By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
At the midway point of his four-year term as Birmingham mayor, Randall Woodfin on Tuesday gave an update on his strategic plan and goals during his first two years in office.
The mayor presented his “The Big Picture: Looking Back, Shaping Tomorrow” at Haven in downtown Birmingham.
During his update, the mayor touched on neighborhood revitalization, education and workforce development in the city, and his administration’s commitment to building a stronger Birmingham.
To show how his administration has addressed neighborhood revitalization, Woodfin gave the example of a mother or grandmother who lives in a community with dilapidated structures, overgrown lots, streets and sidewalks in need of repaving, a park with inadequate equipment, little to no access to healthy food, broken street lights and gun violence.
“The first thing we did was create a blight demolition removal plan to get rid of that dilapidated structure,” said Woodfin, who was sworn in Nov. 28, 2017. “The second thing we did was get more aggressive with our weed abatement program as well as increase funding for our Land Bank program to make sure we can be in a better position to build single family homes on that empty lot.
“We came up with and funded a five-year sidewalk plan, in addition to that, we put $13 million into paving streets over the last two years. We have closed out capital projects, neighborhood parks that you all have been complaining about for years.”
Some of those parks include Wahouma and Wylam Parks and the recently opened One Pratt Park. In addition to that, the city has continued its relationship with Alabama Power Company to expand its LED light programs to neighborhoods and parks.
A Healthy Food Fund was created to make sure that money is set aside to bring healthier food options to the city, said the mayor.
“These are the changes we brought to not just that mother but many of our mothers and grandmothers throughout the city have been requesting and complaining about,” he said.
He also pointed to a Neighborhood Revitalization Fund which began with a $1.6 million investment, but has grown to $7.2 million.
“We allocated those resources by paving about 16 miles worth of roads . . . we’ve torn down over 700 dilapidated structures that were beyond repair with that fund [and] repaired over 27,000 potholes,” he said. “I pushed a team every single day over the last two years to really show the receipts of what we have done from the requests we’ve received from our residents.”
As for safe, secure and sustainable communities, Woodfin earlier this year labeled gun violence a public health crisis.
“To that end, we rolled out our Peace Campaign and we’ve made more strides in how we engage the community,” said Woodfin. “I am proud of Chief Patrick Smith and the entire Birmingham Police department but I’m equally proud of community partners, neighborhood officers and many of you who have decided to fight back for peace and safety in your neighborhoods, being active in the police academy and many other entities to address crime.”
Woodfin said from 2018 to 2019 there has been a double digit decrease in all crime categories from crimes against persons to crimes against property, he said.
Launched this summer, the Birmingham Promise is a public-private partnership with two phases. The first connects Birmingham City School (BCS) students with an employer in an industry they are interested in during their junior and senior years and the second provides free tuition to any BCS graduate who attends a two-year or four-year public college or university in the state of Alabama.
“This is a big deal and this is something that we as adults must do for our young people if we are going to change Birmingham and provide opportunities for them,” he said.
It does not stop there, Woodfin said. The city of Birmingham is one of five cities to replicate Providence Talks, which is a free city-wide early childhood program that aims to engage and help children between infancy and three to speak more words in the home prior to attending school.
“Through this program, we’re launching Birmingham Talks which will serve 2,500 families with young children throughout our community for the next three years. It’s important to note that we can’t wait until our children are juniors and seniors in high school,” said Woodfin. “We can’t wait until they are adults, we have to start early. That is coupled with the fact that we cannot ignore those who are of age and are willing to participate in the workforce.”
Woodfin touched on creating a small business council, the downtown Ensley redevelopment project, connecting with residents to promote a people first government and addressing Birmingham’s history and legacy through partnerships with the Jefferson County Memorial Project and the A.G. Gaston Hotel renovations.
“In the coming two years, there are many more issues to address, homelessness, recycling and many other ways that this government can be more efficient,” said Woodfin, adding that his administration with the help of residents embarked on a destination to make a stronger Birmingham.