Tag: Birmingham City Council

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.

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.

Birmingham Council Plans Quarterly Night Meetings to Make It Easier for More Residents to Attend

The Birmingham City Council will hold three evening meetings this year in an effort to increase accessibility and transparency at City Hall.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the council approved a measure spearheaded by District 1 Councilor Clinton Woods to hold one meeting per quarter at 5:30 p.m. starting in April. The evening meetings, Woods said, would allow members of the public whose schedules cannot accommodate the council’s regularly scheduled 9:30 a.m. meeting time. Read more.

Birmingham Council Supports Renaming CrossPlex for Langford, Question Parker’s Bid to Bring Oakland Raiders to Legion Field

Mayor Randall Woodfin and members of the Birmingham City Council announced Tuesday that they would support changing the name of the Birmingham CrossPlex to honor former Mayor Larry Langford, who died last month.

Langford spearheaded construction of the indoor track and aquatic complex in Five Points West, on which construction began in 2008. The $46 million facility opened in August 2011.

Woodfin and District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt proposed the name change — to the Larry P. Langford Birmingham CrossPlex — during the council’s meeting Tuesday. District 9 Councilor John Hilliard, who did not arrive until later in the meeting, also has advocated for renaming the facility. “We believe it’s fitting for all the work he did and for bringing this to life in our community,” Woodfin said.

During his statement, Hoyt alluded to Langford’s controversial reputation, which included a 2009 conviction on charges of corruption and bribery for actions he took during his time as president of the Jefferson County Commission.

“We know that, no different than Angela Davis, you have to deal with the body of people’s work,” Hoyt said, referring to the recent Birmingham Civil Rights Institute controversy. “All of us have some issues one way or the other … but when you look at this city and see the things that were done under his leadership … We are better because Larry Langford came through here.” Read more.

Druid Hills Renewal Plan Expanded, Now Includes Carraway, McArthur School Properties

Birmingham is expanding its plans for the Druid Hills neighborhood. On Tuesday, the City Council voted to amend the Druid Hills Urban Renewal Plan by 104 acres to include blighted areas such as the vacant Carraway Hospital and F.D. McArthur School campuses.

Inclusion in DHURP is intended to make the area more conducive to potential developers, Michael Ward, a senior planner at City Hall, told the council. It gives the city authority to provide incentives for projects located in urban renewal districts, such as clearing land, constructing or reconstructing streets, installing utilities, assisting with property acquisition and selling property it owns for below market value. Read more.

Woodfin’s Decisions for Extra Funding Delayed for Council Discussion

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to delay $5.5 million in funding measures that Mayor Randall Woodfin said would address “critical needs” in a handful of city departments. The proposals will instead go before the council’s Committee of the Whole when it meets Wednesday.

That $5.5 million would come from projected increases in use tax and occupational tax revenue, said Director of Finance Chaz Mitchell, who assured councilors that those projections were “very conservative.”

But several councilors, including District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams and District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt, said that the council had not been adequately informed of the proposed expenditures. Read more.

Birmingham City Council Approves Resolution of Concern Over Mayor-Council Act Changes

The Birmingham City Council formally expressed “concerns” Tuesday about recent changes to the Mayor-Council Act of 1955.

In a resolution it passed unanimously, the council called on the state Legislature to repeal changes, made to the act in 2016 at the behest of then-Rep. Oliver Robinson, which transferred significant powers from the council to the mayor’s office.

Though the resolution passed with little discussion, the Mayor-Council Act has been a recent focus for the council. Robinson’s changes were a key part of last month’s interviews with candidates for the District 1 and District 6 council seats, with councilors telling applicants that undoing those changes would be a priority in 2019.

Those changes moved budgeting and appointment powers from the council to the mayor, shortened the terms of the council president and president pro tempore from four years to two, and gave the mayor the ability to “retain the services of outside counsel and other professional services” without oversight from the council. Council President Valerie Abbott has described the changes as “an irritant” to the council.
Read more.

Traffic Tie-Ups, New Sports Teams and an Anti-Crime Plan Create Challenges, Opportunities for Birmingham in 2019

Several major changes are headed to Birmingham in 2019, although some will be more apparent than others. They range from the bureaucratic – such as new members on the Birmingham City Council, ongoing personnel shake-ups at the Birmingham Public Library and calls for a comprehensive public safety plan – to the physical – including a major interstate closure and construction of a new open-air stadium at the BJCC.
Read about what the year ahead looks like for the Magic City.

More What to Watch in 2019

Economy Likely to Be the Topic of the Year for Jefferson County Commission


Economic development is likely to be a primary focus for Jefferson County and the County Commission during 2019. The county hit a mother lode, or at least the offshoot of one, during 2018 with Amazon and DC Blox announcing they are establishing operations in Bessemer and North Titusville, respectively. Look for Jefferson County to continue prospecting for more golden nuggets in 2019. Read more.

By Land, Water or Air, Pollution Will Be a Controversial Topic Throughout the Year


Environmental issues have made headlines throughout 2018, and 2019 promises to be no different.
Decisions will be made that affect the cleanliness of the state’s waters, air and land. Issues that will affect recycling, coal mining and solar, nuclear and hydropower generation also are looming on the horizon. Here are a few of the issues to watch in 2019.

Gas Tax Is a Top Priority in 2019 Legislative Session


A gasoline tax increase to fund road improvements is expected to be a major topic of the 2019 Alabama legislative session. Legislators also are expecting several hundred million more dollars to spend in the education budget and will be debating raises, a child literacy program and other education improvements. Other issues include funding improvements in prisons and a possible lottery proposal. Read more.

Birmingham City Council Begins New Year with New Councilors

Clinton Woods and Crystal Smitherman were sworn into office as the newest members of the Birmingham City Council on Wednesday, bringing an end to a months-long period of upheaval at City Hall.

Woods and Smitherman were selected by the council during its Dec. 18 meeting to fill the vacancies left by Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, both of whom resigned in November to join the Jefferson County Commission.

While Woods’ swearing in was relatively low-key, Smitherman’s was anything but. The 25-year-old was joined by her family, including her father, state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, and her mother, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Carole Smitherman, who administered the oath of office after a speech encouraging her daughter to “let no man despise thy youth.” Read more.