ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blog was written by Peter Wright as response to “Sometimes you have to laugh at Homewood.
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Thanks for all you do for the City of Birmingham, but as a member of Homewood City Council, I have to respond to your most recent article about “laughing” at “dumb” ‘ol Homewood for looking at a bus service of its own.
I’m sure you are not aware of all of the history of this problem, most particularly that about a year ago, we as a City wanted to take on a leadership role and set an example for regional cooperation with mass transit with the former director of the Transit Authority. But such efforts, I believe in part, resulted in that former director actually being terminated and we were tossed to the curb yet again
The problem we’re facing in Homewood is that we are charged $360K a year (a significant increase from last year) for only a dozen or so Homewood citizens who regularly use the bus service because we have to pay for all of the empty buses riding through our City.
We do have a special needs population that is regularly bused into our city, along with some customers for our businesses, and we have attempted to tailor the bus service to our city’s needs, but to no avail.
We had a meeting with BJCTA officials this year with that in mind and were met with an effort to further expand, not reduce, the empty bus service in our city. Adding frustration to all of this, our city was kicked off the Transit Authority a few years back even though we’re the third highest fee payer into the system.
None of this makes any sense. And then we had to take steps to make sure our fee was not directly taken out of our ad valorem funds so that we could properly budget for it every year. Notwithstanding that, the BJCTA attempted to take the funds out of ad valorem again this year.
We don’t know what else to do. We even tried to adjust our bus service by using ClasTran to take care of our special needs users and that was blocked with the BJCTA threatening to curb its business with ClasTran if they attempted to provide such service to our City.
Respectfully, I don’t think your article furthers regional cooperation by referring to Homewood as “dumb” for looking into whether any other type of bus service could be arranged for a city that pays $360K a year for empty buses to ride through its city.
I firmly believe the BJCTA doesn’t want to discuss a reduction of our service to meet our needs because if we paid based on our use of the service, that would result in a huge financial cut to the BJCTA. So, we as a city are at a crossroads. We would love to arrange for a proper Homewood service for about 1/3 of what we’re paying but since that doesn’t seem possible, we may just have to look to other bus service arrangements.
I hope this helps to enlighten you as to the problems that our City is facing. Our neighboring jurisdictions are not dealing with these same costs because the empty bus time in their cities is not nearly as great. Thanks for your time and consideration of this response.
Peter Wright is a 21 year resident of Homewood and President Pro-Tem of the City Council. He’s an attorney with Sirote & Permutt and President-elect for the Probate Section of the Birmingham Bar Association. He’s married and has two children.
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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).
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