September 29, 2022

Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism
Birmingham has renewed its contract with Avenu Insights & Analytics LLC, the company in charge of the city’s online business license renewal service. The renewal came despite misgivings from officials about complaints that the company’s customer service is subpar.
Online business license renewal was a priority for Mayor Randall Woodfin’s first term, and a contract with Avenu was approved in 2019. While Avenu’s online service has increased licensing efficiency, Woodfin said, its customer service “has not been the smoothest.”
Talks with the company about improving its “quality control … weren’t necessarily the smoothest” either, Woodfin said, and eventually led to him having a one-on-one call with the company’s president. “I expressed on behalf of our team (that), in its current form, the service doesn’t meet our core values,” he said. “It’s not working for the small business owner. The team in the (city) finance department is not pleased, and there are some trust issues, etc.”
But because the current contract with Avenu expires Sept. 11, Woodfin said, a “short-term” solution was needed. Tuesday’s vote extends that contract for two years, for an amount not to exceed $1,450,000 per year, but adds a 90-day termination clause.
“We have high expectations and if those expectations are not met, then we will come back before this council,” Woodfin added.
District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, who said he’d received multiple complaints from small business owners about Avenu’s service, said Tuesday’s vote puts the company “on notice.”
“That’s the way I view this,” he said. “I’m very happy to see the 90-day termination clause included in this contract because I think the business community, although they appreciate the ability to take care of their business online, they definitely want to see some improvements.”
“Dear Denise” follows Lisa McNair’s life in a series of letters to the sister she never met. Lisa recounts her experience growing up in the first generation of African Americans after legal segregation. Read more.
The Birmingham Board of Education on Tuesday approved a $506,988,421 budget that includes pay increases for all employees and establishes a $15 minimum hourly pay rate. The 2023 budget also includes additional pre-kindergarten classes, six new school psychologists and adjustments in the teacher salary schedule to make pay more competitive with surrounding school districts, according to a news release from the board. Read more.
In July, Kathleen Costello along with dozens of other musicians performed on a stage at Protective Stadium in downtown Birmingham to welcome athletes from across the globe to The World Games. Playing as part of the opening ceremony was a unique opportunity for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra’s principal clarinetist. But it has turned into a financial headache as Costello has yet to be paid in full for her performance.
Costello is not alone. WBHM has spoken with a number of individuals and organizations who are concerned they will not get paid for the work they did for The World Games after event organizers announced a $15 million dollar deficit. Read more.
Industrial plants in Birmingham have polluted the air and land in its historic Black communities for over a century. In an epicenter of environmental injustice, officials continue to fail to right the wrongs plaguing the city’s north side. Read more.
Sunday marked the final broadcast of CNN’s 30-year-old news media criticism show called “Reliable Sources.” The reasons for the cancellation aren’t clear, but the network’s new CEO has said he wants to cut back on opinion, re-emphasize straight reporting and, notably, attract conservative viewers who have turned off CNN.
Good luck with that last part, fella.
There’s still plenty of press criticism out there from politicians and other partisans, but less and less from professional reporters who are designated to do so. In addition to losing “Reliable Sources,” the job of “public editor” – a newsroom reporter given the authority and independence to listen to audience complaints and write about their own organization’s failings – has almost disappeared. Read more.
It took three hours for the state of Alabama to execute Joe Nathan James Jr. last month. The state autopsy won’t be available for months. One reporter conducted an independent autopsy. Read more.
At the Alabama Aerospace and Aviation High School, students, parents and teachers are excited as they prepare for the school’s take off on Monday. Read more.
While rumors of election fraud or irregularities have lingered in the city for years, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill confirmed to WBHM his office is looking into allegations of voter fraud in Bessemer this election cycle. Read more.
BirminghamWatch celebrates the founders of Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism — and the vision and legacy of founding Executive Director Carol Nunnelley — by creating the Founders Fund.
We are seeking investments that will allow BirminghamWatch to deepen its coverage of key issues, increase readership and guarantee the founders’ vision into the future.
More About Carol  
Nunnelley earned her stripes in more than 30 years at The Birmingham News and became managing editor in 1992. She took on a national role with Associated Press Media Editors in 2001, working with newsrooms across the country. In 2008, Nunnelley received APME’s top award for her role in the betterment of journalism.
In 2015, she led a team of experienced reporters, editors and photographers in creating the trusted online news source BirminghamWatch, now one of more than 300 news nonprofits across the country. From in-depth public service projects to regular coverage of elections, city and county government, BirminghamWatch continues to flourish under strong leadership representing the community as well as the highest caliber of journalism.
Permanent Recognition  
Your gift to the Founder’s Fund in this special campaign will be acknowledged to Carol personally as well as recognized in a permanent manner on the BirminghamWatch website. Join us by mailing a check to AIIJ/BirminghamWatch at P.O. Box 130712 Birmingham AL 35213 or give online. E-mail us with comments or for more gift options.
The agency will still be allowed to regulate many forms of air pollution but would need explicit direction from Congress on how to tackle some of the worst aspects of climate change and other pressing issues. Read more.
Vestiges of segregation still thread through the systems and processes with which we engage throughout our lives, influencing Black Alabamians in large and small ways, including economic opportunities and lifetime wealth, relationship with law enforcement, health care and even projected lifespan. BirminghamWatch has an ongoing effort to analyze how these sometimes unrecognized vestiges of segregation are playing out in people’s lives today. Read stories in The Legacy of Race series.
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