City of Birmingham

Woodfin’s Strategic Update Touts Progress in Neighborhood Improvement, Food Deserts, Gun Violence, Parks, Education, Homelessness and the Arts

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin gave an update on his strategic plan during an address 12.15.23. (From Youtube stream)

When Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin gave an update on the city’s initiatives Thursday, he asked the crowd at the Birmingham Museum of Art’s auditorium to view that progress through the eyes of one mother or grandmother and the many tangible ways life has improved for her and her family since he took office.

“Everything we’ve done has been to increase opportunities for our children and grandchildren,” he said. “That really drives what we do at City Hall. That drives this administration. That is the heartbeat of what we do for our children, for our grandchildren.”

Back in 2017, the mayor said, that grandmother would look out her front door and see dilapidated or vacant homes next door, a cracked sidewalk and roads dotted with potholes. Six years ago, that woman’s grandchildren didn’t have a playground nearby, and the family lived miles away from a store selling fresh vegetables. And worst of all, he said, she and her grandchildren would often hear gunshots throughout the night.

“By the end of our first term, here is what we did for that mother, here is what we did for that grandmother,” the mayor said.

Woodfin pointed to a more aggressive abatement program that helped clean up blighted property near that grandmother’s home. He mentioned the millions of dollars invested in street paving that have improved that grandmother’s commute. Woodfin also noted a new grocery store opening up in the Five Points West neighborhood, which would prevent that grandmother from living in a food desert. He also talked about the closing out of long-delayed parks projects that would give that grandmother’s children a place to play.

“Everything we do is through that lens,” he said of keeping that grandmother’s quality of life at the forefront of leaders’ minds.

Woodfin said there wasn’t enough time at the event to itemize each of the city’s accomplishments, so he encouraged residents to view the city’s strategic plan online.

But Woodfin listed several investments, programs and grants that have made life better for Birmingham grandmothers. They included:

  • Securing more than $3.5 million — including $1 million from the city — for Birmingham Talks, a program aimed at fostering literacy in children from birth to age 3. “Some of you may have a question, ‘Why this program?’ The answer is simply because we have the data that continues to show us that the building blocks between the ages of 1 and 5 is where we need to make the necessary investments for our next generation,” the mayor said. Woodfin was introduced to the stage Thursday by Oliver Elementary student Jada Hinton, who read a story titled “Randall’s Big City Dreams.” The mayor said Jada’s performance was an example of why fostering a lifetime love of reading in children is vital.
  • $5.5 million in scholarships to more than 1,000 Birmingham students as part of The Birmingham Promise program. “That’s such a gamechanger for our next generation,” he said. “Because this is how we build our workforce. This is how we retain talent in our state. This is how we break generational curses and provide opportunities for the next generation.”
  • 173 miles of streets paved, including 50 miles just in 2023, as well as 8,900 potholes repaired in 2023.
  • Securing more than $6 million for the city’s home repair program for low and middle-income families. Woodfin said the scope of that program has grown to 250 homes, which is triple the amount served three years ago.
  • Approval of a $1 million bid to provide micro housing for homeless people in Birmingham. Woodfin announced Thursday that the city had chosen three finalists for facilitators of the program: Faith Chapel Care Center, AIDS Alabama and Urban Alchemy.
  • Protective Stadium, which opened in 2021, bringing major performers such as Drake and Garth Brooks.

Woodfin also acknowledged the challenge the city has faced in terms of gun violence.

Birmingham Police Department’s crime update, 12.15.23

According to the Birmingham Police Department’s crime update issued Wednesday, the city has had 118 murders so far this year, compared to 127 for all of 2022. So far this year, 1,814 firearms have been recovered, 43 of them last week. Last year, 1,962 firearms were recovered.

While the mayor commended the police department, he said it’s not enough. Toward that aim, he said, the city will continue to invest millions in conflict resolution programs and mental health services for students as well as safe haven initiatives at city recreation centers.

Woodfin also encouraged residents and businesses to join the Connect Birmingham network, which links security cameras at area businesses so that city investigators can have quick access to footage to help solve crimes.

“Public safety cannot just be a BPD issue alone; it has to be a community issue,” he said.

Salaam Green, Birmingham’s first poet laureate (Photo courtesy of Momentum)

Woodfin on Thursday also announced the city’s first poet laureate: Salaam Green, a University of Montevallo graduate and founder of Literary Healing Arts, an organization whose mission is to “spread the healing power of words and writing to the world.”

Woodfin said Green was chosen by a group of artists assembled by the nonprofit group Create Birmingham, and Green’s position was made possible by the partnership of the Alabama State Council of the Arts and the city council’s arts committee.

Woodfin ended his discussion of the strategic plan by acknowledging that 2023 marks 50 years since the monumental civil rights events of 1963. He said the sacrifices made by leaders in that movement provided a foundation for the progress the city has made in the past half-century.

“We are building a better, a brighter and a bolder Birmingham for that mother, for that grandmother, for that child, for that grandchild, but also for you, for your family and for generations to come. From 1963 to 2023, we are rewriting our future. This blueprint is Birmingham’s manifesto for our next great breakthrough.”