By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on May 21, 2019
Yesterday, I learned that Sherman Industries has no intention of withdrawing its plan to relocate the company's downtown air pollution-spewing concrete batch plant to the Five Points West community. The company has decided it can simply run over Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin, ignore the Valerie Abbott-led city council, and crush the neighborhood protests.
The HeidelbergCement Group, which is the global parent company of Sherman Industries, has profiled Woodfin and the members of Birmingham’s city council. This German company was a hardcore Nazi collaborator during World War II. Only one of the company’s board members distanced himself from Adolf Hitler as his death machine killed six million innocent Black Germans, Jews, Gypsies, and Gay Germans during the War.
Sherman Industries has profiled Mayor Woodfin and the city council members. The company believes they are weak, politically insecure, timid on this environmental justice issue, and are owned "lock, stock and barrel" by Birmingham's business community. As such, the company has zero respect for them.
Sherman Industries also believes the company can overpower the neighborhood protestors because the city officials with portfolio responsibility for stopping the company's relocation plan do not have their backs. This is particularly true for Valerie Abbott, whose sole political goal this year was to keep inner-city kids out of George Ward Park by killing Major League Baseball's proposal to locate a $10 million Youth Baseball Academy in the park.
In Biblical language, Sherman Industries is a proverbial “Goliath” that is marching towards the front gates of Birmingham’s Five Points West community. Its planned concrete batch plant operations in this community will surely bring premature death, disease, and destruction with it.
To date, the warriors on the front line of this battle are mostly women who serve in neighborhood leadership positions. They are mothers and grandmothers who are fighting for the health, safety, and well-being of their children and grandchildren. I admire their courage and commitment to environmental justice.
The city’s mayor and council have chosen to fall back and issue “cover-your-ass” press statements voicing their "opposition" to Sherman Industries' plan to operate its concrete batch plant in the Five Points West community. In truth, they have surrendered this community to Sherman Industries without firing a shot.
As opposed to assuming the Biblical role of “David,” these city officials (except for District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt) have chosen to flee the battlefield. They have decided that it is far easier to attack me for exposing their lack of courage in this controversial matter than it is to fight Sherman Industries.
By now, it is clear to everybody that the city’s mayor and council have been psychologically castrated. They are political eunuchs who do not want to make their political bosses in the Birmingham business community mad with them. They will gladly “go along to get along” with the business community's agenda (no matter what it is) for a pat on the head and campaign contributions at election time.
Rather than talking about the serious health-related problems associated with air pollution from concrete batch plants located in residential neighborhoods, these city officials have dispatched their surrogates to attack me for exposing the dangers facing the residents of Five Points West. In their view, this is a safer course of action than serving in the role of “David.”
I don’t mind the public criticism and personal attacks, particularly if my investigative articles on Sherman Industries’ concrete plant ultimately save lives. Furthermore, I will gladly step aside on this issue when one of my critics comes to the front line and assumes the role of “David” for the purpose of slaying this “Goliath.” Until that happens, I am going to continue my efforts to save this proud and revitalized neighborhood from a long, slow and painful death.
Some critics say I am positioning William Bell for a rematch with Randall Woodfin in 2021. This is total “bullshit” and a smokescreen for the inaction we have witnessed to date. All that matters to me is this: Bell ran Ready Mix USA out of downtown Birmingham when he was mayor. Woodfin is mayor now. I want to see him run Sherman Industries out of the city limits. It’s Woodfin's turn now. He needs to man-up and do his job.
Say what you will about William Bell, but at least he had "big balls” when it counted. In early 2017, Bell took a principled stand on an environmental justice issue and ran Ready Mix USA out of the city limits without fanfare or media coverage. He did not punt the ball to an impotent city council. Bell was a real man and acted like one when it mattered the most.
Remember, adversity does not build character; it reveals character and courage.
Where is our “David”? "Goliath" is here.
PHOTO: The brave women of Five Points West are fighting Sherman Industries to keep a dangerous concrete manufacturing plant out of their neighborhood. Birmingham's mayor and council are fleeing the battlefield. Where is our Biblical "David"? "Goliath" is here.