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Woodfin assails law protecting Confederate monument

By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times 

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday criticized an Alabama law forbidding the city from removing or altering a Confederate monument as well as a new proposal to fine cities $10,000-a-day for violations.

Woodfin said it was a “slap in the face to black residents of [Birmingham]” to preserve a monument that many find offensive.

 “Black residents of [Birmingham] are 74 percent of this city, the fourth blackest city in America,” Woodfin said. “As a state, we are saying preserve something that is a slap in the face of black citizens. It is offensive and it is wrong.” 

Republican Sen. Gerald Allen’s Senate Bill 127 would increase penalties for violating the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act to $10,000 a day from a one-time total of $25,000. Woodfin said the proposal to increase the penalties feels targeted at Birmingham. 

Senators on Tuesday delayed a committee vote on the legislation which comes in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court upholding the act and ruling that the City of Birmingham violated the law by obstructing the base of a monument to a Confederate soldier in Linn Park with a large plywood screen.

Woodfin said Linn Park is a city park and that a local municipality should do what is best for its citizens when it comes to something offensive, such as a statue or monument. 

“This law goes against that,” Woodfin said. “In addition to that, I think we have to talk about something that is very important, I think this state has a pretty bad racial history . . .”.

Allen said the amended bill allows a new opportunity for communities to seek a waiver from a state committee in order to move monuments more than 40 years old. Previously, there was a flat prohibition.

 “I have no desire to fight Sen. [Gerald] Allen, I have no desire to make this about Republicans and Democrats but on its face, it is black and white,” Woodfin said. “Are we honoring something that is all the way in from a historical standpoint relegating black people to property and slaves? Everybody needs to think about that for a second.”

In other City Council business Tuesday, councilors passed an ordinance that will regulate shared mobility like bikes and scooters. The council voted 8-0 on the matter. Council President Pro-Tempore Wardine Alexander was not present. 

The ordinance sets the stage for companies that provide rental scooters and bikes or other personal transportation vehicles to operate in the city. For the past five years, the Zyp Bike Share service has been available in areas of the city. But it closed operations in December.

““This has been an over two year journey for me as chairman and one of the first meetings I had was inviting in . . . mobility providers to tell us how they operate,” said Darrell O’Quinn, chairman of the transportation committee “… there has been a lot of due diligence that has been done leading up to this point and we have been watching this industry unfold and evolve all across the country.” 

Once the ordinance is signed by Woodfin, the City’s Department of Transportation can start reviewing applications from vendors. Officials said they believe citizens can expect to see this new transportation option on the streets within two to three months. One aspect of the ordinance that is worth noting: for every two scooters that a vendor deploys, they must also make an electric bicycle available for use. These are more effective for longer commutes, O’Quinn explained.

Woodfin said public transportation was never meant and designed for fixed bus routes and buses only, “transportation in a city is more than cars, we’re talking about walking, biking, public transportation… well, micro mobility is an additional tool in that tool box that allows our residents and those who visit to get from point A to B,” he said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.