Tag Archives: City Council

Popularity or purpose?

Today people will visit the polls throughout Birmingham, AL to determine whether or not nine individuals that currently serve us as city councilors should be re-elected for another term or if new leaders are required. As reported yesterday on WBHM, it can be a little confusing when you see so many different signs lining the streets… but should that be the only measure of a candidate?

There has been extensive coverage of all of the candidates from numerous mainstream and alternative outlets. We’ve even had folks tell us we should or should not vote for. The idea of letting someone else decide for me seems a little insane, especially if all you’re going to do later on is complain about how it wasn’t your choice. Being the type of city that we are, while we may not know about a candidate’s position, we’re ready to have an excuse to party so we can start preparing for four years from now.

While bhamterminal.com probably did not help you decide who you need to vote for (as it’s never been our policy, despite some thinking and hoping otherwise), wouldn’t it make more sense to stop for a moment and decide whether or not you’re going to vote for a candidate because of what they believe and what you think they can do instead of whether or not you know them or just because you know their name? Can they speak on an issue that you believe in passionately or do they get confused between green building and green grocers? Do they try to ride one project to a re-election or do they give you new ideas about how their city can change for the better and what they’re willing to advocate for to help it get there?

Every election is described as the most important one ever, regardless of where you live and what’s at stake. I’d challenge you to watch or listen to today’s City Council meeting (or check it out later after it’s been archived). I’d challenge you do check out what you don’t like about any issues and think about just how it could be changed. When the polls close this evening at 7 p.m., I’d hope that a quick look at who currently represents you and their opponents just may move you to head to the polls.

Is it really about how many signs you have up along the streets, the number of folks who know your name or the capability of representing a city that desperately needs to lose its apathetic attitude when it comes to matters of importance or its future? Today will be yet another chapter in Birmingham’s search to find out which one they are more comfortable with.

André Natta is the stationmaster for bhamterminal.com.

Why pay more?

I hop on a plane and fly out to Colorado and hope that big news stories don’t happen while I’m in the air and getting settled in. Now that I’ve been reminded that news will never wait (and that inevitably there will be two stories)…

It will be extremely difficult for the city council to justify a raise for those that follow them into office next year, despite the best of intentions from Councilor Miriam Witherspoon. While the jobs are part-time, many in this current crop do treat it as full time work. Many would argue however that it as the price of being a public servant – doing the work of the people for a small amount of money and their gratitude.

The pay scale should be reviewed in the near future as there is some discrepancy in relation to what they do and what they receive as compensation. However one look at the financial situation that many of the city’s residents find themselves in suggests that if passed we would most certainly see faces change on the council dais next year as it would prove that our current crop were out of touch with what’s going on around them.

Councilor (soon to be County Commissioner) William Bell made the point that the council should not be able to increase their salaries. Those are words that should be heeded in this case. If the proposal was allowed to be presented in its current state it would  be extremely difficult to justify that 120% increase to many long time residents, especially those the who are about to watch one of their community’s anchors, albeit one that has been floundering for some time, begin the process of shutting down after 100 years. The two stories are in fact related (yes, they are).

The council should be encouraging the mayor to reach into the bag from which he’s already promised more than $1 billion in funds to find a way to keep Carraway‘s doors open or at least find a company that would be able to take over the hospital and fulfill its current plans for the area.

Before we go any further, we need to make clear the fact that the city has done what it could to try to help the facility stay open. The former Parisian warehouse at Carraway Boulevard and 12th Street North was torn down in June in hopes that a renaissance long promised to the area’s residents was about to be kicked into high gear. That renaissance was tied to a resurgent Carraway.

The pending closure of the facility, despite the “great” opportunity provided by having a piece of property ready for redevelopment (note sarcasm), is a situation that is tied to the current economic crisis but one that needs to be dealt with swiftly. Making sure that people in Birmingham are employed and that we’re continuing to go after the tax revenue that is desperately needed to complete many of the projects on the boards would go a long way towards influencing residents that our city council needs a pay raise, though it would make more sense to deal with such a raise after next year’s elections (perhaps by the voters).

Our city is currently much better off than other larger cities like San Diego, CA and Newark, NJ (two cities that come to mind as I watch an interview on television this morning with both cities’ mayors talking about their financial crises). For the council to reward itself financially for that accomplishment is definitely not the most effective way to demonstrate that fiscal responsibility.

While I’m starting my first day as a Main Street practitioner in more than 18 months about the time that the council will most likely begin to debate this issue, I’ll catch the highlights of the meeting later on today. I’m sure that most of the city will be doing the same to see how the first issue of the 2009 council race shakes out.

André Natta is the managing editor of The Terminal.