Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin discussed civil unrest, economic and neighborhood revitalization, and COVID-19 in his annual State of the Community address Monday afternoon.
“The spirit of Birmingham has been on display over the last 10 months, forged in the heat of crisis, much in the way iron was forged in our city in the early days 150 years ago,” Woodfin said. “The livelihood of our neighborhoods and our local businesses is strengthened when we collectively move together. This is what Dr. King would call the interrelated structure of our reality. This is what I would call for us, progress, together.”
Woodfin recalled the civil unrest in Birmingham during the nationwide George Floyd protests against racial inequity, where protestors converged on the city’s Linn Park in an effort to remove or destroy the park’s Confederate Memorial. Woodfin, who would later be sued by Attorney General Steve Marshall for ordering the memorial be removed the following morning, recalled the ensuing damage caused by riots in the aftermath of the protest.
“I vividly recall the night of May 31,” Woodfin said. “I remember walking the streets of our city. Seeing the damage firsthand. And as we moved to secure our community and help those whose windows were shattered and livelihoods hung in the balance. I was so struck by the spirit of our city.”
Woodfin later spoke on the neighborhood revitalization, a major piece of public policy for his administration.
“We are only as good as the neighborhood with the lowest quality of life in our city,” Woodfin said. “1100 blighted houses have been demolished and in the last year, we’ve reduced the backlog condemn structures by more than one half.”
Woodfin also mentioned the economic revitalization efforts, including the recent redevelopment efforts for the historic Ramsay McCormack Building in Ensley, the demolition of Crestwood’s Central Plaza Mall and Bessemer’s Amazon Fulfillment Center, which opened in mid-April.
“Now more than ever, Birmingham’s growth is set to rejuvenate our neighborhoods,” Woodfin said.
Birmingham has seen a marked decline in overall crime this year, according to the mayor, the only exception being gun-violence, which continues to trouble the city. Cities across the country have experienced marked increases in gun violence this year, with experts blaming the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and its subsequent economic downturn.
“This keeps me up at night,” Woodfin said. “Through law enforcement strategies we’ve seen gains and some improvement, but it doesn’t happen through enforcement alone. The truth is we need everyone’s collective help.”
The mayor’s office created a Public Safety Special Task Force in July, with the purpose of providing “a roadmap on how the City of Birmingham can improve public safety,” according to their website. The task force released a report of recommendations on December 10.
“Many of those recommendations will be put into action in the coming weeks,” Woodfin said.
Nearly two weeks ago, Woodfin was released from Princeton Baptist Medical Center after receiving treatment for COVID-19 pneumonia in his left lung.
“In that hospital room, I found myself experiencing it in a new and disturbing way,” Woodfin said. “I was reminded how we all face this challenge together, and how we support each other with the simple act of wearing masks and social distancing.”