What happens when a county, home to one of the former great cities in the world, turned over to the auspices of the Black Undertow through white flight, can no longer raise enough tax revenue to pay infrastructure bills? Answer: the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history
|Jefferson County in Black and White
We aren’t talking about Wayne County in Michigan, home to Detroit. We are talking about Jefferson County in Alabama, home to Birmingham. Once one the top cities in America, Birmingham
is now regularly featured on A&E’s The First 48
, one of the true signs that you live in a horrible town (when the citizens provide excellent programming for a show that details homicide detectives difficulties at solving a real murder) that is headed nowhere but down.
Jefferson County‘s debt escalated in the mid-2000s when bond issuance deals to upgrade its sewer system soured amid widespread corruption, bribery and fraud charges that led to some 22 convictions.
Costs ballooned as interest rates rose, and the county had teetered on the edge of insolvency since its debt was downgraded in 2008. With more than $5 billion in total indebtedness, the Chapter 9 filing on Wednesday surpassed that filed by Orange County California, in 1994.
Jefferson County, with a population of about 660,000, contains some of the richest neighborhoods in the country as well as pockets of urban poverty and blight.
Birmingham was the scene of one of the fiercest confrontations of the U.S. civil rights movement in 1963 when city leaders and police violently resisted a campaign for desegregation by demonstrators led by Martin Luther King Jr. (PK note: why even bring this up? It’s Black people that have made Birmingham unlivable now, not bogeyman from the Civil Rights Era)
Larry Langford, a Democrat and former mayor of Birmingham, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year for his role in corrupt business deals that fueled the multibillion-dollar sewer debt. Langford presided over the county commission during the height of the bond swaps that led to the run-up of the massive debt.
Yes, Jefferson County is home to some of the best cities in America, namely the pleasant cities of Vestiva Hills, Mountain Brook, Hoover, Homewood, Trussville, and Gardendale. These are Whitopias, cities that white refugees from the Black Undertow in Birmingham created and that now thrive economically.
Though Jefferson County is 53 percent white and 42 percent Black
, the Larry Langford’s of the world (a Black dude) run Birmingham just like Black people run Detroit: into the proverbial ground. With tax revenue dropping off, a plan was made to finance the sewage through bonds and debt. Sadly, this couldn’t be paid back either when creditors came calling.
Birmingham is 73 percent Black
, home to some of the scariest neighborhoods in America. After a horrible Black-on-white rape incident back in the 1970s, Birmingham Southern College
had to erect a fence around the school to keep out unwanted elements of the Black Undertow. Worse, Birmingham lost the Iron Bowl college football game between Auburn and Alabama, because Legion Field is located (like many big cities stadiums) in an area of town where Black crime is as ubiquitous as college recruiters looking for the next Tiger or Crimson Tide receiver or running back.
Let’s not forget that Birmingham was once home to six Fortune 500 companies (as late as 1999), but now only is home to one
There was a time when Birmingham – at least by one measure of corporate muscle – ranked up there with Los Angeles and Boston.
That was in April 1999, just 10 years ago, when Birmingham was home to six companies in the Fortune 500, the list of the largest corporations in the country, ranked by revenue.
Now, the Magic City has just one member, Regions Financial Corp., which is hanging on to its 280th spot after a rough year that included a $6.2 billion fourth-quarter loss. Los Angeles has added a member since 1999, while Boston’s tally has remained level.
Meanwhile, another landmark Birmingham business – Bruno’s Supermarkets LLC, a member of the elite Fortune roster in the mid-1990s – is in the process of disappearing after the 75-year-old chain’s assets were auctioned in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Most experts say it’s good to have large companies based in a city. They tend to pay higher salaries and search nationwide for ambitious people willing to move and take big risks in return for the big rewards. That keeps the local talent pool fresh. Big companies also tend to attract other big companies, as suppliers and partners. They also tend to be the most vocal about education and transportation, and give the most to charities.
“You always want the high rollers,” said Keivan Deravi, an economics professor at Auburn University Montgomery. “It creates an economic ripple, a chain effect.”
Economic developers said the loss of brass nameplate companies is no big deal when it comes to recruiting new corporations. Steve Sewell, vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, said companies considering Birmingham are interested in being on the Fortune 500 themselves and don’t pay much attention to who already is.
“Companies are looking at the factors that are going to contribute to their long-term growth and viability,” he said. “They are going to look at the hard factors – the overall business climate, the availability of work force, the costs of operating.”…
The costs of doing business in Birmingham are too great for Fortune 500 companies to risk investing in the city any further: the overall safety of their employees can’t be guaranteed and the corruption, courtesy of the Black Undertow government in control of Birmingham, is worse than Atlanta. Regions Bank, the last Fortune 500 company left
, must be considering a move to Charlotte by now.
Worse, the Black Undertow is now fleeing the Black Undertow of Birmingham and moving into the prosperous white suburbs
(yes, they are some of the richest in America, with some of the best test scores on the SAT as well) guaranteeing that real Climate Change will soon befall Vestiva Hills and Mountain Brook. Translation: the schools will soon suck and property value will drop after businesses begin to shutter.
Birmingham serves a symbol for the rest of America (and the Western World): never capitulate to the Black Undertow or you will ultimately be overwhelmed
. You can build shiny new suburbs that are the envy of the former city you abandoned, but in a few generations they to will be overwhelmed.
The reality of Jefferson County
is one of the most powerful SBPDL’s imaginable. It’s a reality that Detroit knows all too well. And Cleveland. Well, and Baltimore. And Milwaukee. And St. Louis. And… the list goes on and on.