David Sher’s BackCity give voice to the people of Birmingham and Alabama.
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Today’s guest columnist is Memphis Vaughn.
ComebackTown recently published a column on the possibilities of a high speed train from Birmingham to Atlanta.
The response on social media has been overwhelmingly positive.
Hundreds of commentators wanted to know why the bullet train and other visionary projects died when they arrived in Alabama.
Whenever I travel to other places in this country and abroad, people still think of 1960s Alabama. It doesn’t help when heads of state, members of Congress and others in Alabama with national platforms focus on voter suppression, critical race theory, who uses what bathroom, immigration and other controversial topics that do not improve people’s livelihoods. its citizens or do not make Alabama a desirable place to live or visit.
Imagine if candidates ran for office with a vision for Alabama’s future rather than how to hold people back, our possibilities would be endless.
Why is Alabama state-level leadership working against the best interests of cities?
Why is Alabama one of the slowest growing southern states according to the 2020 census?
Why are Alabama youth moving to other places like Nashville, Dallas, and Atlanta?
The answer to these questions may lie in the lack of vision at the state level. Alabama always seems to be catching up in just about everything we do. Our state leadership is not what many would consider forward-thinking compared to the rest of the country. We lag behind the nation in so many categories that our residents may think it’s just our rightful place at the bottom or near the bottom.
There is a big difference between leadership at the state level and at the local level. Leadership at the local level has shown that they have a vision for their communities. The mayors of Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa and our other major cities are working hard to attract jobs, attractions and tourists to their respective cities.
Even the smallest communities have leadership that focuses on things that affect the daily lives of their citizens.
For example, something as simple as putting the state lottery and gambling initiative on the ballot failed two consecutive legislative sessions. Most citizens want this to happen, but our state legislature simply cannot make it happen. Yet they quickly adopted controversial articles that affect few people in the state.
Years ago Mobile had the opportunity to have the casinos that are now located in Biloxi and Gulfport. But it was the 1901 Alabama Constitution that placed a lot of power in the hands of rural counties and required a statewide vote on just about every local issue that kept it from being able to. be voted on only by those in Mobile who supported it.
State officials may have stopped people from playing in Alabama, but go visit Biloxi and see how many Alabama car tags you see there. These are funds that could improve Mobile and Alabama.
The vision I am referring to concerns the defense of things such as infrastructure, educational reform, equal justice and initiatives that can improve the quality of life in the state and change the image of the state. ‘Alabama.
Our leaders should have a vision that has long-term benefits rather than the short-sighted efforts they undertake that hinder progress. I often wonder if they realize how much their misguided efforts affect the way people view Alabama, even with all the hard work local leaders do to improve cities and change the negative image. Perception is often the main thing many foreigners lean on when considering Alabama. I’m sure that does factor into decisions when companies are considering locating here.
Visitors come up with these misconceptions of what Alabama stands for and are pleasantly surprised when it’s not as bad as they think it is. But too many others don’t even come.
We have the resources, the people, the natural beauty and the history to be more competitive with other states. So a lot of our young talent is moving to Texas, Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas, when they could apply that talent right here in Alabama. We still have a lot of innovative and creative people here, but it seems their efforts are overshadowed by the actions of backward leaders and limited vision for the state.
We need state-level leadership working with local leaders to help fully implement the vision they have for their cities that will benefit Alabama as a whole. We need leaders who will think outside the box, who are ready to take bold action, and who champion the ideas that will make Alabama stand out in the country and make our young people want to live here.
If they could do it, half the battle would be won. Then our state will see the growth, jobs and improvements that neighboring states are experiencing.
Memphis Vaughan, Jr., is a civil engineer and a native of Mobile. He is the editor of the poetry and writing site, TimBookTu.com and contributes to the Steppin ‘Out newspaper. The avid traveler has visited 48 states and several countries and recognizes the great potential of the state of Alabama.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of BackCity. He is the former chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham) and the City Action Partnership (CAP).