Category: Birmingham City Council
Thousands Say Their Final Goodbyes to a Hero (ABC 33/40)
Birmingham is getting another entertainment district and Fairfield is getting three firefighting vehicles as a result of Tuesday’s Birmingham City Council meeting. The council also voted to approve new committee assignments — a necessary change after last year’s appointment of three new councilors. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council formally expressed “concerns” Tuesday about recent changes to the Mayor-Council Act of 1955.
In a resolution it passed unanimously, the council called on the state Legislature to repeal changes, made to the act in 2016 at the behest of then-Rep. Oliver Robinson, which transferred significant powers from the council to the mayor’s office.
Though the resolution passed with little discussion, the Mayor-Council Act has been a recent focus for the council. Robinson’s changes were a key part of last month’s interviews with candidates for the District 1 and District 6 council seats, with councilors telling applicants that undoing those changes would be a priority in 2019.
Those changes moved budgeting and appointment powers from the council to the mayor, shortened the terms of the council president and president pro tempore from four years to two, and gave the mayor the ability to “retain the services of outside counsel and other professional services” without oversight from the council. Council President Valerie Abbott has described the changes as “an irritant” to the council.
Clinton Woods and Crystal Smitherman were sworn into office as the newest members of the Birmingham City Council on Wednesday, bringing an end to a months-long period of upheaval at City Hall.
Woods and Smitherman were selected by the council during its Dec. 18 meeting to fill the vacancies left by Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, both of whom resigned in November to join the Jefferson County Commission.
While Woods’ swearing in was relatively low-key, Smitherman’s was anything but. The 25-year-old was joined by her family, including her father, state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, and her mother, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Carole Smitherman, who administered the oath of office after a speech encouraging her daughter to “let no man despise thy youth.” Read more.
In a recent meeting during which two new Birmingham City Council members were appointed, councilors gave clear signals that they’re ready to take on a rewrite of the law that governs separation of powers in Birmingham’s municipal government.
Interviews with finalists for the two empty seats were peppered with questions about the Mayor-Council Act of 1955. Specifically, councilors focused on controversial changes that were made to the law in 2016, which took certain powers from the council and gave them to the mayor’s office. Undoing those changes would be a priority in 2019, councilors told applicants.
That process won’t be easy. Councilors will need to lobby state legislators to walk back changes they made recently. Perhaps more critically, the efforts could put the council at odds with Mayor Randall Woodfin, who would stand to lose significant budgeting power if the 2016 changes were undone. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council once again has nine members. During an exceptionally lengthy meeting Tuesday, councilors appointed Clinton Woods and Crystal Smitherman to fill its vacant District 1 and District 6 seats, respectively.
The appointees, both children of prominent Birmingham politicians, will be officially sworn into office in January.
Woods and Smitherman will replace Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson on the council; both Scales and Tyson resigned in November to join the Jefferson County Commission. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council has narrowed the field of candidates seeking to fill its vacant District 1 and District 6 seats to just six people — three for each seat
During a Thursday meeting at City Hall, the council heard what Council President Valerie Abbott called one-minute “elevator speeches” from the 32 applicants.
The candidates are applying to fill seats left empty by Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, both of whom resigned in November to take seats on the Jefferson County Commission. Read more.
Despite misgivings from neighborhood residents and the councilor for the district, the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to vacate 56,672 square feet of a road atop Red Mountain on behalf of a private developer.
The stretch of road is on Henrietta Road between 22nd Street South and the Red Mountain Expressway. The resolution also includes a 15-foot-wide alley off 22nd Street South. As a result of the resolution, both areas will no longer be designated for public use.
George W. Barber Jr. — who owns Barber Companies, a commercial real estate company, as well as the property surrounding the road and alley in question — will pay the city $146,717.25 in vacation fees.
Don Erwin, the vice president of corporate development at Barber Companies, did not share what future plans Barber has for the property. Read more.
More than a month after the Birmingham City Council rejected a five-year funding proposal for the Firehouse Ministries Homeless Shelter, it voted on the item again Tuesday — and this time, it passed.
The funding proposal hadn’t changed since it had last come before the council on Oct. 23; it still allocated $200,000 per year for five years to the Firehouse, which is building a $5.6 million facility to expand its services for the homeless.
But the council itself had changed drastically since Oct. 23, with two councilors leaving and another, District 7’s Wardine Alexander, being appointed in the interim.
The absence of former councilors Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, who both resigned from the council in November to join the Jefferson County Commission, was likely the deciding factor in the proposal’s passage. Both had vehemently opposed the measure, citing unsubstantiated allegations that the Firehouse did not give black patrons equal treatment, and along with District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt and District 9 Councilor John Hilliard, they formed the voting bloc that had initially blocked the Firehouse’s funding.
But Hilliard was mostly silent during the discussion of the Firehouse funding Tuesday, and while Hoyt expressed at length his reservations about the funding, both ultimately voted to approve it. Alexander abstained from voting. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve funding for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority and a handful of other organizations, including the Birmingham Business Alliance, Create Birmingham and REV Birmingham.
The funding initiatives were fulfillments of promises made by Mayor Randall Woodfin’s FY 2019 budget, which switched the BJCTA’s funding from a lump sum payment to quarterly installments, and which removed funding from various economic development organizations and instructed them instead to apply through the newly created Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity.
Though Woodfin and members of the council expressed “grave concerns” about the way the BJCTA was being run, they ultimately all agreed on the funding so that citizens reliant on the public transit system would not lose service. Even so, the amount that was approved will be meted out in quarterly installments of $2.5 million — a way, Woodfin said, to keep the BJCTA in check. Read more.