Tag: Birmingham City 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.
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve funding for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority and a handful of other organizations, including the Birmingham Business Alliance, Create Birmingham and REV Birmingham.
The funding initiatives were fulfillments of promises made by Mayor Randall Woodfin’s FY 2019 budget, which switched the BJCTA’s funding from a lump sum payment to quarterly installments, and which removed funding from various economic development organizations and instructed them instead to apply through the newly created Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity.
Though Woodfin and members of the council expressed “grave concerns” about the way the BJCTA was being run, they ultimately all agreed on the funding so that citizens reliant on the public transit system would not lose service. Even so, the amount that was approved will be meted out in quarterly installments of $2.5 million — a way, Woodfin said, to keep the BJCTA in check. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution opposing construction of a road and bridge project across the Little Cahaba River on Cahaba Beach Road.
The resolution was approved without discussion as part of the council’s consent agenda. It was discussed and approved by the council during a committee meeting earlier this month.
The road would connect Cahaba Beach Road off U.S. 280 to Sicard Hollow Road in Shelby County and to the Liberty Park development in Vestavia Hills. It would cross the Little Cahaba River, which flows from Lake Purdy, the area’s primary source of drinking water, to the Cahaba River near where water is withdrawn for treatment.
Councilors have expressed concerns about risks to water quality, including the potential for accidents, hazardous spills into the drinking water source and pollution from the road, along with degradation of the natural forest. The Birmingham Water Works Board is expected to consider a similar resolution.
Read the BirminghamWatch story on the earlier council meeting:
Birmingham Council Members Push Back Against Road in Watershed That Protects Drinking Water
Friday marked the deadline to apply for the two vacant seats on the Birmingham City Council — and the list of applicants is lengthy.
There are 14 candidates for the District 1 seat formerly held by Lashunda Scales; 18 have applied to fill the District 6 seat formerly held by Sheila Tyson. Both Scales and Tyson resigned from the council Nov. 14 to be sworn in as members of the Jefferson County Commission.
There are plenty of familiar names among the applicants, including some, such as Sherman Collins Jr. and LaTanya Millhouse, who ran unsuccessfully against Scales and Tyson for their council seats in the past. There also are several former members of the Birmingham Board of Education hoping to repeat the success of District 7 Councilor Wardine Alexander, the former school board president who was appointed to the council earlier this month.
The list also includes a former Jefferson County commissioner, the brother of former Mayor William Bell, a former chair of the Birmingham Public Library’s board of trustees, and a former member of Mayor Randall Woodfin’s transition team. Read more and see the full list.
After weeks of contentious discussion, it’s official: Wardine Alexander is the newest member of the Birmingham City Council, filling the District 7 seat formerly held by Jay Roberson. Her appointment, as well as the election of District 4 Councilor William Parker as president pro tempore, marks the end of a deadlock between two factions of the council.
But it also came amid an escalating feud between the council and Mayor Randall Woodfin who, along with most of his staff, was conspicuously absent from Tuesday’s meeting — prompting some councilors to say that they were “shocked” and “outraged” by what they called a display of “petty politics.”