2017 Birmingham Elections

Quality of Life Issues Dominate Discussion in Forest Park-South Avondale Neighborhood

Heavy trucks are breaking storm sewer covers. UAB is working on an affordable, sturdier design.

New street lights will soon be installed; you can ask for shades if they’re too bright.

What’s going on with the missing trash pickup? Why won’t Birmingham allow speed bumps to slow traffic? Crime is down a bit this month, and offenses reported are mostly property crimes.

Everyday quality of life items dominated discussion at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Forest Park-South Avondale Neighborhood Association.

The meeting was at Avondale Library, on the corner of the park of the same name. It is one of 99 neighborhood associations in Birmingham, reflecting a district that includes affluent residential areas and a newly transformed and booming business district. Council member Valerie Abbott, who represents the area, and police, fire and public works department representatives were on hand to talk with residents.

The mellow tone was notable as an election season cranks up in Birmingham. Seven council and mayor candidates on hand were greeted with attention and questions but not complaints or calls for change. It was some candidates who suggested a city at a crossroads that could lose its momentum, a place where more needs to be done to involve citizens, reduce crime and attract jobs for those who actually live in the city.

Jay Smith, an attorney and secretary of the association, said after the meeting that he’s concerned that he’s hearing a lot of “let’s focus on the neighborhoods” messages in this election cycle. He translates that as a call to turn attention away from the city’s successful anchors – downtown and the booming Avondale area among them.

He’s afraid there’s “a subtext of jealousy” that needs to be dealt with if it threatens to undermine what is working well. “People live in the city because they are proud of it,” he said.

Sam Frazier, also an attorney and president of the association, says he views Council member Abbott as a good representative of the district, and both she and Mayor William Bell have been supporters of Avondale Park, an anchor for the area.

He is pleased with Bell’s support of historic preservation, too, particularly restoring Powell School. “William Bell and I have been friends for years,” he said, leaving little question about his allegiance in this year’s campaign.

An area of city life that might concern residents – quality of public schools – has been set aside by many residents of his area, who turn elsewhere for education. “We don’t expect City Council members to do much about the schools,” he said.  The association does address support for projects at Avondale Elementary School, which it discussed Tuesday night.