Real men invest in pink
Alabama State Representative John Rogers snags first place in Councilor Pat Alexander’s “Real Men Can Cook” contest. “Let me tell you ’bout my sauce!” brags Rogers. “It comes from a Hindu monk in the Himalaya Mountains [councilors laugh loudly]. It’s been marinatin’ for 365 days. . . . It’s a time-honored recipe, so it’s the best you ever tasted in your whole life!” howls Rogers as he thanks the council for the award. Mayor Bernard Kincaid quips, “With some of these tall fish stories, this should have been a weigh-in.” Kincaid seizes the moment to herald men in the kitchen as positive male role models for Birmingham youth. “Can I have the Pepto Bismol franchise?” Council President William Bell asks Councilor Alexander. “You know, somebody got to make a little money outta this deal!” The council again erupts in laughter.
Peace on Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard
Reverend Abraham Woods says that recent attempts to remove former mayor Richard Arrington’s name from the one-way thoroughfare previously known as 21st Street
“would certainly have made all of us poorer.” Calling the legal challenge by businesses along Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard “the essence of disrespect,” Woods proudly announces that a peace accord has been struck. [The businesses filed suit over the name change because of difficulty receiving mail and inordinate expenses incurred in reprinting letterheads, envelopes, etc.] An agreement was approved by postal officials, according to Woods, who says that businesses will receive mail regardless of whether the new or old street address is used. “The document was signed by business leaders of the white community which had this lawsuit in court!” declares Woods, noting the lawsuit will be stopped according to the recent agreement. Woods can’t resist the opportunity to “take a crack” at Councilor Jimmy Blake, a frequent nemesis. The reverend condemns Blake for accusing Woods of “always playing the race card,” which Woods denies ever doing. “Not only can good men cook, but good men can go to the meeting room. And they can sit down and they can discuss in a positive way their differences!” Woods rants with religious fervor. Calling Blake his favorite councilor, Woods remarks, “It is always better to work things out in the suite than to work ‘em out in the street!”
Jesus, prostitutes, and truckstop etiquette
A request by Mount Moriah Baptist Church for the re-zoning of land it owns on the Bankhead Highway (Highway 78) meets a barrage of protests from the Smithfield Estates Neighborhood Association. The property was formerly the site of Burgess Nursing Home, which is presently unoccupied. The re-zoning would allow construction of what has been called a convenience store by those in favor. But neighborhood residents argue that the 5.2 acre plot would be a truckstop. [The controversial site lies in the midst of commercial development on Highway 78.] Donald Blankenship, counsel for D & D Oil Company, which operates as Cowboy’s stores in parts of Alabama and Georgia, says that the store would be a “10 to 12 gasoline pump” station. Blankenship notes that the stretch of road in proximity to the proposed site on Highway 78 between Pratt Highway and Cherry Avenue carries approximately 46,000 vehicles per day, according to the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission. “So it will be some type of commercial or industrial development [in the future],” explains Blankenship, who denies that the convenience store will be a truckstop. He cites the locale as “the perfect place for a gasoline station.”
A contingent of neighborhood residents protests crime and the loss of property values that accompany truckstops, including the “loss of family flavor of the neighborhood.” One resident, whose property is adjacent to the proposed site, says her home has already been the target of crimes four times. “Historically, convenience stores have been a mecca for [prostitution and drugs],” she says while reeling off a list of recently failed businesses in the area.
Neighborhood resident Billy Baldwin echoes others’ gripes about the disturbing sound of “air-brakes” as he voices traffic concerns. “This is the main route for the 18-wheeler traffic from Memphis to Birmingham to Atlanta. We’re already listening to the screeching of the wheels and everything!” Baldwin says as he points to the plethora of convenience stores in close proximity. “If there was a need for this, we wouldn’t squawk!”
Highway 78 business owner Doug Reid of Doug Reid Autoplex explains how much pride he has in the local community where he conducts business. Noting that he’s a Christian, Reid says he’s proud of today’s council meeting. “I heard God mentioned here more than I do at church!” The auto dealer points out that traffic in the area is a problem. “I’ve seen seven people killed at that red light [intersection of Cherry Avenue and Pratt Highway] in the 15 years I’ve been there,” says Reid, who says that most of the carnage is caused by trucks running the intersection’s traffic light. He also condemns prostitution as a “terrible, terrible problem in the area,” admitting that he calls the police every day to report hookers. “Yesterday there was a prostitute in the middle of the highway flagging down trucks! Sometimes I’m ashamed to tell people where my business is located,” bemoans Reid as he recalls television stations doing stories on prostitution near his autoplex. He quickly blames truckstops for the surge in prostitution and drugs. “I pick up needles and condoms off my lot nearly everyday.” Reid warns that when police respond to robberies, the suspects will seek refuge in the homes of neighborhood residents. Reverend Tommy Lewis joins the truckstop opposition, recalling the excitement in the community when it was first reported that a church was to be built on the nursing home site. The delirium quickly turned to disappointment when Lewis discovered that “we want to trade Christ for a cowboy!” He gravely warns, “It’s our neighborhood today; it could be your neighborhood tomorrow.” The council votes against the re-zoning.
July 10, 2001Roosevelt City fire station continues to smolder at city hall
Councilor Sandra Little requests that Roosevelt City residents be allowed to address the Mayor this morning regarding the continued delay in construction on the controversial Roosevelt City fire station that was included in the council’s amended budget. Mayor Kincaid says he must leave early this morning to attend a funeral but will be glad to meet with the group in his office at a later date. Council President Bell grants Little a “point of personal privilege” and allows Roosevelt City residents to address the council. The Mayor promptly leaves the council chambers as resident Brenda Jennings speaks first. Jennings tells of an elderly, wheelchair-confined woman who recently died in a house fire in Roosevelt City. The woman’s home was secured by burglar bars, so neighbors were unable to help her as they called 911. According to Jennings, by the time the fire department arrived 20 minutes later, the woman’s cries for help had ceased. “The only thing [the fire department] could do was to put out the fire and remove her charred body,” explains Jennings. She says if Mayor Kincaid is not concerned for the welfare of all citizens, “maybe he should not have that seat he’s sitting in.” Jennings adds, “That fire station has been a dream of our grandparents, our great-grandparents, and our parents.”
Roosevelt City community leader Eddie Turner threatens to sue the Mayor for failure to build the station, condemning Kincaid for ignoring the council’s veto that provides for funds for the station’s construction. “Kincaid is not a dictator. This is America; this is a democracy!” Turner protests angrily. Councilor Sandra Little gives the history of the proposed fire station: $1 million for the station was put in place by former Mayor Richard Arrington, and the land was secured under interim-Mayor Bell’s brief tenure. Little urges the neighborhood to pursue the issue in court, noting that litigation is frequently Kincaid’s method of operation.
Church continues to protest $2,500 lawn care bill
Representatives from Mercy Seat Baptist Church in Ensley, Councilor Leroy Bandy’s district, claim they received no notice from the city regarding a $2,500 fee paid to a contractor to cut the grass on church property in Wylam. Three certified letters warning the church to clean up the property were sent in the fall of 1999, according to a representative of the Street and Sanitation Department. Three bids of $2,500, $3,000, and $3,500 were also received. Defending the church, Councilor Bandy says that sometimes notes on doors are removed by passersby. Councilor Aldrich Gunn, a former letter carrier, argues that postal carriers always place mail in mailboxes, sparking a brief flare of tempers between the two councilors. A church representative explains that the church was billed for $175 by the city in 1994 for having the grass cut, and is baffled at the sudden cost escalation for lawn care. Councilor Don MacDermott is mystified at the church’s failure to pick up its mail. MacDermott notes the dangerous precedent that will be set if the church is not forced to pay. “If we tell everybody in this city that they can ignore certified mail, and we forgive [the church] on this payment, then we’re going to have to do it for everybody . . . We’re going to have overgrown lots [everywhere]. The city’s going to become the lawn boy for everybody in cutting lots,” MacDermott warns. Bandy argues that other items of similar nature are treated differently, appalled at the exorbitant price of cutting grass. “The church has no reason to lie [about not receiving the notices],” says Bandy. Councilor Lee Loder examines photos of the property, noting extensive growth. Councilor Gunn admits there are hardships on churches, but reminds that rules and regulations still exist. Gunn remains adamant that the church should have heeded the notices. He suggests letting the church pay the debt off in installments. Finance Department interim head Michael Johnson says payment plans are rare at city hall. Councilor Bandy wants to “knock the price down.” Gunn laughs and tells Bandy he’ll have to talk to the contractor about that. The council votes the church must pay, with Gunn, MacDermott, Loder, and Johnson leading the majority. [Bell left before the vote, so four votes were enough for a majority.]
July job freeze
Citizen Adolphus Johnson condemns Mayor Kincaid’s plan to freeze city hiring due to recent budget deficits. “We freeze meat and non-perishable [sic] items,” says Johnson. “We do not freeze people’s abilities to take care of their homes!” Johnson says that if there is a freeze, all the relatives, friends, and church members affiliated with Kincaid should be examined for the positions for which they were hired, as many are unqualified, according to Johnson. &