Performa, a Memphis-based developer, has tentatively agreed to build an entertainment district including restaurants and bars at the BJCC, even without a domed stadium or smaller 40,000-seat arena. The entertainment development would require no public financing, and Performa did not ask the council for permission. Nonetheless, the council voted unanimously to support Performa.
The vote comes after three weeks of confusion caused by another prospective developer, ForgeCo. That company proposed to build the whole complex, including a 70,000-seat domed stadium without any public money. However, ForgeCo refused to tell where it would get the money for the project and would not share its financies with the BJCC board. Ultimately, ForgeCo and its potential partners could not prove their proposal was legitimate.
Minutes before, the council refused a resolution that would have made Birmingham part of the Partnership for Inclusive Communities, an initiative of the National League of Cities. The resolution itself is a sanguine, feel-good political statement, supporting inclusiveness and condemning all kinds of bigotry and intolerance.
The NLC’s website lists the numerous other cities that have already passed the resolution, including Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte and Raleigh. In addition, several cities in Alabama have already passed the resolution — Selma, Aliceville, Valley and Talladega.
Immediately the councilors seemed to hang up on one issue in the resolution — discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“Call it what it is. Say what you want to say,” Councilor Miriam Witherspoon said. “Don’t confuse it by putting in other aspects of bigotry, racism and injusticism, because what I’m hearing now is that it is all about one sexual orientation.”
In case you were wondering, “injusticism” is not a real word.
Councilor Steven Hoyt said he would not support the resolution because it was redundant compared to the Birmingham Pledge. Speaking to the issue before the council, State. Rep. Patricia Todd pointed out that the Birmingham Pledge addresses racism only, whereas this resolution was much broader.
Councilor Joel Montgomery said he didn't understand what the resolution meant. Abbott reminded him that the resolution had been included in his weekly council packet for the last two weeks.
Montgomery, Roderick Royal and Witherspoon snickered, guffawed and rolled their eyes throughout the debate.
The council rejected the resolution by a vote of three-to-four. Councilors Abbott, Carol Brown-Duncan (the councilor formerly known as Reynolds) and Carole Smitherman supported the resolution. Councilors Joel Montgomery, Royal, Witherspoon and Hoyt voted against it. Councilor Maxine Parker abstained and Councilor William Bell was absent.