ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Maury Shevin. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
ComebackTown has been an excellent forum to discuss issues surrounding “regional cooperation.”
I’ve published my joyous thoughts about Birmingham’s successes of recent years and our potential for even more with regional cooperation. The Birmingham naysayers have been awfully quiet during this period. And, I don’t want to stir them up, but…
Our successes seem to carry an undercurrent of an unwelcomed truth. That truth is that regional cooperation is not only proving elusive; it is becoming a Deal with the Devil.
The levers of government in the City of Birmingham are controlled by the African-American community—as arguably it should be since Birmingham is 70%+ black. The corporate power brokers reside mostly outside of the City and remain mostly white. This is the hand we play. And, in the balance, sits regional cooperation.
I hasten to point out as I write these words, this circumstance that we find ourselves in is not about race. It is about power and politics. Those with the power—economic or political– make the rules for the rest of us.
In this environment, the City Council of Birmingham finds itself free to enact a whopping salary increase for a part time job, and it does so through stealth and trickery. The Mayor and Council too often deal with family and friends, doing so in no bid contracts. And, there seems to be no limit on travel and entertainment spending.
Meanwhile, the movers and shakers of our region—those corporate power brokers—don’t utter a word of protest. There appears to be a tacit understanding that this is how business is done in Birmingham—and this is apparently the new definition of regional cooperation. This troubles me.
What troubles me also, is that there are few Birmingham residents who have spoken to these issues and acknowledged: “This is not a white and black issue. This is not a Democrat and Republican issue. This is a right and wrong issue.”
With all of this said, Birmingham is enjoying a building boom unlike anything we have seen in recent memory; and while most of the credit goes to the entrepreneurs as it should, the City deserves credit for its commitment to the new projects. My concern though, is that the success of our City and region’s progress is not final.
Until more residents of Birmingham and people anywhere who care about our region, are willing to stand up and be heard, what we saw last week in Birmingham’s City Council, will be the only type of regional cooperation that we will see.
Maury Shevin—passionate about the City of Birmingham–lives, works, thinks and plays on Birmingham’s Southside.
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, co-founder of the Small Business Division of the 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).