BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Candidates for Birmingham mayor faced off in a debate co-hosted by CBS 42 and other media outlets.
You can follow along below for text updates as the debate progresses. More recent updates will appear at the top of the page, and you can scroll down for information from earlier in the debate.
8:00 p.m. – The debate has ended.
7:58 p.m. – Closing statements have begun.
Bell closes by defending his administration’s sale of water assets. He says his installation of LED lights throughout the city saved Birmingham money.
Brown closes by saying she never planned on running, but that she wants folks’ voices to be heard.
In closing, Hill says that he is Birmingham’s “native son.” He says that he has the most comprehensive plan to bring Birmingham to the next level. “Don’t pick another politician,” he says.
Commissioner Scales closes by saying that the quality of life is on the ballot. “Birmingham is on life support,” she says. She blames the city’s leadership. She says she has a track record of passion and love for the people. “Judge me by my work,” she says.
Williams closes by saying that we need to eliminate waste in the city. He says trades need to be brought back into schools to reduce crime. He says we need a mayor that is not a mayor of corporate America.
Mayor Woodfin closes by saying that his opponents have mischaracterized him. He says he’s the only candidate that shared a vision for the city.
7:54 p.m. – CBS 42’s Sherri Jackson the final question. She asks Bell how he would spend federal infrastructure dollars. He says that the city is prone to flooding. Current systems can not deal with this because of an aged infrastructure. He says federal funds would provide an opportunity to fix this problem, as well as rebuild bridges in places like Pratt City. He also says that parks should be revitalized.
7:52 p.m. – CBS 42’s Sherri Jackson asks Cerissa Brown about the minimum wage and whether she considers the current minimum livable. Brown says that even $15 is not a livable wage. She says that around $22 an hour is a livable wage.
Woodfin says that $15 is the minimum livable wage, but that the state forbade the city from implementing a higher minimum wage. He again focuses on the Birmingham Promise program.
7:50 p.m. – Scales is asked how she will put pressure on real estate appraisers to give fair appraisals of home values in the city. She says that we should improve education because it impacts home values. She says there’s been a disconnect between City Hall and what citizens want. She says we have to reduce crime and clean up the city. After a redirect from a panelist, she says that the city has experienced redlining, which “we need to address.”
Bell says that he is the only candidate who as an elected official held hearings on redlining in the city.
7:45 p.m. – Williams is asked what industry he would focus on strengthening, aside from tech. Williams says that Birmingham can sustain for four years “without nothing new.” He claims that Woodfin lobbied against the minimum wage in Montgomery.
Hill disagrees with Williams and says that under his leadership, he would advocate for new industry expansion including aviation. He says we should expand the Port of Birmingham.
Woodfin responds by saying we should focus on healthcare expansion. He also says that we need to continue to support tech growth. He promotes expanding hospitality.
Bell point to the trucking industry which he says is in need of workers.
7:32 p.m. – Hill is asked about neighborhood associations. Hill says that leaders of neighborhood associations have “been made to take sides.” He says that their funding is down. Mayor Woodfin is asked to give examples of revitalization in Ensley, Collegeville, and other areas. Woodfin says the city’s spent millions in funding land bank and removing blighted structures. He said that downtown Ensley was the city’s number one business development project. A panelist asks for more specifics, aside from weed abatement and small projects. Woodfin says that “we’ve been told no” when it comes to building many grocery stores. He says there are projects in the works related to Carraway Hospital. He says that the city needs to remove decay before it can “build back up.”
Scales responds by saying that “someone of what I hear is almost hurtful” and that much of the city is “disenfranchised.” “There is no neighborhood revitalization” in most of Birmingham, she says.
Williams reiterates Scales points, pointing out problems in Ensley. He repeats a claim about women on garbage trucks made by Scales.
Bell said that he focused on Ensley revitalization during his administration. He said many people do not get cooperation from City Hall during Woodfin’s administration.
7:24 p.m. – Mayor Woodfin is asked about Birmingham Promise. Woodfin explains the program and says he thinks the program is a success.
Hill responds, saying that there needs to be a forensic audit of the city, including public funds behind Birmingham Promise.
Scales responds by saying that the Birmingham Promise “has gotten away from what matters” which she says is funding K-12 education. She says the Birmingham Promise is giving voting-age citizens something “for a vote.” “We’ve got to put aside the photo ops,” she says.
Bell responds by saying that the “Bell Plan” built more schools inside Birmingham than any other program. Bell said there’s nothing wrong with a scholarship program, but that Birmingham Promise takes away resources from K-12 schools. He claims a slip in a local high school’s ranking is evidence of this.
Williams said all of the mentioned programs “are the biggest scams” he’s ever heard of. He directly addresses Woodfin and Bell, saying they both need to be “ran out of Birmingham.”
Cerissa Brown says that education is very important to her. She says the Birmingham Promise is “not what it seems.” She says the program disadvantages K-12.
Mayor Woodfin says that attacks on Birmingham Promise are “mischaracterizations.” He says the program does not have academic requirements so the scholarships cannot be taken away. For opponents to have a problem with the program “is just shooting blanks with misinformation.”
Scales says that the Bell Plan came at a major cost. She says that she worked with Birmingham schools “before I knew of a Randall Woodfin.” She says “why are we steadily losing students?” She says she’s “been privy to students” that did not receive Birmingham Promise funds that should have.
Hill says that he has a better plan than Birmingham Promise and tauts a black history program in city schools. Hill says Woodfin needs to “speak facts and stop playing with people’s money.”
Williams says Woodfin took a “blank check” when he was on the school board, but opposes it now.
Napoleon Gonzalez joins the debate.
7:11 p.m. – CBS 42’s Sherri Jackson asks Williams whether stronger gun laws would combat gun violence in the city. Darryl Williams says that “you need to give men something to do” to stop crime. He also says “you need a police chief from Birmingham.” Scales responds by saying that we need to work with the state legislature to strengthen gun laws. She says we don’t need to desensitize crime. Hill said tougher laws are necessary, but so is better leadership. He says there is a divide between BPS and JCSO. Brown cites legislation by Rep. Cori Bush that could make the city safer.
7:05 p.m. – Darryl Williams joins the debate. Commissioner Scales is asked about Birmingham’s land bank and how she would clear the way for the land bank to help improving blighted properties. Scales says that the land bank was never properly funded. She says that there needs to be a standalone board for the landbank that is separate from city politics. She says there needs to be streamlining of the program.
7:04 p.m. – Philemon Hill is asked what single policy could reduce crime. Hill says no one policy would work, but that crisis intervention programs could help. No candidates rebut.
7:00 p.m. – Cerissa Brown is asked about basic services in Birmingham like trash pickup and what she would do to improve these services. Brown said she has long worked in customer service. “We will have a department that listens…and acts.” Woodfin says no public service workers were laid off. Scales takes issue with this. Scales says “women were being asked to get on the garbage truck or go home” days ago.
6:58 p.m. – Mayor Bell is asked whether gun violence should be considered a public health issue. He says that “there is a certain element of mental illness” when it comes to gun violence. “It is a health issue,” he says. No candidates attempt to rebut.
6:57 p.m. – Mayor Woodfin is asked why companies should relocate to Birmingham. Woodfin says that people should choose Birmingham because of incentives for businesses and workforce development programs.
6:54 p.m. – Philemon Hill is asked about his priorities. He says dealing with COVID-19 is number one. Next up he says revitalizing neighborhoods is important. Finally, he says expanding the airport.
Commissioner Scales is asked about senior citizen care. Scales says that she has already provided senior services as a commissioner.
6:52 p.m. – Cerissa Brown is asked what her biggest failure in life has been. She says she should’ve tried harder for more opportunities in high school and middle school.
6:51 p.m. – CBS 42’s Sherri Jackson asks former Mayor Bell about the new census numbers. He says that Birmingham has been losing population for a while. He says his administration had many strategies to reverse this and that they worked. He says the biggest concern of citizens is the education and shootings in the city. with change in leadership, he says, we can improve quality of life.
6:49 p.m. – Candidates are being introduced.
6:45 p.m. – The debate will begin shortly.
6:30 p.m. – The debate is scheduled to begin.