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Why One Third of Birmingham City Council May Disapprove of Woodfin’s FY24 Budget

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By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times

One third of the Birmingham City Council pledged to vote no on Mayor Randall Woodfin’s latest proposed city budget at a Wednesday meeting where councilors expressed disapproval with code enforcement across Birmingham.

Councilors Valerie Abbott, Darrell O’Quinn and Hunter Williams all said that they would vote no if Woodfin’s administration doesn’t address their concerns around code enforcement with the budget.

Abbott said once she saw that Woodfin’s proposed budget for FY 2024 included no new personnel for code enforcement or public works, two of the areas about which councilors receive the most complaints, she was unhappy.

“I just thought, I don’t even want to approve this budget because it’s not addressing the things that we have complained about over and over and over and over,” said Abbott, banging the table with an open palm. “We just keep on complaining and nobody listens.”

Birmingham City Councilor Valerie Abbott

The “one little bit of power” the council has, Abbott said is to “not pass the budget if we don’t see the things being addressed that we think are important.”

Woodfin’s proposed operating budget for FY 24 $554 million budget was presented to councilors initially in May. Councilors are expected to vote on the budget before the start of FY 24 on July 1.

Much of the discussion on Wednesday revolved around an early stage of the code enforcement process, serving citations to violators.

At the meeting, Birmingham Presiding Judge Andra Sparks said that if someone violates city code regarding things like waste management, as well as lawn or building maintenance, a citation which compels the violator to come to court can only be by certified mail, or by APOST (Alabama Peace Officers’ Safety and Training) certified officers.

Certified mail is easily and often ignored by violators, according to Williams. Additionally, only two code enforcement officers, which are employed by the office of the city attorney, have received APOST certification.

Williams asked why a specific division for code enforcement couldn’t be created within Birmingham Police Department (BPD). Cedric Sparks, Woodfin’s chief of staff, said he would take the question to the mayor’s team.

The Birmingham Times has not received a comment from the mayor’s administration.

Williams responded that he has asked the same question every year since he’s been on the council, among other questions related to code enforcement, before joining Abbott’s no pledge.

“I really agree that we have one inch of power, and I’m very willing to also vote no on this budget until code enforcement is fixed,” Williams said.

O’Quinn told The Birmingham Times that his one request to the mayor regarding the proposed budget, about transit riders paying double fares, had been addressed but that he was moved by the other councilors’ concerns at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I am a no on the budget, as well, until I feel like all of us are sufficiently satisfied…I’m not going to be satisfied with the budget until issues that Councilor Williams and Councilor Abbott, in particular, have brought up,” O’Quinn said at the meeting.

O’Quinn also told The Birmingham Times that, as of Thursday morning, Woodfin’s administration had been working to address the issue with councilors.