By Nick Patterson
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham’s Mayor-elect Randall Woodfin on Tuesday announced six co-chairs of citizen-led committees which he said would be instrumental in moving the city forward to “its full potential.”
Woodfin, during a press conference at the Negro Southern League Museum in the Parkside district, named two co-chairs each for committees dedicated to Neighborhood Revitalization and Public Safety, Social Justice and Transparency and Efficient Government.
- BLOC Global managing partner Herschell Hamilton, and Birmingham Police Detective Ralph Patterson to the Neighborhood Revitalization committee.
- Physician and educator Dr. Nancy Dunlap and attorney Richard Rice to the Social Justice Committee
- Daniel Coleman, a lecturer at Birmingham-Southern, and business owner Annie Allen to the Transparency and Efficient Government committee.
Echoing his transition team co-chair Gen. Charles Krulak, Woodfin said that to improve life for everyone in Birmingham “It takes a team. It takes an army. It takes engaging our best and brightest along with the input of all to make sure that our administration helps bring Birmingham, not just to the forefront but make sure our city reaches its full potential.”
Each committee represented issues identified as important during his campaign to become mayor, said Woodfin, who upset longtime incumbent Mayor William Bell to become the city’s chief executive in the Oct. 3 runoff election.
Woodfin addressed the need for each committee one by one, starting with Neighborhood Revitalization and Public Safety. “During the campaign I made a personal pledge that not just every year or every month but every day my administration would be focused on and committed to neighborhood revitalization,” Woodfin said. “To me there is nothing more important than helping to improve all 99 neighborhoods in our city. We want our neighborhoods to be safer and for our residents to have opportunity… We must demand that city services that are needed to improve the quality of life for every Birmingham family be nonnegotiable. And that is our goal,” he said.
He also re-stated a familiar theme from his campaign. “We cannot be successful in revitalizing our neighborhoods until our parents and our grandparents our children and our grandchildren feel safe on their own porch and in their own front yard,” he said. We have to address public safety in a different way,” he said, adding that “In many neighborhoods… crime is not where it needs to be.”
The Social Justice Committee will be headed by Dunlap, former dean of the school of medicine at the University of Virginia and now president of the Alabama Public Health Institute, and Rice, who he described as “a friend, a fighter, … who has been on the front line of advocacy for issues in the Birmingham community.”
Rice was one of the attorneys who recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Birmingham, the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District and developers, contending that the planned redevelopment of the Southtown Housing community is in violation of fair housing laws. That lawsuit remains pending.
The Transparency and Efficient Government committee will be focused on opening up the operations of city hall to public accountability and making sure the city’s regulatory climate is “open for business” for companies large and small, Woodfin said.
“On day one of our administration, we will implement Operation Restore Trust. It’s important at city hall that transparency be at the forefront of what we are doing with our city as relates to moving our city forward,” Woodfin said. “This committee will finalize a plan … to [develop] fundamental practices to increase transparency and accountability across city hall – not just the mayor’s office. In addition to this, this committee will also be meeting together to reform our city regulations processes,” he said.
Coleman, one of the co-chairs of that committee, is a Birmingham native who is a certified financial analyst and was CEO of KCG Holdings of New York. Allen, the other co-chair of that committee is the owner and managing principal in locally-owned business iSeek Solutions, which Woodfin described as providing “strategic support to clients in transforming their business models to create long-term success. Annie is passionate about Birmingham is deeply involved in many of our leading organizations particularly related to technology, poverty and homelessness.”
The campaign is expected to announce the chairs of additional citizen-led committees in the near future – some by next week – with Woodfin specifying that attention would be paid to education. Woodfin, former president of the Birmingham Board of Education, said that as mayor, his office would be “not just vocal, but committed to supporting and investing in education. That expands beyond 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. that expands beyond K-12. Its full investment in the entire pipeline of all of our children and our families.
“Connected to that is workforce development and workforce training in our city. [If] we’re going to be aggressive in recruiting industry, we have to make sure our people, young and older, are employable. And directly tied to that is economic development and entrepreneurship.”
Asked how his citizen committees would differ from previous efforts that resulted in a lot of talk and little action, Woodfin said there would be no comparison.
“I’m not the ceremonial type of guy,” Woodfin said. “We have to get beyond a point in our city where we do things for ceremonial purposes only. And we have to get beyond talk. There are real issues in our community. What I personally know about the people behind me, is that they’re not necessarily ceremonial people either. They believe in action. They believe in work.”
He said these committees will be “a 180” of the usual result of citizen committees where there is “no follow-through or follow up…. What we’re committed to doing is creating a process where they are leading this process as well as a timeline. …We’re extremely intentional about being on the solution end of the problems.”
Ed Fields, Woodfin’s campaign manager, outlined timelines for the committees. “In about 100 days, after taking office we expect our committees and co-chairs to announce their findings and plans,” Fields said.
“The process for each committee will be three-fold. First, we’re asking each committee to evaluate current city services within their respective areas. Two, we’re asking them to identify world-class best practices and opportunities for the city within their area of practice. And third, to develop accountability measures and budget metrics to help achieve success. We’re asking committees to have an initial report by mid-December. That is the first of several reports. Followed by an update in mid-February and then again a final report in early March as we mark our 100 days of the transition.”
Woodfin said he has been in conversation with Bell about ongoing initiatives and that works-in-progress would be evaluated. He restated his intent to start evaluating personnel and to do a financial assessment on day one of taking office. And he said he hoped to develop good working relations with each of the nine city councilmembers – and that they would all be equally determined to work with each other.
“There are 10 of us, right?” he said. “I have a huge role in making sure we get beyond just talking to the president of the council, or just counting to five. My commitment is to all nine council members,” Woodfin said.