The Great Bench Debacle

And Other Stories From the Bush Hills Neighborhood Meeting

The city of Birmingham is organized into 99 different neighborhoods governed by their own neighborhood associations, and these organizations hold monthly meetings to discuss community business. Birmingham-Southern resides in the Bush Hills neighborhood, but besides tutoring at Bush Hills Academy and completing a few service projects, do we know anything about our neighbors? This month’s Bush Hills Neighborhood Meeting was held on Tuesday, October 25th, so I went to try and get to know our community beyond the gate a little bit better.

I walked into a room across from the gym at Bush Hills Academy and signed in with my name, my phone number, and BSC’s address. A lady at the front table stopped me before I could find my way to one of the dozens of bright red chairs set up in neat rows for the meeting.

“Have you ever had a mammogram?” I answered no by shaking my head. She explained that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and handed me an armful of flyers and pamphlets detailing the importance of screenings and early detection. I thanked her and turned to continue my search of the perfect chair to participate from and observe the meeting. As I was looking, a woman half my height wearing an orange dress approached me and introduced herself as Walladean Streeter, President of the Bush Hills neighborhood committee.

“Do you live in the area?” President Streeter asked.

“Yes ma’am. I’m a student at Birmingham-Southern College,” I said.

She paused for a moment before shaking my hand.

“Well, we sure are glad you could make it tonight!” She told me to grab a cupcake from the table decorated with red, white, and blue streamers and stars.

The meeting was called to order by President Streeter tapping her gavel on the table at the front of the room. About two-thirds of the chairs were full, and a few more people were trickling in. President Streeter asked Mr. White to begin by leading the group in prayer.

“May we be led to love because that’s what this community needs: more love, more love, more love,” Mr. White prayed. When he finished, a few “amen”s snuck through the otherwise silent room. 

After Secretary Myra Tarver reviewed the minutes of the previous meeting, Officer Hamby, a representative from the Birmingham Police Department, reported that robberies were down in October, but, unfortunately, auto theft was up. He reminded residents to lock their cars every time they leave them unattended, even if they are just going into their houses for a second.

President Streeter welcomed Representative Juandalynn Given from the Alabama House of Representatives to speak about the upcoming election.

“Alabama is a red state, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon,” she said. “But we still have a democratic ticket in Jefferson County that we have to push. Local elections determine your quality of life, and you’ve got to go vote.”

The meeting went on to new business, and President Streeter began the discussion with news that the City of Birmingham decided to allocate up to $2,000 for a new computer and printer that the Bush Hills neighborhood could use. She made a motion to allow the money to be used for that purpose; it was seconded and passed.

Mr. Jones, a resident in his sixties or seventies, stood tall and was armed with laminated pictures as he began a spiel about the benches in the neighborhood.

“This is one of the benches across from my house,” he said and brandished a photo he had taken. The entire top half of the picture was obscured by his blurry thumb covering the lens. The bench in question was broken and a plank of wood was sticking out at an odd angle.

“These benches are dangerous,” Mr. Jones continued. “I move that we do some research and ask the city for funds to get metal benches like they have in the parks,” Mr. Jones said, confident that no one would oppose his motion.

Suddenly, hands were raised. President Streeter called on a resident to ask a question. The resident stood and addressed Mr. Jones, letting him know that the city does not charge to fix the wooden benches and that they would have to pay out-of-pocket for the metal benches.

I could tell the discussion was about to get heated, but Ms. Jennings, a resident in the back of the room, stood and addressed President Streeter:

“Madame President, I think we need to be reminded that when we have a question, don’t address the person. Only address the President for any discussion you want to present. If you address the person, it only causes grief.”

The Great Bench Debacle was tabled, an argument for another day.

President Streeter adjourned the meeting with a quick tap of her gavel but not without reminding residents of the patriotic cupcakes waiting on the table beside her.

Feature photo via davecito

is a Junior Media and Film Studies major who drinks two glasses of milk before bed and writes emails for fun.