Funding for Titusville Day Event Raises Questions at Birmingham Council Meeting

Birmingham City Councilor Valerie Abbott

Aug. 8, 2017 — Tuesday’s mostly placid meeting of the Birmingham City Council was marked by questions over funding for community events in District 6. A resolution appropriating $10,000 for the 33rd Annual Titusville Day — a gathering organized by Councilor Sheila Tyson that took place Aug. 5, — appeared on Tuesday’s agenda.

Councilor Valerie Abbott expressed concern that money was being spent on the Titusville Day item despite lack of an approved FY 2018 budget, citing previous inconsistencies on how the council approaches such spending. Council President Johnathan Austin responded that the council was spending based on the previous fiscal year’s budget until the new one passed.

Council President Pro Tem Steven Hoyt added that approval of expenditures before a budget was passed “just depends on who it is and what it is,” drawing chuckles from the dais.

“I got it now,” Abbott laughed. “At least you spoke truth to power, as you’re always saying.”

Despite further procedural questions from Councilor Kimberly Rafferty on whether the item had been approved by the city’s law department — which, as law department representatives confirmed, it hadn’t — the item passed.

Birmingham City Council President Pro Tem Steven Hoyt

After the meeting, Tyson said that the item in question was just to declare that funds her office had already spent on Titusville Day were for “public purpose.” Asked by phone if it was standard practice for the council to pass such resolutions regarding event funding after the events had occurred, Tyson argued that “no money was used or transferred” by the item.

A similar item, appropriating up to $10,000 for the Sistah Strut community event in District 6, was also approved by the council on Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, a resolution endorsing the Northeast Area Communities Framework Plan — which applies to the East Pinson Valley, Huffman, Roebuck, South East Lake, and Cahaba communities — was kept off the consent agenda by Rafferty, who said she had been contacted by multiple constituents asking for more discussion of the plan. When none of those constituents showed up to speak on the resolution, the item went to a vote, where it passed; Rafferty was the sole abstention.

Travel Expenses

As part of the meeting’s consent, agenda, the council approved the following travel expenses: $1,951.24 for R. Scott Colson, an administrative assistant in the mayor’s office, to attend the Sister City International Convention-State Coordinator Meeting in Norfolk, Virginia; $4,033.53 for Lisa Cooper, the mayor’s office’s director of economic development, to travel to Stuttgart, Bremen, and Munich, Germany, to participate in “The International Business Recruitment”; $2,487.73 for Tanika Harrell, an administrative assistant in the mayor’s office, to travel to the 71st Annual International Institute of Municipal Clerks Conference in Montreal, Canada; and $451.96 for Toby Richards, a curator in the mayor’s office, to drive to The Historical Society in Palm Beach, Florida, to “pick up loaned artifacts.”