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Birmingham Council President Pulls Ordinance to Tighten Criteria for Water Board Appointees 

By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times

For the second time in two weeks, an ordinance to add requirements for Birmingham Water Works Board appointees never made it to the full City Council.

The item, submitted and recommended by Council President Wardine Alexander and Council President Pro Tem Crystal Smitherman, was placed on the City Council’s agenda last week as an addendum, but did not receive the unanimous votes to be considered by the council. 

That meant the ordinance was pushed to Tuesday’s meeting. Alexander withdrew it, saying the item will now go before either the Utilities and Technology Committee or a Committee of the Whole.

No date for a committee’s consideration of the item has been set.

Going through committee will allow the council to consider more thoroughly what, if any, qualifications the panel might want to add, Alexander said.

Currently, the only requirement for Birmingham City Council’s appointees to the BWWB is that they are residents of the city, said the council president.

“We would like to see all appointees to boards to have the qualifications, or the background and expertise, that would make them to be an effective board member,” she said.

Also, “We want to make it where all council members have a voice in that, and so by withdrawing [the item], that gives us that opportunity to put that into a committee and to have that full voice and getting everyone’s opinion,” Alexander said.

The president also said there are Water Works bills pending in the Alabama Legislature that the council is paying attention to.

Alabama Rep. Jim Carns last month introduced a bill that would reshape the BWWB and strip the council of its ability to appoint board members.

Currently, the BWWB has nine members, with four appointed by Birmingham City Council, two appointed by the mayor of Birmingham and one each by the Jefferson County Mayor’s Association, the Shelby County Commission and the Blount County Commission.

Under the first version of Carns’ bill, the Birmingham mayor would have four appointments and the Alabama governor three. Additionally, the bill would have required that one appointee must have an “engineering background,” and the other a “financial background.”

Alexander said there was no communication between members of the legislature and the city council before the bill was introduced. “We found out about it through the media, just as everyone else, Alexander said.

Carns issued a substitute bill that passed out of a House committee last week which would still reduce the BWWB to seven members but with two appointed by the Birmingham City Council, two by the Birmingham mayor, one by the Jefferson County Mayors Association and one each by the Shelby and Blount County Commissions.

Alexander, who also spoke in Montgomery last week, said she was “encouraged” by lawmakers who pushed for councilors to have a say in selecting members to the Water Board.  

“We would just like to have our voters represented the way that they’d like to be represented, and give us that authority that we’ve been given by virtue of being voted into office,” Alexander said.