David Sher’s ComebackTown to give voice to the people of Birmingham & Alabama.
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Today’s guest columnist is Marva Douglas.
I was 12 years old in 1951.
Too young to vote.
But that really didn’t matter because even if I’d been an adult, I could not have voted.
Voting rights for Black people didn’t come until 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Alabama uses my tax dollars against me
But, in 1951, the Alabama legislature and its all-white voters added amendment 93 to the state’s constitution—an amendment that to this very day uses my tax dollars against me.
In 1951, a city bus was the transportation of the day. It gave transportation access to everybody. People could get to work in a timely manner.
School children could learn their city. Old folks (those my current age) could travel anywhere they wanted even though strict segregation laws meant all Black riders had to sit in the rear. Sunday buses took riders to the church of their choice.
That is until Amendment 93 was added to the Constitution.
In 1951, lobbyist interested in promoting automobiles and highways proposed and backed Amendment 93 which says all Gasoline tax dollars will go to bridges and highways ONLY! Not one penny to mass transit even though buses are a public service just like, fire, police, Mayors’ and Governors’ salaries. Public services and public servants are paid for with our tax dollars.
Alabama–one of only five states that provides no funding for public transit
According to Alabama Arise, “Alabama is one of only five states to provide no state funding for public transit, unlike all four of our neighbors. By failing to invest in these services, Alabama leaves millions of dollars in federal matching funds on the table yearly.
If public transit agencies in the state invest in new buses or vans, the federal government can contribute $4 for every $1 that Alabama invests. For other necessary public transportation expenses, the federal government can double any state investment.”
Federal government has allotted $400 million to Alabama for public transportation
Public transportation now has a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The new national Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act allotted Alabama $400 million over five years for public transportation.
It veexes me greatly now that, in my later years, in addition to paying car insurance, gasoline taxes, maintenance etc., I must pay rent for a parking space whenever I go anywhere except my garage. Amendment 93, angers me even more mainly because when it was proposed, Black people could not even vote on it. They weren’t allowed to vote on anything. Period.
I’m terrified to drive
I’m a terrified 82-year-old-car driver who drives among people who ignore speed limit signs, interpret double yellow lines in the road as, “pass old ladies’ zones,” or think to themselves, “Honk. She’ll move faster.”
Our gasoline tax dollars paving new roads, maintaining go toward old ones, painting new yellow stripes, buying complex parking meters and building parking decks. A better use of those funds should be to improve mass transit.
It’s time for a new amendment regarding taxes for transportation in this state. We need an amendment specifically for funding mass transit. An amendment everyone can vote on—most especially an amendment I can freely vote on while I still have the right to vote.
By the way, I’d love to sell my car, buy a monthly bus pass and ride a bus as my means of transportation. The monthly savings on car insurance, maintenance, and parking fees would be like manna from heaven.
Marva Douglas is a transit advocate, an actor, and South Central Bell Telephone Company retiree who lives in Midfield.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
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