“We have a great city, and if we listen more to our citizens, we have a great chance of being able to improve our community, improve our school district, and improve the growth of this city,” said Ervin Philemon Hill, who last December announced that he was running for mayor of Birmingham.
Hill, who owns the EPH Sports Warehouse in Birmingham and Legacy Sports Management International in Atlanta, said that Birmingham city government is insufficiently responsive to its citizens and that he is running for mayor to address that.
Hill will be running against not only incumbent Mayor William Bell, but also former Birmingham police officer Randy Davis, community activist and educator Patricia Bell, contractor Chris Woods, Charis Community Church pastor Fernandez Sims, school board member Randall Woodfin, and activist Carlos Chaverst.
“A divided city hall actually creates a divided city, and so the ongoing rift between the mayor’s office and the city council keeps the city from growing and prospering the way it should,” he said. “Citizens … feel that their voices aren’t being heard because of the ongoing bickering with the mayor’s office [and the city council].”
Hill promised that, if he is elected mayor, he will actively solicit input and advice from the citizens of the community to better understand and protect their interests. Hill said he wants to use the office of the mayor to effect progressive policy changes in the way the city approaches crime, education, and ethics.
“We have to take a critical eye to providing solutions that all citizens of Birmingham buy into to reduce crime. This has to be an all-hands-on-deck approach,” he said. Hill proposed implementing a conflict resolution program that would teach community members to address arguments and conflicts without resorting to violence. He would also create self-defense classes “to make sure our citizens are educated and can defend themselves in any kind of situation that could bring harm to them.” Hill believes that providing quality education and more job opportunities will help curb the city’s crime rate.
He also singled out the city’s transit system as an area that could be improved. A more efficient transit system, he said, would better allow residents to get to and from jobs across the city.
Hill said he wants to see the city create more opportunities for adults to pursue continued education and skill training to allow them to seek more skilled jobs and better provide for their families. He committed to increasing the budget for Birmingham City Schools if elected mayor, saying that the current amount allotted to the system is inadequate.
“My parents worked in the school district, with a combined over 70 years as educators, and so I am familiar with the mission of Birmingham City Schools, and I am also very familiar with the inefficiencies of Birmingham City Schools,” he explained. “For Birmingham to grow and be progressive, we have to make sure that we have a mayor’s office and a city council that are totally dedicated to improving the conditions within Birmingham City Schools. Everything revolves around education.”
Hill also criticized the mayor’s office for what he described as a lack of transparency.
“There has been truckloads of instances where money is being spent selfishly, whether it be on the current mayor’s security expenses, his travel expenses, but when the city council or the public asks for those documentations, we never receive it,” he said. The mayor’s office had not responded to requests for comment at press time.
“I fully believe that leaders lead by example. If you’re going to spend taxpayer’s money on anything, you need to be transparent about implementing and providing that information to the public,” Hill elaborated. “By adding ethics reform and best practices throughout city operations and city departments and having the training for our employees so that when our citizens do ask for that information, they don’t have to encounter attitude and less-than-best customer service. … At the end of the day, city employees work for our citizens, so we need to treat them accordingly.”
Supporting minority- and women-owned local businesses is another key component of Hill’s platform. Hill said that such businesses are not given contracts by the city at an equitable level to the percentage of such businesses in the city.
“Traditionally, Birmingham has not included at an equitable level minority- and women-owned businesses. There seems to be no interest in growing that number,” he said. Hill noted that other cities such as Atlanta and Dallas have instituted policies to ensure that minority-owned businesses are included in city projects and given a certain percentage of city contracts.
“We have to put policies in place [so] that on any project the city is dealing with, if the inclusion number drops below 35 to 40 percent of minority- and women-owned businesses, there will be heavy penalties,” he added.