Posted by: jamesvw | December 7, 2009

Guest Post – Birmingham Mayoral Election

Guest Post on tomorrow’s Birmingham Mayoral Election

Today, I am grateful to cross-post a piece penned by Wade Kwon, a fantastic blogger based in Birmingham. I recommend that everyone check out his blog, Wade on Birmingham

This piece sums up his feelings about the race for Mayor in his home city. Having recently done some professional work focused on the city, I know just how much pressure will be placed on the new mayor from day one. This city is hurting – but it has the potential to work itself out of  poverty and destitution.

Note – All opinions expressed are those of the author

Vote 2009: Last-minute thoughts on a hurry-up mayoral election

Birmingham to choose from 13 candidates Tuesday

By Wade Kwon

Note: This story is cross-posted on Wade on Birmingham.

For the third time this year, Birmingham voters will visit the polls. Tuesday’s special election focuses on mayor, an office suddenly open after Larry Langford’s federal conviction in October.

We have found that 6 weeks is barely enough time to have an election, much less evaluate more than a dozen candidates.

Even though the winner will hold office for less than 2 years before the next election, much is riding on the outcome.

For starters, the city is in jeopardy. Bernard Kincaid seemed glacial in doing anything to move Birmingham forward. That stasis seems preferable to the rapid plunge into financial chaos and political embarrassment wreaked in just 2 short years by Larry Langford.

His reign of error ended only with the say of 12 jurors. But City Hall is in shambles, as is the public trust.

We’re building a dome, renovating Fair Park Arena and beginning to successfully fight crime. And yet, the budget has been criminally neglected (and perhaps, deliberately fudged). Carole Smitherman spent less than a month as interim mayor before the newly seated council tapped Roderick Royal as council president, thus taking over the interim mayoral duties.

In short, much confusion, little time and wary voters.

The candidates have failed to distinguish themselves. The much heralded Patrick Cooper has raised (and spent) a lot of cash, but by doing so seems to be influenced by out-of-town interests. He missed high-profile forums, which has the odor of the artful dodge. While he made a splash in 2007 by receiving almost 30 percent of the vote, Cooper has done little since then to demonstrate his capacity for leadership.

With Smitherman and William Bell, we have two seasoned politicians who have served as interim mayor, albeit briefly, and lost in a combined five campaigns for the top office. Smitherman, a self-described mother figure, voted with Langford on many budget busters and wants to continue his projects, even as the city goes broke.

Bell, who picked up Langford’s unsolicited endorsement, also seems enmeshed in old school ways, both in campaigning and in office. He needs to continue and finish his work on the Jefferson County Commission: fixing its $3 billion sewer debt calamity.

Steven Hoyt is serving in his second term on council and recently was voted president pro tempore under questionable circumstances (the new acting mayor Royal voted, even though he was not allowed). When given the chance to fix things, he declined. Imagine what he’d do with real power.

Scott Douglas, one of the outsiders, has a good record of service to the city. And while his green platform might work in a more progressive and more solvent city, he seems to have no solution on getting the city’s finances back on track.

Emory Anthony ran twice against longtime mayor Richard Arrington in the early 1990s and lost. The defense attorney wants to bring the city’s finances in order, with transparency and accountability. The question is: Can he back it up?

We aren’t certain. We’re picking a mayor at gunpoint Tuesday, and chances are, we’ll still end up taking a bullet or two.



  1. Thanks! I hope all registered voters in Birmingham take a few minutes tomorrow to cast a ballot.

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