Why many are criticizing David Sher

Ever since I began posting blogs with the intent to begin a community conversation on better government, I’ve received my share of criticism.

I was probably a little bit naive, but it came as a surprise.

I have a passion for our Birmingham region and I thought I was doing a good deed.

I’m not running for office and as best I can tell, I’m not benefiting financially. If anyone has any money making ideas, please let me know.  :)

Our government structure is a mess

The City of Birmingham represents only 19% of our metro. There are 37 cities in Jefferson County.  County Commissioners represent a single district (no one commissioner is accountable for our County). We can’t hold our County Commissioners responsible because they are controlled by the State Legislature (State Constitution).

Our political and corporate leadership try to fix the symptoms: bankruptcy, education, health care, public transportation, but they can’t win. No one’s in charge.

We are told we are not allowed to discuss, because the problem is impossible to fix.

The most valid criticism I receive

I’ve been criticized for having secret motives.  I’ve been accused of favoring the City of Birmingham–being against the City of Birmingham; favoring rich people, poor people, white people, black people.

But there may be one criticism that may be valid: “I’m not offering a concrete solution.”  And this makes people unhappy with me.

I feel the decision making process should look like this…and in this order:

• Define the problem

• Generate solutions

• Pick a solution

• Implement that solution

• Measure the outcome and adjust accordingly

We must define the problem first and unless we all agree that our government structure is the problem, it makes no sense to generate solutions.  And, quite frankly, most people haven’t figured out that poor government structure is the root cause of our problems.

The solution(s) should come after enough people agree that our government structure needs to be changed.

What do you think?

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David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 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).

 

 

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22 Responses to Why many are criticizing David Sher

  1. tique says:

    David, just wanted to send you a note of encouragement. I love your columns, but rarely comment. (I just don’t, maybe I should start.) I think there are more out there like me than those who criticize you online. I’ve really enjoyed your columns, especially as someone who has moved back to Bham after 15 years away and is thinking: WHAT HAPPENED?! Then, how can I help fix it? So thank you for bringing up so many great topics and discussions. Just because some of us choose not to comment doesn’t mean we’re not here. Keep up the good fight.

  2. Hard for me to settle on poor government being the root cause of our problems, but without a doubt I believe it is at the top of the list. May be semantics.

    I think it’s ridiculous that you’re facing this kind of criticism for trying to make a difference. You’re doing a great job.

    How do you know when enough people agree with the problem to move to generating solutions?

  3. Charles says:

    I guess we’re still in the definition stage.  As long as the State of Alabama Constitution holds a vice grip on Jefferson County Government, and as long as our delegation is paralyzed to do anything about it, I guess we’re stuck in deep doo-doo.  Perhaps we can make some headway with the County by allowing commissioners to “run at large” thereby eliminating the special interests that paralyze the County government from remaining in control.  As it relates to the City of Birmingham, who knows?  But, I think it’s a step in the right direction that the State BOE has assumed control of the Birmingham BOE–since that body seems rather idiotic and unable to function without spending millions on worthless legal representation*

  4. Don N. Levy says:

    *Go David Go!

    Keep up the good work….

    • Valerie Abbott says:

      David, your blog gives all of us lots of things to think about and that helps to broaden our perspectives on the problems we have.  Martha Stewart would agree – “that’s a good thing”!  Being an elected official, I am either a part of the problem or a part of the solution, depending on your point of view.  No one can dispute that having all of these municipalities in a single county IS indeed wasteful (multiple city halls, court facilities, jails, landfills, and police, fire, and public works departments, for example), but people like it that way because they have THEIRS, and that gives them CONTROL, or so they feel. My guess is that if you held an election today to go to a single county government, less than 25% of the voters would vote YES due to fear of losing control and having elected officials (who, incidentally, are looked down upon as either incompetent or crooked) who would quickly nullify the good things about their communities and exacerbate the bad.  TRUST is what is missing, and until we have elected officials who are there for the betterment of the community above all other reasons, we won’t have a single, united government in Jefferson County.  So, that means regular citizens are going to have to turn off their TVs and start recruiting people that they believe would represent the interests of the people, and then support them with their time and money.  Leaving it to chance has not worked, because when special interest groups FIND and FUND your choices on election day, you get more of the same.  Think about it. DO it. Then you can start working toward a single government in Jefferson County.  And later, you can tackle Montgomery!

  5. Rick Haberstroh says:

    *David, I am sorry to hear of the criticism you have received for opening up a conversation within our own community. Pretty confusing in fact. 

    Reading in the Birmingham News last Friday I read Birmingham has been named as the second most promiscuous city in America – for sugar daddies. Really? Good grief! Are these adults the same ones who think we should not be discussing and formulating improvements?

    As any good mental health professional or survivor of infidelity can attest to, secrets destroy reputations and lives – if we dont talk about our issues in a productive fashion with a goal of education, enlightenment, eventual support – leading to change-how will we ever move forward as a community -on any topic? 

    David, I like many are behind what you are doing! Anyone accusing you of racism, favoritism, hidden agendas, or some sort of socioeconomic polarization does not know the David Sher I have known for twenty years plus. Could these be Birmingham’s very own CAVE dwellers? (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) If so, we know how this story ends already. 

  6. JimfromBham says:

    What has happened to the initiative by local leaders to select one problem, and then successfully solve that problem together as a demonstration that they could work together, and to use as a platform for future projects?*

  7. Durham Ellis says:

    David, I do not agree that our fragmented government structure is the problem.

    Government is not the solution to our problem; government IS the problem”–Ronald Reagan

    So long as any government has a virtual monopoly on our schools, they will be sub-standard.  I know it is un-American, but why not try freedom?  Try vouchers.

  8. David Sher says:

    *Thank you everyone for your comments.  Our goal is to create a conversation to improve our metro Birmingham government (and State Constitution).  I’d say we’re off to a good start.  Please continue to comment and give us your feedback.

  9. Henry Neff says:

    David,

    I suspect the ones who are criticizing you are part of the problem.  I don’t live in Birmingham or Jefferson County. I live in Shelby County.  The ideal solution would be a united government for Jefferson and Shelby County with no control or interference by state government.

    Anytime someone tries to climb a mountain or do something exceptional there will be criticism. Ignore it and keep on keeping on.  I suspect you have more supporters than critics.  The problem, like society in general, is the critics have a loud voice and the supporters remain quiet.

    Best Wishes,
    Henry

  10. Phyllis McCombs says:

    David, I echo the sentiments of your friend, Rick Haberstroh.  And, I suspect that I will use his term “CAVE” dwellers at some point in the future.  It would be fun to plan a function where all the pessimists are placed on one side of the room with the optimists on the other with their ideas
    and suggestions for change visible to the pessimists.  The goal would be to “flip” or “convert” the pessimists into optimists or advocates for positive change in our community.  Talk about a big
    self help session that would be!!  LOL…    Seriously, those of us who love and believe in
    Birmingham have to continue to push the dialogue for positive change or it won’t happen as
    quickly.  I am encouraged with the younger professionals that are starting to emerge as our
    future leaders in the community.  Perhaps that’s what it will take to make the changes…
    Let’s, as we always try to do, hope for the best!  Keep up the good work and dialogue.
    Hope to meet you in person sometime soon!  Kind regards to you David for continued success!

  11. Jerome Leader says:

    *DAVID:  YEARS AGO, DURING THE CITY’S STRUGGLE  FOR RACIAL HARMONY…I WAS A MEMBER OF THE YOUNG MEN’S BUSINESS CLUB …A SMALL, DIVERSE GROUP  OF BIRMINGHAM AREA BUSINESS/PROFESSIONALS…WHO SHARED A COMMON GOALTO SEE THEIR CITY DO THE RIGHT THINGS AND MOVE FORWARD. AT THEIR REGULAR LUNCHEON MEETINGS,  - OPEN TO ALL INTERESTED PARTIES- NUMEROUS “RESOLUTIONS”  WERE ADOPTED AFTER LONG AND THOUGHTFUL DEBATE AND,THEN,  FORWARDED TO THE NEWS MEDIA,  POLITICAL & BUSINESS LEADERS IN THE COMMUNITY AND STATE. YMBC’S  INFLUENCE WAS, IN MANY WAYS, RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING OUR COMMUNITY LIVING AND WORKING TOGETHER AT A CRITICAL TIME. RIGHT NOW, DAVID, YOUR JOB AND FIGHT MIGHT BE A LITTLE LONELY…BUT, THAT CAN BE FIXED IF YOU ANNOUNCE THE FIRST LUNCHEON MEETING OF THE YPBCYOUNG PEOPLE BUSINESS CLUB…..AND THEY WILL COME!

  12. MIKE GILES says:

    DAVID, WITHOUT PEOPLE LIKE YOU, THIS TOWN WILL BE DOOMED TO APATHY AND WORSE BOREDOM (THE SAME OLD SAME O’). IN MY VIEW, IF YOU DIDN’T RUFFLE A FEW FEATHERS YOU WOULDN’T BE VERY EFFECTIVE SO IT REALLY PLEASES ME TO SEE THAT YOU’VE MANAGED TO DO THAT. WE HAVE TO KEEP THIS CONVERSATION GOING IF WE HOPE TO TAKE THIS TOWN TO THE NEXT LEVEL. CHANGE IS COMING, SLOWLY, BUT IT’S COMING. I MOVED BACK HERE 10 – 12 YEARS AGO NOW FROM ATLANTA AND I CAN SEE IT. KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT, WE’LL ALL HANG WITH YOU. P.S., I AGREE WITH ALL THE ABOVE, JEREMY MAY CONSIDER ESTABLISHING AN OLD MEN’S BUSINESS CLUB. I WOULD BE THE FIRST IN LINE.

    *

  13. David Sher says:

    *Wow!  I never expected so many positive comments.  It is so much appreciated.  Up until now, I’ve mostly heard from those folks who think Birmingham metro has no future.  I suspect that there are many more of us who are tired of the status quo and want to move our region forward.  Please stay involved.  Thanks.

  14. Chuck Clark says:

    David, you are right on the money… Birmingham will NEVER move forward unless its basic problems are addressed. And all of it — even the thorny race issues — trace back to the structure of local government. Some people, including some of those commenting above, just can’t get their heads around just how paralyzing the mess in Alabama is — all they can do is throw out ridiculous sloganisms. There is a reason the state is at the bottom of the barrel, and why the Birmingham region trails every other metro area in the South. And you have nailed that reason.

  15. Gary Overton says:

    *Keep up the good work. I no longer live in Birmingham or Jefferson County but did for over 30 years and may live there in the future.

    The citizens must come together and realize they can all succeed or they can all fail. This will take people that are not out for personal gain.

    It would be helpful if not only the people of Jefferson County worked together but for the people of Shelby, St. Clair, Tuscaloosa and Walker county all joined together.

    With all of these people working together within a couple of generations the Birmingham Metro area would be greater than Atlanta

  16. John says:

    Whether or not we can all agree on them, we’ve been identifying the same set of problems since at least the 1930s. We might need to find a way to sidestep those who disagree; or at least those who do so only because they are unreasonable.

    http://bhamwiki.com/w/City_of_Perpetual_Promise

  17. Todd says:

    David,

    I’ve read your blog posts and try to see what you are doing. However, your continuous enabling of criticism by posting responses to it is nauseating. Leaders don’t need to seek approval or fulfill a need to constantly address the critics. Leaders tend to lead by listening to the “conversation” and being engaged in the process without acknowledging the critics when it distracts from the purpose.

    That being said, leaders are open to criticism when they don’t lead. Which leads me to this question. Why aren’t you leading? And it “leads” me to this question based on what I know about you and your family business. Why aren’t you leading in our downtown area by actively or more visibly developing the property owned by you and/or your family or company – not sure which If you exert influence in these matters this is pertinent to you. It is my understanding that there are buildings owned on 3rd Ave N ( across the street from the McWane Center) that go unoccupied and without purpose in an area of downtown that has struggled to revitalize. Why isn’t there a concerted effort by downtown property owners to find it within their ability to develop their properties towards being attractive to a diverse set of business and people for use. Dormant buildings in downtown are not valuable to our area and its people in the least. In fact they are a total waste

    If I’m wrong in your involvement in this, I apologize, but the main point is valid no matter the particular situation.

    • David Sher says:

      Todd, I appreciate your description of me as a leader, but I perceive myself as a facilitator. We in metro Birmingham have not been willing to have an honest conversation about our segmented-redundant government. We are falling further and further behind our peer Southern cities. I assumed this conversation would be on how to move our community forward. I wasn’t prepared for some of the personal attacks I’ve received particularly on al.com. I’m not a professional writer, a politician, or a big business man. I had hoped the conversation would be about the issues–not about me. I know people want to understand the motives of a writer, but I would like to think I have good intentions.

      In reference to our downtown property. No one would like to see it developed more than me. I’m heavily involved in economic development downtown having served as Chairman of the Board of ONB and CAP, and am very active today. It’s a very expensive property to develop and I would welcome any reasonable ideas to develop it.

      Todd, thanks for your comments. You are a thoughtful guy who obviously cares about our community. Please continue to participate.

  18. DeWayne Pope says:

    David,

    Keep up your good work in trying to facilitate a much needed conversation in our area. I wouldn’t think twice about the negative comments or attacks if they are coming from the al.com site. I have never seen such negativity or a bigger bunch of haters than the people who troll around and comment on that site. They are not the “voice” of the people in Birmingham that want to make a difference.

    DeWayne

  19. David,

    Glad to see what you are working on doing, and I sincerely wish you the best of luck. I miss seeing you at the Rotary Club of Birmingham since I moved to Pell City in 2005.

    Wally

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