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.

Wallace Golding, Managing Editor

If you look south from Section 107 of Birmingham’s Regions Field, you will see a sprawling skyline of apartments, hospitals and office buildings, one that wasn’t present less than a decade ago. Mayor William A. Bell built this, or rather, he envisioned this. This field and these buildings tell a story for Bell, a story of his leadership, his foresight and his perceptiveness.

Getting here has not all been pretty for Bell and his administration. His is a government whose accomplishments have largely been overshadowed by back-room brawls, tension with the City Council and accusations of neglecting Birmingham’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Still, however, he believes he has something for Birmingham, something that can keep this city on track.

This stadium became a crown jewel for the city when it opened in 2013, a testament to the true leadership of whoever may have materialized it. Having an idea is one thing; making it happen is another.

“It’s gorgeous, Mayor,” interjected Kwani Carson, a member of Bell’s campaign staff. “You did a great job.”

Less than one month prior, on Aug. 22, his bid for reelection was sent to a runoff, with his opponent, Randall Woodfin, pulling in 40.84 percent of the vote compared to his own 35.55 percent. The outlook appeared bleak at this point, but Bell remained optimistic. He has been here before, after all. His December 2009 election was marked by a deficit of more than 5,000 votes to Patrick Cooper. Bell won the ensuing runoff by more than 25,000 votes.

“The reaction was ‘my votes didn’t come out,’” Bell said. “Anytime that you have 11 or 12 candidates in a race, they’ll all pull votes from you. I’m not shocked by that, nor am I daunted by it.”

Bell’s opponent caught attention as being young and innovative, something many believe Birmingham’s government needs. Bell, however, disagrees.

“My opponent, for the most part, received a free ride,” Bell said. “There was no focal point on his public service record, which I believe people are now beginning to notice.”

An assistant city attorney and former president of the Birmingham Board of Education, Woodfin’s public service record is “very thin and very light,” according to Bell.

“What people have to understand is that Birmingham is a billion-dollar enterprise,” Bell said. “You have to have the experience to be able to move this city forward.”

Former Birmingham mayors Richard Arrington and Bernard Kincaid seem to agree, having officially given their endorsement to Bell during a Sept. 7 press conference.

“They know what it takes,” Bell said. “So, to get their endorsement and support really sends the message that they realize I have the experience, the knowledge and the skills to be able to continue to lead this city.”

Bell’s administration has long been criticized for the apparent tension with the Birmingham City Council. Perhaps the most prominent example of this was Bell’s 2015 altercation with Councilor Marcus Lundy, which sent both individuals to the hospital. Despite this, the current Mayor preached the need for civil discourse on both sides.

“I think that when you look at any governmental entity, there’s always tension between the administrative side and the legislative side,” Bell said. “That is natural. As it relates to the city of Birmingham, over 95% of the items we have on the council agenda every week are supported and passed by the majority of councilmembers, so we are making progress from that point.”

Others have questioned Bell’s ability to address crime within city limits. Just last year, Birmingham was listed as the third most violent city in the nation, according to a report by the FBI. Only St. Louis and Detroit ranked higher. Bell maintains that crime rates have decreased under his administration.

“The vast majority of [violent crime] situations occur among people who know each other,” Bell said. “It’s very difficult to police that type of activity, but we also recognize that you have to have a higher visibility of police on the street. We’ve brought in a lot of new technology to identify problem areas and provide solutions.”

Aside from crime, Birmingham’s education system has been of the utmost concern throughout the campaign, with 13 of the district’s schools labeled “failing” by the Alabama State Department of Education in January. Bell chalks this up to a “deficit of leadership” on the school board, one that he believes will improve under the direction of new superintendent, Dr. Lisa Herring.

Bell also spoke to how he has sought to improve the school system.

“I’ve worked constantly trying to find ways to improve the revenue and resources available to the school system,” Bell said. “In fact, we recently had a referendum on Jefferson County being able to keep and use a one cent sales tax to continue to help fund our schools.”

Bell revealed that he expects to receive $16 million for Birmingham City Schools this year followed by another $4 million each year for the next 25 years as part of a deal with Jefferson County Schools.

“I’m hoping we invest part of this money in reading programs and technology programs that directly benefit students,” Bell said.

Despite its struggles, Bell believes Birmingham can become something even greater than it currently is, touting the city’s inherent diversity and ideal location. In his eyes, it acts as a chain reaction.

“I want to see Birmingham become an international city,” Bell said. “Once we establish Birmingham as that international city, which is something I’ve been working on for several years, we’ll be able to change the image of the city, attracting international companies and creating new jobs. People will be able to invest in their homes, invest in their communities and strengthen all of our neighborhoods.”

Runoff elections will be held on Oct. 3.

Wallace Golding can be reached at wsgoldin@uab.edu or on Twitter @WGolding_4.

Aura and Real Life Poets host 2nd annual Spoken Truth Poetry Festival

Join us for a full day of artistry and workshops at the Spoken Truth Poetry Festival on April 14, 2018 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. at UAB’s Hill Student Center. Admission is free for all attendees. Aura Literary Arts Review (UAB) and Real Life Poets, Inc. have partnered to bring an array of activities to this year’s poetry festival, including a variety of workshops, a poetry slam, and a special poetry showcase highlighting spoken word performers in the region. Workshops begin at 1 p.m. with topics varying from the art of performing poetry, how to become a published author, and how to create your own handmade magazine.

Poetry slam participants must be between the ages of 15 and 21. The poetry slam begins at 5 p.m., followed by the poetry showcase at 6:30 p.m. We believe that art is a vital form of expression that develops independence, enhances creative and critical thinking, and encourages higher order thinking such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Art crosses cultural boundaries and breaks down social, religious and racial barriers. UAB’s Aura Literary Arts Review and Real Life Poets, Inc. aim to encouraging artistic expression, especially amongst the youth and young adults in our community who will someday help activate and bring about change in our world. So be prepared to enjoy a monumental day of truth and expression!

*To register to attend the workshops or participate in the poetry slam, visit www.uab.edu/studentmedia.com. For media inquiries only, contact 205.585.8271 or email info@reallifepoets.org




Spoken Truth Poetry Festival April 14 workshops begin at 1pm and continue until 5pm where the poetry slam and showcase will begin

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USGA to reign in new president: Candidates introduce platforms of their campaign to student body

pres pose 3 1 of 5Siddharth Srikakolapu

pres pose 2 1 of 2Erica Webb

pres pose 1 1 of 4Kevin Pittman



Photos by Laykn Shepard / Photo Editor

Lauren Moore/Campus Editor

As a young and growing institution, UAB looks to student leaders to help shape the future of the university. USGA hosted their 2018 Presidential Debate Thursday, March 1.

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Black Panther Movie Review  

Jo Wright
Life & Style Reporter

The release of Black Panther over President’s Day weekend spurred plenty of excitement, evidenced by its immense success in the box office. The original estimate of $165 million was eclipsed by the $242 million made domestically. The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, features a nearly all-black cast and qualitative female-empowering roles.   

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How to survive to school shooting: Capt. Amy Schreiner shares with students how to live through an on-campus shooting

Sufia Alam
Campus Editor
sufia@uab.edu

According to the Center for Disease Control, roughly half of those who commit or attempt to carry out a homicide at a school usually present some type of warning sign, such as telling others about their plan or leaving a note before the event.   

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