BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Candidate for Birmingham Mayor Cerissa Brown is answering questions ahead of the city’s elections on Tuesday, Aug. 24.
CBS 42 will be co-hosting a mayoral debate tonight, Aug. 17, in collaboration with other news outlets. The debate can be viewed on our website.
CBS 42 sent the same 10 questions to every mayoral candidate. Below are the questions we submitted (in bold) and the candidate’s answers. We have not edited their answers in any way.
Answers to these questions submitted by all candidates who responded are available here.
What will be your top priority if you are elected mayor?
My first two top priorities if elected mayor is an external forensic audit of the City of Birmingham’s finances. Also, I find it important to repair trust between us and the Mayor’s office. A Brown Administration represents servant leadership. I realize this will take time because a lot of trust has been broken by the current and previous mayors but this will not happen under my administration. When a resident calls or visits City Hall, we deserve to be listened to. When residents call or visit City Hall, we deserve someone who is truly listening. We deserve an ally in solving our problems. The city serves the people of Birmingham, and the citizens are our bosses, not the other way around. I am passionate about creating a culture of service because the only way we can rebuild trust in the city is to listen, care, and deliver.
Do you have any regrets in your professional career so far? If so, what did you learn from them?
I have no regrets in my professional career. I’ve been in call center customer service for over 21 years. I’ve worked at every level from Customer Service Trainee to Director of Retail and Consumer Engagement. Every professional decision I’ve made, promotion I’ve accepted, or position I’ve accepted has been an opportunity for me to grow. I’ve watched men and how they operate in the professional arena. They are not afraid to go for what they want and most of the time they get it. After observing this I begin to go for the positions I wanted and the funding I needed even if on paper it looks like I am not qualified.
Along with being a Mental Health Advocate I am a serial entrepreneur and have no problem starting a business when a creative idea hits me. I earlier this year I received a Certification in Women’s Entrepreneurship from Cornell University to help take me to the next level. I currently have an app I designed and it’s in its final round of funding. These are things I just went for and had much success with. So please go for that promotion or start that business you’ve been dreaming of starting. If you don’t you will always wonder what could have been. And no one wants to live a life full of regrets.
Cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations are on the rise across the state. If elected mayor, would you pledge to follow the advice of the city’s health officials regarding mask mandates, limiting large events, and restricting indoor dining?
A Brown Administration will follow all the advice of the city’s health officials and partner with them regarding mask mandates, limiting large events, and restricting indoor dining. No public official is an expert on COVID 19 unless they happen to be a doctor. We must listen to the experts when it comes to COVID-19!
As mayor, what specific policies will you enact to improve the transparency of city government?
As mayor, I am all about transparency and putting the power back in Birmingham’s citizens’ hands. I am a huge advocate of participatory budgeting. I am also a servant leader that truly believes the citizens of Birmingham are the true CEOs of the city and Ms. Brown works for you. Participatory Budgeting will give us the true power to make real decisions about how Birmingham’s money is spent. When we have a say so in how the money is being spent it keeps people who don’t have Birmingham resident’s best interests at heart from being dishonest.
A Brown Administration will hold frequent office hours that revolve around the schedules of working people. We will also publish a regular e-newsletter to keep the people in the loop on what is going on in our city. We will establish an open-door policy directly to me and make my contact email available to the public.
Finally, we will also make sure EVERY single Birmingham City Council Meeting is open to the public and streamed online. And create a way to show in real-time how discretionary funding is being used.
Since the protests following the death of George Floyd, many citizens have called for significant police reform. What specific policies will you enact to reform policing in Birmingham, if any?
We must dismantle our public safety system’s instinct to criminalize and replace it with an instinct to provide care. Our 99 neighborhoods’ safety depends on our collective ability to create holistic, community-based centers of care and harm reduction. I plan to do this by creating legislation making sure that we have a Civilian Review Board that has subpoena power and that they are elected and not appointed.
A Brown Administration will be advocating for The People’s Response Act which was introduced by Congresswoman Cori Bush because it is an important first step towards a world where all people in all neighborhoods feel safe. We can no longer afford to protect the status quo.
We will create a City of Birmingham Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives. This department will implement approaches for all this senseless gun violence in Birmingham and also approach community safety that doesn’t center around policing or incarceration.
A Brown Administration will create a task force of Crisis Cops who are specially trained to deal with mental illness. These police officers will divert people away from jail and into mental health treatment and follow-up with them once discharged from medical care.
Our Law Enforcement Officers will be trained to treat addiction not as a crime, but as a disease. Addiction is not a criminal justice issue, it is a public health crisis. We should not treat those arrested for drug use as common criminals. Instead of facing jail time, we should help them with recovery and rehabilitation.
A Brown administration will work to establish mandatory yearly psychological evaluation for all Birmingham Law Enforcement to make sure law enforcement judgment isn’t impaired due to the high stress of the job. We will also introduce legislation written by Mr. Jude Washington in law enforcement in regards to law enforcement and psychiatric evaluation.
How would you assess the current state of public transportation in Birmingham? If elected mayor what changes would you make?
Our public transportation is on life support. Our Transit System was one of only 15 that got the Bus Rapid Transit Funding (BRT). The current administration took too long to get it up and running. BRT expires in 2022 and the city still is not taking full advantage of BRT. BRT should have been up and running for us in preparation for the World Games. Under a Brown Administration, we would fight to make sure we keep BRT and partner with Max Transit to learn how to properly use BRT even though we are running out of time. This would significantly change transit for selected routes to a 15 min wait for some and 30 mins wait for others.
On-Demand Transit such as VIA and VEO bike and scooters is not City Hall’s forte and the current administration running it separate from Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) is prohibiting them from receiving additional federal funding. A Brown Administration would place all On-Demand Micro transit such and VIA and VEO bikes and scooters, and any future Micro transit under the BJCTA so that they can receive federal funding for it. BJCTA receiving federal funding will give us a more effective transit system and help the City of Birmingham. I’ve been riding VIA since June to understand exactly how it works. I quickly found out there are many places VIA does not go in the city of Birmingham. I will put Micro Transit such as Via in areas throughout the city that the BJTCA no longer goes to and in areas that do not usually have a lot of passengers.
A Brown Administration would support Transit Oriented Development (ORD), allowing the Birmingham Transit System to have housing and rental spaces to bring money back into the City of Birmingham. ORD invests in projects that place affordable housing and vital community services close to accessible transportation. This helps low-income people reduce the cost of commuting and have access to retail and other services close to home. For example, if Birmingham gives 6 million in the city’s budget towards ORD. ORD would match it bringing that to a total of 12 million towards Transit Oriented Development.
The U.S. Congress is currently debating infrastructure legislation. What do you think is the most important infrastructure project needed in Birmingham right now?
Cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites, fixing our roads, and the flooding that plagues our city.
Sometimes public officials need to take a moment to “get away” from the action and breathe. Where do you like to go when you need to take a break from the daily grind?
I love to go sit by the creek for a few minutes layback, breathe, think, and pray. As a Mental Health Advocate, I realize the importance of self-care even if it’s just 5 minutes. I use to think it was selfish to take care of myself before others and that’s not my nature then I learned if I don’t take care of myself I can’t be there for my daughter, parents, friends, clients, or the City of Birmingham.
Do you support reducing police funding and moving money to other areas like mental health, poverty alleviation, or education?
Absolutely, Birmingham cannot continue to pour ever-increasing sums into city police budgets, while ignoring the most basic needs of all of our 99 neighborhoods. Birmingham deserves better schools, job opportunities, access to healthy food, affordable housing, mental health care, and better public transportation. Investments to build up vulnerable communities need to be viewed as part of a comprehensive public safety strategy.
Have you ever been discriminated against? If so, please explain.
Of course, I have. I’m a black woman in Alabama. I was discriminated against a few times in my career. I am a fighter so each time I filed an EEOC complaint. Due to non-disclosure agreements, I can not go into details. But I will never let anyone disrespect me, my family, or my people.