Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
As the new year arrives, Weld has seized an opportunity to bring together Birminghamians of all shapes, sizes, affiliations and occupations on one topic, a single basic question: What do you wish to happen, or resolve to make happen, for the Magic City for 2014?
As an alternative, we also asked people to tell us what they resolve to do with their own small part of Birmingham — themselves — for the new year.
The answers reveal plans and goals big and small, grand and mundane, civic-oriented and inwardly focused. Some of them might even be considered inspiring. And while we certainly didn’t hit everybody, we heard from a decent cross section of Birmingham denizens. From radio personalities to activists, to politicians, scientists and librarians, here’s what some Birminghamians are hoping to see in the next 365 days.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell – “In 2013, Birmingham embraced our past to build our future with the commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement in the city, culminating with the Empowerment Week events during September. The city received national and international acclaim for our efforts and saw an unprecedented time of positive image growth and economic development.
“In 2014, our resolution is to keep the momentum going. We want citizens to continue to take pride in their city, learn and embrace our history and be ambassadors of Birmingham 50 years forward. The Barons are back home in downtown; the entertainment district will be cranked up and the revitalization going on all over the city in places like Woodlawn, Avondale and starting in Ensley are signs of the renaissance of our city. Our new year’s resolution is to continue to grow and prosper and show the world that we are Birmingham forward, the city that changed the world.”
Wendy Jackson, executive director, Freshwater Land Trust — “For 2014, I would like to see everyone in Jefferson County have better access to outdoor recreation, trails, and ways to move throughout our community. We have made great strides with our Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System, but we still have so much left to do to connect our communities! Birmingham has the potential to be a premier destination for all types of outdoor recreation and it is our vision that the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System will transform Jefferson County into a healthier, more livable and fun place for all of us!”
Scott Register, Birmingham Mountain Radio —“I, Scott Register, resolve to continue doing all I can to accentuate the countless positives that the Birmingham Metro Area has to offer while working tirelessly to eliminate the nagging negatives that keep the area from moving forward.”
Darby Jack, freshman at the Alabama School of Fine Arts — “I’d like for Birmingham to put shops in vacant buildings and support small businesses. I love Birmingham, and it has a lot of potential.”
Mélodie Echols, executive director of Norwood Resource Center — “My hope for 2014 is that the city can redevelop the former Carraway Hospital campus into a mixed-use development, anchored by a municipal complex named in honor of Maxine Herring Parker. And I resolve to continue to work to make Norwood a model community in the great city of Birmingham.”
Forrest Cook — “Promote wherever, whenever I can that Birmingham is a great place to be…especially to those looking to move here. We are not perfect, but we are a doggone good place to live…and what city is perfect?”
What he hopes the city will accomplish: “Complete Railroad Park expansion. Fix the expressway lights (especially Elton Stephens/Red Mountain — a pet peeve!). And continue to improve the school system. I want to hear that certain cities want to be more like Birmingham than Birmingham should be more like Nashville, Chattanooga, Jacksonville, Charlotte, fill-in-the-blank.”
Marquita Hall, executive director of Foundation for Inner City Enrichment — “Alabama and Auburn have monopolized the football scene in Birmingham, so for 2014 I really would like to hear talk of a pro basketball [team] being hosted here. Pipe dream? Maybe.”
Kate Nielsen, outgoing president of Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham — “I would like to see the continued positive attitude and momentum we now have in our community. Whether working on projects in our region, our neighborhoods or our city center, let us continue to settle for nothing less than world class — a great habit we have begun with Railroad Park, Red Mountain Park and Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, Innovation Depot, CrossPlex, Abroms Engel Visual Arts Center, Regions Field, Dorothy Jemison Day Theatre at ASFA, Lyric Theatre and everything at UAB — just to name a few and what a list! Moving [Interstate] 20/59, a barrier between our city’s assets and neighborhoods, would certainly add to this momentum!”
Kendall Chew, education department assistant at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute — “What I resolve to do for the city is promote Birmingham through social media. While running the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s Instagram page, I really want to step up our presence there while also acknowledging all of the wonderful local shops, movements, causes of Birmingham on Instagram. I am currently working on how to help our presence there, and hopefully we can get a huge following for our city!
“What I hope the city will do in 2014 is move at least one step closer to acting like a community. Living in Jefferson County is weird sometimes because one can claim Birmingham as ‘home,’ but we all live in little towns and cities outside of metro Birmingham while also being impacted by metro Birmingham. If we all love calling Birmingham home, no matter if one lives in Hoover, Bessemer or Trussville, we need to make some government and community steps to recognizing one another’s suburbs while raising up Birmingham — because Birmingham is the city that represents us on an international scale, where we call home, but also where we do not know or support our neighboring suburbs and towns very well. We need to get closer together!”
Marc Harris, singer-songwriter/bandleader/producer — “As for my hopes for Birmingham in 2014, I’d like to see a grocery store open downtown and a continuation of the trend of restoring buildings that have ‘good bones’ and give the city a sense of style.”
Brian Hilson, president and CEO, Birmingham Business Alliance — “The BBA plans to share the great news of Birmingham’s continuing success to businesses across the country and around the world. Whether it’s by helping people understand new innovation and technology being commercialized at the University of Alabama at Birmingham or announcing and celebrating new or expanding industry, the BBA will be promoting our region as a great place to live, work and do business, with the goal of creating more and better job opportunities.”
Randall Woodfin, president, Birmingham Board of Education — “As president of our school board, I resolve to have all of our stakeholders and community partners commit to our school system’s strategic plan — and to have us as a board committed to picking one thing and being successful at it for the benefit of our students.
“As a citizen of Birmingham, I hope our city government adopts and begins implementing our new City Comprehensive Plan.”
Mariah Gibson, community outreach manager for Sarrell Dental — “Continued support for the growing local businesses.”
Val Casswell, UA teaching assistant and doctoral student — “New sidewalks for runners.”
John Meek, investigator, Farris, Riley & Pitt Law Firm – “Concerning what I resolve to do for the city, I plan to be a good citizen when I meet fellow Birmingham residents as well as visitors to our great city, greeting them with a smile and saying hello while offering assistance when needed.
“In reference to what I would like to see the city do or become in 2014, I would like to see the continuance of the revitalization of the downtown area. For progress to continue, the citizens of Birmingham will need to get out and support some of the great things that have been accomplished during recent years. I plan to be one of those citizens.”
Darrell O’Quinn, scientist and GGEMM core facility administrator at University of Alabama at Birmingham, president of Crestwood North Neighborhood Association — “I resolve to organize the largest water balloon fight the Birmingham metro has ever seen. Twenty-five thousand water balloons. Crestwood Park, Sunday, August 10, 2014 at 2 p.m. Community building is one of my passions. This and other events that create fun opportunities for interaction between strangers [especially strangers that live in close proximity] is part of how I accomplish my goal of creating true community.
“I also intend to help the Citizens Advisory Board become a more effective tool for Birmingham residents.”
Matthew Layne, young adult librarian, Emmet O’Neal Library — “For the city that I love, our Magic City, our Birmingham, I resolve to continue to support its community and businesses with my presence and my money. I resolve to shop locally, to eat locally, and to support the local arts community. We are Birmingham, and we are beautiful.”
Matthew Layne, young adult librarian, Emmet O’Neal Library — In 2014, I resolve to listen more and react less. I resolve to let the words which pass through my lips be compassionate and constructive. I resolve to look for the potential of the world around me rather than to focus on the deficiency.”
Marquita Hall, executive director of Foundation for Inner City Enrichment — “I plan to substitute one mind-numbing reality television show I currently watch with a scripted show that I’ve been hearing a lot about.”
Kate Nielsen, president of Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham — “My personal New Year’s Resolution is to find a better balance between my commitment to family, faith and friends, and my commitment to our community. For 59 years I have failed miserably at finding that balance!”
Kendall Chew, education department assistant at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – “I hope to spend more time in downtown Birmingham and have more of a presence in city events.”
Forrest Cook — “Make a special point to stay better connected with friends – other than with ‘social media’ … talk instead of text!”
John Meek, investigator, Farris, Riley & Pitt Law Firm — “In 2014, I plan to try and be the best husband, family member, employee, and friend that I can possibly be. I also want to appreciate and enjoy life a little more. I also need to rededicate myself to my Christian faith and attend mass more often than I did in 2013. In the past, I have found if you are in good grace with God Almighty, everything else just seems to fall into place.”
Christopher Arias, vice president of Bravo Food Systems — “To stop smoking for real and for good.”
Mariah Gibson, community outreach manager for Sarrell Dental — “To use chopsticks properly.”
Elise Webster, Lindamood Bell Learning — “Surround myself with love and be love for others.”
Randall Woodfin, president, Birmingham Board of Education — “On a personal note, I resolve to learn how to cook more meals!”
Marc Harris, singer-songwriter/bandleader/producer — “I have several resolutions: Focus on my strengths and forget about my weaknesses. Master my time management so I can bring more of my ideas to life. Spend more time doing things I have a talent for and less time on things I struggle with. Ride my bike at Oak Mountain and walk at Ruffner Mountain consistently. Support progress downtown by going to as many Birmingham Barons games as possible. Collaborate with like-minded people to bring good ideas to fruition. Continue buying Good People, Avondale and Cahaba beer here at home and wherever I can find it as I travel around the Southeast.”
Luke Hanson, information specialist at Lakeshore Foundation — “I’m about to be 27. Honestly, my resolution is to finally figure out how to be an adult well.”
Andreas Fortunis, fiction writer — “I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Though one could definitely be to finish my book already.”
Angela White, academic affairs assistant at Birmingham-Southern College —“I resolve to make the most of the time I have with people I care about.”
Andrew Collins, owner of the soon-to-be former Lyric Hot Dogs and The Collins Bar — “Resolution is to be the best bar owner in Birmingham.”
Ian Hoppe, three-dimensional designer at Ray Engineering Group — “One, I’ll be writing and/or playing music for a living by the time it gets warm.
Two, I’m going on a long, possibly international, trip alone.”
Architect Andrew C. Bryant — “I don’t typically do New Year’s resolutions, but I do select one word each year that I use to motivate and encourage me. Usually it takes me the first month of the year to figure out what the word is going to be, but this year I selected it at the beginning of December, which is, as you’ll see, quite fitting. This year’s word is ‘BOLDNESS.’
“Life can difficult and even though we strive for simplicity it nonetheless continues to complicate. I think it’s easy to get stuck in a rut or let your situation control your life. Often times we relinquish responsibility or are relegated to paler shades of who we are, all at the cost of time, energy and resources. 2014 is a year for boldness. It is a year to capitalize on perpetual potential. Whatever it is that is holding you back from becoming the husband, wife, friend, neighbor, employee, citizen — fill in the blank here — that you can be, now is the time to walk in boldness.”
Rachel Lindley, news director, WBHM — “I resolve to get strong enough that I no longer have to walk my bike up all the hills in Crestwood, and to try and take my two-year-old son to all of the parks in the greater Birmingham area. I also resolve to tell more of Birmingham’s story on WBHM. I want us to hire more reporters, produce more in-depth original reporting and use the radio to build community and increase conversation.”
Adam R. Snyder, senior campaign advisor, The Nature Conservancy, board member, Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority — “I resolve to work harder to break down socioeconomic, racial and geographic barriers in order to build a stronger and healthier community through greater investment in transit and neighborhood redevelopment.”
Angie Wright, pastor, Beloved Community Church, associate director, Greater Birmingham Ministries — “My resolve has to do with the gap. I will stand in the gap. I’ll be a bridge to help people cross the gap. My hope is that while the city promotes and celebrates renewal in some areas and for some people, we will also admit that there exists a gap, a widening gap, between neighborhoods, between the city and the suburbs, between those with and those without, between the races. If we tell the truth about the gap, we have hope of doing something significant about it.”
Chris McCauley, executive director of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life — “When I facilitate public forums, I’m often asked, ‘How can we strengthen communities?’ In reflecting on that question — as well as my New Year’s resolution for the Birmingham community in 2014 — I have come to the conclusion that there is no simple, catchall answer.
“I believe that we live in a society that is bitterly divided on a variety of social, economic and political issues. When analyzing these difficult issues, we tend to engage with individuals who see the world in the same way that we do, listen to news sources that reinforce our opinions, and ‘hide’ social media posts that stray from our perspective(s). As a result, we find it difficult to engage with people who see the world in a different way, which leads to adversarial conversations and contentious public meetings.
“With that in mind, my New Year’s resolution for 2014 is to spend more time with citizens who hold perspectives that differ from my own. I plan to attend events that deviate from my usual path, start conversations with people I’ve never met before and participate in more community meetings.”
Kelly Burns, nonprofit employee and environmental advocate — “We spend a lot of time in front of a screen. That constant distraction can drown out your own thoughts, and lead to complacency or ‘internet activism,’ where you feel good about yourself just for liking a post or telling someone off in a blog. That doesn’t have a large impact in real life (IRL, as they say). One of my resolutions is to meet with friends a few times a month, not just for entertainment but to be together, to maintain relationships, develop ideas and have a support network.
“I will try to spend at least 30 minutes per day in silence by myself, away from electronic distraction so I can decompress and re-energize. And I will put more efforts into real activism, where I can create change for Birmingham residents by supporting the creation of community groups or local businesses that provide new jobs and support people, instead of just complaining about our problems and wishing someone else would do something about them. I want to move from talking to doing.”
Max Rykov, event organizer — “In high school, I had a vague and perhaps idealistic notion that my friends and I would live in an intimate community, in which we worked together to functionally manifest our political, social and cultural ideologies. It seems like a romantically utopian notion, one fit for communes rather than cities, for the fantasy world of liberal arts-minded adolescence rather than the harsh reality of the ‘real world.’
“Now, I’m in my mid-20s, and am faced with this almighty post-college grown-up world. No one is assigning essays or group projects, and I’ve got bills to pay. Maybe my youthful ideas were silly. Someone with more influence, someone older and more established will take care of everything…
“But here’s the good news about living in Birmingham: it’s the perfect place for those ideas to come to life. The city is already an intimate community. Once you start meeting people, it’s amazing how connected everyone is here. No person is too small to impact the community. If you’ve got an idea for the world around you, a plan, a vision, a project — well, you’re living in the perfect place to realize it. Develop a plan. Make some phone calls. Be passionate.
“This city has tremendous potential, and young people are the ones to realize it. Let’s not be afraid of action. No elected official or powerful businessman, no abstract ‘creative energy’ will turn the city into what we want it to be. I’m resolving to work with my fellow young people to make magic happen in Birmingham in 2014.”