By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
For Robert Walker, president of the Wahouma Neighborhood Association in southwest Birmingham, illegal dumping of trash, household items such as couches, mattresses, bed frames and any other form of debris is a problem that he and other residents have fought for years. Help may now be on the way.
On Tuesday, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced the D.U.M.M.Y campaign — Dumping Ugly Mess in My Yard – that will tackle illegal dumping, defined as the act of knowingly placing waste on public property or someone else’s property without permission.
“I think the residents of the city of Birmingham are really fed up with people who are nasty, people who are too comfortable in our city whether they live here or bring it into our city,” said Woodfin, flanked by Birmingham City Councilors Clinton Woods, Darrell O’Quinn and Crystal Smitherman and other neighborhood and community leaders in Bush Hills. “We want to make something clear and real plain for people, that is illegal and we want to bring people to justice who continue to do that.”
Violators will be fined $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for the second offense, said Woodfin, who added that residents are encouraged to report illegal dumping by taking a picture or video of the offender, vehicle or vehicle tag connected to the person and sending to the magistrate’s office at the Birmingham Municipal Court Services Building.
Walker, who lives in Birmingham’s Wahouma neighborhood, was among those who applauded the mayor for combatting the issue and “empowering” residents.
“A lot of reasons why people hadn’t been reporting to the city government is because they didn’t feel empowered and their requests and complaints have fallen on deaf ears,” Walker said. “Right now, we see that someone is listening, and someone may continue to listen so there will be more input from the residents.
“The biggest message I can tell people in my neighborhood and around the city is to get involved,” he said. “We have a mayor right now that is willing to listen to us and say we’re not going to have this… and we look forward to having a clean neighborhood.”
Woodfin said the city will make dumpsters available for residents to drop off mattresses, household garbage, trash and brush. No hazardous items nor commercial construction materials are permitted.
“This initiative will have several phases and the first is an awareness to residents,” the mayor said, “… I want our city to be clean, but more importantly, I believe the majority of our residents want the city to be clean. I ask that residents, business owners and everyone join me in getting the results we all want. Don’t dump trash in Birmingham, please stop dumping trash and being nasty in our city.”
Residents are encouraged to call 311 and to report the illegal dump sites, said the mayor.
Property owners, landlords, contractors, developers and anyone renovating or cleaning out homes are not excluded, he said.
“We have an expectation of you as high as we do for our residents, especially if you want to do business in our city,” he said of contractors and developers, “… we have too many people leaving commercial or industrial trash and debris on the city’s right-of-way for us to pick up, [they] are responsible for disposing of that trash and transporting it to the appropriate facility.”
Woods, who has championed cleanup initiatives in District 1, which he represents, said a lot of problems related to illegal dumping will not be corrected until people are punished. “I think it is something that is needed and we just have to roll it out and educate people, but it’s an issue that people have wanted some ability to impact, so putting some power into the hands of residents is much needed and it’s a big deal,” he said.
Smitherman said the mayor’s initiative ties into work she has underway in her District 6.
“I’m going to have my ‘Sit Down With Smitherman’ next month, I will be reiterating it,” she said. “We’re going to be doing a littering campaign… I know the mayor is working on a recycling project and we’re just going to work to make sure people know about the laws and how they can report illegal dumping.”
Adrienne Pearson, of the College Hills neighborhood, who attended Tuesday’s press conference, called on residents to get involved.
“I believe no one person can solve a problem, one cause cannot be solved or advanced unless everyone gets involved,” she said. “…Positive people in the community have to stand for it, stand our ground and say this is not acceptable. This project is excellent.”
The Birmingham Municipal Court Services Building is next to the David J. Vann Municipal Justice Center, which can swear out a summons or warrant for violators. It is located at 808 18th Street North and the magistrate is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The dumpsters will be available for use in the four quadrants of the city: the Eastend District at 310 96th Street North; Ensley District at 1044 Avenue W; North Birmingham District at 2413 27th Street North; and the Southside District at 501 6th Avenue South.
For more information, visit www.birminghamal.gov/illegaldumping.