Philemon Hill: Birmingham Needs Economic Development and Strong Schools

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Philemon Hill.
Philemon Hill.

Sherrel Stewart,WBHM

Philemon Hill is a sports marketer. He’s promoted sporting events from baseball to golf around the Southeast. But he’s also become a fixture at Birmingham City Council and school board meetings.  Now, he’d like to make the leap from gadfly to mayor.

Hill says he decided to run after he discovered inefficiencies in city government and in the school system as he faced hurdles trying to bring events to Birmingham.

“I had to make a decision because once again, I am passionate about my community, passionate about my city,” he says.  “I want to have a positive effect and make sure that the foundation is laid for our kids and our citizens to have an equitable opportunity of quality of life here.”

Hill says the mayor’s office can help improve public schools in Birmingham.

“I think that the mayor’s office can set the tone creating equitable opportunities through education in the school system. We are dealing with low record numbers of reading and other tests,” he says. “ They’re dropping out at higher rates, and so we need to have someone who’s willing to walk across the street, walk across Linn Park and attend school board meetings to demand that the board, the superintendent, the administration, and the teachers are only focused on making sure that these kids are well-educated and prepared to become productive citizens within the community.”

A quality education system can help enhance the city’s economic development, Hill says. He remembers growing up in west Birmingham when the inner city had vibrant businesses.

“Neighborhoods like Ensley were just as vibrant as downtown is now – north and south,” he says.  “But if Birmingham wants to become a city that is attractive for economic development, the city must present and create opportunities economic opportunities outside of those two (council) districts around downtown.”

Economic development can also be a deterrent to crime, Hill says.

“Research has shown that providing economic opportunity and education, whether that be through traditional education or job training that leads to employment, drastically has a direct effect on lowering crime,” he says. “We have to make sure that whatever comprehensive plan we have to eliminate crime or cure us from this violence that we’ve been experiencing is to get buy-in from our citizens.”

He wants to a see the mayor’s office work collaboratively with the city council to construct a plan that includes community policing. “That way, you’re also promoting safe community and safe neighborhoods. These individuals work with the community police,” he says. “That’s something they can put on their resume.”

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