Should Birmingham have to pay for everything?

Nature class at Ruffner Park

I’ve spent a great deal of time and effort trying to educate one of my best friends, who I will call Bob, about the problems created by our segmented and dysfunctional governments.

But Bob loves to complain about the City of Birmingham—even though he knows it makes my blood pressure explode.

Bob enjoys hiking and the outdoors. He’s a big supporter of parks especially Ruffner Mountain Nature Center.

For those of you who don’t know, Ruffner Mountain is a 1,000 acres nature preserve located in the eastern portions of Jefferson County, near Irondale.

Bob is irate because the City of Birmingham is conflicted about funding Ruffner.

I understand why Bob is upset, but I explained to him that the City of Birmingham can’t support every amenity in the region.  After all, Birmingham only represents 19% of the population of our metro area.

But Bob said that Ruffner Mountain is located in the City of Birmingham and the City has an obligation to support it.

My response is, but you live in Mt. Brook, how much does Mt. Brook pay for you to go to Ruffner?  How much does Homewood, Vestavia, or Trussville pay?

There are 37 municipalities in Jefferson County. Is Birmingham supposed to pay for everything?

The City of Birmingham helps support the McWane Center, the Museum of Art, Barber Motor Sports, Railroad Park, the Birmingham Zoo, the Civil Rights Institute, and Vulcan—to name a few.

All our citizens enjoy these amenities.  Why don’t we ask all cities in our region to pay a proportionate amount?

Too many governments—no one responsible for 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 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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6 thoughts on “Should Birmingham have to pay for everything?”

  1. *As usual, right on target, David. This concept would not be simple to implement, but the principle is sound and practical…not to mention, the fairest way to fund an interconnected community (region). 

  2. David: While I agree with your general contention, the use of Ruffner to illustrate it is flawed. I would note that just under 50% of Ruffner Mountain is owned by the city and that the Non-profit that manages Ruffner, not only arranged for federal funds to purchase that land, but doubled it in the ensuing years through other channels as well as building a 4 plus million dollar improvement on the city lands. The city should pay something to support its operation. It seems that idea is getting serious consideration in City Hall for which we are grateful. You don’t expect to be able to not pay the roofer for the work he did on your roof. The city should support Ruffner Mountain. FYI – several Irondale officials are now looking to support Ruffner as well. Perhaps the concept of regional support is stating to take hold.*

    1. Robbie, I promise my intent was not to pick on Ruffner. I could have picked on McWane, Vulcan, the Museum, etc. I chose Ruffner because you guys are in the midst of negotiating with the City. The purpose of the blog is to begin a conversation on how our segmented governments hurt our community. We all suffer. I don’t think anyone can make a case that the City of Birmingham should pay for everything. If Ruffner was located in Nashville or Jacksonville, then the whole community would be supporting it–since there’s only one city/county–not 37 municipalities.

  3. *David –
    I love this community – all of it.  I love the good, the bad and the ugly – I love its sordid past, its promising present and its prospects for the future.  Your points are right on target, Birmingham has become the hole in the center of the donut and unless we all become more intentional about filling that hole, the hole will consume us all.

    – Aubrey Miller

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