding the city’s long-underfunded pension liability and dedicating $8 million to street paving in all nine council districts. “The only disappointment I’ve had so far in this budget was that I wanted $10 million (for street paving),” Woodfin said. “But the pension said no, so we got to $8 million.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Woodfin spent significant time explaining to councilors his decision to cut certain “pet project” line items from the budget, arguing that this would be offset by $50,000 increases to their individual discretionary funds.

Woodfin’s proposed budget cut funding to a handful of organizations and events, including the Agape House, Children’s Village, Shadowlawn Cemetery, Magic City Smooth Jazz, the Ballard House, Bride Ministries, Red Mountain Park, Build Up Ensley, the Northeast YMCA and the Joseph House, among others.

But Woodfin specifically chose to focus on District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt’s Party with a Purpose, an annual event held in Ensley since 2007 that offers health, recreational and entertainment resources to residents. That event has typically received $50,000 from each year’s general fund; in the FY 2020, it receives nothing.
Read more.

Woodfin Calls on Birmingham Council to Rezone Land in the Five Points West Area to Block a Planned Concrete Plant

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday that he opposes the proposed relocation of a concrete plant from downtown to the city’s Five Points West community, and he called for the City Council to rezone the property in question to prevent future industrial use.

Last week, the council voted to oppose Sherman Industries’ announced plans to move its concrete batch facility from its current address of 1100 Second Ave. S. to 3240 Fayette Avenue, near the Birmingham CrossPlex Village. Read more.

Birmingham Council Passes Healthy Food Initiative to Offer Incentives to Bring in New Grocery Stores

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve allocating $500,000 to a new “Healthy Food Initiative,” which officials said would give incentivizes for new grocery stores to move into the city.

The creation of that fund is separate from the pending Healthy Food Ordinance, which is aimed at increasing healthy food options in the city’s food deserts through measures such as limiting the expansion of dollar stores and loosening restrictions on grocers and farmers’ markets.

The two changes would work together to attract new grocery stores to the area, said Josh Carpenter, the city’s director of innovation and economic opportunity. Read more.

Mr. Hoyt Goes to Australia. City-Paid Trip Takes Him to Sports Business Convention

Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt and council administrator Cheryl Kidd will leave Birmingham on Wednesday to attend the Sport Accord Gold Coast 2019 Summit in Queensland, Australia.

The city will pay $8,930.07 for each of them to attend, making it the most expensive city-funded trip, per person, than any city employee has taken since at least November 2017. The trip also lasts several days longer than the convention.

Hoyt and Kidd will be part of a delegation representing the 2021 World Games, which will be held in Birmingham. Read more.

Birmingham Looks at Limiting Dollar Stores, Easing Restrictions on Other Food Vendors as Way to Battle Food Deserts

A new ordinance proposed by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin looks to combat the city’s food deserts by loosening regulations on farmers markets and mobile grocers, while simultaneously limiting the spread of dollar stores in low-income neighborhoods.

The proposed ordinance would establish a “healthy food overlay district” over areas of Birmingham defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “low-access census tracts,” which are areas where “a significant number (at least 500 people) or share (at least 33%) of the population is greater than half a mile from the nearest supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store.”

According to that data, 69% of Birmingham residents live in a food desert — a figure often cited by members of the Woodfin administration as motivating the new healthy food ordinance.

The council is expected to vote next week to set a public hearing to discuss the ordinance. Read more.

Referendum on Renewing Property Tax for Birmingham Schools Possible, Up for Discussion Next Week

Next week, Birmingham’s election commission will meet to discuss a potential citywide vote to renew a soon-to-expire ad valorem tax that provides Birmingham City Schools with approximately $27 million in yearly revenue. But that proposed election would have even wider ramifications, putting three city council seats — Districts 1, 6 and 7 — up for a vote. Read more.

Birmingham Councilors Debate Legislative Bills on Plastic Bags, Wireless Transmitters

Members of the Birmingham City Council expressed concern Tuesday that two bills in the state Legislature would continue to whittle away the city’s home rule.

The bills in question, HB346 and SB264, would remove local governments’ regulatory powers by prohibiting them from restricting use of plastic grocery bags and compelling them to allow the installation of wireless communication antennae, respectively. At Tuesday’s meeting, the council passed a resolution opposing the latter bill.

The bills, according to District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, would “basically take away the city’s ability to impact some very important issues.”

“I certainly don’t want the state Legislature preempting our ability to regulate something that has a direct impact on our community,” he said. Read more.