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Legislature passes laws to strengthen Birmingham’s mayor

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By Barnett Wright

Times staff writer

 

State lawmakers this week passed two pieces of legislation that will likely give Birmingham Mayor William Bell more power.

The bills change how Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) members are selected and how appointments are made to other city boards and agencies.

Both modifications were vehemently opposed by a number of residents, Birmingham city council members and organizations, including the Gatekeepers Association of Alabama (GAA), which includes nearly 40 influential pastors from across Jefferson County, who said state lawmakers and city officials needed to discuss changes before action was taken.

Under the new legislation, the council will appoint four members to the BWWB and the mayor will appoint two. Currently, the Birmingham City Council appoints all five members to the board, which is expected to grow to six members next year.

Under the second law, some changes to the Mayor-Council Act, which lays the ground rules for Birmingham’s municipal government, prohibits councilors from serving as voting members of city boards and calls for the election of new council president and president pro-tempore every two years.

Supporters of the bills say the measures would help foster a better working relationship between the council and the mayor. Opponents say the move is a power grab intended to weaken the council and strengthen the mayor.