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David Sher

David Sher

Today’s guest blogger is Charles Kinnaird.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

We are bombarded with news of political discord at the local, state, and national level. One can get disheartened watching news broadcasts these days, wondering if we can safely navigate the political shoals ahead. Recently I found a place where everything seemed to be working, in spite of what the news media may report.

 I received a summons to jury duty which led to an opportunity to walk the downtown city blocks of Birmingham at lunch time. During that short walk, I re-discovered the city and found a vibrant and hopeful America.

Last year who would have predicted that Donald Trump might win the Republican Primary?

Last year who would have thought that Bernie Sanders would still be giving Hillary Clinton heartburn?

People have become so unhappy with the status quo that they are willing to vote for outsiders and non-traditional candidates.

It’s become totally impossible to predict elections and that may be true for Birmingham also.

 

I was energized to write this piece because of a comment made by a ComebackTown guest blogger last week.

He predicted that African-Americans will control Birmingham’s government for the rest of our lifetime.

I’m not so sure.

Birmingham voters might consider electing  a Mayor of either race if the candidate presented solid ideas that could transform Birmingham neighborhoods, schools, public transportation, and increase jobs and wages.

Birmingham is 73% African-American, but I believe blacks would be open to a candidate who might improve their lives.

Sadiq Khan was just elected Mayor of London England.  He’s the first Muslim mayor of any Western capital city–which is truly remarkable since Muslim’s represent only 12% of London’s population.

Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 and 2012 with a U.S black population of  also about 12%.  Obviously many non-African Americans voted for him.

And this year’s presidential primaries have been totally unpredictable.

No one would have thought Donald Trump, a previous Democrat, billionaire and reality TV star, would defeat 16 Tea Party, conservative, traditional, and Evangelical candidates to be the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican party.

How do you explain Bernie Sanders, a 74 year old Jewish social democrat who had not even been a Democrat, mobilizing young folks 1/2 or 1/3 his age to give Hillary Clinton many sleepless nights?

I want to emphasize that I’m not saying a white mayor would be better than a black mayor.

And I’m not maligning the current administration.  Birmingham has made more progress in the last few years than in the previous twenty.

No candidate should be excluded from consideration because of his/her race.  I’m sure most people, and certainly African-Americans, would agree.

The Mayoral and City Council elections are next year.

I don’t know if a strong non-black candidate will be brave enough to step forward to lead Birmingham.  Maybe not.

But I do know that Birmingham citizens deserve options.

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).

There are two Birminghams.

At least two.

The historical reason for our two Birminghams is known to most of us.  Our history of racial segregation and economic colonialism is pretty widely known.  The result of Birmingham operating under those conditions for nearly all of its first 100 years, has left people of good intentions trying to overcome a terrible legacy–a legacy of unprincipled abuse leads to a world of fear and doubt and mistrust.

How can any white man, in a suit, be trusted?

And, that was an undercurrent of the message that I heard at the open City Council meeting held March 17th on the issue of consideration of proposed changes to the Mayor-Council Act of 1955.  The meeting was called to address the political question.  The political question quickly devolved into one of racial politics pitting whites (always described as Republican plantation owners) against blacks (always, citizens of Birmingham). (Never mind that I and other white citizens of Birmingham were in attendance in support of the City Council.)

And, it got worse.  Those who would support efforts to strip the City Council of its current authorities are reinstituting slavery—and if they are black folk doing so, they are Uncle Toms carrying the water for their white masters.  It was said—with a straight face– that whites are moving back into Birmingham to take over the control of the City from African-Americans. (Never mind that even if there was a conspiracy to do just that, the numbers are so disproportionate that such could never happen in our lifetimes.)  Inflammatory language was used that rivals any racist comments made anywhere and anytime—including a description of some whites who are moving back into the East Lake area being—“you know–not the kind of whites that are good for the area.”

I found this appalling.  And what was also appalling is that I did not hear one (of the so many) pastor’s voice raised to decry the depiction of this being a racial issue as opposed to what it was—a raw political power play that should be defeated. Expecting rationality in the midst of this heated political issue though is probably irrational itself.

But, what was even more appalling than this?  There was the utter lack of involvement and engagement of white business leadership of the City in attendance.  To my eye, there was not one white so-called “business leader” nor one white non-profit leader in attendance.  The message heard loud and clear by Birmingham’s black residents by the total absence of such white leadership, was “it’s not our problem” and “we don’t care.”

So, what is the legacy of two Birminghams?

The legacy of two Birminghams can be summed up simply as this: all of the development in the City Center, Lakeview and Avondale, including Regions Park, Railroad Park, new condominiums, new restaurants, do not directly address the need for help for the neighborhoods of Birmingham suffering economic decline.  Such development only attracts white people to come to the City to play and in some cases to live.

Both the Council and the Mayor are between a rock and a hard place.  The residents vote them into their jobs, and the residents want attention paid to their neighborhood infrastructure.  But, the Council and the Mayor understand that the revenue to do anything meaningful in the neighborhoods is dependent upon the growth of the City Center and entertainment districts such as Avondale, Lakeview and Uptown.  That is, the ad valorem tax base in the neighborhoods alone cannot sustain needed neighborhood improvements. (In FY 2015, the Revenues for the City were budgeted to be $390 million of which only $23 million [less than 6%] were to come from ad valorem property taxes).  So, no growth in sales tax and license fees, means no money to fund neighborhood infrastructure improvement.

Regrettably, today when a politician tries to explain the economic facts of life, that politician becomes the enemy of those who live in needy neighborhoods.

The goal for 2017 should be to get voters to see the larger picture.  Baking a bigger and better pie will drive revenues to the City Budget, so that the serious problems of blight, flooding and crime and schools can be tackled.  Then, it is a matter of electing people—regardless of race– who don’t have a vested interest in the jobs and contracts to be let to do the work—but only have a vested interest in having the work truly, properly and meaningfully accomplished for the good of the City and the residents of Birmingham.

The answer to “There are two Birminghams” must be “We are all in this together.”  We are going to succeed together or we are going to fail separately and miserably.  My hope and prayer is that there are enough people of good will who will encourage our resident citizens to lay aside their mistrust and leave racism in the trash bin where it belongs.

Maury Shevin—passionate about the City of Birmingham–lives, works, thinks and plays on Birmingham’s Southside.

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).

ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.

Today’s guest blogger is Maury Shevin.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

 

Surprisingly Awesome is my favorite podcast.  Each episode explores topics that would put most people to sleep, but the show makes boring topics interesting and fun.

Subjects like pigeons, mold, or concrete become fascinating.

Birmingham, Alabama would be the perfect topic for the show.

Birmingham may sound boring—but Birmingham is Surprisingly Awesome.

The Birmingham story is definitely not boring—it’s been one crazy roller coaster ride.

Birmingham probably shouldn’t have been born in the first place and it’s a miracle that she has survived.

Every time Birmingham appears to be on the verge of greatness, she stumbles and falls.

For those of you who don’t know Birmingham, she’s the largest city in the state of Alabama.  Birmingham’s the economic and financial center of the state.  She is mountainous and beautiful and her people are kind and generous.

You probably know the names of many Southern Cities—Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans.  You likely have read about their role in the Civil War.  General Sherman may have marched through Atlanta, but he never marched through Birmingham, because Birmingham wasn’t founded until 1871—six years after the Civil War.

Birmingham had a late start, but she took off like a rocket.

Birmingham is founded

Land developers heard about the possible location of the intersection of the North & South and Alabama & Chattanooga Railroads.  It was like knowing the location of an Interstate exit today, but a 1,000 times bigger.  Right from the start, real estate values soared.

Two catastrophes strike Birmingham

But bad luck hit Birmingham almost immediately.  In the summer of 1873 a cholera epidemic slammed Birmingham causing thousands to flee the city.  And in the fall, just as the epidemic subsided, the economic Panic of 1873 hammered Birmingham causing many others to leave also.  Birmingham was fighting for her young life within two years of her founding.

Birmingham roars back

There are very few places on earth where iron ore, limestone, and coal are located next to one another—and one of those areas is Birmingham.  Iron ore, limestone, and coal are required to smelt iron—and this amazing coincidence propelled Birmingham to become the industrial center of the New South.

In 1907 when U.S. Steel bought Tennessee Iron and Coal (TCI) Birmingham’s economy exploded.  In addition–manufacturing rails and railroad cars made Birmingham a railroad industrial center.

Birmingham soon became known as, “The Magic City,” and “The Pittsburgh of the South.

The depression punished Birmingham like no other city in America

In October, 1929, the stock market crashed.  U.S. Steel closed its Birmingham mills leaving only 8,000 of its 108,000 local workers employed causing the Hoover administration to call Birmingham “the hardest hit city in the nation.”  Birmingham was devastated and many people thought Birmingham might never recover.

U.S. war effort propels Birmingham

The city that had gotten financially annihilated by the depression was indispensable during World War II.  The mills that sat empty through the 1930’s ran at full capacity during the war.  Birmingham’s economy was roaring and Birmingham was again leading the South.

Racial violence destroys Birmingham’s reputation

Most every city in the South fought integration, but Birmingham had the misfortune to have a hotheaded Bull Connor as police and fire commissioner.  Birmingham saw its image annihilated when Connor dispersed black protesters with high-pressure fire hoses and dogs in 1962.  This unwelcomed notoriety was reinforced by the horrific bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, in which four little black girls were killed by white racists.

Birmingham suffers the consequences

In 1960, 340,887 people lived in Birmingham.  Her population shrank to 212,247 by 2014 as white flight and then black flight hit the city.  The much broader Birmingham-Hoover seven county metropolitan area was stagnant also–while other Southern metropolitan areas celebrated double digit increases in population.

Birmingham was in a rut and many of her citizens had given up on her future.

But then something awesome happened to Birmingham

Just when all hope seemed to fade, something amazing happened to Birmingham.

Even though Birmingham had lost much of her manufacturing and steel industry, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) picked up the slack.  UAB now occupies over 100 square blocks, is the largest employer in the state, and has a $5 billion economic impact on the region.

Then, unexpectedly, Birmingham found herself in the middle of an amazing renaissance punctuated by a $1 billion construction boom.  Even the population of the city began to grow.

As one visitor recently posted on Facebook, “Birmingham, Alabama is amazing!!! The people are so friendly, the food is yummy!! One thing is better than the other. The community is so welcoming, and to top it all off it is beautiful!”

And even more remarkable–Birmingham is working to take advantage of one of her biggest blemishes–turning its historic downtown into a Civil Rights landmark by becoming a National Park.

Is this finally Birmingham’s time?

This blog is titled ComebackTown because Birmingham always seems to be on the verge of a comeback.

Will this latest comeback be the one that finally allows Birmingham to achieve her potential?

Whether Birmingham makes it this time or not—you must admit that Birmingham is Surprisingly Awesome!

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-CEO 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).

Before you folks who favor raising the Birmingham minimum wage start beating me up…please listen to what I have to say.

This piece is not about whether raising the minimum wage is a good idea or not. I’ve read arguments for and against and I’m not taking sides.

This is about raising the minimum wage specifically for the City of Birmingham. In case you haven’t kept up with the news, the City of Birmingham recently passed legislation to increase the minimum wage. The Alabama State Legislature immediately overruled that legislation denying that right for any Alabama city.

Why minimum wage hike for Birmingham is pointless

If you had a business in a food court that tried to sell Coca-Cola for $2.00 when 35 competing restaurants in plain sight sold it for $1.00–you wouldn’t sell many Cokes. The City of Birmingham is surrounded by 35+ municipalities. If it makes rules that drive up the cost of doing business in Birmingham, companies will select locations nearby. Gas stations near the Alabama state line are much busier than gas stations just inside Georgia and Florida. Gas taxes are lower in Alabama and people choose to save money on gas.

When you drive to Atlanta on I-20, you may have noticed when you get close to the Georgia state line, you pass two fireworks superstores—one on either side of the interstate. Ever wonder why? Until recently, the State of Georgia banned the sale of fireworks. So people from Georgia were forced to travel to Alabama to make their fireworks purchases. However, Georgia must have realized the folly in their law and eliminated the fireworks retail ban in 2015. People cross over the state line to buy lottery tickets in Georgia and they travel to Mississippi to gamble.

What does this have to do with implementing a minimum wage for Birmingham?

It’s pointless for governments to tell people what to do when they have other legal options. The same is true for businesses. Companies are like people. When companies have options, they act in their own interest. That’s how human nature and the free enterprise system works. When a company considers opening a headquarters or branch in Jefferson County, before they select a site, they will study the cost of doing business there. The City of Birmingham compared to Homewood, Hoover, or other surrounding cities has higher business taxes higher sales taxes 1% occupational tax for the employees , managers, and owners and–if allowed-would have a higher minimum wage.

You may have read that cities like Louisville have successfully enacted minimum wage legislation. However, Louisville has one county/city government. Every company in the county pays the same taxes and the same minimum wage. There is no advantage for a company to select one neighborhood of Louisville over another.

The City of Birmingham is painted into a corner.

Every time we raise a tax or make a decision that penalizes business—we lose businesses and jobs. If our goal is to raise people out of poverty by hiking the minimum wage, the end result will be the opposite. Companies and jobs will avoid the City of Birmingham–and who could blame them?

Maybe the City should lower its taxes and companies will move out of the suburbs into the City. That seems to be the way we solve problems here.

We are the enemy and we compete against one another.

A minimum wage for the City of Birmingham?–not a good idea unless it’s implemented by all surrounding municipalities. And we have plenty of surrounding municipalities.

Editor’s note: I own a minority interest in a business located in Hoover. (Not in the City of Birmingham). All employees make more than minimum wage.

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-CEO 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).

Last week Blake Scott Ball, a doctoral student in history at UA, wrote a scathing piece attacking Mountain Brook for al.com titled A brief history of Mountain Brook picking on Birmingham.

He talked about Mountain Brook’s history of ‘establishing segregation laws‘ and ‘moving children out of Birmingham school systems.’

Then there was the national news story in November when Mercutio Southall Jr. was attacked at the Donald Trump rally at the BJCC and complained,“Birmingham is 75 percent black, so why did he (Trump) choose to come here?  He could have gone to Mountain Brook…”

Why is Mountain Brook such a lightning rod?

I’ve published well over 200 blogs and when the headline includes the words ‘Mountain Brook’ I have to brace myself for the reaction.

Is it jealousy or some kind of attitude by Mountain Brook residents?

When I publish a piece about Mountain Brook I always disclose that I grew up and raised my children in Mountain Brook and am currently living in Vestavia Hills.

I cringe when I make the disclosure because I know some folks will instantly judge me. Commenters have labeled me  ‘elitist’ or ‘snobby.’

It’s clear some people think residents of Mountain Brook are rich and pretentious, but I have  the greatest respect and admiration for my Mountain Brook friends.  Many are heavily involved in our broader community–volunteering, serving on boards and leadership positions of non-profits, and donating to charities.

This is as it should be because people with money should be generous with their time and resources.

But why the huge divide?  Why does the income and racial chasm seem to be greater in Birmingham than other Southern cities?

We in Birmingham have divided ourselves into 35+ municipalities defined by race and income.

Birmingham is perceived as black and poor; Mountain Brook as white and rich.

Nashville, our neighbor to the north, is one great county-city.  It is neither perceived as black/white or rich/poor.   Folks in Nashville share a common mission and vision–while we concentrate on our differences and bicker amongst ourselves.

When I talk about regional governance, some people tell me that will never happen in Birmingham because the folks in Mountain Brook are happy with their isolated life in the suburbs.

The folks in Mountain Brook may not realize it, but they are not getting what they want.

Many citizens of Mountain Brook are attorneys, doctors, accountants, and business owners.  The growth of their businesses and practices are limited by the stagnation of metropolitan Birmingham.

We in Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills, as other parents in our Birmingham region, are losing our children and grandchildren to more progressive cities.

I have a Vestavia Hills friend who is currently participating in a monthly area-wide forum looking for solutions for our  Birmingham region.

She was surprised and disappointed by the resentment shown to her and the other over the mountain participants.  This has dented her enthusiasm for working towards a better Birmingham.

So is the problem the people of Mountain Brook or the perception of the people of Mountain Brook?

What do you think?

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 the publisher of ComebackTown and is co-CEO 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).

ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.

Today’s guest blogger is Willie Chriesman.  If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.

“Can We All Get Along?”

It was a desperate cry from the late Rodney King who spoke those words in the wake of the Los Angeles riots of 1992.

But too often when that question is asked of local government leaders around here, the answer seems usually to be “no.”

We have a long history in the metro area of refusing to work together, even when doing so could bring significant financial and civic benefit.

Infamously, we lost $100 million of federal money in 2009 earmarked for improving local transit. All because local governments couldn’t come up with a plan to provide a 20% match and a steady revenue stream for the project. And it’s not as if our woefully inadequate transit system couldn’t use the cash. It still hasn’t figured how to get passengers to neighboring communities without going all the way into downtown Birmingham and out again.

It’s not as though regional cooperation hasn’t been tried. In 2005, the communities of Homewood, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and Irondale proposed building a regional jail to lower costs and increase efficiencies. It even got to the point where Birmingham was involved in the discussion and the old Century Plaza shopping mall was considered as a location. The idea of a regional jail may have looked like a pretty good one, but it was all but dead by 2011 because the municipalities couldn’t “get along” in figuring out a plan to get it done.

But regional cooperation can be done. Even here. The Jefferson County Library Cooperative is one example. It provides a network in which the 40 public libraries in Jefferson County work together to provide service to all of the county’s citizens, from Ensley to Mountain Brook, from Hoover to Trussville and all the communities in between.

There’s even talk of making another go at the federal transit money we lost out on in the last decade.

Why is it so hard for us to pull together as a region and work together on things that make sense for us to work together on? I once asked that question of an Over-the-Mountain mayor a few years back. He said it all came down to trust, trust among our various communities and their leaders.

If we could overcome that trust issue (or whatever it is that holds back regional cooperation), think of the areas where we could make huge strides forward—in transportation, business and industry, tourism, education.

One recent promising sign can be seen in the cities of Bessemer, Fairfield and Midfield teaming up to build a pre-K program that would serve children from all three districts. The school boards in those municipalities realize they can do much more for their children by working together than by going it alone.

A burgeoning system of trails, walkways and bike paths sprawling around the metro area and crossing many political boundaries is another sign that maybe, just maybe, we can do a better job of working together for our area’s future. It is likely more unified government around here will be long in coming, if ever. In the meantime, developing these cross-community alliances and partnerships may go a long way in achieving many of the same goals.

Recently, I heard another Over-the-Mountain mayor say there’s a lot more regional cooperation going on around here than people know. Isn’t it time we start seeing that cooperation work for us and for all of our communities?

Willie Chriesman is a Birmingham-area native and a veteran of the media industry. He works as a media consultant and writer/producer.

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-CEO 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).

I got into a heated conversation with a good friend. She told me she read that Huntsville may soon pass Birmingham as the largest city in Alabama–and was sure Birmingham would soon be relegated to second place. This made no sense to me.

Who really cares if the City of Huntsville is bigger than the City of Birmingham because Metropolitan Birmingham is nearly three times as large as Metropolitan Huntsville. Huntsville’s not even in the same league as Birmingham. U.S. Census 2013 estimate City of Birmingham 212,113 City of Huntsville 186,254 Metropolitan Birmingham 1,140,300 Metropolitan Huntsville, 435,737

Okay, the cities themselves are close in size–but that’s only because we in Jefferson County divide ourselves into 35+ separate municipalities.

I’m not happy about our multiple municipalities, but Huntsville is still not Birmingham. In 2000 Louisville, Kentucky became the last major city in the U.S. to consolidate county and city government. Louisville’s big motivation was that Lexington consolidated its government and Louisville was about to become the second largest city in Kentucky. Birmingham did have an opportunity in the early ’70’s to be one great city–but we fumbled the ball. Birmingham could have been the largest city in the South

In 1970 when Mayor Vann was promoting consolidating the City of Birmingham with its suburbs, he said… “I have estimated the population of the area included at 550,000… I believe that this would make the City of Birmingham the largest city in the South and would really give new impetus with Atlanta, vis-à-vis airports and other issues. I also feel that it would possibly make the (proposed) occupational tax unnecessary for the City of Birmingham.” Vann’s ‘One Great City’ was defeated and the population of the City of Birmingham went into free-fall. Birmingham’s population dropped 12% in the 60’s; 5% in the 70’s; 6% in the 80’s; 9% in the 90’s; and 12% in the 00’s.

It’s depressing that instead of Birmingham being one of the great cities of the South that we’re now debating whether we will be second in Alabama.

It’s not too late for Birmingham Finally, in 2014 the population in the City of Birmingham reversed direction and had a slight increase. Currently there are more than 2,000 residential units planned or under construction in downtown, Southside, and Parkside within the City of Birmingham. Birmingham neighborhoods like Southside, Woodlawn, and Avondale are seeing a resurgence. There are even 30-60 new homes being developed in East Lake.

And even more amazing, we’re beginning to have a meaningful conversation about how we might improve our segmented/dysfunctional governance.

Quite frankly, the young generation of Birmingham is not going to stand for the backward white versus black/rich versus poor rhetoric of my generation. The youth is our future. Yes, if you look at a 20 year history of Birmingham’s loss of population and Huntsville’s growth, you might come to the conclusion that Birmingham is in trouble. But we in Birmingham are in the process of turning ourselves around and the best is yet to come.

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-CEO 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).

The level of crime in Birmingham is being misrepresented.

Every year respected publications like Forbes include Birmingham in its list of one of the 10 most dangerous cities in America.  Our propensity to crime is just accepted as part of our DNA.

However, the comparison between Birmingham and other cities is flawed. The City of Birmingham, one of 35+ municipalities in Jefferson County, is measured against cities with consolidated governments (county/city) that include much broader boundaries.

Birmingham’s crime statistics don’t include Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Trussville, etc., where there is very little crime. Nashville and other cities with metropolitan (county/city) governments average in their suburbs.

So, for instance, the City of Birmingham is compared to Nashville/Davidson County, Tennessee.

Here’s the latest FBI statistics for 2013 Metropolitan Birmingham (5 counties) to Metropolitan Nashville and Memphis:

Violent crimes per 100,000 residents*

Birmingham 529.8

Nashville 596.1

Memphis 992

Number of violent crimes

Birmingham 2,852

Nashville 6,612

Memphis 10,894

Can you imagine what the crime rate must be in the urban areas of Nashville and Memphis? Their number of violent crimes dwarfs Birmingham.

At least Birmingham gets to include the low crime statistics of downtown which has crime rates comparable to Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills.

 

This information was originally presented in article by David Sher of Comeback Town.

For more information, click here

 

 

I must be nuts. I’m actually writing an article that might be perceived as negative about the most popular and respected man in Alabama—maybe in Alabama history.

This story broke January 9th; about the same time Nick Saban and the UA football team won the National Championship—but wanting to show sensitivity to Saban worshipers (which include me), I waited until this week to publish. I

want to make it clear that Coach Saban and his business partners are not doing anything wrong, illegal, or immoral. What they are doing is every bit as smart and clever as Saban’s decision to execute an onside kick against Clemson that ultimately led to Alabama winning the National Championship.

Here’s the story...

Mercedes Benz of Birmingham, a car dealership co-owned by Alabama football coach Nick Saban, is located in Hoover. The city council of Irondale recently voted to offer the dealership $13 million to relocate to Irondale. I think you will agree that Saban and his partners would be crazy to turn down $13 million. Did Irondale doing anything wrong? Absolutely not! Irondale is fighting for its financial survival. It’s standard practice for Birmingham area municipalities to pay huge incentives to steal local businesses from one another.

  • Irondale snatched Tom Williams Buick from Birmingham. Then
  • Birmingham pilfered Wal-Mart from Irondale with $11 million dollars in incentives;
  • Irondale tried to snag Trinity Medical Center from Birmingham, but
  • the City of Birmingham offered Trinity $55 million to remain in the city limits.

I could overwhelm you with examples of tax payer funded multi-million dollar payoffs. I write about them all the time… Let’s spend $125 million stealing from one another Let’s flush $5.27 million dollars down the toilet

How to extort money from the City of Homewood

I estimate municipalities in our region have spent close to $150 million stealing businesses away from one another—with absolutely no economic gain for our region. We get no more companies and no more jobs. We’re only burning tax payer dollars that could be better spent to recruit out of state companies, help our schools, or provide critical services.

Meanwhile we continue to lose our large public companies–having squandered incentive money. We lost three more public companies in 2015…

  • Walter Energy
  • Protective Life
  • Books-A-Million

Nashville is flourishing because Nashville City and Davidson County are one entity. Nashville doesn’t have to waste dollars enticing businesses to move from one side of town to the other. Nashville uses its incentives to bring in new corporations. The City of Boston just gave $50 million in incentives to entice General Electric to move to Boston from Fairfax, Connecticut.

I’m certainly not saying we could recruit GE to Birmingham, but with a $150 million war chest—we could be kicking butt!

What happens if Mercedes Benz of Birmingham goes to Irondale? If the City Council of Hoover is paying attention, which I’m sure they are, they might consider upping the incentive to keep Mercedes Benz of Birmingham in Hoover or find incentive money to steal a business or two from some other municipality in our region.

A simple fix:  Elected officials sign Denver Mile High Compact Elected officials sign Denver Mile High Compact

We actually don’t have to create a new government structure to solve this problem.

We could follow the example of Denver, Colorado.

In August 2000, five counties and 25 municipalities in and around Denver voluntarily came together to sign the Mile High Compact. The Compact is an intergovernmental agreement not to compete with each other for companies. This has been very effective…and is a simple solution.

Let me summarize Nick Saban and his partners are not bad guys. The folks on the City Council of Irondale are not bad guys. We spend precious tax dollars recirculating the same companies in our region with no economic benefit. We are suckers! 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-CEO 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).

Birmingham Post-Herald (BPH) is Birmingham, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

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