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Using the bully pulpit in metro Birmingham

10.13.2007 by André Natta · → Leave a comment

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This morning people throughout metro Birmingham are waking up to fall-like weather and preparing for another full weekend of activities. Some will be visiting local libraries in Hoover and surfing the web to learn the results of an investigation into the Hoover Board of Education. Many residents have Hoover mayor Tony Petelos and the Hoover City Council to thank for that.

The mayor did something that will be fresh in the minds of many in Birmingham for months to come as we deal with our own educational system. He went into the belly of the beast and used the bully pulpit that comes with the role of mayor and strongly urged that the results of the report be released. He even went the extra mile and went on television explaining why he did it. The city council followed suit, providing the necessary pressure (and attention) to the situation that appeared to be needed.

The actions taken were extremely important and not necessarily unusual to the city of Birmingham and its dealings with its own board. The difference was the quietly aggressive approach taken by Mayor Petelos. He recognized it as an issue that was beginning to have an effect on the city and the school system and that it was leading to the city being viewed differently from the outside and he decided to take actions accordingly. There are some that live in Hoover that are always ready to say that they are going to surpass Birmingham in terms of size and importance – well this is a taste of what’s may come with it, though it will exist whether or not those goals are met. The city is growing and is close to having to deal with being urban, one of the very things that residents that moved out there originally were moving away from. It must begin to respond to that challenge, one that its mayor met head on and passed with flying colors.

The ability of the mayor’s office to affect change outside of its normal parameters is possible as proven by that recent incident in Hoover. There are many that see mayor-elect Langford as more than capable of bringing that mindset to the 3rd floor of Birmingham’s City Hall at the beginning of November. The opportunity to see it in use will no doubt come sooner rather than later.

One interesting thing about his pending first example is the fact that the citizens will hold him responsible for many things outside of his purview. He also will be criticized if it is not the general consensus of the city’s residents. Part of this first phase for Langford will be seeing how he reacts to those who share different viewpoints. He has already demonstrated that he is willing to work with area leaders to address changes and he is moving forward with an agenda without taking a back seat to efforts to call for a runoff from Patrick Cooper. This means that he may have already played that bully pulpit card, albeit quietly, for the first time, and it’s led to some interesting and progressive ideas for the region.

The mayor-elect said on Tuesday night that we needed to buckle up. We also need to be prepared for what’s to come in terms of Langford’s hopes for this city, just how that bully pulpit will be used to accomplish those goals and for the dialogue that will take place because of it.

André Natta is the publisher and managing editor of The Terminal. To submit letters in response to this commentary or to contact for general information, use any of the methods listed on our contact page. Otherwise, simply submit your comments below.

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Filed under: Alabama · Birmingham · Election '07 · politics · regional