Wade on Birmingham

The Future of Birmingham: Regaining our self-esteem

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Birmingham panorama

Photo: Patrick Cain (CC)

Birmingham (click to enlarge)

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By James Spann

I have fond memories of Birmingham as a child.

The Future of BirminghamIn the 1960s, I lived in Greenville, but my mom’s folks were from St. Clair County. And when we visited them, a trip to Birmingham was almost always on the agenda. The city was truly magical. Listening to WSGN, the Big 610. Shopping for Christmas at the big stores downtown like Loveman’s. Hanging out at the brand new Eastwood Mall. Hopping on the rides at the Alabama State Fair at Five Points West. Watching Cousin Cliff on television.

Fast-forward to September 1979, when I started my Birmingham TV career at WAPI-13 (now WVTM). I was 23 and, somehow, Wendell Harris hired me to be their main weather guy at that incredibly young age.

A few months after I was hired, reporter Steve Sanders did a series called “Is the Magic Missing?” focusing on population loss, job market deterioration and a public education system that was faltering.

It seems like we have no self-esteem 36 years later, despite the wonderful things happening in this city.

I find it interesting that the same trolls who attack me during any winter forecast come out any time you say something positive about Birmingham. Ignore them; they aren’t worth my time, or yours.

People mocked Don Logan for moving the Birmingham Barons from Hoover back into the city a few years ago. It was a bold move, but it is paying rich dividends with record crowds.

When Trinity Medical Center moves this week to its incredible new Grandview Medical Center campus on U.S. 280, it is in the city limits. This is a huge positive for the city. [Editor’s note: James Spann has served as chair of Trinity’s board of trustees since 2005.]

Drive through downtown on a weekend, and it is buzzing with life. Loft living, new restaurants and stores, Railroad Park.

Is there crime? Of course. But crime exists in every Alabama municipality and county. Are there problems to solve? Yep. Biggest issues are fixing Birmingham schools and finding a good mass transit solution.

But the positives outweigh the negatives by far.

The future of Birmingham is:

  • People with a passion to make the city their home and a better place.
  • Focusing on the things that bring us together, not tear us apart.
  • Not being afraid of our past, but celebrating how far we have come.
  • The natural beauty in the foothills of the Appalachians.
  • Being the best place to raise a family.

And, most importantly, our future is regaining self-esteem.

I was honored to receive two major awards for a broadcast meteorologist. When I accepted the American Meteorological Society Award for Broadcast Meteorology at its 2013 meeting in Austin, I was proud to be associated with Birmingham at this international science gathering.

Same at the 2012 National Weather Association meeting when I accepted their Broadcaster of the Year award in Madison, Wisc. In fact, many asked me how they could break into our market and move here.

This is a special city with a bright future. I am proud to be from Birmingham and Alabama. You need to feel the same way. Let’s enjoy the ride back to being the Magic City.

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James SpannJames Spann is chief meteorologist for Birmingham’s ABC 33/40, joining 1 month after the station signed on in 1996. In all, he has been a TV weather anchor for 36 years.

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Read more essays in our special 10th anniversary series, The Future of Birmingham.

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