UPDATE, 8:30 p.m., 9/11/2015: According to a press release received earlier this evening, the Birmingham City Council moved to rescind the moratorium on spending on capital projects during their next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, September 15. This was after a 3 1/2 hour committee of the whole meeting, described in the release as being “open and often candid.”
The original post follows below:
Late Thursday afternoon the Birmingham City Council officially announced a special called meeting of its Committee of the Whole for Friday at 2 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting takes place just three days after the city’s legislative body voted to put in place a 30-day moratorium on funding for all capital projects underway in the city (as reported by AL.com), with a few notable exceptions — including renovations at Legion Field and the new intermodal transit facility currently under construction. A review of the committee meeting’s preliminary agenda for the meeting shows the only item under New Business as a “capital projects update.”
A press release sent out this afternoon in advance of the presentation to the council by the mayor’s office included the following quote from council president Johnathan Austin:
“As City Councilors we must be continually updated on all projects that utilize public funds to ensure that we are making the best decisions for our constituents. While we are excited about new growth opportunities that certain capital projects may present it is prudent that we are cautious about approving funding for items that we have minimal knowledge about.”
A report filed by WBRC’s Vanessa Araiza on Wednesday pointed to cost overruns related to Regions Field as a major reason for the delay. The council voted on Tuesday to approve paying the remaining expenses to Robins & Morton and A.G. Gaston Construction over a seven-year period. Members of the City Council also alluded to receiving some monthly reports covering progress while not receiving others, despite claims from the mayor’s office to the contrary. The reports are not accessible currently via the city’s official website, though the monthly report for the city’s street and storm sewer improvements program for the period ending December 31, 2014 is available online in part due to a report filed for ABC 33/40 in late January.
The current fiscal year’s capital budget is available on the city’s website via the budget office.
Several of Birmingham’s bravest stood atop a fire engine in front of City Hall with buckets of water at 5 p.m. Tuesday evening. The reason? Several City Councilors had decided to accept the Ice Bucket Challenge made by members of their central staff earlier in the day and they needed some help to pull it off.
Council president Johnathan Austin was joined by councilors William Parker and Sheila Tyson — shortly before her well-attended telephonic town hall meeting (488 people took part BTW) — in addition to president pro-tempore Jay Roberson. We shot some video, but the city’s provided one that captures the highlights from a much better angle:
Bobbi Grady, director of development and outreach for the Alabama chapter of the ALS Association, spoke to the small crowd gathered to witness the eventually-YouTubed spectacle to thank them for helping to draw attention to the organization. Among those challenged on Tuesday evening were Mayor Bell and his staff, all of the city’s corporate chief executives, and all elected officials in the metropolitan area.
Incidentally, this year’s Birmingham Walk to Defeat ALS is scheduled to take place on Saturday, October 11 at the Hoover Met — in case you want another way to raise awareness and funds to help fight this disease. The event has traditionally served as the organization’s largest single fundraiser. Several reports, however, suggest the ice bucket challenge may eclipse it this year. A press release sent out by the ALS Association yesterday states they’ve raised $88.5 million between July 29 to August 26; the same period last year saw donations totaling $2.6 million.
There’s been a great deal of conversation online about the pending arrival of Uber in Birmingham, AL since a post first published on this site back on June 19 suggested they were already laying the necessary groundwork. While the City of Birmingham is saying it’s prepared to welcome one of the world’s largest ride sharing apps to The Magic City, they’ve also said they do want to make sure it operates within the existing law. But what’s the law? First, a video posted to the City Council’s YouTube account on Tuesday afternoon:
Uber had already turned to social media to push back against proposed changes to the taxi ordinance, suggesting via email that it would be “anti-consumer” and creating a hashtag, #BirminghamNeedsUber, to garner and organize support for the service. Throughout the entire period though, there has been little discussion about the actual ordinance changes.
This link will take you to a copy of the working document published as a PDF; the changes are underlined with strikethroughs visible where language has been removed or modified; a “clean” copy has also been made available for you to review. A copy of the revisions made to the transportation ordinance earlier this year has also been uploaded to provide a point of reference and so you can actually see where changes have been made. An initial review of the documents prior to publishing this afternoon suggest they support statements made by councilors and city officials that the majority of the changes made were simply to define the service for purposes of the ordinance.
The changes appear to be similar to changes passed earlier this week in Columbus, OH and ones being considered in New Orleans, LA (though Uber’s biggest issue there seems to involve fare minimums). This morning it was announced a meeting to discuss the proposed changes in the Crescent City originally scheduled to take place July 22 has been rescheduled for next Tuesday, the same day Birmingham’s City Council is scheduled to take the item back up.
Council members have taken to social media in recent days to counter similar efforts by Uber in advance of the vote (as documented on AL.com), including the video shared earlier in this piece (as part of a longer nearly 2 minute piece) and the following tweet sent via Council president Johnathan Austin’s Twitter account earlier today:
Birmingham City Council president Roderick Royal issued an extended statement late yesterday explaining his comments during the legislative body’s regularly scheduled general business meeting. It was posted to the City Council’s website and was available for download as a PDF.
The published comments resulted from an exchange during the announcements from the mayor portion of the city after Mayor Bell announced the city was one of 10 that had been designated an All-America City by the National Civic League in Denver, Colorado. It was the second time the city had one the award; the first time was back in 1970.
It reads, in part:
“I support the efforts of the city whole-heartily and the staff that made this happen” said Council President Roderick Royal today “however I chose to express my opinion about the city’s recent honor in view of the conditions of our inner urban areas.”
The release of the comments occurred after several area media outlets posted accounts of the exchange to their websites and filed reports during early evening television news broadcasts. The presentation and celebration did fall flat shortly after it started yesterday, as reported yesterday by AL.com’s Joseph Bryant. An expanded piece was published to the news organization’s website late Tuesday evening highlighting comments made by former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford. WBRC-TV focused on the disagreement among councilors based on the council president’s remarks while ABC 33/40 looked at Royal’s comments suggesting the council needed to be more involved in pursuing designation like the All-America City status moving forward.
Fifteen area organizations stood before the Birmingham City Council’s economic development committee during a public hearing Thursday evening, May 30, to ask for restored or additional funding in the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget. The budget message was presented to the council by Mayor Bell on May 14. The council received a detailed briefing on the proposed operating and capital budgets on May 21.
The accompanying images shows Robbie Fearn, executive director of Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, as he presented before the committee while supporters hold signs behind him. As reported recently in Weld for Birmingham, the 36 year-old cultural resource has not been included in the proposed budget for the second year in a row. The Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Public Library, Citizen Action Patrol (CAP), Children’s Village, Childcare Resources, Clastran, Crossroads to Intervention, the Exchange Club of Birmingham Family Skills Center, Friends of Rickwood Field, Meals on Wheels, the Metro Birmingham Chapter of the NAACP, Norwood Resource Center, and the YWCA also received three minutes to speak before the committee, chaired by council president pro tempore Steven Hoyt. They then answered questions posed to them by the council.
The hearing started at 4 p.m. and lasted a little over an hour. Those unable to attend but interested in what was said and the questions posed to the organizations are able to relive the excitement via an audio archive posted to the city’s website last night. At the very least, you’ll learn more about the organizations listed above while also getting a chance to hear the types of questions being asked by the councilors.
It may also help if you had some time to look over the budget (PDF). It’s a pretty large document (1.48 MB, 164 pages), but at least you’ll know where everyone’s starting from as the budget process continues.
Birmingham Weekly is reporting via its Twitter feed that the City of Birmingham‘s figures actually reflect a $17 million deficit for 2009 and not a $13 million surplus that the new budget is based upon.
Reporters from the Weekly have been at the city’s budget workshop this afternoon where the City Council has asked that the budget be reworked to reflect the deficit while fulfilling their requests to not cut salaries – among other things.
Check out their Twitter feed for additional information.
UPDATE: Birmingham Weekly has now posted their own story on these recent developments as well as a response from City Council president Carole Smitherman after hearing about the deficit.
Posted in City Council
Tagged AL, Alabama, B'ham, Birmingham, budget workshop, City Council, deficit, information, Larry Langford, mayor, News, status
Those residents that live in Birmingham City Council District 5 learned two things yesterday (well, maybe – depending on who they were listening to) – William Bell was no longer their representative and someone was going to be picked for them by December. According to the Birmingham News, the list of folks that want the job (even if only for one year before having to run for re-election with the rest of the council) is already quite long – and it’s bound to get even longer before it’s all said and done. It already includes the former councilor and several others that have previously tried for the position.
Want to throw your hat in the ring too? As long as you’re over 18, registered to vote and currently live in District 5, you’ve got a chance – but applications are due in on Wednesday.