Birmingham City Councilors Take Center Stage at National League of Cities Conference

Birmingham City Council
5 min readMar 15, 2024

Every year, over 3,000 local elected officials from all over the United States converge on Washington D.C. for the National League of Cities Conference.

It’s an opportunity for officials to share ideas, learn best practices, and have extended meetings with their congressional delegations to help shape policy and priorities for their cities, towns and villages.

Birmingham City Council President Darrell O’Quinn, Pro Tem Wardine Alexander Councilor Crystal Smitherman and Councilor LaTonya Tate have all been reappointed to prominent committee positions with the National League of Cities. While serving in these roles, they will continue to help guide policy priorities and legislative efforts in their respective areas of focus.

Councilor Hunter Williams met with congressional leadership to discuss economic development opportunities and increasing regional cooperation with surrounding Alabama municipalities.

President O’Quinn was re-elected to serve on the NLC’s Board of Directors, Pro Tem Alexander was re-elected as the NLC’s Regional Director for the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, and Councilor Smitherman is continuing in her role serving on the Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations Committee with NLC and Councilor Tate was appointed to the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee.

“In addition to the invaluable conversations and intensive meetings regarding municipal government practices, the National League of Cities Conference allows us the opportunity to interface with our congressional leadership to discuss the priorities that will help Birmingham continue to move forward,” President O’Quinn said. “Perhaps the most important topic that we discussed this year was the Bipartisan Railway Safety Act. This bill has the potential to protect and benefit every single American living near a rail line by increasing regulations and appropriating federal funds to install more safety features in places like Birmingham. I feel as though collectively we were able to make a lot of progress on this issue, especially considering the overwhelming support this bill has from local elected officials from all over the country.”

Pro Tem Alexander has spearheaded efforts to increase workforce development opportunities for residents in District 7 and has continued to advocate for this on a national stage. She was awarded the E Pluribus Unum (UNUM) Fellowship Grant to help create a workforce development pipeline between Lawson State Community College and Buffalo Rock that will provide specialized training to fill jobs in the area. Alexander has also focused on working with state legislators to pass key utilities legislation, including 5G infrastructure expansion.

“It is an honor to be able to represent Birmingham through an organization like the National League of Cities,” Alexander said. “My colleagues and I have been able to network with elected officials from all over the country and we’ve planned to implement some of the strategies we’ve discussed. During my time on this committee I’ll be working with legislators on ways to improve workforce development opportunities, holistic strategies to address issues surrounding homelessness and increasing broadband access for students across the country.”

As a member of the FAIR Committee, Councilor Smitherman has played a critical role in helping to develop a legislative plan for the year and uplifting local priorities to the federal level. As chair of the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, Councilor Smitherman has been working on federal policy priorities on financing, budget, census, federal guidance compliance issues and more.

“This has been a tremendous resource, especailly for young women in elected positions to work together with legislators on ways to improve affordable housing opportunities, getting more young people involved with local government and increasing voter protections,” Councilor Smitherman said.

Councilor Tate, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, was elected to a one-year term and will provide strategic direction and guidance for NLC’s federal advocacy agenda and policy priorities on public safety. The appointment was announced by NLC President Mayor David Sander of Rancho Cordova, CA in January.

“It is an honor to be able to represent Birmingham through an organization like the National League of Cities,” Tate said. “I’ll be working with legislators from across the country on ways to improve public safety, and develop holistic strategies to address issues surrounding crime and violence intervention, especially among our young people.”

Here is a brief synopsis of a few key issues that were discussed with congressional leadership that could benefit Birmingham residents:

Airfield Safety and Expansion and BHM

The current runway and taxing position at Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport does not meet FAA safety standards, which limits the number of aircraft that can be accommodated at one time. Taxiway improvements would not only make the airport safer, but it would also significantly increase the economic opportunities for more cargo traffic.

The current cost of the project is $100 million but could be completed in phases. The request is for $20 million with the FAA Airport Improvement Program to help with the planning, design and construction of a portion of the airport’s primary runway.

Birmingham Police Department Vehicle Upgrades

As it stands, the Birmingham Police Departments Vehicles are, on average, over the standard mileage of 120,000. The aging fleet is in need of replacement and repairs to aid with call times and day-to-day operations. In 2023, the Birmingham Police Department responded to 442,396 calls, putting a substantial strain on the current vehicle fleet.

The request is for $2 million from the Department of Justice for the acquisition of 25 new patrol vehicles for BPD.

Birmingport Redevelopment

Located on 614 acres along the Black Warrior River, Birmingport is capable of handling intermodal cargo due to the fact it also has access to a rail line. However, there is not currently a controlled storage facility on the property, which severely limits the operational capacity of the port — it only operates at 5 percent of its overall capacity.

According to an analysis conducted by Auburn University, every dollar invested into the port would generate up to four dollars for the region. The request from the U.S. Department of Transportation would be for $12 million in Port Infrastructure Improvement Grants to assist with warehouse construction, rail spur extensions and push boat acquisitions.



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