Are black politicians what’s wrong with Birmingham?

Jonathan Austin, President of the Birmingham City Council & Mayor William Bell
Jonathan Austin, President of the Birmingham City Council & Mayor William Bell

Week after week I read comments on and on social media blaming Birmingham’s misfortunes on black politicians.

They infer Birmingham would be a better city if whites were in control.

Recently ComebackTown published a piece on efforts to designate our Civil Rights District as a new National Historic Park.

I immediately received a tweet, “Aren’t you embarrassed by what black people have done to Birmingham once they took COMPLETE political control of the city?”

Admittedly things can get pretty ugly at City Hall, but Birmingham doesn’t have a monopoly on ‘ugly.’

What about our white State leadership?

Our Governor is facing impeachment, the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court was suspended for multiple ethics violations, and our Speaker of the House was convicted and jailed for felony ethics violations.

All these guys are white. If you think the public is upset with this cast of characters—can you imagine the reaction if any of them had been black?

Commenters regularly criticize Birmingham for financial mismanagement and ineptitude.  However, Birmingham maintains a strong bond rating and I’m unaware of any major City financial disasters.

Oh yes, there was that historic embarrassing municipal bankruptcy—but that bankruptcy was not the City of Birmingham—it was Jefferson County.

Please note that the Jefferson County Commission is now and has always been majority white.

It’s true that two of the Jefferson County Commissioners convicted during the Jefferson County sewer fiasco were black but two were white.  And a majority of the other officials and contractors indicted were white.

The city of Birmingham has made more progress in the past five years than the previous fifty. Downtown Birmingham is enjoying an unprecedented renaissance energized by more than one billion dollars of development with projects like Railroad Park, Regions Field, the Rotary Trail, 20 Midtown, and Pizitz. There are hotels, restaurants, and apartments being built everywhere—even a Publix.

These developments will translate into increased tax revenues that will  benefit every citizen of Birmingham.

And it’s easy to take pot shots at our black majority Birmingham Water Works Board; but the bottom line is that Birmingham has great water.  The Birmingham Water Works produces safe, high quality drinking water—something we all seem to take for granted.

According to USA Today, excessive lead levels have been found in almost 2,000 water systems across America.

Closer to home, eight Alabama drinking water systems have chemicals linked to cancer above safe levels and Houston County and Dallas County Alabama have lead poisoning among the worst in the country.

If you measure Birmingham by water quality, we are the opposite of Flint, Michigan.

Yes, it’s been announced that a corruption unit may soon investigate Birmingham and/or the Water Works.  But even if there is some hanky-panky (and we don’t know yet), it will likely be no worse than some of the dastardly deeds of some of our white public officials.

If you find it necessary to blame someone for Birmingham’s shortcomings, it would have to be the many whites and then blacks who abandoned the city of Birmingham starting in the ‘60’s.  They left Birmingham with high levels of crime and poverty.

But people are coming back to urban areas all over the United States—and Birmingham is no exception.

Good things are happening in Birmingham.

Our future depends on honest and forward thinking citizens and politicians –both black and white.

Political corruption and ineptitude are color-blind.

Relevant article:  A white mayor for Birmingham?

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David Sher is Co-Founder 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).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham.

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4 thoughts on “Are black politicians what’s wrong with Birmingham?”

  1. Thanks for posting this! The title was a little scary at first glance, but the content makes a relevant point that I think is important for people to remember.

    If we want better leaders, we have to put better leaders in office. No good leaders available? Maybe you should consider for yourself if you could do a better job, and run for office: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

  2. The people who think that the problem with our city’s leaders/politicians has to do with the color of their skin are the same ones that believe Donald Trump has all the answers to our immigration issues.

  3. I don’t think the problem is a question of race. I think it is a question of character and character deficiency is not a racial issue. A person either has integrity or they don’t.

    My next comment will probably get me in trouble but I have noticed that most of the trouble in other cities like Chicago, Milwaukee and most recently Charlotte are run by Democrats. Before anyone tells me that Gov. Bentley is a Republican, I will tell you he is actually a Democrat, who changed parties in order to be elected. I suggest everyone read Con Job: How Democrats Gave Us Crime, Sanctuary Cities, Abortion Profiteering, and Racial Division by Crystal Wright. It is an eye-opening book by a former Obama supporter.

    As someone who grew up in Birmingham it is disappointing to see what has happened to Birmingham. However, it is encouraging to see positive growth in recent years. I happen to agree with David that our metro area might be better served by a consolidation of multiple municipal governments into one.

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