District 7 Community Forum draws big crowd

As the sun set over the Lawson State Community College campus, people began to file into the auditorium for the District 7 Community Forum hosted by Council President Pro Tem Jay Roberson and Mayor Randall Woodfin.

By the time the discussion began, it was standing room only.

Along with the elected officials, city department heads were on hand to provide information to anyone interested in learning about city initiatives and responsibilities.

One of the main concerns that was addressed during the town hall was the issue of trains blocking intersections throughout the community.

“I don’t see any representatives from CSX or Norfolk Southern here tonight and that concerns me,” Roberson said. “I think it’s time now to call them with your concerns and complaints. I want their phones ringing off the hook. It’s a concern for the families who live here. It’s a concern for the people who work here…I am asking you as a council member to call those companies and let them know we have a problem with their trains blocking our streets.”

Roberson said efforts to get the company to send representatives to Tuesday’s discussion went unanswered. While the trains have been a major headache for residents, Roberson touted improvements to other aspects of District 7’s infrastructure.

Working in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Mayor’s administration, Roberson said he has seen major improvements to the roads that have been torn up by heavy trucks over the years. “We’ve seen an increase in funding that has been redistributed to these needs. We see repaving on 31st Street Southwest and Pearson Avenue. That’s not all the roads but I do believe with this new budget the mayor has submitted we will see more funding for neighborhood revitalization efforts and infrastructure needs for our community.”

Also part of those sustained neighborhood revitalization efforts will be demolishing dilapidated homes. Currently there are 97 properties in District 7 that are eligible for demolition; two are in the process of being torn down and five more properties are pending.

Woodfin told the packed auditorium on Tuesday that it’s not enough to just demolish structures. “Based on this new budget I am proposing, we are increasing the funding to be aggressive in approaching these 97 properties that are beyond repair in your district,” Woodfin said. “It’s not enough to just tear down houses. The real goal of neighborhood revitalization is, in my opinion, to make sure we are building more roofs on lots that are empty. Part of our conversation will be how should that look for District 7. When we study other cities we know it can be done here. It’s not just a pipe dream.”

City department heads had information available in the lobby of the auditorium on Tuesday

Residents were encouraged to submit questions for Roberson, Woodfin and other city officials who attended the forum. One person from West End Manor asked what the city could do to reduce or ban liquor stores that operate in high-crime areas.

“We did look at the reduction of advertisement related to liquor in the area’s convenience stores,” Roberson said. “I think that really diminishes the overall look of the community. From a legislative perspective, my colleagues and I might want to revisit that. That would be something the council could do to alleviate some of those issues.”

A resident from West Goldwire asked what the city is doing to upgrade the street lights in the community. “Southwest Birmingham was one of the first areas where they made the switch to LED lighting from the old ones we had,” said Roberson, who chairs the Utilities Committee. “Pretty much 99.9 percent of those lights in the entire city have been installed by Alabama Power. If you do have a light that is not changed out you can get the number to call from my office to address that.”

The next issue with the lighting, Roberson said, will be the city’s parks. In District 7 specifically, Wiggins Park may soon see an upgrade to LED lighting, which enhances the overall public safety in the area.

As the evening came to a close, Roberson thanked his constituents who came the the forum and told them he is “humbled every day” to be their voice at City Hall.

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