City Hall — In the Land of the Absurd

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In the Land of the Absurd

May 03, 2007

In recent months, the Birmingham City Council has found numerous ways to while away the first hour of its Tuesday meetings before addressing any substantive city business. (Birmingham residents can witness this on Bright House Cable’s channel 4 at 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights.) After Birmingham Police Chief Annetta Nunn recaps recent Birmingham crime statistics, the council passes out awards to various civic groups and area residents or observes presentations made by the same groups. True city business takes a back seat to what are usually fluff presentations. The council, however, defends placing such activity at the beginning rather than at meeting’s end (as has been done in the past) by saying that children have to get back to school and adults have to get back to work. Those residents in attendance concerned with more serious issues must simply be patient. Presumably, their jobs are less important to council members.At the April 24 meeting, the council recognized about a dozen Birmingham high school teens for their cooking expertise (it was National Healthy Schools Week). In addition to devoting more than 10 minutes to just one of several ceremonial displays, councilors voiced various “ooohs” and “aaahs” after each teen introduced themselves and named their favorite food to prepare. “Hey, my name is Shalita Irvin. My favorite dish is the breakfast casserole,” said one student. “Ahhhh, well all right,” said Councilor Steven Hoyt. Another girl said, “My name is Amber Jackson and my favorite dish is actually dessert, which is called Punch Bowl Cake.” This prompted Councilor Roderick Royal to say, “That’s some fancy cooks!” At least one student had a sense of humor. “My name is Erica Thomas and my favorite food is the cookie!” Councilors had no response, only blank expressions. Near the end of council meetings, but before local residents are each allowed a few minutes to address the council, each councilor spends anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes talking about events in their district or anything that strikes their fancy. In the months leading up to an election, councilors often use this time to climb on soapboxes and vent about various issues. Councilor Steven Hoyt frequently complains about the lack of minority participation in city contracts. He has recently expressed concern that bond agencies and banks with which the city deals do not have enough minority employees. During his 10 minutes, Hoyt denounced a local black attorney who stated that there were only four outstanding black attorneys in Birmingham. The councilor would not name the offending attorney in public. Councilor Roderick Royal shared Hoyt’s irritation and read a list of more than two dozen black Birmingham attorneys who in his opinion are well qualified, including Councilors Carole Smitherman and Miriam Witherspoon. After he had finished, a look of horror crossed Royal’s face as he realized he had left out the attorneys present at the meeting who work for the city. Royal quickly began adding their names to his list. &

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