Tag: City of Birmingham

Erasing the Stain: 15,000 Pardoned of Marijuana Possession Convictions

Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday announced the pardons of more than 15,000 Birmingham residents convicted of marijuana possession, declaring that “one small mistake should not define an entire lifetime.”

The pardons — which were announced April 20, an unofficial holiday celebrating cannabis — covers residents with closed marijuana possession cases in the Birmingham Municipal Court between 1990 and 2020.

The pardons are part of Woodfin’s Pardons for Progress program, launched in November 2019, which was meant to remove employment barriers for people who had been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession. Read more.

City Leaders Watch Business Licenses for COVID-19 Impact

In a March presentation on how the city of Birmingham’s finances are faring one year into the pandemic, city finance director Lester Smith said business license filings were down about 500 in the first 2.5 months of the year compared to the same time last year.

“My concern is that differentiation between those numbers may be lost businesses, but we don’t know that yet, so we have to continue to monitor it,” Smith said late last month.

Municipal business licenses are usually due early each year and have been an anticipated gauge of the true economic impact of COVID-19.

“The overall concern is that in the municipalities that have seen a downturn in license renewals, is that you have lost some jobs and loss of business investment in your community,” Alabama League of Municipalities Executive Director Greg Cochran told Alabama Daily News. “Ensuring that businesses stayed healthy during the pandemic and stayed afloat financially was a difficult tight rope for a lot of them to maneuver down.” Read more.

Bill Would Cut Pensions for Future Birmingham Employees, Raise Employee Contributions

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin is supporting a bill in the Legislature that would both compel the city to fully fund its pension obligation and increase employee contributions to the pension fund by half a percent. The bill would be Woodfin’s latest step toward correcting the city’s longtime underfunding of the city’s pension plan, which he warned could cause a future financial crisis for the city.

HB510 is sponsored by Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, who was the Woodfin-appointed assistant chief of the Birmingham Police Department from 2018 until his retirement in October. Read more.

Lighting Up the Night Again

The neon sign for the historic A.G. Gaston Motel was lit Tuesday night in a ceremony marking the end of phase 1 of the site’s restoration. Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin attended along with representatives from the city and the National Park Service. “The A.G. Gaston motel sign served as a beacon to black families traveling through the segregated South,” Woodfin said. “It’s a sign that will now shine in remembrance of Dr. A.G. Gaston’s legacy – a legacy of black prosperity, equal opportunity, Southern hospitality and freedom.” The motel was used frequently by civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they strategized their campaigns against injustice. Restoration of the 1958 wing of the hotel has been completed. Work to restore the 1968 wing and courtyard is next, with a projected completion date of June 2022. (Photo from City of Birmingham Facebook video)

Birmingham Library Exec Returns to Work After One-Month Suspension

Birmingham Public Library Executive Director Floyd Council was back at work Friday after one month of being suspended without pay.

Council was suspended by the BPL board of trustees last month for undisclosed reasons. As with most details regarding Council’s employment, the board refused to provide details about the decision to the public. The board did not discuss Council during its regular meeting Nov. 10.

Multiple BPL employees confirmed Council’s return to the library Friday, though under condition of anonymity. Read more.

Nonprofits Adapt to Harsh Financial Conditions After Birmingham Budget Cuts

The FY 2021 budget passed Tuesday night by the Birmingham City Council contains a number of austerity measures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, which since March has stymied the local economy and caused the city’s business tax revenue to plunge.

The budget, which was approved by the council with no changes to Mayor Randall Woodfin’s original proposal, is nearly $50 million smaller than last year’s and cuts the city’s contributions to schools, libraries and public transit, among other departments.

Some of those changes have proven controversial, but other cuts — particularly those to external nonprofit organizations such as the Birmingham Zoo, Jones Valley Teaching Farm and Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve — went largely unquestioned even by opponents of Woodfin’s budget.

Leaders of those nonprofits say they were unsurprised by the cuts, and even before the budget’s passage they appeared resigned to the loss. Instead, faced with their own significant budget shortfalls, those organizations are adapting to survive a hostile, post-COVID landscape. Read more.

Birmingham Contemplates Privatizing or Automating Garbage Pick Up

Mayor Randall Woodfin urged councilors to consider either automating or outsourcing Birmingham’s garbage pickup program during a special-called meeting of the City Council Thursday night, arguing that it is unsustainable in its current form.

In a joint presentation with the city’s public works, legal and finance departments, Woodfin called for the city to either “engage an experienced refuse management service” or to “automate the city’s refuse collection fleet by purchasing 20 side loaders and adding tipper (trucks) to (the) existing fleet.”

Both options would provide significant cost savings to the city amid an economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, he said, though he added that the need for change predated the pandemic. Read more.