Johnson: God, Trump and ‘childish tricks’, who needs prez debate when there’s Birmingham council?


This is a split opinion.

Sticks and stones.

A lot was thrown on Tuesday evening. A barrage, indeed. Even when people got weak, tired, dizzy, frustrated and “hungry” enough to get out (or threaten) a session of Birmingham City Council that was as much about mud wrestling, cage fighting and lunch as the other event held that same evening .

It wasn’t the show, a word that still dominates my social media timeline, but rather the “debate” between these playful US presidential candidates. More like an endless extra inning baseball game; When the winning run finally crosses the slab, even the exhausted winners are more willing to go home than celebrate.

Over seven hours, starting at 3:30 p.m. and past the bedtime of some council members, the $ 412 million COVID-19-infected budget of $ 412 million was proposed by Mayor Randall Woodfin with his planned $ 63 million, Papal and positioned lost revenue, wage cuts, eliminating nine paid holidays and extremely painful “indefinite” vacation days for 158 Birmingham Public Library System employees and all part-time workers in the city.

Almost every one of the dozen or so speakers pleaded with the council to reject the budget or at least to delay it. He often turned his anger on Woodfin, who most of the time sat stoically quiet in a seat at the end of the second row throughout the meeting.

Until late in the evening, a divided council, whose members were firmly anchored in their respective camps, finally passed the budget with 6-3 votes.

After the meeting, Woodfin thanked the council for approving the budget: “It is absolutely no pleasure having to take employees off. I do not like it. “He added,” There is no intention of moving [them] from vacation to termination. The intent is to bring her back to full time and we’re going to blow our bums up to get that done. “In part by selling city-owned properties such as the Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens.

No votes were cast by Crystal Smitherman, Clinton Woods – the youngest members of the council – and Steven Hoyt (the loudest budget critic of the evening). Valerie Abbott agreed with the solid block of five – John Hilliard, Darrel O’Quinn, Wardine Alexander, Hunter Williams, and Council Chairman William Parker – but only because the budget includes a repayment of city debt that is expected to save $ 45 million over the next three Fiscal years. “I just had to hold my nose and vote, which I did,” she said.

For the longest serving member of the council, this wasn’t even the highlight of the evening. It came long after Abbott expressed frustration with antics early that evening during a special meeting called Budget & Finance. Councilor Smitherman requested a vote on 14 proposed budget changes that she hoped would pass the funds on to the library board. But the group lost its quorum when five members (see: the “yes” block above) secretly left the house.

They didn’t all return until the regular council meeting began. The discussion of the amendments continued, and those relating to the mayor’s budget – as opposed to the council’s budget – ended up losing 4-5 each. At one point before the votes, Abbott, obviously tired, was making the late hour responsible for “petty childish tricks”. She noticed that her mother had been home alone for eight hours. “We’re stuck here,” she said. “It is frustrating.”

She even threw a B-word at her equally tired colleagues. “By golly.” You knew she was crazy!

[Abbott was still in a mood Wednesday. In an email with the subject line “Budget Humor” sent to sympathizers Hoyt, Smitherman and Woods, and obtained by, she wrote:

“When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about our budget marathon last night. It put a smile on my face only because those Councilors who were so strategic in walking out on the budget workshop so that we couldn’t get anything done were the reason that we stayed until 10:30 last night working on the budget! If Councilors had stayed at the workshop and done their jobs, we would have voted on the proposed amendments, and at the end of the workshop, we would have voted on sending the resulting budget to the full Council for consideration. Their “strategy” made them have to spend the night at City Hall (although we, unfortunately, had to stay with them). I may have a sick sense of humor, but it made me laugh right out loud! What a plan!”

The evening’s emphatic star was, though, Hoyt. A frequent mayoral critic (there’s been much buzz about a mayoral run in 2021) he vehemently opposed the budget because if the furloughs and their impact on citizens, and what he charged was his colleagues’ lack of effort and diligence in seeking ways to save some jobs.

“In my fifteen years on the council, I’ve never attended a budget workshop when over half of the councilors don’t even bother to even bring their budget books to deliberate,” he said in a monologue delivered at the podium rather than his familiar seat at the far left of the council podium.

He saved his most pointed barbs for the mayor, who sat largely silent during the meeting, in a seat at the end of the second row.

Hoyt variously invoked God (Hoyt is an ordained minister) and Donald Trump.

“I have God to answer to, and to exhaust what opportunities we have to minimize what is proposed,” he said. “To have no changes [in the mayor’s budget] is dirty. “

“This is classic Trump,” he later added, referring to his indictment that some councilors had “pet deals” with the mayor to get a positive vote. “Surrogate Trump,” he added, and sank back into his seat.

After the meeting, Woodfin described his feelings about the words spoken to him throughout the evening with a sports analogy:

“It’s like standing on the free-throw line with a lot of people behind the gate, yelling at me and holding signs because they want me to miss the shot. The thing is, you’ve been practicing those free throws. Repetition. Focus. You concentrate and do whatever you can to block the noise in front of you. You hit the shot and then ran back to defense to play the next game. “

The mayor added: “It is dangerous for people (he did not give names) to use the budget as a political stepping stone. It does not lend itself to the conversation that is required to actually correct the deficit in a way that people know things will work out. “

Hoyt has not yet offered an answer.

No bones were broken Tuesday night, as the familiar nursery rhyme teaches us. Though I’m pretty sure the last stick and stone has yet to be thrown.

Roy’s column is a voice on what is right and wrong in Birmingham, Alabama (and beyond). It appears on the Birmingham News and and the Huntsville Times, the Mobile Register. Reach him at and follow him at

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