During a town hall meeting Thursday night, Residents living in Birmingham’s northwestern district expressed feelings of neglect and said other Birmingham communities are receiving more development opportunities and better environmental upkeep than their own area.
District 9, which is made up of Wylam, Pratt City, Ensley, and North Birmingham, has been the location of various illegal dumpings, excessive littering, and deteriorating environments over the years, leading many residents to accuse the city of not caring for the district. This assertion is flatly denied by city officials, including Mayor Randall Woodfin.
“We are making strides with District 9,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin in a meeting that was broadcast on Facebook and by telephone. “I’m sorry people feel this way. In the last 30 years, there have been disinvestments, but there have been strides made.”
City Councilman John Hillard, District-9’s commissioner, likewise said the city isn’t ignoring District-9 residents.
“Every week we have a town hall meeting where we take concerns, answer questions, and even refer to a hotline,” Hillard said. “If you have a complaint, we would love to work with you so you don’t feel neglected.”
Woodfin said all parts of District 9 have had business developments, with downtown Ensley receiving the majority of investment.
“There are so many other things going on,” Woodfin said, “and if you’re just driving around, it’s easy to miss the strives made in the past three years.”
Hillard said to help the area, Birmingham needs a new tax base in order to renovate and repurpose all of the city’s neighborhoods.
“It is our will, our hope, and our dream to continue to work to build inner-city neighborhoods in Birmingham,” Hillard said. “We will continue as a team to develop District-9 as well as all of Birmingham.”
However, Woodfin said that the reasoning behind people perceiving the area to be unkept is due to two factors: illegal dumping and littering.
“The city of Birmingham picks up trash at least six days a week across the city,” Woodfin said. “The problem is we have to come back behind adults who don’t mind being nasty and who put stuff back down again.”
Hillard said the dumping is mainly done by people who are from the surrounding area and who come into the city to dispose of their garbage.
“It’s not citizens who are bringing the trash. It’s other people who know we pick up trash,” Hillard said. “We are working to put up cameras, because we want to catch them, and we will prosecute them to the letter of the law.”
Hillard said the city of Birmingham can not tackle this issue alone and that they need the help of their constituents in order for there to be a change.
“We have a lot more to do, but we need the help of our constituents,” Hillard said. “We look forward to working with you and look forward to doing our best.”
According to Birmingham officials, there have been over 1,000 potholes filled, lots cut, and over 2,000 house code inspections in 2020 alone. The city plans more for District-9 in 2021, such as more homes receiving work, demolition of buildings, and much more on top of the continued work from 2020.
Woodfin said that District 9 has some amazing people who work to improve the city and that there is more good in the neighborhoods than bad.
“People need to stop littering and being nasty,” Woodfin said. “When we talk about the city being ‘nasty,’ do your part and don’t litter.”