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A savior is not what Birmingham needs now

11.12.2009 by André Natta · → 3 Comments

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I’ve thought about it.

I think everybody in this city has thought about it these last two weeks, whether seriously or in jest.

“How would I do as a candidate for mayor of Birmingham?”

color bham skyline acnatta/bhamterminal.comI approach answering that question realizing that Birmingham’s looking for a savior right now. It hasn’t realized that it needs to save itself and not lay the challenge on any one person – with each resident taking a good, hard look inward to determine what needs to happen to move the community forward.

I mean, I believe that the city’s best days are ahead of us, but I don’t think they’ll ever happen so long as this extreme lack of confidence in Alabama’s Magic City that seems to ooze from the lips of many of its residents continues to be the brush used to paint that bright potential future.

“There’s nothing to do in the city.”

“There’s nothing happening in town.”

“The city’s moving forward in spite of it’s leadership.”

Maybe it’s time to sing the praises of what we do love in this city louder than ever before. Maybe instead of a savior, it needs a head coach.

I believe that we need to look for ways to encourage small businesses to fight back against the effects of the recession with laser-targeted short term economic development initiatives while identifying ways to provide resources, including proper training, to be ready to compete in a regional economy. It may even be nice to provide the resources necessary for organizations already in existence like Operation New BirminghamMain Street Birmingham and the like to perform their services to the best of their ability instead of asking them to perform miracles and then heaping blame without asking how we can help achieve success.

I believe that we need to understand that a sustainable city means figuring out ways for communities to have the resources that they need within walking distance or a short drive instead of continuing to feed the monsters that include U.S. 280. It means that bike lanes and a functioning bus system need to be sought and encouraged. It also means identifying ways that people can come in and solve problems that government and locals don’t seem to want to solve on their own.

I believe that it means that a level of transparency and accountability need to be set not just for those that are seeking to hold the mayor’s office, but with those that need to hold that person accountable.

I think that it means telling the region needs to stop acting like it’s a network of kingdoms and become more cohesive about similar needs. That person needs to serve as a mediator to stop making it a battle about what’s going on between small towns five miles apart and lead efforts focused on regional cooperation and how it will benefit all in the long run.

If we were true to what we hear when we ask the question “What does Birmingham need?” we may actually pay attention to this upcoming race with the focus that it deserves and not vote for someone solely on popularity but on what they can truly achieve for our city.

Let’s not just elect someone, let’s elect the person who can actually explain what they will do even after the sound bite machines are turned off. They need to explain how they’ll lead a city that needs someone to coach a city out of its doldrums instead of saving it from what locals believe is pending oblivion and doom.

We still have a few more days to learn about who will throw their names into the mix for the chance to occupy the mayor’s office here in Birmingham, AL. We’ve also learned about two upcoming forums where you can try to glean what these folks truly stand for; one by the Jefferson County alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta on November 17 and the other to be held by Catalyst for Birmingham on December 1.

I’m hopeful that the residents of the city of Birmingham will take this rare opportunity to speak with everyone watching to demonstrate that they actually give a damn.

I know I’m not running, but I’d love to see everyone approach this election as if they were and then to dig and find out who best represents their ideals – and hold them accountable from day one.

André Natta is the stationmaster for

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Filed under: Commentary · Election '09