Today’s guest columnist is Maury D. Gaston.
Having lived all over the country I moved back to Birmingham 24 years ago—first to Homewood and then Mountain Brook.
For much of that time, even though I worked within the city limits of Birmingham and paid the occupational tax, I had very little interest in Birmingham itself.
Then everything changed.
In 2007 I was fortunate to participate in Leadership Birmingham where a group of diverse strangers develop meaningful relationships while studying and interacting on issues affecting the City and our entire area.
My Leadership Birmingham experience was transformative.
I was able to gain insight and learn from corporate and political leaders, small business owners, and passionate heads of non-profits–many of us remain friends today.
I realized that many people outside the City of Birmingham, like myself, didn’t seem to have an interest in the quality of municipal services for the residents of the City of Birmingham.
I would like to call attention to two issues facing the City of Birmingham and how they may affect our larger suburban and metropolitan community and all our area residents, no matter where we live.
First, why should those who do not live in the City of Birmingham care about Birmingham City Schools? We all know that businesses and industries in the area need skilled, well-trained, and well-educated employees and workers. But how can this be more personal? What does it mean to you and your loved ones?
To answer this, it was suggested to me that the next time a family member, close friend, or even I am a patient in an area hospital, ask this question of every attendant who comes in the room to deliver medicine, perform a procedure, or otherwise provide care. “Where did you go to high school?”
I did that when I was a patient myself and have done it many other times when family members and friends were patients and I was in the room. Most responded as being a graduate of a Birmingham City High School. So it stands to reason, if you want quality health care procedures, support quality education for Birmingham City Schools. Your own personal health is affected by the quality of Birmingham City Schools.
In a more germane and typical view, whether you are the owner or an employee in an area business or industry, it’s in your best interest that Birmingham City Schools produce quality graduates who are work-force ready. Whether construction trades, manufacturing, or health care noted above, all of us in the greater Birmingham area have a personal interest in Birmingham City Schools producing quality graduates.
The next topic that made a significant impact on me is public transportation. There is a bus stop in north Birmingham outside my office window, and I often see people wait there for more than an hour. Clearly the bus is late if they wait that long. Some often walk away which tells me the bus did not arrive.
Did they miss a critical doctor appointment? Did they miss work? If they missed work, they and their work associates who arrived on time may lose their shift and their employer will miss production, whether it’s a clerical job in the suburbs or a manufacturing or construction job in the city. If that happens often enough, they will lose their job and become a tax-payer burden for those who do not depend on public transportation.
It’s in the best interest of all Birmingham-area residents that we have a dependable public transportation system. This means mechanical dependability and scheduling dependability. We need the buses to run and to run on time. Too many times, I have seen broken down buses on the uphill ramp of 31 North from 280 West.
When living in the suburbs it’s easy not to think about our neighbors in Birmingham, but we are dependent on one another and we need to support each other any way we can.
Maury D. Gaston grew up in Sylacauga and is a mechanical engineering graduate of Auburn University. Maury lived and worked in New York, Florida, California, and Texas for 15 years, and has resided in Homewood and Mountain Brook since 1997. He is Chairman of the Alabama Iron and Steel Council, a council of Manufacture Alabama; and is a current Director and former Chairman of the state of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. 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 for free about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.