It was a stinging loss that Atlanta fans will remember for years to come.
But as a city, Atlanta should be proud. Not only did Atlanta have an opportunity to compete in one of the biggest sporting events in the world, but it hosted the Super Bowl in 2000 and will again in 2019.
Compare that to Birmingham, one of the largest cities in America without a major league sports team–who recently hosted the Birmingham Bowl and the O’Reilly Auto Parts World of Wheels.
I love Birmingham, but Birmingham reminds me of a talented son or daughter, that keeps screwing up.
Two Birmingham/Atlanta comments that drive me crazy
When I write about Atlanta I generally get two types of comments that make me nuts!
Comment 1: “You can’t compare Atlanta to Birmingham—Atlanta is in a different league.”
That is certainly true today, but when I grew up in the ’50s Atlanta and Birmingham were about the same size. In fact, during my childhood Atlanta was Birmingham’s fiercest competitor.
One of my biggest joys in life was going with my Dad to the Birmingham Baron Baseball games to face our biggest rival–the Atlanta Crackers.
I also cheered for the Barons when they went head to head with the Nashville Vols, the Memphis Chicks, and the New Orleans Pelicans—cities that today boast major league sports.
It absolutely galls me that Birmingham has fallen so far behind.
Comment 2: “Atlanta has no regional governance and has prospered anyway.”
That’s not exactly true.
In the 1950’s the City of Atlanta annexed over 100 square miles of contiguous territory—which set the tone and gave it the clout to create the explosive growth that followed.
Newspaper article left a knot in my stomach
You may not be aware, but recently Atlanta has been struggling economically versus its peer cities.
When I was in Atlanta earlier this year visiting family, I read an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) that left me with a knot in my stomach.
The piece was titled, “Leaders now are working well together.” It told the story how Atlanta/Fulton County political bickering had gotten so bad that many citizens were demanding the county be split apart. But Atlanta politicians are now working together.
Atlanta/Fulton County makes a comeback
The article explained that the political dynamics changed a couple of years ago and suddenly there was a refreshed spirit of collaboration and cooperation.
In the AJC piece, Rusty Paul, Mayor of Sandy Springs, boasted, “After 30 years of wandering in the wilderness, there are finally people solving problems. They’ve put aside race, partisanship and geography. It’s been north vs. south, black vs. white, Republican vs. Democrat for 30 years.”
Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, and the head of the Fulton County legislative delegation, bragged that county government is now running “faster, better, stronger.”
And Fulton County Chairman John Eaves said “We were often described as dysfunctional. You don’t hear that anymore. All the rancor and challenges in the past are really in the past. We’re a different county, in a lot of ways.”
Please note these comments were from elected officials from three government entities—a Mayor, a County Commissioner, and a State Legislator.
After years of contention Atlanta and Fulton politicians appear to be working toward a common goal.
Birmingham to have a generational opportunity
Jeffrey Bayer, President and CEO of Bayer Properties recently announced an effort to bring collaboration and regionalism to Birmingham and our suburbs.
Theresponse to his piece has been overwhelmingly positive.
It obvious if the much larger and more cumbersome governments of Atlanta can find a way to cooperate with one another, we should be able to find some common ground in little ‘ole’ Birmingham.
Most of us in Birmingham don’t want to be like Atlanta, but we yearn for a more prosperous forward-thinking region.
We must find a way to grow jobs in our seven county metro area. We can’t keep losing our children and grandchildren to more progressive cities that offer greater opportunity.
In the ’60’s Atlanta billed itself as ‘the city too busy to hate’ and concentrated on competing with cities all over the world.
While we in Birmingham divided into too many municipalities and fought amongst ourselves–which we are still doing.
In recent years, Atlanta has struggled, but has found a way to work together.
According to Jeffrey Bayer, we are about to have the same opportunity here.
Let’s not screw it up this time.
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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. firstname.lastname@example.org.