Weld’s “Neighborhood Voices” series features 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.
Birmingham’s Liberty Highlands neighborhood lies on the eastern end of the city, roughly surrounding Interstate 459 as it passes between I-20 and I-59. To the neighborhood’s west is the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve; to its northeast is Trussville. According to the Birmingham Housing Study, the neighborhood has a population of 347; it is represented in city government by District 2 Councilor Kim Rafferty.
Recently, Liberty Highlands’ Neighborhood President Doris Clanton spoke with Weld about the issues facing her neighborhood.
Weld: Why did you decide to become your neighborhood’s president?
Doris Clanton: Because there were a lot of things that needed doing in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood president we had passed away in 1998. So we had to have another president. I just took interest in it because if you live in a place, you want it to be nice. It’s not the best, but it’s nice. It’s a quiet neighborhood. We don’t have a lot of confusion or nothing like that.
At first, I turned it down. But nobody else wanted it. It’s a lot of work. At first, they thought you would get paid [to be the neighborhood president]. But it’s not paid, it’s free! You do that on your own time. So after they found out that they weren’t getting paid for it, nobody was really interested in being the president.
Weld: How would you characterize the community involvement among members of your neighborhood?
Clanton: People will come out and complain about what needs to be done in the neighborhood and different little things like that. We have a neighborhood meeting and some come, but you don’t get a lot of people to come to a meeting unless they want something. And when they want something, there will be a lot of them!
But we have about 15 or maybe 20 every month. Sometimes we might have a little more. But if something’s going on and they want something, we have a full house.
Weld: What are some of the biggest problems facing your neighborhood?
Clanton: Fixing the road and keeping the right-of-ways cut, picking up trash, … [getting] the ditches and drains cleaned out, or making sure that the neighborhood is clean, getting old cars and junk [out of people’s] yards. That’s a lot of what is involved.
The roads were messed up bad, and the street lights were out, but [the city] put up new street lights. They fixed road signs. The city’s been working with us good, yes.
We don’t have crime in our neighborhood. We don’t have drugs. It’s not a real large neighborhood, but it’s nice and quiet. A lot of elderly people live in here. And a lot of the younger people that live in here, they’re mostly middle-aged and younger. They’re quiet. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody looks out for everybody. If something’s happening, or someone gets sick, or they see the paramedics, they want to know what’s wrong.
We do have a policeman who drives a beat out here, just checking. And he gives the neighborhood a good name, too. He said he likes this neighborhood because he doesn’t have much to do in it, because it’s a low-crime [area].
Weld: What are some other ways in which you’d like to see your neighborhood improve?
Clanton: Well, if someone could come out and build. … We live out in a suburban area. They call it the woods. [Laughs] If we could see somebody build in here, it would be nice. We’ve been trying to get a playground for our kids. We don’t have a playground; the children have to play in the road or in the church. Now, our neighborhood meetings take place in the church. We have a nice-sized churchyard, so they have to play in there. Getting a playground is the main thing we’re working on now.
Weld: In what ways do you think the Birmingham city government could help your neighborhood improve and flourish?
Clanton: If we had a storm or something come through — and thank the Lord, we haven’t had one mess up anybody’s house — I would like for them to help out.
Weld: What do you want Birmingham citizens outside of your neighborhood to know about your neighborhood?
Clanton: Well, I would like for them to know that we have a nice, quiet neighborhood. Our neighborhood meeting is the fourth Thursday of every month, and it’s at our church, First Baptist Ebenezer. If anybody wants to come in and sit in on a meeting and ask questions if they want to, they’re welcome to come to our neighborhood meeting, because we are a friendly neighborhood.