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Birmingham City Council: A Joke, but We Aren’t Laughing

  |   By: Dave Folk     |   Opinion

The Birmingham City Council has made a name for itself recently by snubbing burgeoning businesses, but it seems as though they have graduated from idiocy to corruption.

On the outskirts of downtown sits a horrendous structure that looks like a 1970s architect’s wet dream. The building most likely sits vacant due to a combination of its ugliness and uselessness — Sarah Jessica Parker in building form, if you will. Fear not though, our favorite board of incompetence wants to turn this ugly duckling into a swan, or at least an ugly duckling worth $139 million.

For $5.3 million per year in rent – $139 million over 29 years – the city of Birmingham hopes to give its police and fire departments a long-term temporary home. After the deal is up, the city can go back to needing a permanent structure for its police and fire departments, and the building can go back to being ugly and useless.

Not only is this plan drenched in City Council’s characteristic stupidity, but it adds in a fun flavor of sleaze. You see, the members of city council are getting a delightful boost in their campaign war-chests from none other than the owner of the awful building they want to rent. Essentially, the building’s owner is trying to buy our city council, and it appears that it might be working.

His attempted payoffs are just a small investment considering the money he would rake in if the deal goes through. Dineros are dumped into the council’s pockets and in return the city adds another bad investment to the long list of them. He profits, we lose. I wish this was some made-up plot line from the new season of House of Cards, but really it is too stupid for that.

Citizens of Birmingham continually get the shaft from our elected officials. In the past I thought it was because they didn’t have the foresight to lead Birmingham out of its murky past. Now I know it is failed leadership of a different kind. The most despicable kind, the kind that lays in bed with unscrupulous individuals for personal gain.

Councilors who support the deal should be shown the door just because of how little sense renting that building makes for the city. Those who accept money from the building’s owner and then support the deal should be shown a jail cell. It disgusts me to even think about city officials taking what amounts to a bribe in exchange for a deal that screws the city.

How long must it be before a real leader emerges in this city? The recipe for success in the city is here, what is holding Birmingham back are those names that appear on the ballot.  Why should I stay in a city that will use my tax money to support sleazy deals that have zero upside for this city? I’m a kid who moved to Birmingham from far out of state, but what incentive is there for me to end up in this city if it is perpetually doomed.

With the losers that we continue to elect I know the future is not bright. It is only a matter of time before the corruption becomes more evident and hurts the city even worse than it has. Our leaders need to do two things: they need to start governing like this city has a chance of becoming something more than it is, and they need to stop acting like the old political games are OK.

Scratch that, all I want is for city council to buy me a delectable dinner at one of our fine restaurants. At this point I don’t think it’s possible for them to be the leaders I need, but if I’m going to get screwed I at least want a good meal out of it.

Follow Dave on Twitter at @davefolk

Dave Folk is a yankee transplant living in Birmingham, Alabama.