Birmingham Community Participation Program
The Birmingham Community Participation Program (also known as the Citizens Participation Plan) is a structured network of neighborhood associations that was created in 1974 to improve communication between residents and city leaders. Neighborhood associations are routinely consulted on matters related to zoning changes, liquor licenses, economic development, and city services. Neighborhoods are also granted discretionary funds from the city's budget to use for capital improvements and for non-capital projects and events. Each neighborhood's officers meet with their peers to form Community Advisory Committees which are granted broader powers over city departments. The presidents of these committees, in turn, form the Citizens Advisory Board, which meets regularly with the mayor, council, and department heads.
Birmingham is divided into a total of 23 communities, and again into a total of 99 individual neighborhoods with individual neighborhood associations. Communities don't necessarily follow Council District boundaries. Neighborhood newsletters are compiled by individual neighborhood associates and printed and distributed by the City's Community Development Department.
Besides communicating with City Hall, the neighborhood associations also distribute or allocate community development funding awarded by the city. Numerous individual programs have been created through this system, including housing redevelopment corporations and commercial development projects, as well as beautification projects and funding for community events. Some neighborhoods also disburse some of their funds to schools, libraries and other community institutions.
Birmingham's Community Development Department, was created in 1972 to comply with requirements drawn up by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its Community Development Block Grants.
During 1973 the Community Development Department worked with HUD to design a program which would be administered by Operation New Birmingham. Early implementation began in North Birmingham, but was suspended in the face of widespread protests. A workshop was held to draft a new plan, this time without ONB's involvement. The map dividing the city into neighborhoods was also redrawn, using door-to-door polling to ask residents about how they perceived their neighborhood boundaries.
The revised plan, with 84 individual neighborhoods, was adopted by the Birmingham City Council on October 15, 1974 and the first neighborhood elections were held in November, accompanied by a city-wide awareness campaign to inform citizens of the program.
With neighborhood officers and committees in place, the first meeting of the Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board was held in February 1975. The group coordinated the distribution of the city's first $5 million Community Development Block Grant from HUD.
In 2011 the annual controversy over how many delegates would be sent to the annual Neighborhoods USA conference reached a pique when it was revealed that there were plans to charter an airplane to carry 99 representatives to Anchorage, Alaska. Moves to restructure the program gained momentum.
In 2012 the Citizens Advisory Board called a committee to begin re-writing the Citizens' Participation Plan. City Council member Steven Hoyt submitted a resolution for the Council to appoint its own committee to accomplish the same goal.
 See also
- Bryant, Joseph D. (April 6, 2012) "Birmingham City Council mulls rewriting neighborhood association bylaws." Birmingham News