By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, voters in Birmingham go to the polls to vote for Mayor, City Council, and School Board. Unlike State, County, or Judicial elections, municipal elections are non-partisan.
Longtime incumbent William Bell (D) is seeking a third term as Mayor. Bell was a member of the Birmingham City Council and Mayor Pro Tem in 1999 when longtime Mayor Richard Arrington retired. Bell became Mayor by law then, but was defeated in the election by then City Councilman, Bernard Kincaid.
After two terms Kincaid was defeated as Mayor by the outspoken Jefferson County Commissioner Larry Langford. Langford would be prosecuted and go to Federal prison over his involvement in a scheme with former Alabama Democratic Party Chairmen Bill Blount, and Al LaPierre to defraud Jefferson County taxpayers by constantly refinancing the county debt to generate more commissions for Langford’s bond writing friends. The risky auction rate bond finance deals of the county’s $three billion++ sewer bond debt led to Jefferson County (Alabama’s most populated) going into the largest local government bankruptcy in America history,to that point, during the Great Recession. After returning to the Birmingham City Council, Bell was elected Mayor in 2011 and re-elected in 2013 to the Mayor’s office.
Birmingham is Alabama’s largest city and largest metropolitan area; but has lagged behind other similar sized southern cities for decades.
The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) spoke with Mayor William Bell at the city’s Civil Rights District recently. Bell told APR that with Jefferson County out of bankruptcy and the city’s growing momentum in recent years; that it is now primed and ready to take off.
Bell, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, the League of Conservation Voters, and Conservation Alabama are asking the Trump Administration to retain the National Monuments Designation granted to the Civil Rights area by President Obama in January. The Trump administration is reviewing all National Monument decisions since 1996. The Civil Rights National Monument area includes Birmingham’s Civil Rights Institute, the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the AG Gaston Hotel, and Kelly Ingraham Park.
Mayor Bell made headlines on Tuesday when he ordered city workers to cover up the Confederate Veterans Monument in Linn Park in the aftermath of racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the last week. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) has filed suit against Birmingham and Mayor Bell demanding that the historic monument be uncovered. Earlier this year the Alabama Legislature passed the Memorial Preservation Act limiting local governments’ authority to alter or move historic monuments or buildings.
Over the last decade the City has redeveloped antiquated central city commercial districts into an upscale loft community and new niche businesses. Birmingham has a thriving micro-brewery community, the largest airport in the State, the state’s most impressive skyline, and is home to the sprawling UAB University, healthcare, and insurance empire (Alabama’s biggest employer).
Growth and prosperity however comes with its own set of problems so the Mayor recently appointed a task force to study how to address problems with gentrification, which is a growing trend on Birmingham’s Southside, in Crestwood, and in Avondale.
Mayor Bell is a graduate of John Carroll High School and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where he received his Master’s Degree in Psychology and Guidance and Counseling. He also received his Doctorate in Jurisprudence from Miles College. Dr. Bell has served as a probation officer in Family Court, sales consultant with the Xerox Corporation and Special Assistant to the Vice-President at UAB. Mayor Bell is married to Dr. Sharon C. Bell, an administrator with the Birmingham City School System. They have two children and attend Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.
For those voters who want to see an alternative to another term for William Bell; there is a crowded field to choose from. They include: Patricia Bell, Randy Davis, Erwin Philemon Hill III, Trudy Hunter, Chris Woods, Carl “J” Jackson, Randall Woodfin, Fernandez Sims, Frank Matthews, Donald T. Lomax, and Lanny E. Jackson.
The Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham City School Board will also be on the ballot on Tuesday. Birmingham is divided into districts so residents need to look up what district they are in.
The South Alabama City of Mobile will also have local elections on Tuesday.
Alabama voters must have a valid photo ID in order to vote.
Polls open on Tuesday at 7:00 am and close at 7:00 pm.