mayor bell

Mayor William A. Bell stands near the home dugout of Region’s Field, which was completed in 2013 under his advisement.
Photo by Ian Keel / Photo Editor.

William A. Bell, Mayor

The City of Birmingham has experienced a renaissance like no other under my administration, but what I have found is that the change is so widespread that many do not remember the Birmingham of 7 years ago, before I took office. My immediate plan 7 years ago was to stabilize the City’s finances, change the image of the City in the national headlines and attract amenities and jobs to the City to allow us to push more money into our neighborhoods.

In 2010, Birmingham’s air quality was such that we were limited in what businesses that we could attract to the City so I decided to really focus on creating an atmosphere for technology jobs to flourish. We have been successful. I started with working with President Obama to secure the TechHire designation for the City. TechHire is a bold multi-sector initiative and call to action to empower Americans with the skills they need, through universities and community colleges but also nontraditional approaches like “coding boot camps,” and high-quality online courses that can rapidly train workers for a well-paying job, often in just a few months. UAB and the City secured a $6.5 Million grant to train over 925 people for technology jobs. Our first graduates are already in place in the workforce with good jobs and greater opportunity.

The key to fighting poverty in our City is providing opportunities like Tech Hire for job training and opportunities to make a good living. The City did not have those opportunities before my administration. Success breeds success and we now have an opportunity to secure the Amazon headquarters in Birmingham which will bring an unprecedented 50,000 jobs to this area.

Regions Field has been a huge success and the Barons relocating back to Birmingham have helped us attract millennials to breathe life into a once vacant and lifeless downtown. Again, success breeds success. We now have a new professional soccer team that will begin its first season in 2019. Top Golf will be finished soon and the Crossplex Village with its new restaurants and hotel will add a whole level of access to the western part of town for both the residents and people visit the Crossplex for NCAA events like swimming and track.

We want and need that same success throughout the City, so we have catalytic projects in every part of town. Our Parks and recreation centers throughout the City have benefited and are benefiting from the $150 Million Bond Project that I proposed and successfully secured via a vote of the people. This money allows us to do much need improvements, repairs and upgrades throughout our City. Most of these facilities had not been upgraded or improved in decades. I knew in order to give our residents a sense of hope and expand their opportunities we had to execute a plan to get money out to the neighborhoods. The increase in visitors to our City over the past 5 years has increased our lodging tax and skyrocketed our business licenses allowing us to spend more in the neighborhoods.

While I am proud of what we have accomplished, it does not happen overnight. All of these initiatives took time and work to get off the ground and completed. As Mayor, I have been committed to making Birmingham a great place to live, work and play. We still have work to do especially in the areas of public transportation and education, but I know that we are building a firm foundation now with the new Bus Rapid transit system and President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program to see significant changes in the next few years. I often tell young people, you can move to Atlanta, or Houston or another metropolitan area and be another ripple in the pond, or you can stay in Birmingham and help contribute to the change and growth of this great city. I want to be Mayor over the next 4 years to insure those plans come to fruition. Let me close by quoting Malcolm X, “One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. Then you can come to an intelligent decision for yourself. If you form the habit of going by what you hear others say about someone, or going by what others think about someone, instead of searching that thing out for yourself and seeing for yourself, you will be walking west when you think you're going east, and you will be walking east when you think you're going west.”

The Mayoral runoff is Oct. 3.

View more from Willam A. Bell.

Editor's note: This article incorrectly listed the Mayoral runoff as Oct. 2, it has since been corrected.

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