Archive for the ‘Local Issues’ Category

For Those of You Who May Be Affected…

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I readily admit to being uninformed about issues around rebuilding the Lake Purdy/Grants Mill Road bridge, but here’s an opportunity to let your voice be heard. There will also be discussion of the Jefferson County sewer debt mess.


BIRMINGHAM, AL–Senator Slade Blackwell will be hosting the first of a series of Community Town Hall meetings on Thursday at Liberty Crossings United Methodist Church from 7-8 p.m. The meeting is open to the public and all citizens in state Senate district 15 are encouraged to attend and participate.

“I want these meetings to serve as a way for constituents to let me know about the issues that are affecting them, how I can make a difference in helping to resolve these challenges, and for me to update them with what is happening in Montgomery during the upcoming session,” says Blackwell.

The meeting on Thursday night will focus on the effort to rebuild the bridge on Grants Mill Road at Lake Purdy. Before the bridge closed in December of 2009, an average of 8,000 cars traveled over the Grants Mill Road Bridge each day in order to reach I-459 by avoiding Hwy 280. However, the city of Birmingham closed the decaying, 74-year old bridge because the city could no longer enforce weight restrictions that had plagued the bridge since 2002.

“This has been a headache for people in this area for over a year, causing significant delays for the people living in the community’s surrounding the bridge that depend on it to reach highway 119 and highway 280,” Blackwell said. “While mini electronic cigarettes there has been some progress with this project, people want to know the timeline and other details, which I hope to provide to them.”

Another major concern to be discussed at the meeting Thursday night will be the ongoing Jefferson County sewer crisis. A court appointed receiver has been in the process of accessing the system and will put forward a proposed plan for reaching a solution. Recent meetings with legislators and the receiver, John Young, will be discussed.

“It is becoming increasingly urgent that we reach a solution to the escalating sewer debt crisis, while avoiding bankruptcy. My goal and commitment remains the same since I became engaged in this issue almost two years ago – to assist the county commission and receiver in identifying and implementing a sustainable solution to the ongoing debacle for the sake of the people of Jefferson County and Alabama.”

The meeting will also focus on other issues that are of importance to the citizens in state Senate District 15. There will be time at the end of the meeting for participants to ask questions regarding anything that they’d like to discuss that is related to Jefferson and Shelby County’s. State Representative Greg Canfield (R-Vestavia Hills) will also attend and address questions from constituents along with Blackwell.

“I’m excited about this meeting. There is so much going on in Jefferson and Shelby counties right now and I hope these meetings will give people the opportunity to offer ideas and feedback on how I can better serve District 15,” Blackwell said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

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Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

voteIf you’re eligible to vote in the city of Birmingham, do it!  The weather is beautiful us made electronic cigarettes, the lines will likely be short (unfortunately), so get out and do your civic duty.

More Homophobia…

Monday, January 18th, 2010

…from Frank Matthews “Faith” in Birmingham.  Brought to us by the same email address that delivered Frank’s open letter to the citizens of Birmingham, decrying the proposal to expand Pre-K in Birmingham.  Because better educational opportunities for the city’s children are part of the gay agenda.  Or something.

Now it’s right out in the open.  In a PowerPoint (PDF link) and everything.  The citizens of Birmingham must vote reviews of electronic cigarettes for William Bell for mayor because Patrick Cooper might be gay.  And he might be gay because his ex-wife and her new husband gave him big campaign contributions.

Wait, what?  They’re paying him off because he’s gay?  Yeah, I’m confused too.

Thank God this election will be over tomorrow (knock on wood).  And thank mooncat for uploading this disgusting piece of crap so I didn’t have to.

Celebrating the Life of Dr. King

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I attended the 24th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center this morning.  The East Exhibition Hall was packed with people who had come to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King.  A few of them may have been a bit surprised at what they heard from keynote speaker Dr. Ed LaMonte*, but they’d be hard-pressed to deny the truth of his words.  Birmingham is failing to live up to its potential, he said, and he believes the future of the city hangs on two things: our ability to function as a community in addressing regional issues and our ability to address the educational needs of the city’s children.

He pointed out that at the time Dr. King was in Birmingham, there were 31 municipalities in Jefferson County.  Now the metro area encompasses parts of seven counties, and there are 94 municipalities — we’re even more fragmented.  There is no mechanism to identify and address regional issues, and that lack hurts all of us.  He used our inadequate public transit system as an example, noting that it was on the table at the first meeting of the Community Affairs Committee of Operation New Birmingham.  In 1969.

He moved on to some background on Birmingham’s educational system.  In 1963, there were 340,000+ people living in the city of Birmingham and approximately 70,000 students enrolled in the public school system.  By 2008, the population had fallen to 228,000+, with only about 28,000 students remaining.  A study by the Southern Education Foundation indicates that 50% of students who begin 9th grade in Birmingham city schools fail to graduate from high school.  Their mean annual income as adults is $15,803, which is $3,000 less than the mean of other high school dropouts elsewhere in the country.  High school graduates make around 40% more than their dropout counterparts.

The city has recently completed a search for a new school superintendent in a process that Dr. LaMonte says was met with “widespread skepticism”.  Birmingham has gone through six superintendents in the past 15 years; research by the Council of the Great City Schools shows average tenure for a superintendent in an urban system is 3.5 years.  We can’t wait for a superintendent to save the schools.  We have failed our children, and we need to do better.

Dr. LaMonte opined, to general applause and nods of agreement, that Dr. King would be disappointed in the Birmingham of 2010.

His prescriptions?  First, an engine for addressing regional issues — he suggested the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham and PARCA as electronic cigarette starter two existing organizations that are already well-placed and willing to serve this function.  Second, an organization whose single purpose is to monitor the city’s school system as an advocate for students — he said his personal instinct is to look to Greater Birmingham Ministries for leadership on this.

He closed by reminding us of Birmingham’s “great but significantly unfulfilled potential” and asking the question, “Where do we go from here?”

I hear there were a few toes that felt a bit stepped on by his address.  You know what?  Too bad.  There is an entrenched power structure in Birmingham, and it needs to be challenged just as much as the Big Mules ever did (and still do).  Dr. King was all about speaking truth to power, and Dr. LaMonte truly lived his legacy today.


*I couldn’t find a complete biography of Dr. LaMonte, so I would like to note that he has a long history as an advocate for civil rights and was instrumental in the building of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and has a wonderful son who is a dear friend and colleague.  ETA: Here’s a good feature (PDF) from Southern Magazine.

I’m not even going to address the idiocy in comments at the story.  Poor reporting makes it read as if Dr. LaMonte advocated for merging all 94 municipalities into one regional government.  He didn’t.  Suffice it to say that some ignorant rednecks who would never go near an MLK celebration are up in arms at the very thought.

ADDENDUM:  Here is a statement issued by the Co-Chairs of the Community Affairs Committee:

Birmingham’s citizens must talk with each other and work together to solve the serious problems that affect the city.

We should not reject the message that we need, as a comunity, to be hearing just because of who the messenger is.  We should also hold leadership and ourselves to the highest standards decorum and respect for others.  Our youth need to hear fresh thinking from adults.

We do not have time to hate. Recent political behavior serves solely to project negative images of Birmingham and distracts from the serious issues.

Finally, concerning the annual Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr, Unity Breakfast, kudos to those planners who had the awareness to make the breakfast truly unified.  We are diverse people with diverse heritages with different beliefs and non-beliefs.  We participated in a program with prayers offered by lay persons, Christian ministers, an imam, and a rabbi.  It was a good start.

Smith Williams
Helen Rivas
Co-Chairs, Community Affairs Committee
Operation New Birmingham

Nine More Days

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Thank goodness Birmingham’s mayoral election will be over soon.  I certainly hope tomorrow brings better coverage of tonight’s debate.  This summary is somewhat less than informative.

I missed the debate broadcast but did Cialis 10mg see Avatar.  Visually stunning, although not, perhaps, the best choice for someone with acrophobia.  Yes, Zach, you did warn me, and you were right.  It was worth the heart palpitations, though.

Homophobia: Alive and Well in Birmingham

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

New campaign flyers from some group no one’s ever heard of target Birmingham mayoral candidate Patrick Cooper for his support of Howard Bayless, a former school board member who ran for City Council this year.  Bayless’ “crime”?  He’s the first openly gay man elected to public office in Alabama.

One flier’s disclaimer reads “Paid for by Faith in Birmingham.” However, no such group is registered with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office or with the Jefferson County Probate Office. The other flier lists no sponsor.

Alabama’s Fair Campaign Practices Act mandates such campaign literature be marked as a paid political advertisement and give the identification of the principal individual who paid for or authorized it.

I don’t know if William Bell is behind this attack or not.  I do know that he is a coward who attacked Cooper at a local prayer breakfast as a “slave trader from Mobile” (I heard it from an eyewitness well before the Cooper campaign called him out on it) and then tried to excuse it by saying he didn’t name any names.

I also know that I will be making a donation to the Cooper campaign tomorrow.  BTW, Commissioner Bell “Faith” in Birmingham, that’s known as the Law of Unintended Consequences.

If you’d like to join me, here’s Cooper’s donation link.

Report on Today’s Carraway Meeting

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Birmingham City Councilor Maxine Parker invited a whole passel of elected officials to the Birmingham Museum of Art this morning to talk about, ostensibly, alternative options for redevelopment of the former Carraway Methodist Medical Center.  Her invitation also made its way into the hands of local community residents and businesspeople, so she ended up with quite a crowd jammed into a very small room.

I heard this morning…


Carraway Medical Center: What Does the Future Hold?

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Birmingham City Councilor Maxine Parker will hold a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) morning to discuss possible future uses of the old Carraway Medical Center facility in north Birmingham.  The meeting will be held at 8 AM in the Members’ Room at the Birmingham Museum of Art (free parking is available behind the museum).  The meeting comes after officials from Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa decided not to relocate to Carraway.  If you’re interested, come on down.


Friday, January 1st, 2010

In the interest of keeping my New Year’s resolution to post at least once a day, I headed over to to check out the latest local news.  And what do I find as the very first story of 2010?  City homicides drop third year in row.  They also dropped across Jefferson and Shelby Counties.  And I’m glad — really, I am — but I’m also left with a sad sense of wasted opportunity.  Yes, it’s great that fewer people are killing other people, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could celebrate real movement toward regional cooperation?  A deliberate effort to change the us-versus-them mentality that seems to permeate Birmingham and its suburbs?  The comments don’t give me much hope.

Perhaps I should resolve to avoid the comments section at  It only leads to heartburn, anger, and depression.

Happy New Year, everyone!  I will also resolve to cheer up.  Birmingham has a mayoral election on the horizon, and until it’s over I can dream that the citizens will choose a new direction for the city and the region.  And ignore things like this:


Tax-exempt status?  Who needs it?

It Couldn’t Have Happened to a Nicer Guy

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Well, yes, it could have. But if Frank Matthews had been a nicer guy, or even halfway civil, he might not have been fired from the mayor’s office.  Matthews lost his $72,000 a year gig as co-director of the Office of Citizen Assistance after a “profanity-laced verbal altercation” with some Patrick Cooper supporters at a city-wide Christmas party Monday.  He claims he was “provoked”.

Those of us who have been exposed to Matthews in the past know he’s easily provoked and has no problem whatsoever showing his fanny in public, even in front of television cameras.  And there’s no heat-of-the-moment defense for going on the radio this morning and calling new (now former) boss Roderick Royal “Napoleon” and a “liar”.

Matthews says his firing will give him more time to campaign against Patrick Cooper.  I suspect he was already spending plenty of his “work” hours doing just that — when he wasn’t busy organizing sparsely attended prayer vigils for Larry Langford. I’m glad the citizens of Birmingham — you know, those people he was supposed to be assisting — won’t be bankrolling him anymore.