2 weeks ago

Kay Ivey not attending gubernatorial debates

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will not attend upcoming debates in the race for governor.

A spokeswoman for Ivey’s campaign said she will not attend two separate GOP primary debates this month being hosted by WVTM 13 debate and al.com.

Campaign spokeswoman Debbee Hancock wrote in an email that Ivey has official engagements those days. Her campaign did not respond to a question asking if Ivey would attend any debate.
Ivey’s challengers are criticizing what they say is her unwillingness to meet them on a debate stage.

GOP challenger Scott Dawson said Ivey, who became governor when her predecessor resigned, has never been elected to the governor’s office and “owes it to the people to answer their questions.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said this week that it is important to share his plans for the state in a debate and invited Ivey to do the same.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 mins ago

Alabama monuments: Preserving our history to protect our future

Doing the right thing isn’t always politically expedient, but a strong leader does what’s necessary regardless of her critics. Governor Kay Ivey exemplifies this kind of no-nonsense leadership.

Last year, our state faced a difficult decision: should we listen to the politically-correct, out-of-state pundits or do what’s best for the future of Alabama?

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All across Alabama, we have monuments and statues that tell our storied past. Many of these moments have affected our entire nation and shaped us to be who we are today. History doesn’t just tell us where we’ve been, it often provides signals and warnings for how to avoid repeating past errors. As George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Nearly one year ago, I sponsored the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a law that protects historic monuments and memorials in Alabama from thoughtless destruction.

More specifically, the Memorial Preservation Act prohibits the destruction or alteration of public monuments older than forty years, and established a standing committee to hear waiver requests from cities and counties, while historic artifacts under the control of museums, archives, libraries, and universities were specifically exempted from the prohibition against
removal or alteration.

This law is the result of countless discussions with other legislators, historians, and interested citizens, and the intent is to preserve memorials to all of Alabama’s history – including the Civil War, the World Wars, and the Civil Rights movement – for generations to come.

We’ve seen a wave of political correctness sweep the nation, and too often, these attempts have resulted in re-writing of the American story. This politically-correct movement to strike whole periods of the past from our collective memory is divisive and unnecessary. In order to understand our complete history and where we are today, we have to tell it as it happened.

As a lawmaker, I believe it is incumbent upon us to preserve our state’s history, and I am grateful that Governor Ivey, in the face of criticism, stood up for the thoughtful preservation of Alabama’s history – the good and the bad. As father and grandfather, I am especially grateful she understood the importance of our children and grandchildren learning from the past, so they can create a better future.

State Senator Gerald Allen is a Republican from Tuscaloosa.

1 hour ago

Alabama working to become a top dive destination

Alabama already has the reputation as one of the best places in the nation to fish for saltwater species, especially red snapper.

Now, Alabama is striving to become one of the top destinations for divers to explore numerous wrecks, scuttled vessels and our state’s unparalleled artificial reef zones.

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The latest efforts to increase the awareness for dive enthusiasts occurred last week when the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) scuttled a 102-foot tugboat, the Gladys B, in the Tatum-Winn North reef zone approximately 22 nautical miles south of Fort Morgan in 100 feet of water. The superstructure of the vessel is about 62 feet below the surface. The Gladys B was built in 1937 and donated to the MRD Artificial Reef Program by Steiner’s Shipyard from Bayou la Batre. The reef site coordinates are 29 53.635’N and 87 56.071’W.

On the same trip, MRD deployed approximately 200 concrete culvert pipes to enhance the old Tulsa wreck and the Radmore Pipe Number 1 site about 15 miles south of Dauphin Island and to create a new reef site about 25 miles south of Fort Morgan.

The next steps in the plans to provide habitat close to shore that may also attract dive enthusiasts from all over the U.S. will occur offshore and within yards of the Alabama shoreline.

The nearshore project includes circalittoral reefs, sometimes also called snorkeling reefs, that can be reached from the sandy beaches.

Craig Newton, MRD’s Artificial Reefs Program Coordinator, said bids were opened for the circalittoral reefs at three Gulf State Park beach access sites.

At those three sites, 166 reef modules will be deployed to provide habitat for a wide variety of marine life.

“We’re going to create four clusters of reef modules within the three circalittoral reef zones,” Newton said. “We anticipate we will have more activity at the Pavilion reef site, so we’re going to create two independent clusters of reefs at the Pavilion site. We will have one cluster of reefs at the Perdido site and one cluster of reefs at the Romar site.”

Walter Marine of Orange Beach won the contract to deploy the modules in the new zones, and that should happen sometime this year, Newton said.

“We were able to secure some more funds for this project and make it significantly larger than what the original grant proposal covered,” Newton said. “We are excited about that.”

Newton said the reefs, which will be about 475 feet from the shoreline, will be marked by large pilings on the beach. There will be no markers in the water. Signage on the beach will describe the project and include information on what marine life snorkelers might encounter on the reefs.

The offshore project will be the deployment of the New Venture, a 250-foot surveying vessel, which will be ready for final inspection by May 2018. Newton said the original plans included towing the vessel to Mobile to wait on a weather window to deploy the ship. Those plans have changed. Now the vessel will be towed to Venice, La. When the weather allows, the New Venture will be towed straight to the deployment site about 20 nautical miles south of Orange Beach in about 120 feet of water. The top of the superstructure will be 55 to 60 feet below the surface.

“We look to be about a month away from completing the deployment,” Newton said. “We had some engineering models on how the ship was going to sink. We had to add a couple of bulkheads within the interior of the ship to direct water to keep the ship stable as it’s going down. We want to do all we can to make sure the ship lands upright. We don’t want it to roll over.”

Creation of 15 acres of juvenile reef fish habitat is also scheduled. Limestone aggregate rocks from 8 pounds to 50 pounds in size will be deployed. Each reef site will be about an acre in size.

“The goal is to create habitat for juvenile reef fish,” Newton said. “We feel like there is a significant potential for production from this project. Hopefully, we can grow a few more reef fish. The juvenile habitat sites will go inside one of the 9-mile reef zones that were approved earlier this year. The timeline for this construction is about the same as the circalittoral reefs.

“We know we’re going to get some subsidence (sinking into the seafloor) with these rocks. But if we can get a decent amount of production from these reefs to offset the subsidence, then we feel like the project will be worth it.”

Marine Resources is also in the middle of an ongoing project to deploy 120 Super Reefs in the offshore reef zones. Two deployment trips have been made this year.

With all this reef activity progressing, the dive operators in Mobile and Baldwin counties hope to capitalize on this activity to increase awareness of the opportunities off the Alabama coast.

Several dive operators and tourism officials met recently at Orange Beach to work on a strategy to do just that.

In 2013, the dive business got a significant boost when The LuLu was deployed off the Alabama coast with much fanfare. Less than 24 hours later, divers swarmed the 271-foot vessel resting in about 110 feet of water.

“When we do something special, like this New Venture, the awareness and excitement starts all over again,” said Bud Howard of Down Under Dive Shop in Gulf Shores. “Just like when we sunk The LuLu. It was like ‘Wow.’

“With New Venture, we’ll get more advanced divers, technical divers and wreck divers. The interest in the New Venture has been burning my web page up.”

Down Under, which has a multi-passenger dive boat, has already made plans to dive the New Venture each Wednesday and Saturday, when weather allows, as soon as it is reefed.

Gary Emerson of Gary’s Gulf Divers in Orange Beach can carry six divers, the same capacity as Chas Broughton’s Underwater Works in Fairhope. Gulf Coast Divers in Mobile sells and rents equipment and refers divers to boat operators.

Emerson said an information campaign needs to be started to apprise boaters of Alabama’s dive-flag law, which requires a floating red-striped flag to be deployed in the area of the diving and snorkeling activity. Boaters are required to stay at least 100 feet away from the area marked by the dive flag.

The dive-shop owners expressed interest in adding more reefs in water no deeper than 60 feet to allow dive shops to offer more opportunities for new divers to gain certification. Certification dives are limited to depths no greater than 60 feet.

“We need locations with different depths to appeal to a wide range of divers,” Howard said. “We have people from all over the Midwest who come to Alabama because this is the closest place to them for diving opportunities. These people spend a lot of money when they’re here. I do think the snorkeling reefs are really going to help.”

Vince Lucido of the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation echoed that last sentiment.

“When the snorkeling reefs get opened, that will be awesome,” Lucido said. “We’ll have access right off the beach.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

2 hours ago

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones could be a deciding vote in Pompeo confirmation

With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) publicly opposed to CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s confirmation to be Trump’s secretary of state, Pompeo is seeking to win votes from Democratic U.S. Senators to get across the finish line.

Among the possible Democratic targets for Pompeo are Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Alabama’s own Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

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At a town hall meeting for University of Alabama students in Tuscaloosa last week, Jones addressed the Pompeo matter and explained how he sought to follow in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, former Alabama Sen. Howell Heflin.

“I start with any presidential nomination with a needle in favor of the president,” Jones said. “I go back to my role as a staff member for the late Sen. Howell Heflin from Alabama.”

According to Jones, Heflin began with a view of the confirmation process in favor of the nominee.

“As chief justice [of the Alabama Supreme Court], he always felt constitutionally bound that his role and his view that the president should be given the benefit of the doubt with regard to nominations,” Jones said. “However, that does not mean that it would take a lot to move that needle back. If you do the appropriate work, you can figure this out and determine for yourself whether or not a nomination is qualified, whether or not they’re going to uphold the law. And that will mean voting for someone that I did not personally agree with and would not have personally appointed if I were king or I were president.”

At the time the Tuscaloosa event on April 13, Jones had not met with Pompeo. A representative from Jones’ office told Yellowhammer News Jones and Pompeo met on Thursday.

“He has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill,” Jones said. “He has not made it to my office yet. I fully expect him to at some point. I want to reserve my judgment on him. He has been confirmed once.”

Critics of Pompeo have opposed his confirmation on the grounds of his view on U.S. involvement in the Middle East and the use of “torture” as a means of interrogation.

“I have heard and understand the criticism and concerns and I want to talk to him about it,” Jones said.

For the time being, Jones remains non-committal on the confirmation, especially given he was not a U.S. Senator when Pompeo was confirmed to be CIA director in 2017.

“The jury is out for me at this point as a freshman senator that didn’t have the benefit of voting on him the last time,” he said.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

Editor note: This story was updated to reflect Jones had met with Pompeo two days earlier per Jones’ office.

3 hours ago

University of Montevallo breaks ground on new Center for the Arts

The University of Montevallo this week held the groundbreaking for its new multi-million-dollar Center for the Arts.

The 36,000-square-foot facility will allow the College of Fine Arts at UM to provide a more comprehensive teaching and learning space giving fine arts programs a location to collaborate more across disciplines.

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“This facility is to create a new kind of environment that draws together students and faculty from all of the departments,” said Dr. Steven Peters, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Our students and professors will have the opportunity for more conversations across disciplines in the arts and encourage more high quality, specific and interdisciplinary activity. This will be a creative engine for discovery and innovation.”

The Center for the Arts will provide opportunities for campus and community use with the following key features:

• Performance venues and hospitality space
• University art gallery
• Theatre Department offices and multipurpose classrooms and studios
• Multi-use digital fabrication lab
• Scene design and wardrobe shops along with versatile storage spaces

“I am thrilled that we, at Davis Architects, have been fortunate to work with the University of Montevallo and their outstanding theatre, music and art faculty and staff to bring to reality this wonderful new facility that they need and deserve,” said Don Cosper, Davis Architects.

The performance venue will include a 350-seat theater with state-of-the-art acoustics and technology for music concerts and theater performances, a 100-seat black box theater and a courtyard suitable for outdoor performances and receptions. Overall, the Center is a $25 million investment for the University.

“It’s exciting to be part of a historic project for the University of Montevallo,” said Ken Upchurch, TCU Consulting Services, LLC. “Working with Dr. Stewart on this project to connect the University, the arts, and the Montevallo community has been a true pleasure.”

The additional classrooms and labs will serve as a major asset for the University of Montevallo’s college’s recruitment program.

“This new Center for the Arts will be a state-of-the-art facility able to accommodate growth including up to 150 students in the fine arts programs over the next five years,” said Dr. John W. Stewart III, president of the University of Montevallo. “The cross function of disciplines under one roof will provide students with more marketable skills for their future occupations.”

Not only will the new Center for the Arts serve to promote integrated thinking within the University, it will also act as an artistic hub for the community.

“The facility will immerse students’ experiences in the arts,” said Peters. “The impact on the University of Montevallo, the Shelby County community and our university will be endless.”

The College of Fine Arts’ work focuses on creativity — but not only on creativity: the school’s mission includes integrating undergraduate education with arts advocacy and leadership, diversity and inclusion, engagement with social and cultural issues and partnership with individuals and organizations locally and regionally. University of Montevallo faculty and staff, as well as Shelby County leaders believe this new facility will prepare students to join the next wave of professional artists, performers, musicians, arts educators and communication experts.

“This beautiful new facility will benefit Shelby County and the State of Alabama as a whole,” said Alex Dudchock, Shelby County Manager. “We are taking the business approach to attract national and regional talent. Our goals include student retention and growth, as well as working to keep Montevallo graduates staying in Shelby County.”

Regardless of major, students are being guided to find their own creative signature, to discover what kind of independent thinkers they are, how they are uniquely creative, how they can become more thoughtful communicators and problem-solvers and how they can become more productive, creative collaborators. By doing so, the community is endeavoring to build the 21st century creative workforce at this beautiful place called Montevallo in the heart of Alabama.

“The College contributes to the development of intellectual curiosity, artistic depth and breadth. It provides a solid liberal arts foundation and professional training according to the highest standards to prepare our students to pursue the career trajectory they may choose,” said David Wheeler, Board of Trustees, University of Montevallo. “For us, an education in the arts is central to the academic mission of UM since it is a kind of liberation—a framework for creative interaction with the world.”

4 hours ago

Senate will now allow senators to bring their babies on the floor

The United States Senate unanimously voted Wednesday night to allow senators to bring their children under the age of one onto the floor.

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Senators with a baby are now able to have their children with them during votes — a move Sen. Tammy Duckworth pushed. The previous rule banned senators from bringing babies, which may have proven problematic for lawmakers trying to balance being a parent and working on Capitol Hill late at night.

“By ensuring that no Senator will be prevented from performing their constitutional responsibilities simply because they have a young child, the Senate is leading by example and sending the important message that working parents everywhere deserve family-friendly workplace policies,” Duckworth said of the measure.

Duckworth became the first senator to give birth while in office, causing her to push for the rule change allowing babies on the Senate floor. While some senators voiced concern about breastfeeding or crying, other lawmakers believed it could be beneficial.

“I think it will do us good in the United States Senate, every once in a while, to see a pacifier next to the antique inkwells on our desk or a diaper bag next to one of these brass spittoons which sits on the floor, thank goodness, never used,” Sen. Dick Durbin said.

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