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.
If you’re a Birmingham resident who missed out on the chance to meet new City Schools superintendent Dr. Kelley Castlin-Gacutan back in May, don’t worry. There’s another opportunity to meet “Dr. G.” beginning at 5:30 p.m. today (Tuesday, June 16) at the Birmingham Museum of Art. The two-hour meet and greet will also be a chance for those in attendance to hear prepared remarks from the new schools leader. Her selection was announced two days before the last public event, and the terms of her contract were recently approved (5-4) during a called meeting of the system’s board.
It will also be the first opportunity for Dr. G. to offer her thoughts on the school system’s official release from nearly three years of state oversight.
The Hueytown native has more than 24 years of professional experience, including recently serving as the deputy superintendent of school operations and interim superintendent of Macon, Georgia’s Bibb County School District. Castlin-Gacutan is scheduled to begin work here in Birmingham on July 1. She sat down for several interviews shortly after the announcement of her appointment, including this one with WBHM’s Sherrel Stewart and this one with AMG’s Madison Underwood.
Photo: via Birmingham City Schools website.
The Birmingham Board of Education (BBOE) is trying to collect as much community input as possible as it begins its search for a new superintendent. (Current Birmingham City Schools superintendent Craig Witherspoon announced his resignation — effective at the end of the calendar year — in October). Election Day saw pieces published by both AL.com and Weld for Birmingham about how the BBOE intended to accomplish this via public meetings at six area high schools and an anonymous online survey (open until November 16).
It’s now been followed up with a guest opinion by BBOE president Randall Woodfin published to AL.com late Friday morning.
The effort is a partnership between BBOE and the Alabama Association of School Boards. Clicking on the name of one of the six district high schools that follows will take you to a PDF showing the current full schedule of meeting times and where they will take place on campus.
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014
Woodlawn High School
Huffman High School
Jackson-Olin High School
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014
Wenonah High School
Parker High School (for Parker and Ramsay)
Carver High School
The schedules currently call for two times being set for parents and interested members of the community to stop by and participate: a morning session from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.; and an evening session from 6 – 7 p.m. The schedules also include times to get feedback from members of student council as well as certified and support staff for the schools. The flyers do state that the meetings are for those high schools as well as “the elementary and middle schools which feed it.”
A link to an online survey about housing options in Birmingham’s neighborhoods is beginning to be more widely circulated. It is being conducted by GCR, Incorporated, a consulting firm based in New Orleans, LA, as part of a study being used to develop a housing plan for the city. The one year contract (not to exceed $95,139) was first approved by the City Council in June (summary item 2), with the legislative body recently receiving an update during a regularly scheduled meeting.
As reported by Fox 6/WBRC’s Alan Collins, councilors did raise concerns at that time about wanting to make sure all residents interested in participating were able to do so. They were particularly concerned about those citizens without online access. The survey is web-based, takes approximately 10 minutes to complete, and is built to be accessible by smartphone as well (the portion of a screenshot from a mobile device accompanies this post).
UPDATE: 4:05 p.m. – We’ve learned physical copies of the survey are available via the city’s community development office (as it is that office working with the consultant) and not the economic development office as mentioned in the report.
The final report, focused on establishing a policy leveraging tools already available to the city, is scheduled to be delivered to the city in December. It, like the recently established Land Bank Authority, was outlined as a necessary next step by the city’s comprehensive plan process, possibly proving helpful as efforts to establish framework plans continue to move forward.
It will also be interesting to watch as the plan is unveiled how it tackles vacant property, affordability, and homelessness, particularly as other cities currently contemplating implementation of housing plans (such as New York and Seattle) move forward as well.
Thursday night’s public hearing for the city of Birmingham’s comprehensive plan took place, though no vote was taken. This is because the Birmingham Planning Commission announced plans to extend the comment period for 60 days.
The announcement was made before a 30-minute presentation by Goody Clancy‘s Larissa Brown about the plan and before several rose to offer comments of support, criticism, and concern. It partially stems from several requests, including one from the Business Alliance for Responsible Development (BARD), to extend the review period in order to have sufficient time to go over the plan, its appendices, and provide comment.
City officials said efforts would be made to make links to the draft of the plan available on the city’s website in addition to its current location on the plan’s official website. Physical copies will remain available for review on the 5th floor of Birmingham City Hall and at Birmingham Public Library branches.
Thurscay evening the Birmingham Planning Commission will hold a public hearing for what would be the first fully adopted comprehensive plan in the city’s history. It is scheduled to take place from 6 – 8 p.m. on the third floor of Birmingham City Hall.
A draft of the plan has been available for public review at City Hall, several Birmingham Public Library locations, and online (separated by chapter – because yes, it is that comprehensive) since March 4. The 18-month project, spearheaded by the city’s department of planning, engineering, and permits and lead consultant Goody Clancy, is in the potential home stretch this evening. It awaits only approval by the Planning Commission and an endorsement by the Birmingham City Council remaining before the process moves into the implementation stage.
Regardless of your opinions on The Plan, you’re encouraged to attend this evening’s event. The Terminal’s official stance on whether or not it should be adopted is waiting comfortably for you to read over at Dear Birmingham.
There’s been a great deal of buzz surrounding a series of pieces highlighting the best and worst cities in the state written by al.com/Alabama Media Group columnist John Archibald. During his regular weekly segment on WBHM, local Morning Edition host Tanya Ott highlighted a comment on Archibald’s most recent piece about the state’s worst cities made by Emily Lowrey, founder and publisher of Magic City Post, suggesting al.com/AMG take a closer look at each of the city’s 99 neighborhoods as part of its overall analysis.
It got us wondering just how familiar folks were with all of Birmingham, AL’s 99 neighborhoods (or the city’s general boundaries for that matter). Luckily, someone was already working on a solution, courtesy of a Code for America Brigade project – Click That Hood. The premise of the simple – it asks you just how familiar you are with the locations of neighborhoods in several cities across the country. Marcus Dillavou, a founder and lead engineer at VIPAAR, decided to add Birmingham to the site himself, sharing a post describing how he went about it earlier today. It should give folks an idea of the issues involving access to usable general data about the city. He was able to add 87 of the 99 neighborhoods to the map, all of them located north of Red Mountain.
The site is being highlighted in advance of this weekend’s second annual Code Across America initiative, appropriate as February 23 is International Open Data Day. The hope is to continue to spark an interest in civic innovation. There are no known events taking place in Birmingham, though perhaps helping Marcus tackle getting the rest of the city on the map or helping populate Bhamwiki with information about those neighborhoods (& other things Birmingham) would be pretty significant tasks unto themselves.
We also figured it was time to get our area’s See Click Fix map out from hiding on our site. A button taking you to the page will appear on the sidebar tomorrow morning.