Category: City of Birmingham
Two big economic development projects in Birmingham may pay off for city neighborhoods. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced a program Wednesday to spend $1 million on home renovations in blighted neighborhoods.
The program will improve 100 homes in 100 days. Woodfin said the money comes from the sale of two city properties: a downtown parking deck after the grocery delivery company Shipt expanded, and the site of a new data center planned near Sixth Avenue South in North Titusville. Read more.
Earlier this month, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced that, after a six-month, nationwide search, he had selected a new chief for Birmingham’s police department. Patrick D. Smith, a commander with the Los Angeles Police Department, was selected to succeed A.C. Roper, who announced the day after Woodfin took office that he would be stepping down as chief.
Smith officially started as chief on June 25. He still has a “to-do list” for getting settled in to the job, including meeting with Sheriff Mike Hale and other nearby law enforcement leaders. But he’s already begun to implement some of his priorities for the job, such as hiring more officers and placing emphasis on the first 72 hours of investigations. Smith recently spoke with BirminghamWatch about what initially drew him to Birmingham and his plans for addressing some of the city’s biggest obstacles. Read more.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin addressed concerns about his proposed FY 2018 budget’s funding for neighborhoods during a press conference Thursday, arguing that his administration was actively working to address neighborhood associations’ complaints about bureaucratic red tape.
Earlier this month, Woodfin announced that he would be moving the $500,000 typically allocated to neighborhood associations “to directly invest in revitalization,” saying that neighborhoods already have unspent funds “sitting here” in their accounts.
“We challenge the neighborhood associations to work with us with the existing funds they have to address weed abatement, demolition and other neighborhood improvements,” he said then.
But during May 14’s budget hearing, neighborhood officers argued that they had been unable to spend their money for years due to a lengthy and often interminable approval process. “[Woodfin] never asked us why we have so much money in our accounts,” Central Park Neighborhood Association President Susan Palmer told a sympathetic city council.
Mayor Randall Woodfin will present his proposed FY 2019 operating budget to the Birmingham City Council during its regular meeting Tuesday morning. Though Woodfin had provided some input on the FY 2018 budget, which was passed last December after months of delays, this will be the first budget that his administration has overseen from the ground up.
Due to the city’s new “zero-based” budgeting strategy, the proposed budget will be built on the Woodfin administration’s assessment of the city’s budgetary needs rather than the previous year’s budget. Among other things, the proposed budget will feature changes to the city’s funding for pensions, infrastructure, and transit.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s transition report, “The Woodfin Way,” features assessments of most major issues facing the city’s nascent administration. But during the March 15 presentation of those findings, one issue in particular drew murmurs of alarm from the crowd: the Transparent and Efficient Government Committee’s finding that the city has been underfunding its city employee pension plan for more than 15 years, leaving a pension liability of $750 million.
“On the surface, the (city’s) finances don’t seem so bad,” said the committee’s co-chair, Daniel Coleman, during the presentation. “We’re close to a balanced budget, we’ve had small deficits, but we’re able to cover those. But if you look back at the next level, we’re creating new deficits, big deficits that won’t go away — holes in our balance sheet.”
The nature of the presentation meant that Coleman was unable to address the pension liability issue with any real depth, drawing cries of frustration from the audience, a large portion of which consisted of city employees.
“You want to break that down?” yelled an audience member at the end of Coleman’s presentation. But by that point, Woodfin was moving on to the findings of the next transition committee, leaving open the question of just how dire the pension issue is and what can be done to fix it.