Confusion in Mtn. Brook, Vestavia, Homewood, & Birmingham

Traffic accidentI recently published a piece titled “Mountain Brook stealing from Vestavia Hills.”

It tells about my clever Mountain Brook friend who smuggles his garbage into the trashcans of a nearby Vestavia Hills’ neighbor because Vestavia picks up garbage more often than Mountain Brook.

The piece was really not about the ethics of my friend, but an excuse to create a conversation about the confusion, overlap, and duplication in Birmingham and our suburbs.

Much of this confusion is because Jefferson County has 16 separate emergency call centers , 53  fire departments, and 24 police departments–plus the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

The piece created a lot of comments. Here are some of them…

Nightmare in Homewood/Mountain Brook/Birmingham

One reader wrote about an incident his wife had on the 280/31 southbound flyover in Homewood…

“Her tire blew out in the middle of the flyover and we NEVER had a policeman respond with three calls to them. It was a nightmare being stuck toward the end (of the) flyover where people don’t expect a car to be stopped. We finally had a tow truck come and help us.”

“I later tried to follow up on why no one responded by visiting the police stations. I got bounced from Homewood to south side to Mountain Brook to downtown. All of them said it’s not their jurisdiction it was “X’s.” The whole thing was super frustrating.”

Joking and laughing in Vestavia/Mountain Brook/Birmingham

Another reader told about a wreck he had near Whole Foods on 280…

“I wasn’t the one who called 911. Fire departments from Vestavia, Mountain Brook, Rocky Ridge, and Birmingham all showed up. They all joked and laughed with each other like they knew each other like brothers.”

“One of them told me that they all show up to the same wrecks because it’s impossible to know which jurisdiction it is until they see the wreckage for themselves.”

Explosion in Birmingham/Mountain Brook/Homewood

A commenter who used to live in Hollywood complained about an incident he witnessed next to the 280/31 split…

“One night we heard a loud explosion, and saw a car literally blowing up outside our windows. My husband and several neighbors immediately ran out, while those of us that remained back called 911. What did each of us that called encounter?”

“An endless list of questions trying to figure out EXACTLY where this accident was. The problem was that if you’re heading one direction, you’re in Birmingham. If you’re heading another, you’re in Mountain Brook. And move a few feet the other direction, you’re in Homewood.”

“We had no idea if there were people in this vehicle, and the 911 rep was more focused on trying to decide which municipality should handle the situation. Fortunately, no one was injured. The driver saw his van beginning to smoke and got out before it exploded, but this could easily have not been the case.”

How do we stop the confusion and duplication?

Cities like Nashville, Louisville, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis have county-city government and avoid the pitfalls of having 35 competing municipalities in one county.

I’m not proposing we combine our cities—that will not happen in my lifetime–though I still feel it would have the biggest payoff.

But we can encourage our mayors and city councilors to talk with one another and propose solutions.

Please consider contacting your city officials and let them know that we will be more prosperous if we work together.

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-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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8 thoughts on “Confusion in Mtn. Brook, Vestavia, Homewood, & Birmingham”

  1. All these departments cost tax payers money, as well. A joint force would go a long way in reducing cost and increasing response times in emergency situations like these. Let’s face it, we probably won’t see taxes go down, but the money saved could go to something else beneficial to the public.

  2. I realize for most it has been a generation or two since suburbs split from Birmingham city. But there were reasons for splitting from Birmingham: corruption in city leadership, lack of representation, racism, lack of leadership, and a desire to have a sense of community.

    All of those reasons still exist today in some form or another. In my line of work if there is a problem then the best solution is to put corrective actions to work directly against the root cause(s). I don’t see anyone suggesting working on the root cause(s)…all I see is folks offering solutions that never touch the actual causes. This isn’t a solution, it is a recipe for rinse and repeat.

    1. John, I absolutely agree with you. There is an effort being lead by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to find a more formal way for our mayors to collaborate. We have a lot of young and new mayors who are open to solving common problems. This would be a great first step for our region.

    2. John, I absolutely agree with you. There is currently an effort being made by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to develop a formalized plan to help our mayors collaborate with one another. We have a lot of young and new mayors who are open to new ways to solve common problem. This would be a great first step for our region.

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