I grew up in Mt. Brook.
My children went to Mt. Brook schools.
I now live in Vestavia Hills.
I belong to the Rotary Club of Birmingham.
Dr. Ed Richardson spoke recently to our Rotary Club. There was a huge corporate crowd cheering Dr. Richardson as he explained how our State Department of Education is going to fix Birmingham’s dysfunction school system.
However, I became ill when I realized I was in a room full of well intentioned decent people who didn’t realize they, themselves, caused the problem.
The real reason Birmingham and our school system are in turmoil is because most of the people in the room or their parents (including me) abandoned our City.
I bet that less than 20% of the people at that meeting live in the City of Birmingham and 0% has children in the school system.
A respected leader and friend recently told me he couldn’t understand why many of the parents in the Birmingham schools weren’t supporting our business community’s efforts to help them. Why should they? We yanked our children away and left Birmingham to atrophy. Now we’re giving them some fleeting attention.
We’re feeling smug when we created the problem.
Note that this is not a Mt. Brook or Vestavia thing. There are 36 municipalities that ran away from Birmingham and eleven other school systems in Jefferson County. There’s no place like us on earth.
The citizens of Nashville, Jacksonville, and Charlotte aren’t having this conversation because they have a unified government.
I’m not proposing a single government for our region or recommending our school systems combine. That’s not about ready to happen.
We live in a beautiful area with the most generous people in the world. Why aren’t we able to compete with our Southern peer cities?
Other cities work together as a region. We burn our energies and resources by accepting the status quo of our redundant, segmented, dysfunctional governments–and our lack of home rule magnifies our problems.
The purpose of this blog is to begin a community conversation on how we can make things better.
Let’s begin that conversation.
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David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Relationship Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).