Beginning this week, Weld’s new “Neighborhood Voices” series will feature interviews with the presidents of each of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhood associations about the strengths and challenges facing their communities. If you are a neighborhood leader and would like your neighborhood to be included, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Acipco-Finley neighborhood, located in north Birmingham, takes its name from its biggest business, the American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO) and from Finley Yard, a former rail yard now occupied by ACIPCO. According to BhamWiki, the neighborhood has a population of 1,040; it is represented in city government by District 9 Councilor Marcus Lundy.
Kevin J. Powe is the newly elected president of the Acipco-Finley neighborhood, having defeated incumbent Art Grayson in November’s election 55 votes to 36, according to results posted on the Birmingham city government’s website. (At 26 years old, Powe is also the youngest of Birmingham’s neighborhood presidents.) Recently, Powe discussed the challenges facing his neighborhood and his goals for its future.
Weld: What areas are included in your neighborhood?
Kevin J. Powe: Acipco-Finley is basically all the way from the Alabama Farmer’s Market [344 Finley Ave. W.] to I-65 to the Evergreen Community Center all the way to 36th Street North.
Weld: What, in your opinion, is the best thing about your neighborhood?
Powe: The best thing about my neighborhood would probably be the people. They’re active, very concerned, very informed. I really have an active community. Especially when matters need to be addressed, they’re not afraid to pitch in or speak up and say what they have to say, and I like being the person who really stands up for the neighbors who really are afraid to stand up for themselves.
Weld: What’s the thing about your neighborhood that you would most want to improve?
Powe: Beautification. I drive around my neighborhood, and it is ridiculous, the amount of dilapidated, abandoned houses that we have, even vacant houses. We actually do have some houses that can be restored, with a little tender loving care. I really want to keep my neighborhood beautiful and make it better than the way it already is. I know I don’t have a bad-looking neighborhood, but I don’t want to have a worse-looking neighborhood.
[Also,] positive business. One thing about my neighborhood, I’m starting to get calls in— There’s a lot of liquor stores, for some reason. A lot of people like to sell alcohol in black neighborhoods. It’s a big stereotype and statistic for our neighborhood — a predominantly black neighborhood, I would say. It’s just one thing that I think Birmingham needs less of. I do like that we have a Salvation Army in our neighborhood, and we’ve got a lot of restaurants like Niki’s West and Eagle’s — and ACIPCO.
And I would say that one thing I do not like is that we have a lot of health hazards in my neighborhood that we’re definitely trying to fight right now. We’ve got junkyards burning, just going against regulations. That’s one major event we have going on in my neighborhood right now. … I’m actually getting sick myself from this junkyard — we don’t have proof of what they’re burning right now, but they’re burning and just not caring about the community around them, even though they are a business — we understand that. They’re not concerned about what they put into [the air].
Weld: What would you like the city government to do for your neighborhood?
Powe: A plethora of things. For one, I would like the city to have more involvement in hearing what I would say to them. … There’s so much more that we can be doing for our millennial generation. More involvement. Our city government is just too divided, just like our country. We fight too much, and we can never unite and get things accomplished because we can never meet and compromise our ideas. If we learn how to compromise with each other despite our differences, maybe we can start getting somewhere. But until we do that, we’ll never get anywhere.
[We also need] more attention on our urban neighborhoods. Central City is not all of Birmingham. We need to make all of Birmingham look good, and it’s ridiculous how torn-down this city looks. This city is almost starting to look like Detroit to me.
Better city zones, a better planning committee for business and what the city does with our money [other] than a CrossPlex. There are so many other ways our city money can be used. I think our city money just gets thrown around so much that it doesn’t get used responsibly. I think that’s one major problem.
And the leadership in our city is just horrible. We need good, transparent leaders. I just don’t believe, from the city council to the mayor, that they’re transparent enough. I just don’t think that our city council is even active enough as they should be. I don’t think we have an active city council. I really don’t believe we have an active mayor. I’m young, but from my upbringing, Mayor [Larry] Langford was very active, despite what obstacles he may have encountered. I would like to see our next mayor be as active and attentive to the city as Langford was.
Weld: What do you want people elsewhere in the city to know about your neighborhood?
Powe: Acipco-Finley is and will continue to be a safe neighborhood — zero tolerance [for crime]. I’m one the presidents who walks his neighborhood. I don’t act as a police officer, but I do police my neighborhood as a citizen. Acipco-Finley’s positive businesses are growing. … Other than the plants and junkyards, we will be a productive community. My goal for Acipco is to be the most involved community.
Weld: What are some ways that people in your community can get more involved?
Powe: Really, just by doing their part and being a citizen and somebody who cares for the city. … I think that everybody who just wants to have their voice heard but not do anything really needs to sit down and never say anything again until they are ready themselves to make a difference. We have too many voices just blurting out what needs to be done, but nobody wants to pitch in. We even have neighborhood presidents who don’t want to do their part as a president. If we had all our city’s elected officials doing their part, it would make it easier on the citizens, and maybe the citizens will even follow.
We really need people to stop running for office who have no plans, no agenda for their own community. We need people who really want to make a difference to stand up. All 99 neighborhoods need to work together. Then we can go to the city council, and maybe then the city council will work together. But there’s just too much chaos right now.