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Opinion | Vision 2025: Continuing the progress in Birmingham

“Birmingham is on that path to the future. It is a path of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Incumbent Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin held a campaign kick-off event on Saturday, Jan. 30. (VIA WOODFIN CAMPAIGN)

Forty-four months ago, when I took the oath of office as Mayor of Birmingham, it fulfilled a dream I’d had since I was 15 years old, bagging groceries at the supermarket on Crestwood Boulevard. I wanted the opportunity to lead the city I was born and grew up in, the city I returned to after college, the city I have dedicated my professional life to serving. The city I love.

I wanted the opportunity to make my city the best it’s ever been, to put Birmingham firmly on the path to its best possible future. For me, the vision for getting to that path and building for that future, was — and remains — rooted in three words: Putting People First.

It’s a simple concept: the top priority of city government must be not only meeting the reasonable needs and expectations of citizens, but also connecting those citizens with opportunities to develop their potential — and that of the neighborhoods and communities they live in — to the fullest. That commitment has been at the core of every action my administration has taken over the past four years, and of all we will do in the future.

I am running for re-election because we are succeeding. Birmingham is on that path to the future. It is a path of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s a path of innovation and progress. It’s a path beyond what we have always wanted to be, leading confidently in the direction of what we are becoming.

Keeping us on that path, ensuring that my administration leaves Birmingham better than we found it, equipped to meet both the challenges and opportunities of the future, is my vision for the next four years. Vision 2025 is both a summation of what we’ve achieved — the foundation we have put in place — and our plan for building on that foundation. Finishing what we’ve started. Continuing to make Progress Together.

A few highlights:

Vision 2025 reimagines public safety in Birmingham. Since I took office, serious violent and property crime is down by almost 33 percent. We continue to invest in new programs at both the departmental and neighborhood levels — including our Real-Time Crime Center, which will be launched later this summer — while constantly monitoring deployment strategies.

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And yet, gun violence remains a blight on both public safety and public health. Both as Mayor and as a person who has lost family members to gun violence, I feel every murder that takes place in Birmingham. Here, as in cities and towns across the nation, the very concept of public safety is at a generational tipping point; gun violence is a parallel pandemic, a problem we can’t arrest our way out of. That problem touches on virtually every aspect of city government — and of our individual and civic lives — and the solutions will require creativity and commitment to change.

Vision 2025 reaffirms our focus on continuing to reduce violent crime and turning the tide of gun violence. It commits us to unprecedented reforms that will help to ensure positive and respectful interactions between our public safety personnel and the citizens they serve; such reforms include the first Civilian Review Board in Birmingham’s history, which will begin investigating citizen complaints this September. We will achieve and maintain a healthy balance between resources that help ensure effective policing and adequate support of critical non-police components of public safety and crime reduction.  

What else is in Vision 2025? Among other things:

Vision 2025 invests in Birmingham’s children. The City of Birmingham has committed $10 million over five years to Birmingham Promise, and Birmingham Promise has helped over 400 BCS students attend the college or university of their choice and offered 150 paid apprenticeships to juniors and seniors in Birmingham City Schools. In the class of 2021 alone, over 600 additional students are on track to participate in Birmingham Promise’s second year of operation. Meanwhile, corporate partners have announced new investments in the Birmingham Promise program totaling $8 million.

Vision 2025 invests in neighborhoods. More than any administration in Birmingham’s history, we have addressed basic neighborhood needs — many of which had gone unaddressed for years, if not decades, under previous administrations. We have paved thousands of miles of roads, filled potholes in every neighborhood, demolished thousands of abandoned homes, and increased efforts to keep vegetation on abandoned properties under control.

We’ve worked with our Land Bank Authority to acquire nearly 750 parcels for future redevelopment. We’ve invested over $8 million in housing preservation and home repairs, with particular focus on our senior population. By 2025, we’ll cut our current affordable housing needs in half, building 2,500 new affordable units and stabilizing 800 existing ones.

We are committed to continuing and accelerating revitalization of North Birmingham, Ensley, and the Smithfield/Elyton area. Redevelopment of the Ramsey-McCormick Building; securing federal and private support for single-family housing initiatives; attracting a regional or national grocery store and other healthy food options; beginning to rectify decades of environmental racism, including by creating an Office of Sustainability to spearhead the City’s environmental justice, housing remediation and retrofitting, food access and food policy, and green infrastructure planning and green workforce development initiatives. These and other efforts to revitalize and enhance these historic neighborhoods will generate future development opportunities.

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Vision 2025 transforms Birmingham transit.  We’re thinking creatively about partnerships to help our residents move across Birmingham and the region and enhance access to healthy food, healthcare, and education. Since launching in 2019, our on-demand ride pilot has provided over 32,000 rides. healthcare, and education. By 2022, we’ll complete the Birmingham Express, an east-west connector system that will link 25 neighborhoods with 32 bus stops.

Vision 2025 supports locally owned small business. In FY2020, the City spent more than $24 million with minority and women-owned businesses. Birmingham’s post-COVID recovery and long-term growth will be fueled by small businesses, and we will support that by increasing City expenditures with minority- and women-led firms to $100 million by 2025. 

As these few examples indicate, we have accomplished a great deal in four years. Things that were talked about for years in Birmingham, the Woodfin Administration has accomplished.

But we have much more to do. That’s why I’m running for re-election, and that’s why I need your continued support. We need to finish the job of preparing Birmingham for the future.

I grew up wanting to serve the city I love. I wanted to be the person who did the hard work that made it easier for the people after me, who stayed up nights pondering what is best for my city.

And I want to do it for four more years. I want to see Vision 2025 become a reality. With your help, we can continue making progress together.

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