Meeting Over Changes to Mayor-Council Act Incites More Debate

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At a public meeting Monday night, more than a hundred people huddled into a tight room in the Jefferson County courthouse. Residents poured out into the hallway. They gathered to discuss proposed changes to the Mayor-Council Act, legislation that divides powers between the mayor and city council.

Jefferson County Legislative Delegation also discussed what other changes could be in store. Rep. Oliver Robinson is Vice Chairman of the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation and sponsor of the controversial bill that could change the Mayor-Council Act and seriously shake Birmingham’s balance of power.

The proposed changes would strengthen the mayor’s power. It’d require that the city council get approval from the mayor for any budget changes and that the council must elect a new president every two years. Another bill has already been filed that would give the mayor additional appointments to the Birmingham Water Works Board.

The debate between officials was loud and unruly. Residents pleaded for their legislators to get along. The room was divided over the changes; even legislators were split.

At the end of the meeting, City Council President Jonathan Austin asked that the council be consulted about any new power-restructuring legislation.

“I think that the way to do it is to sit down and have a conversation collectively and decide what we, both the council and the [Jefferson County] Legislature Delegation, see what’s best for the citizens that we are all elected to serve,” Austin explained.

Rep. Robinson says he could propose the bill as early as Wednesday morning. Councillors Austin and Valerie Abbott questioned whether legislators from Jefferson County would support the bill after this meeting.