Birmingham Council OKs Partial Transit Funding Under Protest From Hoyt

 1502699808 
1595413203
Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, WBHM

Riders board a Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority bus at the transportation center in Sept. 2019. The board approved a fare hike effective in November.

Despite delays in the city’s overall operating budget, the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to fund the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority through the end of 2020.

The city will pay the BJCTA $5 million, divided into two quarterly installments of $2.5 million, “to make sure there’s no disruption in service at all” as the city enters for its months-long budget negotiations, Mayor Randall Woodfin said.

Birmingham’s budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which officially started July 1, was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic as officials worked to ascertain the effect of business closures on city revenue. Budget discussions are now slated to begin next month. Woodfin has said he hopes a new budget, which would contain the remaining BJCTA funding, can be in effect by Oct. 1.

In the meantime, Woodfin told the council it was imperative the already financially embattled BJCTA not be subject to that delay.

“This is simply making sure they get their money so our residents continue to get from point A to B,” he said.

But District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt took significant issue with the proposal, claiming that it would “cut the poor folk out.”

“I’m not signing onto this because you’re cutting their budget in half,” he said. “I want the citizens to understand what is being proposed here. The mayor is cutting money to the folk that need it the most. I want you to understand that … Obviously this administration doesn’t care anything about the poor folk in this community, and we see that in so many iterations and ways throughout this community.”

Hoyt suggested, without providing evidence, that members of the council had made “deals” with Woodfin to approve “cutting transit.”

District 1 Councilor Clinton Woods repeatedly attempted to assure Hoyt that the measure wasn’t cutting funding to the BJCTA.

“We’re only approving half of (the BJCTA’s funding) for the first two quarters,” Woods said. “Last year they got $10 million (for the entire year). They’re on track to receive level funding.”

“I don’t understand how you don’t want to pay them for the work they’re doing now,” Woods said.

But Hoyt remained unmoved, and while the rest of the council voted to approve the funding, he voted no, saying that he was “marching to the beat of his own drum.”

“I ain’t no puppet,” he said.

Council President William Parker, who had significant difficulty throughout the meeting preventing Hoyt from clashing with Woods and Woodfin, promised a “full-blown conversation as we move forward” about BJCTA funding. But he suggested that Woodfin’s proposed Oct. 1 goal for passing the budget might be optimistic.

“We will do our due diligence, and we will pass it when we pass it,” Parker said. “There are no artificial deadlines as it relates to October 1 … We’ll get another bite at the apple.”

More BirminghamWatch Coverage

Birmingham Council OKs Al Fresco Dining as ‘Hail Mary’ for Restaurants

Birmingham officials approved outdoor seating for restaurants in hopes of giving them an economic boost during the pandemic.

As Nursing Homes’ Stocks Of PPE Get Too Low For Comfort, Ivey Grants Them $50 Million In COVID Aid

Federal aid for nursing homes comes as older adults comprise the largest share of COVID deaths in Alabama amid dwindling supplies.

Birmingham Gives Tax Breaks For UAB-Area Student Apartment Project, Commission Expected To Follow Suit

The company building a seven-story student housing development near UAB received permission from the city this week to forgo some property and sale taxes for the project. The county is now set to hear a similar request later this week.

Jefferson County Schools To Go Virtual-Only For First Nine Weeks; Start Sept. 1

The Jefferson County Board of Education voted Tuesday to begin the 2020-2021 school year with nine weeks of online education only and no option for traditional classroom learning.

Business Capital, Knowledge Remains Out Of Reach For Many Minority Entrepreneurs

None of the Black-owned businesses in 4th Avenue and Civil Rights commercial districts have gone out of business because of the pandemic.

BCRI Gets Emergency Funding From City Of Birmingham

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has been closed since March because of the pandemic causing a lack of revenue. Now it's receiving $250,000 in emergency funding from the city of Birmingham.

More BirminghamWatch Coverage