Tag: Birmingham City Council
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a recent meeting during which two new Birmingham City Council members were appointed, councilors gave clear signals that they’re ready to take on a rewrite of the law that governs separation of powers in Birmingham’s municipal government.
Interviews with finalists for the two empty seats were peppered with questions about the Mayor-Council Act of 1955. Specifically, councilors focused on controversial changes that were made to the law in 2016, which took certain powers from the council and gave them to the mayor’s office. Undoing those changes would be a priority in 2019, councilors told applicants.
That process won’t be easy. Councilors will need to lobby state legislators to walk back changes they made recently. Perhaps more critically, the efforts could put the council at odds with Mayor Randall Woodfin, who would stand to lose significant budgeting power if the 2016 changes were undone. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council once again has nine members. During an exceptionally lengthy meeting Tuesday, councilors appointed Clinton Woods and Crystal Smitherman to fill its vacant District 1 and District 6 seats, respectively.
The appointees, both children of prominent Birmingham politicians, will be officially sworn into office in January.
Woods and Smitherman will replace Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson on the council; both Scales and Tyson resigned in November to join the Jefferson County Commission. Read more.
Despite misgivings from neighborhood residents and the councilor for the district, the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to vacate 56,672 square feet of a road atop Red Mountain on behalf of a private developer.
The stretch of road is on Henrietta Road between 22nd Street South and the Red Mountain Expressway. The resolution also includes a 15-foot-wide alley off 22nd Street South. As a result of the resolution, both areas will no longer be designated for public use.
George W. Barber Jr. — who owns Barber Companies, a commercial real estate company, as well as the property surrounding the road and alley in question — will pay the city $146,717.25 in vacation fees.
Don Erwin, the vice president of corporate development at Barber Companies, did not share what future plans Barber has for the property. Read more.
More than a month after the Birmingham City Council rejected a five-year funding proposal for the Firehouse Ministries Homeless Shelter, it voted on the item again Tuesday — and this time, it passed.
The funding proposal hadn’t changed since it had last come before the council on Oct. 23; it still allocated $200,000 per year for five years to the Firehouse, which is building a $5.6 million facility to expand its services for the homeless.
But the council itself had changed drastically since Oct. 23, with two councilors leaving and another, District 7’s Wardine Alexander, being appointed in the interim.
The absence of former councilors Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, who both resigned from the council in November to join the Jefferson County Commission, was likely the deciding factor in the proposal’s passage. Both had vehemently opposed the measure, citing unsubstantiated allegations that the Firehouse did not give black patrons equal treatment, and along with District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt and District 9 Councilor John Hilliard, they formed the voting bloc that had initially blocked the Firehouse’s funding.
But Hilliard was mostly silent during the discussion of the Firehouse funding Tuesday, and while Hoyt expressed at length his reservations about the funding, both ultimately voted to approve it. Alexander abstained from voting. Read more.