Category: Birmingham City Council

Birmingham’s Future “an Open Question,” Woodfin Says in First State of the Community Address

Jan. 15, 2018 — Mayor Randall Woodfin shared a cautiously optimistic vision for Birmingham’s future during Monday night’s State of the Community address, highlighting several of his administration’s planned initiatives while also calling on citizens to take action themselves.

“The state of our community is an open question that only you and I can answer together,” he said. “I believe that we, as a city, can do great things — if we do the right things.”

Woodfin’s remarks the full text of which can be read here, reflected the collaborative tone of his Nov. 28 inauguration speech, emphasizing the importance of his relationship with the City Council and his focus on addressing education, poverty and crime, which he described as intrinsically interrelated. Read more.

Ensley’s Ramsay-McCormack Building Getting Repairs, But Its Future is Still in Doubt

UPDATED, Jan. 15, 2018 — Despite recent approval for $83,500 in repairs, the future of the Ramsay-McCormack building in Ensley remains uncertain.

The property was one of several for which the Birmingham City Council approved repairs during Tuesday’s meeting, along with Rickwood Field, the Southern Museum of Flight, Boutwell Auditorium and the Birmingham Museum of Art.

But the council did not discuss long-range plans for the Ramsay-McCormack, leaving the building’s much-debated future still in doubt. Read more.

Alcohol OK’d on Pedal Buses in Birmingham

Jan. 3, 2018 — During its first meeting of the year, the Birmingham City Council approved an ordinance allowing passengers of pedal buses to possess and consume alcoholic beverages.

It was the only item to receive significant discussion during the relatively short meeting, which was marked by the absence of several councilors due to illness and Mayor Randall Woodfin, who was in Washington attending the swearing-in of Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

Birmingham City Councilor Calls for Changes to Alabama Open Meetings Act

Dec. 19, 2017 — One Birmingham city councilor called Tuesday for a reevaluation of the Alabama Open Meetings Act, the state law requiring governmental meetings to be accessible to the public.

John Hilliard, the newly elected councilor for District 9, made his remarks at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting during discussion of an item that would allow members of council committees to appoint proxies when they are unable to attend a committee meeting.

The text of the resolution was not made available even to members of the council, and its sponsor, Councilor Lashunda Scales, was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

But before the council voted to delay the item, it became the springboard for a freewheeling discussion about the legalities involved with committee meetings. Read more.

City of Birmingham Has a 2018 Budget, Five Months Late. Next up, Zero-Based 2019 Budget

Dec. 12, 2017 — The Birmingham City Council Tuesday approved a budget for the 2018 fiscal year, more than five months after that fiscal year actually started.

“We have a budget!” proclaimed Council President Valerie Abbott after the unanimous vote, drawing a standing ovation from many who had gathered in the council chambers.

The delay was the result, at first, of an apparent breakdown in communications between former Mayor William Bell and the council. After the Oct. 3 municipal elections, the council further delayed passing the budget until newly elected officials — Mayor Randall Woodfin and the three new councilors — could have their input on the budget.

Two weeks into Woodfin’s administration, his office delivered his budget “compromise,” which trimmed significant amounts earmarked for city departments and culture and recreation funding.

While most councilors expressed a sense of relief about the passage of a budget, the specifics of the budget drew a more measured response.

President Pro Tem Jay Roberson described himself as “elated” that the budget had passed and praised Woodfin for his influence.

“I know he was ready to get this behind him, too, and ready to move forward to his next fiscal year for consideration,” he said. “There are some areas that I think need some work, but you can still make adjustments in that process as needed.”

Speaking from the dais, District 1 Councilor Lashunda Scales thanked the mayor, but with muted praise. “The mayor knows that all of our expectations are very high with this incoming (2019) budget, and I think mine are probably superlative above,” she said, adding that, “in the spirit of willingness to work with everyone, I didn’t get all the things (I wanted).” But, she said, she was “looking forward” to the next set of budget discussions.

“It was six months overdue,” Abbott said after the meeting, calling the delay “embarrassing.”

“I would have agreed to almost anything to get our departments back functioning correctly and getting our employees their salary treatments that they desperately need at this time of year,” she added. “Not all of us like the budget, but we never all get what we want. That’s part of life. We’re used to that idea. We have to prioritize; my priority was to get the budget passed. Next year, things might be different.” Read more.

This year’s Birmingham City Budget Finally Set for a Vote

Dec. 11, 2017 — Now that Mayor Randall Woodfin has had a chance to read and make comments on the budget, the Birmingham City Council is poised Tuesday to finally pass a budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which began on July 1.

During a joint meeting of the council’s committee of the whole and its budget and finance committee, the council reviewed Woodfin’s proposed changes to the budget — labeled on a handout as the “Mayor’s Compromise.” After some discussion over Woodfin’s decision to cut funding to the Birmingham Construction Industry Authority, councilors indicated they were prepared to pass the budget during the Dec. 12 council meeting
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Woodfin encouraged councilors to pass the budget Tuesday, saying that passing the budget would enable discussions for the FY 2019 budget to begin. “I’m ready to start having those conversations Wednesday,” he said. Read more.

Birmingham City Council Delays Proposed $30 Million Renovations to Legion Field

Dec. 5, 2017 — The Birmingham City Council discussed a proposed five-year, $30 million renovation to Legion Field during Tuesday’s meeting.

Though parks and recreation committee Chairman William Parker eventually elected to withdraw the measure from consideration, members of the council indicated that discussions of the proposed plan would continue.
Parker’s plan, which he said was “in the infancy stage,” would spend just less than $30 million dollars on improvements to the stadium, which opened in 1927. Though 2015 renovations to the stadium improved its scoreboard and sound system, Parker’s proposal would take a more holistic approach over the course of five years, starting with the 2018 fiscal year and ending in 2022.

“I really applaud Councilor Parker … for coming up with this plan, because whatever revitalization is employed with respect to Legion Field, then it needs to be a comprehensive plan,” Councilor Steven Hoyt said. “We’ve still got some things to figure out, but at least we have a starting point, and we have a facility that can be transformed to something even greater and better.” Read more.

“You Have to Follow Your Own Path:” Mayor Bell Reflects on 40 Years of Public Service

Nov. 21, 2017 — Mayor William Bell bid a tearful farewell to the Birmingham City Council during Tuesday’s meeting, the last of his nearly eight-year tenure as mayor.

His successor, Randall Woodfin, will be sworn into the office Tuesday.

During an emotional address in council chambers, Bell reflected on his decades-long career in government and expressed gratitude to his city employees — or, as he said he liked to call them, his “coworkers.”

Read his full remarks.

Birmingham City Council Stalls Over Disputes With Leadership

Nov. 21, 2017 — District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt managed to single-handedly slow Tuesday’s meeting of the Birmingham City Council to a crawl, apparently making good on a promise he made last week to protest the leadership of Council President Valerie Abbott.

The strategy also seemed designed to forestall discussion of the FY 2018 budget, which appeared once again on the council’s agenda despite a vote last week to send it back to committee. Read more.

To Uber or Not to Uber: That is the Question Before Birmingham’s Transportation Committee

Nov. 20, 2017 — Birmingham City Councilors say they may revisit the ordinance that allowed ridesharing company Uber to begin operating in the city.

During its first meeting of the 2017-2021 term, the council’s transportation committee — now led by District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn — received a presentation from Stephanie Jones, a representative of Birmingham Cab Drivers United.

Jones expressed concerns about ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, which she said operated “under no rules, regulations, nothing.” In particular, she pointed to a perceived lack of accountability ride-sharing companies have to city governments, specifically regarding background checks — which, currently, are done in-house at their respective companies. Read more.