Category: Birmingham City Council
The Birmingham City Council has delayed plans for the city to purchase and redevelop the Smithfield Community’s defunct Hill Elementary School property. Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office has proposed that the city buy the school and renovate it for workforce housing. But several councilors argued that they had not been adequately informed of the city’s plans for the property and demanded more information. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to rezone the Southtown Court housing project, making way for a mixed-use redevelopment of the property.
Now designated a “mixed-use downtown” district, the property, near St. Vincent’s Birmingham, will be transformed into a development that includes multi-family residential, hotel, office, retail/dining, medical office, parking garage and open space uses. Developers intend to turn the property into a “pedestrian-friendly corridor,” including pocket parks, green spaces and bike lanes.
Plans to redevelop the property, near where a 455-unit housing project now stands have existed in some form since at least 2008. Read more.
Masks will remain mandatory in Birmingham through May 24. The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to extend the city’s face covering ordinance, requiring masks in all public places to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Exceptions are made for outdoor exercise and eating or drinking at restaurants or bars. Religious worship services are also exempt, though the ordinance still “strongly encourages” masks in those settings.
The Birmingham City School Schools system also announced Tuesday that masks will be required in schools and all school-related events through the end of the school year to combat the threat from COVID-19.
The city ordinance received the support of Mayor Randall Woodfin and most of the council, with the exception of District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams. Williams argued that the ordinance would make Birmingham an outlier in Jefferson County and the state of Alabama as a whole, placing “undue burden” on local businesses. The state’s mask ordinance is set to expire Friday, and Gov. Kay Ivey has said she will not renew it. Read more.
A proposed bill to revise the city of Birmingham’s pension plan gained the official support of the City Council Tuesday. HB510, which is pending in the Alabama Legislature, would compel the city to fully fund its pension obligation and increase employees’ contributions to the fund. Not doing so, Mayor Randall Woodfin argued, could spell future financial disaster for the city.
The city’s pension had been underfunded since 2002, and when Woodfin took office in 2017, the pension liability stood at $750 million. Since then, Woodfin has nearly doubled the city’s annual contribution to the pension. but its liability has continued to increase and as of 2019 stood at $900 million. It would still take the changes proposed in HB510 to put the pension fund “on solid ground,” Woodfin said.
As reported last week, HB510 would increase current employees’ contributions from 7% to 7.5% and would reduce retirement benefits for new employees hired after July 1, 2021. The bill would also reduce disability allowances for new employees and replace spousal survivors’ benefits with the option for an “actuarially reduced retirement benefit.”
The Birmingham City Council approved a loan and incentives program Tuesday that will keep the Woodland Park neighborhood’s Save A Lot location from closing. The city will provide the store, at 873 Dennison Avenue SW, with a 24-month loan not to exceed $1,000,000 at 3% interest. It also will give the company up to $750,000 in tax rebates over the next 10 years. The money will go toward renovations, inventory changes and new staff positions. Read more.
After multiple delays, demolition of the long-derelict Banks High School is moving forward. The Birmingham City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the one-year extension of a loan agreement with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to tear down the building, which has sat vacant in the city’s South East Lake neighborhood since 2007. Read more.
Nine Birmingham nonprofits will receive funding from the city’s Building Opportunities for Lasting Development grant initiative this year, despite an overall reduction in funding for the program.
The Birmingham Business Alliance, Birmingham Business Resource Center, Bronze Valley, Bush Hills Connections Inc., Community Care Development Network, Create Birmingham, TruFund Financial Services, Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and Workshops Empowerment Inc. were selected from a group of 22 applicants, with award amounts ranging from $20,000 to $90,000.
“The top-line narrative here is us really working to do more with less, to think about how can we leverage city dollars and support in the community to maximize our investment,” Amelia Muller, civic design principal for the city’s department of innovation and economic opportunity, said in a presentation to the Birmingham City Council. Read more.
This year, the city of Birmingham is sending two sets of lobbyists to Montgomery — one from Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office and one from the City Council.
Councilors made that decision last month, claiming they’d been excluded from planning the city’s legislative agenda, and on Tuesday they approved a legislative agenda of their own — one that only slightly overlaps with Woodfin’s priorities.
The primary area of agreement between the two agendas is about bolstering city revenue through fines. Both the mayor and council are pushing legislation that would increase penalties for littering, dumping and weed abatement. Both also want to tie parking tickets to car tag renewal, providing a built-in enforcement mechanism for a ticketing system that currently lacks one.
Woodfin and the council also are both pushing for an increase in the maximum number of entertainment districts allowed in a municipality. Birmingham has four such areas — Pepper Place, Uptown, Five Points South and Avondale — where people are allowed to drink alcohol outside, though they must have purchased that alcohol from a restaurant, bar or venue in that district. State law caps the number of entertainment districts a city can have at five; Woodfin and the council both hope to raise that number to 15.
The similarities mostly end there. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council has approved its first official travel since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. During a virtual meeting Tuesday, the council approved last-minute funding for Council President William Parker to take a two-day trip to Montgomery to meet with Alabama legislators. Read more.
Updated Feb. 28, 2021 — Six months before Birmingham’s municipal elections, the pool of candidates for City Council is beginning to take shape. Though official qualifying won’t be open until June 25, social media campaigns are underway for several Birmingham residents looking to claim a spot on the nine-member council. For now, some races are looking more crowded than others.