Monthly Archives: February 2008

City Hall section — Langford’s Way


Langford’s Way

Mayor Langford continues to express himself in a unique fashion.

February 21, 2008

According to Mayor Larry Langford, repaved streets, additional streetlights, laptop computers, and school scholarships are going to stop residents from fleeing Birmingham’s dismal school system. At the January 29 City Council meeting, the mayor announced plans to start his economic revitalization agenda in the Collegeville community. “The reason we chose Collegeville is because—geographically—it’s small enough in size that whatever we do there will have such a major impact that you can actually get a benefit and see the impact of your dollars and use it as a model for other areas,” Langford assured the council. “You begin to re-house a community, street repaving and lighting, you bring people back into your city. You add to that component the laptop computers, and I can assure you . . . once that’s up and running by the end of this year, we are going to find a lot of people who will want to send their children to school who do not have the resources, moving back into our city to take advantage of the scholarships and that sort of thing.”Langford addressed the ever-present crime that has made Birmingham the nation’s sixth most dangerous city. “Our children are acting out on what they’re seeing us doing. We keep talking about these kids. We’ve got too many 50-year-old teenagers in this community. Big ol’ grown men walking around with their pants down, their butts showing, earrings in their ears! We need men to once again stand up and be men. Run your house . . . Ladies, don’t get offended, because some of the best men I know are women. My momma was a better man than any man I ever knew. And I got the scars on my butt to prove it. Now, every time you say ‘discipline your kids,’ I’ve got all of these groups popping up [saying], ‘It’s child abuse to talk about spanking.’ Child abuse is taking your child to the mall and paying $200 for a pair of sneakers for a kid. That’s what child abuse is. Taking your little boys to the mall, punching holes in their heads to put earrings in ’em and them hollering, ‘Black kings wore them!’ Name one!”

Langford went on to criticize parents for expecting teachers to instill discipline that should have been taught at home. “If you are a teacher, be glad I am not your superintendent, for I would make it mandatory that all teachers take a karate course,” Langford said. Recalling his days as a youth, the mayor reminisced, “[Teachers] would knock the paint off your body. And when your parents came, they would finish the job . . . And it’s not against the law—it may be against man’s law to go home and knock your kids out, but it ain’t against God’s law, and God’s law takes precedent over man’s law every day!”

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Two weeks later, at the February 12 council meeting, the mayor was again hyperventilating, but this time it was to complain about people calling City Hall to ask that their neighborhoods be cleaned up. “When we picked up almost 20,000 tons of garbage the first time around [during Langford’s initiative to clean up 23 communities in 23 days], and the second time around we’re picking up equally as much garbage and trash. There’s something wrong, something dreadfully wrong,” said Langford. “I hate chicken, I just absolutely don’t like chicken because of all the chicken boxes that’s thrown [out], they just drive past your house and [throw out] chicken bones . . . And this is adults doing this. We blame everything on these kids . . . They drive in front of your house, take the cigarette ashtray, open the door and pour all of the butts in the middle of the street. We need to put their little butts in jail for this nonsense. I mean, how long do we want to keep paying for the irresponsibility of people? And yet they call in here on a daily basis, ‘Will you come pick up this and pick up that.’ We just picked it up yesterday . . . You fine some of these people $2,000 to $3,000 for doing this . . . Forget the fine. It ought to be required by the courts that you ought to go out there and clean up a whole mile of where you dumped it for 30 days. That’ll stop it!”

Langford later admonished women who pursue relationships with men who mistreat them, in the process offering men a glimpse of what they’re missing because he wasn’t born a woman. “C’mon, get a life. If he mistreats you early on, don’t you kid yourself, it’s only going to continue,” Langford scolded. “Because if I was a woman—yeah, and be glad I wasn’t born one ’cause I would have been a fine little thing. Yeah, that’s right. I’d have been the kind when you’re walking down the street [that] looks like two little boys under a blanket fighting.”

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Also on February 12, the city council approved spending $3.5 million for 15,000 laptop computers for Birmingham students in grades one through eight. Only Councilor Valerie Abbott voted against the expenditure. Questions about the Birmingham Education Initiative, the non-profit foundation that would manage the program, forced that organization’s creation to be delayed for a week. “You’ve got to have a foundation in place to receive this money. These companies cannot and will not give you money unless there’s a tax-deductible foundation for it,” said Langford.

However, councilors were hesitant to approve the group to oversee the computer program, as the Birmingham Education Initiative has yet to be granted non-profit status. Councilor Roderick Royal, who requests that every dollar go toward the computers “and not be siphoned off by staff costs, etc.,” prefers that the school system oversee the computer program. “The school system has enough issues of its own to deal with,” responded the mayor. “We need a foundation that can go out and recruit funds for this program.”

The stand-off over the management group prompted an antagonistic exchange between Langford and Abbott, who wanted to know more about who would be in charge of the organization. Abbott said she recently discovered a July 2002 memo from then-City Finance Director Folasade Olanipekun regarding the city’s inability to audit the nonprofit Help E-Learn program that was affiliated with Computer Help for Kids, organized by former Healthsouth magnate Richard Scrushy, Langford, and former City Council and County Commission member John Katapodis. Some $200,000 was never accounted for.

Langford grew defensive. “As far as these computers are concerned, I’m the person directly responsible. If I wanted to hire this person you’re talking about, you can’t direct me who to hire and not to hire. Right now, we’re talking about computers coming in for a totally different issue. If you’ve got a problem with E-Learn, we’ve got lawyers here, let them sue them, if that’s the case.” Abbott replied, “If I’m going to be approving this, I am concerned about accountability and the veracity and honesty of people that you are hiring on behalf of the city.” Langford answered, “They may have the same concern about you, since we’re going to play this game!” Abbott maintained her composure as always, and simply replied, “Well, that’s fine and dandy.” &