Without Birmingham there is no Homewood

Homewood City Hall
Homewood City Hall

By David Sher

I know I’m going to take some flak.

When I publish columns about how our region would prosper with local government consolidation or collaboration, I brace myself for negative comments from folks who think their suburb is superior to Birmingham and imply we’d all be better off if Birmingham didn’t exist.

I don’t know how that would work since the City of Birmingham provides most of the critical jobs and amenities for our region.

We’ll likely never have the Mountain Brook International Airport or Vestavia Hills Protective stadium.

That doesn’t stop comments, however, like these I received from this proud Homewood man:

“Homewood is a thriving community today with great schools, low crime, in demand residential real estate and prosperous commerce. I wonder where it would be today if the acquisition effort by Birmingham back in the 60’s had succeeded?”

“I think the reason Homewood is so successful is precisely because it’s not governed by Birmingham City Hall. Birmingham has made too many mistakes in its brief history for people living outside the city to want to give up their excellent schools and safe neighborhoods in order to pump up the Ham’s population numbers. Birmingham will continue losing population so long as it keeps ignoring the seriously entrenched socioeconomic problems that keep it down.”

“I doubt it. Nashville and Charlotte had powerful things going on for them that Birmingham doesn’t have. Jacksonville is part of a powerful Florida economy. None of them has Birmingham’s crime problem and history of inept leadership over the last 50 years. Louisville has its own problems.”

Here’s the response to those comments I received from a thoughtful reader…

“A question would be where would the entire county, Homewood and Birmingham and Hoover included, be if the initial efforts toward a City-County consolidated government had succeeded back in the late 60s/early 70s?

“We would all be more prosperous if you judge by the experiences of Nashville, Louisville, Charlotte, and Jacksonville, who did just this. Homewood would be even better off if it were a part of a richer, more efficient, consolidated region.”

What would happen if our bodies went rogue?

Humans have 2 arms, 2 hands, 2 legs and 2 feet; 10 fingers and 10 toes, etc.

Each works together remarkably well with one brain keeping our body parts working together.

We wouldn’t survive if each body part did its own thing.

Assume your left arm wanted to play pickleball, your hips wanted to Hula hoop, and your head wanted to bounce a basketball on it.

That describes how our Birmingham region currently operates.

Every mayor and city council in Jefferson County’s 35 municipalities wakes up each day and thinks about what’s best for its municipalities.

That’s 35 cities each going off in their own direction—not concerned about the general health of the region.

According to a report published by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, “the “central city of Birmingham is surrounded by more independent suburbs than any other southern city.

“This pattern of fragmentation has consequences.

“It leads to duplication, creates intra-regional competition, concentrates economic advantage and disadvantage, and diffuses resources and leadership.

“It makes it difficult to arrive at consensus, pursue priorities of regional importance, or deliver services that transcend municipal boundaries.

“Nationally, a substantial body of research indicates that metro areas with more broad-based, cooperative governmental arrangements grow faster and generate greater prosperity than metro areas that are governmentally fragmented, divided into a multitude of independent municipalities.”

We’re suing ourselves

It was was recently reported that the City of Birmingham is suing our Jefferson County Sheriff.

This could never happen between Nashville and Davidson County in Tennessee because Nashville and Davidson County are the same.

Nashville is busy building a prosperous city while we’re busy suing ourselves.

Homewood dependent on broader community

Yes, Homewood is a thriving community, but most every employed person in Homewood works for a company or entity outside of Homewood…many in the City of Birmingham.

Like it or not, we’re all in this together.

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).

Click here to sign up for our newsletter. 

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

(Visited 2,467 times, 4 visits today)

25 thoughts on “Without Birmingham there is no Homewood”

  1. Well David you are very much on point as we are ALL in this together! Until these 13 school systems and 35 cities in Jefferson County elect to focus on the elimination of poverty and crime and equal educational opportunity for all these lawsuits are but one tip of the iceberg! Jefferson County is doing a fairly good job inspite of the fragmentation based on the race and class vestiges in Alabama. This racial diversity is a real strength in Jefferson County! We are at least dealing with the elephant in the room. I remain bullish on these challenges . Birmingham is still the economic engine for Jefferson County and the very prestine suburban communities where some continue to hate on the city residents that are struggling with poverty and crime and educational opportunities. I just do not understand this indifference?

  2. AMEN , David! Apparently, however, economic benefits of One Great City don’t outweigh SEPARATE maintenance /management/personnel / equipment needed to provide Schools, Police, Fire, Zoning, Roads, Utilities , Parks and Recreation, Libraries , Waste , Water, Engineering, Inspections, Courts of Law,
    City Halls, Jails, etc. COMBINING those
    services under one umbrella -a management team representative of all sectors- would SAVE MONEY and PROVIDE BETTER SERVICES TO EVERYONE- especially citizens of
    rural communities- the least among us.
    To me,David , this way is the noble way – striving to better our REGION instead of just “me me me!”

  3. I think this is a great, long overdue idea. However, as I recall the merger vote in 1964, the city government and voting population of Birmingham strongly supported the idea.
    My question : Would the current Birmingham political power structure and voting population support it?

  4. With 33 cities and 13 school systems in 2024 the answer is hell no!!Jefferson County is the new nexus for collaborative development!!

  5. David. once again you have hit the nail right on the head. This argument has been going on for decades. If not for Birmingham, there’s not a one of the 33 municipalities in Jefferson County, which actually is a large part of the growth problem. Let’s look at two Southeastern Cities to see what happened there. in Nashville, vote was held to switch to one government called Nashville-Davidson, TN. Since this happened, Nashville has an NFL Team, Soccer team, NHL team, and will likely have both NBA and Major League Baseball the next time those leagues expand. People are moving to Nashville in droves.
    The other city is Jacksonville, FL. They too held a vote and combined government operations as Jacksonville -Duval, FL and instantly became the largest city in the US by land area. This city also has been awarded NFL Team. So far this is the only pro sports team, but I see others going there. Jacksonville is also growing. What happens in Birmingham and the other 32 separate towns in Jefferson County?? Constant bickering, arguing and one up man ship all the time. The repetition of services is mine boggling and God help if one town gets something that the rest don’t. The screams from the ones that didn’t get whatever it was the town got are enough to make the Pope look for the first bar he can find and get a strong drink. Unless and until at least a majority of the suburbs finally understand that you get so much more when you work together than could ever be hoped for going it alone. Corporate America is very well versed on how the climate is in Jefferson County and Shelby County too. Granted, when population is figured up, there’s more living in the burbs than in Birmingham proper. It’s the same way with every major city in the country. All of this has been told to everyone in Jefferson and Shelby hundreds of times and it falls on deaf ears every time. At the end of the day. it all boils down to this. If you keep on doing what you have always done, you will keep on getting what you you have always gotten. And if you are doing what you have always done expecting different results, you are insane. The Birmingham Mayor has a great vision for the future of the city. Work with him and reap the rewards or keep fighting him and everyone loses. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

    1. Bingo Mark Martin . History is a wonderful teacher. How cites were in Davidson County,.TN and Duvall County,FL before the merger?
      Are school systems merged as well? Did they have the race and class and poverty issue of a civil war that Alabama still suffers from? I greatly admire your commitment to educational opportunity for all my friend. One day these 32 cities and 13 school systems will wake up and realize the current model is not economic sustainability!

  6. Another article cheering from the sidelines. If you truely think this is a problem then be part of the solution. Where is the proposal for a solution? Has it been presented to JeffCo Commission or to city councils of JeffCo suburbs?

    Why not even present a solution in this newsletter? I’m sure there are plenty of folks that can help craft it to be presentable. There may even be people here that could help with getting the ear of politicians.

    1. A bill would have to be first introduced in the Alabama legislature? The Confederate Republicans are not in favor of consolidation. In fact they are solely responsible for this mess we are in with these 32 cities and 13 school systems.
      They enjoy their white political privilege since loosing the Civil War!
      Just the facts regarding Jefferson County

      1. Mr. Munchus, to the question that I raised earlier, do you believe that the majority of voters INSIDE BIRMINGHAM, who evidently (from your comment above) feel that the residents in the outlying communities of Jefferson County have been “enjoy[ing] their white privilege since loosing the Civil War”, would be willing to relinquish the political power they presently have (being the majority), in favor of county-wide political consolidation?

        1. Dick one great question!
          I suspect the residents in the City of Birmingham would vote “hell no”! in 2024 given the current gerrymandered county commission and the gerrymandered state house and senate districts inside Jefferson County which is still in litigation.
          There are resources in Jefferson County that are being tapped into regarding economic and business development. The 32 cities and 13 school systems are interacting kicking and screaming. Land and labor and capital are very mobile and a lot of movement inside Jefferson County.! I remain very bullish on these cities and school systems.

        2. Actually, the last poling on consolidation Im aware of, it was Birmingham and the suburbs to the west and southwest that were in favor. Rest were against. Along about that time there was also talk about Homewood, Hoover, Vestavia, and Mt Brook forming a separate county. That went over like a lead balloon in Montgomery however, so that idea died too.
          The cities around the US that have consolidated government, for the most part love it. So far no city that has taken this route has changed back. And each section of town still has its old identity.

  7. And yet…Homewood, and the other Birmingham suburbs, with the possible exception of Hoover, receive very little national attention despite the residents of these communities jealous defense of their individual fiefdoms. If you watched the Samford Bulldogs rout the Western Carolina Catamounts in basketball last night, you couldn’t help but be proud of the team’s remarkable success. 22-3 record and ranked first in the Southern Conference. But never once did the announcers state that Samford is located in Homewood. They repeatedly said “Birmingham.” Like it or not, Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, etc., need to acknowledge that the national media will always consider them part of Birmingham. Perhaps they all ought to at least emblazon their fire, police, and other municipal vehicles with a text that reads “A Proud City in Metropolitan Birmingham Alabama” or something similar. It would be the least they could do to remind their own residents they are part of a larger whole.

    1. A Proud City In Metropolitan Birmingham Alabama is cool !! I cannot see these 32 cities adopting this statement anytime soon. They seem to prefer their pristine community. If I lived in one of these cities I would be very proud! Be proud of your city and community and want the best for other cities and communities and a big heart!
      We are our brothers and sisters keepers.

  8. It appears most comments on this subject just don’t “get” the potential ECONOMIC benefits? Some of the big $$$ saved by COMBINING public services could be directed to creating a REGION with facilities and services competitive with other southern cities.
    Why should our REGION not want to attract more business and industry and
    high-tech jobs? This is the key that will open that door! Our city should not be afraid of success! NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESS!

    1. Jerome
      Absolutely , but the Confederates in the legislature seem to hate Birmingham and Jefferson County for some odd ball reason ?
      We could really help the entire State of Alabama be a much better place for all! In the meantime we soldier forward my friend. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      1. “…but the Confederates in the legislature seem to hate Birmingham and Jefferson County for some odd ball reason ?”

        Two words: George Wallace. He and his ilk have controlled Alabama politics for decades. He – and they – don’t like Birmingham, Huntsville, or Mobile because these counties did not support Wallace. Why do you think the I-65 Internet system wasn’t finished around these cities back when.

          1. Birmingham and Jefferson County absolutely supported Gov. Wallace. First two terms he got the White Vote. Terms three and four, he won the Black vote.

          2. I did not grow up in this city or state.
            I cannot imagine Black people ever voting for George Wallace. I interact with a lot of Black citizens and they only very very bad things about him.
            You guys need to see Defending Freedom The Life Of Attorney Arthur Shores produced by Jacksonville State University and recently shown on APT .

          3. George Wallace – or as we affectionately called him, Uncle Corly – his middle name, realized the big wrongs he had made and went to Black communities all over Alabama and apologized. The Black communities all forgave him. As far as I know, Uncle Corley is the only person from the segregation era that actually atoned for his sins.
            Im the opposite. I endured 43 years but in Jan 2008, I had chance to move out of Alabama and I jumped for it. I had just lost my mother a few months before that. My relatives showed their true colors in about the most disgusting way imaginable, so the decision was very easy. I still have many great close friends in Birmingham and other parts of the state, so I keep up with what’s going on there.

          4. Mark Martin
            Yes I do remember Wallace coming into Black churches asking for forgiveness . With all the death and destruction he caused in Alabama I do see how you forgive a Governor and a lawyer?
            I guess he was just a man with many flaws as the rest of us also have?
            Thanks for weighing in on us in 2024. I fully understand your decision to leave the state.
            I have met many people who have done the same .

          5. When Wallace was shot in 1972, he was paralyzed from the waist down, but he bounced back and returned to running the state. He was shot 5 times in Laurel, MD where he was campaigning running to US President. He had to drop out of the race. Even he said years later that he’s glad he didn’t win. Wallace did meet with Arthur Bremer and he forgave him for shooting him.
            Wallace was never one to hold a grudge. Though he did say he was enjoying his quiet life until a man named Fob James came much to close to totally ruining Alabama in his for years as governor, which brought George back for one last term. Wallace was among the last of the Dixiecrats. He did a lot of bad things in Alabama, but he did many good things too.

          6. Mark Martin
            Yes I do remember Wallace coming into Black churches asking for forgiveness . With all the death and destruction he caused in Alabama I do see how you forgive a Governor and a lawyer?
            I guess he was just a man with many flaws as the rest of us also have?
            Thanks for weighing in on us in 2024. I fully understand your decision to leave the state.
            I have met many people who have done the same .
            So not necessarily good for Alabama!

  9. Eh, I’m not quite in favor of this to a full out degree (definitely can cut down on the total number of municipalities, but a full out merger of all of them). Though I do want consolidated trash/water/etc, the municipalities don’t actually need to merge to accomplish this. There are deals addressing school districts, policing, utilities, etc that different suburbs have with each other without merging, and I think this really should be put more in the forefront. If this were a call for cross municipal organizations for policing/transit/utilities/schools, etc, I’d be all for that.

    However, have you actually ever lived in these merged cities before? The suburbs don’t magically disappear. They just reform at the edge of the new city border. You get the Brentwoods and Franklins or the Gastonias/Concords, but now they’re 10-20 miles out instead of next to downtown. While its great for the downtown, you start to notice that there’s a bit of an almost uniformity in how the neighborhoods around that center are developed, and it gets a touch boring. I’d much rather have a constructive pushback as nearby as possible, as those slight differences in managing development that the different suburbs have are actually noticeable, and it makes the fabric of the area more noticeably dynamic. Yes, different neighborhoods can have different feels, but there is a bit of a similarity in new build when it comes to Avondale and Southside, for example. The builds would be somewhat different in Vestavia vs Mountain Brook. Part of the appeal of the Bham area over those other cities is that it feels so quick to get to different spots across the metro. A secret aspect to that is that all these different governing preferences are able to exist so close together, and the benefits of each are a short distance from each other (Though public transit…).

    As a potential bad side effect of merging, look at Ensley. Ensley for years has advocates wanting some revitalization in the area. However, from a city standpoint, it’s easy to understand why Smithfield gets more attention at the moment, since it’s right next areas that are doing better. On its own, yes it’d need help with services, but it could open up the a more “self centered” approach the focuses on its own revitalization. I’d really like to see the west side areas revitalize more (Bham and the suburbs), but the best chance I see for that is a municipal “start up” style of approach, and I don’t think a single municipal structure is the best at facilitating that. Right now Fairfield and Bessemer are the main two I can think of as trying, but trying to push a more innovating attitude towards Midfield, Brighton, along with potential “municipal exploring” with Ensley, Pratt, etc. could get a critical mass needed of different experiments to discover a workable gameplan.

    1. Dear AET,
      You are giving a great deal of thought and analysis to this issue of 33 cities and 13 school systems inside Jefferson County and how crime and poverty and education impacts us all!
      Some of what you are saying is taking place as we speak. It is just very slow and not methodically driven. It think humans are seeking heave on earth for themselves and their families. I fully understand that but we live in a capitalist country,
      Warts and all. Please continue to make suggestions to the echo chamber on our Comeback list serve. We have to enlist these Confederate to act for the entire county.
      Any thoughts on how to implement such behavioral change?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *