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?
As mayor, my top priorities are establishing a new relationship with the citizens of Birmingham based on integrity, transparency, effective/open communications, empathy and respect. Also, conducting a forensic audit and disparity study to address both the financial stability of the city and to immediately address the inclusion of Black owned businesses in the city process. Create an office of public health services to address the immediate needs of citizens regarding Covid-19, cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS is of the upmost priority. And repairing the relationships between the Mayor’s Office, city council, city employees, citizens, school board, superintendent, other elected officials, and those that have been disenfranchised and alienated within the last 4+ years.
Do you have any regrets in your professional career so far? If so, what did you learn from them?
Both as a business owner and advocate, I have absolutely no regrets. There are many lessons learned throughout this life journey of mine. Learning which mayors, councilors, school board members, elected officials and others that are not in the best interests of the people is an ongoing learning process. Having uncompromising principles, for me, is an asset. Providing factual and truthful information to our people, that empowers, is a responsibility that most shy away from. I embrace it. “It takes courage to take a stand and fight for what is right. It also takes courage to sit and listen.”
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?
Technically the city does not have a health official management team to manage this health crisis. Therefore, the mayor’s office has been all but silent on the issue. The county health department is a state management and operating entity. As mayor, and working with the city council, I will create and appoint the city’s first, fully funded Office of Public Health Services and Chief of Public Health Services. The advice of the doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, staff and other medical/health professionals will determine mask mandates, limiting large events, social distancing, and restricting indoor dining.
As mayor, what specific policies will you enact to improve the transparency of city government?
Within the first 100 days of office, my administration and city council will implement a new digital platform that provides real time data of all public spending by the mayor’s office, administration, city council, all departments, and all city boards/agencies. This information will be provided on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. The creation of a city-wide digital newsletter will be distributed via a new mobile app for more effective communications to citizens of all ages, in all 99 neighborhoods. Within the first year of my administration, the creation of B-City/Channel 99 live stream will be created to provide a more transparent line of communications between the citizens we serve, city hall officials, and city employees. And finally, I will commit to, in writing and practice, frequent press conferences, district discussions and town hall tours in an effort to re-build trust with the office of the mayor, the citizens and the council.
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?
Re-imagine public safety in Birmingham. Re-imagine #BHM99 PD with crisis intervention training for all officers. Re-imagine safe spaces for police officers and citizens to report misconduct without any retaliation. Re-imagine #BHM99 with its first Citizens Advisory & Review Board. Re-imagine the police department as being awarded as the best trained and most efficiently operated department in the state and world. Protecting and serving the citizens and guests of #BHM99 and making our communities safe in which the officers live as well. Finally, on day one as mayor, I will rescind the unconstitutional actions administered by the current mayor in June 2020. No mayor or local elected official has the right to violate the constitutional rights of any citizen. (Reference: ACLU-AL Comment on Birmingham Order Banning Protests.) Note: Proclamation signed by the current mayor on June 2, 2020)
How would you assess the current state of public transportation in Birmingham? If elected mayor what changes would you make?
The only district in the city that have adequate access to public transportation and options to transportation are districts 2, 3 and 5. And that is by design. Public transportation should be a right available to all citizens in all 9 districts, and should be accessible to all citizens of Birmingham no matter what neighborhood our citizens are from or reside in. Birmingham should explore implementing all practical and affordable options of transportation. Shareable options such as bicycles, scooters, light rail, street cars, energy efficient buses, subway systems, commuter rail, etc. City officials and industry professionals will engage citizens in creating a strategy of providing quality transportation options to ALL citizens of the city. New transportation options will allow for the city to grow into becoming a greener city as well as a smart city. Which improves the environment of the city and quality of life.
The U.S. Congress is currently debating infrastructure legislation. What do you think is the most important infrastructure project needed in Birmingham right now?
The sewer system and roads in Birmingham are the two most important infrastructure projects that are needed in our city. Any federal funds received for infrastructure will go directly to the project of improving our sewage system and roads. As an engineer by trade, I will be totally invested in the project from beginning to end. I envision an overhaul of those two infrastructures, it is time out for patch work and time for renovation. The renovation of those two infrastructures will help the city and the citizen by lowering sewage bills and car maintenance.
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?
Balance is important for everyone. As a cancer survivor, my health and wellbeing are my number one priority. The following activities help me achieve that physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance: yoga, pilates, golf, hiking, adventure sports/activities, a good book in the park or museum, massage therapy, traveling, and being in the sanctuary of my home.
Do you support reducing police funding and moving money to other areas like mental health, poverty-alleviation, or education?
“The safest cities do not have a large police department. The safest cities have the most resources for citizens.” Birmingham needs more resources for both citizens and police officers. I strongly support reducing police funding (not defunding) and re-allocating department funds in a more effective, efficient, and responsible way. During my administration, the city will provide more resources for mental, behavioral, and social services for both police officers and citizens.
Have you ever been discriminated against? If so, please explain.
Yes, the City of Birmingham has become an ocean of discrimination. And what is worse the discrimination has become common place between elected officials and Black business owners. The current and previous mayors exclude Black business owners by rewarding professional service contracts and not conducting a fair and balance bidding process. The city’s Black Business Engagement is less than 2%. And this has been consistent since 1958. Even while campaigning, I have been excluded from the city’s fair bidding process to manage the Morehouse vs Tuskegee Football Classic. As a Black Man and Black business owner in Birmingham, being discriminated against is a frequent occurrence.