Article on Birmingham will make you vomit

I received an e-mail from a good friend, Henry Long, with a link to an article about Birmingham that made me sick to my stomach.

It was an American Thinker piece titled “Civil Rights and the Collapse of Birmingham, Ala.” written by John Bennett.

It made me ill not only because the article was being read all over the world, but the author totally mangled the facts.

I can understand why Mr. Bennett was so confused.  He assumed Birmingham and Jefferson County were the same entity.  Why shouldn’t he?  How would he know that Jefferson County has 37 municipalities and that Birmingham and Jefferson County are not interchangeable?

He wrote, “Birmingham is recognized as one of the most violent and poorly-run cities in the nation,” pointing out that “the city runs a massive deficit.”

This is not true.

The only reason Birmingham may be categorized as violent is that FBI crime statistics compare the City of Birmingham with other metropolitan areas. So the City of Birmingham is being measured against metro Nashville or metro Jacksonville.  Metro Nashville and Jacksonville also have high crime urban areas, but they are balanced out with safe suburbs located within their city limits.  Mt. Brook, Vestavia, and Trussville are not included in Birmingham’s numbers.  The equivalent neighborhoods would be incorporated into other metros.  Birmingham’s metro crime statistics are about average.

And the finances of the City of Birmingham are sound.  It’s Jefferson County that’s a train wreck.

The author made it appear that City of Birmingham African American leadership completely mismanaged Birmingham when actually it was a completely different entity, Jefferson County, with the financial issues.  And Jefferson County’s problems can be blamed on poor government structure and lack of home rule—not black governance.

Okay, I’ve had my say.  Read the article and tell us what you think…

Civil Rights and the Collapse of Birmingham, Ala.

 Birmingham, Alabama is considered by many to be the birthplace of the civil rights movement. Today, African-Americans in Birmingham benefit from a numerical majority in the population, corresponding majorities in government jobs, and political control of the city. But civil rights won’t address what ails the city now.

Birmingham is recognized as one of the most violent and poorly-run cities in the nation. The city runs a massive deficit, and is county seat of Jefferson County, which recently cut a deal with a European bank as part of the largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Underlying this fiasco is a mixture of problems, none of which can be solved by the civil rights agenda, or by liberalism in any form. This is not to suggest that those rights should be rolled back, but to point out that today’s solutions will not come from civil rights.

Blacks in Birmingham have now obtained equal rights, special protection for those rights, preferential enforcement of those rights, a demographic majority, and a near monopoly on government employment. Moreover, that panoply of rights and benefits is funded by the nation’s highest sales tax. The results should be a progressive success story. Instead, Jefferson County’s bankruptcy stemms in part from an epic and at times grimly amusing corruption scandal that resulted in the conviction of at least 22 people. Those convicted officials include the former mayor of Birmingham, Larry Langford.

Mayor Langford’s style of governance seems to fairly reflect the norms of many city residents. The New York Times provided the tenor of “[s]ome residents” with regard to the mayor’s conviction:

At a barbershop in a predominantly black neighborhood where the owner had hung a sign in the window reading, “We Support Our Mayor,” Charles Hicks said he was disappointed by Mr. Langford’s recent behavior but believed the former mayor was well-intentioned and was corrupted by wealthy businessmen.

“I’m just disappointed in the system,” Mr. Hicks said. “Larry had great ideas, but he got caught up in the trap.”

There is always a “trap” — always someone else to blame. That resolute avoidance of personal responsibility, writ large, must be a major part of the city’s problems. But such cultural and moral concerns are not part of the current civil rights agenda. Much more important was a program through which Mayor Langford provided laptops to children, in all government schools, in first through fifth grade.

An MIT study found that the results of this social policy were “disappointing.” Ownership of the free government laptops “did not increase use of computers for academic or content-creation purposes.” The MIT study further found that school-related laptop use somehow unbelievably actually decreased after students were given the free laptops: “The frequency with which students used a computer to create or listen to podcasts, do research, or do homework all decreased slightly from the pretest survey (before [free laptop] ownership) to the posttest survey (after [free laptop] ownership).” An army of sociology professors and community leaders could start a cottage industry simply trying to come to grips with the causes of this social engineering farce, and the subculture underlying it.

Meanwhile, the Birmingham City Council is taking on challenges like the proliferation of payday loan businesses. Councilwoman LaShunda Scales complained that payday loans “are the number one product the city offers to its citizens.”

From the top down, considering the racial breakdown of Birmingham city jobs, data indicate that blacks are fully empowered in the sphere of government. Whites are 22% of the city’s population, and hold 27% of public jobs (1180 of a total of 4273). Blacks are 73.4% of the population and hold 71.3% of public jobs (3051).

On the surface, this is surprisingly close parity between population percentage and representation in government jobs. However, serious racial disparities remain within several city departments. For instance, the City Council has 35 black staff members, but only four whites; in the Mayor’s office there are 75 black and 12 white employees; Municipal Court Department: 89 black and six white; Public Works: 827 black, 99 white; Parks and Recreation Department: 301 black, 43 white.

If the races were reversed, civil rights leaders would claim that whites were being favored in those departments. With whites on the other end of the disparity, however, there is no favoritism perceived, and the arc of justice is inverted.

Racial parity in Birmingham government jobs was reached — in part — by means of racial preferences and hiring quotas in some departments. The Birmingham fire department’s racial quota system was one example. One black firefighter was asked what he thought about white firefighters who were disadvantaged by affirmative action. He responded:

So whites are saying, ‘Yeah, they did ‘em wrong, there’s no doubt about that, but we don’t want to do anything to help correct it. It wasn’t our fault. I wasn’t here.’ Well, okay, if it wasn’t your fault, and if you weren’t the recipient of what your forefathers did, or whatever, then, why… when we [blacks] take a test, [do] you [whites] always come out number one?

Some, in the birthplace of the civil rights movement, evidently see equal test scores as an entitlement. A similar mentality might lie at the root of Birmingham’s problems, including an ongoing discrimination lawsuit against the city.

In 2010, a white senior accountant for the City of Birmingham — Virginia Spidle, a 24-year employee — was fired for supposed racism. Her firing came shortly after she raised questions about the city’s disastrous financial accounting. The county personnel board cleared her of the racism charge, and reinstated her employment. However, a week after returning to her job, her management fired her again for alleged incompetence.

Spidle filed a federal lawsuit against Mayor William Bell’s administration in early January 2013, claiming “his administration was the true perpetrator of racial discrimination.”

Spidle’s attorney, Gayle Gear, said, “We are celebrating 50 years of progress in civil rights. In the year we are celebrating that, good people of Birmingham would not approve of mistreating a person because of their race,” as The Birmingham News reported. “The city instigated and condoned a race-based hostile work environment in the city’s finance department,” the lawsuit reads. The City of Birmingham finance department has 108 employees; 70 percent are black and 30 percent are white.

The lawsuit seems to be one symptom of a larger problem. How did this sorry state of affairs come about? How can citizens and politicians fix Birmingham, and cities like it across the country? It doesn’t appear that a civil rights agenda can answer these questions going forward. Nor can any amount of government-given “opportunities,” resources, or any other euphemism for state involvement. Birmingham is simply past the point where legal, structural, or policy changes will ameliorate cultural pathology.

John T. Bennett (MA, University of Chicago, Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences ’07; J.D., Emory University School of Law ’11) is a former Army officer with tours of duty in Djibouti, Africa, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. His writing has appeared in the American Thinker, Chicago Tribune, World Net Daily, Townhall.com, Accuracy in Media, and FrontPage Magazine, among others.

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 a co-founder of 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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31 Responses to Article on Birmingham will make you vomit

  1. John Bennett says:

    *Sir,

    My name is John Bennett, and I wrote the article which induced your vomit. I will go straight to the point: You failed to disclose key facts about my article. Namely, you did not include the hyperlinks that I used as sources. That was a questionable omission.

    To your point, I made the distinction between county and city perfectly clear. I literally described that very distinction at the beginning of my piece:
    “The city runs a massive deficit, and is county seat of Jefferson County, which recently cut a deal with a European bank as part of the largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history.”

    You state (with no countervailing evidence) that I am wrong about the following two claims:
    (1) “Birmingham is recognized as one of the most violent and poorly-run cities in the nation.”

    If you would have included the hyperlinks that were in my article, it would be obvious that I provided two reputable sources for that statement. One was a Forbes magazine ranking, which lists Birmingham (not Jefferson County) as the fifth most violent city in America based on violent crime per 100,000 residents. Second, for the “worst run” claim, I provided a link to a Huffington Post story, which names Birmingham (not Jefferson County) as #13 on the worst run cities in America.

    (2) “the city runs a massive deficit.”
    My source for that is The Birmingham News, from March of last year, another hyperlink you omitted.

    You state, without evidence, that those claims are untrue. But the sources are totally valid, and the hyperlinks are right there in my original for all to see.

    Moreover, in my article, each piece of evidence that I use refers explicitly to Birmingham, not to Jefferson County. To recap, here are a few of Birmingham’s foibles that I pointed out:
    1. Nation’s highest city sales tax (in Birmingham)
    2. Convicted former mayor of Birmingham and his hijinks
    3. Birmingham residents who offer race-based loyalty to convicted Mayor
    4. Absurd free laptop program, for Birmingham government schools
    5. City Council (of Birmingham) griping about payday loan businesses
    6. Quote from Birmingham firefighter saying he’s glad affirmative action operates the way it does
    7. Data on racial breakdown of Birmingham city jobs
    8. Quotes from lawsuit against city of Birmingham

    I provided reliable sources for each of the above, in hyperlinks in the body of my article.

    At the beginning of the article, I state that Jefferson County is bankrupt due in part to a corruption scandal, and then I note that “the former Mayor of Birmingham” was one of the people convicted as a result of that corruption scandal. By carefully naming the county and
    city, I was not confusing the two.

    If the article had been about Jefferson County’s mismanagement, it would have been a novel. Birmingham is bad enough, and that’s why I wrote an article about the city.

    One final note: You split hairs about how you define whether a city is violent. You play a funny game whereby if you magically included safe suburbs in Birmingham’s crime rate, that would qualify the city as “about average” on crime. By that logic, then Chicago, Detroit, and every other city in the world are “about average” on crime.

    If you read the comments to the piece below on Birmingham’s crime rate, you will detect a palpable outrage at the city’s crime- an outrage which is completely at odds with your glib remarks:

    http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/09/birmingham_crime_rate_down_ove.html

    I stand by every word in my article.

    John T. Bennett

    • David Sher says:

      Mr. Bennett, I appreciate your comments. I sincerely apologize for not including the links to your article, but I copied your blog word for word and didn’t check the links. I did however, put links directly to American Thinking and to your blog in the first sentence.

      I really don’t think you made a particularly good distinction between Jefferson County and the City of Birmingham and just because Forbes or any other publication rates Birmingham as violent does not make it so. In fact, the Forbes article took great pains to point out that metropolitan areas were being compared to cities. That means that Nashville or Jacksonville metros are being compared to the core city of Birmingham. Forbes rated St. Louis as the most violent city in America and St. Louis has 92 municipalities in their county which magnifies the crime in it’s limited urban area.

      I’m not bragging about the governance of our region. The sole purpose of this blog is to begin a discussion on how to fix our dysfunctional government. Our issue is poor government structure–not race. Our government structure brings out the worst of our racial issues by dividing communities by black and white. Most of the people convicted for Jefferson County malfeasance were white.

      Our sales taxes are high because our State Legislature controls local taxation and that is the only option left to local communities. Our state legislature also controls all major financial decisions for our County. So we can’t hold our County Commissioners accountable.

      I can see how you came to some of your conclusions, but without a clear understanding of our segmented government, you could not possibly grasp the magnitude or complexity of our issues.

      That being said, I’m glad you wrote your piece. You are accelerating our conversation (the single purpose of the blog)

      Please note that metro Birmingham is one of the greatest cities in the world if you measure us by quality of life. Birmingham people are generous, helpful, and our metro area is darn right gorgeous. There’s not a better region in America to raise a family.

      Watch us. One day we will be the real comeback town.

  2. Mike says:

    Mr. Bennett is correct in every respect. It is Mr. Sher who refuses to admit the obvious. Race definitely plays a part in what is happening in Birmingham and Jefferson County, two of the most corrupt government entities in the nation. The liberal newspaper which for years helped accellerate Birmingham’s demise is now nearly dead itself, but the damage has been done and the leftist editors and reporters have left the city and journalism altogether. Mr. Sher is simply trying to overcome reality with a heavy dose of “positive thinking”. But it doesn’t change anything. Thank you Mr. Bennett for your response to Mr. Sher’s “rebuttal”, which itself reveals why no one can really begin to deal with Birmingham’s ills.

    • David Sher says:

      Mike, thanks for your thoughts. I want to emphasize that Mr. Bennett stated, “The city runs a massive deficit.” Birmingham has a balanced budget. So the article is not correct in every respect. Our government structure emphasizes our racial differences by dividing us into white and black cities; and our County Commissioners are elected by black and white districts.

  3. Bill Ivey says:

    Very informative and lively exchange, David. I understand Mr. Bennett’s perspective, but DO believe that his distinctions between Jeffco and Birmingham are not quite clear enough. However, as you’ve pointed out repeatedly, our Balkanized region is what it is–and we have to live with it for now. It’s easy and not totally inappropriate to “lump” us all under the metro-wide tent. (Case in point: Larry Langford’s crossover impact!)

    I don’t have the facts to support it, but it seems that the Bell administration has performed admirably in turning around the governance of the City. Am I wrong? I know that his administration is dealing with tremendous negative inertia/practices of the past, but I can’t believe that Birmingham would not be considered to be a reasonably well-run city by most measures…

    In spite of all the negativity–and this is so hard to quantify–I have for at least the last 20 years met people who have come kicking and screaming (sometimes applies to the spouse!) to our fair metro area–and now you couldn’t drag them out of this community. Somehow we need to dig deep to understand why that conundrum exists. It’s powerful…

    This reminds me of what I’ve always told the kids I’ve coached: “Let’s work to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. We’ll work on your weaknesses over time–and maybe they’ll go away. However, always ‘stay within yourself’ and don’t try to do things you’re not good at. Don’t impose pressure on yourself to try to be something you are NOT!”

    A Comeback Town Fan
    Bill Ivey

    • David Sher says:

      Bill, thanks for your comments and your passion for our Birmingham region. I don’t know what basis people have to criticize our Birmingham government. It’s certainly not perfect, but most municipal governments have their short comings. Mr. Bennett stated that “The city runs a massive deficit.” That is absolutely not true. Birmingham has a balanced budget. And what do people expect from a city that represents only 19% of our metro? The City of Birmingham is expected to fund the Railroad Park, Regions Field, Birmingham Museum of Art, Entertainment District, etc. Everyone in our region has the opportunity to enjoy these amenities, but none of the other 36 municipalities in Jefferson County make a financial investment. Unless I’ve missed the essence of the article, the author was trying to put the blame on African-American politicians and their constituents.

  4. Ted Brisk says:

    *actually, the facts of this article and even some portion of these comments are incorrect. Birmingham is not has it run a deficit. The infamous Bham News article with Bell’s warnings were of a warned deficit nit a real one. And it is under Bell’s administration – not Langford –  that a white accountant was fired on the basis if race. She had maintained that she was terminated for not going along with claims that there was a deficit. I am not proud of the unfortunate leadership that the county commissioners left the region but keys stop spreading untruths about Birmingham or making Langford’s city legacy criminal. In truth, there were many great things he did for the city including the Railroad park funding both at the city and county , the expansion if Children’s hospital, hiring a great police chief and helping the zoo surpass record attendance.  

  5. Ted Brisk says:

    Sorry for the typos! Using my new iphone

  6. John Bennett says:

    Thank you for the opportunity to reply.

    You make an interesting point about how crime rates are compared between metro areas and cities. The problem with the method of comparison is that some cities are lumped in with safe suburbs, basically. But fixing the method of comparison wouldn’t make Birmingham less violent. Fixing the method of comparison would just make Birmingham comparatively less violent in a numerical ranking. That would fix an image problem (to a limited degree), but not a substance problem.

    For instance, the method of comparison could be changed to exclude safe suburbs from some cities’ crime stats. Then those cities would be ranked as more violent than Birmingham. Assuming that there are a significant number of cities that would become “more dangerous” (on paper), that would only fix the image problem to a degree, i.e. Birmingham would drop from a Top 10 to Top 20 most violent list. 

    As the comments to Carol Robinson’s piece show, people who live or used to live in Birmingham are justifiably angry with the levels of crime.

    Also, you don’t think I made a “good distinction” between Birmingham and
    Jefferson. As I mentioned above, I pointed out the distinction, then
    proceeded to describe the city’s issues, without conflating city and
    county. I’m not sure what else I could have done to make the
    distinction, aside from including additional disclaimers of some sort- which would have been out of place, given the subject of my article, which was clearly Birmingham.

    The story of Birmingham is in many ways the story of America’s cities. The culture of crime and government corruption is present in Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, the list goes on. The root causes are intractable and honest discussion is taboo. A solution will not come from politicians, but only from a moral and cultural renewal- two types of reform that the relevant leadership is just not serious about.

    Finally, I also hope that Birmingham makes a comeback, along with the rest of our country.

  7. David Sher says:

    *John, I very much appreciate your follow up comments.  Also, please note that you stated, “The city runs a massive deficit.”  Our city has a balanced budget.  

    Much of what you said is accurate, but we have government structure issues that create many of our problems.  We had four county commissioners convicted or admitting to guilt, but we didn’t have 3 branches of government at the county level.  So there was no balance of power to hold our county commissioners accountable.  And our state legislature controls the finances of our county.  It’s very perverse.  Race is involved, but it’s not all about race.

    We have great people in our region and it often stings when we are beat up and embarrassed.

    Again, thanks for your additional comments.

    • John Bennett says:

      *On the matter of Birmingham’s finances:

      The Wall Street Journal in June of last year referred to the “$427 million debt that the city owes.”

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304458604577488781779580626.html

      Additionally, there have been numerous stories about the budget woes facing the city and school district:

      http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/04/birmingham_budget_faces_30_mil.html

      http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/01/birmingham_schools_considers_h.html

      Was the Wall Street Journal incorrect?

      Mr. French and Mr. Hamilton, if you wish to take issue with a fact or dispute an observation in any of my articles, I’d be happy to engage with you on the matter. It seems, however, that you don’t have the capacity to talk specifics.

      • Mike Hamilton says:

        *Mr. Bennett,

        Sorry I’m not replying directly to your last comment, but for some reason, the comment system won’t let me do so. 

        In your first link you’ll find the sentence “”Our perception is that Birmingham is a reasonably well-run city compared to its peers,” says Michael Schroeder, principal at Wasmer, Schroeder & Co.”

        Guess you missed that part, huh?

        The second link describes a POSSIBLE deficit if the city doesn’t make changes in its budget before the end of the year.  The article includes quotes from city officials indicating that they will make the necessary changes.  If your piece was written in December 2013, you might have a point, until then, you’re just speculating.

        The third article describes an attempt by the Bham school system to bring some innovation into a system that has had problems.  Maybe you disagree with what they are doing, but the article, and other things I’ve read seem to indicate that there are smart people on both sides of this issue,  so it’s hardly an indication of mismanagement.

        Just curious…if you don’t have a racial axe to grind, why does every article you’ve written contain some denunciation of African Americans?  Here’s the list:

            Shut Up or Die, the Muslim Protesters Explained
            Eric Holder, ‘Hate Crimes,’ and ‘His People’
            Racism and the PC Inquisition
            Holder’s Revenge
            Critical Race Theory: A Cult of Anti-White Resentment
            White Middle-Schooler Beaten Unconscious by Group of Black Students
            A Violent Racist Game Claims More Victims
            The Racial Violence that Dare Not Speak Its Name
            Obama Baits the Dependency Trap
            Media Stifling Racial Violence Coverage
            Racial Sensitivity Through the Looking Glass
            The Taboo on Mentioning Black Mob Violence
            Guns Are Racist: Chicago Politics and Blame-Shifting for Urban Violence
            The Knockout Game: Racial Violence and the Conspicuous Silence of the Media
            Minority Feelings and Violent Facts
            How Race Gets Rubbed Out of the Story
            The ‘Achievement Gap’ Fraud
            Racial Violence Has Not Made It Into the Conversation about Race

        You just don’t like black people, do you John?  You’re one of those white people who feel sooo oppressed by all those black people, aren’t you?  That schtick plays well with the audience you’re aiming at, doesn’t it?

      • Will French says:

        *So, Mr. Bennett, just because I didn’t talk specifics in my two sentence comment, you assume I “don’t have the capacity to talk specifics”?  That’s quite an assumption, no?

        Mr. Bennett, I’m really not interested in talking specifics with you.  You clearly have a different perspective on these things than I do, and I’ve got better stuff to do than argue with you about it.

  8. Will French says:

    *Google “John T Bennett” and look at some of the other race-related stuff he’s written.  It might make you vomit whether it’s about Birmingham or not.

  9. *Thank you David for openly engaging in this important discussion.  Your love for Birmingham is demonstrated by your tireless work to strengthen every aspect of the city and bring together all of its citizens.  I do not know if Mr. Bennett is a native of Birmingham or if he has ever spent any time in Birmingham.  He did not say in his article.  His conclusions, from what I can tell, are based on a body of “facts” reported by credible agencies and other documented research.  Again, it is unclear if Mr. Bennett, as part of his research, spent any time in Birmingham getting a personal sense of the city.   Why is this important?  I think of the Bumble Bee.  One could take the facts of aerodynamics and conclude bumble bees cannot fly because of their portly bodies and skimpy wings. While “facts” may cause Mr. Bennett to conclude Birmingham has “collapsed”, the opposite is quite the case.  I lived in Birmingham for a number of years and could easily return and again make it my home.  Not because I see it as a collapsed entity, but because I know it to be a great place to live.  I do not question Mr. Bennett’s data points or his distinctions between Birmingham and Jefferson County.  I do question the straight line drawn from those data points to his conclusion of a collapsed Birmingham.  Is there much work to do and corrective actions necessary in Birmingham and Jefferson County?  Absolutely!  This is true of most urban places and quite a few rural townships.  Cities have hearts, souls, and spirits that often defy quantification.  Yet we know those intangibles often make the difference between revitalization and ruin.   Birmingham has a big heart, an anchored soul, and comeback spirit.  Perhaps that is why many still call it the “Magic City”.

    • Mike Hamilton says:

      *Ms. Sampson, I couldn’t agree more.  Like every large city, Birmingham has issues, but I think a majority of the people who live in the city, both black and white, would agree that we’re moving in the right direction.

    • David Sher says:

      Marsha, thank you so much for your thoughts. Your comments brought tears to my eyes. I love your bumble bee analogy.

  10. Mike Hamilton says:

    *Virtually every article that Bennett has written for the American Stinker is written as “here’s how letting black people run things has destroyed everything good in this country.”  He seems to be obsessed with that issue…27 columns for A.S.  and all but 4 follow that line.  The other 4 are about how awful Muslims and Mexicans are.  Do you think he had any interest in writing fairly about Birmingham, or do you think he decided what his point would be before he started and then combed the internet to find factoids to back up that premise?  To illustrate his scholarly approach, note how he uses the AL.com comment threads to bolster his argument.  It’s laughable to real American thinkers, but folks in the right-wing echo tank, including a lot of those Al.com commenters, will just LOVE it.   I’m sure the article will be cited regularly on the Al.com forum.

  11. Bob McKemie says:

    *Consider the source of these rants – “American Thinker”  is so far off to the right extreme that any I doubt it has any credibility with most people.  Google it and see what type of trash they’re publishing (e.g., one article claims Obama is trying to murder white kids by spreading asthma, and there is much more where that came from).   While there is some basis for some of his opinions, I almost consider it a compliment to be insulted by this publication.

  12. I too was so incensed about Mr. Bennett’s article that I drafted a reply refuting many of the “facts” he posted, especially about Birmingham’s finances.  In attempting to post my response on his page, which had numerous responses in support of his obvious anti-Black government bias, I was blocked from doing so, as his page reflected that “Comments are for this page are closed.”  (Really?  After only a week?).  I did not wish to register for his blog, and it may be that I could have posted had I registered.  Looking over the titles of submissions to  http://www.americanthinker.com/ on its home page, I am struck with the negativity of its offerings and just don’t want to go there.  These are precisely the attitudes that we must combat to make a comeback in Birmingham.

  13. rich st john says:

    *I am a fan of the efforts that Mr. Sher has been putting forth here. I realize his sincerety when he is bothered by something like this. However, I have to admit that as I read Mr. Bennett’s piece I recognized the city he was writing about. It is the city I live in now. It wasn’t so as I grew up and had good experiences that formed a very hopeful attitude. But the city has failed when compared to others, which is why I am on this site. It is painful to find that the bad mouth people still speak up and the good people still remain quiet. That is what got us here. And in the middle you have the people who have been swallowed by the metro definition but want no part of it. David, it is those in the middle that make your dream and mine seem impossible to me. Without their involvement there can be no change in the structure of governance over Jefferson or any of the seven metro counties. (most people don’t even know that they are part of the metro and would fight it, not knowing the benefits it can bring there communities)

    This is how I see our conundrum and I have to admit I don’t ever recall David addressing this. I am just glad someone like him is caring and perhaps he can make miracles.

    Best wishes,

    Rich

    • David Sher says:

      Rich, thanks for your kind comments and your support. Actually you have touched upon the true purpose of this blog…to begin a conversation with “the middle.” To date our corporate and political leaders have been unwilling to have these discussions. If enough of “the middle” begins to understand the root cause of our stagnation (poor government structure), then we will soon be able to get the attention of our leaders. There’s power in numbers and our numbers are increasing daily. Please encourage others to join us.

  14. David Cohen says:

    David, thank you for posting Bennett’s article. At a minimum, it draws more people into a discussion where some solutions and new ideas may blossom.

    The whole idea of race as a major contributor to Birmingham’s problems is just a distraction and a tired argument. It’s not a black issue.

    The focus should be on wealth.

    Compared to its neighboring cities, Birmingham has one of the lowest per capita incomes of $16K with 25% of the population living below the poverty line. According to wikipedia, the 6 largest cities surrounding Birmingham had a per capita income breakdown as follows:
    Mountain Brook : $59K
    Hoover: $33K
    Vestavia: $50K
    Alabaster: $22K
    Bessemer: $12K*
    Homewood: $25K
    *Bessemer has the unfortunate distinction of a 27% populous living below the poverty line.

    The population of Birmingham is poor compared to most of its surrounding cities. Why? Because, like so many cities in the U.S., the wealthier citizens left. The advent of the automobile and our highway system made it attractive to live in the suburbs. For decades, American city centers were abandoned and left mostly populated by a majority of incomes that hover around the poverty line. The trend is reversing in some cities. Birmingham is seeing some positive signs too! With smart leadership and a continued trend of people wanting to live in walkable, easy to commute areas; Birmingham will prosper.  

  15. Sam Vogt says:

    *Excellent exchange of ideas and perspectives.  Might this be a launching point or rallying cry for the city and the county to get their acts together as to how we are portrayed to those less familiar with the area?  I hope so.  I have a friend who, when he recruits potential employees from outside the region, tells them to imagine that they are bringing their families to an “adventure in the third world.”  He also states, that if he can get them them to visit here, they see what a great place it is, and they want to stay.  Some of the people I know who love it here are from places like Boston and Chicago.  Maybe that is who we need to go out and tell our side of the story.  

  16. David Sher says:

    *There’s been a lot of discussion about the financial condition of the City of Birmingham.  I don’t  understand the finer points of bond ratings, but here is what I found.

    MOODY’S ASSIGNS A AA2 RATING TO THE CITY OF BIRMINGHAM’S (AL) $75 MILLION GENERAL OBLIGATION CONVERTIBLE CAPITAL APPRECIATION BONDS, SERIES 2013-A&B

    This was posted on 2/21/13 http://alabama.municipalbonds.com/bonds/moodys_reports

  17. David Sher says:

    *Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal that makes it clear that the City of Birmingham’s finances are strong. The article says, “The city and county keep their finances separate, and the contrast between them is stark.”  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304458604577488781779580626.html


  18. John Northrop says:

    I think almost everything that’s wrong about Birmingham—and there’s
    much that’s right—is about race. But the problem is not black folks being in
    charge. It’s about a long history of enforced separation and minimization, not
    just in this metropolitan area, but statewide. Our 1901 constitution (still
    spiritually in force) explicitly set out to preserve white privilege and hold
    back African Americans. The U. S. Supreme Court has nullified the
    constitution’s overtly racist provisions, but extant features still take a heavy
    toll. In particular, most power still resides in a legislature still dominated
    by traditional white rural thinking—boosted by out-of-state corporate agribusiness
    (read timber money). Two examples: Why does Birmingham have a large sales tax? Partly
    because of Alabama’s
    10th-most-regressive-in-the-nation tax structure, itself resulting
    from obscenely low property taxes, kept low by big property interests. Why
    doesn’t metro Birmingham
    have an adequate mass transit system to meet the needs of everyone, especially
    the poor? Partly because Alabama is one of four states to invest NO state funds in mass transit, putting all our transportation money into roads and highways,
    mostly outside urban areas. I agree that government could do better in Birmingham—and Alabama
    for that matter—but let’s be realistic about the larger framework and whom it
    serves and protects. And let’s resist blaming the victims.

  19. westie says:

    Reality vs Chamber of Commerce boosterism….wake up and face the reality of what failed in the Magic City. Otherwise nothing will change for the better!

  20. Amanda says:

    *Bob McKemie says: “Consider the source of these rants – “American Thinker” is so far off to the right extreme that any I doubt it has any credibility with most people. Google it and see what type of trash they’re publishing (e.g., one article claims Obama is trying to murder white kids by spreading asthma, and there is much more where that came from). While there is some basis for some of his opinions, I almost consider it a compliment to be insulted by this publication”.

     

    Someone of your ilk would consider it a badge of honor to be assaulted by the ones you hold so dear. Assuage you self-imposed guilt for an imagined slight perhaps? Don’t worry, your time is coming. If inclined you could move to the areas of diversity, but I doubt you’d “walk the walk”, you prefer instead to “talk the talk instead”. That’s why Detroit, etc. isn’t experiencing an influx of liberal, white settlers.

    You might want to follow Paul Kersey’s blog & the specific posts on your beloved city at… SBPDL.com

    Lastly, on a personal note I’d just like to express that you liberals think you’ve won with your re-election of your “messiah”. You have no idea. Keep pushing… That’s exactly what we want.

    @David,

    At least you publish dissenting opinion.

     

     

     

  21. mkingb says:

    I can’t believe al.com featured that shabby article.  It’s so riddled with logical fallacies that it reads like a high school freshman’s composition paper.  God help the GOP if Bennett represents the “up and coming” crowd.  Gee whiz, if you’re going to be pretentious enough to post on a site that invokes “The Thinker,” be able to think. 

    :roll:

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