Mountain Brook points fingers at Birmingham

Mountain Brook Village
Mountain Brook Village

I love to write about Mountain Brook.

People are interested in Mountain Brook and I know a lot about the subject matter–since I’ve lived much of my life and raised my children there.  (I now live in Vestavia Hills)

When I write about Mountain Brook— I’m mostly talking about the three dozen municipalities that surround Birmingham—so you folks in Mountain Brook—please don’t take this personally.

I was recently talking with a good friend (which I will call ‘Bob’) from Mountain Brook.

He said, “Isn’t it awful about the Birmingham City Council?  They’ve tripled their pay and they can’t find a way to show up for City Council meetings.”

He was reacting to John Archibald’s piece on where John gave the Birmingham City Council the devil because there was no quorum at the last Council meeting and all city business ceased.  Archibald said…

“Uber – which was on the agenda — will have to wait. Birmingham’s attempt to change ALDOT’s mind about how to reroute I-20/59 – which was on the agenda — will have to wait. Funding for the Birmingham Bowl – which was on the agenda — will have to wait…

…most importantly bonds for neighborhood and street improvements that have already been sold and must close by Dec. 3 must wait….”

So I responded to Bob as I have to others before, “If you are so unhappy with decisions by Birmingham city government–why don’t you vote for a different Counsellor next time?”

His response was what you would expect, “You know I can’t vote because I live in the City of…

He said “Mountain Brook,” but you can substitute your own city –Hoover, Homewood, or Trussville.

There are about 210,000 people living in the City of Birmingham (650,000 in the Jefferson County and over 1.1 million in Metropolitan Birmingham)—so most of you reading this piece have no say  in Birmingham—and quite frankly you and I have no room to judge or complain.

Many people seem to think if we had regional governance that the new City Council would look exactly as the Birmingham City Council does now.

Think about that for minute.  That’s an absurd conclusion.

If we had some form of regional governance, the elected officials would be representational of the people who elected them—and all of us would have the ability to vote for the elected officials who share our vision.

No matter where we live around Birmingham—we are impacted by Birmingham City governance–both good and bad.

The City of Birmingham and its agencies make all the major decisions concerning our transportation, our water, our air service, and our amenities—sports facilities, Railroad Park, Museum of Art, etc.  Not being citizens of Birmingham, we have no leverage.

I got quite a laugh when I read that Mountain Brook passed a ridesharing ordinance to allow Uber.

I think you’ll agree that this initiative by Mountain Brook will not solve our regional transportation issues.

Maybe one day the Mountain Brook City Council’s will vote to be to build a light rail system?

Whether Mountain Brook or any other municipality passes a ridesharing ordinance or not, I promise the City of Birmingham will find a way to contract with Uber.  It may be this week or maybe the next—but it will happen.

It’s just that Uber will have to pay separate license fees and be subject to rules and regulations set by 35+ municipalities.  (Mt. Brook is charging $500).  That doesn’t make it easy for Uber or any other business to do business in our region.

Yes, Birmingham will eventually get what other cities get—unfortunately, it will be painfully slow until we get there.

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 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 “Mountain Brook points fingers at Birmingham”

  1. One of your best pieces and although I don’t agree with you deeming every suburb “Mountain Brook”, I do sincerely hope the jackass that said that about the city council can comprehend why it is so important that EVERYONE live in the city of Birmingham proper, and I sincerely hope you told him that he has NO RIGHT to complain about the city when he does not reside in it.

  2. *This seems to me as admission that non black voters are needed to correct the problems of the City of Birmingham. 

    1. tamalemaker, I hope my comments didn’t insinuate that this is a black/white issue–that was certainly not my intent. My overall goal in writing the piece is to say that we can be much stronger if we work together as a region rather than compete with one another.

  3. *David – Good article although I believe there can and should be opinions about the behavior of the Birmingham City Council from residents of municipalities outside the City of Birmingham.  We need to hold all elected officials to a higher standard whether we can vote for them or not.  There are 1.1 million people in the Birmingham/Hoover MSA and only 210,000 of those people live in the City of Birmingham.  I am one of the 900,000 people that lives outside the Birmingham city limits but I also own a business and real estate that is in the City limits.  As a result, we employ lots of great people many of whom live in the City, pay City taxes, and work hard on many civic and charitable organizations that are in the City and more importantly benefit the City and its residents. We do have a right to an opinion and while we cannot vote for the City Council or Mayor, we can and do work with them to improve the City.  If you and “Birmingham Only” think all of the great things that have been happening and will continue to happen in the City and in downtown are only happening by the 210,000 people that live in the City, you are kidding yourselves (or worse).  Many of the business leadership, real estate developers, construction company leaders, investors, etc. live outside the City limits.  Does that mean they don’t care about the City of Birmingham or want a better community for everyone?  Of course not.  In addition, if you think only the 210,000 that live in the City have the right to an opinion on the behavior and work of the City Council, that is myopic and parochial and not conducive to improving the entire community.  I think it would be an interesting study to identify whether the investment dollars, business owners, community leaders, workers, board members, volunteers, and the many others that make so many of our City’s assets (Birmingham ZOO, Botanical Gardens, Birmingham Museum of Art, Railroad Park, Regions Field, etc.) work and thrive come from the City of Birmingham or outside the City limits.  But truthfully, it doesn’t matter. We can ALL still love Birmingham, work hard to make it better and have an opinion on the City Council.

    1. OTM, I agree Wholeheartedly with your comments, however, we are going nowhere as a region with our current government structure. Metropolitan Birmingham (5 counties) currently has less jobs now than it had at the beginning of the recession. Other more unified cities like Nashville and Charlotte have had double digit job increases. If your business and real estate were located in those cities, they would be of much greater value. It’s difficult to grow a business in a region that is stagnant.

  4. I am not from here.  I wasn’t born or raised here, I didn’t go to a school that starts with an “A,” and you wouldn’t know my parents if they were standing right in front of you.  I am one of those rare people who have moved TO this city from somewhere else.  Now that I have been here a while, it’s no wonder our city isn’t growing and competing with the Nashvilles and Charlottes of the world.  Everything I mention below comes from a good place, these are just the realities of our community that we need to overcome if we ever want to grow like the rest of the country.

    First, and most importantly, there are very few offerings that really attract people to our city (besides UAB and cost of living).  Over the past few years more large companies have moved out than moved in, and those jobs disappeared to other states.  The remaining quality jobs are hard to come by, even harder for someone who is was not born in a 352– zip code.  Don’t underestimate how important that fact is; as people graduate and/or look to move, job opportunity is a huge part of the decision and will only be worse if we have a strong reputation for only hiring from local schools.  Forty nine other states also have institutions of higher learning, many rated well ahead of the beloved Tigers and Elephants.  While there is great momentum with Regions Field, the microbrew movement, and the food scene downtown, is that really enough to convince a new Fortune 500 company to relocate downtown?
    Second, our headlines, and therefore national reputation, are embarrassing at best (see recent Uber handling…if enough people even show up for the vote). Our city government seems to march to their own drum, while taking one heck of a pay raise, and the surrounding municipalities can’t seem to get on the same page.  We are far from a united chorus for our part of the country, but more like little kids who fight over toys.  We won’t even talk about the bankruptcy debacle, but we all know it is still there.  
    Third, this city’s history is rooted in a past that emphasizes cultural differences and we seem happy to continue that pattern.  If we are honest with ourselves, not much has changed.  While race is still a hot button issue, we have chosen to add more things to the pot.  Auburn or Alabama, Mtn Brook or Cahaba Heights, IronTribe or LfieTime, Democrat or Republican, the list goes on.  The point is that while there are multiple ways we choose to highlight our differences, there is nothing here serving as a uniting force.  What are are all proud of, what can all Birminghamians hang their hats on?  
    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.  We refuse to change, or open our arms to the outside workforce, yet wonder why are are getting passed by.  It’s time to pull our heads out of the sand and realize we are part of a bigger pie; let’s step out of our own “Little Kingdom.”  My hope is that someone, anyone, will try to make Birmingham and more user friendly place and help stop spinning our tires.  Otherwise no one is moving here and others will leave.  Let’s move this thing forward for the better, for the future, for our survival.

  5. *I live in the relatively new apartments called Stone Gate on Lakeshore Pwky. It is considered birmingham city, so birmingham police respond to situations, BUT I vote and can only vote in the Bessemer Division.
     I can not vote for anything like the Uber ride sharing, even though I am a Birmingham City Resident on my license, but on a map…I’m not.

    Also, for any probate court, though again, a city of birmingham resident, I am in the bessemer cut off. (not sure if that is a good thing or not)
     We have notable residents, majority Miles, Lawson State or UAB Employees / Instructors that work in the Birmingham city limits, our children go to Birmingham City Schools.

    This can’t be the only apartment complext that has this issue, there’s another set of apartments (ARIUM, and the Village at Lakeshore Crossings) that may fit the mold.

    Even Birmingham city residents can’t vote for Birmingham city laws.


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