Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Open Letter to Mayor Langford

Hi Larry.

Congratulations on your election, until such time as it is overturned on a technicality because you don't really live in Birmingham. Of course, I don't either, and I care about the city, too. I can't really blame you for being confused by all the redistricting and gerrymandering and meandering squiggles that geographically represent money and power and influence fleeing the city limits -- you'd have to be like a county commissioner or something to figure that shit out.

You may not remember me, but a while ago I was a cashier at the Fish Market downtown and you ate there frequently. We chatted. I think you once offered me a cigarette, which I accepted, and we sat in the sun on the bench on 21st Street and talked about public transportation. I was the skinhead-looking dude. I'm different now, but that's not the point. You're different now, too. You're the Mayor.

All that hard work has finally off.

But I gotta say that I'm torn, Larry. Torn like an old sweater. On the one hand, I know you're a smart guy who's always working the angles. You're energetic and enthusiastic, and this town needs a good swift kick in the ass. On the other hand, you're the Machine, man. You've made a career out of picking up a taxpayer-funded paycheck (I know, you worked for Birmingham Budweiser, too, but was that really a job job, or was that a "job"?) and then erecting some boondoggle while raising sales taxes and swiftly moving on. We don't need a goddamn dome in Birmingham, Larry. We really don't. We need cops walking beats, we need to sell off some fucking land to the rich municipalities who want it, we need to take advantage of a crumbling but miraculously largely intact downtown infrastructure (sans Terminal Station) and make Birmingham COOL AGAIN.

That's right, cool again. When was it ever cool, you ask yourself? And I answers: it was cool when it was a filthy, unsafe, industrial cesspool full of syphilitic Greek prostitutes and steelworkers. The 1920s.

Think about it, Larry. Hookers on every corner. Cops on the take. Liquor stores and gin joints and knife fights under the gaslights along the trolley line. A simpler time, Larry. A time when the blacks lived in one-room shacks on one side of town and the whites lived in two-room shacks on the other.

OK, maybe not.

I do have some concrete suggestions, though. One: stop hiring consultants. City-wide moratorium on any new contracts. Consultants don't actually DO anything, you see, and your campaign slogan seems antithetical to that premise. Two: take your energy from the dome project and focus it on selling downtown retail space to a good grocery store/pharmacy in walking distance of the loft district. Tweak the city code and allow merchants to live above their shops again. *Waves at cousin Jimmy, defiantly living above his shop for years* Let's get a neighborhood established downtown. That means COPS HAFTA WALK BEATS, Larry. Not drive them. Bike them, maybe. Remember, city limits are gonna shrink. Three: speaking of bikes, let's figure out how to move people around more efficiently. That means sidewalks and bike lanes and stuff. It doesn't mean more parking decks and corkscrew off-ramps.

I've gone on too long, Larry, and I know you've got a lot on your plate. So I'll wish you well and let you get to work. Just, please Larry. Don't steal us blind. That's sooooo been done.

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