Jeffrey Bayer: An idea that could fix Birmingham

Jeffrey Bayer, President & CEO of Bayer Properties
Jeffrey Bayer, President & CEO of Bayer Properties

ComebackTown is published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.

Today’s guest blogger is Jeffrey Bayer.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please  click here.

Haven’t we had enough?

Aren’t we tired of falling behind our peer cities?

Cities such as Charlotte, Nashville, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Louisville have created their opportunities for growth because they have consolidated municipal services–not just collaborated, but changed their method of governance.

We say it can’t be done here because the cities of Vestavia Hills, Homewood, Hoover and Mountain Brook, to name a few, could never agree to come together–much less with the City of Birmingham.  What is not said out loud is the affluent suburban communities were created for racial separation and continue today for the same reason. No one’s willing to put their self-interest behind the greater good for a dynamic metro movement.

I would suggest we forget about these surrounding pristine municipalities, and focus on an initial step to bring together the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County. They are the two largest governments, have the most in common, could generate the most in operational economic savings, and could probably eliminate the need for occupational taxes due to operational efficiencies–thereby ridding an economic model that impedes the very growth they both covet.

Two separate governments, divided by a park, providing the same services, makes NO sense.  One struggling to stay alive, and the other saddled with providing the majority of financial support for our critical metro services (airport, museums, new hotel and entertainment district, transportation system  … to name a few) and it has the poorest overall population. Where is the logic?

Combine the two governments, leave the others out, and bring together the majority of residents in our metro area into one powerful operational unit.

We are surrounded by many examples of successful models in the aforementioned metros; however, we scream we are so unique that it can’t happen here. Why is that? We know why!

Trying to convince the affluent suburban communities is a waste of time and will keep us last in the region for decades to come. Let’s be pragmatic.  The coming together of the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County is natural and can be done NOW.  Our citizens should demand it…NOW!

Jeffrey A. Bayer is President and CEO of Bayer Properties.  Bayer Properties, developer of  our very successful Summit Shopping Center, has grown from a local property management company to a national commercial real estate firm.  Jeffrey’s a Birmingham native and a true Birmingham supporter. 

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 the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

(Visited 535 times, 1 visits today)

24 thoughts on “Jeffrey Bayer: An idea that could fix Birmingham”

  1. Your idea is worthy of consideration, but I suspect that some underlying issues need to be addressed before it can move forward.  For instance, how do you get the people from the two governments to trust each other long enough to negotiate the consolidation?  Does Birmingham really want the economic albatross around its neck that Jefferson County represents?  Can Jefferson County make any agreements with Birmingham which cut against the suburban communities control of the Commission?  

    Any great idea is merely a concept until the pragmatic issues are worked out – as usual, the devil is in the details.

  2. Jeffrey,

    I like your proposal!  You are correct that the affluent neighborhoods will never join the city.  I’m certain there  would be many issues to resolve before such a marriage could take place, but it could be the only answer to this gridlock. 

    Thanks to you and your organization for all that you do to improve our city and region.


  3. Mr. Bayer – First, THANK YOU, for your continued stewardship of our region through your business.  Please continue to invest in Birmingham, I have faith that attrition to new, younger leadership will ultimately pave the way for such a positive move.  I just hope it I get to see it in my lifetime.  As a longtime citizen and advocate of this city that I truly love, nothing would please me more than to see the Birmingham Metro area realize it’s full potential as a viable, progressive entity. 

    Perhaps someone could establish a panel from ALL of the municipalities to study each of these cities that have shaken loose their shackles of history and how they brought about such positive change in such a short span of time.  The panel would commit to meet every other week and a new city would be the topic of focus at each meeting (Charlotte, Nashville, Louisville, Chattanooga, etc.).  At the end of these sessions, the panel could then determine what it would take for similar positive changes to take place with our metro area and commit to begin a process to act on them. 

    I will say this, if we don’t do something, we are going be having this dialogue for decades to come as cities like Gadsden, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, etc. progress and we grow ever stagnate on our road to nowhere.

    Best regards for continued success & good health,

    Phyllis McCombs


  4. This is an excellent idea and should be pursued, albeit, a very difficult time . . . or maybe its just the right time.  I agree with Phyllis, it should be studied, looking at positives and negatives and a plan developed to address the political and economic challenges.  We’ve lived through government that represented only districts and seen the flaw of not having anyone looking at the total picture, and we’ve seen what happens when there is no representation of smaller units of the community.  We need to decide which is best or what combination has worked the best here and in other places.  We will still face problems, but  as a united community we could be better able to meet and overcome them and to go beyond just solving problems and engage the creativity and energy that exists here to make something really outstanding.  We have that potential.

  5. *Another thought provoking idea from Mr. Bayer.  Can this be a way of addressing the racial divide in our community?  It occurs to me that it is worth a try and I would love to be a part of the conversation that tries to think it through.  

  6. *Jeffrey:  you are preaching to the choir! 

    I suggest you convene a nucleus of positive minded

    business  & professionals & City/County governmental leaders to a caucus on this subject…..raise the flag & see who salutes.

  7. *Jeffery:


    Point well taken.  We have a Jefferson County Mayors Association. They meet monthly.

    Delor Baumann (Mayor of Hueytown) is the current president. A Jefferson County Superintendents Association is what is needed as well.  Economic segregation (race and class) is very much an issue that the business community seems to avoid dealing with for some  reason.

    Focus on education and economics in the private sector and let the governments see leadership in action .  Thanks for caring enough to post your thoughts.



  8. *Jeffrey,

    Great insite. I used to live near Charlotte and boy did they turn that city around. It would be great to get all the affluent suburbs on board but I guess baby steps with trying to get the city and county together to start. Birmingham has great potential. Let’s hope we can capitalize on it sooner than later.

  9. *”A house divided will not stand” Abraham Lincoln.  A fact we all know to be true.  A fact that a divided Congress will prove at our expense.  If our community comes together for the eventual profit to us all, we need to agree to leave the past behind & grow & work together.  Money makes money, saving our community from falling behind every other thriving city benefits none of us.  Community pride is a contagious thing. I’ve seen the pride of our residents when we were mentioned as an up & coming place in the (gasp!) New York Times & other Yankee publications.  Is it possible that we can have renewed pride from a place outside ourselves?  Yes.  Mr. Brayer, I hope what you wish for comes to pass.  The few times I’ve been in your company, you seem to radiate a positive energy.  I pray that it is contagious.

  10. Just what we need – combining the idiots who hosed the county into bankruptcy with a city council that fights tooth and nail William Bell’s vision for a better city.  And if this numbskull has been breathing for the past 20 years, he should be aware that “affluent suburbia” is much less about race and much more about staying free of the political failures that have defined city and county government (e.g. schools, sewer system, etc).  If Mr. Bell can prevail over the reactionaries that continue the fight against moving into the modern world, and the people can elect visionaries instead of political hacks to city and county council, we may get somewhere.  And one more thing for Mr. Bayer to consider before putting hand to keyboard – Nashville is music city, Charlotte is Queen City, and every time he gratuitously accuses residents of greater Birmingham of intentional separation based on race in a public forum (even though he is dead wrong) he reminds his readers that Birmingham is fire hose city.  That, more than anything else, is the deterrent to the growth of this city.  If he wants to be part of the solution, in public writing he should be positive or shut up.

  11. *There are 30+ municipalities in Jeffco, each doing their own thing and duplicating services.  Any approach that  would find a way for those who would like to join a consortium of municipalities to share services and let the others go their way would be a step in the right direction.  As municipal budget pressures increase, some of these communities will eventually see the value, even necessity, of working together.  As you say, I don’t believe the concept of a truly county-wide government will ever happen, but this could be a start.  Hope you can get some traction with this.

  12. *L. Lamb,

    Why do you think it is called “white flight”? Every surrounding affluent city and/or community is built on principle of race and money. There is political corruption in the affluent cities also, it is everywhere. But those areas came to be when the laws changed and people could live where they wanted to live. So it is definitely based on race.

    Mr. Bayer’s idea is a great one and I think we need to move forward without the surrounding cities and let them play catch up to Birmingham.


  13. Interesting. This is not my area of expertise but if indeed the success of the other municipalities can be attributed to this, it would merit consideration.

    Jeffery, I do not believe that Birmingham, surrounding communities or Jefferson County are any more or less racist than the other locations and racism existed long before the founding of these communities you mention. Certainly, the desire for safe neighborhoods, better education, self-determination, as well as other honorable motives, also played a role in the founding and continuation of these communities. There are good and honorable people of all colors living in these communities today attempting to live a good life, not just a bunch of racists. One would think that would be obvious. The wonderful opportunities and projects you have created here should attest to that.

  14. *Thank you, Mr Bayer, for publicly suggesting an idea that could help remove many of the obstacles holding our area back from it’s potential. Your well respected business success lends credence to your idea. More than anything, we need prominent businessmen and women, and their companies, to be vocal in their forward-looking ideas, and in their recognition that our current Balkanized government organization is a major, deep-rooted cause of our community-wide troubles. I’d love to see a body formed to explore your idea, and similar ones, to provide a public forum for the brave discussion of these concepts. Controversy usually comes from facing difficult issues like the ones lurking beneath the pessimism expressed by even those who realize the merits of your idea. The only solution is to bravely face the poor decisions of past area leaders and voters, if we care for its future and vitality.

  15. Jeffrey:

    You cannot just leave out the 30 plus cities located in Jefferson County for obvious reasons.
    They make up the government body so include  us all.


  16. This is an elegant solution. Ending the duplication of services is one great point. Eliminating occupational taxes is another. Buckminster Fuller said that old systems are replaced because people stop using them in favor of better systems. Merging Birmingham and Jefferson County government would create a far better system than the status quo and it can be done without the support of the suburban communities. Once those communities see how much better the combined system is, they might recognize the benefits of eliminating their own duplication of services and join the better system, or continue as they are. We would still have a better overall system than we currently have.

    The question is how to implement it.

  17. *The City of Birmingham and Jefferson County have a partnership for animal control can you believe that? What sort of services are we talking about to merge? The occupational tax is deductible on our tax returns. The city and the county needs these tax revenue to operate I assume?

    They are 1 percent city and 1/2 of 1 percent county. NO big deal in terms of a tax!!


  18. We need competence in local government first. There is better way of hiring the best, most qualified minds.

    99% of voters ( who show up) don’t have a clue . Its like throwing darts.

    We need professional voters who are qualified to hire the best people to manage Birmingham and Jefferson County !

  19. “What is not said out loud is the affluent suburban communities were created for racial separation and continue today for the same reason.”

    I live in one of those communities, and I don’t believe that.  Everyone wants to live in a safe, prosperous community with good schools and amenities.  Race doesn’t have a damn thing to do with it.  I appreciate your thoughts Jeffrey, but as a middle class white Southerner, I am very tired of being blamed for a) Slavery, b) the Civil War, and c) the failure of the City of Birmingham. 

    As George Munchus says above, you cannot and should not discount the other communities.  If you do, you are turning your back on the very regional cooperation you champion.  I believe those who do divide the world (and our community, however you define it, which from your post appears not to be anyone but Birmingham proper) along racial lines would be the biggest boosters of such a plan as you propose.

    It is certainly creative thinking, and I admire that and appreciate the ability to participate in meaningful dialogue about our region.



  20. *Interesting idea Jeff.  Like you,  I have traveled all over the country for many years and been fortunate to watch other cities grow. We can & should learn from others. There are plenty of successful templates out there for urban renewal & governmental reform. Yes,  Birmingham is somewhat unique as is each city, but that does not mean we cannot adapt, come up with a plan that will work for our unique set of issues and overcome the problems.

    The power is always in a group. This idea should be discussed at many levels. The inputs and results could be invaluable to our area’s future

  21. I’m new to BHM and first learned about the ‘too many fire chefs’ issue and local government consolidation effort at the the 2014 AL Economic Forecast Panel. Having attended the Univ of Chicago and now a resident of MTN BRK, consolidation seems the obvious path to growth. How do residents best get involved? Does the effort have a #twitter hash? Thanks!

    1. Glenn, so good to hear from you. Almost everyone says they think it is a good idea to do some kind of government consolidation. But almost always follow up by saying it would be impossible to implement. I’m asking people to sign up for newsletter so when there’s an opportunity for action we would be able mobilize. Please spread the word to as many people as possible. There is no #twitter hash, but please feel free to do so. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *