5 questions with Randall Woodfin

5 questions with Randall Woodfin

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Randall Woodfin is running for mayor in the city of Birmingham. You can learn more about where he stands on a handful of topics that affect the community below.

What is Birmingham’s biggest challenge in the next 4 years and how do you plan to address it?

No family should have to endure this pain, but unfortunately, this scene has become all too common in Birmingham. Violent crime across the city has steadily increased over the last six years, and Birmingham has become a fixture on numerous "most dangerous cities" lists. Most sobering, Birmingham recorded 104 homicides in 2016 — a total the city had not reached in over a decade. Despite the mounting crime rates, our current administration has yet to produce a strategy for reducing crime.

Birmingham deserves a mayor that understands that it is impossible for our city to thrive when residents do not feel safe in their community. Violent crime in Birmingham is our biggest challenge, and reducing it will be my top priority if I am elected mayor. I will achieve this by increasing our capacity to fight crime, addressing the root cause of crime, and building trust between law enforcement in the communities they serve.

Increasing our capacity to fight crime

  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Expanding the Birmingham Police force to 1,000 officers;
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Increasing starting salaries for all new Birmingham Police officers and restoring longevity pay for our experienced officers;
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Working with our local legislative delegation to increase penalties for possession of, and crimes committed with, unlicensed handguns; and,
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Partnering with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office to create a specialized court for violent felonies that involve gun possession by high-risk, repeat offenders.

Addressing the root causes of crime

  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Expanding Birmingham Police Athletic Team programs throughout the city;
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Expanding and enhancing youth employment programs through the Mayor’s Division of Youth Services;
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Repurposing City-owned community centers in high-unemployment neighborhoods as “Opportunity Centers,” where residents can receive targeted and intensive job training and placement services;
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Working with the Birmingham City Council to adopt a tax credits for local businesses that hire ex-offenders; and,
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Creating the Mayor’s Office of Reentry Services to develop and implement wraparound programs to reduce recidivism; services will include counseling, housing, adult education, and job training and placement.

Building trust between law enforcement and our communities: 

  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Establishing a Civilian Oversight Board;
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Partnering with the Jefferson County District Attorney to enhance pretrial diversion and restorative justice programs for youth and nonviolent offenders;
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Encouraging the Jefferson County District Attorney to launch a community prosecution program, focused on deterring low-level crimes through both prosecution and intervention in the lives of juvenile offenders; and,
  • style="margin-left: 40px;">Administering period public reviews of BPD’s the “Use of Force” policy, including substantive input from citizens and other community stakeholders.

Has Birmingham’s downtown revitalization and growth been well-managed and how can the city take that momentum and continue it into other parts of the city?

Birmingham deserves a mayor that embraces economic development downtown, yet remains responsive to the needs of the other 98 neighborhoods across the city. Sadly, Mayor Bell has proven himself incapable of this. Rather than focus on spikes in violent crime and crumbling roads, Bell was mulishly on luxury apartments, glitzy hotel developments, stadiums and Top Golf.

As mayor, I will shift priorities and resources back to Birmingham neighborhoods by through my revitalization agenda which will commit $5 million annually in the capital budget for resurfacing our streets and repairing sidewalks. Additionally, $3 million will be invested annually for weed abatement, demolition, and land banking abandoned properties, as well as unprecedented neighborhood participation in shaping the development decisions that take place in our communities.

What would you do to foster better cooperation with surrounding municipalities in an effort to leverage our region rather than just the city?

While the work of groups like REV Birmingham and The Birmingham Business Alliance are commendable, Greater Birmingham still lacks a formal regional entity. Zero net job growth since 2000 in the Birmingham region requires that we do something dramatically different, which I believe is a formal regional economic development entity led by economic development professionals and elected officials from the region that can coordinate on workforce development, industry recruitment and attracting foreign investment.  I think the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation is a solid model that can work for Greater Birmingham. As Mayor, I will work with the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, regional county and municipal leadership and groups like REV and the BBA to begin the process of establishing a regional economic development that can more effectively market and lead industry recruitment and retention efforts and encourage more regional cooperation.

How do you plan to increase transparency in city government and the agencies and utilities it appoints members to?

Birmingham deserves a City Hall that they can trust and take pride in, and ongoing corruption probes into the BCIA and the Birmingham Water Works have eroded the public's trust in City Hall.  Repairing this breach in the public's trust is a top priority for my Administration.

Within the first 100 days, I will work with the City Council to adopt a nepotism policy that will ban any of my close relatives from working for the City in any role that involves City contracts. Birmingham residents also won't have to wonder how much I spent on City-related travel or have to file public information requests for my travel because I will also make all of my travel expenditures publicly available on the City website.  Good government dies behind closed doors, so I plan to also make my meeting logs publicly available as well so Birmingham residents know who is seeking to shape City policy.  Finally, a part of what I believe has contributed to the corruption that we've seen from the Bell Administration has been the length of his tenure in City Hall.  If term limits are good enough for virtually every major city in the U.S., they should be for Birmingham, and as Mayor, I will work with our state delegation to establish term limits so that no Mayor – including myself – serves more than two consecutive four-year terms.

How would your administration address our city’s crime problem and please be both as specific (how much $, where it’s spent, etc.) and philosophical (your holistic approach to crime prevention/officer retention/training, etc.) as possible.

Birmingham can fight crime by investing in our first-responders, providing economic alternatives to crime and by addressing the neighborhood conditions that facilitate crime like abandoned properties and poor lighting.

My administration will reduce crime by expanding the police force by another approximately 100 officers and boosting officer morale through restoring longevity pay and increasing starting salaries for new officers – a figure that my campaign estimates will cost the City an additional $4.5 million annually.  I will commit an additional one-time expenditure of $500,000 for improved lighting and shot-spotter technology in our higher-crime areas.

I will also make it a priority to attract private support for expanding our Police Athletic League programs that will offer alternatives for youth and opportunities for officers to build better relationships with the community. I will commit an additional $200,000 above FY18 spending levels for summer employment programs so that our students are engaged and gaining valuable work experience during the summer.

Finally, abandoned properties and overgrown lots are magnets for crime and arson. Hence, I will commit an additional $3 million annually – not just years when there's an election – to support our land bank authority, to demolish dilapidated properties and cut overgrown lots.

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