Dear Mayor Randall Woodfin, Birmingham needs you to focus

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A deadly week, September homicides could foreshadow record year in Birmingham.” That is the headline that blared from Birmingham Watch I came across this morning. The article speaks to the fact in September alone, there have been six homicides in the Magic City.

This puts us on-track to have our most violent year in 20 years. Think about that? Think about how far we’ve come in other areas of growth and development only to face the staggering reality of lives lost to violent crime.

With the installation of Patrick Smith, Birmingham’s new police chief in early July, there was much hope that putting additional officers on the road and refocusing their efforts would mitigate some of this violence, but  whatever changes have been made, they’ve not been enough.

It leaves me questioning the focus of our leaders.

Just yesterday, Alabama Today reported that Mayor Randall Woodfin is creating his own PAC. He, or one of his staff penned a passionate op-ed for AL.Com talking about the need for more progressive leaders. I would argue that rather than tell us about the greatness of additional leaders, Woodfin should focus on showing us what he can do because the facts don’t lie: whatever it is he’s doing isn’t working right now.

Several months ago, Woodfin went to Netroots Nation a liberal political conference where he delivered a passionate keynote speech talking about the upcoming elections, he quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and he talked about making history. He spoke of being proud to be from Birmingham, Ala. But how much longer can he be proud of leading a city that’s seeing violence take hold and end valuable and vulnerable lives? He spoke of putting people first. Rather than giving speeches about it maybe he should do more to do it. “We deserve better,” he said, why yes, yes we do.

As I highlighted in a earlier blog post, the number of magazine covers and photo-ops the Mayor seems to be doing is impressive by any standard for an up and coming socialite only the problem is the mayor wasn’t elected to build his brand. He was elected to strengthen our city. It’s worth noting that since that piece, he’s of course had at least one more cover story and photo shoot appearing in Birmingham Magazine.

He even stopped to weigh-in on the Florida gubernatorial race. Ironically, the candidate he endorsed was the former mayor of Tallahassee which led the state in crime during his years in office.

We need our mayor to understand that right now his attention need to be singularly focused the city on Birmingham. Not on political campaigns around the state or nation. Not on raising his own public profile, but on fixing this crisis of crime.

Birmingham is on-track for another deadly year and while it may seem to some that since it’s not in their neighborhood or their area of metro-Birmingham it isn’t an issue. The fact is every life loss and every act of violence affects each of us. How much longer can Birmingham remain attractive to out of state or even international businesses if we don’t see true change and meaningful commitments to do better? How can we attract and keep young professionals to our workforce, or corporations — if people are deterred and chased away by the reality of crime and threats to their personal safety?

Press conferences with moving speeches and photo-ops aren’t going to stop the criminals.

In what I hope is a message that can get through to the mayor: you are young, and there are many years ahead of you in your political career. The time for grand-standing will not pass you by if you focus today. The time for setting yourself up for future, higher office will be around for years to come.

Today, the people of Birmingham need you to do better, to do more, to focus on making our city safer in actions not in words.

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