BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Candidate for Birmingham Mayor Philemon Hill 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 top priority is to address the most concerning issue facing our city, violent crime. Our homicide rate has been triple digits for the past five years, and it, unfortunately, looks like we are on the path to making it six. The crime rate has gotten out of control. When I speak with our citizens, and I have our elderly telling me that they do not even feel safe sitting on their porch- we know that we cannot afford another four years of the same.
First, we need to assess the department. We have realized that we are lacking leadership at the head of the Birmingham Police Department. When our local Fraternal Order of Police places a vote of no confidence in your police chief, and his response is, “Their argument is lame.” We simply cannot afford to continue with unqualified leadership.
Second, we have officers fleeing our departments, and this is a fault of the disconnect with the leadership. There is no reason why we should not be able to keep our officers who want to protect and serve this community. We must address this shortage and pull Birmingham out of this crime epidemic so that we can move towards a more livable and safe city, and that starts with qualified leadership.
Do you have any regrets in your professional career so far? If so, what did you learn from them?
My biggest regret was not being able to deliver two Jefferson County Sheriff’s substations for my constituents in East Birmingham, as their County Commissioner. This was due to the mayor’s grandstanding on a real issue that he claimed I was politizing. This help was offered by the county at no cost to the city, yet the mayor ultimately stood in the way of what could have provided extra assistance in a time when we need it most. I have learned from this, and from numerous other examples, Birmingham can not continue forward with unqualified leadership.
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?
All of my decisions related to COVID-19 as a Jefferson County Commissioner have been guided by the advice of our county health officials. I plan on continuing forward with these leaders as mayor of our city.
As mayor, what specific policies will you enact to improve the transparency of city government?
I will ensure that all city-related documentation is quickly and easily accessible to our citizens. It has become common practice in our city to promote transparency around election time, but if you visit our city’s website you will see a different story.
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?
I believe in Birmingham we need to have more officer and community engagement, as well as more support to our community outreach programs that work on this very issue. We also need to ensure that the families of victims are informed as quickly as possible. Most importantly, we need to have a qualified police chief at the top of our department. The morale is low in our departments, and it is time we change that.
How would you assess the current state of public transportation in Birmingham? If elected mayor what changes would you make?
I recognize that our cities’ transportation problems have gone on for far too long. As a City Councilor, I always advocated for keeping and adding routes to our transit system. The management around these programs must be addressed. I have been told by citizens that they are unable to get to their medical treatment, or jobs due to the dysfunctional transit system. This must be addressed and treated as more than just an election cycle issue. We have citizens whose livelihoods and health depend on this system, and we must do better. Plans have been made by previous administrations to address this issue, but they never come to fruition. I will have a full evaluation done on our transit system and work alongside our partners to make sure these issues do not continue. Significant changes and improvements will need to be made not only to help our citizens who desperately need it but to also make sure we are well prepared for the World Games.
The U.S. Congress is currently debating infrastructure legislation. What do you think is the most important infrastructure project needed in Birmingham right now?
Our city is facing numerous infrastructure-related issues, all while the World Games are just under a year away. I mentioned earlier how our transit system has been forgotten by our leadership, this should absolutely be considered a top priority when considering federal dollars. But we also have to address our other infrastructure issues, such as our drainage system in this city. Just this summer, a man lost his life to flooding in the City of Birmingham. I understand that some natural disasters are out of our hands, but we must take every measure possible to keep our city safe. Lastly, I am sure we are all aware of the shape our roads are in. It is no surprise why our city has fallen behind Huntsville as the largest city in the state. These issues have gone on for far too long, and our citizens deserve better. To address our infrastructure issues, we need to take full advantage of the opportunities being offered by the federal government and consider what public-private partnerships could benefit all 99 of our neighborhoods. Most importantly, we need to apply experienced oversight to the tax dollars our citizens are already providing towards infrastructure.
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 always make sure I have time to spend with my family. They are a constant reminder as to why I do what I do. I love my family and know citizens around this city want the best for their families as well.
Do you support reducing police funding and moving money to other areas like mental health, poverty alleviation, or education?
I do not support reducing police funding in this city, as this current mayor has done. I want to make sure that those who protect and serve our communities have all of the resources necessary to do so. I believe that we can do this, as well as fund areas such as mental health, poverty alleviation, and education. Many of these areas have been neglected for far too long, and the citizens deserve better.
Have you ever been discriminated against? If so, please explain.
Like many other women, I can point to many times in my life that I have been discriminated against, but I am not running for mayor to be a victim, but to rather stand up and ensure that Birmingham is a city for all people. We have to be the change we want to see in the city.