“Strengthen your VOICE…Great by Choice.”
What happens when people are not happy with the way things are? They want change. They want a VOICE and they want their CHOICES to matter.
Over the past two years, beginning with Dr. Blair’s early paid retirement, our community has experienced squalls that have threatened our unity and identity. John Oliver’s satirical commentary, broadcast to a national audience, was the icing and sprinkles on the donut. The formation of the Cahaba Heights Community Foundation and the “Not in My Schoolyard” campaign was a reaction to a perception that one segment of our community lacked consideration and representation. (One councilor’s statement, “They don’t matter; they don’t vote,” really summed it up.)
In my “Coffee & Conversation” meetings with friends and neighbors, I ask the question, “What would you like to see change in our city?” One common theme is the desire for our community to come together as one community, and not just individual parts of a whole. One trusted friend said she would support my candidacy, but only if I would run as a representative for the entire community.
In our community, we are geographically fragmented. In 1950, the city of Vestavia Hills was incorporated and eventually included most of the current area shown on the map to the east of Highway 280. Vestavians have an ongoing, friendly debate about the proper term to use for this original part of Vestavia Hills. Some call it “Vestavia Proper,” which doesn’t work very well as a descriptor because it implies the rest of Vestavia is somewhat “improper.” Others call it “Old Vestavia,” which also offends because it implies an elderly aristocracy. I still don’t know what to call the original part of Vestavia without offending someone, so I have decided to go with “Pre-1995 Vestavia.”
In 1995, the legislature passed an amendment to the state constitution (because that is how we roll in Alabama) to allow the annexation of Liberty Park. At the time, the City of Vestavia Hills and Liberty Park did not share any borders and such an annexation violated the state constitution. The annexation of Liberty Park added Liberty Park Elementary and now Liberty Park Middle to our school system.
A short time later, in 2002, Cahaba Heights was also annexed, which connected Liberty Park and Pre-1995 Vestavia like a jewel pendant strung between two large beads. The annexation of Cahaba Heights added Cahaba Heights Elementary to our school system.
In all, our city covers about 19 square miles, although there is nothing “square” about the configuration. What I do know is that it takes me 25 minutes and one cup of coffee to drive from Liberty Park, through Cahaba Heights, to the high school. We have 34,000 residents and 15,000 households. Our median house value is $318,000. We are 90% white (Caucasian), 4% black (African-American) and 6% other races. Our median household income is $87,000. We have 4% of our population below the poverty line. We are the third largest city in Jefferson County.
As we reflect on our history and recent events, it becomes clear that for Vestavia Hills to move forward, we need positive and inclusive leadership. We all want to have a seat at the table. After the Memorial Day holiday, I will publish the second part of my platform: COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT. I will share my vision for how we can make our community ONE.
Over the weekend, I will be visiting my oldest son and daughter–both VHHS graduates–in D.C. My daughter is a summer intern on Capitol Hill and my son is working as a software developer in Herndon, Virginia. On Monday, I will visit the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial because my uncle’s name is on that wall. My youngest son proudly shares his name—William Franklin “Sonny” Silver. Uncle Sonny was killed by a grenade on Hamburger Hill, May 13, 1969. He was 21 years old and unmarried. He did not even complete a full year of service, but he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with a “V” for Valor. As I remember my uncle’s faithful service, I hope you will take the time to honor our veterans who have served us so well. Have a happy and safe weekend.