Let’s move to the suburbs and attack the City of Birmingham

Do you listen to talk radio or read comments on al.com?

It‘s a steady stream of condemnation of the City of Birmingham by the folks who live in the suburbs.

Think about it…

A large number of our most educated and financially able citizens abandon Birmingham and then blame our City for being stupid and broke.

This makes my head hurt.

2,600 people a year have moved out of the City for more than twenty years.  Where is this taking us?  What will our region look like twenty years from now?

But instead of us trying to figure out how to work together and turn our region around, we just bash each other.

The Mayor and our City Council are not perfect, but they are trying:

  • The Railroad Park
  • The new baseball stadium
  • The entertainment district
  • The world class CrossPlex
  • A major renovation of our airport

Would you recommend they do nothing?

Those of us who live in the suburbs will reap the benefits.*

This mess is caused by our outdated and ill conceived government structure.

Until we make changes, we will continue to flounder.

*(Full disclosure) I live in Vestavia Hills.  However I wake up every morning with the intent to improve our region.

David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.

David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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19 thoughts on “Let’s move to the suburbs and attack the City of Birmingham”

  1. Hurrah! Someone is focusing on the fundamental structural problems of our city, county and metropolitan area. It’s easy to focus on the dysfunctional things that governmental, business and civic leaders do, but we need to take a hard look at how the structure of our community compells them to do these things.

  2. Another great post, David. And I’d like to note that there are organizations and citizens doing amazing things in the “donut hole”, too. It’s not solely our city leadership that’s making changes and progress in Birmingham. I’m optimistic about the public/private partnerships that are being fostered and nurtured, and in my two years living IN the city, I’ve seen so much forward motion.

    I really believe that the community has the power…thank goodness for *better* leadership that can work alongside the citizens…

    1. LK, you are absolutely correct. I saw a presentation on the neighborhood revitalization going on in Woodlawn that is absolutely profound! But it takes “all hands” on board rowing in the same direction.

  3. You are absolutely right, David. Birmingham needs to come together as a region and support its urban core. People don’t realize that when they bash the city, they are bashing they’r e ownhometown. Outsiders have never heard of Hoover or Vestavia Hills; they only know Birmingham.

  4. Racism is one of the main causes of Birmingham’s decline. This started in the early 60’s. When schools were intergrated most of the white citizens including business owners moved out. To area such as Shelby county. Area with beautiful homes such as Bush hills and Norwood. The houses in Norwood were left to rot. And thats what the are doing rotting away. The pollution problem there was known since 30’s when people moved to places like Mt Brook. The houses are NOT being put of for sale. Maybe someone would like to take a chance and move there. But no the attitude is forget it! If I dont live there then no one will. Today there are few jobs in Birmingham. All the people that work in Birmingham take their daily drive taking from the city and spending there dollars elsewhere. The people in the business community closed Century Plaza Mall So you will have only one choice the Galleria. Again driving more dollars away from Birmingham. The racism is so obvious and so thick you can cut it with a knife.  So, the push now is if the subrubs dont have a say so in Birmingham the businesses just will simply not come out to play. This is so ignorant all money is green. Fact is if you moved out you did not want to be part of the solution. Birmingham and Metro is still segregated whites and blacks dont want to be schooled together. Until this a addressed nothing will change. Birmingham should set up a toll booth to help pave its roads. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION AND STOP BEING RACIST!!!                                                                          

    1. Ms.Lewis,
      Thanks for your impassioned response. Much of what you say is true. Certainly the problem began when whites fled Birmingham. However, now we have huge amounts of black flight. Birmingham is losing population rapidly. However, screaming racism is not a solution. And to indicate racism is worse in Birmingham than other Southern cities is not fair or accurate.

      Cities like Nashville or Jacksonville have one county-city government. This helps those regions to pool their resources and efforts to accomplish their economic goals–which create new businesses & jobs. However, much of the white community attends private schools, so they still have (for the most part) segregated their students.

      Let’s quit blaming one another and begin a discussion on how we can work together to make a difference.

  5. Its about economics. The businesses in Alabama refuse to do business in birmingham because the city is predominately black. So I’m not just stating racism but it is a major factor.  Alabama is at the top of the list for so many bad things such as obesity, crime, including domestic violence. People are poor and tired of not be included in the system. Alabama is destine to be a one horse town because no one thinks big everything is on a small scale. aLL FOR ME AND NONE FOR YOU. YOUR INSIGNIFICANT YOU DONT MATTER. MEANING THE PEOPLE IN BIRMINGHAM. We cant really have a bus system that works because the people are so ingnorant their idea of a bus is that it is for poor people. mass transit is about choices. I may not feel like driving I should have the choice. Many areas dont want active bus line because they are worried about a whole bus load of blacks coming to there area. This thinking is so limited. oh yea we are at the top of the emissions list as well. I live on the western side of town all of the Big box store are gone. But its ok the people have adjusted. The plan has backfired. The push to get everyone to shop at the Galleria is not working. We have people who have moved downtown. And not a single grocery will move down there. What do they eat??

    1. Kristina, I strongly feel that business people do business where they have an opportunity to make money.  That is what defines them as business people.  In reference to the bus system, I have seen many corporate leaders try to create a first class transportation system for our region.  One of the biggest obstacles is Alabama law that says all transportation money spent by the State must be spent on roads.  This is another case where the State is controlling local issues.  (bad government structure).  

      Bottom line, yes there are some racist people and many who are not, but we would all be better of if we can work together and fixing our government structure would be a great start. 

  6. Our present problem is with the redevelopment of the City of Bham, and I for one live there and am a cheerleader for progress. I worry, though, that at some point in the future, we will end up with a prosperous, redeveloped Bham and suburbs that are lower class and ghettoized black and Latino. The races will still be living apart, and in great disparity of condition, just having switched places. I think cooperation across ethnic/racial and socioeconomic lines is a must for the future of everyone in the metro region. We must learn to appreciate each other and to live and work together more than we have in the past. It’s not necessarily about hate, but of general distrust or fear of the unknown. Diversity is not an idea many in the South, or especially here, are comfortable with, but it’s a must. 

  7. This is an interesting article and so are the comments. I must say david I see your point of view. But I beg to differ that coporate leaders are on the side of the region as you say. When was it an economic decision to closed grocery stores or move retail from the down town area. I have watched as suburbs such as Fairfield and Midfield were abondoned by whites as blacks who were doctors and lawyers moved out in the 90’s as blacks(African-Americans) moved in and I’m talking about minorities who were docotors, lawyers and Business men. THen I watched as retail stores closed and grocery stores closed there doors and everything headed farther out to Hoover and vestvia and Pleasant Grove and places like that. Now if yo visit fairfield and Midfield you will see Walmart and one piggly wiggly store is about the only businesses still open. THe neares mjor retail store are either in McCallaor Hoover. It is a struggle for the those cities to get businesses to move there. Yet many of those same people who had money to spend live there. I have watched asredlining killed business in Birmingham and as real estate companies redirected petential homeowner away from western areas and allowed scrupulous investors by a rent out properties to anybody with little ack ground checks and then fail to maintain the properties. I’m tireof the lack of undertanding about the anger some people feel. We can work together if first all voices are heard. What’s best for Hoover and Vestavia may not be best for Birmingham. And on the point of public transportation the issue is bigger than just state Government.THere is a whole group of people especially among the business elite who don’t see the necessity or the economic value of Public Transportation. It is seen as a welfare system.

  8. Yea right your idea of working together is I’m going to tell you and your going to listen and do what I say. At one time there were three Food World/Brunos in Hoover. Now 2out of 3 are closed. The stuffy Winfrey and Galleria are bankrupt. Banks have been sued for treating blacks with same or better credit score different then their white counterparts. Redlining still exists. People in black areas cant get loans to fix their homes or start a business. So the people with the money are still in control. Putting a grocery store is no viable? Please you are dreaming. I know putting all of those stores in Hoover was no viable because they are now closed!! LOL!! hey everyone like the idea of shopping in there own neighborhood. In ’02 I worked for the Sears in Fairfield. During Christmas the store made a million with in a week. The problem is businesses what to play pollitcs. So, the result many of these store are on there last leg. Walmart does not have this problem they will but a store anywhere and for that still # retailer. They understand money has only on color green!!  

  9. Mrs Lewis,

    Racisim is a huge problem. I dare say, and can provide proof that racisim in Birmingham is most rampant at City Hall and it is racist african americans hurling the most racist attitudes. Race is made the focal point in elections with Mayors past and present saying outright that the mayor of Birmingham MUST be black. When we have that attitude we limit the pool of talent to select from. I am white and have voted for many, many black leaders. How many african american citizens would even consider a white candidate for mayor? This attitude existed before and started the ruination of our city. Then it was white folks supporting only white leaders. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We need to wake up and demand strong leadership from folks who are not looking for a career, but rather to SERVE their city.  

  10. David,
    Well said!  I really enjoy the Comeback Town newsletter and appreciate you voicing the major concerns of our city!

    Anna Kathryn

    1. Anna,
      Thanks. Please consider sharing with others. We can make Birmingham better. There’s power in numbers.

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