Birmingham mayor, council draft federal wish list, hear Washington update from Rep. Terri Sewell (PHOTOS)
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Birmingham City Council members and Mayor William Bell had their pens and paper ready early Tuesday as they participated in a federal legislative update with Rep. Terri Sewell.
The gathering at City Hall was a work session where city leaders presented their goals for the year and Sewell gave an overview of activity in Washington and what it could mean to Birmingham.
Council President Johnathan Austin called the Tuesday mini summit at City Hall a success by providing an opportunity to share information, ask questions and present a unified agenda on behalf of the city.
"I'm really thankful that that mayor continued what we're trying to do in being one body, one city and one voice and making sure we craft one federal agenda for the city," Austin told AL.com. "We as a council are committed to working with the mayor and making sure we are speaking with one voice."
Ralph Cook Jr., who represents the city's lobbyist HandPrint Bell, outlined proposed federal priorities for the city in transportation, economic development, law enforcement and housing.
The work session with Birmingham leaders was also part of Sewell's informational tour throughout the 7th Congressional District.
"It was an opportunity for me to give them an overview of the federal grant opportunities that exist that may be of use for the individual council members and the city specifically," Sewell told AL.com in an interview.
Sewell also gave a review of recent federal successes including the city's $10 million TIGER grant funds for new trails and infrastructure upgrades, along with millions in federal tornado relief aid.
Bell during the meeting called it imperative that the city maintain strong lines of communication with Congressional representatives and key leaders in federal governments.
It is those relationships that help bring the support needed for local initiatives, Bell said.
Councilman Steven Hoyt stressed the importance of searching for funding and support for youth employment in the city. Unemployment, Hoyt said, continues to be a major cause of inner-city problems.
"I thought it was very productive," Sewell said. "It was mutually beneficial to all of us and I really appreciated the opportunity to hear firsthand the city's legislative agenda."
Likewise, Sewell said she hoped her information would assist the city as it planned a federal strategy.
For example, she noted the possibility of a short-term transportation bill in Congress that could provide an opportunity for the city to receive infrastructure support.
Sewell also noted the city success in coming together in rebuilding communities devastated in the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.
Sewell recently joined city leaders in Pratt City to mark the reopening of the library that was destroyed in the storms. She said she looks forward to the upcoming opening of a new Pratt City fire station.