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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fifteen minutes to midnight, Birmingham City Commission votes 6-1 (Sherman lone dissenter) to send Library Re-do Bond to Voters. May Election Planned.

Presentation to City Commission
Approval of Library
Renovation and Expansion Project
11 . 25 . 2013 | JLBC & Quinn Evans Architects

Click Here for  the Complete Presentation 

The  Monday 11/25/13  night meeting of the Birmingham City Commission started at 7:30  and for the first two hours played  to a standing room only audience.The library made it's presentation at approximately 10:30pm  and by then the crowd had thinned to less than a dozen. 
Readers may read the entire presentation by clicking on the red link above.
It is a Power Point presentation which means few words and lots of pictures. It is  32 pages in length and covers two years of fact finding, and debate by the Baldwin Library and then the  Joint Library Building Committee (three City commissioners. a Representative of the City's planning committee  and three members of the Library Board) 

Readers who link to the plan will find it quite graphic in detailing the options before the the Joint Library Building Committee (JLBC) and the decisions that led up to last night's final presentation.

Mayor Moore (then City Commissioner) and former Mayors(currently Commissioners)  Hoff, and Rinschler as members of the JLBC were familiar with topic and perhaps the presentation itself which is believed was  to have been distributed to all the commissioners in their meeting agenda packet. A link to the presentation was (and perhaps still is) on the City's web site along with the agenda of the 11/25/13 meeting.
Birmingham City Commissioners
 Mayor Scott Moore

Commissioner George Dilgard

Commissioner Rackeline J. Hoff

Commissioner Tom McDaniel

Commissioner Mark

Commissioner Gordon Rinschler

Mayor Pro Tem Stuart Lee Sherman  

After the presentation four Birmingham residents of the nine remaining chose to speak at  public comment. Two were opposed. Twowere in Favor.  The opposition believed not enough information had been made available to residents, and that a  May election seemed to be rushing matters. Cost which could preclude other avenues of city improvement were also mentioned.

The two speakers  in favor were more diverse in their reasons why. One lady said she was very well informed, attended meetings , and favored the proposal. A man said he thought the proposal a clever blend of old and new  which gave the City a much larger library at  a reasonable cost.

The Birmingham City Commission as befitting their role of of representatives of the people went back and forth. At times it seemed as though the proposal was doomed. It's passage by a 6-1 margin  was somewhat of a surprise to this writer who is  unfamiliar with the dynamics of the Commission as a whole or nuances of the individual commissioners.
Sitting left to right (former Mayor now Commissioner)  Nikita was in the worst position to see the projected presentation which was to his left and behind him. By twisting and turning  however he showed quite an interest. Current Mayor Pro tem Sherman showed no interest in the presentation and starred straight a head throughout it. That may have been because he read it in the Agenda packet, but Sherman was clearly not a supporter. Commissioner Dilgard (and former Mayor) seemed interested and supportive of the presentation and the proposal. His vantage point for the presentation was not much better than the corner of his eye however. Around the bend Moore, Hoff, and Rinschler , and Commissioner  MacDaniel could see the screen just fine. The latter seemed to be reading (presumably) the presentation. In the commission comment section McDaniel  did state that the price tag asked by the library would buy two senior centers. Moore, Hoff, and Rinschler as developers of much of  what was being presented were expected to be affirmative votes. Moore however as Mayor was now wearing a different hat. Both Hoff and Rinschler  have unique ways of  verbally expressing considerations . Hoff 's  "more than one point considered" and  Rinschler's "tongue in cheek analysis" along the lines of "I'd vote that way but.." added to the evening's drama.

The group arguments against moving forward centers on cost which could preclude other projects. Other con arguments included a May election which was deemed too soon and a general reference to  the proposal "needing" more work. Pro sentiments included  an extensive two  years of preparation by arguably the City's best and brightest. Cost savings of acting now when interest rates are low and a May election which focuses on one  issue were also pro arguments

When it came time to vote, Sherman made a motion to accept the building plan (schematic),thank the JLBL for their efforts and to reconsider the Library renovations  in the unspecified future.
Rischler in what seemed to be a clever bit of maneuvering then said he would support the first part of Sherman's motion if the second part were amended to considering the Library proposal going forward that night. The first part passed by a unanimous vote. The  second vote which seemed to surprise Sherman began with one last call of the Commissioners.  Nikita while giving due to both sides was clearly in favor of going forward. Sherman was not. Dilgard , Moore, Hoff,  and Rinschler voted for going forward. 

The reader should note that "going forward" does not necessarily mean supporting the library bond. It means six months of debate by the residents of the City of Birmingham concerning the library they own. It's future will be decided at the  ballot box on May 6th 2014. The alternative would have been to .put the library proposal on the shelf  for future consideration in an undefined period of time.

  In the words of Commissioner Hoff , of the many issues now before or coming before the City, none were ready to be decided that night.  Even if all the emphasis were placed on a  new Senior Citizen Center an  interest of Commissioner McDaniel it would take a year or more of study and information gathering. The Library was ready to be determined by the voter and it was time to move forward.

Concurring McDaniel cast the last affirmative vote in a 6-1 decision.

It is believed that the next step will be determination of ballot language by the Library Director and the City Manager. That too will require approval by the City Commission.

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