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.
Yesterday NBC 13 reported that Birmingham mayor William Bell and City Councilor Johnathan Austin visited our local Apple Store to investigate purchasing iPads for the current Council. The purchase would no doubt pay for itself as it would help to reduce costs involved with producing printed review materials for council and committee meetings.
The weird thing is, the City Council (at least the last council) received netbooks, jump drives and AirCards from former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford in last year in early June to accomplish the exact same thing. It was interesting at the time because they were delivered before the start of the last budget cycle. That purchase cost the city $4,975; the now proposed one would be $4,491 before taxes and cases.
We’re wondering if the cases for the iPads will come with a message similar to the one embroidered on the laptop cases that came with the netbooks last year?
Tomorrow’s runoff election is specifically for residents of Jefferson County living in District 1 and pertains to the commission seat vacated when William Bell became mayor of Birmingham, AL earlier this year. The winner serves the remainder of Bell’s term, set to expire at the end of the year.
The crazy thing is that you’ll be given a choice between Birmingham City Councilman Johnathan Austin and retired General George Bowman tomorrow – and on July 13. The second election will determine the Democratic nominee for November’s general election.
The Birmingham News‘ editorial board explains the situation as clearly as it can be, but it can still be a little disturbing if you think about it. One scenario, for example, could lead us to have to hold another special election to fill Austin’s unexpired term at City Hall if he’s successful tomorrow.
If you’re a resident of District 1 and you want some help figuring out just who to vote for, the Birmingham Young Democrats are teaming up with Women of Will (WOW) to host a candidates runoff forum this evening at 5:30 p.m. at Cosmos Sports Bar and Grill in Norwood.
Candidates for Alabama’s 7th Congressional District seat in Congress – Terri Sewell and Shelia Smoot – will be there too. You’ll only have to vote for them once (& won’t have to do that until July 13).
Posted in politics, Quirky
Tagged AL, Alabama, B'ham, Birmingham, election, George Bowman, Jefferson County Commission, Johnathan Austin, politics, Quirky, special election
One of the more active people on Twitter in recent days in Birmingham, AL is City Councilor Johnathan Austin. He’s recently started live-tweeting portions of the weekly City Council meetings and has given those following his account a chance to get to hear a little more about upcoming projects than folks have been able to in the past.
That would include a tweet late yesterday that included a link to the proposed “front yard parking ordinance” that is scheduled to go before the council for a vote in the near future.
Check it out and share your thoughts down below. They are after all still looking for public input…
Posted in Online, The City
Tagged AL, Alabama, B'ham, Birmingham, draft, front yard, information, Johnathan Austin, ordinance, parking, proposed
The newest face among Birmingham City leadership is now its youngest. A majority of City Councilors voted to appoint 29-year-old Johnathan F. Austin to fill the vacant District 5 seat of William Bell.
Vickii Howell of Birmingham View describes it as “an Obama-like moment when the community organizer and relative political newcomer was chosen from among four other better-known candidates, sworn in and seated within an hour of Tuesday’s vote by Councilors Valerie Abbott, Carol Duncan, Joel Montgomery and President Carole Smitherman.”
She reported that Steven Hoyt and Miriam Witherspoon voted no and Roderick Royal abstained.
You can read more of Vickii’s account of this morning’s events on Birmingham’s View’s News Portal as well as the Birmingham News’ breaking news blog.