To those coming from the old site, thanks for jumping over. The transfer should be completed over the weekend. Enjoy the ramblings.
While my hopes were to make this post last night, fighting with code on both the old and new blogs made it a little difficult. That being said, it was probably better to sleep on the comments made by former Mayor Richard Arrington last night at the PARCA Roundtable. Mayor Arrington was accommodating to a point, not wanting to openly criticize the current administration. For those not familiar with the city’s first African American mayor, click here to view part of the series run by Birmingham Weekly about him last year. The following is more of a summary of his comments.
He started off talking about the worldwide perception of the city when he first took office, namely the fact that many people had taken their eyes off of the city after the height of the Civil Rights movement and looked back when they were shocked that the city had elected an African American to chief executive post in the city. In reference to Alabama Power CEO Charles McCrary’s comments made on Tuesday, he said that a mayor will not succeed over a long period of time without support from the corporate community. He also said that a being a mayor requires vision and the taking of risks without being reckless. Arrington talked about his having to reassure the business community that he was willing to work with them and about the difficulty in breaking the ice. He also said that he entered office at a very important time in the history of the city and gave praise to the staff that he assembled that included the city’s current Planning, Engineering and Permits Director Bill Gilchrist and the man that he defeated to become mayor, David Vann.
He said when he took office; it was a period of political and social transitions. He entered office with a 24% unemployment rate and an economy that was not diversified. Arrington frequently referred to the public-private partnership that he fostered during his time in office as being essential to his successes. These included leaving office with the lowest unemployment rate and crime rate in the history of the city and an endowment to assist its transition into the 21st century. He said that the most important part of that partnership was to move it beyond rhetoric and into the area of action. He spoke of his relationships with the county delegation to Montgomery and the level of cooperation that had to exist in order to move things forward. He also was very willing to talk about things he viewed as problems during his administration as it relates to the corporate community. He spoke of the TCI Steel plant closing shortly after his installation into office as well as failed attempts to annex what is now Liberty Park and parts of Trussville into the City. He spoke of the importance of the commercial tax base for vitality of a city and of the compromises that had to be made in order to insure the tax base for the city while not being able to convince them to build in the city center.
I will say that I was not sure what to expect in meeting him last night. He is one of those figures that I was told you felt one way or the other about. He was personable and diplomatic and made some important comments towards the end that made me lean one way. He spoke of the MAPS initiative that I learned of during my first visit to Birmingham. Arrington pointed out that more than the dome or the transportation initiatives that were included in the package, the most important thing was to create a stronger sense of community. He suggested that it was the current problem in the region, keeping us from moving forward as a community instead of as 30+ municipalities. He said that while he did not enjoy the level of cooperation that the current mayor has with surrounding cities, there is still a long way to go to achieve true regional success and cooperation.
Several of us peppered Mr. Arrington with questions involving what needed to be done to improve relations and to push issues forward. The short, interpreted answer would be that what happens next depends on how much we really care.
So, how much do we really care? Send in some comments.
You probably want to post them on the new site though.