Rich folks & black politicians holding Birmingham down?

Tanner Colby authored book, "Some of my best friends are black
Tanner Colby authored book, “Some of my best friends are black

Unfortunately I didn’t attend the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast January 19th, but immediately after Tanner Colby, the speaker, began his remarks, the texts and e-mails started coming—telling me I should have been there.

Since I did not hear the speech and have been unable to obtain a written transcript, I am basing my remarks on e-mails, texts, and comments from friends and from the article about the speech on al.com titled, Tiny suburban kingdoms, desire for black power keep Birmingham from achieving MLK dream, author says.”

Tanner Colby, author of the book, “Some of my best friends are black,” spent five years living in Vestavia Hills before going off to college in 1993.

Colby is quoted in the al.com article…

“Whites fled the troubled inner cities such as Birmingham to create suburbs such as Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood and Hoover. And tragically, black political machines fed off the departure of the white people to gain power and control, even though the departure of white people also meant the departure of much-needed resources.

…the dream of wonderful tiny kingdoms in the suburbs was a mirage. It only works for the extremely wealthy cities such as Mountain Brook.”

Colby went on to say the myriad municipal boundaries that separate the Birmingham metro area are killing us both financially and racially.

This separation of races has been particularly devastating to Birmingham because we have maintained our municipal divisions—35 independent cities in Jefferson County alone.  Our peer cities such as Nashville, Charlotte, and Louisville have some form of consolidated county/city government and they have progressed and prospered while we have stagnated.

Here are the just released numbers for metropolitan job and population growth, Birmingham Business Journal, January 9, 2015.

5-year change in private sector jobs

  • Nashville 11.1%
  • Charlotte 4.8%
  • Atlanta 4.3%
  • New Orleans 3.6%
  • Memphis -2.2%
  • Birmingham -2.8%

2-year change in population

  • Charlotte 3.3%
  • Nashville 3.0%
  • Atlanta 2.9%
  • New Orleans 2.7%
  • Memphis 1.1%
  • Birmingham .7%

Jobs added since November 2013

  • Atlanta 59,600
  • Charlotte 26.100
  • Nashville 22,000
  • Huntsville 3,500
  • Birmingham 2,800
  • Memphis 2,200 (Memphis defeated consolidated government in 2010)

Birmingham and Memphis are the losers and all of us who live in Birmingham and Memphis pay the consequences.

Upper income people in suburbs lose their children and grandchildren to other cities.  It’s difficult for business owners to grow their businesses and top paying jobs are difficult to find.  We lose our companies and we lose our youth.

It’s important that black politicians are represented, but our many government entities hurt the many blacks and whites who are unemployed or underemployed trying to survive in a stagnant region.

Is this the fault of a few rich white folks or a few black politicians?  Absolutely not!  These politicians work for us. We are at fault for not demanding better for ourselves.

Over 1,000 people gave Tanner Colby a standing ovation because he told us what we already know…

United we stand…divided we fall.

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, a division of Intermark Group, and co-CEO of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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9 thoughts on “Rich folks & black politicians holding Birmingham down?”

  1. *I could not agree more…where is the leadership that can change this for our futures? Hiding in the suburbs with a distrust of the leaders in Birmingham? Or hiding in Birmingham with a firm grip on their power? Can we all just get along?

  2. The change will happen when we all start speaking up. 
    The key line is the one that you’ve oft repeated David:
    “Do you want your children and grandchildren to stay in the region?”

  3. As long as the desire for power is in place consolidation may not be possible. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” 

    Someone has to be the first to adopt this philosophy. Who is it going to lead the way?

  4. There have been several movements to bring in the surrounding areas to Birmingham, the first one was successful, but subsequent attempts failed because of the suburbs’ fear of having to integrate schools. In fact, the change in our city’s form of government (from 3 commissioners to mayor-council) was accomplished, in part, in a hope to make it more attractive to the suburbs to become part of B’ham by giving them more representation. (The other goal was to get rid of “Bull” Connor and his cohorts at City Hall).

    Perhaps it is time for another movement of the people.

  5. *There are many of us who live downtown who would not want to live and raise our children anywhere else. Unfortunately, unless you have the money for private schools raising children in Birmingham is not a viable option for anyone who has a choice and cares about their child’s education. The main resource that is missing from Birmingham is middle class families. From that all other good things flow, including jobs, increased tax revenues, less pollution, descent public transportation and – dare I say it? – responsible government. 40 years ago it was white flight that took middle class people away from Birmingham. For the past 20+ years it has been black flight. We need to be having a serious discussion based two questions: 1) what would it take for people in the suburbs to want to send their child to a publicly funded school in Birmingham? and 2) How can we make that happen?

  6. Louis Montgomery hit the target with his questions about schools.  The problem is our government schools.  They are disgraceful failures everywhere in the country unless the parents in the area have the time, money, and ability to overcome the inherent problems of a monopoly owned and operated by government.  President Obama certainly does not send his children to one.

    The solution is to get the competition inherent in the free market involved by issuing vouchers to all children.  Unfortunately, the adults have vested interests, the children don’t vote, profit is now evil, and freedom is now un-American.  The current occupants of the land of the free and the home of the brave want to feel good about ourselves after getting a law passed to pass the buck to the “experts”.  

    Well, we “did something”.  It was “for the children”.  It did not work.

  7. The basis for any operation is its structure. In business, you could have all the talent in the world but of the company’s operations, organizational structure and leadership are flawed, the company will falter. The issue is not getting more people to enroll in the city school system but to tear down the barriers for equitable public education by dissolving the 12 school systems currently in place. Educational opportunity should not be based on zip code. (I lived there and couldn’t fully support putting child in public school although I recognized not all the schools had problems). The reality is Birmingham and its surrounding kingdoms are the reason the region lags behind. Fix the structure, first, and build from there. 

  8. *We all know that a good school system is the heart and soul of any community whether in the inner city, suburbs, or rual areas. It is good for students and parents to have choices they can make to insure the best education available. But, we cannot expect a community spirit when we promote a system that rewards a few with tax credits to transfer to another public or even a private school and leave the so called failing schools to fend for themselves. I see this as devisive and contrary to the public good. If we are all expected to live and work together and raise our children in a harmonious spirit of community then we must ensure a sound school system for all and not just a select few.

  9. so the headline reads rich folk and black politician divisive words he didn’t say white rich folks and black politicians he just said rich folks and black politicians that’s why a lot of blacks with money or degrees or looking to live anywhere don’t chose Birmingham because we all know is not just black politicians it’s all politicians and the white ones are on the top bob Riley, robert Bentley can easily put this city and state where it needs to be for years downtown has been going down and they consistently put money into Hoover 280 Gardendale Fultondale and that’s fine but now what is going to happen if after the World Games you going to have a lot of outsiders coming in doing what a lot of you with the resources should have been doing and you going to cry foul then

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