District 6 Town Hall touched on blight, street repaving and a 311 system revamp

“I’ve sent a petition around Ms. Tyson and based on what everyone here has said, no one wants you to leave the City Council,” Mayor Randall Woodfin said at the beginning of last night’s District 6 Town Hall.

People packed into the auditorium at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church laughed and applauded, some yelled out their support of Councilor Sheila Tyson who will be sworn in to the Jefferson County Commission in two weeks.

“On a serious note, I may not get an opportunity like this in a larger setting to say this: I’ll miss you,” Woodfin said. “ The thing I like about our relationship is that we can disagree but we’re not disagreeable. I want to thank you for your service to the city of Birmingham, for your passion and for speaking the truth.”

After her move, Tyson will still represent all of District 6, she explained. “I’m a hard worker. I’m still going to be fighting for y’all. It doesn’t matter if I’m a City Councilor or not. You’re still going to get the same thing from me. I was born to serve…I come from a family of foot soldiers. When I tell you I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it.”

Tyson, Woodfin and city department heads took turns answering questions from the audience about issues that concern them. Kicking off the topics of conversation was the upcoming closure of the Greensprings Ave. bridge, just west of I-65, which will be closed Nov. 7 until March 2019. The bridge sits over railroad tracks and has been an issue for quite some time.

As far as additional street paving in District 6, once the bid process is complete funding from the Neighborhood Revitalization Fund will be used to repave 7th and 8th Ave. SW from McMillan Ave. to Cotton Ave.; Hugh Denman Dr. from 14th Pl. SW to Arthur Shores Dr.; Arthur Shores Dr. from 16th St. SW to 15th St. SW; 2nd St. SW from Munger Ave. to Cotton Ave.; 3rd St. SW from Cotton Ave. to McMillan Ave.

Below is a list of the detour routes residents can take:

An audience member from West End asked who to contact about getting vacant lots cut, stating they have not had any luck with the 311 reporting system. This prompted Woodfin’s Chief of Staff, Cedric Sparks to explain the overhaul that is currently taking place with the system.

“The simple answer is, it doesn’t work. When we came to office, one of the things we did was evaluate all the systems in the city. Our 311 system that has several different components that literally are just not working. One, we have a shortage of techs answering those calls. Two, when those calls come in, the systems are not being dispatched to the departments. Three, residents were not receiving a ticket to know the status of their call or timeframe for when an issue will be fixed,” Sparks explained.

“We’re going to be creating a Birmingham call center that will train technicians, so that we will have an adequate number of people answering calls. Two, we will have a system to make sure the calls are traced to the department and when you call them you will get a ticket to know where that call is in the system and an estimated time. We will be able to track it and make sure it’s done to completion,” Sparks continued.

Blight was another issue that was brought up repeatedly throughout the evening. “I know District 6 has it’s fair share of blight,” Woodfin said. “But slumlords, spot zoning in the 1970s didn’t do y’all any favors. A lot of that allowed multifamily housing to pop up anywhere. One of things I want to do as mayor is put more teeth in the city’s housing code to hold landlords accountable. This is something [Tyson] is very passionate about. Of all the districts, I think it’s fair to say the number of complaints about slum landlords is the highest in District 6.”

Removing blight is the first step in stabilizing neighborhoods, Woodfin said. “Second thing we’re moving towards is investing in the Land Bank so citizens can take ownership of empty lots. Once we stabilize and get rid of blight, the third thing is turn our attention to holding landlords accountable,” Woodfin said.

“There’s nothing more I can say other than I’m not leaving. I’m not dying or moving out of town,” Tyson said as the event wound to a close. “I still shop at Piggly Wiggly. My number will still be the same: 249–8559. That’s not a city phone. That’s my personal number. Y’all call me if you need anything and I will make sure I do everything I can to make it happen. All I have left to say is, I love y’all.”

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