Category: Birmingham City Council

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.

Unencumbered: Birmingham Council Says Neighborhood Leaders Don’t Need to Write Reports After Conference

The Birmingham City Council decided Tuesday that the neighborhood officers it is sending to a conference in Palm Springs, California, don’t have to write reports to share the knowledge they gained with the city.

The council in its March 19 meeting approved sending up to 297 people, three from each of the city’s neighborhoods, to the Neighborhood USA conference.

At about $1,600 per person, the trips could cost the city roughly $475,000. Read more.

Birmingham Council Passed a Stormwater Runoff Ordinance That Complies With Federal Rules

After a protracted and often confused discussion, the Birmingham City Council passed a “post-construction stormwater ordinance” Tuesday, codifying a series of design specifications for new construction projects in the city and bringing Birmingham into compliance with Alabama Department of Environmental Management rules.

The ordinance largely centered on changes to construction practices that would bring new development projects — and the way those developments manage stormwater runoff after construction is completed — into compliance with regulations. Read more.

Birmingham PD Adds High-Tech Tools to Its Crime-Fighting Arsenal

The Birmingham Police Department will soon have two new high-tech crime-fighting tools at its disposal. On Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council approved nearly $75,000 for two law enforcement software systems, PredPol and Assisted Patrol Bait Systems, which are designed to increase patrol efficiency and crack down on repeat offenders, respectively. Read more.

Birmingham Council Approves MLB Youth Academy at George Ward Park, If the Group Is Still Interested

After weeks of debate, the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve the proposed development of a Major League Baseball Youth Academy at the city’s George Ward Park, though it remains unclear whether the MLB Youth Foundation is still interested in pursuing the project in the wake of the controversy surrounding it.

Though the MLBYF apparently had nixed its plans for the academy after receiving pushback from residents of the surrounding neighborhood, councilors said they did not believe a “vocal minority” should scuttle the project, arguing that it would benefit youth from all of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods.

Despite the lengthy discussion on the proposal and on a proposed compromise that was soundly rejected, almost every councilor voted in favor of the academy, leaving the project’s fate in the hands of the MLBYF. Read more.

Councilor Smitherman Carries the Next Generation of the Family Name Into Politics

At 25 years old, Crystal Smitherman might be the youngest member of the Birmingham City Council, but she arguably started the job with the most name recognition. Her father, Rodger Smitherman, has been a member of the Alabama State Senate since 1995; and her mother, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Carole Smitherman, served on the City Council from 2001 to 2013, was council president from 2005 to 2009 and briefly served as acting mayor of Birmingham in 2009 after Larry Langford’s fraud conviction.

Crystal Smitherman was appointed to take over her mother’s old District 6 seat in January, after Sheila Tyson, who held it from 2013 to 2018, was elected to the Jefferson County Commission. Despite still being enrolled in the University of Alabama’s School of Law, Smitherman was considered a noncontroversial appointment by councilors, who voted for her unanimously. She graduates from law school in May.

“No one doubts that you have the capabilities to do this job,” said Council President Valerie Abbott after Smitherman was sworn into office in January.

Since taking office, Smitherman has worked with Council President Pro Tem William Parker to launch a “Let’s Keep Legion Field Green” recycling initiative — a project not without its challenges, she says — and has been appointed as head of the council’s public improvements committee.

Smitherman spoke with BirminghamWatch last week about how growing up in a political family prepared her to be councilor, the shape of ongoing efforts to bring an MLB Youth Academy to Birmingham and what she hopes to make priorities during her time on the council. Read more.