Dear People Who Swim and Run Fast,
That’s excellent that you can do what you do. I mean, wow, you’re awesome. Still, I would wager any amount of money that 9 out of 10 people in the state of Alabama don’t give a flying fig about watching indoor track and field events or competitive swimming—except for that month-long span every 4 years when it’s our patriotic duty to watch you do your thing. That speaks pretty poorly of your sport, considering how many people in this state are entertained by watching cars go ‘round and ‘round in a giant concrete bathtub. The fact that we are spending $46 million on a facility to host your hilariously unpopular and unprofitable sporting events would be so much more hilarious if it were the plot of an Aqua Unit Patrol Squad One episode. But, sadly, it is not.
Dear City of Birmingham,
This “Birmingham Metro Crossplex” thing, this is the worst idea you’ve ever had.
I mean, really, this is so egregiously awful. I really can’t even wrap my head around it. A $46-million giant indoor track and swim facility is just a bad idea, period. You could have built the thing at the corner of I-459 and Grants Mill Road and it would have been a terrible idea, but to put this enormous waste of money in the middle of the worst neighborhood in town is a slap in the face to every poor soul that lives in Five Points West.
For God’s sake, look at this place! I dare say that there are at least three check-cashing “businesses” in Five Points West per capita, and just as those establishments make their money by inflating costs and screwing the consumer, well, you know where I’m going here. $46 million could have paid for one helluva safety overhaul in that area of town.
New streetlights, sidewalks, safe houses for children, cops, CAP officers, neighborhood clean-up initiatives, a business incubator, I could go on. But no. You saw through all the depression and utter despair that bespeaks this blighted area of town and pinpointed the need for a giant indoor track and swim facility. How perceptive of you.
Keep doing that voodoo that you do so poorly, Hoop Dear Birmingham City Council President Roderick Royal, Wow, you really created a stir several days ago when you made it clear that the name “Birmingham Metro Crossplex” gives the wrong impression about where the facility is and to whom it belongs.
“We don’t want [patrons] to come to metro Birmingham,” Royal said. “We want them to come to Birmingham.”
Roderick, I’m a resident of metro Birmingham. I live in Shelby County, where I own a home and have a full-time job. I interact with Shelby County people every day, people who generally say “Birmingham” whenever out-of-towners ask them where they’re from. You want to know what Shelby County thinks about your anti-metro stance? They’re cool with it. And that’s really, really bad news for you and for Birmingham. Never mind that, as John Archibald pointed out in his column last week, Hoover contributed a goodly portion of expertise for this venture—free of charge—before they came to the rightful conclusion that such a facility was an enormous waste of time and money. Never mind that Shelby County is the richest county in the state and wooing those people into your backyard is one way to help your city, nee county, climb out of the fiduciary hole it finds itself in.
You just keep that $46-million white elephant tucked away all secret like in Five Points West. We won’t bother it or you.
Best wishes, Hoop Let’s face it, the City of Birmingham making poor decisions with its revenue is a long-standing tradition; same deal with Birmingham politicos saying stupid stuff. Happens every day. But I want to shine a light on this distrust and outright disgust that exists between Jefferson and Shelby counties.
The fact of the matter is that there are a fair number of people in Birmingham and Jefferson County that just don’t like Shelby County people. They see them as elitist bastards who abandoned the City of Birmingham—some of them due to racial prejudice—and shifted the balance of wealth far away from the city center, leaving the city and the county crumbling in their wake.
Some of this is true. Yes, a lot of whiteflighters during the 1960s and 1970s wound up settling down in Shelby County. Yes, that has shifted the tax base south of the city center. Also, it should be noted that some residents of Shelby County share a similar short-sighted view of Birmingham folk: they just plain don’t like them.
However, on the whole, Shelby County folks are somewhat perplexed by the views of people like Roderick Royal. A lot of them work in Birmingham, shop in Birmingham, eat in Birmingham and do fun things in Birmingham, so they don’t understand why Birmingham has set a new standard in pettiness by taking “Metro” out of the Birmingham Metro Crossplex. There are a lot of reasons that they chose to live in Shelby County. Better taxes, more acreage, better schools and less crime, just to name a few. And, as an added perk, Shelby County is not teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
So, you know, that’s pretty cool.
And really, can you blame people for wanting to escape Birmingham and Jefferson County. Look, you got kids? You do what’s best for your child. You try and put them in the best school you can and get them the best education you can. If it means moving to Helena, providing you have the means to do so, so be it. It’s not Shelby
County’s fault that Birmingham schools suck at things like test-taking and graduating students. That’s the system’s fault. That’s the government’s fault. You can’t blame a parent for moving their child to a good system.
Can you blame people for wanting to escape, according to U.S. News and World Report, the third-most dangerous city in America? No, you can’t. Let me tell you this.
In three years of working at the old Weekly office on 6th Avenue and Arrington North, I saw some pretty amazing things happen in our parking lot. I’ve seen countless episodes of public urination and defecation. I saw one of our female employees chased and harassed by a homeless man, and I saw two homeless people having full-on sexual intercourse in broad daylight, right behind the Tutwiler Hotel.
Let me tell you this: As a normal, redblooded, American male, I used to think that happening upon two people in the throes of coitus would be pretty sweet. Well, it’s not. It’s one of the most unnerving things I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. It was really, really awful.
Could any or all of that happen in Alabaster, Ala.? Of course it could, but the odds of it happening in Birmingham are far higher. So, can you blame a family for playing the percentages and choosing Alabaster?
No, you can’t.
So stop bitching at metro folks for putting down roots outside of your district. You want to change the status quo, Mr. Royal? Tone down the rhetoric, stop wasting $46 million on track and pool complexes and stop treating “metro” like a five-letter fourletter word.
Maybe invest that $46 million in ways that will entice the metro area to spend more time within the city limits. Expand the CAP program. Ensure that this Railroad Park/ baseball project is a success. Do whatever is necessary to make the BJCC entertainment district safe for people to attend events.
Bring back City Stages or expand Secret Stages. Do something to win the metro families back to Birmingham. Because here’s the awful truth, Councilor Royal: You need Shelby County a lot more than Shelby County needs you.
“PolySigh” is a weekly political column by Matt Hooper. Send your feedback to email@example.com.