Connect with us

Government

City Council approves agreement with MLB for Youth Academy

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — The Birmingham City Council voted 8-1 on Tuesday to approve an agreement with Major League Baseball for a Youth Academy at George Ward Park. Council President Valerie Abbott was the lone “no” vote.

Published

on

By Erica Wright

The Birmingham City Council voted 8-1 on Tuesday to approve an agreement with Major League Baseball for a Youth Academy at George Ward Park.

Council President Valerie Abbott was the lone “no” vote.

The matter has divided the council and was delayed for several weeks because of community opposition.

After a lengthy discussion during Tuesday’s council meeting, it appears the youth academy could come to George Ward Park in Bimingham’s South Side.

“The process moves forward for Major League Baseball to be at George Ward Park and the council was very supportive of it and I appreciate their support,” said Council President Pro Tempore William Parker, chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

MLB must now decide whether to open at George Ward Park or another location in Birmingham. City officials believe George Ward is still the best option.

“ . . . we’re moving forward to making sure we bring MLB here to George Ward Park,” said Parker. “I’m confident and hopeful that as we move forward and get all the agreements signed and executed that we can move forward with the academy at the park.”

Councilor Steven Hoyt said the academy was important for the development of young people.

“We’re talking about the future of our children, we shouldn’t be debating about that at all,” he said. “. . . baseball and this program gives them some balance as it relates to development . . .this program presents an opportunity to give them some self-esteem about themselves.”

Opposition from some community members led to weeks of debate on the council and on social media.

The MLB first proposed having the academy at George Ward but after concern from residents of the Glen Iris neighborhood decided to reassess the academy at that location to consider other sites such as Banks Middle School, Cooper Green Park and East Lake Park.

Abbott said her “no” vote was based on concerns from her constituents in District 3 which is where the academy would be located.

“I do not believe that there is one person on this council who would vote in defiance of their constituent’s wishes,” Abbott said. “I have had two constituents who have contacted me in favor of this and everyone else has been opposed to it . . . I don’t think there is one person opposed to Major League Baseball Youth Academy, the location was the only issue. We have a city that is 150 square miles and there are other places that the youth academy could go if anyone would put any effort into it. I believe that.”

Residents Still Concerned

Later in the day, a special called Parks and Recreation committee meeting was held to hear from citizens to speak on the academy.

Kristina Scott, a resident of the Glen Iris neighborhood said she moved from Homewood to Birmingham two and a half  years ago to be a part of a more diverse community.

“I’m a huge baseball fan and I could not be any more excited to see the resources of the MLB Academy . . . come into the city of Birmingham and make those facilities available for the youth of Birmingham,” she said. “For me, that is something that is important is that we’re welcoming of people from all over the city and from all over the community.”

Keith Graham, a member of the New South Softball League that plays at George Ward, said, “at the end of the day we’re arguing over dirt or kids and what’s more important, dirt or children,” he said. “We’re bringing a program that’s going to help get our children where they need to be and get them the structure because some of them don’t have any structure at home and this program will help them get that.”

Steven Foster, president of the Five Points South Neighborhood Association, still had concerns with the lack of communication from city officials.

“I think a lot of the differences that we’ve had, and what it’s come down to, is the lack of transparency and I think what was intended got lost in the weeds . . . with projects like this, if notice is given at least six months . . . I think a lot of this [the opposition] could have been avoided if more transparency or more communication had been put forth.”

Jennifer Powell, who lives on the south side, expressed concern over what happens to green space at the park.

“Part of why I bought my house eight years ago in Birmingham on South side is because of the green areas, the trees … I’m not opposed to people coming in but my question is why choose a park with these beautiful trees and that’s being so well used by so many people already from all over this city instead of choosing somewhere else that doesn’t have the trees or is not already being used and that you don’t have to tear down to build up, why not just choose another area?” she said Powell.

Parker acknowledged the matter could have been better handled.

“Communication, miscommunication, there were some mistakes,” he said. “Moving forward, we’re going to take corrective action to make sure those mistakes don’t ever happen again. . . this is the first in a series of meetings I want to talk about and we’re going to have with the community, I think we need to have them ongoing because I think it’s important that we make sure we’re all on the same page and build that trust but it has to be a two-way street. There’s a lot of mistrust from both parties in this but we’ve got to work together and the communication has to be better.”

The Parks and Rec Committee will meet again on April 16 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to update residents and hear again from the public on the park.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.  

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bay Area

Ready to Travel? Get the REAL ID!  

The California DMV suggests changing your driver’s license or identification card to a REAL ID as federal laws will soon make it necessary to have either a passport, REAL ID, or other federally accepted forms of ID to board local flights and enter federal buildings.

Published

on

DMV Administrator Carrie Stanton. Photo courtesy of the author.
DMV Administrator Carrie Stanton. Photo courtesy of the author.

By Carrie Stanton, Regional Administrator (Region 2, Bay Area) of the California Department of Motor Vehicles

The holidays are here and families are excited to get together and celebrate for the first time in over a year. Amid the pandemic, we’ve missed far too many Sunday and holiday dinners that have been a tradition for many families for generations.

For our community, family dinner is about creating memories. For those families who will be traveling this holiday season, I encourage you to consider adding a REAL ID upgrade to your checklist when making your travel plans.

The California DMV suggests changing your driver’s license or identification card to a REAL ID as federal laws will soon make it necessary to have either a passport, REAL ID, or other federally accepted forms of ID to board local flights and enter federal buildings.

While getting a REAL ID isn’t required, it does make it easier to continue using your driver’s license to board a local flight or visit loved ones on military bases. To help make this change, the California DMV is offering free upgrades to people who renewed their license or ID card between March 2020 and July 2021 from now until Dec. 31, 2021.

Protecting the health, safety and security of our communities is what’s important and the REAL ID provides an extra layer of protection when traveling. Applying is easy and can be started safely online at CaliforniaREALID.org. Complete your application, upload the required forms, and plan your DMV office visit to finish. Don’t forget your documents and confirmation code– they will be needed for your visit.

Whether you are applying for a first-time California driver’s license or identification card or are up for renewal, a REAL ID may be the best option, especially if you plan to travel soon. Get back to creating those memories with your family. With shorter wait periods and an easy application process, now is the perfect time to start your REAL ID application so you’re ready to go when the time is right.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, many things in our lives are changing. In our community, many have started businesses, changed their lifestyles for the better and found new passions in life. Whatever is helping you get through these rough times is also playing a part in figuring out our new normal. Make the REAL ID part of that new normal.

Carrie Stanton is Regional Administrator (Region 2, Bay Area) of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Continue Reading

Activism

School District Faces Hostile Takeover by State Overseers

The Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) told Oakland Unified School District officials that they must cut the budget by $90 million and threatened – if the district does not take sufficient steps by the end of January – to withhold the salaries of the school board and Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and place the district under direct control of the state’s Bakersfield-based nonprofit agency, the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), according to a November 8 letter to the district from ACOE Supt. L. Karen Monroe.

Published

on

The danger of direct state control — now operating through FCMAT and ACOE — serving as the agents of the state, rather than through the dictatorial power of a state receiver — seems like a modified replay of the state takeover of OUSD in 2003, nearly 19 years ago.
The danger of direct state control — now operating through FCMAT and ACOE — serving as the agents of the state, rather than through the dictatorial power of a state receiver — seems like a modified replay of the state takeover of OUSD in 2003, nearly 19 years ago.

Takeover threat immediately follows district’s decision to halt school closings

By Ken Epstein

Oakland Unified School District officials were caught by surprise recently when they heard from the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE), which previously was working closely with OUSD, that the county had taken a dramatic step seemingly out of the blue, invoking an official “Lack of going concern” ruing on the district.

The ACOE told OUSD that they must cut the budget by $90 million and threatened – if the district does not take sufficient steps by the end of January – to withhold the salaries of the school board and Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and place the district under direct control of the state’s Bakersfield-based nonprofit agency, the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), according to a November 8 letter to the district from ACOE Supt. L. Karen Monroe.

Some school board members and school advocates see this threat of takeover by ACOE and FCMAT as retaliation and possibly an attempt to reverse a recent action by the board and Trammell-Johnson passing a resolution with wide community support to reject state pressure to close neighborhood schools.

With only five days to challenge the county’s ruling, school board members – with the backing of the superintendent and top administrators – voted unanimously at a special meeting on Saturday, November 13 to appeal the ‘lack of going concern’ determination to State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who this week announced he has sided with the county.

The danger of direct state control — now operating through FCMAT and ACOE — serving as the agents of the state, rather than through the dictatorial power of a state receiver — seems like a modified replay of the state takeover of OUSD in 2003, nearly 19 years ago.

At that time, the state placed a receiver and FCMAT in charge of OUSD and forced the district to accept a $100 million loan it did not need, and proceeded to unilaterally spend the windfall on their pet projects. OUSD is still paying off that loan. Also, the superintendent was fired, and the authority of the school board suspended.

Under state guidance, the district has closed about 20 schools, mostly in Black and Latinx flatland schools, with the direct encouragement of FCMAT, even though FCMAT has recognized that closing schools does not save money.

Under the leadership of FCMAT and the county since 2003, the district has faced almost continual budget cuts, has stayed in debt and has relied on a revolving door of privatizing administrators and consultants, many who appear to pass through Oakland as a career steppingstone.

According to Monroe’s letter, which has been challenged by the district, OUSD was doing fine this year, and its budget for 2021-2022 was approved. “However, due to the significant level of budgetary reliance on one-time revenue sources and the lack of adequate assurances that fiscal solvency is certain in future years, it has been determined that the district is a Lack of Going Concern with its budget approval.”

Monroe’s letter said the district must “implement $90 million in required reductions within a timely manner.” She also said the county will “withhold compensation of the members of the governing of the school district and the school district superintendent for failure to provide requested financial information,” though the district says it has worked closely with the county and has withheld no information.

Following FCMAT’s “recommendations” would not be optional. “The school district shall follow the recommendations of the (FCMAT) team, unless the school district shows good cause for failure to do so,” the letter said.

The district’s relationship with its overlords at the ACOE and FCMAT seemed to have gone south soon after the school board and administration decided on October 27 that it would no longer give in to state pressure to close more schools in coming years. Before the decision, the state trustee threatened to reverse the board decision if it passed but did nothing when they passed it anyway.

“Karen Monroe for five years has had oversight over every budget, and she approved the budgets,” Boardmember Mike Hutchinson told the Oakland Post. “She is the one who has had oversight. Whose responsibility is this?” He asked.

The district has been working closely with the county and is in better fiscal shape than it has been in years, said Hutchinson “What is new, besides the district’s decision not to close more schools?”

President of the Oakland teachers’ union Keith Brown told the Oakland Post, “We’re opposed to (Supt.) Monroe’s actions. We feel that imposing FCMAT on Oakland would be damaging to our community and our schools.”

While many school advocates strongly criticize the district for its bureaucratic, top-down management and lack of accountability in making budget decisions, they oppose this threatened takeover for a variety of reasons:

  • The imposition of FCMAT on OUSD constitutes the suspension of voters’ right to choose their representatives and is a violation of Oakland residents’ democratic rights of self-government.
  • The county is demanding $90 million in budget reductions. How did this happen under the county’s watch? How can $90 million be cut and still have a school district that exists in any recognizable form?
  • The county says school enrollment has declined but failed to acknowledge the pandemic has anything to do with it. The county complains the district has relied on one-time spending, but isn’t that what federal pandemic funds were for?
  • FCMAT and the county have been working closely with OUSD for years, but now they say they failed. Why is the solution to turn total control over to them?
  • There is at least the appearance that the threat to withhold leaders’ salaries and impose FCMAT is in part retaliation for the district decision to stop closing more schools, which is the democratic right of local representatives.

Responding to Oakland Post questions, Monroe said, “Decision-making in Oakland Unified lies with the members of the Board of Education that have been elected by the Oakland community, so I am perplexed by any reference to a violation of the democratic rights of Oakland voters.

“The work to be done by FCMAT does not constitute any replacement of OUSD’s governance structure and is spelled out clearly in Education Code. It is limited in scope and does not usurp or compromise the Board’s local control,” she said. More of her responses will be printed in the next Oakland Post edition.

L. Karen Monroe’s letter to OUSD is available at:

https://ousd.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9962661&GUID=ADEF97D5-0DD4-44CF-99E2-C31AF83C734E

OUSD’ appeal letter to Tony Thurmond is available at

https://ousd.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9963018&GUID=7E877777-AF0C-4211-ABE3-D38E9F2FB20E

Boardmember Hutchinson urged people to call Tony Thurmond and Supt. Monroe and to sign a petition available online at https://bit.ly/3xJRc6K

Continue Reading

Bay Area

Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao Introduces Immediate Police Hiring Plan to Address OPD Vacancies, Crime Surge, 911 Response Time 

“Being a city leader means breaking through the discourse and finding solutions that are effective and holistic,” said Thao. “While important violence prevention programs like Ceasefire and Town Nights continue to focus on the important community-building that is necessary, it is important that the city improve its 911 response times and ensure nobody is waiting hours for help. Equally, it is important that OPD is supported and staffed at the levels that the Council has already authorized and funded.”

Published

on

Sheng Thao. Twitter photo.
Sheng Thao. Twitter photo.

By Council Press Office

Calling Oakland’s efforts to fill its 60 vacant police officers’ positions, “an unacceptable failure,” City Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao introduced on Wednesday a new hiring incentive program for the Oakland Police Department (OPD) that will focus on immediately filling officer vacancies.

The program will provide significant cash incentives for experienced police officers and Oakland residents to join OPD. This will improve OPD’s 911 response time, provide the ability to increase the numbers of visible patrol officers, and allow for the expansion of the Ceasefire program. (Ceasefire is a data-driven violence-reduction strategy coordinating law enforcement, social services, and the community, according to the City of Oakland web site.)

Thao’s legislation calls for partnership with an outside hiring agency to conduct a nationwide search for “strongly qualified and experienced lateral police officers,” who are officers that have already gone through police training and are currently serving their respective police departments.

“No one is coming to save us; we’re going to have to save ourselves. That means being aggressive, creative, and disruptive as we look to do things differently at City Hall, because the results are in and what we are doing isn’t working.

“I am introducing a plan to help the City Administration speed up recruitment as well as help save the city dollars and time when filling key vacancies,” explained Thao, “My plan will make Oakland more competitive in its work to hire seasoned, quality officers from across the nation.” This legislation is supported by a broad community coalition from Oakland.

This effort, in combination with Thao’s work in September to secure additional police training academies and provide the overtime OPD is using for walking beats in business corridors during the holidays, reaffirms her commitment to ensuring business corridors are safe, that small businesses can thrive in Oakland and that residents can be assured that crimes will be investigated and police more visible.

Additionally, Thao’s proposal will not take away any of the historical investments Thao and five other councilmembers approved for violence prevention programs.

“Being a city leader means breaking through the discourse and finding solutions that are effective and holistic,” said Thao. “While important violence prevention programs like Ceasefire and Town Nights continue to focus on the important community-building that is necessary, it is important that the city improve its 911 response times and ensure nobody is waiting hours for help. Equally, it is important that OPD is supported and staffed at the levels that the Council has already authorized and funded.”

Daniel Swafford, executive director of the Laurel Business Association and Montclair Business Improvement District said, “I want to thank Councilmember Sheng Thao for her work prioritizing small businesses, our neighborhood commercial districts, and the public safety and health of our communities. Councilmember Thao has brought real, tangible resources to small businesses and their neighborhoods and this legislation is another example of her ability to listen to concerns and provide solutions. I hope the rest of the City Council will vote for this resolution and that the City Administration will push implementation forward.”

The City Council passed a budget in June and the Administration, which reports to the mayor, is responsible to implement it. Currently, the city has hired and deployed fewer officers than the 737 approved by the City Council in June. Thao’s plan to rapidly fill the vacancies will help ensure the public is provided with the resources that have been approved and funded.

Continue Reading

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending