Birmingham Mayor William Bell is on the attack against Birmingham lawyer and business owner William "Bill" Mudd over the Birmingham Barons $60 million dollar Baseball Park project. Bell descended into street thuggery with a direct insult to Mudd that hints at Bell's real feelings about businesses who don't belong (which Mudd does not) to his favorite private cartel--the Birmingham Business Alliance. Their mantra seems to be if you aren't with us, you're against us, and we'll threaten eminent domain as a necessary tactic.
This is a deal about baseball alright--the inside kind.
Mudd's B&A Warehouse would be a perfect segue into the entertainment district that is a part of Bell's, and the BBA's, plan for downtown Birmingham. Perfect unless Mayor Bell and private real estate developers cannot cut a deal with Mudd, who isn't really interested in selling his successful event/venue business to the city of Birmingham just so they can level the building in favor of something else. Mudd would rather have his business incorporated with the ballpark.
But the Mayor refuses to negotiate with Mudd, instead he has Jeffrey Bayer and another private real estate investor, Alan Engel, contact Mudd to 'lightly' pressure him to sell his property. Mudd mentioned he was curious, after those two phone calls, why private real estate investors were calling him instead of the Mayor. It's a great point and we wonder ourselves what the answer is.
Bell then called after the two developers and promised to call Mudd back and discuss the proposal further. It was an empty promise that Bell never intended to keep. What he did instead was ratchet up the specter of eminent domain and embark on strong-arm tactics against Mudd.
It's noteworthy that the BBA isn't living up to its name and supporting Mudd's existing business.
Bell's bully remark on a Fox 6 segment transforms any future meaningful dialogue into a non-productive, mud-slinging pr contest with the first fistful of useless nonsense thrown by the Mayor himself:
Mayor Bell voluntarily pulled the B&A warehouse out of a package of properties that the city will use eminent domain on to assemble the land for the stadium because most of the council wants to continue negotiating with owner Bill Mudd, who says he wants the project built around his property and doesn't want to sell.
Bell says the city will continue negotiating but he thinks this is about one thing: "Money, money, money, money," Bell said.
To which Mudd responded, "I don't want his money, and I don't need it. And it's insulting for me to hear that. And if he wants to come down here, walk across the park and talk about it, I'll tell him that."
Is this the same Mayor who praises economic development and claims to be supportive of all businesses in his not so fair city? The same Mayor who wants to run off Mudd's business in favor of the Negro Baseball Museum, a worthy enough project admittedly, but there's not one word in a 400 page document from the Mayor's office on how it will be paid for.
Taking into account that the notorious Walter Energy sponsored an April 2011 event in conjunction with the city of Birmingham, the Barons baseball team, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, earlier this year for Jackie Robinson Day, is it a stretch to imagine Walter may be involved with the Museum funds?
Would that explain the absence of any information on the funding for the museum, given the recent black eye Walter has gotten for the north Birmingham contamination? Have they offered to fund the project to placate city leaders and the Mayor? Would they contribute to appear racially sensitive after they have allegedly committed terrible transgressions against minority residents in Birmingham?
We'll never know until the Mayor decides to provide information on the funding, but one thing we can count on is that Bell doesn't care about fair and open communications with Mudd and B&A.
His latest salvo against Mudd is reprehensible, irresponsible and unbecoming the office of the Mayor in a city the size of Birmingham. He should be ashamed of himself, but he isn't because he knows the local paper will side with him on the issue.
It didn't take long for that to happen. In a recent Birmingham News editorial the "Our View" ED board claimed Mudd was "wrong" to "hold the city hostage" over the deal. In typical one-sided fashion and probably in anticipation of future advertisement dollars, the News acts as the go-to water boy for Bell's schemes yet again.
Shame on them too.
Mudd was interviewed on WAPI's morning show August 23rd. Judge for yourself who's really holding who hostage: (mp3 sound files)
Mudd Interview Part I
Mudd Interview Part II
Bill Mudd conducted himself as a gentleman in that interview. We certainly cannot say the same for the Mayor of Birmingham.
So Say We The Opinion Board Of The Vincent Alabama Confidential
*photo credit: Bernard Troncale Birmingham News