At Tuesday’s Birmingham City Council meeting, tensions were high for several minutes after Councilor Steven Hoyt accused Mayor William Bell of ignoring an issue he had brought before him concerning an incident that occurred outside his residence.
“Now, I work with you,” Hoyt said to Bell, “and I shouldn’t have to wait until next week to see a mayor that I work with every day. What happened at my house is important, just like what happens at your house.”
Hoyt then addressed the mayor and said, “You were busy being a star.”
Bell fired back, accusing Hoyt of “grandstanding” and telling him that if he had a complaint, he should talk to him about it privately.
“Yesterday the councilor saw me, and if there was an issue, each one of y’all know if you see me you can tell me directly what you want me to do when you see me. Councilor did not say one word to me on yesterday. Not one word,” Bell said.
However, Hoyt insisted that he had brought the issue — which he did not disclose, and said he would not be talking to the media about what occurred — to the mayor, who would not make time to hear about his issue.
“I’ve always supported the mayor,” Hoyt said before being cut off by Bell.
“Don’t sit there and tell that lie. You stab folks in the back and you sit up here and say, ‘You’re the greatest mayor that’s ever been,’” Bell retorted.
To which Hoyt responded, “You know a hurt dog will holler.”
Bell then snapped back, “I’m not a dog. My parents are not dogs and I am not a dog!”
Council President Johnathan Austin was quick to intervene as he banged the gavel down heavily, trying to regain order. Austin then mentioned that Bell is always accessible to the council members when they have concerns.
The incident brought to light simmering tensions between Bell and Hoyt, whom Bell said had falsely accused him before after a similar situation that “occurred at an Applebee’s.”
Hoyt hinted at the fact that the incident that occurred outside his home could have been prevented with more street lights, an issue he said people in his district have been complaining about for some time now. Bell insisted that Hoyt had not set street lighting as a priority in his district.
“Family is important to me, it’s important to everyone,” Bell said. “He had the same opportunity as Mrs. Abbott and each of the other councilors have to set priorities. He didn’t set lighting as a priority for his community, to assign money to. Those things that he did set, we are addressing those and assigning money to those. Each week, especially when I’m not here, there are accusations that people don’t care. We went through this whole thing with the A.G. Gaston building, saying the administration don’t care what happens,” Bell continued.
Bell then mentioned that his schedule is so busy that in order to schedule a meeting, his policy is to give his office a “two-week notice.” Though he noted that if Hoyt wanted to speak with him urgently, along with any other city council members, all he has to do is call.
“If you called me and requested an audience with me on a public safety issue, I would make time as you make time for others in this city,” Hoyt said. “But I work with you. I’m just concerned that I have to wait for two weeks to see a man I work with every day to grow this city. That’s not fair. And I realize you have to have a year to see the mayor. I’m just telling you I wouldn’t treat you that way. And I do need to have an audience with you and the chief of police about the incident that happened outside of my home. I appreciate the officers that have come by there.
“This is not so much an issue with me but with the neighborhood and what is transpiring there. I heard you say some years ago the general speaks to the general. Don’t send no lieutenant. I’m hoping that today I can have an audience with you because it is important,” Hoyt continued.
Eventually both parties agreed they would continue the conversation in private and the meeting continued without further incident. Efforts to reach Hoyt for clarification after Tuesday’s meeting have gone unanswered.