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Birmingham City Councilors Take Priorities to National League of Cities Conference

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Councilors Crystal Smitherman, left, and LaTonya Tate were reappointed to prominent committee positions with the National League of Cities. (Provided)

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Birmingham City Councilors were among more than 3,000 elected officials from all over the United States last week to converge on Washington D.C. for the National League of Cities Conference.

The officials took the time to share ideas, learn best practices, and have extended meetings with their congressional delegations to help shape policy and priorities for their cities, towns and villages.

Birmingham City Council President Darrell O’Quinn said one of the priorities for the city was the Bipartisan Railway Safety Act which “has the potential to protect and benefit every single American living near a rail line by increasing regulations and appropriating federal funds to install more safety features in places like Birmingham.”

“I feel as though collectively we were able to make a lot of progress on this issue, especially considering the overwhelming support this bill has from local elected officials from all over the country,” he added.

Council Pro Tem Wardine Alexander has spearheaded efforts to increase workforce development opportunities for residents in District 7 and did so again at the conference.

She was awarded the E Pluribus Unum (UNUM) Fellowship Grant to help create a workforce development pipeline between Lawson State Community College and Buffalo Rock that will provide specialized training to fill jobs in the area. She has also focused on working with state legislators to pass key utilities legislation, including 5G infrastructure expansion.

“It is an honor to be able to represent Birmingham through an organization like the National League of Cities,” Alexander said. “My colleagues and I have been able to network with elected officials from all over the country and we’ve planned to implement some of the strategies we’ve discussed … I’ll be working with legislators on ways to improve workforce development opportunities, holistic strategies to address issues surrounding homelessness and increasing broadband access for students across the country.”

From left: Birmingham Councilors Crystal Smitherman; Hunter Williams; President Pro Tem Wardine Alexander and President Darrell O’Quinn during National League of Cities Conference in Washington D.C. (Provided)

O’Quinn, Alexander and Councilors Crystal Smitherman and LaTonya Tate were all been reappointed to prominent committee positions with the NLC.

O’Quinn was re-elected to serve on the NLC’s Board of Directors, Alexander was re-elected as the NLC’s Regional Director for the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, and Smitherman is continuing in her role on the Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations Committee with NLC and Tate was appointed to the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee.

Tate, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, was elected to a one-year term, and will provide strategic direction and guidance for NLC’s federal advocacy agenda and policy priorities on public safety.

“It is an honor to be able to represent Birmingham through an organization like the National League of Cities,” Tate said. “I’ll be working with legislators from across the country on ways to improve public safety and develop holistic strategies to address issues surrounding crime and violence intervention, especially among our young people.”

Here is a brief synopsis of a few key issues that were discussed with congressional leadership that could benefit Birmingham residents:

Airfield Safety and Expansion and BHM

The current runway and taxing position at Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport does not meet FAA safety standards, which limits the number of aircraft that can be accommodated at one time. Taxiway improvements would not only make the airport safer, but it would also significantly increase the economic opportunities for more cargo traffic.

The current cost of the project is $100 million but could be completed in phases. The request is for $20 million with the FAA Airport Improvement Program to help with the planning, design and construction of a portion of the airport’s primary runway.

Birmingham Police Department Vehicle Upgrades

As it stands, the Birmingham Police Departments Vehicles are, on average, over the standard mileage of 120,000. The aging fleet is in need of replacement and repairs to aid with call times and day-to-day operations. In 2023, the Birmingham Police Department responded to 442,396 calls, putting a substantial strain on the current vehicle fleet.

The request is for $2 million from the Department of Justice for the acquisition of 25 new patrol vehicles for BPD.

Birmingport Redevelopment

Located on 614 acres along the Black Warrior River, Birmingport is capable of handling intermodal cargo due to the fact it also has access to a rail line. However, there is not currently a controlled storage facility on the property, which severely limits the operational capacity of the port – it only operates at 5 percent of its overall capacity.

According to an analysis conducted by Auburn University, every dollar invested into the port would generate up to four dollars for the region. The request from the U.S. Department of Transportation would be for $12 million in Port Infrastructure Improvement Grants to assist with warehouse construction, rail spur extensions and push boat acquisitions.