(From the Birmingham Times)
A group of diverse pastors on Wed., April 6 voiced strong opposition to legislation that would give Mayor William Bell additional appointments to the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB).
The Gatekeepers Association of Alabama (GAA), which includes nearly 40 influential pastors from across Jefferson County, said state lawmakers and city officials need to discuss changes before action is taken. The statement came after legislators on Tues., April 5 passed out of committee a bill that would change how BWWB members are appointed.
Currently, the Birmingham City Council appoints all five members to the board, which is expected to grow to six members next year. Under the new legislation, the council will appoint four members and the mayor will appoint two.
Also, mayor would have to approve the council’s selections and the council would have to approve of the mayor’s appointments.
Those and other proposed changes to the Mayor-Council Act, which lays the ground rules for Birmingham’s municipal government, have created a firestorm among residents who have packed hearings to voice concerns about the modifications.
“Today, it is about the city of Birmingham. Tomorrow, it will be about other issues that affect additional residents of the state,” said Bishop Jim Lowe, pastor of Guiding Light Church and member of the GAA executive board. “We must begin to take a stand so that the voices of the people may be heard.”
The GAA met with members of the Birmingham City Council and Jefferson County Democratic House delegation to discuss the proposed measures, Lowe said.
“These two elected entities have not had sufficient civil dialogue together discussing these two critical pieces of legislation that will have an impact on hundreds of thousands of current citizens … as well as the potential control of billions of taxpayer dollars,” the GAA said in a press release.
“Therefore, these two pieces of legislation should not hastily be voted upon without a thoughtful, transparent, intellectual, thorough process involving all parties from both elected entities working together for the good of all citizens affected.”
State lawmakers held a 90-minute public hearing on Monday, April 4, to discuss the legislation. Support and opposition were evenly divided during the meeting.
Lowe said he was disappointed that state Rep. Oliver Robinson (D-Birmingham), who chaired the meeting, told the overflow crowd that it didn’t matter what the people said, the bill would be passed anyway.
“This is the very thing we have been meeting about—when government leaders no longer consider themselves servants of the people but, rather, lords over the people,” Lowe said.