>Western Tribune column December 9, 2009, Mayor here and there

>I wrote this knowing that the paper would come out after the Birmingham mayoral election, so there is a bit of vagueness in the column. But, as expected, Patrick Cooper collected the most votes, it just wasn’t enough to avoid a runoff. Let’s hope he doesn’t go into the runoff with 40% or so of the vote and then lose, like a certain Alabama house district candidate did in a recent special election.

As Cooper said on Fox6 this morning, this is now about the past vs the future. Atlanta’s mayoral race was too, it’s just that both of the candidates in the runoff there were about the future, since that city left the past long ago. Birmingham should be so lucky.

Langford/Bell v. Cooper. That kind of reminds me of Bush/McCain v. Obama. The same old versus the fresh new.

Western Tribune column

Atlanta elected a new mayor this month. We may not know who it is yet, because the results were so close, a mere 715 vote difference, that a recount is inevitable. Former state Senator Kasim Reed, who is black, leads white councilwoman Mary Norwood.

Atlanta billed itself as the “City Too Busy to Hate” during the civil rights struggles, and while cities like Birmingham suffered from hatred and violence that continues to influence our politics and impedes our progress, Atlanta grew and prospered.

Atlanta has a more racially balanced population than Birmingham, with 56 percent of their population being black and 38 percent white. Birmingham has almost 75 percent black and around 23 percent white residents.

Because Atlanta is what one may call a progressive city, their population has actually grown during this decade. More whites than blacks have recently moved into the city.

Political observers of Atlanta politics say that black political power is weakening there in part because blacks are shedding their civil rights-era sentimentality.

In Birmingham and in Bessemer as well, that mindset continues to hold us back. While we should continue to celebrate the advances made in the 1960’s and honor the heroes of the movement, we have to get past the idea that race is a more important characteristic than education or vision or experience when selecting our leaders.

Atlanta’s rejection of hatred is further evidenced by their embracement of the gay community, and in the mayoral runoff the candidates courted the gay vote with each trying to convince the voters that they were the greater friend to the GLBT community. More than 12 percent of Atlanta’s population self identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, according a William’s Institute report.

Think of the talent that is accumulating in Atlanta as educated individuals flock to the city. Remember, their population is growing.

Birmingham’s mayoral hopefuls, at least the frontrunners, were gay friendly, in contrast to the recently convicted former mayor. But we didn’t see them trying to out-gay each other as happened in Atlanta.

In Bessemer, the contributions of the GLBT community have never been acknowledged by city leaders, and race most certainly plays a role in the selection of our leaders. We might say that Bessemer lags behind even Birmingham.

That’s pretty sad, considering the current state of Birmingham politics. The good news is, for both Birmingham and Bessemer, I guess there’s nowhere to go but up.

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