|How federal grants are funneled through the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to artificially keep the 74 percent black city (whose black residents have a median per capita income of $15,927) financially solvent|
UAB ranks among Top-20 nationally in federal research and development funding and 1st in the state of Alabama, receiving more funding than all other Alabama universities combined. UAB received over $416 million in external grants and contracts in fiscal 2007–2008
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is nationally ranked among Top-20 in total federal research funding and key areas of health sciences receiving more than $433 million dollars in funding.
In the 80 years from 1890 to 1970, the city of Birmingham had a mix of people that was about 40 percent black and 60 percent white, with most black residents segregated into areas with poorer housing close to industrial sites. Beginning about 1970, the mix began to change as whites left the city. By 2005, Birmingham’s population had flipped — 76 percent black and 22 percent white.
Some of Birmingham’s aging neighborhoods have become islands of the poor. A recent Brookings Institution study found that 28.9 percent of residents within the city limits live in poverty — the eighth highest percentage among America’s 100 largest cities.
Yet at the same time, there is a strong, vibrant Birmingham.
The city is by far the major place to work in the metro region, hosting about 44 percent of all the jobs in Jefferson and Shelby counties. Birmingham is still a major banking center and home to Regions Financial Corp., now one of the 10 largest banks in America. And it is home to UAB, where 18,500 people work.
That realization has begun to hit Birmingham-Hoover metro leaders, said Charles Ball, executive director of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.
“The mayors I’ve talked to realize they need to cooperate,” Ball said. “As far as the whole region is con- cerned, we’re way behind.”
Farthest behind is the central city, where 64,200 men, women and children live below the poverty line, and where the city school system lost 20 percent of its students in the last five years because parents don’t trust the schools.
In the past 17 years, Birmingham has demolished 7,948 houses, 350 duplexes and 3,332 apartments. While some new houses and apartments have been built, the city had a net loss of 4,257 dwelling units. That demolition will continue.
Birmingham has at least one life raft — UAB.
“Just from an economic and social standpoint, UAB saved us,” Ball said. “It’s the one thing that kept us from becoming another Gary (Indiana) or Cleveland after the steel industry collapsed.”
The university has 16,600 students, and 3,000 people a day visit its research and medical complex. It brings in $408 million a year in grants and contracts and it’s a nursery for spin-off businesses.
So UAB is an asset, while only 3/4th's of Birmingham's population is a liability?
The blighted City Center was also a major target from the beginning of my administration and for the succeeding 19 years. The rapidly expanding University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) buoyed the Southside of the City Center with its nationally recognized medical center. New facilities and new jobs were brought on line by UAB. Construction, professional, and service sector jobs expanded on the UAB campus at a pace that soon made it the city’s number one employer. Its tremendous growth continued throughout my administration’s 20 year tenure. More than any other single entity it became our city’s saving grace. It was also a strong partner with city government, and much of the city’s economic recovery was a result of the strong leadership of the presidents of UAB from 1950 to 1999. Aside from the positive tax impact UAB had on the city, it contributed much to the city’s social and civic structure, bringing highly trained professionals into the civic fabric of the city’s communities. (p. 234)
By 1980, the racial composition of Birmingham was the mirror image of century-old norms; African Americans constituted nearly 60 percent of the city’s population. The centripetal movement pulled wealth out of the city as well. Thanks to residential displacement and white flight, blacks moved into new parts of the city, for instance locating in areas of Ensley and West End abandoned by whites…. The sprawling Southside health and education complex offered evidence of change. “A new force is at work, slowly, perhaps irrevocably reshaping social attitudes and patterns of life in this one-time stronghold of segregation,” a New York Times reported noted. When the college finally acquired the 42 block urban renewal area in 1976, a decade after it had first applied for the land, it had a new name – and it made a broader and deeper impact on the city. The former University of Alabama Medical College had become UAB.
UAB’s employment growth and its growing reputation put the health and education complex front and center in the city’s development policy. Commercial leaders believe that the school had “Boosted the area’s economy and [was] changing the attitude and prospects of the city.” By 1976, it was Birmingham’s largest employer and 4th largest statewide, with 12,000 workers and a $100 million annual payroll.
Throughout the 1970s, employment in Birmingham was virtually stagnant, while the suburbs added 80,000 new jobs. By 1970, blacks held about 1/3 of the nearly 5,000 positions at UAB. Nonetheless, black employees mostly filled the menial, lower-wage positions. About half of the blacks held service jobs, which accounted for about ¾ of all of those positions. As the educational requirements and pay levels increased, black workers held a smaller share. 25 percent of the college’s African American employees, for instance, worked as technicians (50 percent of that category) and 12 percent held clerical jobs (less than 25 percent of those spots). At the same time, fewer than one in six blacks were managers or supervisors (4 percent of that class).
Still UAB’s “dramatic contribution” to the black community offered some hope of creating a more equitable society. By 1970, 13 percent of its 3,000 students were black, a far higher percentage than at Alabama’s Tuscaloosa or Huntsville campus or Auburn University, where black enrollment was below 2 percent.
Blacks accounted for one in six graduate students, but the vast majority of those blacks studied for their master’s degrees in education.
By the mid-1970s, UAB – and the municipal government – was knee-deep in federal money. The legislature’s flintiness magnified Washington’s role at the medical center. In 1971, the Alabama government paid just 23 percent of the medical school’s operating budget, about half the national average (40 percent). Alabama’s share of the medical school funding was the lowest in the South, whether measured in total dollars or as a percentage of the budget. No other medical school received a larger percentage of its funding from federal sources. The Birmingham campus received $3.41 from Washington for every dollar of state aid, nearly double the average at other state-supported medical colleges in the south.
Birmingham’s efforts to cleanse its past through racial accommodation and the growth at UAB could not disguise the city’s failure to forge a stable biracial order. A federal study of the largest 65 cities in the mid 1970s ranked Birmingham second only to Jersey City, New Jersey, as having the lowest “standard of living” in the country. (p. 134-139)
|Weaponized Equality: The only way to keep Birmingham from becoming East St. Louis, Detroit, or Camden...|
Two years into his presidency – at a time when it was increasingly apparent that the American civil rights movement lacked anything approaching consensus on what the “next step” should be – one of McCallum’s key focal points became unmet goals of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, particularly UAB’s obligation as an urban university to do something about increasing African Americans access to the higher socioeconomic levels of life in Birmingham and elsewhere. (p. 361)
… he recognized that UAB’s high African American enrollment, plus its location in a city with high African American population, permitted UAB to do much more, influencing broad fields of education and professional life. He believed that UAB had a preeminent opportunity to help “fix the national pipeline problem” with regard to African American faculty. And so he fired back, “Tell me how we are going to do this better and do it right away.”
… assembled a plan revolving around summer institutes for African American high school students, increased partnerships between various units of UAB and high schools in the city with high African American populations, and UAB scholarships for African American students, graduates and undergraduates. (p. 363)
At the same time, however, Birmingham was the 10th poorest large city in the nation, with nearly 25 percent of its residents living below the poverty line.
Overall, 91.5 percent of the population in the city’s 13 ghetto poverty tracts was black. For residents who lived in these neighborhoods, poverty in the 1990s was commonplace; unemployment was three times greater than the metropolitian area average; and the majority of families were headed by a single female.
By the 1980s, with the reductions in force at U.S. Steel and the growth of UAB, the university and its hospital had become the city’s largest employer. Without UAB, the decline in the steel industry would have been an economic disaster for the Birmingham.
The contrast between Birmingham’s booming health sector and the black neighborhoods left behind can be seen by comparing UAB with its neighbor to the west. Lying just west of UAB’s western boundary, Interstate 65, North Titusville is one of Alabama’s poorer neighborhoods. In 1980, 57 percent of the neighborhood’s residents had incomes below the federal poverty line, and 99 percent of its population was black. Of the neighborhood’s 1,640 families, nearly 60 percent were head by a single-parent female.
In 1990, North Titusville neighborhood leaders, including the president of the North Titusville Neighborhood Association, petitioned UAB officials for a partnership between the neighborhood and the university to address issues related to the neighborhood’s impoverishment.
The fact that a neighborhood located so close to the city’s chief economic engine could identify economic development as being of high importance indicates the degree to which the economic benefits flowing from the urban renewal of the city’s south side had failed to trickle down to the city’s poor, black neighborhoods. If a neighborhood such as North Titusville, for which geographic accessibility to employment is not an issue, could not enjoy the fruits of UAB’s growth, then it is not surprising that the remained of Birmingham’s black neighborhoods were also not sharing in the benefit’s of the local economy’s shit to health and education services. (p. 275-29)
… in the 1990s the quality of the Birmingham school system came under question, with 80 percent of the schools in the system on academic alert for low test scores and the state’s superintendent of education considering takeover of the school system. (p. 282)
So yeah -- surprise surprise -- Birmingham is again a crime leader nationally, ranking 11th in homicide rate among cities of more than 100,000 people, and second overall in total crime rate.
The only city with a higher crime rate last year was St. Louis, Mo.
Yeah, Birmingham gets all the attention. But Birmingham -- Crime Central and all that -- is not even the crime capital of its own county.
Not even close. Not among cities of more than 10,000 people.
Bessemer, in that group, was last year's crime leader in both Jefferson County and the state of Alabama. Next was Selma, followed by Fairfield, Anniston and Prichard.Birmingham was sixth, with 98 crimes per 1,000. It was a rate high enough to make it a scourge among large cities in America. But it's not even close to Bessemer's 135 crimes per 1,000 residents.
Bessemer, Selma and Fairfield were eighth, ninth and 10th nationally in overall crime. That's among 3,370 cities with more than 10,000 people. Anniston was 18th, Prichard 26th and Birmingham 28th.
But it is hard, really, to turn them into anything but a paint-by-numbers indictment of our cultural divide.
We don't have a Tale of Two Cities scenario, a best-of-times-worst-of-times cliché about the state of our community. We are reading a tale of at least 18 cities. And those are just the ones with population greater than 10,000.
It is the worst of times when it comes to crime in Bessemer and Fairfield, Birmingham and Irondale. Those are overall crime leaders in the metro area, among the worst 25 in the state, the worst 1 percent in America.
But it is the best of times - at least by comparison - in other parts of the metro area.Because the six cities in Alabama (of more than 10,000) with the least amount of reported crime are all in the Birmingham metro area, too.
The city with the lowest crime rate in Alabama last year was Trussville, followed by Helena, Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, Pelham and Pleasant Grove.
The six of those cities together have a population 4½ times Bessemer, and half the total reported crimes.
Statistics, of course, can make liars of us all. They can reinforce our stereotypes, become self-fulfilling prophecies and give us easy excuses to keep on doing what we do.