The following statement from Randall Woodfin was published on Wednesday, July 12 in response to the Grassroots Coalition’s The Black Agenda.
I would like to thank the Grassroots Coalition for the opportunity to respond to your questionnaire on the Black Agenda for Birmingham. I am running for Mayor because we have an Administration that has lost its way and failed to deliver for the majority of people that live in our city.
I am a lifelong resident of Birmingham. Like many of you, I see the City’s decline west of I-65, north of Uptown, and east of First Avenue bridge under Mayor Bell’s leadership. All of Birmingham deserves better, and as Mayor, I look forward to engaging the Grassroots Coalition as we seek to create a City Hall that works for everyone – particularly Birmingham’s black residents who have found ourselves on the outside looking in in terms of neighborhood revitalization, economic opportunity, and neighborhoods that have become increasingly more violent.
I share the Grassroots Coalition’s commitment to ending poverty in Birmingham, and my agenda includes a range of proposals that would invest in Birmingham’s minority-owned businesses, clean energy and ensuring that any company that contracts with the City of Birmingham pays its workers a minimum of $10.10 an hour. I would also align with the Grassroots Coalition to continue to fight in Montgomery to advocate for home rule in Birmingham.
Investing in Birmingham’s Minority-Owned Businesses and Expanding Black Wealth
Little has changed since the City’s 2007 Disparity Study finding that only 2.2% of construction revenues, for example, went to minority-owned businesses. The City has done little to systematically support Birmingham’s minority-owned businesses. Instead, the entity charged with attempting to support minority owned-businesses – the Birmingham Construction Industry Authority – has become a source of cronyism and is now the target of an ongoing investigation. As Mayor, I would execute a nine-point agenda to support Birmingham’s minority-owned businesses by:
- Launching the Birmingham Office of Business Opportunity that would seek to create opportunities for minority-owned business to contract with the City across all industries.
- Directing the City Law Department to commission an update of the 2007 Disparity Study and to draft a resolution for the City Council directing the Birmingham Office of Business Opportunity to implement voluntary programs across the City to ensure fairer access to contracting opportunities with City Hall for minority-owned businesses.
- Creating an Office of Contract Compliance within the City Law Department to ensure that contractors actually comply with contracts that include minority participation goals.
- Issuing a “Diverse Spend Scorecard” showing how much the City of Birmingham spends with minority-owned businesses.
- Forming the Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council that would develop a small business growth strategy for the City of Birmingham where no less than half of the members of the Council will be Birmingham-based minority-owned businesses.
- Instructing the City Purchasing Department to include a score for diversity and inclusion in City requests for proposals where the City will prioritize vendors that can demonstrate that they have active supplier diversity programs.
- Conducting an Annual Survey of Birmingham Small Businesses.
- Beginning the process of automating the City’s processes to obtain licenses and permits.
- Creating a “one stop shop” for Birmingham small businesses within the Office of Economic Development that would offer free consultative sessions to small business owners on properly licensing, registering and operating their businesses in Birmingham.
Birmingham has made little progress in implementing its own Sustainability Plan beyond press releases from the Bell Administration. As Mayor, I would take a number of steps to implement the City’s Sustainability plan, including:
- Creating an Office of Sustainability within the Office of Economic Development that would actually work to implement the City’s Sustainability Plan.
- I would also join the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s 100% Clean Energy pledge where my Office of Sustainability would work to begin the process of transitioning City-owned buildings and properties to renewable energy by 2027.
Community Policing and Criminal Justice Reform
51 homicides have been reported in the city as of July 2, putting the city on pace for 107 for the year – a total the city had not reached in over a decade. The City of Birmingham has put more energy into the Birmingham Violence Reduction Initiative as it relates to public relations, instead of a strategy for making our neighborhoods safer. I have comprehensive agenda that seeks to stop crime before it happens by investing in our youth and addressing the root causes of crime in our communities, including:
- Investing in our youth by engaging Birmingham’s business and philanthropic community to expand the Birmingham Police Athletic Team program throughout the city; expanding and enhancing youth employment programs through the Mayor’s Division of Youth Services; and, identifying and deploying public and private resources to support more intensive mentoring, counseling, and job placement services for nonviolent juvenile ex-offenders.
- Instituting a criminal justice reform agenda that would, inter alia, establish a Civilian Oversight Board to help optimize the performance of our police department and promote open communication and better relations between the BPD and the citizens it serves; partnering with the Jefferson County District Attorney to launch a community prosecution program, focused on deterring low-level crimes through both prosecution and intervention in the lives of juvenile offenders; and, initiating a public review of the “Use of Force” policy for the BPD, including substantive input from citizens and other community stakeholders like the Grassroots Coalition.
Transparent, Accountable, and Responsive Local Government
I share the Grassroots Coalition’s concerns that the Bell Administration is one of the most opaque and unaccountable administrations that Birmingham has ever seen. As Mayor, I would reverse course and seek to become the most open City Hall in the country by instituting a six-part transparency agenda that would include:
- Building on the City Council’s field hearings and post-budget tours by introducing a “participatory budgeting” pilot program where neighborhood leadership and Birmingham residents set the priorities for development projects in their neighborhoods.
- Repairing the relationships between the Mayor and City Council by working with each City Council member to identify key shared district priorities between them and my office and assign rapid response teams of city agencies to each City Council member that can quickly address city service delivery issues in their districts.
- Making the Mayor’s travel schedule and expenditures and meeting and visitor logs available on the City website.
- Eliminating the Mayor’s permanent security detail.
- Banning any close relatives of the Mayor from working for the City in any role that could potentially influence City contracts.
- Engaging the Birmingham state delegation to advocate for mayoral term limits such that no Mayor can serve more than two four-year terms.
As former President of the Birmingham Board of Education, I can personally attest to the lack of engagement between Birmingham City Schools and City Hall despite an obvious role for the City to play in investing in our parents and our students. As Mayor, I would execute an education agenda that would include:
- Establishing early childhood learning centers for eligible 3 and 4-year old Birmingham residents and develop early childhood programming for City-run early childhood learning centers.
- Advocating for expanding state funding to support 13 additional First Class Pre-K classes in Birmingham City Schools.
- Encouraging the Director of the Birmingham Public Library System to develop a summer reading program for every Birmingham City School student in grades 2-10 not reading at grade level.
- Earmarking funds for the “Fred Shuttlesworth Opportunity Scholarship” which would provide for debt-free community college for every Birmingham City Schools graduate that wants to attend a Jefferson County community college.
- Engaging the Birmingham Board of Education to ensure that every Birmingham City Schools graduate graduates with both a diploma and an Alabama Career Readiness Certificate.
- Directing the Division of Youth Services to partner with Birmingham City Schools’ career academies, UAB and Birmingham’s growing technology sector to create summer “school-to-startup pipeline” giving STEM and business exposure opportunities for high-achieving Birmingham City Schools career academy juniors and seniors.
The residential building boom in downtown Birmingham hasn’t benefitted the average Birmingham resident, and the Bell administration has done little to expand the supply of affordable housing. As Mayor, I would expand the supply of affordable housing for lower and moderate-income Birmingham residents by:
- Expanding the City’s investments in the Birmingham Land Bank Authority.
- Developing partnerships between the Land Bank Authority and local not-for-profit organizations that would be willing to acquire land banked properties and maintain long-term affordability through the use of community land trusts.
- Encouraging the Alabama Housing Finance Authority to bolster homebuyer assistance programs for teachers and first responders.
Health and Wellness
Yet another area where I believe the current administration has failed to deliver for Birmingham residents is attracting grocery stores to neighborhoods outside of downtown, including the highly-public failure to lure Calhoun Foods to Birmingham. I would work to eliminate Birmingham’s food deserts by:
- Aggressively leveraging city tax incentives to bring grocery stores to Birmingham neighborhoods outside of downtown.
- Creating opportunities in Birmingham for the recruitment or expansion of an African-American owned grocery chain to solve Birmingham’s food desert challenges.
Click here to learn more about The Woodfin Plan