City Hall Howlers
Contradictions, gaffes, slips of the tongue, and other wrongheaded statements from our local officials.
May 17, 2007
The Birmingham City Council recently took up the issue of ultra-bright digital billboards. Two such billboards currently exist in the city limits, and permits for two others are pending. On May 1, Councilor Valerie Abbott requested a moratorium until the city can update codes for electronic outdoor advertising. Councilor Miriam Witherspoon, however, is quite fond of the digital billboards, and here’s a couple of her reasons: “I find them to be very pretty. And I like pretty things. I don’t find them to be a distraction . . . There’s one near my law office and it happens to be at a red light, and I’m glad to be at the red light so that I can see every six seconds [the average length of each changing billboard message] what’s coming up! So I don’t see a distraction element no more than I see folks on the cell phones. I see young folks dancing to music in their car. I see automobile accidents on the side of the road and people completely get mesmerized and stop. So if we [sic] not going to put a moratorium on those kinds of things, why are we gonna hinder a business who is innovative?” • • •Toward the end of the May 8 City Council meeting during individual councilors’ reports, Councilor Steven Hoyt, who, with Councilor Roderick Royal, has been the most vocal in demanding that city contracts be awarded to minority-owned firms, said that the issue of minority inclusion has been neglected for quite some time. “If we gave every contract to every African-American for the next 100 years, we’d still wouldn’t catch up. So wherever juncture [sic] we have an opportunity to create opportunities for African-Americans, I’m going to do that . . . I’m clear about my purpose. God has placed me here to make a difference . . . This sitting council has done more towards minority participation than any other council in the history of Birmingham.” Hoyt concluded by criticizing an unnamed councilor who on three occasions “got up and walked out abruptly” during economic development meetings, a committee which he chairs.
When Hoyt finished, Councilor Carol Duncan was livid. “Let’s talk about it, Mr. Hoyt!” said Duncan angrily. “The two meetings I walked out of in economic development, I sat there as a barrage was being called [sic] white women! White women, white women, white women are getting the minority contracts! Well, baby, as a white woman, I got a little bit offended!” &