State Representative John Rogers
As a resident of the city of Birmingham, I’ve paid close attention to the race for Mayor between the incumbent, William Bell, and the challenger, Randall Woodfin. As a six-term member of the Alabama House of Representatives, I feel an obligation to speak up about the October 3 runoff, and to tell you that the best candidate for the future of our city — the candidate who cares the most about Birmingham and all of its people — is Randall Woodfin.
I’m voting for Woodfin because he is just what Birmingham needs at this point in time. Randall will bring energy, enthusiasm, and good ideas to City Hall for the first time in a long time. He will surround himself with people who love Birmingham and are motivated to work on behalf of the citizens.
I’m also voting for Woodfin because William Bell is bad for Birmingham, and needs to be stopped before he does any more to damage Birmingham’s ability to govern itself. He needs to be stopped before he gives away the city’s most valuable assets to people and interests that don’t even live in Birmingham.
Why do I say that? Why is William Bell bad for Birmingham?
I say it because I have seen first-hand the things that William Bell has done to increase his own power, and to weaken Birmingham. Like the child who throws a rock and then hides his hand, Bell wants us to believe that he is not responsible for the damage that he has done. But to anybody who’s paying attention — especially to somebody like me, who watched him do it — he can’t deny it.
Start with the changes to Birmingham’s Mayor-Council Act, passed by the Legislature in 2016. Those changes took powers away from the City Council and gave them to the Mayor. They upset the balance of government, and set William Bell up as a dictator, operating with total control and no transparency.
Of course, that’s par for the course for William. When he lost the Mayor’s race in 1999, he went back to being president of the City Council, and led the effort to limit the spending power of the Mayor. Now, with the changes he pushed through the Legislature last year, he can spend all the taxpayer money he wants, on anything he wants, without the Council’s approval.
He can spend your money, without accounting for how much is coming in or going out. If you doubt it, just ask the Mayor’s Office to provide you with an accounting — that’s public information, by the way — and see if you get it. Not even the City Council can get that information.
But Bell wants you to believe that he had nothing to do with the changes in the Mayor-Council Act. He wants you to believe that it was all the idea of my former colleague in the Legislature, Oliver Robinson, who has now been convicted of taking bribes.
That’s a lie. When Oliver introduced the bill to change the Mayor-Council Act, Bell came to Montgomery to argue for it. He took the Jefferson County legislative delegation to dinner to tell us why he needed us to pass this bill. I voted against it. So did two of my Democratic colleagues — five others abstained — but Oliver voted with the nine Republicans in the delegation to make sure it passed.
Bell’s other big power play, which he also denies, has to do with control of the Birmingham Water Works. As the result of legislation that passed in 2015 — once again, William’s friend, Oliver, voted with the Republicans — the Water Works Board has been expanded from five members, all appointed by the Birmingham City Council, to nine. In the new setup, Birmingham gets six seats, but only four appointed by the Council. Now, the Mayor gets two appointments, and suburban interests get to appoint three representatives.
Is that bad for Birmingham? Do the math — and ask yourself who William Bell consults about the appointments he makes.
Are you beginning to see the pattern?
William Bell has orchestrated all of this. He has been in the thick of these moves to take power and resources and control away from Birmingham, and give it to the suburbs. At the same time, he has been about increasing the power of the Mayor, so that the City Council can’t do anything to stop what’s going on.
And I haven’t even mentioned Bell’s role in shutting down Cooper Green Hospital. I haven’t mentioned the slush fund he operates by budgeting for over 100 positions in the Mayor’s Office, and not filling all of them. I haven’t mentioned that only one of the department heads he appointed actually lives in the city of Birmingham.
And now, Bell wants another term as your Mayor, so he can finish the job. I’m going to do all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen. I hope you will, too.
Get out and vote on October 3. Don’t be distracted by all of the mud Bell’s campaign is throwing at Randall Woodfin. Don’t be intimidated on Election Day, when Bell’s paid operatives will be outside polling locations, forcing you and other voters to run a gauntlet to get inside and cast your ballot to take our city in a new and better direction.
William Bell has had nearly 40 years in office — the last seven as Mayor — to make Birmingham better for all of its citizens. Isn’t it time to send him home?
Isn’t it time for a leader who cares about Birmingham? Isn’t it time for a leader who cares about you?
- State Representative John Rogers