Partial Transcript: L: I believed we ended up yesterday with the early discussion of annexation, how that developed, what its importance was and I think you were at the first efforts that occurred under David Vann?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about annexations in the Birmingham area which began under David Vann as Mayor while Arrington was in the city council. The annexations begin with Booker Heights attempt and continued to communities such as Dolomite, Birmingport, 280 area, Oxmoor.
Keywords: Birmingport; Booker Heights; Dolomite; Hwy 280; Vann, David
Subjects: Annexation (Municipal government); Birmingham (Ala.)
Partial Transcript: L: You described a relationship with the man you defeated in 1979, in really quite a remarkable way that apparently you and he were able to work very closely with one another on important city projects, after you took office and he brought an expertise to your administration that was probably unavailable anywhere else I would think that our keen topic of annexation, I would think that’s almost unique in governmental politics to have the winner and the loser function so closely as a team, did it strike you that way at the time and did you David ever reflect on the irony of your careers?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about working with David Vann on annexation, working with communities to annex, and working through the legal system to annex.
Keywords: Alabama. Supreme Court; Hoover (Ala.); Vann, David
Subjects: Annexation (Municipal government); Birmingham (Ala.)
Partial Transcript: When David immediately became mayor, began to try to offer him incentives to stay in, applied pressure to these big businesses not to leave the city. If they left the city like Blue Cross, he immediately cancelled the insurance at Blue Cross; I mean did a number of things. In fact, David made that decision that we would do that, and then he lost and then it really fell on my shoulders (inaudible).
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about dealing with businesses while working on annexations.
Keywords: Blue Cross; Mountain Brook (Ala.); National Liberty Corporation; Vestavia Hills (Ala.)
Subjects: Annexation (Municipal government); Birmingham (Ala.)
Partial Transcript: L: You mentioned Birmingham schools in relation to the residential developments. What (inaudible) you look back over your tenure in public life, what comments would you make about education, the importance of education, what was done or might have been done, certainly any thoughts you have about education in the future in Birmingham?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about his lack of progress and missed opportunity with education while mayor. He also talks about what he sees as the future of Birmingham schools.
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Birmingham Public Schools (Birmingham, Ala.)
Partial Transcript: L: You put public education generally in a negative column, another area that I suspect you would put in the same category was the maps effort, and I wonder if you could talk about what the thinking was behind maps, the importance you attach to it and you reflections on that experience?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about MAPS: the Metropolitan Area Projects Strategy and its attempt to create a domed stadium facility in Downtown Birmingham. He discusses the plan's failure. He also talk about the attempt to create intergovernmental cooperation.
Keywords: HealthSouth (Firm); MAPS: Metropolitan Area Projects Strategy; McWane Center; Scrushy, Richard
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.)
Partial Transcript: L: My recollection is you are one of the very few public officials who had said over the years that you would support a consolidation of local governments where some major restructuring of local government, there hasn’t appeared to be a base of support for that, what are your reflections in what have been your experiences with governing the central city of a rather fragmented metropolis in what do you see as the possibilities in the short-run for overcoming some of that fragmentation, if there are such possibilities?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about dealing with a fragmented metro area and issues with suburbanization. He talks about eh economic impact of suburbanization and the political factors involved. He also talk about his pessimistic view of dealing with this issue in the future.
Keywords: Charlotte (N.C.); Chattanooga (Tenn.); Homewood (Ala.); Jacksonville (Fla.); Mountain Brook (Ala.); Suburbanization
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.)
Partial Transcript: L: Your political career is often linked to the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition, could you talk about its history, how it was organized, what it did and your thoughts about the coalition as, at the time you left office in it’s continuing role in local government.
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about creating the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition as an umbrella group touring together black citizen's leagues and political organizations. He talks about starting the organization to help mobilize the black vote and black political power. He discusses membership and practices. He also mentions some of the challenges the group tried to address.
Keywords: Adams, Oscar; Bonds; Clemons, EW; Democratic Party (Ala.); Jackson, Walter; Jefferson County Citizens Coalition
Subjects: African American political activists; Birmingham (Ala.)
Partial Transcript: L: You mentioned the coalition responding to the creation of districts, when you first ran for mayor, the council was elected at large and then the change of districts occurred, I guess in the early 90s perhaps—
L: What difference did that make for you as mayor, particularly in terms of the city council and its relationship to you and how do assess overall the moved districts?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about the switch to city council districts and how that impacted city politics.
Keywords: City council districts; Jefferson County Citizens Coalition
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); City council members
Partial Transcript: L: You ran for mayor five times, did the nature of your campaigns change over that period of time, or did you retain basically the same campaign style?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about campaigning through five mayoral elections. He also discusses what percentage of the white vote he was able to win and why.
Keywords: white vote
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; Campaign organization and tactics
Partial Transcript: L: The media topic seems to me an important one and I guess a complicated topic, radio, TV, press, historically white press, black press, but could you talk some about your relationships with media and the importance of media in shaping the political environment?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about how he was portrayed as Mayor in local media.
Keywords: Birmingham News; Townsend, Vincent; Vann, David
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; News media coverage of . . .
Partial Transcript: L: You mentioned briefly, the campaign that occurred during a year when you were under investigation by the FBI?
L: That’s a long and complicated and I’m sure unpleasant topic for you, but would you discuss that and what your view is to why it happened and what its impact was you as mayor and maybe as a person?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington tell the story of the FBI investigation into supposed political corruption and eventually an accusation of evasion. He was not found guilty of any crime.
Keywords: Bell, William; Corruption investigation; Davis, Willie; Dixon, Joe; Peters, Marjorie
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor
Partial Transcript: L: Aside from the impact on you personally and family and friends, how did it influence your ability to function as mayor and to campaign as mayor?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about the impact of the FBI investigation on his career as mayor. He mentions feeling like there was a sense of suspicion toward him, especially from the white community and business community.
Keywords: Corruption investigation
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor
Partial Transcript: L: Let’s turn to the topic of the institute, this interview is part of its Oral History Program, but I think everyone connected with the institute would acknowledge that, without your commitment to it, this place would not exist. Could you talk about your involvement with the institute, what it has meant to you, what do you think it means to the community and I guess, along the way, perhaps address some of the controversies that surrounded the institute in opposition that it confronted?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about the creation of the Civil Rights Institute including: the idea's origins with David Vann; how it relates to some of the corruption investigations and Majorie Peters, how the projects was funded, and controversy about the project.
Keywords: Civil rights movement; Peters, Marjorie; Vann, David
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)
Partial Transcript: L: As you look back over your entire lengthy career as an elected official and public servant, what do you rank as the really rewarding successes from your point of view and what have been the areas of greatest personal disappointment for you?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington reflects on his long career as mayor. He mentions accomplishments like economic development, and improved diversity in city government. He also mentions public education as a missed opportunity, and disappointments like MAPS and block 60. He discusses current challenges to the city like regionalism, housing, and maintaining economic development. He also reflects on the role of mayor as a leader.
Keywords: Blacks--Segregation; Diversity in the workplace
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; Economic development
LEMONTE: I believed we ended up yesterday with the early discussion ofannexation, how that developed, what its importance was and I think you were at the first efforts that occurred under David Vann?
ARRINGTON: Yes, I think we talked about the first efforts occurred out at a,major annexation effort was an effort at Booker Heights and it was during David's term as mayor, he had talked with me about his vision of Birmingport becoming a major port. David thought that only way that would really come to fruition is that the city of Birmingham would have to take the lead and that the city of Birmingham was probably the only government with an interest and perhaps with some resources and make it become a reality. 00:01:00
If we were going to do that, however, it meant that we wanted the property inthe city, so we could sort of control it and reap benefits of whatever the investments were. David's vision was that we would build a significant industrial park out in Birmingham, which would go a long way towards making Birmingport a major economic port that had real impact on the city since you can go out of Birmingport and many companies shipped out of Birmingport that owned barges and go right into the Tennessee Tombigbee River and of course that gets you into the major waterway that can take you right on down to South American if you want or you can go north.
So David's first plan was to annex property, picking up at Birmingham'sboundary, going out in the direction of Birmingport and finding a way to annex unincorporated property into Birmingham. He had discovered in his research that 00:02:00there was an old law in the book in the early 1900s for tax-exempt annexations and it was only for cities like Birmingham, whatever class we were, I don't know what class, but the legislature had passed it for class 3 cities.
A class 3 city can have the council; can draw up a map of the unincorporatedarea that they wanted to annex, just as long as some point contiguous with the city's boundaries. I had the council to call an election, pass a resolution on calling an election in that area. The only tax-exempt annexation, the only folk who voted were the people who actually lived on the land, not necessarily the owners of the land, but the just the people who lived on the land.
And then we would of course take that, after the council passed the resolution,00:03:00it would go to the probate judge and the probate judge would set a date for election. We'd hold election if the majority approve and the property was annexed for ten years and for commercial property, maybe 12 years, they paid no property taxes and we only had to give them police and fire services.
Now, David had decided and I think he was right, but most of the areas that wereannexed would want full services and there was a section in that law that allowed them to waive that tax-exemption and get full services right away. And so after having the first really push for that was, as I said, Birmingport, and the way we were going to do that is by including small black communities that called Booker Heights, it's out in that particular area, that is unincorporated and needed fire services and police services and others. 00:04:00
And because I was pretty well-known as a black councilman, I could go to BookerHeights and talk with them about it and explore their interests, that is what we did and of course they said yes, they wanted to and we set about to set election, we allied with a minister in the Booker Heights area as a sort of community leader, he didn't live in the area but he had a church in the area.
And he was very much for it and he was helping us the rally the 50 or 60 peoplewho lived there. All went well, but Tom Glore came on, who was on the county commission and he somehow, without our knowing it, he convinced the minister, that was not in their best interest and I imagine, he promised that the county 00:05:00would begin to provide some services that they were seeking, because Tom was not interested in seeing that unincorporated property become a part of Birmingham.
I have really never understood why, I just think it was part of the differencesthat Vann and Glore always had, almost all political issues. Because having the property come inside of Birmingham didn't take it out of the county, it was still in the county. Not that it deny the county any revenue or anyway the county was getting, it in fact reduced the county's responsibility to provide any kind of services to them including sheriffs and all of that because the city would then have to provide it.
And if we had developed the property and developed well the county would havegotten much greater revenue. So as far as I was concerned, it was a political jealousy thing, but we discovered, just shortly before the election, that the
gentleman we thought was working for us, had changed his mind and was trying to00:06:00convince people not to, and had created quite a division there.
We went forward with the election, lost it by one vote I think it was like 26-25 with one for it being thrown out for some reason and so we lost that first annexation election. Now that was the first, what I called major one commercial-- to bring in commercial property. And the reason we focused on commercial properties, more than we did residential properties, it's simply because--let me say we used residential properties, mainly we hooked them into annexation because that's where the people lived and we had to have somebody living there.
And most of these annexations that a talk about were annexations where therewere small black unincorporated communities that had for years tried to get some sort of services like fire protection, from one of the neighboring cities, the cities closest to it tried to get annexed into those cities and because these 00:07:00neighborhoods that were not well-off or basically poor neighborhood, they simply could not get annexed and so we were sort of like riding in and it's people who would provide them some of the services and the in turn would be helping us, because we would attached large (inaudible) of land--commercial land, voting it to the city.
Commercial property was our major focus because of the tax structure for citiesin Alabama. It is clearly skewered for cities, the tax structure skewered towards commercial property. Cities in Alabama with the exception of maybe Mountain Brook and one or two other cities that are not under what we call the cap, property tax and they pay a higher property on their residential 00:08:00properties, but all the other cities, depend upon sales taxes, business licenses, and occupational taxes and things of that sort of thing.
But the city of Birmingham for example gets about 70% of its revenue every yearfrom three sources, occupational tax, sales taxes and business licenses. So clearly, your tax base in cities is skewered in Alabama towards having commercial properties. You don't have commercial properties, you don't get jobs, and you don't have jobs if nobody occupational tax. You don't have business; nobody buys a business license (inaudible) business you don't make sales, you don't get the sales taxes. So that was all part of the planning, which is why we were looking at commercial properties in order to help Birmingham to develop economically. 00:09:00
LEMONTE: My recollection at the time, is that the media and many of your criticssaw this as a ploy on your part to increase the number of black residents and strengthen your political base in the city, that is then a misreading of your motives?
ARRINGTON: Totally, when we started it out the first one, for example, the onein Booker Heights, I was not even there at that time, David Vann was mayor. But if you look at all of the annexations we made, we probably, especially if you're (inaudible) the
Roosevelt City annexation, we probably didn't bring 3,000 people into the city.Our focus was really not on residential properties, trying to bring more population in, we welcomed that, but that was not our major purpose.
Our major purpose was to strengthen our tax base by annexing commercial00:10:00properties that had not been developed and then using the resourcs that the city of Birmingham had to provide incentives to develop those properties, we could come in and offer people certain, first they had a tax break, we might come in and offer to do streets, if a developer would go ahead, or to help with the sewer development and there was no other city or no other local government that was doing that.
So that was what our focus was, now we had done a tax-exempt annexation alsounder David Vann's administration earlier, but it didn't focus on commercial property. David had come up with Airport Hills, which was largely a residential area, and they wanted to come (inaudible) city and he called an election--had the city council call an election and that was a tax-exempt annexation, but it was largely just to get those citizens in Airports Hills into the city without going through the little convoluted annexation procedures, which was so archaic 00:11:00and was very difficult to pull it off.
So we had used it out in Airport Hills and brought in largely a blackresidential area under David's administration. Well when I came into office as mayor, I continued to consult with David on a regular basis, of course shortly after my time as mayor, he came back to work in the law department and his major responsibility that I asked him to take home was working on annexation, identifying areas that we could annex, that had great economic development potential and so we pulled off some major ones, which today, actually provide the foundation of Birmingham's tax revenue.
We first went east because there was going to be a racetrack, there was a vote00:12:00dog racing in the city of Birmingham. And we wanted that track in Birmingham, so we went east using that process and we annexed the property out near the dog track, we used a neighborhood out there, near Trussville, a predominantly black unincorporated neighborhood, that had been trying to get Trussville to give them some services and they would not. We included them in annexation, they were the ones, and their votes brought that property in.
So we got the property where the racetrack was being brought in that way, thenDavid drew the plans so that we would go further east out beyond the track annexing property and the real dramatic move was that he came up with the decision that we would then move south through corridor an unincorporated 00:13:00property and into Shelby county, the next property into Shelby county. Well were already getting howls of criticism from suburbs and others, they said we were land grabbing; they said all kinds of things. So suddenly we got Trussville and Irondale to come together after we began the annexation process, which would take us from the eastern area, south, down into Shelby county and we really were targeting the
Cahaba River because it was a water source for us and David said we should tryto control the water shed area and so we were focusing all of those things.
Trussville and Irondale, knowing what corridor we were going through, moved totry to halt our annexation by carrying out an annexation themselves that would 00:14:00bring their boundaries together we would have no unincorporated corridor through which we could go. We learned of that, they were doing and under the law, there was something about the law you could only annex so much, you could do it a series of steps.
And so when David learned of that, we called a council meeting on a Saturdaymorning or a Sunday and passed whatever we needed to pass, in order to get through the gap that they were trying to close so we couldn't proceed with the annexation, it's an interesting story. That annexation succeeded and we had to fight some subsequent battles, cities like Hoover tried to get their legislatures to pass laws to, which in fact would toss us out and invalidate our annexations. 00:15:00
We had to beat them back in legislature, then they filed a suit against us, itwent to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court upheld our annexation, so that was good. We then made a major push along 280, now David, the 280 push actually came before David was working full time for us. A firm out of Atlanta, the Carter Company is a development that developed the Colonade and some other properties out on 280, hired David Vann to come and negotiate with the city, because I was trying to annex some of their property, so they hired David to work out a plan and they agreed on annexation. 00:16:00
And David represented them and we annexed property on 280, where the colonnadewas built, once we were there, we went further and annexed a (inaudible) property and we went down 280 and we annexed--later own we annexed in the same time frame, the property where the large shopping center, the Summit is, we went all the way down, weaving our way through properties where people would give us at least six inches to keep us contiguous, we went down--all the way down the Brookhighland Shopping Center.
Now most of the Brookhighland residential areas are still unincorporated,there's a small part of it that is in the city of Birmingham. But all of the commercial development and that's what's important to us again, the commercial, that shopping center is in the city Birmingham. Now even when Just For Feet 00:17:00built its new national headquarters some time ago and the newspapers also said they were in Pelham, they never were, they were in Birmingham, and I had negotiated that--even that deal with Serotti Permute Law Firm to provide them certain incentives for building that headquarters.
So we did that annexation--the 280 annexation, David was still looking for waysto get out to towards Birmingport and we seized up on an opportunity to annex an area called Dolomite, a black community out in the southwestern area, sandwiched
out there between Fairfield, Pleasant Grove, and Hueytown, that had about threeor four people killed in house fires, the city of Fairfield would not give it any fire protection, or annex it, nor would any of the other cities.
The city of Birmingham could never get to it because it was at no point, or out00:18:00boundaries contiguous. US Steel was adamantly opposed to allowing us to come across their property or even giving us a small corridor to make us contiguous because they always feared the David Vann had a scheme to annex the plant out there, which or course he did. But David was always real dissatisfied because USX, one of the largest employers, with all of those steel mills out there were in unincorporated areas and apparently always told the city of Fairfield if they, which is where they naturally would be--annexed in the city of Fairfield, most people think they are in the city Fairfield, had told them so years ago, according to David, that if they tried to annex the properties that they were going to move their plants and go to Texas, where they had operations there. 00:19:00
And that always bothered David, so he sought some way that we could get helpthere and if we could get to Dolomite, we would then of course call the annexation or we let the Dolomite folks vote the US Steel property, but US Steel and USX would never agree. So what finally happened is that I had went to Pittsburgh and met with one of their officials a vice president who turned out to have had a doctorate in Physics and was now in the administrative positive there.
I talked with him about at least giving us a corridor through the US Steelproperties, so that we would be contiguous with the Dolomite community and we could annex and provide them with some services. Against advice of his local 00:20:00folks who really didn't like Birmingham and didn't trust David Vann at all, he agreed to consider and flew down here on a couple of occasions and met with me and after getting some solid commitments and writing and so forth, that we would not annex their plant, they gave us like about a six foot corridor through their properties and they annex a six foot corridor to Birmingham, that (inaudible) gave direct access and made us contiguous with Dolomite.
So now you can annex Dolomite, we could achieve one of our purposes, which is toprovide this community with services they don't have, better police protection, fire protection, street and sanitation services. But then David came up with idea that we would move--we could (inaudible) Dolomite and we can go northwest of Dolomite and go up to Birmingport again and now, this time the county thought they had blocked us, they had gotten Maytown annexed, the corridor 00:21:00around--blocking Birmingham, but David found a way, so we still went- we didn't get all the property we had originally wanting the Booker Heights annexation, but we got a great deal of it, because we used the Dolomite property and he found the unincorporated corridors that took us almost to Birmingport, so that was one of our annexations.
We annexed--we increased the size of Birmingham about 60%. We failed in oneannexation because we used some old maps, we were going to annex much of what now is gone into Trussville, but we were going to annex a whole lot of that area along the interstate that runs through that area, property owned by USX and by Tutwilers. We put it all in a call and one of the mistakes we made--David recommended and he and I debated it and I finally gave into it, that we annexed 00:22:00the high school that was there.
And of course that was a very sore spot and it really got the people upset andthen lo and behold, by a week or so before the election, we decided that David and Bob Land would ride the area and look at it and lo and behold, when they got out and started looking around at the area where we called annexation and which we expected to win because we had a small black community sitting right there on Trussville, which had refused to annex and they wanted services again.
And I had worked with a black minister there and I had lined up all of thosepeople, it was about 20 families and they were all going to come in and vote and we had the votes to annex all of this property. But in riding out looking at it, they discovered that there had been a number of multi-family units built on some of those properties, all of the residents were white and we had used old maps 00:23:00that didn't show that property was still under development and of course we lost that election, because first of all, the people were up in arms, particularly the city of Trussville and the white landowners and all and Mr. Tutwiler and they rallied those people living in those apartments to come out and vote and on that day of the referendum, they served hot dogs and tea at the voting place.
And of course they gave us a (inaudible) they beat us like about one hundred andsomething to about twenty, so that was the one big one we lost, but most of them, we did succeed in carrying out and I would close this point out by pointing out that the tax structure in the city of Birmingham today rest largely, not totally, but largely on businesses that are in those annexed, that 00:24:00been building those annexed properties and we helped to build some of those businesses, you know.
We got into Oxmoor and all that but even when we did 280 property, where theSummit is, we used a small black mining town community, which was originally Oxmoor, gathered black communities that Irondale would not take in and when that community voted in like the Summit property for us at the time that we called that annexation, but today that is one of the largest shopping center, even Saks Fifth Ave now, under construction on that property.
But that's in Birmingham, you go down that corridor and some of the majordevelopments, HEALTHSOUTH national headquarters is in Birmingham and all of 00:25:00those were built on that annexed property and they provide a large amount of the revenue for the operation of Birmingham; a large number of jobs for our city. So I can tell many stories about annexation, but that gives you some idea of it. The
major annexation--we did annex some small towns and solely for purpose ofproviding them with some services.
We did Roosevelt City, and didn't bring any other properties, we just broughtRoosevelt City in, and we did a little town called Brownsville, because they were going broke, they wanted (inaudible) and we annexed them. But our major annexation was those huge plots of land that we talked about.
LEMONTE: You described a relationship with the man you defeated in 1979, inreally quite a remarkable way that apparently you and he were able to work very closely with one another on important city projects, after you took office and 00:26:00he brought an expertise to your administration that was probably unavailable anywhere else I would think that our keen topic of annexation, I would think that's almost unique in governmental politics to have the winner and the loser function so closely as a team, did it strike you that way at the time and did you David ever reflect on the irony of your careers?
ARRINGTON: No, I tell we never did, I think David and I always enjoyed workingwith each other. And even following that election, we continued to work together and we didn't even miss a beat, we just kept working together. For David, it sat aside this great (inaudible) he had to be involved in municipal government. It 00:27:00was good for us because he was perhaps the most knowledgeable person in municipal (inaudible) we had in the state. And certainly on annexation he knew things nobody else knew, I mean he put fear in the lives of folks were opposed to our annexations, because they just felt, after a short while no way to defeat us, when David Vann was handling our annexation.
But we remained close politically our lives and friends up until the time Davidpassed, I mean we would sit around sometimes and reflect on things that have gone down or talked about things that were happening, I would go up to David's apartment, we would sit there and talk. But you know, there was never any friction between David and me, I can't tell you why I think part of it, it was that I used to enjoy David's style, he was always creative, he always wanted to do something.
And plus he had such an interesting emotional things he wanted to do for thecity. And I just enjoyed it and was glad to have aboard and he was clearly the 00:28:00architect of the major annexation moves that we made. I think we had started getting much of the so-called Oxmoor Valley now, where we have warehouses and major office plants. We started annexing some of that before I was mayor, when David was mayor.
We annexed some additional property after I came in, but I was clearly followingthat David Vann pattern. David was sort of the brain trust behind and I was a facilitator because we had to use--many cases we had to use small black-- just about every area would use black voters to vote the land in under that tax-
exempt annexation. And I at that particular time had the high enough profile, Iwas well known, being the first black mayor and I could move into those communities. 00:29:00
People at that particular time, they were happy to get the services, happy toknow me, happy to know that the city was interested, and so forth and so on. So we made a good team and I never forgot.
LEMONTE: My recollection is that you really took a drubbing in the communityfrom sources who did misread the motive, was there any way that you tried to explain to the business leadership and the media leadership in the community, this annexation strategy, did they listen in retrospect, do you think it was a public relations problem as well as a major economic policy?
ARRINGTON: Well I think it might have been a public relations problem, but I'mnot sure there was one that, even with best public relations experts, we could have avoided a fight. I think that was just--I am not resenting of Birmingham coming in annexation properties, that in some instances surrounding cities that 00:30:00had not taken them in apparently saw them as future expansion areas for them, places like Hoover.
It was very interesting that shortly after we did one of those annexations, theygot the law change so other cities could it, and that is a tax-exempt annexation and Hoover annexed into Shelby also, Hoover was once only in Birmingham. But the legislature took all--made all of the effort to get us out of Shelby county, but leaving Hoover in there and there sort of undercut the arguments too because here they are trying to kick Birmingham out from coming from one county into another, but they want to leave Hoover in Shelby county, where it had annexed into.
And that also helped us in winning the case before the Alabama Supreme Court,when we were taken to court on those annexations. I just think, historically 00:31:00there had been opposition from smaller cities to Birmingham. Opposition in the legislature, they viewed Birmingham, as Big Bad Birmingham and that started before I was mayor, probably even before David was mayor.
I think the situation probably--the resentment was heightened some because wewere pretty proactive as mayors, both of us were and we were fighting for the survival of the city and we were--by the time David came in, the migration of people to the suburbs was taking place and (inaudible) going to some businesses like Blue Cross and all of that and David--whereas other mayors, George Sibyls had--some of those businesses started leaving under Sibyls administration, but Sibyls didn't mount any fight against it.
When David immediately became mayor, began to try to offer him incentives tostay in, applied pressure to these big businesses not to leave the city. If they 00:32:00left the city like Blue Cross, he immediately cancelled the insurance at Blue
Cross; I mean did a number of things. In fact, David made that decision that wewould do that, and then he lost and then it really fell on my shoulders (inaudible).
So the fight with Blue Cross really carried out into my administration and(inaudible) employees very happy because they were shifting over to a self-insured plant from Blue Cross plant. But there was heavy opposition to it; I really don't think there any way that we could have cut down on any opposition. I met with some people, for example, representative Ellis, who represented Shelby county in the legislature, brought a delegation in to see me and he said we had upset people down in Shelby county, people who had moved down, built new subdivisions, were living new subdivisions because they thought 00:33:00we were going to force them into the city. So he was an attorney, but I explained to him in the conference room there at city hall that no we were not trying to force anybody and we couldn't bring anybody unless they voted to come in anyway, so we had not touched the residential areas.
But I made a mistake of telling him what we were doing, I explained to him thatwe were targeting commercial properties and why. Now I don't know why they had not thought about that before he and the other people. But really they wanted us to declare a moratorium on elections (inaudible) annexations elections, especially in Shelby county area. And I simply agreed that we would not touch any residential areas in Shelby County, but any commercial areas that were coming in, we would proceed with annexation.
And of course once they knew what we were targeting, they began to target00:34:00people, we were about annex a gentleman who owned a small business, service station, grocery store, he had wanted to come in and they applied significant pressure to him and the threat of boycotting the businesses and so forth and so that's how they headed us off.
I made one other major goof, we set up an election that would have annexed a lotof land owned by Drummond, it's now called Liberty Park, by Drummond USX and whatever that company--liberty--whatever insurance company there, I forget the name of it, but it was a large welcome when Frank Sanford--
LEMONTE: Liberty National.
ARRINGTON: Liberty Nations Insurance Company and David drew up that plan and wehad this little black community out there in Irondale and we threw all of that 00:35:00property into that annexation call. So everything that's now Liberty Park, it was in that annexation call. We had a hand down--we had the votes, I started meeting with representatives of those three companies and they began then to unveil a plan they had for the development of Liberty Park.
And they were of course going to build these homes, these very expensive homesand they needed a (inaudible)--they needed to have a school system which
was considered quality school system, they said Birmingham school system didn'tfit that bill, they could do those homes and so forth. And what they did in a series of meetings with me and probably should have been accompanied by somebody like David, but in a series of meetings with me, they cut a deal with me, where 00:36:00they bring--they would put the commercial properties in Birmingham, we would lead a residential properties, the properties that they scheduled for residential developments out.
Well I thought that was okay, that was a fair deal. To show their good faith,they annexed like 50 or 60 acres of commercial property into the city right away, they annexed another small commercial piece where they had some commercial businesses-owned, just small businesses and the mistake I made is that they then said--well I said, "What we will do, we will just change the map and we'll leave the commercial properties in."
They then asked--said or no we would bring the properties in, we would ratherdevelop the properties outside of the city and then bring them in because the 00:37:00city had stronger requirements for things like sidewalks and you don't have that in the county and it runs the cost up, but as we build these buildings and they built a number of them, we would annex them.
And I was so nave that I did that on a handshake and obviously they neverbrought them in. I went back to see them when they started--completed two of the office buildings, they would not bring the property in. They subsequently went to Mountain Brook to try to get Mountain Brook to annex the property. They then explained to me they needed to keep the commercial properties to support their residential areas and provide for the schools and the libraries.
When they couldn't get Mountain Brook to do it they got the state legislature--Isuccessfully blocked it the first year, but the second year they succeeded in getting the state legislature to annex it to Vestavia, even though it was not 00:38:00contiguous to Vestavia, so I learned a bitter lesson there and a bitter lesson down with Rust, I don't want to get into it, but we--Rust major headquarters, the home company for Rust had a long time commitment to us to stay in Birmingham because we had to help do the studies for the (inaudible) cites.
And again, just on the word of the local director Mr. Rosendale here, one day hecalled me and wanted me to send a letter to his national headquarters and we didn't object to their moving down on 280 and property of that is owned by a real estate firm down there and that they would annex the property to the city as they built them and with my letter, the headquarters allowed them to begin 00:39:00moving down there.
After they had moved into four very fine buildings down and I hadn't heard fromthem, I went to visit Mr. Rosendale and of course I also--Douglass was a developer and was apart of their agreement, David had handle a negotiation with
Daniel on the deal. Rosendale refused even to talk with me about when I went tohis office, I mean he was sort of rude frankly and when I went to the Daniel folks to talk about it, they said they couldn't bring the property in because they were being pressure by the Shelby county commission.
And so forth and so on those were two occasions where I was a terriblebusinesses person because I assume that these people--but their word was good and I learned from that, that in doing a business deal, you bind it and those 00:40:00are two deals which should have gone though and my goodness, it cost us millions of dollars every year that we don't have, those are major areas here in this metro area right now.
LEMONTE: You mentioned Birmingham schools in relation to the residentialdevelopments. What (inaudible) you look back over your tenure in public life, what comments would you make about education, the importance of education, what was done or might have been done, certainly any thoughts you have about education in the future in Birmingham?
ARRINGTON: Well I think the greatest failure during my adminitration was thatwe didn't put enough emphasis on trying, pushing for the improvement of education, it's just sort of tricky thing to do in a sense that education in 00:41:00public schools here strictly the boards of educations and so forth. But I don't think that any superintendent that I'd gone to them and said, "Look we want to--you know we were giving schools, we built some new schools, and we did some renovations."
Every bond issue we did, we went through the board of education and said, and"Don't you want to be included?" And so we must have done some elementary schools and some other schools and provided renovation, but there was not major infusion of money into the capital program for schools and the school facilities were steadily deteriorating. I don't know how much we could have done about the educational program, the academic program, I think the mayor's office could probably have been a bully pulpit so to speak and we could have (inaudible) 00:42:00postured bully pulpit--city money as we have now begin--the city is now beginning to do.
They only started that major effort just shortly before I left office, twohundred million dollar program. But we didn't put enough emphasis frankly and I left it (inaudible) to the superintendent and the board and I was responding to what they asked of us and that's very little of us to tell you the truth and all of the while the quality of education going down the suburban flight of course played a role in it.
And the school system itself was just not making adjustments for the studentsthat had--was holding up standards and expectations and so forth and city government wasn't priding and pushing in those particular areas. There was just 00:43:00
school system was just a troubled school system, a deteriorating school system,with declining student performance and all of those kinds of things.
And I never, as mayor, I never tried to pull together any kind hearing or summitor anything talking about education, focus attention what was happening to those schools. It was only after Johnny Brown, he had began to push and I had a few conversations with him, it really dawned on me that we could have been doing more and he was a superintendent who had demanded a lot of accountability, he came in demanding accountability of his staff and teachers and I liked that very much and I was happy to try to join him to help provide some resources for the 00:44:00capital improvements.
But that was one of the major shortcomings of the 20 I was there, we just letour educational system just deteriorate and I really didn't think it through. I hadn't gone to the schools-- board of superintendents suggested that we do many things, I had gotten involved when they had fight over firing the superintendent and of course the newspaper had said I was going to get politics into the systems and I ought to keep my nose out.
And I used that as an excuse for why I didn't do anything, but quite frankly, Ididn't see the bigger picture of even being--the fact that I had come out of high education and I'm dealing with all of these other issues, but I'm not pushing in educational area and I think we paid a price for it, we were late coming though it.
And now we're trying to rebuild our system, it will take years and there's stillproblems of course and not just for the schools, I mean even trying to--kids 00:45:00perform better on tasks, we started building new schools, finished the regional high school, about to go to another, providing the money for.
We got a teacher's union happy to have (inaudible) superintendent and there's amove I think that they'd like to get an elected board, so hopefully they could get a majority on the board and they can fire the superintendent. It's a crazy kind of thing and I interpreted it all because they don't like the fact that their feet are being held to the fire in terms of how they got to perform. But we'll see how that comes out.
LEMONTE: Do you have any thoughts if you were suddenly made soured publiceducation based on your experience and what you may have heard from other mayors, what can be done with big city systems that make them serve the kids better?
ARRINGTON: Well I really think that one thing we could do here would have been00:46:00to give the mayor a little bit more authority, to make him sort of resolve the schools as they did in Chicago, as they did in Buffalo and they done in several other cities. Because quite frankly when it comes to getting some resources, especially capital resources for facilities and then new technology and so forth, it's usually done at the local level and the state level and certainly that's true here in Alabama.
The other monies come out of this special education trust fund in the state forinstruction, but there's little money comes from the state for capital improvements and things of that sort. And so the board of education usually ends up coming to city government and they usually come to the largest city government and in the case unincorporated areas, they go to the county commission seeking funds.
And even if they usually if they want to ask people voted additional taxes up on00:47:00themselves, the schools usually come through--they have the cities that handle the referendum and so forth. Now I think the two major missing ingredients, maybe three in schools that I would really push, one is you got to put greater accountability; I mean you have got to have principals-(Talking already in progress)
ARRINGTON: Over and started trying to help and get involved and work it out andthen I saw how poor the management was and the whole system, so at the very top, there were some serious problems. I think putting in place a stronger administrative staff that understood its responsibilities, held itself 00:48:00accountable, first things important. You could then, of course, demand the principals, you set goals and had expectations, and everybody had to work toward them.
And then along with that you had to provide resources, you just can't pumpresources, even if it's only half of the resources are in, if you're not going to deal with the people who have to carry the program out. That's easier said than done, because a lot of fine teachers in the systems, many, quite a few who've become laxed, while there have been some good principals and a lot of principals that have not been good. And we've had such trouble here in the teachers' union, the AEA in Alabama is such a strong force that most 00:49:00superintendents didn't really want to take AEA on.
I think this superintendent that we have now has done that. I think that's amove in the right direction, but I think that's what we have to do and that's what (inaudible) I would have been the best superintendent, trying to find some good principals, even had to go outside to bring them in, I don't think they tenure principals, we're moving new principals in and of course you can't get rid of tenured teachers.
But you can push on in-service training for teachers and you can certainly getrid of the new teachers coming in that are not tenured if they don't perform well. And quite frankly we didn't do that in the Birmingham system until Johnny Brown came in.
LEMONTE: You put public education generally in a negative column, another areathat I suspect you would put in the same category was the maps effort, and I 00:50:00wonder if you could talk about what the thinking was behind maps, the importance you attach to it and you reflections on that experience?
ARRINGTON: Well MAPS is another great failure, it was a metropolitan-wideprogram of projects, the centerpiece for (inaudible) was to build a dome facility and but in order--also to attract support for the dome facility, we proposed, providing special funding sources for the proposed one cent county-wide sales tax that would have been levied for education and some for recreation and some for cultural activities and things of that sort.
We had about ten or twelve major areas, we had for public safety, (inaudible)00:51:00and we had a number of things and it was good composite, but the opponents, the critics always argued that we would put those things in there to try to sell the dome and while that might have true, that might have brought us around, including these things, that still diminish the importance of having those things, of having funding to complete the McWane Center of having funding for cultural activities for the symphony and the dance groups and all of these groups.
That was the good thing about maps, let me just start about it two or threeways, first of all, it was a major accomplishment to get the corporate community 00:52:00behind MAPS program, the corporate communities were very conservative about those things. Fortunately, Richard Scrushy, a CEO of HEALTHSOUTH was interested in it at the time in (inaudible) major sports franchise had competed for the Marlins baseball team, came in second in that.
Had been offered by the man who was given the franchise of some significantshare of the stock, as he told me, but had decided that he wanted to be the major stockholder in the franchise, he participated in it so he was interested in putting together a group in trying to bring a franchise to Birmingham and to do so, of course we needed the dome. That's how we got started talking about it quite frankly. 00:53:00
There were a lot of interesting discussions because he wanted to put the dome inPelham and or somewhere way out and he made arguments about land cost and arguments about how much parking there would be and a whole lot of other things. He was arguing against my point, that the dome had to be downtown Birmingham.
And I knew that because I had staff to do a study and they had studied ten ortwelve cities with domes and what were going into their planning. Out of twelve domes, we looked at in those twelve cities, ten of them, the cities had used the dome facilities to revitalize their downtown areas or their old convention centers and what have you. And they had worked very successfully and most--a couple of cases out in Detroit, they had gone out to a suburb with the silver dome and
Pontiac, MI and it had not been a success at all and of course as we talk now,we know that the franchise, both baseball and football had been moved back into 00:54:00Detroit and they had built a new stadium, football and baseball stadiums.
So it was a flop, but I remember in St. Petersburg, it's still there, I thinkthe Marlins play down there now, but for years, it's been a great dome to utilized stadium, because they didn't--it wasn't used a lot for conventions and things and that's really what they mostly use for convention type activities, you got a major league franchise, like a particular like football teams, it may pay ten or fifteen games in there, you got ten or fifteen dates failed, but you got your other 300 days of the year you to do something with, so you do it with conventions and so forth, that surely would have carried it.
So anyway, I never convinced Richard until he had a consultant, we pulledtogether sort of an advisory group of businessmen and consultants told them the same things they were in total agreement with me and so they settled on that, 00:55:00(inaudible) do a dome stadium down at the convention center. The corporate community came together behind that, now there were difficult hurdles to overcome like, first of all, it require the constitutional amendment to do that project, how we were going to get it out the legislature.
We wanted a Jefferson County only vote, we didn't want to vote it on thecountywide, in order to do that, it had to pass the legislature without a dissenting vote and all of that and we did. That was a major accomplishment, but clearly we were only able to do it because the corporate community really put the pressure on the legislature and so perhaps, maybe one time in history something that significant comes out of Alabama legislature, nobody would vote against it, everybody either voted for it or abstaining, one way or the other. 00:56:00
So that put us in business with it, now we hired consultants with some of themarketing, the people had have criticized our marketing, people have criticized the fact that the MAPS project had an advisory committee, which was going to have an executive committee that included the majority the membership of corporate people and not elected officials. But elected officials were going to be in the proposed executive group.
But of course the opposition used that to also help to defeat the project. But Iguess we never got across to people, we tried in the end, but first of all, MAPS first and foremost and economic development project. It was something Birmingham had never had, and it's a sizeable economic development project that creates literally thousands of jobs, just in construction and then after the 00:57:00construction phase would create a less number of jobs.
But it would make us competitive, we never convinced people that this is a jobcreation and the qualities of life starts with jobs. If folks don't have jobs, they can't have a good quality of life, if they don't have jobs, they don't pay taxes, they
don't pay taxes, we can't build good schools, we can't have fine recreationalfacilities, we can't have all of these good things we talk about what we see in other cities and wonder why we don't have them.
We have to make an investment and so had ask people to approve the maps projectwith the one cents countywide sales tax, either 25% of that tax was to go for a transit system which was going to be countywide. We tried to hammer that home towards the end, but we didn't succeed. We also, the second thing in maps was 00:58:00important about maps the people never really understood and it was quite frankly a back doorway to promote intergovernmental cooperation.
Because under maps program, we set up pools of money for the police departmentand the way it was structured, all the police chiefs had to sit together and determine how we were going to use that money, we put in money to have a countywide communication system, throughout the county, one communication system that would be paid for by the maps money. All of the crime fighting programs would have had--instead of having 30 some odd different crime fighting programs, with every police department having this program.
Under the maps program, using as a magnet to pool the money generated by mapsthat set aside for public safety, all those police chiefs had to sit together and plan together and implement the programs together. So it was a way to bring 00:59:00about cooperation, you had to do the same thing in every area, whether you were talking about parks, even for the schools. They say there wasn't much money; the schools' is only $75m (inaudible), that's true, but that was more than the school systems here in the county were getting from the state.
The state was (inaudible) $500m bond issue, but when they got through spittingthe money up among 120 something public school systems, we didn't have anything. But it even made the superintendents had to plan together, the fire department had to do that, so the other thing we were doing sort of--as I said, backdoor way, we were forcing some intergovernmental cooperation, which is badly needed here and we were starting it on a regional basis.
And maps would have done that, because of one of the conditions we had put inwas that, we set aside the pool of money for these different projects, but the 01:00:00advisory group (inaudible) has to be the chief officer in that particular area from each one of the governments and that's what we were doing. But anyway, it failed, the opposition attacked us, first of all, Scrushy was attacked, we're building a stadium for fat cat who (inaudible) to build his own stadium (inaudible) second thing was (inaudible) grabbed by King Richard in Birmingham, because Birmingham was going to get most of it, the dome stadium was going to be in Birmingham.
I got some very critical letters from suburban reps and from the mayor ofTrussville wrote me a letter like they used to--I thought they wrote back in the
1940s and I still have that in my file, in which he said all kinds of negativethings about Birmingham and why is it--they come to the crime center and ought to call it crime dome and a number of things. 01:01:00
They riled the people up and so by the time it came to a vote, quite frankly, itwas suburban/inner city issue, it was a black/white issue and all you have to do is look at the outcome of the votes. In the city of Birmingham, especially the black votes, there were boxes there were 70 something percent voted for maps. But in the white boxes, even in Birmingham, we got only about 20 something percent votes for maps.
And in the suburban areas the turnout was terrific, I mean the large numberpeople, more than voted in a presidential election, voted in the suburban areas and they voted 99 against maps and of course that killed it. Now you know, during the post-mortem on it, people say all kinds of things, but in my opinion, Birmingham is just a city that's consultant after consultant, national 01:02:00consultants have told us through the metropolitan development board, the chamber of commerce, Birmingham is just a city that's just adverse risk and change.
It does not want to venture out enough, to take the risks that other cities taketo do things, that we have too much of a status quo city and I think our history tells us that. If you look at the where Birmingham was among the major cities in the southeast and going about 1948 and then you look at where we are now, you know that the other cities are doing some things economically and otherwise that we're not doing and they're doing it better than us and they've surpassed us. (Talking already in progress)
LEMONTE: You framed the discussion of maps partly in the context ofintergovernmental cooperation and you spoke about Birmingham being a risk-adverse city, I assume you mean the metropolitan area as well?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, I speak of the metro area well.01:03:00
LEMONTE: My recollection is you are one of the very few public officials who hadsaid over the years that you would support a consolidation of local governments where some major restructuring of local government, there hasn't appeared to be a base of support for that, what are your reflections in what have been your experiences with governing the central city of a rather fragmented metropolis in what do you see as the possibilities in the short-run for overcoming some of that fragmentation, if there are such possibilities?
ARRINGTON: Well, sub urbanization has been the very destabilizing force forBirmingham, which is a major city and so-called mother city in a city and the reasons are fairly
obvious, we've lost most of the middle class suburbs and with it, gone a lot of01:04:00the jobs and so forth and even though we have worked hard to create jobs and have been very successful in that area, we still, sub urbanization- is still a problem for us because there is really no cooperation for example, the city of Birmingham, it's lower per capita income, compared the suburbs, still provides most of the amenities (inaudible), the botanical gardens, we are a major governmental contributor to the symphony.
Going on we the one government (inaudible) to provide air service for thisten-county area. And the affluent governmental (inaudible) Vestavias and the Mountain Brooks, their governments did nothing, contributed absolutely nothing. They enjoy all the benefits of going to the symphony, (inaudible) cultural 01:05:00things. That's an inequity that should not be allowed to continue to exist now, just in the sense of not only fairness, but the sense of what it takes to keep a metro area viable.
I've tried to diplomatically point that out to a number of the mayors. We justcould not continue to do this by ourselves and that we had a much lower per capita income than their cities had and yet their governments are contributing nothing to these amenities which absolutely essential for viable metro area.
Of course, we did not get very far with that particular argument, I haveparticipated in a number of conferences or groups like 20/20 has sponsored, but 01:06:00elected officials from metro and the talks are always good, but it never gets beyond that. I think for many suburban governments, there is also a political problem that they see and they feel that cooperation with Birmingham and somehow, it threatens them politically because their perception is that is not the thing, that the overwhelmingly majority voters in that area was (inaudible).
There are some fear (inaudible) who would talk about threatening the quality ofthe schools in the suburban areas and the possibility at some point, there may be a forced merger of Birmingham's schools significantly less quality than the suburban schools. That argument is perhaps the most frequently used argument 01:07:00that I hear.
But the truth is and I think--of course there is political argument, suburbs areeven in the legislature are represented by republicans, Birmingham is represented by democrats, there is the racial gap and the legislatures from Birmingham are black and those from the suburbs are white, white republicans, black democrats, a black inner city, a white suburban area and all the old problems that we have struggled with related to race over the years, still played out in some ways and even in these discussions, because politicians by 01:08:00and large or not, most of them are really not great leaders, they're not risk takers of that sort.
They're busy sampling there to find what their people want, they don't get outand lead; they sort of follow what the people want. So we just have not done anything except talk about it, it's been some ongoing efforts. I've tried about two years
before leaving office to push the concept of the metro service districts, whereeverybody would be protected, but I tried to push to get the local chamber of commerce and the metro development board to support efforts in the legislature to create metro service districts where legislatures group, maybe several counties or whatever the natural dominance or metro area together and call that a metro service district. 01:09:00
And set up a board of representatives and they provide whatever services thatpeople in the district voted to them to provide and of course voted to pay for and we cited the area (inaudible) as an example, the chamber and other groups even sent committees out to look at to see what had been done and places like that and we cited a number of other examples, but he had gotten nowhere with the metro service district.
In fact the time I was scheduled to make the presentation at a chamber breakfastfor the metro service districts. I think the chamber reps started was not going if they ever stood any chance of selling that I was not the person to sell it quite frankly and while they didn't want to offend by asking me not to do it, 01:10:00they did maneuvered, I forgot John's name, but anyway, he was a southern research man for many years--
LEMONTE: John Rouse?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, they got John Rouse and they presented a program where JohnRouse was to speak and I was to speak and John Rouse would talk about what southern research institute, a fine institute, but what research they had done on this issue and so forth. And of course, it went down--he made his presentation that morning, I spoke afterwards and I said nothing about it, but clearly I knew what was driving the way it was done, but that didn't matter.
The good thing was that if we could sell the idea of metro service districts,that way--and then I had thought maybe with John Rouse saying to them, you don't 01:11:00have to worry about your schools, unless you want to do schools, everybody in the district would have to vote if you're going to do something about schools. But anyway, to date, it still hasn't caught on and I think we're suffering because of it, in this entire metro area, that's why other areas are outgrowing us, we're competing for economic development against the Charlottes.
Charlotte is carrying out metro-wide cooperation without any legislation,they've had a group studying in it and making proposals, but they have consolidated things without that and have still have not, they've had stuff in the legislature didn't have a group, they still have not taken a form of a vote, but they've gone ahead with consolidation.
A (inaudible) is moving because Davidson county has a metro form of government.Jacksonville took off, these are cities that, even when I first got on the
council, didn't outrank Birmingham economically or otherwise, but now has passed01:12:00us by. Jacksonville, Florida's metro government, it has one school district and so it doesn't have to deal with fears of folks worrying about the quality of education, they already got one board of education and one school district.
But here in Birmingham, we still have all of those problems and you can aroundthe country and sight a number of metro areas, where there is good regional cooperation, even through a metro-form of government or through some sort of intergovernmental agreement, they worked together. That gives them an advantage when it comes to competition, when competing with Birmingham.
What we're here in the Birmingham area, when we compete for jobs what have you,quite frankly there's only one government, that's really out on the forefront fighting that. Now we have the help of the metro development board and some extend to chamber, but for a long time, you have to remember, up until maybe five years ago, the major funding for even the metro development board was coming from the city of Birmingham, not from other cities and not from the business community. 01:13:00
Thank goodness that has change in the business community has now stepped in andplayed a much more active role in funding the metro development board. I'm at the same point, I just reiterated that, the suburban areas who have been getting the growth and much of the growth is just not been regional growth, it's just been a redistribution of jobs and things, they just moved folks out of the inner city, so to speak, or the central city out to the suburbs and so they said, "You know we're growing."
That hasn't always been the case (inaudible) some growth, but you look at yournet growth in terms of what was happening in the region. Regional cooperation is a serious problem and we have to--it's a negative for us. It's been pointed out to us by the every--the metro board brings, and the chamber bring in a 01:14:00nationally known economically development consulting group.
They bring them in there four or five years and tell us what we ought to do andthe problems are and how do we compare with the dozen other cities in the region and they tell us the same thing every time, you know they compare where we are in education and all of those areas with those cities and then they tell us the same things, we gotta improve our education, we've got to venture and takes some risks, they strongly endorse the maps program and things of that sort. But we just haven't been able to succeed in getting people to understand that and--
LEMONTE: And you're not optimistic about major change in the short-run?
ARRINGTON: Unfortunately I'm not, I just do not see it, there are some peoplewho are working hard on it, but you know, the 20/20 project, I think has been 01:15:00wonderful bringing people in, have a lot of input from people and one of the criticisms of the
maps program, was that it has been put together by a small group of folks andhadn't had any input from other areas. Well they got a 20/20 program going now and I think they had plenty input from maybe a ten-county area, folks have said this is what prefer.
I don't anything coming out of it quite frankly, you've got to find out aboutall of those things they're talking about, you gotta find out where do we get started, where do get a hoe. And you really won't have the major impact if you want to deal with some projects, I mean if you want to just deal with bike trails and hiking trails and making sure they run from county to county and we did that on the maps too, we did things like that.
That's fine, but it's not going to generate any great economic impact and it's01:16:00not going to change a whole lot of things, and people just have to face up to that. We now have the zoo, it's now semi-privatized, and I mean, three governments--four governments, the county, the city of Birmingham, Mountain Brook and Homewood.
I worked on that years and years, I finally pulled it off, but only because ofthis strategic location of the zoo and the fear about what's going to happen if we indeed in ever succeeded in moving the zoo to a new site, had been proposed two or three times. Homewood was very concerned about what was going to happen and Mountain Brook was very concerned that hundred and something odd, or two hundred and something odd acres of property out there that the city owned that we would probably sell it to some commercial developer and so forth and it would interfere with quality of life for those suburban communities.
And that's what eventually brought them to the table and we were able to hammer01:17:00out some agreement where we turned to zoo operation over to the zoological society and we (inaudible) to operating expenses for ten years. So I hate to be so pessimistic, but I just don't see anything happening, the attitudes have not changed. We couldn't people to see the tremendous impact of having a countywide transit system, a true quality convention center with a domed stadium in it.
Just to look at the economic impact, how many jobs are going to be created if wetry to build the transit system, the facilities, build these trails, building new Olympic swimming facilities, so all of this-we could never get them to look 01:18:00beyond the ways we didn't do anything and what social problems they imagine, these things would pose and we gotta stop being a status quo metro area, that's all I can tell you.
And I don't know how we do it, I mean sit around and I mentioned all of thesecities that passed our metro, I look at Chattanooga and that's a destination site, Birmingham is not, so we're obviously not doing something right and we're just not cooperating and planning together.
LEMONTE: Your political career is often linked to the Jefferson County CitizensCoalition, could you talk about its history, how it was organized, what it did 01:19:00and your thoughts about the coalition as, at the time you left office in it's continuing role in local government.
ARRINGTON: Actually it's an effort to get the leverage; black political supportfor an upcoming bond issue is how it really started. I think this is was during the Vann administration, but anyway, we were about to vote on bond issue and I looked at past bond issues and voting on them and it's very obvious that bond issues that have passed in Birmingham in the last ten years-since the mid-60s anyway. 01:20:00
I had passed because of the support from black voters and you could not find awhite box where the issue had ever passed except for building a jail and I saw that right away, that's not to say that no whites voted for the bond issue, it's just when you took the box as a whole, there was a predominantly white box that everyone had voted against it, they were much more conservative about it, they voted against even when we said there were no new taxes involved, we could issue the bonds using the current taxation, they still voted against and so all of the bond issues that were passed and we had several that were passed and there were significant efforts to do things from street, public and (inaudible) improvement 01:21:00projects and libraries and things of that sort.
They were passed on the strength of black voters, now also on bond issue Inoticed right way that only about 20% of the folks had bothered to vote period on the bond issue at the turn out was always small. So anyway, noting that, I called a meeting, I was a council member at that time, but I called a meeting with all the black political civic leagues and group at 16th Street Baptist church and was very pleased that there was a super turn out and (inaudible).
And I talked about having an umbrella group of civic leagues and politicalorganizations and often the black community, which set forth a group of goals that we wanted achieved and the economic development, if we were going to 01:22:00support the upcoming bond issue, we had to have a commitment from the city Birmingham, black contractors and so forth were going to be guaranteed involvement of participation in projects.
We asked the late Oscar Adams, who later became a Supreme Court judge, asked himto be one of the speakers, he went before the city, he along with Walter Jackson and some other small committee and made our pitch for involvement in exchange for support.
But we also decided in that meeting that we ought to go to the county and saythe same thing to the county and you know the county was not--the government was not having the bond issue at the time and we did that.
So we started out well, the city of Birmingham, we were well received there, theblack vote was very pivotal in the bond issue and I think they recognize 01:23:00
that. They appointed a committee, in fact the reason I can't tell whether Davidwas--'75, this was '76 probably when this is happening, I think he may have just become mayor. But anyway we got a committee; I know Vann attended some of the meetings with the black groups committee, down at 16th Street Baptist church.
Vann, Russell, Yarborough, I don't know who the third person, but anyway, we metand we talked and of course, there was general agreement, nothing binding or ironclad, but there was general agreement that we would definitely see that the projects were carried out or implemented with the bond funds which included black participation, I mean there was an essence what we did. And that was good, but in the meantime, what was happening with the black groups except the David 01:24:00Hood who headed up, an attorney who headed up what was then the most influential black political organization called the progressive democratic council, in which was in arm of the Alabama Democratic Party, became disenchanted with because I had chosen Oscar Adams as the chief lead spokesman to go before these different groups and that's what they said the problem was.
And the reason for them--that Oscar Adams was a republican, he was one of thefew black republicans, blacks were always (inaudible), but Oscar had come from a republican family, Dan had been a republican way back and so their family were republican and the democrats all of a sudden-the black democrats didn't like the fact, the fact what they did was invite me down to it's now best western, but it 01:25:00was a holiday inn at that time, at the civic center.
And there I met Bernice Johnson, who was a member of that group, I was a memberof that group too, but, David and I think they had already decided they were going to disassociate themselves from this umbrella group, which we were just loosely calling some sort of coalition at that time. My proposal to them had been at the outset that the progressive democratic council will continue to be the political arm, and but we would empower the council more because all of the black civic group, the black community as a whole would be speaking only one voice.
And I thought it was a great idea, I thought it was ideal quite frankly and as Isaid, at the meeting, they bought into and we did follow up meetings, but soon, I'm called to this meeting at lunch one day down there with this committee and 01:26:00they tell me that they're unhappy because Oscar is speaking and I said, "You know it doesn't seem to me as that important, we're talking about issues that transcend these political boundaries." And they said, "No you know we're democratic and we don't want a republican."--but I think they had really decided to get Bell out.
And so I said, "Well where do you want the spokesperson?" And they really didn'twant a spokesperson; they wanted to tell me--a nice way of telling me that they were pulling the organization out. Now this hurts us because, we don't have a political arm, we got a group of folks who are voters and influence other voters, but we don't have a political organization, that gets out there and puts out the sample ballot, does the political advertisement, because they are, not only were we attacked
quietly by the black progressive democratic council, but Vincent Townsendattacked us through Ed Gardner, he called Ed Gardner and Ed relayed it to me, 01:27:00but it worked well for Vincent, and said, Ed, the Birmingham News had carried a story about out meeting and this umbrella group and says, "What is this happening, I thought you were the leader."
When y'all make Arrington the leader and I think several calls to Ed, that ledhim to call me and he bailed out for the council and he called me and he told me what Townsend had said and I said, "Rev. Gardner, you know that's just a divide and conquer tactic." But when he called me the second time, he told me the Alabama Movement for Christian (inaudible) Christian Movement, the human rights, what ever this group was called. They were withdrawing from the pack, from that coalition pack. And so it's just like I mean it's the efforts to try to hold folk together, it began to fragment and I got in a fight with the progressive 01:28:00council from of which I was a member and they had been supportive of me when I ran for office.
But I was pushing for them to support younger blacks, Ronald Jackson, believe ornot, (inaudible) legislation, they didn't want to support him, Jeff Germany was getting to run for something, it may have been the city council and I got up on the floor and I made the argument about the need to bring younger blacks in. But they weren't very open to that because they felt they had been tilling the field and the younger blacks hadn't been coming to meetings and all.
And so we had another extend (inaudible) debate about that. All of these thingscoming together and I finally decided that I would take what was left of that umbrella group and we would become a political organization also, in 1977 we 01:29:00incorporated Jefferson county citizens coalition. And immediately eclipse the council as a major political body and we did assemble it by networking with the neighborhood association president, civic league presidents and all of that.
Ministerial alliance, black ministerial alliance and all of that. And so thatthe Jefferson citizens coalition became a very influential group in the 70s and the 80s because it had a strong black voter base, it has some semblance of unity and although most of the ministers and a lot of the presidents never were card toting members of the coalition, but they were strong supporters.
And they implemented whatever we recommended, where the sample ballot, theypushed it, they pushed through the churches, they pushed it through (inaudible) 01:30:00organization, many of our members were neighborhoods presidents and of course people that got to be neighborhood president, because they were influential in their neighborhoods and so when they came from the coalition meeting and said this is what we're going to do, the people followed him.
And so from that we built an organization, our people were thrilled at theBirmingham News writing stories about how powerful we were and I was warning
them all the time, look they're setting us up for execution, they're going tocrucify us, they're wanting people, you better watch this group because they had started calling us the political machine, well you know, they were (inaudible) very gleeful over that, you know, here's a black group and we (inaudible) powerful.
And I was saying no, you got to understand, what they're saying to people youbetter watch this group, you get a political machine, political machines are not good, you know, well, that's what they were doing.
To the extent that the black vote determined the outcome of issues. We were a01:31:00force to be reckoned with; certainly when you dealt with a city where it was a majority of vote was black inside the city, we were very influential for almost 20 years, no question about the influence. But nobody ran in this county, nobody but a few people, particularly democrats even ran statewide without seeking the support of this group, because the center of black political strength is here in Jefferson County.
I mean it's a predominantly black belt area, but quite frankly I noticed a longtime ago when count up all the votes in the black belt, you don't have that many vote, every vote count, but the center for black political thing is first to all Birmingham, second is Mobile and then Montgomery. 01:32:00
So I had that organization when I ran for office, the coalition was there andthe fact that I was a founder of it and initially I was founder of it, I was the first president and then I became the mayor, I think that also added to the statute of the organization and brought more people in and brought greater support, I think that was a desire among black voters to see the first black mayor succeed and the coalition became sort of the mechanism through which we worked, that made us influential.
It also helped me to withstand some of the battles, because I had a solid coreof black supporters, I was not as vulnerable to negative news reporting and so forth as a political would normally be, because I had a strong base. I think 01:33:00that some political observers and some of the journalists thought that was bad for Birmingham because they see the news media as watchdogs and you have to have something that puts some fear and caution in politicians and one thing is the media writing about them and stirring the folk up and I think they began to feel Arrington doesn't have to listen if he doesn't want to because he got in his pocket enough votes to keep getting him elected.
And I think that always bothered people, but the coalition's been good, as wegrown older and many of the people in my generation, we've gotten old, some of the key people have died in my generation. The young people have come in and organization, numbers-wise every year we issue--if people want to pay a ten dollar membership fee, we issued some four-hundred and some odd cards every year and 01:34:00
we have some seven day people who attend coalition meetings every last Saturdayin every month, that continues.
But the organizations are not as nearly as active, first of all, in the earlydays people were excited and they got out they worked, they worked in neighborhoods. You couldn't believe the kind of political organization there was in networking. In recent years we have to pay people to work, people have gotten accustomed to seeing blacks in office and blacks on boards they accepted them.
Very few people will volunteer, we've distributed ballots, we would mail themout, but if we go door to door with them, we have to pay somebody to do that.
If we follow the old pattern, the coalition started a pattern of standing01:35:00outside the polling places handing out sample ballots; we would just inundate the black community with sample ballots. And even though we would put one at every door or taken them to all the churches, distributing them on Sundays, we would still, on election day, put two people outside of every black polling place handing out the sample ballots, I mean just inundating everyone. Of course eventually all the other groups came on and started the doing the same thing.
It sort of creates havoc at some polling places, folks get out in their six-seven different folks handing them sample ballots. Now we did all of that, the coalition-we took issues on little things, things people don't even know, the W Clemons case, being a federal judge, being tried out in--not tried but under grand jury investigation out in California, the coalition played a major part, I was down vacationing in the islands in Jamaica.
My wife called me telling me the FBI was at the house and they had to find, just01:36:00because the grand jury wanted me out in Los Angeles and so I had to cut short my vacation, come back and go to Los Angeles and go before a grand jury on the matter of some questions about EW Clemons, that had grown out of some things his sister had been involved in federal funds.
I saw that grand jury doing the same thing I've seen other grand juries do, Ithink the prosecutor--they were just--you got some top lawyers--it just didn't look good. In fact, one of the grand jurors came out when I had finished my testimony, a young black guy from Los Angeles, he followed me out and he says, "I'm so glad you came you, you know."
You're the first guy who came here and really spoke for this man, because theydidn't know how--they can really do you in I mean, the government has a lot of power. If you had a girlfriend, they had done all of that, they brought in 01:37:00everything, all the money you had spent, which hotels you stayed in, I didn't have everything (inaudible) they can paint such a picture.
But what we did, we had came--the coalition hired three attorneys here, I'mtrying to think of the name. But anyway, we hired three attorneys to begin
looking into the EW Clemons thing, they helped and we began looking especiallyat the investigative methods that the FBI used. I had learned from that and we learned first things like, they had gone to his church and he had left his briefcase there and they got the old janitor, the janitor opens up and lets them in and they go through his briefcase, I mean they did stuff that was just illegal and that happens.
And we documented all of that and we raised a bunch of issues and we entered01:38:00that to Washington to Al Gore and had him to look at it, he was Vice President and he was so concerned about it, he then went to the judiciary committee and from that, they went to the justice department and from there, the justice department informed the prosecutor that the US attorney out in California to drop it. I mean that's not a story we had (inaudible), but EW knows that is a fact, we have it documented.
And we got involved in a lot of that I mean, when the whole thing about blackelected officials started, the strong suspicion of how I got to be a target eventually down the road was a fact that we called together the first groups of blacks from all across the state to form a group to protest the harassment of black officials and of course the coalition was in the forefront and I was asked to be the chief spokesperson.
And we put together the reports and followed them and that went on and on, the01:39:00coalition did things like that, we then formed a statewide group today we've been kicked out of it, but it was the new south coalition, I was the founder and the president of the New South Coalition. I did that because young blacks from across the state like Michael Figgers, Hank Sanders and all came to my office had been encouraging me to pull together a group.
I didn't want to do it because Joe Reed was seeing it as a group that was goingto be a competition for his democratic council, so anyway, we done a lot of those kinds of things. The organization still goes along, and it survives, it is not as effective and it just constantly the target of attacks because people know it's a popular (inaudible). It is the white media and the white community certainly viewed it as a negative and I don't understand all the reasons, why 01:40:00except I think any group that teams blacks together politically, it creates fear in a lot of the people in the white community.
And when the white media is also telling them this group was this, that and thispowerful and I think people get worried about where power is. Then over the years, erosion occurs, you can't support everybody, you support some people and you help the win the office and then later on you have a difference of opinion with them and you help to defeat them.
And so your enemy gets (inaudible) and you find out eventually you're beingattacked by former black elected officials, by the whites and so forth after a while they carry out a campaign to discredit the organization. On the coalition,
even today, they get to the point, I'm not going to support the coalition peoplebecause people handling, say the coalition, they created all the stalemate of 01:41:00city hall, they do this, that and the other, it is interested, you know, but that sort of how the organization continues to work today.
LEMONTE: You mentioned membership of around, was that the membership when thecoalition was at its peak as well?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, it might have been a few more frankly, all of us kept theorganization open, even today, we'd let anybody come in except media, I mean we have guest. We try to be a very open organization. We kept it open so that people who did not want to support, say a slate or a position we took on referendum, was free to support anything else or if they're working on a campaign, we set up rules where all you had to do say, I'm already committed to this candidate and I'm going to work the campaign and tell us that and therefore you participated on the political action committee under the debate about 01:42:00whether or not to endorse.
We did a lot of things; we kept it flexible enough in hopes of keeping peoplein. We started letting a lot of people in it, people like Lee Loder who was one of the founders, but he left us a long time ago once he ran for the county commission and we supported Ruben Davis and he's never forgiven us for it and today his son of course sits on the city council and it's just interesting for me as I look knowing the history.
But the attendance has always been good and even today as I say, we get 400 andwhen something is going and you don't pack the place, 100 and something folks would show, but the truth is that most of them don't worry. A lot of the people who worked hard are old now and they don't get out--they can't out (inaudible) they can't get out and do all of things they used to. They can't walk all over 01:43:00the place and do all of that and the younger folks, they saw that we were paying people to do and so nobody does anything unless they get paid now.
And these are the kinds of things that shape and it needs frankly, you know itneeds new leadership, a new infusion of leadership and it needs to done and it's got to be somebody who excites people. I excited folks, not because of my personality, but because I had been elected first to the council and I had been the spokesperson quote for the black community on police brutality, which the black community understood and I got elected to be the first black mayor.
And although I don't have the great personality, but the point is I am the firstblack to do these things. And so I've become embraced by the community, if I then have an organization one way to become visibly supportive of me and to associate with me and if I had a particular strength is that once I've dealt 01:44:00with people closely, a one-on-one I mean, they found something they liked about me and they became sort of loyal to me.
And so I was that kind of catalyst for that politically building quite frankly,many of my detractors were hoping by the time I left office, once I left office, the coalition would be no more, the coalition was dead because, for them the coalition was Dick Arrington and few loyal falls and so we've been tested, see what happens.
We really new another start arise that bring folks back, particularly youngfolks back because young people (inaudible). Do we need to have team politics, should elected officials be independent, they get confused. They think because 01:45:00we hand out a sample ballot to folk, that's insulting, when in fact, all over America, they're handing out sample ballots, the Birmingham news and the post herald (inaudible) slate area election, but when we endorse a slate, our critics convince folks through talk shows and so forth, that we're a political machine trying to tell them how to vote and how dare we hand out sample ballots we think folks are not intelligent enough to know how to vote.
While the Christian coalition passes them out at the churches now by millionsand vote all over the country, it's a whole lot of political games people play, but the organization can't remain viable unless it can deal with that and offset it and that's what we're needing to do but we really need young blood to do it and step forward.
And so we're going through an interesting period of transition and everyelection, particularly every city election, for right now, is almost a 01:46:00referendum of the coalition, everyone of them. And people standing by hoping to kill the coalition candidates on every hand.
LEMONTE: What was the process of determining who would be on the sample ballotthat of coalition issue?
ARRINGTON: We had a political action committee put together by the president andsubmitted to the body and body proved it. We would let, we added people according to what the body say and that committee did handle what ever screening candidates we did, a screening of issues and then by vote of that body, we'll bring it back to the whole body and the body votes on it.
Now even within the organization I have to say, we have had very few fights,we've had some cases where we had, I can't think of the dentist's name, he came in, this happened with politicians, folks decide that they're going to run for office, they come in and join the organization, that's no problem, you can join 01:47:00our organization and fill out the card and next month the committee comes back and the body votes you in, they haven't turned down anybody.
LEMONTE: Any white applicants?
ARRINGTON: We got one white member, just one white member, the guy who runs theEdwards furniture company, he was at the last meeting, I haven't seen him. But just one white member in that group, at one time we had about three or four, but now we're down to one--.
LEMONTE: But never had a problem accepting more if they had chosen to do so?
ARRINGTON: It's just been seen as a black group and it's been a group that'sfocused largely on so-called black community problems and I think that sort of circumscribed--a membership I was speaking to some point, I don't if you remember what it was--
LEMONTE: The process, the selecting of those who would be endorse?
ARRINGTON: That's the way we do it, now once in city elections, once we went to01:48:00districts, what we did we made sure that the so-called political action committee that does the screening, that we have district committees and then they bring in district 6 (skip in tape) once you're endorsed we do the sample ballot, we mail it out and we distribute it, we buy the radio advertisement, we run radio ads on your behalf and we run a phone bank on your behalf.
And at area elections we run a citywide transportation system and it's a prettygood organization and when it's working, it's outstanding.
LEMONTE: Did you regard it rubber stamp, which was the way the media frequently01:49:00depicted it, that if you went in and express preference, that almost became the result?
ARRINGTON: I didn't regard it as that, but I don't think that was far from thetruth, I think that the members of the organization were anxious to follow my leadership. Sometimes I remained quiet on issues as they debate them, but once I spoke on it that was it, most folks felt they had to support it, but I think that was true, it's changed somewhat, but it hasn't changed totally, even today, because they got a lot of younger folks in there now.
But I would tell you the older people in there, they are still the same way,they want to know what I have to say, even when I was the president, (inaudible) the first time I stepped down and then (inaudible) became the president and then Louis Spratt became the president. Then we tried to make Linda Coleman, but the men in there wouldn't accept a woman as president, I think that sort of broke 01:50:00her heart and gave her a sour taste about it because she had been a hardworking organization and we still don't have a woman president, the women have to secretary and things like that.
ARRINGTON: We're still an organization, so but even today the older people claimtheir old ways of thinking. We've tried to bring in young folks in a lot of places, I mean, take for example, people don't know how I fought to get Hank Nelson on the
school board of education, the arguments at the coalition--and we had controlbecause we had some coalition people who were loyal to us on the council and therefore we could control those board appointments.
The arguments about Hank Sanders was, they didn't like him--
LEMONTE: Hank Nelson?
ARRINGTON: Nelson, yeah I meant, he hadn't been here, what does he participatein? I never seen him in nothing, he live over there in the white community on 01:51:00the Southside, he's not one of us. We're arguing that--what we must do to strengthen the black communities is to reach out to these young people who we struggle or educate, their families spend their last penny to get them educated and so forth, we got to bring them in circle, at least help those who we think got leadership abilities.
But you had a pool of good community workers who have been around a long time,who felt they had paid their dues and they needed to be elected, that would pay off for them, they wanted to run for office, well we don't want to endorse anybody for city council who is not already recognized in his or her community as somebody who's been doing something there.
Well unfortunately when you look at that, it sort of condemns a lot of the young01:52:00folks because they're not the ones that go to neighborhood association meetings, they don't get elected president or officer, they're not there. And the only time they will show up at those meetings is when they're running for offices. And still the folks saying well, where have they been and that really has shaped endorsements and look of things a whole lot, like who gets on there, because people say, well Mr. Sams, so and so, she did, well she's good enough to be the neighborhood and she's (inaudible). That's who we ought to be supporting, this guy is from Harvard, MIT and he's a nice fellow, he might have great potential, but he ain't been coming to the meeting, I mean that really goes on, now how we change all of that, I don't know, that's why I think they young leadership coming in, we'll probably change it and it may be necessary for the organization to survive.
LEMONTE: You mentioned the coalition responding to the creation of districts,01:53:00when you first ran for mayor, the council was elected at large and then the change of districts occurred, I guess in the early 90s perhaps--
LEMONTE: What difference did that make for you as mayor, particularly in termsof the city council and its relationship to you and how do assess overall the moved districts?
ARRINGTON: Well I, first of all I was never really for the move of districts,let me say that, because I just thought giving Birmingham's history, districts could only create more division, we had reached a point in Birmingham where there was about, black
and white votes were almost equal and when you run city wide, you couldn'tafford to ignore the problems in either group and that was one thing that was overcoming the racial division. 01:54:00
We got to a point in Birmingham, once the Voting Rights Act passed, that youhave--and you're running for the council, you had to assume a moderate position, because you have to draw votes from, you had to get white votes, you had to get black votes, I mean that was just a hardcore facts.
And that was good for Birmingham I will tell you the truth, because it was abridge builder for Birmingham and it was a moderator for the politicians in Birmingham. So I never wanted to see the city go to total districts, even though I knew the law and I think David had argued the one man, one vote kind of thing and it's good.
But for Birmingham, I think it was good and I still, even today feel the sameway about it because people are just different. Politicians respond to those who get them elected and what have you. I'm sure that my--first of going to 01:55:00districts and the changing makeup of the city's population, the growing number of blacks and black dominance in numbers within the city's on the city's voting roll, made a difference for me, it helped me with projects, it made me stronger politically as a mayor.
But the truth is that when we were even at large and when my first two or threecouncils that I worked with were majority white councils. And I don't think I had any difficulties getting programs passed, in part because I had served with them, I knew them, I had one fight with Nina and Betty, but just before left council, but before that I didn't. 01:56:00
Because I worked the same way with those councils that were predominantly whiteand during that time, there was a council election every two years; I worked the same way with them as I sort of worked with this group. Also I had--they had to consider the fact that there was a strong black vote out there that they also depended on. And I think my political style of dealing with them was one where I didn't push them or what have you, I kept them informed, I consulted with them a head of time about programs I wanted to push and tried to be persuasive that way so when I brought it up, I knew I had the support.
I think they were very mindful--you know sometimes they get angry, they fault meon things like a theme park and all that. But generally speaking I think if it was something they could swallow and thing was good for the community, they went along with it, also being mindful of the fact that there was a large black vote 01:57:00out there, which they also in part depended upon, which they knew was very supportive of me.
The other thing that happened was once we went to districts, that gave someindependence to whites that they did not have by independence I mean from the political pressure of a black vote. In fact the plaintiffs in the case that we settled in that district, make no secret of it, in their what ever they documented brief, they clearly stated in there, that a major reason that they wanted to go to districts was because of the coalition and they wanted to get rid of the dominance of the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition and they stated that it mattered not with them, it didn't matter if they only got 1 person that represent (inaudible) coalition could not be--. 01:58:00
LEMONTE: So the plaintiffs that were claiming that were minorities discriminatedagainst were in fact white plaintiffs?
ARRINGTON: Russell Yarborough started pushing a council, remember aftersomebody, I don't know---after his defeat or somebody--and as I said, they just didn't make a secret of it, they put it in the brief it's all written out. So it didn't change the racial makeup of the council, we were 6-3 at the time, when it was at large, had gotten to the point because the growing black vote and the movement of whites out of the city, it was a 6-3 racial breakdown, remains even today as 6-3 racial breakdown.
I thought it was going to go 7-2 this time, but when they got through drawingthe line, it's still the same. So it didn't change the racial makeup of it, but 01:59:00it changed the behavior in politicians, because it became district-oriented, not city- wide and of course a lot of the division crept in and the fights and so forth and of course it accentuated black/white thing to a degree and then the blacks were by and large coalition folks, endorse by coalition in most cases, at least 5 or 6 or so always, but brought in all of the problems you have in a political setting.
LEMONTE: The thinking of the plaintiffs was if there were whites that wereelected, they would have to gain the endorsement of the coalition and then would be the part of that court machine?
ARRINGTON: George Sibyls was also one of the key folks who had always been in a02:00:00mind that you know, I (inaudible) too powerful, he had never forgotten the fact that I played a role in his defeated and he had never forgiven me for that and all of that. And he was very active in that group, but they said we wanted to elect some candidates that are not controlled by the coalition. Even though now candidates are controlled by the coalition because the coalition has controlled (inaudible) influence of the black voters and you can't get elected, even whites can't elected today without some significant black support and who control that black support, the coalition.
And under the Voting Rights Act you know, we think we're being discriminatedagainst because we don't get fair representation as minorities. And it they 02:01:00stated something in there that even if we only get one person elected whose not influenced by the coalition, it would be worth it.
LEMONTE: You ran for mayor five times, did the nature of your campaigns changeover that period of time, or did you retain basically the same campaign style?
ARRINGTON: It never really changed, I had broad reception always in the blackcommunity and stayed that way, except that (inaudible) gets you (inaudible) no matter which community you're in, you get political enemies and detractors and so whereas the first two or three elections, I'm winning about 60 something percent of campaign, it drops down and you start winning like 57-58 and when I was leaving, I was probably winning 54% of the vote and even though the votes 02:02:00were black, it changes generations and all that get to be a part of it. But my campaigning didn't change, I even went to--.
LEMONTE: I believe we stopped in talking about the change to districts and thenwe were talking about your campaign and the changes in your campaign style over the times that you ran for office?
ARRINGTON: No, I think the campaign style remain essentially the same,(inaudible) ran for office, I got an access the second time I ran, maybe to a broader audience. But I the style didn't change, I remember going out in a more conservative areas of the city, in the eastern area, I go during the campaign 02:03:00for reelection, to go before their screening committee, Mr. Blackburn had made sure that I got before the screening committee.
They had a huge screening committee, I must have had about 50 people on thecommittee, they had pulled in people from all over the eastern area, a few of whom I was familiar with some of the attorneys downtown. And so I went out there well-prepared at least a challenge then, and so I carried with me a list of every public improvement project that had been done by the city during my term as mayor and passed that out so they could check it off and they could not deny that we had given some significant attention to the eastern area.
And also sort of staunch the talk that they had been doing, some of them-- that02:04:00I did nothing for the eastern, I had no concerns about that area, but when I put the list--and they went down the list, and it was a long list because we had done a lot of things out in that area, some major projects and they couldn't deny and I understand from talking with Mr. Blackburn and few others after I left that place, that it create a little division, they had a serious debate as to whether or not they were going to endorse me.
Now that would have really been an achievement and a triumph at that particulartime, to get an endorse from this political action committee representing the eastern area. They just finally concluded, I'm told that they just couldn't that,
people wouldn't understand, but at least they didn't deny that time, that I had02:05:00done some things that were important in that area.
But my style stayed basically the same, I never changed it; it was dictated inpart by the neighborhood structure we have in the city with neighborhood associations, there were few other groups that provided for them. I had a televise debate in the second campaign with John Katapotis, that was carried by local television. That was about the only time I had gotten on TV in a campaign, I never used any television for any of my campaign, that was sort of part of what we thought was a campaign strategy, (inaudible) radio ads and things of that sort and then printed material.
But the style as far as I can recall really did not change, I probably campaign02:06:00hardest the last time I ran, I was under the stronger attack and about what was being done in the city and so forth and as I had learned earlier, you do have to remind voters of what things that have been done because you can achieve some big projects, projects that are important for them, you get those accomplished and people tend to forget them.
I mean you can put in, the neighborhood that's been flooding for 50 years andyou can go in and put in 5 million dollars worth of sewers to stop the flooding and after a months they forget all about the fact that it was ever flooded, so you have to campaign and remind people of what's been done.
ARRINGTON: I don't think my campaign style changed very much.
LEMONTE: You spoke earlier about the fact that your very, very strong base ofsupport in the black community at the beginning sort of eroded over time as there were issues and disagreements among your supporters, so that I believe the percentage of the black vote that you received declined over time. What happened to the white over time and how do you account for that? 02:07:00
ARRINGTON: Well, I never got more than about 12% of the white vote, I probablygot the most white votes the first time I ever ran in 1979 and I was really never able to increase it, it sort of stayed stuck at about 10,11, 12 percent, except that I was under the grand jury investigation by the federal government and it dropped down to around 4 or 5 percent.
Well, how do we account for that, basically bottom line, I think many whitesjust really never felt comfortable with me and I learned over time that people don't really vote for people that they don't feel comfortable with, I mean you 02:08:00have to make them feel comfortable, I think there was another factor involved earlier and that was the fact that many whites in Birmingham had never voted for a black before, had a few whites to say that to me, who were commending me from
time to time about the job I was doing, but admitted to me that they didn't votefor me and that they never voted for a black, so that kind of voting behavior also, I think played a role in, but you know about the end of my third term, the candidate, there were no serious white candidates in the race.
I believe when I ran for my forth and fifth term, I ran against, my majorcontender was Emory Anthony and Emory was able to poll a large number of white 02:09:00votes, he got about 80% of the white votes and they came right back in the last election running against me again and Emory Anthony was a municipal judge at the time in the city of Birmingham.
And he came right back and ran against me the second and he still polled about80%, the first time he did it, I attributed his success with the white vote to a couple of things, he had a very strong phone bank being run by the firefighters and the FOP and they tax busters, a group called themselves tax busters and they were calling white voters on his behalf, I think a part of the message in addition to the fact that Anthony was, in their opinion, a better candidate for Birmingham was that they saw it as a way of getting rid of Arrington, who represented, of course machine politician and who quite frankly had never won voters. 02:10:00
I came into office as I said earlier, there were issues about police, minoritiesparticipation, all of those battles I fought and in the minds of some voters, I think there was a perception that Arrington is racist and he deals too much with race, he doesn't support the police officers and I just think over time with people running against me and to reinforce that kind of thing, whites just really--the majority of them were about--85-90 % percent of them just never were comfortable enough to support me.
Even some of them I think, who thought that I was doing a pretty good job, butthey just never got around to feeling that they could support me. I always claim that one major contribution I made is, that these voters wanted so badly to get 02:11:00rid of me, that they finally started voting for a black and that changed their voting behavior because they realize that the mayor was likely to be a black, given the way blacks and whites vote in this town and the make up of the voting roll is going to be a black.
And so they finally recognized that and after Bob McKee ran, ran a very weakcampaign against me, got about 30% of the vote, I think they realize they had to come up with a strategy and that their mayor was going to be a black at least for the time being and they had better try to find a black whom they trusted and wanted to support.
And I think once the people change their behavior, once they had voted for ablack, I think from here on and they've been able to do it, they did it for Kincaid, did it twice for Anthony, so we did see some evolution there in the behavior. 02:12:00
LEMONTE: Do you think it's possible that Birmingham might have a white mayor atsome point in the future?
ARRINGTON: I think that it's possible; yes I think it's possible. It's not goingto be easily done, but I think there is some whites whom, a few who could run a very good race and might be elected. I've had some people to talk with me about it and had some names tossed around and of course, one guy, his name is Lemont (jokingly referring to Lemont). And so I think it's possible, I think a white that already has some identity and it's positive identity and acceptance in the black community to be a very serious candidate.
LEMONTE: The media topic seems to me an important one and I guess a complicated02:13:00topic, radio, TV, press, historically white press, black press, but could you talk some about your relationships with media and the importance of media in shaping the political environment?
ARRINGTON: Well, my relationship with the media was never really bad, it wasn'tgood, but it wasn't really bad; number one, my personality and so forth just didn't lend itself to the media, I didn't have the flair that they usually find in politicians who loved the spotlight and who can give them good sound bites and things of that sort.
So I preferred to stay away from the media as much as I could, although I tried02:14:00when they requested to be accessible. I got interestingly, I got fairly good support from the media when I ran. I got endorsements for example, even when I won in '79, the big story there, a few days before the Birmingham news came out with this endorsement, was the fact that they were going to endorse, they were going to endorse me over David Vann and over the other candidates.
Mr. Vincent Townsend first apparently had agreed with his editorial committee,they had gone to him and they were just elated that he had agreed, in fact some of them leaked the word to us, I had learned about it and they were really 02:15:00pleased because they never thought that he would never do it. Well when the endorsement came out that, the day they endorsed me, came out in the newspaper.
What they did was sort of a dual endorsement, in the Birmingham News; I thinkthe post gave me an endorsement. The Birmingham News did a dual endorsement with David Vann/Dick Arrington kind of thing and I learned from the people who had been leaking the information to me, that Mr. Townsend had left the office early and was at home listening to the 5:00 news and one of the local TV channels, I think it was 6, ran a poll result and had me up around 40 something percent, which is what I eventually polling. 02:16:00
And had the closest competitors of somewhere around 15-20% and he picked up thephone immediately and I was apparently (inaudible) this guy could win and he called in and he them to change the editorials to do from endorsement meeting that he had approved to do a (inaudible) endorsement. But after that I got
the news in the post herald endorsement, sometimes they did it with slightreservation, but they gave me good endorsements, what did happen with the media, the daily papers was that, in the last two years, I think they sort of decided that I was having too much of what they call a cakewalk and so what they would do is like two or three weeks out, they would run stories on me and they would get like on what I had accomplished and not and they would get pretty critical. 02:17:00
One year they did a grading at one of those things and I was surprised how theygraded me down, you know, they were giving me Cs, Ds, Fs in areas and so forth, but I learned from some reporters that that was sort of what they decided to do as they thought it was time to try to make the races for mayor more competitive and they didn't like the fact that I was running the machine backing.
And so what they would do is bash me for couple of weeks on a series that theywould do, but they would still come back and put their endorsements out--but they would still endorse me. So I learned to get along with the media, my first term wasn't good, you know, I didn't understand, they gave me a honeymoon when I first got in there, they let that run for like two, a couple of months and then 02:18:00took out after me about some things, you know the gasoline truck that Willie Davis had released.
Two or three little items you know, they said I had some sort of mentalitybecause David Vann had taken the door off as some indication as to he had (inaudible) over administration and I of course had the door put back up. So they said I had a besieged mentality, so they gave me--after that that went fine I mean, (inaudible) deal with everybody, the reporting really wasn't bad, they always hit the coalition.
I had a rough time with the media when I had the organization the backingall-black slate of candidates. They tarred and feathered me on that one, but overall it wasn't terribly bad. 02:19:00
LEMONTE: And that occurred during your first term as I recall?
ARRINGTON: Yeah it was my first term and that was a big, big, big story. We hada situation in the coalition where we had some strong black candidates running and at that time, we still had a (inaudible) of people in the organization and it came down to Pat Davis whose pretty strong candidate, (inaudible) a very big fight in the organization, not a debate about it and the group frankly really split down, not permanently, but on that issue and what the two war agreed on was those who were for--Pat--we're gonna print dollars and put out-- include her 02:20:00on the slate.
And it would be all five blacks instead of four blacks endorse. And those whowanted Nina we printed some ballots and they could go out and campaign for Nina. We did that of course, but the big story was that it was an all-black slate and of course I recognize that, that was really for the coalition anyway.
It was not the right thing to do, but that was a good strategy behind it, goodpolitical strategy behind it because blacks were not so dominant in terms of voters at that time, that the black vote controlled, we knew that, what the discussion had been that the only way we were going to get a black majority on the council, was to convince black voters, now remember, we're still running city-wide for the council. To convince black voters to vote an all-black slate 02:21:00and out of that we thought we'd get three blacks elected. I think we had William Bell on the council and maybe Jeff Germany was on that, they had two blacks on there, it's before Bessie Estelle came on there I know that.
And so that was a strategy because the black vote was significant, but it wasn'tcontrolling and everybody had to run at large in the city. And so in a number of sessions with the political action committee people, decided that the only way we were going to get a majority is that we could somehow come out and get the voters to vote a straight black thing and out of that we'd probably get three.
Well of course the whole thing backfired on us and we were lucky that we got oneblack elected and that was William Bell, who was (inaudible) at the time, and he 02:22:00was reelected, but that strategy really backfired on us.
LEMONTE: You mentioned briefly, the campaign that occurred during a year whenyou were under investigation by the FBI?
LEMONTE: That's a long and complicated and I'm sure unpleasant topic for you,but would you discuss that and what your view is to why it happened and what its impact was you as mayor and maybe as a person?
ARRINGTON: Well the impact was powerful and terrible to be very honest with you,for me and for my family and really for a lot of people who supported and I thought even for the black community. Because the one thing black voters wanted to be proud of was a mayor and they didn't want mayor who was supposedly corrupt or anything of that sort.
That's one of the things that they had been proud of, dealing with me is that02:23:00they tell people that I was impeccable, my character--you know all of these kinds of things. So it was really a very difficult time, but now as to why it occurred, I don't fully know, but I have a whole lot of information on that.
At one point when the US attorney in Montgomery indicted three legislatures fromBirmingham, people have forgotten that, that's interesting. But they indicted EB McClain, Pat Davis, John Rogers, and Jim White, there was a white, so they indicted those four and it came on the heels of a lot of investigation of black elected officials. 02:24:00
Apparently was the occurring really sort of threw out the country and I wascalled upon at the time to call together black political leadership and political activists in the state to form some sort of organization to campaign against what we call harassment of black elected officials and I did that. I called (inaudible) we called and met in Montgomery at Dexter Ave Baptist Church, the church that was once pastured by Dr. King, right down the street from the state capitol.
It was well-attended and we had a news conference, interesting enough I had acouple of FBI guys posing as news reporters, when I got out of my car, they ran up and they started asking me questions about, it was a black guy, he was in the 02:25:00city jail for something and his close friend Willie Davis--I mean they started asking embarrassing things and they tried to harass me during the--I mean they didn't act like journalists at all, it turned out later I learned that they were the FBI guys, they do that kind of stuff.
But we went through that, we formed a group and I wrote a paper and we sent itoff to congress our report and we did some research and we talked about what was happening in Georgia, an investigation of Maynard Jackson by the FBI and his police chief, Eldrin Bell and we got that code and we got a lot of information and we complained that there was a plan for black harassment.
Well, it may have been that I was already targeted for some kind ofinvestigation at least, they looked closely at me, I just didn't know it. I learned-- and if not I thought some people said you know, the role I was playing 02:26:00as a spokesperson, certainly didn't endear me to the federal officials in there at all because I was attacking the federal officials. The local republicans had sent Joe Dixon to me before this happened, once when I was criticizing Reagan, after he got in office and this was around '82 or '83.
And Joe Dixon, who is a republican black newspaper, came to my office one day,to bring me a message from a republican--he said it's from the Republican Party, but they had a meeting over at the HUD office. And he said and the director was of course, I don't want to call his name, but he was the director of HUD and was active republican.
And they were very unhappy with the things I was saying about the president andthey had sent me some threatening messages, but I didn't pay any attention to 02:27:00it, I thought they were silly really, because I didn't think the republican party as a whole or anybody in Washington cared what a man down here in Birmingham said about Reagan. He's a very popular president, but these local folks were angry with me because I was criticizing him in the media and saying he was abandoning cities and then he had bailed out on us on that reverse discrimination thing and I was being very negative about it.
So that helps to build up the element (inaudible) Arrington's got to get his.Now then from a very reliable source, a person who once held a very high office in the state, came and wanted to meet with me and now congressman, Earl Hilliard and he told us that he had a female friend in the Mobile office for the US attorney general, and that she had informed him that there was what we call a 02:28:00hit list for black elected officials who were to be investigated and he gave us that list and of course I was at the top of the list.
William Bell was on the list, they had-it was about 10 of us on that list andthis official, a friend just wanted us to know, be careful because this is factual.
They had the meetings in the Mobile office and this is the list of the peoplethey are running investigations. So I had that information, then of course the FBI had come to see me once, but I didn't know what--I was nave.
About five of them came to the office to see me to ask about a building over in02:29:00the Ensley area that we had sold to James Parker, who had been a partner of mine, either had been or later would be in the funeral business. And I didn't even know the building had been sold to him. This doctor had given us this old building, I guess he was writing it off as a tax benefit for him and I had of course turned the building over to Bob Land, the handler of community development.
And we've been having tenants in it, we just had one tenant and that was on theground floor, there was a drug store and we never did anything with the building, the fact is the staff completely forgot that we owned it, even had the building. And as Bob Land explained it to me, James Parker who had this funeral home two or three blocks from the building came and inquiring about the 02:30:00building, purchasing the building.
And found out the city owned the building and he went up to communitydevelopment, I didn't even know he had been there and he talked with Bob and Bob then made a recommendation to us that we sell him the building. And of course we sold it to him on some very generous terms because when the man gave it to us, there was still an outstanding mortgage on it, but it was a very little--we hadn't been paying anything, so we sold it to him because eventually (inaudible) came back to the city.
That led, particularly the folk over at HUD, since he was handling this throughcommunity development, to file a complaint against me and eventually five FBI agents came to my office to talk with me and question me about James Parker, right after that (inaudible) Brown, who ended up really eventually years later, 02:31:00turning some evidence, making some accusations against me for the FBI, but at that time (inaudible) I had just really met, Willie Davis had introduced Brown to me, had introduced Marjorie Peters to me, they come here from Atlanta and I had Brown setting up an office here and of course, he wanted--I gave him the architectural work for the Boutwell project.
But it was also in the paper that Willie Davis, Charlie Brown, Rodger Hanson'sson, but we had formed an energy conservation group, but I had gotten clearings from the ethics commission and they had told me yes I could participate, as long as we didn't do any business in the city, I was okay and of course the business we had, we had a contract with Tuskegee energy conservation, one at Alabama 02:32:00State on energy conservation, a few of us at the time.
So anyway the FBI came to question me about all of that and they took notesabout the Parker thing and I sat there and talked with them, I didn't have anything to hide, I talked with them and they left and I just sort of forgot about it after that(inaudible) I have to tell you about and then somehow they all come together before they finally make that move.
A good republican friend of mine, locally, who had served in the legislature, Ishould not call his name, came to me, he had attended the Guy Hunt fundraiser at Houston Blount's home and he came after that fundraiser a day or two after that, 02:33:00he came to see me. And he told me that at that fundraiser there were a group of people there off in caucus and he went into it and he named them and they were very influential people and one very influential, very wealthy guy, we all know, was complaining to the other people that Frank Donaldson didn't have enough backbone to take on Arrington and raising the question about when was he going to do something about Arrington and so forth.
And this gentleman was concerned about that and came to warn me that-- that wasthe kind of conversation that was going on there and you know he just felt I needed to know. But anyway I still sort of ignored all of those things and I got 02:34:00to be, I thought a friend of Mr. Donaldson and where I went to see him, I heard there were some questions being raised, I said well, I want to cooperate with you, he told me that wasn't true.
He invited me to several of his workshops and seminars then he gave his numbersand says, "Anytime there's a problem you call me direct, whether I'm in town or out of town." Because by now, I'm hearing from folks that Bill or what ever his senior prosecutor is, criminal cases, Bill Barnett is going around questioning people aboutme and people are sending me word that--a couple of tax lawyers said that you--you're a crook, this, that and the other.
And then what really happened, I went to Mr. Donaldson, I had gotten a call fromsome people in Atlanta I knew, said there was a guy, he's a federal attorney 02:35:00named Barnett today and he's down here questioning us about you. So I immediately went over to see Mr. Donaldson and he assured all that. I said well they say that it's Bill Barnett. Bill wouldn't be doing that he said, I mean--he was so convincing that I really thought he probably didn't know what Barnett was doing at the time.
He sat me down and slapped me on the shoulder, took my coat and talked with meand we started talking about some other problems, somebody had fired a bullet through the window one night at the federal courthouse at his office and we talked about that kind of thing and again he reassured that it was nothing.
And they kept doing that and then when they empanel a grand jury and theystarted out by subpoenaing certain people who had done business with the city, 02:36:00the first one I knew about, was the people who had the concessions at legion field, the Yarboroughs and Robbie Yarborough came to office one day and said that he needed to see me and that he said that he talked with his attorney, he had be subpoenaed, he, his mother, and his brother.
They had to bring all their books and so forth to the grand jury and he talkedwith his attorney afterwards and that he was completely at liberty to diverge what had gone on before the grand jury, that the law had changed and by them going before the grand jury, could come back and say what had happened. So he came and told me that they raised a lot of the questions about whether that I or anybody in the administration had asked them for favors because at that time, we had gotten them to partner, we'd given them the contract, but they had to have a minority partner, they got a local black guy as their partner, I can't remember 02:37:00what T's name, we called him T.
But they questioned him extensively about that, and so they came to tellme--then they questioned them about Marjorie Peterson, had she been to--well I still didn't-I just didn't worry much about it. And as more rumors began to fly and more people were going before the grand jury, we started inquiring about what was happening, we were being reassured and even the committee from the business community--it wasn't about me, they had started saying that they were (inaudible) corruption at city hall.
They subpoenaed all of the records, a list--a computer printout of all of thevendors, going back for five years in the city. And they went through that list 02:38:00and cut out all of the black firms that we've endorsed and then they subpoenaed the records of the black firms, so then they had investigated the minority participation program.
And I don't how they had got (inaudible) soon, but you know I've been fightingbattles for minority businesses. I had gone to court; I had shut down some contracts I had been fighting with the associated general contractors, the whole (inaudible) night, I guess some people said that it's got to be corruption, gotta be kickbacks in there.
So that's what they were doing, they were investigating and they were justinvestigating corruption in the city hall, generally as they said and it turned out that they were really looking at the minority participation program and trying to find out what had happened. That's how we got into it, it was a (inaudible) drawn out
investigation because they didn't really publicly turned their focus on me untilclose to the end. 02:39:00
They said in August, when they were wrapping up the investigation--
LEMONTE: What year was that--?
ARRINGTON: I think this was '92 I believe, '92 or '93, I can't recall. I ran foroffice because all of this was timed just months before when finally turned on me, just months before the election. So it was '94, '95 because I was to run for office that fall, it was that August that they turned on me. Bill Barnett had called--by that time I had an attorney, I had gotten Donald Watkins as my attorney simply because a (inaudible) needs an American name (inaudible) 02:40:00appeared in my life all of a sudden.
I hadn't seen him since the first time I had run for office was in--it's likeyears ago (inaudible) now running for the fourth time. And he showed up at my house one night at 9:00, rings the doorbell, my daughter answers the door and of course he comes in and he tells me this horrifying story about when he was working for the FBI, he was in difficulty with them, in part of what he--they had reneged on a promise made to him.
He had helped catch the comatose people who tried to avoid taxes and he hadtestified himself (inaudible) seen in the paper. But he had been an FBI (inaudible) got him on taxes and then they put him to work and let him work off his situation before they tried him and so--and they gave him money and he other people and he testified against. But when he thought that he had done all they 02:41:00had asked him to do and he was going to get a lighter sentence--afraid, thought he was going to get probation, they apparently turned on him--they already then told him they had another job for him and that's when they told him he had to help them to get evidence on me and some other blacks. And that's a long story, but he wasn't lying, because he started taping them and later we got the tapes after he was killed--we got the tapes from his attorney.
Off his-some of his conversations with the FBI, where they were talking aboutthe black legislature, so he was clearly were not lying about it. But he had become very upset because they had given him money and first got him to buy a building out in East Lake, which was eventually being renovated and they still had cross from what was then Woodlawn Baptist church and they had sent him to 02:42:00talk with me and William Bell and others about getting it rezoned and all of this and they offered money to see if we could help to get the properties rezoned.
It's just an entrapment kind of thing and fortunately nobody had bought intowhat he was trying to do and he claims that after he was unsuccessful and yet, he had come to my office, before that he showed up one day at my office and (inaudible) calling Carolyn. I learned when he came to my house one night to spill
the beans on the FBI and learned that--he came to my office and it was verystrange, I hadn't seen Bob in I don't know how long.
He talked in circles and I got a little bit impatient and I try to be nice andsay well Bob I must go and he left and said that we would go to dinner sometime and I said fine. He came back a second time, he called, he came back, and he 02:43:00still was just talking about nothing. And (inaudible) said, "I want to take you to Cancun and all this kind of thing." And so the third time he called, I told Carolyn, don't let him in; I don't have time to be bothered.
What I learned when he came to my house, he had admitted and put it in a swornaffidavit a few days later, that the FBI, he was wired and they were sitting outside of the city and listening to the entire conversation. It's a strange kind of story, we later found out all of that to be true, because I got my freedom of information pack and most of that stuff is in there, some references to it.
So I don't know, but let me just sort of summarize this part of it. In August,Bill Barnett called Donald Watkins, my attorney and said, "Tell the mayor we have completed the investigated and we didn't find any wrongdoing on his part. 02:44:00He ought to be more selected about who his friends are like Marjorie Peters." But we didn't find anything wrong that he had done.
And I said well and that was August and it's late September and of course(inaudible) incident. We had been filing complaints with the Washington office and made some very negative comments about the Washington office and how inept they were and what they couldn't do and so forth. And Donald Watkins, my attorney wrote those up and sent them to the Washington office, so I'm sure that enraged Barnett and I suspected that it had something to do with furthering his plan to do something about it.
He had been telling a number of folks that I was a crook, he had tried to getsome folks to get me indicted in what they said about what was going on and I knew all of that. We had gotten affidavits; we had been fighting a bitter battle 02:45:00with him about folk who had asked to help create evidence. So interesting enough he and Marjorie Peters' attorney who were jailed--Chestnut from Selma, had a little spat. Apparently Chestnut, as a defense attorney was entitle to certain information about his client and what the charges were and what evidence was.
And Barnett did not want to release and so he says to Chestnut, "If you filed amotion with the court and insist on getting this, I'm going to name the mayor as an un-indicted coconspirator." And so Chestnut of course come straight from his office over to my office and tells me and I get the lawyer. And we say that guy is just bluffing, you go ahead and Chestnut filed his motion and two days after that Barnett named me as a un-indicted coconspirator, which he personally did.
I was an un-indicted coconspirator; he named me and a young man working for02:46:00Herman Russell, (inaudible) that young man's career. Eventually had to move him out of here and move him on up, but anyway, and that's when the attention eventually turned to me for 18 months, I was--the grand jury was investigating me and they investigated--it all started when I was in--I tell this story because there are so many pieces you have to tie it all together.
I was hosting the mayors of six cities here in Alabama. We had formed the(inaudible) group, the mayor of Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham, Dothan and Huntsville. And we had our first meeting in Montgomery and I agreed to host the next meeting here at the Harbert Center. And so they came for the meeting, I was at Harbert Center and shortly after lunch, we adjourned the meeting and I was 02:47:00headed back to my office in the city car and along comes Don Watkins' legal aide in the car and he's driving, he sees my car and he turns around in the middle of the street and I said, "What's happening here with Joseph and flashed me down." And so I said I'm just a block from city hall, so I'm going on the city hall.
So he comes and follows in city hall, and he tells me, he gotten a call from areporter at the Birmingham News guy still there--John--and John had told him that they had gotten a call from the US Attorney, well they got an anonymous call, says, "You ought to be judged, what ever the judge's name, courtroom at11:00." And this guy told Don's aide about this, so his aide went over there.
11:00 had (inaudible) Brown in there before the jury (inaudible) Brown had02:48:00signed some sort of document admitting that, of course he had evaded taxes for an x number of years and that he made payments totaling $25,000 to me on two occasions, it was a total of 25 and the jury had questioned him and of course they had laid it out clearly so that the media would pick it up because they had tipped the media off and so it hit the paper and that's how it--you know, I mean it was that kind of thing, they charges really hit me and as soon as they made public, they had done sloppy work because they, in the confession that he had signed--(Talking already in progress)
ARRINGTON: Going back since the day I had been in there and of course, we02:49:00immediately went back and got the logs and checked and there lo and behold the first date they talked about I was in Washington, in fact I was on the front page of the Birmingham News, a fundraiser being held for me at that Democratic headquarters in Washington with ambassadors from some of the small foreign countries sitting around the table and so forth.
And of course it wasn't a very popular thing, the newspaper reporter who did itout of the Birmingham news, it was sort of critical the way he did because the Arab American affairs council sponsored it. And they had put the fundraiser together for me; I was on their executive committee so it came out really slanted, I
think there was an influence of the Jewish lobbyist on the whole to be veryhonest with you about it.
But nevertheless, it was no question, I was in Washington that day for a coupleof days and it was on the papers. And then the next time, he supposedly made the 02:50:00second payoff to make to total of $25,000, we checked that and lo and behold that was when I had led the delegation to Israel and so of course, we hit back with that real quick and it just got nastier from there and eventually the grand jury, after sitting 18 months and looking at everything I had and subpoenaed everything, everywhere, all over the state, anywhere they could, it really turned out 6 months, they dropped the charges about my receiving money and then they turned on me at taxes.
And the charges they eventually tried to get me indicted was tax evasion, ittook a five-year period, pointed, said how much they calculated, they did what they call a personal--they look at your assets, you know what you list, so what 02:51:00they-- and I didn't know all of this at the time, what they do is like, if I made a loan from the bank, say five-six years ago, they would get a copy of what I said my personal financial worth was and then you come back later, five, six years later if you had done one again and they look at the difference between and then they would compare it with how much money you'd made and what your expensed must have been.
And if it didn't sort of balance, they would say you got some money some where,that you haven't reported and that's what they did to me. And the five years, one year, they said I got $20k or more than I had reported, another year $20 something thousand and then they got in the last three years I was getting like 80k, is what they claimed, that's what they actually claimed and that's what they were trying to get me indicted on.
And the interesting thing about it was that the numbers they had and the numbersthat my CPA had, we had almost identical, it came out almost the same, but their 02:52:00interpretations were different and we eventually prevailed on that, we had to go all the way to Washington with the head laureates in Washington, who had a hearing through their head's connections, they got republicans in office at that time and his former roommate at Yale, had enough influence in him, just to get us a hearing before the director of the IRS to hear both sides and there they determined that they didn't think the FBI had a strong case for taxes on me and that's what they told the US attorney. And so, anyway, the grand jury sat as long as they could sit by law in those 24 mos., and they finally returned no 02:53:00bill against me. There's a whole lot more to that story, but you know, it ended basically well, but it was a bitter fight and it still a scar from that.
LEMONTE: Aside from the impact on you personally and family and friends, how didit influence your ability to function as mayor and to campaign as mayor?
ARRINGTON: Well, I campaigned and I had to campaign that election, one of thingsthat make some people suspicious of the federal actions is the timing as I said, "this is-- election is October, this is late August when they indicted me, they don't indicted me but when the US attorney names me as a un-indicted coconspirator, which incidentally I later got the federal court to have it 02:54:00stricken from the records.
Because after it was all over, we filed a motion and went before judge Probstand to have my name and all those allegations and my status as an unindicted coconspirator, to get all of that struck from the records. And it was granted, it's a story most people don't know, but it was granted, but of course, it was your public official (inaudible). One public official said," We've been investigated before the grand jury, where do you go to get your reputation back, I mean because people are just suspicious of politicians in the first place."
I think I suffered from that, what was that question again?
LEMONTE: Your ability to govern.
ARRINGTON: Well, I just think it created an air of suspicion around, I meanpeople just don't want an elected official who is, most people think if the FBI 02:55:00is after you, you had to do something wrong, I mean that is just the attitude of most people. And a few people were--I mean I had few friends, I had (inaudible) Parker telling a (inaudible) that he just didn't believe, I know their character and I don't believe it.
But I tell you, very few of your friends would say that, they would scratchtheir heads and wonder you know, you must be (inaudible) so much. I just got strong support from the black community and the election was overwhelming, I mean they gave me a huge vote and so I won again by fairly 58--50 uppers, I guess it was a landslide.
I told you it hurt with the white community and then governing I think there wasjust some suspicion, it took a while before I think people felt comfortable. I 02:56:00think eventually that it sort of faded away, people didn't think about it. It's a great negative I think.
LEMONTE: You had talked earlier about the number of occasions where you wouldpersonally meet with business leaders and represent the city and make commitments on behalf of the city. During this extent of period of the investigation, was it more difficult for you to function with leaders in the community?
ARRINGTON: Well, not really, part of what helped me here was the businesscommunity. At Central bank on the Southside in the dining room (inaudible) president or CEO of that bank, was hosting a breakfast that I had with business folks and Dr. Birdie who was heading up the group and pulling the group the together, had informed me that some of the folks were concerned and wanted to hear what I to say about all this federal stuff was going on.
This is even before the grand jury informed that I was not a target of the02:57:00investigation (inaudible) telling me that, they were telling me that it had nothing to do with me that they were just going to city hall looking at corruption at city hall. So I had finally secured my entire package (inaudible) release (inaudible) information that just laid out the path of how long the FBI had been investigating me from the time I came in when they had labeled me as a national security risk and a sympathizer for the black panthers which really had me in the COINTELPRO, under the name of the 1600 black leaders that the FBI director had said had to be undermined and their reputation was destroyed and all of that and all of that racket and all of that came out in a year before congress.
I was surprised to find that I was one of those 1600 and didn't know it until I02:58:00got my freedom of information pack and then I was one when they sent the words out to the field officers that these were dangerous people and you had to do everything you can to undermine them, destroy their ability to lead. I was one of those folk and I learned that--but of course I had got that and then I found out that all--ever since I had been in office, they had investigating me.
And there in my file were letters from Frank Donaldson where he on two occasionswhere he had written and said they had completed the investigation on my name and me was bowtie, they had completed the investigation and that they had found (inaudible) two letters that in the file that I got in my freedom of information package, they didn't even read that--those letters, the letters just came from Frank Donaldson.
So I was able to use that, even with the business community, I did a chronology,started when I was in Memphis, of how many times they investigated me, how many phone tap messages, they had 400 and something phone messages, how many photographs 02:59:00they had, of course all of that's in there.
They've been investigating me, just ever since I had been there and I justdidn't know it. They investigated me on the track, they thought they had gotten a call once and said that Amerit Pizitz had paid me $900k to get their license for the race track out there, I was one of the members of the racing commission.
All of that was in there, they had--it turned out--I had no idea. But theyinvestigated extensively. So one year around the clock with four or six agents, and they claim (inaudible) doing the thing because there was many complaints they were getting, alleging that there was corruption at city hall, even in their freedom of information documents from the justice department, they said that.
But I think once you lay it out and people look at it, even folks who aresuspicious, they might conclude that this guy done something, but would also 03:00:00have to include these folks have really been going after this guy, I mean all of this period of time.
So I printed out and I gave it to the businessmen that morning at the breakfast.Nobody said much about it, I mean I got up and talked about it and gave him or her a copy of it and nobody said much about it.
Henry Goodrich made some sort of semi-unfavorable comment about the wholesituation about me, but (inaudible) Birdie then asked if some folks--said this whole thing is bad for the community, maybe we ought to send a committee to talk with the feds, the FBI and they did, Jimmy Lee from Buffalo Rock and (inaudible) Birdie and about 3 other people went and they were later assured, I mean when they went, they were assured that no, we're just investigating, this has nothing 03:01:00to do with the mayor, we're investigating what's going on at city hall, of course that all turned out to be false in the end.
So the business community, I think just had mixed emotions about it frankly, Ifelt very sorry for some of the people like Raymond Hubbard, because he had just done a--all of these rumors were flying and he was about to do a fundraiser for me, which was really breaking with, but position his dad had taken, he would never got done anything for me.
And Raymond talked with me and he said that he was willing to do this fundraiserand invite all these business people up as a summit. But he said, "I want to ask you about something." And then of course he asked me about these rumors going around and I assured him that there was nothing to it. And then you know explained that it hurt him if it were and he went ahead and did this fundraiser for me and later it comes out that FBI, the grand jury is really at me. 03:02:00
Although I had denied at first and the same thing happened with Richard Scrushy,that the day after they made the charges, they made the charges public and brought (inaudible) Brown before the federal judge, two days before Richard Scrushy was having a huge fundraiser for me down at the civic center in which he invited a large crowd and of course he gave me support, got up at the that thing and said he didn't believe anything the feds were doing and criticized it.
Of course they got after him, after they came down--the FBI came down andstarted questioning him, questioning some of his doctors, some of his staff, this is such crazy things, people don't know what happens. It is just wild, it is absolutely wild and I don't know--I guess I'm just blessed I didn't end of 03:03:00going to prison, I mean I did go to prison, but that was because I wanted to dramatize the fact that they were trying to get my--.
Once they found out we had appointment records for all of those years, they thenturned around and subpoenaed those records and I wanted to--I agreed to turn the records over, but I wanted to turn them over the Washington, to the office in Washington and not to the local folks and I just wanted (inaudible) Washington, the local folks wanted to take it and try to reconstruct their story about what I had done. And Washington then said, no, at first I had to turn it over here and when I
wouldn't turn them over here, Washington did agreed that, what they would do issend somebody down from Washington office and I would turn them over to Mr. Donaldson and the person from Washington jointly.
Well, we accepted that, but (inaudible) we also want Bill Barnett removed fromthe case and of course Mr. Donaldson who had been instructed by his superiors in Washington, offered agreement about how the records would be turned over, used 03:04:00the fact that we added to it, that we wanted Barnett moved as a way of reporting back to Washington that we rejected the offer, and Donaldson disappeared that day, we couldn't find him.
At 3:00, when I'm about to go down to 16th Baptist Church, where a bunch ofministers and other supporters are going to dramatize the situation by putting handcuffs on me and chains around my neck and march me down to the courthouse and turning me in at the time I'm suppose to support it--at 3:00 we get a call from Washington wanting to know what's going on, Joe Whatley, one of their attorneys and he finds Donald Watkins and they said, no (inaudible) went with this deal.
We all totally rejected the deal, well Mr. Donaldson really hadn't been honestwith it and then he disappeared, nobody could find him that day and he had sent 03:05:00all his staff home early that day because the demonstration that I was to be turned in, he shut his office down early that day. And when I get that information and then by the time I would get to the courthouse and I turn myself in, Donald Watkins walks in and said, "Dick you don't have to go to prison."
You know I just got through talking with the folks in Washington and we gottenall this straight and we agreed on records and they're going to send somebody. Well I couldn't stop there; I mean the people had marched me to city hall--
LEMONTE: Was this when you were draped in chains?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, they had marched me--I was draped, marched me to city hall,turned me over to the feds, I'm up somewhere up on 3rd or 4th floor, they put the belly strap around me, had me handcuffed, they were being nice, the federal marshals said they were supposed to put leg cuffs on me, ankle cuffs, but they were not going to do that, but the rest of it, got me sitting there and they're 03:06:00waiting--the crowd is dispersing out there and they're waiting and looking on through the cameras all around the building that looks at everything out there, so they're watching the crowd through the building, watching it disperse and they were waiting for--most of it dispersed before they put me in the van to take me down to Maxwell.
And in walks my attorney telling me that I don't have to go. And I just saidDonald, I can't do that, I have to go now, I don't want people to go home tonight at 10:00 and they've gone through all this and then I don't go to prison, so he said alright, so I went on to prison and we worked it out so the next day, David
Cromwell Johnson, Donald Watkins, Joe Riley, a bunch of them met with a bunch offederal folks at Maxwell, they brought me in, after I spent a night at Maxwell, and then we signed the deal about how the records would be turned over and later that day they released me from Maxwell.
LEMONTE: So there was an element of theater in--?03:07:00
ARRINGTON: Well, you know the whole was kind of dramatized, this is injustice,we got to dramatize it and so when they wanted the records, I said, "No I'm not going to turn my records over to these people." So that's when we wrote the letter to the US attorney in Washington and offered the turn the records over to them and it was sort of a whole lot of interesting developments.
LEMONTE: Did you ever receive anything that represented an apology from thegovernment for what had been done to you and to your administration?
ARRINGTON: No, never, the closest I got to that was that they had a youngattorney named Jack Sheldon who came in after Frank Donaldson was forced into retirement by age and Jack Sheldon came in (inaudible) initially took a strong stand in support of the investigators and the federal government and said he wasn't going to sweep anything under the rug.
He did begin to listen to our attorneys and what have you. And even the file of03:08:00issue after--even if we had gone to Washington with the IRS and their opinion wasn't binding on the US attorney they didn't think that there was substantial evidence to back up the charges of tax evasion. But all they could do is say that it was left to the local us attorney to decide whether to go forward and Jack Sheldon frankly had the courage not to and offended a lot of the staff over that worked for him, including, I think Mr. Barnett, who I've learned from other assistant US attorney, in a meeting had pleaded with Mr. Sheldon, just to let him go ahead and indict me and let the jury decide.
And of course that's a ploy because you know if once you're indicted before the03:09:00jury, it's no telling what will happen. But Jack Sheldon and I had never been able to thank him because one day--because I wasn't suppose to know all this that went down, but it all went down and Jack Sheldon, over the objection of Bill Barnett and some of the other folks, decided that there was not enough evidence to indict me.
And of course most people don't know that, they want to say grand jury indictsbased on what, in particular for a public official, you have to run into Washington and so forth, and then if they walk in try to get to the federal grand jury to indict you--and Bill Barnett was so upset that (inaudible) indicted, he refused to go back before the grand jury, he sent his assistant over there and dismissed the grand jury. I've started writing about it all. 03:10:00
LEMONTE: You are?
ARRINGTON: Oh yeah, I've started writing, I got the (inaudible) files on FBIstuff and I mean, (inaudible) files, I'm going to try to update my records in my writing to see what has happened since that time.
But I had all kinds of things, people who have come to me, they had a captain onthe Birmingham Police Department, they had spread every (inaudible) they could, really tried to entrap me, I got my file-they had been following me, they listed everywhere I was, they were able to describe it, they apparently had a camera, were talking into and they were describing everybody who went into the place where I went, like if there was a fundraiser at a club and everybody went in there, they described them, they took down the tag numbers of everybody.
They followed me for one for full year and I never knew it until I got myfreedom of information thing. And there it all was, they had followed me a whole year. I can't remember if it was four or six agents (inaudible) get special 03:11:00training for my investigation and they assigned full-time to me. And I couldn't--it's hard to believe, but it all happened, a number of times came in my office and two of these guys I got to know, I still have the business cards they gave and if (inaudible) name they used.
And I had Virginia Williams checking on them, she was my chief of staff, theyhad come-said they were from Huntsville and that they were in this development company and they kept talking with me about some land the city had that we had bought for a theme park and have a theme park built and they kept wanting to cut some deal with me.
(inaudible) If I were implying to try to cut a deal and get something formyself, I would have done it and they left their cards and all. And then we later checked their cards because they had to testify in a case over in Atlanta in another public official corruption case and here these two guys were and of 03:12:00course on the stand they have to give their names and what their fictitious names were. And these were two guys that been to my office talking with me, they had also been in with a group of agents from New Orleans, about six of them came, claiming they wanted to build something on that theme park land and that got to be a real magnet for investigation and I just sort of assumed this because somehow, Bob (inaudible) got involved in it but that gives you some since of what went on.
LEMONTE: Let's turn to the topic of the institute, this interview is part of itsOral History Program, but I think everyone connected with the institute would acknowledge that, without your commitment to it, this place would not exist. Could you talk about your involvement with the institute, what it has meant to you, what do you think it means to the community and I guess, along the way, 03:13:00perhaps address some of the controversies that surrounded the institute in opposition that it confronted?
ARRINGTON: Well, I'm proud of this institute, I think it's a fine facility and Istill think it has considerable of potential. It's slowly moving into that direction, I think it's going to be a repository. It's good for people who research certain issues, it's certainly has given us an opportunity to talk from our perspective about Birmingham and what shaped Birmingham and made Birmingham what it slacked.
ARRINGTON: Of course you know it's expanded to the fact that we put our humanrelation struggle in the context of human relation struggles that go on in many, many places in the world; so which I think it's really unique. So everything 03:14:00from the way it has been programmed and the direction is moving to the fact that we have a really first- rate facility that I think we've built for about $12,000,000 or $14,000,000.
You know I'm proud of it and I think people are proud of it, it brings a lot ofpeople here, this is a destination site for many people, from across this country and from many different countries and I'm proud of that and I hope that it continues to grow, because I think for academicians and other people whose studying human relations and human behavior and so forth have some aspects of it and we may have some things here that they would find of some interest, quite frankly.
So I'm pleased about it, it is also slowly getting a national reputation, it'sinteresting that in recent years, different places people have talked with me. 03:15:00Out of the state where I was, people have talked with me about the institute and how impressed and they went to this institute and it's the greatest thing. So we have to be very proud of it, it is interesting because it also ties into some problems we had with the federal government, quite frankly.
It came right out of the effort of this institute, in fact, the lady Ms. Peters,who was convicted for her tax problem, but convicted for taking money from the city, actually the allegation, I never really understood that she had beaten the city out of some $200 and something thousand dollars, it was institute money and I want to get back on, except to say, if she had been hired by the architectural 03:16:00firm, Bond Rider James, that designed this institute for us, as their local person and she was authorized to submit the invoices and she apparently submitted an invoice that they had not authorized as submit.
Now they returned the check to me and said that they had not authorized it andthey would get that straight, but anyway, it got to be a major issue in that whole federal thing. That whole idea of having an institute was David Vann's idea. It's one of the many things that we've talked about from time to time. David Vann said that we ought to have a Civil Rights Museum, as we called it then, I think or we referred to it as a museum.
It would sort of tell our story and so forth and so on. He talked about it and03:17:00it sort of caught my imagination too and he said he hoped to do it, but he had never,
in his four years, he never made any effort to do anything about it, but he justtalked about it, but he certainly sort of planted the seed in my mind and maybe in the minds of some other people, I don't know, but that's why I wanted to go forward with the Civil Rights Institute, because David had talked about what a great advantage it would be.
He had sold me on that idea and I will tell, even looking recently as I try toput down some things in a manuscript about my administration looking at the file on the Civil Rights Institute, I was reminded that, this goes back to the early 80s, we began talking about it in the early 80s, we got letters and so forth, so we talked about the institute, in the hiring of our architectural firm and I was looking at the contract we signed with the architectural firm and the first 03:18:00projection that came up was that it was going to cost us $16 million and I was writing them and telling them that they had to redo them, because that plan, before they got to work on the drawing, because we were only going to have about $10 to $12 million dollars and so forth and so on I think we probably ended up spending, I don't remember what it is, but $14 million on this facility, I think--but anyway, we hired Bond Rider James.
They did, I think an outstanding job with the design and tying us in with, ofcourse the site was the perfect site and I believe, I don't know whether I'm wrong here in giving David credit for suggesting that it ought to be on this site or whether it was some staff person or somebody. But we acquired the site because; you know the Sixteenth Street Baptist was over there.
We acquired with the intent of, of course, building a Civil Rights museum here.03:19:00The problem was, I think, we got the money from some city funds. We bought this property, I've decided that we would include funds from construction of the institute in a bond issue. We had $110 million dollar bond issue and including in that $110 million dollars was so many million--it might have fifteen million dollars for the institute.
And the entire bond issue was resting in part up on also, five additional millsof property taxes that people would vote on themselves. Well, of course, I was 03:20:00very disappointed because the bond issue failed, I thought I had done my work, especially in going to areas, going to black community leaders, two-fold purposes, number one, I thought they would be especially interested in seeing the institute that told the story about the Civil Rights struggle and secondly I knew that every bond issue that had passed since the mid-60s had passed on the strength of the black voters.
The difference here, which they had to put an additional tax on themselves. Andof course it failed and I had expected it to pass, quite frankly. Now there was opposition, I can remember hearing Henry Goodrich, the CEO of Sonat coming to the office and telling me that he and some other corporate people had met and 03:21:00they didn't think the idea of an institute was a good one and he brought with him a
clipping from the Memphis Appeal, commercial appeal, which he left with me wherethey had made an announcement that they were going to convert the Lorraine Hotel into a Civil Rights Museum and his argument was that we didn't need another one here and that it was not going to do anything, except perhaps, reopen some old wounds and so forth.
So it was some opposition to it and I think it might have pretty widespread, butit's always been that feeling among many people. Many people here would really like to forget that part of our history and not remind people of it and they think that when we do that, it's very negative for us.
Although I have to say that the last time there was the anniversary period forthe Sixteenth Street church bombing, our local media gave it wide, wide exposure 03:22:00in playing the whole history of it, so I was pleased to see that because it says at least you know some of the attitudes about how to handle these things are really, really changing.
But anyway, I was visible upset that it had failed and some of my supporters inthe black community came to see me because they knew I was upset and they were feeling sorry for me. And so they felt they didn't work hard enough and they really didn't understand how important it was and they said to me what they wanted me to do was run that bond issue again.
So I believed them and I ran it again and it was defeated again. And so I, beingdetermined to see it go forward, I had the staff to begin looking for other 03:23:00sources of money that we might use for the institute. And we came up with the idea of selling a building that houses the social security payment center for the southeast US, in which had been built by the public building authority and was eventually to become the property at--they owed a debt or something--it was paid off of the developer out of Memphis, but, a long story short, what I did was move earlier and sold the building to him.
And we got some of our money to start the part growing for the construction ofthe institute from that. And then we looked around other areas, we had some past bond issues where some money was left here and there and it was money that could 03:24:00be used--it wasn't designated specifically for the institute, but it was broadly enough designated that we could use it and so we just found a way to finance it, to get it going and we built it.
And we had, once it was built, we had a minority firm partnership between Mr.Harbert's firm, it's interesting that John Harbert would built a Civil Rights institute, (inaudible) the builder (inaudible) Russell, those two firms, joint ventured in building this facility. You know once we got it going, I think people sort of accepted it. I'm not sure how many people in Birmingham, who ever really visited the institute. I think enough people from outside of the city 03:25:00come. I haven't talked
with the staff yet about how much local participation there is, in terms ofvisitors here, although it's often times it's like for receptions and things of that sort.
The corporate community eventually decided that it was something they shouldsupport and they did a special fundraiser for it, I think it's for the endowment audit or something of that sort, but they did a special fundraiser for the institute. It's a very fine facility, it's one that I think we can be proud of, it's a fine institution here in the city and I'm pleased, I was just looking the other day, was pleased that we had the foresight to eventually acquire the entire blocks we got one block for the institute, we can do some things with it. 03:26:00
(Inaudible) interesting people, I want to do other things, I know the formerpastor of 16th St Baptist church wanted to joint venture with us on the expansion of their church in facility that didn't work out, but the point is, is that it is a fine institution and (inaudible) it as city and it extends outside of the institute into the park of what we call revolution and reconciliation theme, that theme there, it's an extension on what we--that thing that we carry in this institute. I'm pleased about it and I think as time goes by, more and more people will be pleased.
LEMONTE: But the Marjorie Peters involvement that clouded the institute proved03:27:00(inaudible) timeless really do to her relationship with the architect, it was not any appointment that you had made and it didn't involve her working with the city?
ARRINGTON: Right, Marjorie Peters had no contract with the city, in fact, in allthe times she's out, she may have gotten one contract, but when it came out in the media, of course it appeared that she was charged with defrauding the city of money.
Actually the city never lost a cent in there and I said that to Mr. Donaldson.We even got the state attorney general in and asked him if he would join the case.
Well Mr. Donaldson objected to that and said that he was going to recover ourmoney, because we had an (inaudible) what I--in layman's term called a lock and key kind of job. They wanted to design to institute--his plans which were acceptable to us and to see do as an architect, (inaudible) see if it's completed, they did all of that and we were to pay them a certain amount of 03:28:00money and did that.
We paid--all of our money was paid to them, now they had--with their employees,local employees with Ms. Peters, they did have, I know one flare up between Ms. Peters and that firm and also (inaudible) Brown, who was also associated with her at that time, but as far as I know, nobody lost any money and Ms. Peters had like contracts that they had with the airport authority and the newspaper played them out as if they were contractor that administration had given.
And even when Mr. McMahon, local CEO of the airport was concerned enough that hewent to the editorial staff of the newspaper and explained that those were not contracts I had given out, those were contracts she had gotten from the airport authority, they never really ever made the distinction. They continued to 03:29:00
call them city of Birmingham contracts and I really discussed this with VirginiaWilliams, who was chief of staff one time. And I really don't believe we ever gave Marjorie Peters any contract--
LEMONTE: Through the city?
ARRINGTON: Through the city, she got in on a city contract, that Cecil Jones, wehad given Cecil Jones and Cecil Jones used, for part of his minority participation on the program project, it had something to do with race track road and so forth out there. He used Marjorie Peters and (inaudible) Brown. But even then that was a problem, because Cecil Jones came to me and said that (inaudible) Brown had over billed him and that sense that would have been over billing the city for about $200,000 and wanting to know what to do and I said, "You got to get the money back."
And he did that and I guess it didn't make (inaudible) very happy, but we03:30:00recovered all the money, but I told Cecil it was his responsibility that we had to recover the money if he in fact could document that they had been over billed for the time and so forth. So it was interesting, I think people interpreted information, data and things in different ways. I guess there had been a lot of rumors going; something's must be going on at city hall.
I really thing some people probably failed on the outside and people associatedwith the associated general contractors in groups like that ABC and groups I was really fighting against. I think maybe a few of them began to get suspicious that this guy didn't really have a commitment to minority participation, he doesn't think that this is an important part of the city's program, it ought to be a city's commitment. 03:31:00
He's gotta be getting something out of this himself, I mean, that's what Ithink. I believe that's how the rumor started going and when I look at the freedom of information package and they--what they say several places in there is how many complaints they have received at the Birmingham FBI office by allegations of corruption of city hall. I began to think, it just had to be--it's a rumor mill going, I mean, frankly, I think that.
And so people began to interpret whatever information they got in light of whatthe rumor mill was and these investigators who trained to snoop stuff out and be suspicious of folk anyway, and they've been getting all these complaints and in my freedom of information packet, there are all these negative news clippings, they clip everything from news--they started an investigation based on the stories they read in the newspaper and all these negative things in there and I think the stage engine has been set for them, eventually coming at us on 03:32:00something, unfortunately it ended up being on this and involving the institute.
LEMONTE: We have covered a lot of specific topics, are there any specific thingsthat you would want to add to what we've talked about because I'd like to conclude with
some general reflections about the role of mayor and your personal inventory ofspecial successes and disappointments in what you think the city confronts is major challenges in the future. But I want to make sure there isn't a topic that you would like to have included in the interview that we haven't touched on?
ARRINGTON: Well, no topic cross my mind, I think we have been fairly exhausted,at least in terms of topics we touched on. So I don't have any--. 03:33:00
LEMONTE: As you look back over your entire lengthy career as an elected officialand public servant, what do you rank as the really rewarding successes from your point of view and what have been the areas of greatest personal disappointment for you?
ARRINGTON: Well, the success of the city and remaining economically viableachievement and guiding the city through a period of time in which there was a transformation or a transition in its economy. The matter of creating jobs, economic development, all of which I think are essential to a city. When I think 03:34:00about he fact that in 1979, when my administration took office, we were in the economic boardrooms and people were out of work and the unemployment rate was 20-something percent, still the industry was going down the drain here and elsewhere, the steel mills were closing and all of that, and where we've come from.
From that to--the city was not financially strong, didn't have money and soforth and where we've come from, from that time. In 20 years, we've come a city that--from at certain times was known and still is, I've seen recently, as one of the million-sized city where there are good job opportunities and one of the top ten at one time, hotspot cities, according to the national magazine, where 03:35:00there was significantly economic development going on. The whole economic transition, to be able to be leave office in '99 saying that the city of Birmingham has a largest number of jobs, in its corporate boundaries than it has ever had in its entire, any other time it's entire history.
It's something that I've considered to be a real accomplishment, now many, ofcourse obviously, sharing the credit for that, but I'm just--we did some things too, we provided incentives and we tried to be a catalyst for certain things and we tried to sort of keep the faith and confidence and always say to folk that we believe that we could do this and we approached a lot of CEOs who were thinking about moving, some of them are did and we offered incentives to stay here and we 03:36:00had some successes.
And so we, despite the problems with suburban migration and all of that, webuilt an economy, we built a strong financial base for the city, that's something I'm very proud of. I could say a lot more about it, the second thing that I see as an accomplishment is that we became, in my opinion, an inclusive government during our administration. And perhaps a mall for the state in that regard as I have said earlier, as it relates to race and gender.
And that's very significant to me because this was a city that was known for itsracial discrimination and as far as exclusion of people and did not permit people to compete even on an equal basis for jobs, really shut the door on 03:37:00people, particularly black people and really limited women to, the achievement of women might make job promotions, we changed a lot of that. And leave office and be able to say that we come from a city with 12% of its labor force, black and most of those blacks, the most menial jobs in the city to one that about half of its employees are black many of those blacks have supervisory responsibilities.
And that we have increased the promotional women and upgrading the women, we hada number of 27-33%, but some of it, I'm really proud of, I think that's an accomplishment and you measured those accomplishments by where you started from 03:38:00and what you had to overcome in doing it and we had a lot of tough battles and it dealt with some things that were very, very emotional, thing that people had deep feelings about.
Just the idea, we got blacks in supervisory positions, nobody thinks about thattoday. But that was a no-no in Birmingham for blacks to supervise whites, in fact I told the story of Sadie McCarter, who was the director of our emergency management program, civil defense program and the story she told me about her neighbor, who was very curious that she worked for a man who was black and Ellen Cole tells a similar story that tells about an elderly white neighbor she had who came out to her and said that, you know what is like to work for black man and I just mentioned that because people don't know how deeply rooted human 03:39:00behavior, some actions and thoughts are and what has been the customs and so forth in an area.
And Birmingham was originally segregated place where people clung tenaciously tothese concepts of class, race, differences and things of inferiority and where your place is. And we were able to build a labor force that we tell other folks to look and generally speaking, as far as governmental labor forces go, I think we have a good one, quite frankly, I mean you know, you got the government bureaucracy and all, but you can't get around that.
But we brought some quality people into city government. So I'm very proud ofthat, I could talk a lot more about it, but we'll just close that point out. 03:40:00Sadie McCarter had a neighbor where she lived, they would inquire; they were inquisitive about what it was like working for a black mayor. She said to me, I always tell them, I'm proud of you and I think you're doing an outstanding job and I hope you don't, but you just have to understand that we grew up and our parents used to say to us, when we were negligent or we didn't do our work well, or if we didn't do our studies, or we didn't want to do our book, they used to say, alright, one day you're gonna have a nigger for your boss.
And she said, "We grew up thinking, that was the worst thing that could everhappen to a white person, that a black person would be bossing them as a
supervisor." And she says, "Even today, there are still many whites that havenever worked in a position where there were black supervisors." So they asked about it and she says, "I just wanted you to know, I tell them how proud I am to 03:41:00work for you."
But included in all that, if you unravel it, it's again, the way people honestlybelieve what they thought--and I think really we've changed things more than we know. So I'm very, very proud of that. Those two certainly topped my list of accomplishments I think we made some other accomplishments; I'm always reluctant to talk about crimes. Crimes here have just been going up, up, up during my time, crime went down, but I can never explain the reasons for what happened to the crime.
I don't if sociologist--who can explain it. It's just something I thinkpoliticians can use to boast about when you get it down and my last few years were good years, in terms of what was happening, crime, the direction it was going. But those first two were certainly accomplishment. I still think what 03:42:00happened, the failure to provide some significant leadership for public schools, it's probably the biggest negative I had.
You know I can go in there and pick out projects that I thought were keyprojects that were going to push this city into a higher orbit and make it competitive, that failed. It started with like block 60 and maps and those were big disappointments, because they were intended to be major economic catalysts for the city and to move this city up in towards the forefront of the pack of cities of so- called large cities in the states, in the southeast, that we did our best, but we didn't pull it off and it's some disappointment about that.
LEMONTE: And what would define as the list of issues that the city confronts now03:43:00and in the near future, that are going to be the make-or-break issues for our community?
ARRINGTON: Well, I still think the whole issue of developing some kind ofregional cooperation. And it starts with just trying to develop something even in this county, intergovernmental cooperation, on a serious level. I'm not talking about just a joint (inaudible) but I'm talking about some serious economic development efforts.
I still think it's a big challenge, we've been very fortunate, and we've gonethrough some tough economic times to what have been some good ones. And the city has grown with it, I mean the economy has been good; we've been doing good. And even sometimes when the national economy wasn't doing well, we continued to do well. 03:44:00
We have generated jobs and so forth in this city, we still provide many new jobsfor this metro area. People who don't live in the city, but they work here and they come and they make their living here and that is due at least in part to the fact that governments here and city governments have really--well there's been no
other government including the county has taken the initiative that the city ofBirmingham has taken to try to carry out economic involvement and to try to create jobs in this area.
So when we've been able to do things like the success of the park out on 79Delmonte and Ogihara and all those are, I get great satisfaction, I know how hard we work. We competed with several other states and places for Ogihara, which is a supplier for Mercedes body parts and we got Ogihara here and it's 03:45:00expanding and it's got a bright future, it's going to create a lot of job for us still down the road.
So the challenge is to try to maintain the economic development, that's just onesaving grace we've had, is that even with the negative impacts of the suburban growth on us, we've been able to generate the jobs here, be economically sound to keep taxpayers in place, that is still an ongoing challenge, you got to have economic development because that is the very foundation upon which the whole quality of life will rest.
That's something we have to do and we have to be very vigilant about doing itbecause we are a city that's still in some sort of change here and we're trying to redefine the character of this city, we have got to do something about--of course we got to do something about education, public education and find ways to 03:46:00have our schools, public school system, to maybe joint venture, try things like what we talked--charter schools or things like that.
We got to find ways to improve education for kids, we got to find a way tochallenge kids in Birmingham school system and to help them to redefine expectations because I think part of the problem is that nothing is expected a lot of the kids and they give you what you expect. When you tighten it up and say you got to do this and more of them would do it.
So we got a long way to go to accomplish that. Housing is another thing that wereally must give some attention within the city. We had a time during my 20-year 03:47:00stint in administration where we were doing good in housing frankly, particularly low to moderate income housing, single family housing, we did some other family housing, but as the national policies changed and Mr. Reagan came into office and programmed funds dried up, few years after that, our pace of housing redevelopment, construction housing, renovation in this city has slowed considerably too. And so the city suffers a day from disproportionate amount of substandard housing and vacant lots, we've torn down houses, so housing stock is a real challenge for the city today, to begin to improve housing stock.
It's interesting that our economic growth has helped people, especially folks03:48:00who had been at the lower end of the totem pole, those who had some skills and so to help some of them move out, but we have not been able to provide the housing and the kind of schools they want and so we lose a lot of them too to suburbs and
so forth, to be viable we have to get a good housing program and we got to get agood system for education.
Some of that's a long road back, education thing is the longest road, but wejust must do it.
LEMONTE: You know what it's like to be mayor better than anyone else, finalquestion, would you reflect on the office of mayor, what is its importance in the city, in the metro area, what are the main responsibilities of the mayor as you think back over your time and what would you say are the characteristics 03:49:00that people might look for in the future for someone who could provide the leadership that's needed?
ARRINGTON: A mayor is a leader, the quality of a mayor's leadership differs fromthe other mayor, but that mayor is the leader. First of all, in a city like Birmingham and any other place, medium size and some smaller ones, the mayor's leader in all of them, but some places it's only full-time elected official like the city of Birmingham, he is a full-time mayor, he is the chief executive of the city.
He actually sort of sets the agenda for the city, he has to be the negotiator,he has to be the person who can knit together networks and cooperation of corporate communities, he's got to work so that the corporate community develops 03:50:00enough confidence in his leadership that they are willing to share some of the risk with him and to give him or her, what ever the case may be, some assistance in helping to define goals and actually often putting their resources behind goals.
The mayor has to be a mediator on a number of things, there are many citiesthere are always issues to me yet, the more diverse your population is also the more people problems there going to be. For mayors' respected, that mayor can be a good mediator if people trust that mayor. Some do it better than others, that's just the way it is, but that is the role of a mayor. There is a 03:51:00significant burden of leadership on the shoulder of the person who is mayor.
First you got to have some vision by what this city ought to be, you must bereal about where it is, whatever city it is. And take your city and you gotta have some dreams about where it ought to go, and some idea about how you might try to move it that way and how do you get people to follow and how do you get at least enough success, minimal success that people are willing follow and believe things are going to happen.
And that caused for putting a lot of things together and knowing a lot of peopleand people getting to know you at least well enough to believe that this person knows what he's done, he's got some sense of how things ought to go and he's worth working with. It is just really a good job particularly cities in America 03:52:00like Birmingham, cities with large minority populations and so forth, you really need a proactive mayor and in a lot of areas.
You must be proactive with your economic development program and things likethat, but you must be proactive with human relations kind of things to, you gotta be able to step in and head off things that could deteriorate and some of the negatives. And we had some of the experience; I think we were most successful than sometimes we knew, when I look back at some of the hot issues we had to deal with.
Some of the thing that some people think you ought to be criticized for and theycriticize you for it, sometimes some of the issues that help keep the lid on 03:53:00things. I mean I had to stay on the tight rope of, I needed the corporate community, I had to have a significant segment of it. The same time I needed that, what people called it civil rights, part of the black community, because we got a strong contingent of that there and potentially there's always conflict between the two.
And in a situation like that, the mayor's got to have support in both, you gottahave enough credibility so that you could deal with both and one of the things I've tried to do as mayor was to be credible with the Abraham Woods' and the others and that they believed in what I said and you know I could, by staying in touch with them I could sometime guide where they were going or what they wanted 03:54:00to do.
And at the same time, I had to have a corporate community that was willing towork with me to try to make some things opportunities available are better for people and who understood that I had to work with other people in communities, I think you have to all of those things. It's truly a challenging job, but it's an exciting job and I'm the one who was easily excited about things.
But when we accomplish things I got great, great satisfaction from it.
That's what kept me going and people could never tell that by looking at myface, because I've got that kind of sour face, but inside when we accomplished things, I mean I really felt great about them and it sort of fired me up and it kept me going to the next things. And I think that what good mayors have to do. 03:55:00I've tried to look at some of the good mayors in this country and got to know a few of them, not all of them, but in 20 years, I got to know some good mayors.
And I look at the Joe Rileys and folks like that and watch what they do and notonly their ability to plan, but also how they worked with people and the confidence that folks have in them and folks see them as their mayor and you know, it's that kind of thing. It's that gift of leadership that really outstanding mayors have.
I didn't come in with a lot of flare, but I came with really a strong desire,once I was there to do things that were positive and the willingness to work hard and I tried to make up for what ever shortcomings I had and you know the flare and all this, just-mayor has to do everything. You got to speak all the time. (Inaudible) but I got to speak everyday, you know it's an interesting job, 03:56:00but I tell you when I
sit and think about it, when I'm trying to write and I start thinking about itand it slowly comes together in my mind, it's amazing what happens.
LEMONTE: So you're glad you did it?
ARRINGTON: I'm glad I did it, I'm glad I'm out of it though (both laugh)
LEMONTE: Well thank you very much for your generous commitment of time to this interview.
ARRINGTON: Thank you very much, it's always a joy talking with you.