Why do Alabama governors seem not to care about Jefferson County?
Often our governors, our legislature and even some state departments–either ignore or abuse us.
As I reported a couple of weeks ago, Governor Ivey was asked how Birmingham might improve its economic development efforts after she concluded a speech in Birmingham. She accused Birmingham of having a history of corruption rather than be helpful.
This was startling since the only reason Gov. Ivey holds office is because of corruption.
But even more mystifying is that she insulted her hosts when you would assume her goal would be to make friends, get votes, and raise money.
One of my political savvy friends told me he wasn’t surprised by her answer because Jefferson County is Democratic and Governor Ivey, a Republican, doesn’t need Jefferson County to win.
Another scoffed that in the State of Alabama it is considered okay for white public officials to be corrupt—but not blacks.
One thing that is clear, however, is our region has historically been treated badly by our state.
When I was growing up, Jefferson County did not support George Wallace for governor and he made sure we were the last major city in America to complete our interstate system.
This fall the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will tear down and close I-20/59 through downtown Birmingham for about 14 months. This would not be acceptable to any major city in America. Can you imagine Atlanta closing its downtown interstate?
Many of us will suffer when much of that traffic is rerouted onto I-459.
Why Jefferson County is a whipping boy
In 2002 I accompanied a group of business leaders to Montgomery to meet with Gov. Bob Riley to discuss the possibility of funding a Birmingham football stadium. Gov. Riley showed some interest, but when he called around to the various Jefferson County political leaders, many didn’t support the idea.
Sixteen years later we may be getting our stadium—but with no funding from the state.
There’s no coordination or common vision for our region.
Our Jefferson County legislative delegation is often divided.
Our mayors historically are only concerned with their own municipalities—and certainly not about our region.
Our Jefferson County Commission could play a leadership role by developing a broad–inclusive– visionary plan for our region–but has not done so.
We consider each other the competition.
Metro Birmingham could be a powerhouse
The Birmingham-Hoover metro is the economic engine of our state.
Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington reminds me that almost 1/3rd of the goods and services generated in Alabama are produced in metropolitan Birmingham–more than Huntsville, Montgomery, and Mobile combined.
We could be a major political force in Alabama but because we work against one another, no one has to pay attention to us.
Heck, I don’t think we’ve had a governor from Jefferson County in my lifetime.
Gov. Ivey’s response
WBRC FOX6 tried to follow up with Gov. Ivey about her tough comments about Birmingham when she spoke in town last week.
Here’s her reaction…
Fox6: “Good morning Governor Ivey, we have just one quick question.”
Gov. Ivey: “Sorry we have to run.”
Governor Ivey, go ahead and run—you have nothing to fear from our Birmingham region.
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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