Council approves funding for Coding Boot Camp at Lawson State

Photo Cred: Ruiwen Chua, Flickr Commons

A Eurasian eagle-owl made an appearance during the Birmingham City Council meeting today. Bilbo, the owl, took flight in the chamber as the Council presented a resolution of service for the out-going Birmingham Zoo Director, Dr. William Foster.

Chris Pfefferkorn will be replacing Foster as the new director. “You took this on as your zoo and worked hard to make it into the great place that it is now. I just want to thank you, Dr. Foster, for all that you’ve done. We’ve benefited from all your hard work and dedication,” Council President Valerie Abbott said.

The Birmingham Zoo is Alabama’s most visited attraction, with roughly 644,000 visitors coming through the gates each year.


This summer, Lawson State, which is located in District 7, will partner with the Birmingham City School System to host a series of four-day Swift Coding Boot Camp that will teach middle school and high school students the basics of coding and how they can use that skill to launch careers in technology.

The Council voted to approve an amount not to exceed $85,000 to assist the program. The camps will operate between June 18 and July 19, 2018 and will be four days each; they will serve up to 100 Birmingham City School Systems.

Dr. Perry Ward, president of Lawson State Community College, said this is the first such program to be launched in the state of Alabama. “

“It creates critical thinking skills,” Ward said about coding. “It’s good for entrepreneurs. You take a student, possibly from Birmingham, that could develop an 99 cent app and it could go international. We could very possibly have a student here in Birmingham who could create an app and become a $10 million entrepreneur. We had Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, stop by Lawson State two months ago to see the program. He was very impressed with what we we’re doing. This is the only program in the state where a community college is partnering with our public schools to create and opportunity like this. We will be offering duel enrollment opportunities as well.”

Council President Pro Tem Jay Roberson, who represents District 7, touted the importance of learning how to code in a world that is increasingly reliant on technology.

“This is what I call innovation and economic opportunity,” Roberson said. “I don’t know if it will resonate, but it’s a very great opportunity for these kids. These young people will learn how to code and we can create future entrepreneurs. Birmingham is becoming a hub for technology and innovation. We are the first city to come together and make this happen, and we did so in three months. It took Chicago three years to come up with a program like this. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.”

The item reads as follows:


The council voted unanimously to reaffirm the zoning for the development on Highlands Ave. that will be a high-rise apartment complex. The development has faced legal challenges and Tuesday’s vote was to solidify the zoning for the development as QB-3 (Qualified Community Business District).

Don Brockway, an attorney representing a property owner whose building is adjacent to the new development, spoke during the public hearing and voiced opposition to what he described as the negative impacts that would be a result of the development such as traffic congestion and the marginalization of property rights.

“They deserve attention and they deserve to be protected. We can’t marginalize property rights. It’s not consistent with our constitution,” Brockway said. “We should be trying to lessen congestion in streets. It is obvious that with 300-plus apartment units that there will be congestion in the streets. [Council President Abbott] was concerned about this years ago. The parking along 14th Ave. South this morning was full. Someone got into an accident with four parked vehicles this morning.”

Councilor Steven Hoyt, who chairs the Planning and Zoning Committee, said that the development is in line with the city’s long-range plan. “I don’t think this plan marginalizes anyone. If it did, I wouldn’t support it. We’ve done our due diligence and this development fits into the city’s Comprehensive Plan that we put a lot of time and money into developing. We’ve heard from both sides and I thank you for voicing your concerns about this.”

There was a typographical error on the agenda item that was corrected during the discussion. While the Council approved the zoning resolution, the property owners who were represented during the meeting are expected to continue to challenge the development, which is already under construction.

The item should read “from QB-3…to QB-3.” The reaffirmed zoning was a result of legal dispute

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