Birmingham haters on war path

If you want the Birmingham haters to go crazy, write something nice about Birmingham.

Praising Birmingham brings out the devil in them.

When Teresa Thorne, the Executive Director of CAP, bragged that downtown Birmingham was as safe at Mt. Brook or Vestavia

“You guys must not go downtown much. It is very dangerous day and night. Also, I know former and present Police and they say the Dept. is corrupt. It is a sewer down there. That is a fact.”

“Downtown Bham is a hell hole. Would any of you want your mother or wife to have to walk around alone in downtown bham after dark?”

When John Lauriello, Principal at Southpace Properties, talked about downtown’s huge comeback

“According to, weekend nights in the Progressive Utopia of Birmingham are filled with gunfire, blood, robberies, death, and body bags.”

“Crime and homelessness are rampant. The social structure of the city is broken and will remain so for decades to come. 

Birmingham has some problems, but there’s good stuff…

Railroad Park, new Baseball Stadium, Rotary linear park, Sloss Welcome Center, Birmingham CrossPlex, new entertainment district are a few of the projects completed or on the way.

Downtown is safe. As best I can remember there have been only one or two murders in the central business district or Five Points in the past ten years…and those were at night in night clubs. (If anyone knows differently, I welcome your feedback.)

There are more than 4,000 people living downtown with virtually no residential vacancies. Additional housing is on the way.

Here are comments from two downtown dwellers…

“After 8 years living downtown, my favorite part is still the sense of community and friendship. Walking down the street (at any hour), bumping into neighbors out jogging, walking their dogs, eating at restaurants or just out for a walk…”

“Wow…”we got some haters”….It’s clear many of you are part of the “flight” out of Bham, because you quickly jump at the chance to add something negative. Possibly to justify or feel better about your move. Well, there are many who reside in this downtown area and love it and feel safe. Why not be happy about that??? Why not offer, “Keep up the good work”, “way to go”, something besides the usual hate.

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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20 thoughts on “Birmingham haters on war path”

  1. *I think there is a big difference between downtown and the rest of Birmingham.  There are definitely some areas that I wouldn’t be day or night, but downtown seems fairly OK to me.

    My daughter goes to ASFA which is right by 20/59 so I am in and out of the city everyday and at various times.  She has friends that live in town.  They don’t seem to be living under siege.

    That said, I don’t care for the encounters with panhandlers that I often see.  I also do not like the smell of urine from the homeless.  But when I pass though and occasionally stop, I see shops, restaurants, loft apartments, joggers, pedestrians, skateboarders, and all kinds of appropriate activity.

  2. I actually enjoy downtown Birmingham and never felt unsafe when enjoying the amenities there. Sure, there are some places that are a bit rough around the edges; however, I’m from a very large city and feel totally safe when looking for entertainment in Birmingham. I like this city overall.

    1. Wade, you have no idea how much I appreciate your positive comments. Unfortunately many folks are quick to respond, but positive folks–not so much. We in Birmingham seem to have such low self-esteem and we don’t celebrate our strengths and victories. Please continue to give your feedback.

  3. *I work and with others in the downtown area.  I speak to the homeless and near homeless all the time.  In any element of people you will have the good mixed in with the bad and often times the worst will show their faces.  Downtown has changed for the positive.  What must be carefully considered is that if the resources (CAP) was available to other parts of Birmingham, these areas would be on the “comeback” as well.

    Those who only experience Birmingham from their historical views and perhaps common fears would be served well in an experience of the “people” they fear.  Perhaps because of my complexion (Black) or my history (always Black) I have no fear of any of the various enclaves in this great city (crime riddled or otherwise).  As such, I find people that want the same as anyone that may have the biggest home in Mountainbrook.  The difference that I see is they have not accessed opportunities to change their “enclave” and everyone already has labelled them and will not assist.

    What a great improvement it would be if we all worked together to improve the lives of “people” in our society…….oh!  We are still in Birmingham and we must first learn to loose the labels and talk to each other.  Always hopeful!

  4. I have worked downtown for over 20 years in over 4 different locations. I have dined downtown, been a member of the YMCA, and walked from1st Avenue North to both Courthouses (8th Avenue North and 18th and 5th) countless times.  I have jogged from the Y to the Southside and back alone. I have been to Railroad Park alone, and I have never once been alarmed or had cause for pause.  Have I heard of any incidents? Yes, about 5-10 during that time.  That’s less than 1 incident/year?  Tell me another major urban area with that rate.

    Good Post David!


  5. *I have had an office downtown for over 40 years, and we have lived here for seven, going to the Downtown Y before daylight daily and walking dogs at all hours.  Downtown is a fine place, full of interesting people.  The police and CAPS patrol do a good job. 

  6. *David, I’m glad you write this. 

    The fact is, downtown Birmingham is safe — extraordinarily safe, more so than some neighborhoods over the mountain. Some areas of the city itself, not so much — and some areas are frighteningly bad. That’s true in any metropolitan area.

    But, frankly, the most detrimental thing about Birmingham is not the City of Birmingham — it’s the racism and hatred of so many people who live outside the city and let their opinions be steered by ignorance and false stereotype rather than facts. I’ve lived in many cities, some thriving and some enormously challenged, and Birmingham (and, in this sense, I am talking about the metro area) is enslaved by pure and ugly racism more than any other place I know. Those attitudes stir up ill will on the other side as well, creating a toxic atmosphere all around. 

    The advent of anonymous web comments on widely viewed sites such as does nothing but stoke that ugliness by giving these people both a megaphone and the cloak of anonymity. It’s unconscionable for a news organization to not only allow, but to create, that sort of atmosphere — and it was something I consistently opposed. Make people put their names to their hatred, and most of them would melt away like ice on hot asphalt. 

    This ugly attitude that permeates so much of Birmingham kills progress, kills most chances at having a healthy community dialog. It’s at the root of why Birmingham has the worst long-term growth rate in the Sunbelt (except for New Orleans for the few years after Katrina hit, but even that has changed now). And because of that ugly atmosphere, I have to say that I’m glad I don’t live there anymore. 

    Birmingham has great assets, the makings of a great community. But it also has an uncommonly large and loud and ignorant level of racists and intolerant folks who cannot seem to understand that the nation and the world have moved beyond 1963, and that they should as well. 

    To steal a line from Jim Baggett (and paraphrase it): Birmingham will be better off in a few decades when these people are dead and gone.

    So it is good that people like you and a few others speak out — and keep speaking out. It may feel like trying to open an umbrella in a hurricane, but it is important that voices of reason are never silenced by the continual onslaught of hatred. That is Birmingham’s only chance of turning itself around.

  7. I lived in Birmingham for a total of six years.  Two years on Hwy. 280, two years downtown on First Ave., and two years in Ross Bridge.  During this time period the only exposure I had to crime was while living on Hwy. 280 when my motorcycle was stolen out of a lighted parking lot in front of video cameras.  My living experience in Ross Bridge and Downtown were very pleasant and safe.


  8. *The only people who would say Downtown Birmingham is dangerous are people who haven’t spent an appreciable amount of time in just about any other American city. The central core is extraordinarily safe and very clean. 

    As a sidenote, I once overheard someone in a restaurant say, “Sure, the crime stats are good for downtown — but that’s only because Downtown Birmingham is so dangerous that even the crooks are afraid to come out!”

    How’s that for twisted suburban logic?

  9. I’ve never understood why people hate something that they’ve never experienced. My guess is that the vast majority of the Birmingham Haters don’t spend appreciable time downtown, much less work or live there.

    My wife and I have lived downtown for five years and loved every minute of it. Great sense of community, great friends and friendly atmosphere. We have never felt unsafe, even when walking our dogs late at night. And yes, we do have several homeless neighbors, but we have found them to be decent folks who are quick to alert us if there is a stranger in the neighborhood or some activity we should be aware of.

    Maybe if the haters would give downtown a chance and look at all the positives, they could expand their shortsighted view or at least tone down the negativity.

    Thanks, David.

  10. David,

    I have worked downtown for all of my business life, which is going on 25 years. I think a real turning point for downtown was the initiation of the CAPS program. Like several other posters, I have not seen myself, or heard of, or heard tell of, any significant problems since that time. My elementary age children are in school downtown, and are routinely at railroad park at all times of the day, evening, and on weekends. I feel perfectly safe there. We live over the mountain, and in my mind, there is no difference in the level of safety I feel between there on any given day, and downtown.

    Downtown has really come a long way, hasn’t it?

    Keep up the good work!

  11. Fortunately, the “Birmingham haters” are pretty easy to ignore: just don’t read the comments section on!  I wish would disallow anonymous posts, just as the print version of the newspaper has always disallowed anonymous letters to the editor.  None of the “Birmingham haters” would write what they write if they had to sign their names to it.  They’re internet trolls, just looking to provoke a response.  They should be ignored.

    Thanks, David, for highlighting some of the good things happening in Birmingham, even if that does send the “haters” on the war path!

  12. Great job bringing the crime issue up front and center. As someone who spent my childhood living in Mountain Brook, followed by 20 years as a Forest Park homeowner, and now living in Mountain Brook again I can speak a little bit about the crime in these two areas of town.

    There were streaks of burglary in Forest Park just the same as there have been in the last year in Crestline and near Cherokee Road (as reported by the weekly Mtn Brook Police crime emails)  in Mtn Brook. The vandiles are often caught or the heat turned up so high by law enforcement-the streak comes to an end-usually pretty quickly.

    What I find astonishing is the fear I hear in folks voices in my neighborhood -who don’t bother to really pay any attention to what is happening around them and then live by what others erroneously or with partial information share. Friends, family, or neighbors who are just as poorly informed as they are. Its like drinking your own bathwater. No joke, until you get outside of your own little kingdom -you, your kids, your spouse or partner will never know the good things going on all around us in our area.

    My advice is to be smart about your outings, have a plan, use a little of the courage we all have inside of us, and pay attention to what is going on around you when you are in an area that is new to you. The world is large and filled with wonderful folks everywhere. You’ll be fine-just as I have been for 53 years now-if you will do these things.

  13. *I have worked in downtown San Francisco, Dallas, Richmond, Va. and Birmingham.  My experience in all of these cities was/is very positive.   I have not experienced issues or problems in Birmingham that would cause it to be inferior to the above with one exception; that exception is the dysfunctional politics of the city.  That tag can be actually be placed on the entire metro area.  But for the politics (drives me crazy) Birmingham is a superior working and living environment because of the people.  People here are warm, friendly and hospitable.  I really enjoy the people in our area. 

    I think if we had a decent, functioning METRO WIDE government, including a new state constitution, and San Diego’s weather we would be a vastly superior town.  But I think we have a better chance of having San Diego type weather here in Birmingham than we have of getting a decent, functioning METRO WIDE government and a new state constitution.  I really hate to be so pessimistic on this point but that is the way I see it.

    Having said that the Birmingham area and downtown Birmingham are great.  The ailment we have is political.

    1. Kent, the primary mission of Comebacktown is to begin a conversation on how to fix our dysfunctional metro government and State Constitution. Our corporate leaders have come to the conclusion it’s not fixable…so why try. Louisville created its metro government in 2000 after twenty years and three votes. We certainly won’t make progress here until we give ourselves permission to consider our options.

      Metro government may or may not be right for Birmingham, but there are many incremental improvements we could make while we work on a broader solution.

      Let’s change our conversation to what’s possible.

  14. *My dad often told me…“NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESS”!  As I see it, David, Birmingham needs  more SUCCESS STORIES “… RAILROAD PARK & THE BIRMINGHAM BARONS PARK& THE WESTIN HOTEL & the new CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL….back when, it was CUSTOMARY  for PIZITZ  and  PARISIAN and LOVEMAN’S to build on their success by expanding their floor plan or adding a new department or extensively remodeling…YEARLY! Frankly, it has been too long between BIG EVENTS in THE CITY CENTER! When people get caught up in the EXCITEMENT of PROGRESS ……they will forget the nit-picking ….and join in the fun. Pray that our public and private leadership will find ways to light more fireworks in 2013 and beyond!

  15. David;

    After almost 30 years of living in Birmingham I still love this city and the warm, friendly nature of its people. Quite frankly, it is the best place I have ever lived–and I have lived in a number of major cities.

    Thanks for all your efforts on helping us realize what a special community Birmingham is…

  16. David:

    I am downtown constantly during the day, and my wife and I go down there in the evenings for dinner or entertainment.  Been doing it for years, and never had a bad experience.  

    I suspect that we would all like to merely ignore the “haters”, but part of any improvement program will be a segment devotee to educating them.

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