Category: Uncategorized

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.

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.

Rick Journey and Chanda Temple Joining Woodfin’s Staff

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has tapped television news reporter Rick Journey to serve as his director of communications. Former Birmingham City Schools spokeswoman Chanda Temple also has taken the position of public information officer.

“Our administration’s focus on servant leadership by putting people first starts with transparency and providing a clear message to our citizens and our employees that we will serve with the public’s best interest at the core of our work,” Woodfin said in a statement. “I am pleased to have Rick and Chanda be part of providing that clear message and joining an administration committed to core values of transparency, efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and customer service.” Read more.

Doug Jones’ Search for Common Ground: Jones Talks About His Intentions, His Opponent and His Route to the U.S. Senate

In his first press conference since being elected senator, Doug Jones reiterated his desire to find “common ground” on both sides of the political aisle and dismissed his opponent’s refusal to concede the election.

Jones defeated the twice-deposed Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore by roughly 20,000 votes Tuesday night, a surprise Democratic win in a state that for decades has been considered a Republican stronghold. However, Moore has not conceded the race, telling supporters that “when the vote is this close … it’s not over.”

For the most part, Jones’ responses to reporters’ questions were conciliatory, stressing the need to find “common ground” — a phrase he repeated 12 times during the press conference — in the midst of a divisive political climate.

“I know I’m just sounding like a broken record (when I) talk about that,” Jones said, “but I just think it is so important that we try to sit down at a table and talk about issues and talk about the things that matter in the big picture … . I want to try to find those issues more and more that we can find common ground on, and let’s just agree to disagree on those issues that are so divisive that it’s hard to even talk to people about them.” Read more.

Is There Life After Doug Jones for Alabama Democrats?
God and Politics, 2017 Edition: Roy Moore Brings Religion to the Forefront Like Few Campaigns Before It

Gardendale School-Separation Arguments Going Before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday

The latest step in the long-running effort by the city of Gardendale to form its own school system is a stop at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

On Thursday morning, a panel of three judges will hear oral arguments in an appeal from attorneys for the Gardendale Board of Education, as well as a cross-appeal from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Both are appealing a ruling U.S. Circuit Judge Madeline Haikala issued in April, in which she determined that the city’s efforts to break away from the Jefferson County Schools was racially motivated. However, the ruling still allowed Gardendale to take control of the two elementary schools, with the provision that the city could take over Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools some time later, after Haikala could determine that no racial discrimination of any kind was present.

Gardendale’s appeal says that Haikala should have given the city full control of all four schools from the start. The NAACP counters that her determination that racial motives were involved in the formation of the system precludes the courts from allowing the breakaway to take place at all. Read more.

The Doug Jones, Roy Moore Race: By the Numbers

The unofficial results of the Special Senate Election posted on the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office tell the dramatic, surprising story by the numbers:

Doug Jones, 671,151 votes, 49.92 percent; Roy S. Moore, 650,436 votes, 48.38 percent.

Total Ballots Cast, 1,346,147. Voter turnout, 40.46 percent, far more than the 25 percent that Secretary of State John Merrill forecast for the one-race, special election at Christmastime.

Within those numbers are results that fashioned a formula for the Democratic candidate to come out ahead in a Deep Red state that voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump. Read more.

See results from each county.

Jefferson County Takes on Drugmakers in Opioid Crisis

The Jefferson County Commission today hired four law firms to recoup expenses incurred because of the opioid crisis.

The county entered a legal services contract with Napoli Shkolnik, PPLC; Edmond, Lindsey & Hoffler, LLP; Perkins-Law, LLC, and Riley & Jackson PC.

The four firms were hired to file suit on Jefferson County’s behalf against manufacturers and distributors of opioids alleging they fraudulently marketed and distributed the drugs.

County officials contend the opioid crisis has brought about great expenses for cities and counties, including the increased cost of staffing the coroner’s office, the cost of providing indigent residents with opioid addiction treatment, the increased cost of law enforcement, the cost of administering potential overdose treatment and the decrease in employable citizens as a result of their addiction.

Transparency, Neighborhoods and One Uber Battle: Three Former Birmingham Councilors Talk About Their Time at City Hall

The Birmingham City Council started its 2017-2021 term last week without three familiar faces.

Kim Rafferty, Johnathan Austin and Marcus Lundy left the council; Rafferty and Austin were defeated in their reelection bids, while Lundy did not seek another term.

During their final week in office, the three spoke with BirminghamWatch about their successes, their failures and their views on what the election means for the city. Read more.

Birmingham’s New Council Members Sworn in; Abbott Elected President

Oct. 24, 2017 – Birmingham City Councilor Valerie Abbott was elected president of the Birmingham City Council this morning.

The vote was taken after new council members were sworn into office for the 2017-2021 term. Six incumbent councilors – Abbott, Lashunda Scales, William Parker, Sheila Tyson, Jay Roberson and Steven Hoyt – and three new council members – Hunter Williams, Darrell O’Quinn and John Hilliard – started their terms today.

Mayor William Bell remains as mayor until Randall Woodfin, elected in the Oct. 3 runoff, takes office Nov. 28.

New Bham Councilor John Hilliard Says He Can’t Do It Alone, Residents Must Share Responsibility for the District

This is the fourth in a series of interviews BirminghamWatch conducted with newly elected city officials.

John Hilliard might become the Birmingham city councilor for District 9 when he is sworn into office Tuesday, but he wants his constituents to understand that they share responsibility for improving their district.

He speaks of himself as a facilitator — someone who will bring together various groups in his community to plot out solutions to the issues of crime, economic stagnation and blight facing their neighborhoods.

On the Wednesday morning just six days before his inauguration, Hilliard found himself swarmed by phone calls and scheduled meetings — the result, he said, of a “firestorm” of a transition process. Speaking with BirminghamWatch, he described his plans after he takes office, his goals for economic revitalization, and the importance of millennial involvement in urban communities. Read the Q&A.