Bell asks community leaders for help as he deals with budget cuts

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM (WBRC) - Birmingham's mayor says he will ask for more help from the city's neighborhood leaders particularly as the city dramatically cuts its funding for neighborhood associations.

Mayor William Bell's budget proposal would take the city's funding from $10,000 per neighborhood to just $2,000. Bell told neighborhood leaders that he's still counting on their help to move the city forward. Bell was greeted by neighborhood association leaders with hugs, smiles, and friendly dialogue.

In an hour-long meeting Tuesday night, the issue of Bell's proposal for next year's budget was not discussed.

"They understand the city's going through some tough times," Bell said. "We're still allocating some money but not to the extent that we have in the past, but we freed up some of the restrictions that would allow them to do more with the money we are passing on to them."

"City workers, non-profits; they're all going to have to take a hit. Then we accept the fact that we're going to take a hit," said John Harris, president of the North Titusville Neighborhood Association.

"If we have to have a cut, then the neighborhood itself will have to start finding funds through grants, through federal assistance, and even asking the businesses to help us," said Bertha Nettles-Jones, president of the Oak Ridge Park Neighborhood Association. "So we have to do what we have to do to keep Birmingham rolling."

It's that spirit of replacing taxpayer dollars with elbow grease that Bell is hoping to encourage in each of the city's 99 neighborhoods.

"We shouldn't have to wait for streets and sanitation to come out and clean up the street in front of our house," Bell said. "If it's out there, let's help out by cleaning it up."

Jones and a team of volunteers are on litter patrol in her neighborhood. She says knowing the city won't have the funds to put manpower on smaller issues may be positive motivator to neighbors who haven't gotten involved in their community. "We have picked up 68 bags of trash since April 14," Jones said. "If you love your neighborhood, you'll do what you have to do to keep your neighborhood up to par."

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