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District 5 Neighborhood Leaders Workshop Helped Citizens Strategize on Working with City Leaders to Move Communities Forward

After an ice-breaking exercise in which neighborhood officers had to recall what they had seen in a bucket full of miscellaneous items that was passed around the table, Council President Johnathan Austin gave some remarks during the quarterly District 5 Neighborhood Leaders workshop.

Austin spoke at length about the importance of having open and honest communications between the neighborhoods and city hall. Not just that, but strategizing the ways in which neighborhoods could work together to help pass meaningful legislation to improve the quality of life in all of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods.

“I think we need to start banding together, all the neighborhoods, so that we can utilize the full clout of these neighborhoods as it pertains to accomplishing shared goals,” Dan Seigel, Vice-President of Crestwood North, said. At the meeting, Seigel posed the question, “What can neighborhood officers do to more effectively to push legislative efforts?”

From the council’s perspective, Seigel said, trying to advocate for policies is often fraught with political pitfalls. “Would the mayor listen to us, collectively, if we wanted to see a certain resolution move forward?” Seigel asked Austin.

“We absolutely would encourage something like that,” Austin said. “When we are able to come before the mayor and say we have the support of the neighborhoods with any given issue, that kind of thing goes a long way in helping get things passed.”

Myeisha Hutchinson, the Oak Ridge Park neighborhood president, said this type of communication between various organizations and city departments would help make the Birmingham Land Bank Authority more accessible to people who may wish to utilize it. “That’s just an example of a place I would like to see more communication because it can be a great resource for potential homeowners,” Hutchinson said.

Austin also brought up the recent push to rethink the way overgrown lots are managed by the city and how neighborhood can help make this a possibility.

In order to supplement the existing weed abatement work performed by the Birmingham Public Works department, the City Council is proposing to accept bids from private lawn care businesses.

Austin explained that instead of working on large areas of the city, each contractor would be responsible for a smaller, more manageable area. The weed mitigation program can be an approach to reduce the cost overrun within the Public Works Department, increase the number of lots cuts, stimulate small businesses with new procurement opportunities, and utilize a readily available workforce.

“We want to empower the neighborhoods and let them know that their voices and their concerns are being received,” Austin said. “For us to move forward, we can’t do that without our neighborhood leaders.”

This article is a contribution from Cody Owens (coowens@birminghamal.gov) in the Birmingham City Council Public Information Office. For more information please contact 205.254.2294.