A community leader gives Rotarian types hell

Our goal:  Better government for our region.

Birmingham’s an amazing community in many ways.

It’s difficult to explain, but we have the largest and most successful civic clubs on earth.

Our Birmingham Kiwanis Club, our Birmingham Rotary Club and our Birmingham Rotaract Club are the largest in the world.  You wouldn’t think that it could be mathematically possible.

Amazingly, the Civitan Club was founded in Birmingham.

So I was surprised when a long time community leader and civic club member (one of the big two)  responded to one of my blogs by blasting what he called, “Rotarian types.”

“ We’ve got too many Rotarian types in this city, who think they are doing something worthwhile by showing up once a week for 272 Rotary meetings in a row to listen to some random speech—instead of actually doing something for the city.  

Yeah, I know about their summer camp for tornado victims but where are the bold voices when it comes to issues that could literally transform our city—such as the Charter School bill that got torpedoed this year that could’ve actually brought the black and white middle class back to the city? Where were the strong voices when Richard Shelby offered to give us a billion dollars to build a regional mass transit system but allowed it to die because of the lack of the 20% local match?

We’re still waiting for Hugh McCall or Billy Payne to step forward and take costly, controversial stands and actually spend political capital to move the city boldly forward.”

It’s difficult for me to reply since I’m a Rotarian myself.

However, I contend it’s our segmented regional governments and lack of home rule that make it too much of a hassle for our corporate leadership to get involved.  Look how hard the BBA worked to help Jefferson County avoid bankruptcy or to reinstate funding for Jefferson County.

Why can’t Jefferson County be allowed to manage its own affairs?  Why do we have to deal  with Montgomery?”

No corporate leader wants to take a beating for trying to do a good deed.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

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 “A community leader gives Rotarian types hell”

  1. *I think the term “Rotarian Types” may not have been the most appropriate characterization.  While I don’t belong to any of the 3, my father was a long time Kiwannian, and very proud of that affiliation.

    The real culprits are those of us – regardless of organizational affiliation – who privately moan and groan about the decline of our area, but fail to step into the light to make our voices heard.

    Common “wisdom” says that a Metro government is unattainable, so why talk about it. While that may be true today, tomorrow could be very different if we begin taking baby steps.

    1.  Create a county-wide, or MSA-wide 911 system.

    2.  Merge all of the fire and police departments.

    3.  Merge garbage collection and expand recycling services.

    4.  Acknowledge that an area-wide mass transit system helps everyone – job creator, job seekers, and the people seeking to spend money – and come together with a plan for regional governance AND funding.

    5.  Enter into a pact with surrounding municipalities – and Counties – not to poach businesses from one to the other, but work together to attract a broader array of businesses to the area.

    This list could go on and on, but with just these few things, we’ve saved millions, expanded service coverage, increased efficiency by quantam leaps, and begun to move in a direction where we no longer have to lament that we’re not living up to our capabilities.

    It will take more than the “Rotarian Types” to get this accomplished.  It will take all reasonable, thinking people of this area to open their eyes to the possibilities – but most importantly, open their mouths to scream to the world that we’re not perfect, but we’re working on it!


  3. *David,

     I think the above comments about
    Rotary are unfortunate.  If anything, we need MORE Rotarian types.

     Rotary is intentionally
    nonpolitical.  If it started taking on the political issues like those
    mentioned, the club would be less appealing.  I have less interest in
    rejoining the my local Chamber of Commerce for that reason.  It often has
    had a political agenda like supporting Bob Riley’s Amendment One some years ago
    or its support of Newt Gingrich in the GOP primary.  If Rotary did those
    types of things, it would distract from “service above self” and be less
    effective in doing the kind of service at which it excels.

     An example of this are Rotary’s
    efforts to eradicate Polio. Due to the efforts spearheaded by Rotary
    International, we are close to eliminating the global scourge of
    Polio.   Rotary has 1.2 million members in more than 34,000 clubs
    spread around the globe working on this project.  One reason Rotary is
    able to have the success it has is because it is not political nor governmental
    and thus is accepted in communities that would otherwise reject such efforts.

     We do indeed need leaders to
    address the serious issues we face as a community.  But the world needs
    more “Rotarian types,” not fewer.

  4. *Lou:

    You did exactly what we should do.  You made a list, a place to start.  It is a practical list with clear goals.  I agree with all of them.  Every locale that moved to metro/county wide governance has exploded with vitality and economic growth.  We need to add a unified public school system with charter schools and clear mandates for performance by both students and teachers.  

    Before any of this will work, everyone will need to check their ego at the door, and think only of the outcome that is best for the community.

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