Birmingham overcomes giant mud hole in middle of city to beat out Elyton

Melissa Young
Melissa Young

Today’s guest columnist is Melissa Young.

Elyton—once Jefferson County’s seat and a springboard of possibility—is now just a tiny blip on Birmingham’s historic radar.

Located in the Arlington-West End neighborhood, it’s the current home of Princeton Baptist Medical Center and local landmarks like Elmwood Cemetery and Arlington Historic Home and Gardens

 Few people know, however, that in 1870, Elyton was predicted to be the site of the state’s next economic miracle. 

 Birmingham won out—drawing settlers and business in the middle of a depression, despite its rough reputation and dilapidated condition!  

One family’s story demonstrates the nature of its victory, which crushed Elyton’s hopes in the process. 

In the spring of 1873, Samuel and Henrietta Marx decided to leave Montgomery, After a run of bad luck and a fire at their dry goods store, the couple finally succumbed to the crushing debt they’d accumulated during Reconstruction. Forced to declare bankruptcy, they’d lost their business and home.  

With little left to lose, Samuel and Henrietta relocated, hoping for a better life for their four small children. They packed up what remained of their household, said goodbye to their friends, and traveled ninety miles north to Central Alabama. They’d heard about the region’s state- and federally-fundedrebuilding efforts after the Civil War. A few scandals had slowed progress and stained some railroad managers’ reputations, but it still seemed promising.  

Birmingham had been built by a group of land speculators two years before, in 1871. Because its founders heavily promoted their “magic” city, Samuel and Henrietta considered it as a destination. They couldn’t afford to fail again though, so they sent Samuel’s twenty-two-year-old son Morris and Henrietta’s brother Charles Neumann ahead to scope it out.  

Although Morris and Charles were able to rent storefronts immediately, they had trouble making ends meet. The unstable postwar economy was a contributing factor, but the city’s founders—the men who formed the Elyton Land Companywere largely to blame.  

The corporation was fighting bankruptcy itself. Overspeculation and corruption, which enabled the company to exist, were taking their toll on the state and the nation. Making matters worse was board president James R. Powell, who had little experience in city planning or management.  

Birmingham’s railroad lines and construction stalled in 1873, creating housing shortages and delaying the transportation of goods and supplies. Drainage issues created swampy streets and a giant mud hole in the middle of the city. Even before the cholera epidemic in July, residents complained about the lack of clean water.  

Civic elites’ quest to control the local government was also backfiring. Powell’s connections to regional and state legislators would ultimately triumph, but Black and white laborers were balking at attempts to limit and exploit them. Public displays of outrage and their rejection of long-term employment were additional setbacks. 

Rent was cheap, so young men like Charles Neumann and Morris Marx were unbothered by Birmingham’s growing pains. Their experiences, however, caused Samuel and Henrietta to hesitate. The couple decided to settle two miles west in Elyton, the village that gave the land company its name. 

Samuel and Henrietta were swayed by more than the stability that Elyton offered their little ones. In 1870, the year before Birmingham was founded, Selma and Montgomery journalists predicted the small town would be the site of the state’s next economic miracle.  

Reporters based their work on the writings of Robert Henley, an Elyton newspaperman who highlighted Jefferson County’s mineral district, politics, and culture. Portraying his little town as a sleeping industrial giant in a New South, he pointed to the endless possibilities in the rich iron and coal seams that surrounded it.  

Despite warning signs of a financial panic that was just around the corner, Elyton’s mining and production prospects seemed limitless, and the railroad projects the papers listed—the Grand Trunk Railroad (later known as the Mobile & Elyton), the Corinth & Elyton, and the Elyton & Aberdeen—promised to extend jobs and markets. That meant customers and trade for storekeepers like Samuel and Henrietta. 

On April 7, 1870, the Selma’s Times-Argus went a step further, drawing potential farmers to the surrounding area by reprinting an article Henley had written about the Central Alabama Agricultural Association. It described the annual fair the organization was planning near Elyton, detailing its fountains, lakes, and “trotting track.” Pitching the town’s resources as much as the association’s support, the article noted the amphitheater and a three-story exhibition hall that were under construction, emphasizing a rooftop observatory and other forms of entertainment for prospective visitors. 

Such articles got people talking about Elyton and Central Alabama, which seemed to offer something for everyone, whether merchants, farmers, laborers, or investors.  

The Marxes were not the only ones listening closely. The men who created Birmingham centralized Elyton in the name of their corporation and made sure railroad construction shifted to serve their needs. Admiring Henley’s vision, they drew from his language to market their new city a year later and had Alabama’s governor appoint him its first mayor.  

Their plan worked.  

Birmingham’s rough edges smoothed out, and the depression sparked by the Panic of 1873 morphed into the industrial boom that Henley predicted. Interest in Elyton waned as the promising village lost its growing reputation, status, county seat, and most of its population to its neighbor. 

Samuel and Henrietta were among those who relocated once again. Elyton’s markets shrank and their remaining money dwindled. In September 1874, just over a year after their trek from Montgomery, the couple pooled their interests with Morris and Charles, moving to Birmingham to share living expenses and a single shop with the two bachelors. 

Luckily, the Marx family’s business grew under Charles Neumann’s name and management. The store they founded together finally gave Morris and other family members the springboard they needed to increase their income, clientele, and civic networks. By the time Samuel Marx died in 1886, both his family and Birmingham were thriving. He and Henrietta had two additional children, who—like Morris and Charles—became influential residents through their businesses, charities, and building projects. 

Elyton was not so lucky.  

Like Robert Henley, whose political career was cut short by tuberculosis, it began to perish soon after its peak. Weakened by the tricks and ambitions of the Elyton Land Company’s stockholders, the town straggled alongside the larger city for 40 years.

The final death knell was the Greater Birmingham campaign, a wide-ranging annexation plan that led to its absorption in 1910. 

 Dr. Melissa Young is a public historian who specializes in American Jewish history, women’s studies, and the US South. In 2016, she helped create the archives of what is now the Alabama Holocaust Education Center and served as its archivist for three years. She is currently writing a book on the establishment of Birmingham’s Jewish community and splits her time between teaching for UAB and working on community projects like the Beth-El Civil Rights Experience. 

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).

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Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com

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69 thoughts on “Birmingham overcomes giant mud hole in middle of city to beat out Elyton”

  1. This is a very informative and enlightening article. It’s fun to read things about Birmingham’s admittedly fascinating history that gracefully but definitely lean against the recounting of early boosterism and lies. It’s a minor miracle that Birmingham has become as good and prosperous as it has.

  2. The ‘Magic City,’ with this astonishing history of its beginnings should perhaps take the nickname, ‘Miracle City.’ That determination combined with the conditions that surrounded Birmingham’s beginnings is remarkable. Keep this in mind as this has clues to improving the future of the city and it surroundings. It will take that kind of determination and intelligent action to accomplish it. Thank you Melissa Young

  3. I love history!
    Please include the importance of the Steiner Brothers’ “plan” in the survival of early Birmingham, in your research.

      1. Was Lehman Brothers involved in the slavery business in Montgomery ? Hard to get all the facts on the history of Black African slavery business in Alabama? I have read bits and pieces but hard to get good facts starting with 1619 in Alabama!
        We know there were Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 as enslaved people! Birmingham was founded in 1871 and had a significant Black population but did enjoy the same rights and opportunities as the white population!
        Odd both were in poverty!!

        1. George, do you mean the Lehmann brothers or the Steiner brothers? I was asking about the Steiner Building about 1st Avenue and 22nd Street N.

          1. Ted I think it was Lehmann Brothers!
            Many original Bankers were involved in financing and insuring slaves as property!
            Some of the big Wall Street firms openly
            acknowledge such, Montgomery had a very active slave trading business in the city.
            I think Bryan Stevenson has documented such?This is Amazing American history.
            I do not believe the Steiner Brothers were involved in such.

          2. Definitely Lehman Brothers began in Montgomery and moved to Manhattan. I do not know when or have fats about why. But as a piece of significant history is probably worth knowing.

          3. Very interesting indeed.
            The cotton exchange was very profitable.
            You will not find much written about endslaved people during this business cycle in America .
            The Wall Street firms knew this was wrong!

          4. George and Roy,
            Robert Stewart posted a link for a history of the Lehmann Brothers below. It’s interesting that they started in Montgomery. I wonder if we can find a history of the Steiner Brothers, too.

          5. Ted you must understand a lot of what bankers did when this country was founded was not honorable so some of that factual history is not going to be recorded. Commercial banking and investment banking are central to capitalism!
            The South played an integral part in both.
            We still do in 2024!

  4. Yes, all of that and more! Thank you Melissa for providing the links to other resources.

    BTW< I am guessing that your ancestors left Montgomery about the same time the Lehman Brothers left for New York City. I regret what happened to that great company in the 2008 nightmare. Bad politically oriented climate of recovery happened.

  5. A significant part of this banking history that I believe George is describing correctly is this> Before the civil war, Alabama and Mississippi were the wealthiest States in the country, booming.
    After the war they became the two poorest states. Both are still trying hard to drag their way out of that. Birmingham and mineral wealth became the primary source of the states economic advancement, and yet too many believe it remains a ‘rural state’ and opposition or delay still continues to hold Birmingham back, Reduction of population in the state has reduced the impact of Alabama influence on the Federal Government so we drag on.
    There are a few positive signs that much be captured an pressed forward: Metro cooperation is serious. Low property taxes, incentives to draw new industrial production all over the state, and historic building repurposing incentives. More infrastructure improvement is needed. Educational advancement must be supported, continuing a strong base that teaches basic principles, and especially this within all courses; how to learn on your own, and the benefits on knowing the subjects.. These are a few examples. I further recommend that Alabama adjust its income tax revenue in a way that will get rid of it and find other way to fund needed. An finally redraw Alabama’s absurdly messy constitution, and include removing any kind of racial or otherwise prejudice-biased statutes. I believe those two are the states worst barriers to improvement.

    Melissa Young has opened a very wide door that can lead to very helpful understanding.

    1. Just remember how that pre civil war wealth was accumulated!!On the backs of enslaved Black people and free poor white people ! Just think how much more wealth that could have been created if equity had been practiced by these business owners! We missed a golden opportunity in Alabama and Mississippi.
      We are making some progress.

      1. I completely agree. The former ‘Whigs’ who became republicans knew it. The Democrat power grabbing plantation owners and their business and shady banking friends made sure that did not happen. There is the preserved stolen ballot box in the State Archives and History Department as partial proof.
        I wonder about the Lehmans, who probably would have accepted cotton however it was produced. How did they and their business and shady banking friends vote?

        1. Roy some amazing and colorful history in this state regarding wealth and power among the bourgeois and the bourbon class. The vestiges of such are alive and well in these school systems in Alabama. Young people cannot be fooled as they can read and see these class and race issues very clearly when you talk to them!

        2. Roy some amazing and colorful history in this state regarding wealth and power among the bourgeois and the bourbon class. The vestiges of such are alive and well in these school systems in Alabama. Young people cannot be fooled as they can read and see these class and race issues very clearly when you talk to them! The future is better than the past in my humble opinion.

          1. I like your optimism, knowing that a positive view is a big help.
            About history, yes, look forward but also recall history in order to know what not to fall back into! Never travel such a dark muddy road again!

          2. Roy I just remember my parents and grandparents said too “stay focused “ and learn from our collective history in America. The 1619 Book Project is a real eye opening into this place we call America The Beautiful!

          3. And you obeyed your parents and it worked! So did I! Bravo!

          4. Roy
            I had no idea one could disobey their parents and grandparents!! I have since discovered many young people and even some adults had no solid parents and or grandparents to obey?’What a pickle many of them are now in it seems.
            Hence criminal behavior begins to happen to many of these young men and women. That is why these 13 school systems in Jefferson County are important. They do need to collaborate regardless of class and race.

    2. Roy, you seem to be saying that low taxes and economic growth are the secret to fixing our problems. I think I have to disagree. Of course you probably know one of my personal priorities is improving public transit. Someone has to pay for that. Why is it so hard to get the State of Alabama to put money into it? It’s known that Alabama has a low labor participation rate. Transit would obviously help with that, so why isn’t it done? I wonder if some people in Montgomery know that if people don’t work, Alabama can depend on the federal government to take care of them to some extent. So low labor participation may work perfectly for the Montgomery establishment. If people don’t work, they can always say it’s because they’re lazy. Federal funding allows them to keep state taxes low. That seems to be their real priority.

      1. Ted
        That is an interesting perspective you are sharing.! I will wait and allow Roy to respond .
        I will respond later after I read a little more about macro economics and labor force participation rates . Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

        1. Hi everyone,
          I wanted to share this short statistical video that lists the world’s 100 richest cities in order. The first one is Hamburg, Germany, and the world’s richest is Tokyo. I think it’s probably based on the total wealth and property of people who live in the entire metro areas.

          Now, it mentions a Birmingham, but I’m sure that’s Birmingham, England. I do believe our Birmingham would be somewhere on the list, not too far below Hamburg if it were longer. But the one I wanted to focus on is Detroit, #43. It’s richer than Bangkok and just slightly below Minneapolis-St. Paul. Why would that be surprising? Because much of the population of Detroit itself is really poor. Detroit is another city like Birmingham, a more extreme case than we are, where the people with money left and moved to the suburbs. It’s also another city where public transit is really poor. In my opinion, it’s outrageous that the people of the suburbs have no responsibility for the problems of the central city.

          1. Ted thanks for sharing. Indeed very interesting.
            Detroit and Birmingham are compared as being the same except for the weather in the winter! Of course it 18 degrees this AM in Birmingham. Not sure how many cities are in Wayne County but I think Detroit is the County seat. I am not writing off these 33 cities in Jefferson County with Birmingham being the largest. Public transport is an absolute mess in Jefferson County for some reason. These 13 school systems have some interaction I have been told but just not in public!’
            Isn’t that stupid!!

          2. George, the reason we have such bad public transit partly goes back to history. In 1952 an amendment to the Alabama Constitution prohibited using money from gas taxes for anything but roads and bridges. That is still in effect. But another problem is the way our local transit agency, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, was set up. It was set up so that the various municipalities have to pay for it. So you can only have as much service as they want to pay for. Or can pay for. For awhile, Fairfield couldn’t get service because they couldn’t afford to pay. Which created the absurd situation where people in Birmingham and Bessemer who might want to stop in Fairfield couldn’t because BJCTA didn’t stop there.

            Another problem with BJCTA is the law that set it up mandates that membership on its Board is based on population. So Hoover and Vestavia Hills, which have hardly any transit, have a seat, but Bessemer, which has lots of transit, does not. Bessemer lost its seat after the 2020 census. Apparently when the law was written in 1971, the drafters assumed that the more population town had, the more transit it would have. That is not true. Towns with more population who can’t afford cars will have more transit service.

            Mountain Brook has actually been quite supportive of BJCTA though it lost its seat on the Board quite awhile ago.

      2. Finally while entering the season to work out ever more complicated tax returns.

        To clarify my point about taxes. States that have no state income taxes, but Florida for example has high sales taxes such states are thriving beyond Alabama. Tennessee is another state growing beyond Alabama’s growth.

        I fully agree with you on the matter of transportation, George Wallace airplane fuel tax also needs correction if it hasn’t been. That one ruined opportunities for expansion of Birmingham airline service. It sent the airlines all shuttling to Atlanta for fueling long flights. Low gasoline taxes reduced quality and maintenance of roadways. (I am not in favor of increasing lanes in multi-lane highway or interstates, but rather better distribute with parallel highway-roadways. Years ago the Brookings Institute research drew that conclusion.) A recent gasoline tax increase has gotten road repair going better, faster.

        Two continuing primary issue for me are about growth management, land-use and transportation. As I can see the link between Montgomery and Birmingham (their Metro areas include Autauga (Metro Montgomery) and Chilton (Birmingham Metro) Counties now touch! become a one
        hundred mile plus linear metropolis. That has to be a big concern about commuting, distances and personal costs as well as reduction of open farm, orchard, and tree covered land for securing more fresh air clean water and recreation. The traffic on I-65 clearly signals this growing problem. The towns should be more concentrated and dense, with homes and local jobs, business and industry, giving citizens easier less expensive access to daily needs.

        PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION and affordable also must be advanced. That can also help concentrate development

        ALL THAT is what has value in the state if the density and intensity and the improvement of the economy and better living conditions, internal open spaces parks entertainment good food and the rest and in the city of Birmingham itself can be most helpful, Birmingham can thus serve all of Alabama in that way also providing as a big increase in state revenue. In that regard, just look at one of the nearby cities I like the least and work to avoid, Atlanta. It is of huge value to the thriving state of Georgia.

        Further City comparison, my view on doing much of that on a single subject especially money is very limited. Cities are so different and so complex, from cultural context to history to location, activities, opportunities and the weather. Transportation from air and land to water, needs and supplies differ as well, only they are fundamental for all.

        History and memories, retention of important lessons learned for rising and declining, advancement opportunities to be taken. Tactics of survival should be learned from such times as slavery and following segregation. we are beyond it. How did we get where we are. Also is medicine better that steel making? There is so much to think about and it is all interesting. Decision making and implementation need to get past hesitancy, and move more quickly, not hastily, but carefully and quickly.

        Maybe I have started to catch up with you?

  6. Ted it seems the law creating the BJCTA needs to be restructured? With 7 senators and 17 representatives that is going to be a challenge?
    They seem to rally around the Civic Center Authority?! Maybe that is the play book to gain consensus for who appoints who should sit on some of theses boards inside Jefferson County?
    Just a suggestion good friend!

    1. I agree. It does need to be restructured. There was an attempt to do it about 25 years ago from what I understand. I believe I heard they tried to make it into a more regional and less city-based system. I think Rep. John Rogers opposed it because he thought it would reduce the power of Birmingham.

      1. Birmingham will always be the largest city in Jefferson County! No one legislator can stop a restructuring of the BJTA ! The BJCCA seems to be working well?

        1. I think BJCTA is trying to do the best they can. But that enabling legislation hobbles it in some ways. Thanks George!

  7. Finally while entering the season to work out ever more complicated tax returns.

    To clarify my point about taxes. States that have no state income taxes, but Florida for example has high sales taxes such states are thriving beyond Alabama. Tennessee is another state growing beyond Alabama’s growth.

    I fully agree with you on the matter of transportation, George Wallace airplane fuel tax also needs correction if it hasn’t been. That one ruined opportunities for expansion of Birmingham airline service. It sent the airlines all shuttling to Atlanta for fueling long flights. Low gasoline taxes reduced quality and maintenance of roadways. (I am not in favor of increasing lanes in multi-lane highway or interstates, but rather better distribute with parallel highway-roadways. Years ago the Brookings Institute research drew that conclusion.) A recent gasoline tax increase has gotten road repair going better, faster.

    Two continuing primary issue for me are about growth management, land-use and transportation. As I can see the link between Montgomery and Birmingham (their Metro areas include Autauga (Metro Montgomery) and Chilton (Birmingham Metro) Counties now touch! become a one
    hundred mile plus linear metropolis. That has to be a big concern about commuting, distances and personal costs as well as reduction of open farm, orchard, and tree covered land for securing more fresh air clean water and recreation. The traffic on I-65 clearly signals this growing problem. The towns should be more concentrated and dense, with homes and local jobs, business and industry, giving citizens easier less expensive access to daily needs.

    PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION and affordable also must be advanced. That can also help concentrate development

    ALL THAT is what has value in the state if the density and intensity and the improvement of the economy and better living conditions, internal open spaces parks entertainment good food and the rest and in the city of Birmingham itself can be most helpful, Birmingham can thus serve all of Alabama in that way also providing as a big increase in state revenue. In that regard, just look at one of the nearby cities I like the least and work to avoid, Atlanta. It is of huge value to the thriving state of Georgia.

    Further City comparison, my view on doing much of that on a single subject especially money is very limited. Cities are so different and so complex, from cultural context to history to location, activities, opportunities and the weather. Transportation from air and land to water, needs and supplies differ as well, only they are fundamental for all.

    History and memories, retention of important lessons learned for rising and declining, advancement opportunities to be taken. Tactics of survival should be learned from such times as slavery and following segregation. we are beyond it. How did we get where we are. Also is medicine better that steel making? There is so much to think about and it is all interesting. Decision making and implementation need to get past hesitancy, and move more quickly, not hastily, but carefully and quickly.

    Maybe I have started to catch up with you?

    1. Roy, thanks for your thoughts on this. I generally really appreciate all your comments. The only thing I would say is that sales tax is a regressive tax. It hits poorer people harder than rich or middle class people. It seems to me that if we are going to have revenue for something like transit, the rich will have to contribute more. Maybe not a lot more. I wouldn’t necessarily favor taking money from gas taxes for transit, though that is often a way that states fund it. I realize all the revenue might be needed for road and bridge maintenance. I think it really needs to come from higher income taxes.

      I think medicine is better than steel making! But I’m glad we have the Sloss Furnaces monument here in town. I went through it several days ago. Fascinating history.

      1. Ted,
        Clearly the tax matter is also complex and needs deep thinking about what should be funded and how it should be funded.

        Currently I am extremely concerned about how and why homelessness has increased across the entire country. Even the ineffectiveness of people who have to live directly from each paycheck to paycheck is bad, with no opportunity to in vest.
        What level of income tax should be taxed, if there is no better way to receive revenue than income tax? Could a new effective tax be invented that does not cost government so much to manage the complexity What should not have a sales tax applied? How do you sort out what is necessary and what is not for a sales tax? I would think perhaps no tax on basic food or milk products, and other similar basic necessities.

        And to my main point, could a better system of taxation encourage businesses that pay employees well be found? Does tax have no effect on that? Can we invent one and lead the country? ALABAMA LEAD? What a wild idea! And yet Birmingham has a history of having done just that!!

        It is tough to get Alabama citizens to agree to do anything like risking a new form of taxation. Someone would really have to be good at selling the idea.

        1. Roy
          Taxes are already a challenge for a poor state like Alabama. We could probably phase out the tax on food and medicine? I thought this was underway now? The state income tax bite is minimal any way and the federal taxes paid are fully deductible if I recall?
          I say do not tax the first 25,0000 dollars of income. Poor people need a wage that is sustainable!

          1. George, I truly think that is the type of thoughtful consideration that Alabama needs very much. As Ted has said, revenue is needed, but it is not good to have it hurt people, nor, as I add, discourage businesses from coming. Those business provide the possibility of reducing poverty, so that is partly why I keep on that track.

          2. Ted
            Absolutely for profit business helps to reduce poverty by employing people who pay taxes.
            The key is to recycle capital dollars as much as practical. Tax policy matters a lot in a capitalist market like we have in America and Alabama.

          3. George and Roy,
            I am a believer in capitalism. It is the way people work together to produce new products and meet people’s needs. But countries like Germany and the Netherlands show it can work better than it does here. You can have a successful economy while making sure people’s needs are met.

            Roy mentioned the problem of homelessness. I understand Germany has a law that prohibits residential real estate from appreciating in value as much as it does here. The Germans realize that a house can’t be both a place to live and an investment. If it’s an investment, eventually some people won’t be able to find a place to live.

            I suppose a disadvantage Alabama has is it is one of the states where people were enslaved. Many of those people have never been able to develop much wealth. Maybe the Black Belt is the worst example of that, but some parts of Birmingham are nearly as bad. But because a large part of its population is impoverished, Alabama is seen as a cheap place to do business. The state government tries to attract businesses to come here because of a low tax burden. It’s good that businesses come here, but people with low incomes have to be able to get to work at those establishments. If the minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour, they won’t be able to afford a car to go to work or other places. Transit levels the playing field by giving more people a chance at mobility. As I said, someone has to pay for it. It can’t be entirely paid for by the riders. An example of that is here in Birmingham, it costs BJCTA $16 to provide every ride on a bus, though the fare is only $1.50. That’s largely because the buses are so empty. If more people were riding, the fares would be covering more of the cost. But few people want to ride a bus that is so infrequent and may not come at all.

            Does that make sense?

          4. There are a number of points and counter points to be made here. Being busy with taxes in Alabama, US, and Canada right now I have to wait to write much more. So I am already viewing taxation from sever personal perspectives, housing and cost issues as well. Vancouver offers many lessons of what o do and what not to do. I have been connected there by family for over 50 years now.
            I will have to explain later: Minimum wage systemic failure as its effect is backwards and forwards , transportation effectiveness relative to urban density, house value inflation has design and construction quality-codes to consider changing. All are very much worth full consideration. You are so right about what you think of how they are negatively effecting Alabama. Alabama is not the only place either. The issue of interest is how to correct the failures. Thank you for your thoughtful comments

  8. Ted:
    I suspect we are all capitalists to varying degrees!
    Countries like Germany and the Netherlands are smaller and there cultures are old and historically devoid of enslaving another race of people for capitalism! This is our history and we own it and move forward . Again the BJCTA needs to be restructured! The only entity I am aware of is the BJCCA that seems to enjoy broad legislative support from our racially diverse house and senate delegation for some reason? This is key for Jefferson County to accept and respect this diversity and move forward.

    1. I agree, George. This history was real and will not go away. Do not try to pass it by or erase it because that will not happen. Do try to make improvement, notably effective improvement that adds the proven ability to get past it. Birmingham has made a start and must be far ahead of most of the rest of the state.

      Hometown is so very different from what it was like when I was a boy, growing up white and ‘over the mountain’. I was going back and forth over the mountain to work downtown every work day in summers in crowded busses with separated black and white riders. Neither whites nor blacks had much opportunity live close to work. Who us riding any bus now? And why? All this needs to be understood to go anywhere better.

      1. Roy:
        As an outsider I find Birmingham and its race and class history very interesting! The path forward is making capitalism work for all the people in Jefferson County as poverty and inadequate transportation hurts us all.
        I am very bullish on the what capitalism can accomplish!

      2. Roy and George,
        I thought I had to mention capitalism, because otherwise, someone was almost certain to say I’m pushing socialism.

        The irony is the Netherlands actually did oppress people, I think especially in Indonesia. But eventually Indonesia got its independence. There are people of Indonesian ancestry who immigrated to the Netherlands. I think I knew one once. The problem with America is we have this large group of people, especially African Americans and Native Americans, who have become an “underclass” in spite of having civil rights. In most parts of the country they don’t form a really large part of the population. But in places like Alabama where they do, they help create the idea that business is cheap. This helps make Alabama a sort of “playground for the rich.” The legislature has made it their priority to keep their taxes low. And it’s easy to be judgmental about people who aren’t more prosperous. They can say “they’d be fine if they just worked harder.” But it’s hard to get to work and save money when you’re making $7.25 an hour.

        1. Ted:
          Thin line between capitalism and socialism my friend. What do you think our Social Security Administration is in America?
          I did not know about the Netherlands and Indonesia . Odd these other countries seem to have resolved some of the issues,but for some reason we in America still exploit Native Americans And African Americans?’ I just do not understand why in 2024 why we just ignore the vestiges of slavery and exploitation of labor?

          1. Yes I agree. But I avoid talking about what people call systemic racism, because hardly anyone today would defend an explicitly racist position. Today it’s about “supporting the winners.” There is a Fox News commentator named Greg Gutfeld who said we need to “bring all the winners of different races together” to solve our problems. But we can’t all be winners. Kind of by definition, when someone wins, someone else loses.

          2. Winners and losers are part of our society but can not stop trying to level the playing field!

  9. Gentlemen,
    First, I must thank Melissa Young for starting this conversation. It has led to my favorite topic, TRANSPORTATION! As a long-time retiree, I’ve been writing columns and speaking to organizations about the need for public transportation throughout this state. Ted Gemberling has already told you how we got into this situation of no transit. I want to tell you why we need transit,
    There is a huge group of folk statewide that need public transit. And the powers that be keep bragging about the many jobs that go unfilled. This leaves the the idea that folks are lazy and don’t want to work — a known lie. There are jobs, but no transportation. Ask any youngster that’s just gotten their high school diploma and has tried to seek a job. Or ask any honor roll student who has missed out on the GOOD scholarships because they never joined the Honor Society because it requires students have volunteer service. Volunteer service requires transportation.
    I retired in 1991. I had high hopes of doing volunteer work throughout the city. I foolishly thought I had much to offer my community. It wasn’t too long before I learned without an automobile, I needed to cut my volunteer dreams in half. (Car note, car insurance, gasoline, parking fees forced it.) I suspect the folks in charge
    I suspect, those in charge have no clue of public transportations value to students and us oldies. I’ve been trying to get the attention of our legislators for years.

    Comeback Town has even published one of my columns a few years back. I have much more to say but my lone volunteer service starts at 3:00.
    Think on this: When hunger rises up, morals go down. Transportation gives folks access to jobs. Since the 1950s, there hasn’t been reliable public transit in Birmingham or the entire state. Folks don’t know how wonderful good transit , every 15-minutes, 2/7, would be. Like my grandmother often told me, “You can’t miss something you’ve never had.” It’s time we got a chance to see.

    1. Marva Douglas is very much on point!
      Marva you need to look at how the BJCCA is structured and funded. I suspect if can support from that Board of Directors some head way will be made. I do not spend a lot of time on public policy issues but that entity seems to have it figured out! Go to some of their public meetings and get to know their Board Chair.

      1. George,
        Thanks for taking note of my concern for public transit. I’m a former teacher. My mind is always on the children. We need funding statewide. Roger Smitherman got the Public Transportation Trust Fund bill passed in 2018. The legislature can’t find funds to put in the trust fund. When I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s, I had to ride in the back of the bus but I got to learn my city, and see other parts of town that did not look like where I lived. Therefore I knew there was more in place than what I was seeing daily. I’m thinking of today’s younger generations. I don’t want their hopes dashed like what the young folks are experiencing now. I want them to be able to aspire to much more. As the saying foes, “If you can see it….” As it stands, they can only see beyond their neighborhoods if there is an automobile available to them. By the way, I’ve been acquainted with nearly all of the members of the boards of directors and the BJCTA directors for many years — at least since 1996. I attend nearly all of their meetings. The board members know me well. They need help getting state funding. Buses and an increase in the state’s minimum wage would do wonders. Birmingham does what it can. Late last year, Birmingham raised its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The state legislature made them cut it back to $7.25. State funding would give all communities funds to provide service to their residents.

        1. Marva
          I mean the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority!!They seem to be the darling of the 7 member senate delegation and the 17 member house delegation from Jefferson County,
          There is funding for transportation but it takes a extra ordinary effort to secure such.

          1. Please give me a name or the names of its members. I’m sure I could look them up but I’m taking the easy way out. Our conversation is the fastest response I’ve ever had to anything.

        2. Marva
          I mean the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority!!They seem to be the darling of the 7 member senate delegation and the 17 member house delegation from Jefferson County,
          There is funding for transportation but it takes a extra ordinary effort to secure such.

        3. Far too few people know or care about how very important this is, or even how wide a variety of people would find public transportation more advantageous than driving.

          Also, far too many homes have been built too far away from work and places such as shopping and recreational opportunities.

          Density is the term used for dwelling per square mile. Intensity is the term for use other than dwelling such as commercial, business etc. When those are at a high level, the cost of increased frequency of public transit goes down.

          The place that is just beginning to show results of increasing density is the center of Birmingham. Building new housing there could be increased significantly, as it is becoming clear that the demand is high and the supply low, thus the cost of new housing is high.

          As I have said, this is all connected and all of it is very complex and yet completely necessary for the enhancement of the quality of life for the citizens as well as visitors.
          Unfortunately on this subject politicians are so little informed that I am sure they hardly even know what or who to ask! It takes people like you to assist and advance this cause.
          This is truly serious

          THANK YOU for taking your forward steps! I wish the best results.

          1. Thanks Roy. I was so disappointed when Birmingham still lost a lot of people in the 2020 census. Especially with all the building you see in the downtown and Southside areas. But I guess a lot of its outer neighborhoods were still losing population. I hope that will stop.

            You might have heard of the Birmingham Xpress, a route that runs from the Crossplex to Woodlawn. It’s a wonderful addition to our system. It runs every 15-30 minutes till 11:00 pm. But the problem is that over quite a bit of the route, the population density is low. I think especially on the west side. I went to a neighborhood meeting of the North Titusville Association a few years ago. Birmingham Xpress goes through that area. The residents said they didn’t want apartments to be built in their neighborhood. I think there may be one or two apartment complexes there. I think I kind of understand why they’re opposed. They say they associate apartments with blight. The residents are trying to keep their houses nice and maintain property values. In my opinion, somehow we need to break this connection between multifamily housing and blight. If the minimum wage in Birmingham could be higher, there’s a good chance there would be less blight.

    1. Go to there website as they had some changes last year I think? I am sure you will be welcomed with open arms at their monthly meetings!!
      Each one was appointed by the local delegation !
      Good luck!!!

  10. Ted
    Thanks for going to these neighborhood meetings! Can you believe 99 neighborhoods and 23 communities in 2024? North Titusville and South Titusville?!What is that really about?
    These neighborhoods do not feel they are a part of the ecosystem in the city for some reason?

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