5 months ago

Ainsworth continues push to make Alabama the nation’s most military-friendly state

MONTGOMERY — Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) on Wednesday joined with a bipartisan group of legislative leaders, military officers and Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed to highlight the importance of a pending package of bills that is designed to retain, safeguard and improve the military presence and investment across Alabama.

The legislative package, which has already passed the Senate and is now working its way through the House process, is the result of work by the Alabama Military Stability Commission, a statutory panel that is chaired by Ainsworth. The commission is comprised of several elected officials, cabinet members and regional appointees from areas around the state with a heavy defense concentration.

Since he assumed the office of lieutenant governor in January 2019, Ainsworth has consistently stressed his desire to “make sure Alabama is the most military-friendly state in the country.” Under his leadership, the Military Stability Commission also unveiled the “Heroes Welcome” website last year.

The legislative package now moving through the lower chamber stalled last year when the 2020 regular session was abruptly halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The federal military bases located in Alabama play an important role in our state’s economy and job climate, so retaining and, when possible, expanding their footprint must always be a top priority,” Ainsworth stated. “And mayors in the cities and counties that house them will attest to how vital our military bases are in providing employment opportunities and revenues in local economies across the state.”

Among the bills in the package are measures that will allow military dependents attending public colleges and universities in Alabama to pay in-state tuition while stationed here; extend the enrollment deadline for military families to apply for magnet schools; guarantee the acceptance of out-of-state occupational licenses for military dependents in various professions; and others.

The legislative group present for Wednesday’s press conference in front of the State House included Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper); House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia); Senator Tom Butler (R-Madison), chair of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee; Representatives Dickie Drake (R-Leeds), chair of the House Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee; and Representative Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery).

“The strong military presence in Alabama is important not only to our nation’s security, but also to our state’s economy. That is why this package of bills was one of the first the Senate took up and passed this session,” Reed remarked. “These bills show that supporting the thousands of service members and veterans across our state are a top priority of the legislature, and I appreciate Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth for all of his work and leadership in delivering this support to the military families who call Alabama home.”

McCutcheon underscored this pro-military package is also a priority for the House.

“Even the smallest advantage we put in place can tip the balance of whether a base stays here, leaves here, or expands here, and the legislative package put forth by the Military Stability Commission signals that Alabama is serious about keeping and building upon our military bases,” said McCutcheon, who represents parts of defense-centric Madison County. “Offering items like in-state college tuition and additional job opportunities for military dependents not only makes Alabama more attractive to Pentagon decision-makers, it also demonstrates a needed measure of our state’s famous southern hospitality.

Butler noted that addressing issues important to military families is especially timely since Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal was recently announced as the permanent headquarters for the U.S. Space Command.

“Redstone Arsenal has been the backbone of the Tennessee Valley’s economy since its founding 80 years ago, in 1941, and that role is continuing to grow even more with the recent decision to locate U.S. Space Command at Redstone,” Butler commented. “There’s no better way to roll out the red carpet for Space Command than by passing this legislative package and offering even more advantages and opportunities for the military personnel who will soon call Alabama home.”

A military retiree with 42 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and Alabama National Guard, Drake has firsthand knowledge that improving the quality of life for armed forces personnel and their families is a factor in determining where assets are allocated.

“As a career serviceman, I can tell you that whenever a military family receives a new posting, the first thing they do is research the schools, the job market, and the quality of life in the city where they are being assigned,” Drake outlined. “Dissatisfaction in any of these areas spreads quickly throughout the ranks, and it soon reaches the brass that makes the decisions at the top. Those are the folks who decide if military bases live or die.”

The group of military officials present included Alabama National Guard Adjutant General Sheryl Gordon. Reed and Hatcher empathized the strong, mutually beneficial relationship between the local community and Montgomery’s Maxwell Air Force Base.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Taziki’s founder launches new Greek cuisine concept in Birmingham area

Greek Street is a new addition to the state’s fast-casual restaurant market.

Inspired by the fast-paced approach to food found in the urban areas of Greece, Alabamian Keith Richards recently opened the first location for Greek Street in Hoover’s Inverness Village shopping center.

Richards has taken his more than two decades of Mediterranean cooking and developed a Greek street food offering through this first test kitchen concept. He hopes to expand Greek Street across the United States.

“We are thrilled to open our first location ever in the Birmingham area,” said Richards in a release from the company. “Our mission with this new concept is to provide nutritious, fresh greek street food at economic prices.”


Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato welcomed Richards and his staff to the city as part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new location.

“The Hoover community is excited to welcome the first Greek Street location as our new neighbor,” Brocato stated. “The City of Hoover is known for its unique and diverse restaurants; Greek Street is the perfect addition.”

Upon entering the restaurant customers will enjoy the festive stringed lights and a map of places the Richards family has visited in Greece. Abstract Greek-inspired hand paintings drawn by Keith’s daughter, Charlie, adorn the walls.

Customers have the option of utilizing Greek Street’s convenient App-Thru service which is designed to assist with quick order pickup. Customers can download the app, order their meal before they arrive and pull up to receive it through the App-Thru window. The restaurant also offers curbside takeout and delivery options.

The restaurant is hiring for several positions including cooks, shift leaders and cashiers. Applicants can apply by visiting Greek Street’s website.

Menu items at Greek Street include a variety of appetizers, salads, gyros, bowls, kids’ meals and desserts.

14 hours ago

Tracie West to seek second term on Alabama State Board of Education

Alabama State Board of Education member Tracie West on Thursday announced that she will run for a second term on the state board of education. A Republican, West was elected in 2018 after serving nearly 10 years on the Auburn City Schools Board of Education.

In announcing her reelection bid, West pointed to her record as a state school board member.

“When I ran in 2018, I pledged to push for a master plan for our state school board,” said West. “Now, for the first time, our state board of education has a 5-year master plan designed by citizens from across Alabama. We finally have a blueprint for how we will improve our education system and increase student achievement.”

West expressed her desire to ensure Alabama’s public schools remain open for in-person learning.


“I will continue to fight for our schools and aggressively advocate for our students,” vowed West. “Before COVID hit, we were really starting to make good progress for our schools. Right now, we’ve got to make sure that our schools stay open and that we help students catch up,” she stated.

West noted her opposition to the implementation of Critical Race Theory.

“In addition to the pandemic recovery, there are many other emerging issues. I am strongly against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in our K-12 classrooms. Critical Race Theory is not part of our state curriculum and I intend to keep it that way. I’m not going to let the federal government use grants or other education funding to pressure our state into teaching critical race theory or any other liberal attempt to promote socialism or ideologies that don’t reflect our Alabama values,” concluded West.

Tracie West is a native of Lee County and is a 1991 graduate of Auburn University. A year after graduation, Tracie met and married her husband, Lt. Colonel Paul West (US Army Retired).

In 1997, Tracie began operating PakMail, a retail shopping business which she grew to two locations before selling the company in 2018. Tracie is also a licensed Realtor. The couple has three daughters: Lydia, Marion and Kathryn. They attend Church of the Highlands, Auburn campus.

Tracie has invested her time in the community by serving in leadership positions with the Lee County Salvation Army Board, the Lee County Youth Development Center Board, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Board, the Auburn Rotary Club and the Auburn Commercial Development Authority.

Tracie was named the Auburn Chamber of Commerce 2001 Small Business Person of the Year and received the “Spirit of Auburn” award in 2008, in recognition of her community service.

District 2 of the Alabama State Board of Education covers all or parts of Barbour, Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Coosa, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Randolph, Russell and Tallapoosa Counties.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News

16 hours ago

Aderholt: Woke liberal culture wants to destroy the fabric of sports

There are few things in everyday life that teach our kids life lessons better than sports. As they grow up and play for different teams they learn about commitment, hard work, how to win with grace, and how to pick yourself up and move on after a loss. These lessons stay with them forever, and as a parent I know how valuable those experiences are.

This is why we have to ensure sports, especially high school sports, remain fair and free of political influence. When Title IX was enacted, it did just that for female athletes. It gave them equal opportunity to compete and provided protection for girls’ sports across the country. Title IX also created more pathways for girls to become college athletes, giving many the collegiate chance they wouldn’t have had without sports.

But now, woke liberal culture has set aim on destroying the fabric of sports by pushing for transgender athletes to compete against girls. Across the country more and more states are passing laws allowing this to happen, and it is taking away opportunities and equality for females.


In Connecticut, two transgender track runners that are biologically male won 15 high school state championships while racing against biological females. In a mixed martial arts fight, a transgender fighter that is biologically male fought a biological female, winning by nearly killing the female fighter and fracturing her skull. And now, a transgender weightlifter who competed against men until 2013 will compete against women in the Olympics, which they qualified for by outlifting all the female competitors by a whopping 40 pounds.

The problems here are obvious. Not only are opportunities to get scholarships and accolades diminished, but the safety and wellbeing of these girls is at stake. It’s hard enough staying healthy while competing in physical sports, but when the opponent can take you down with ease that task becomes nearly impossible.

Additionally, one can see how allowing transgender athletes to compete against girls ultimately diminishes the values learned from equal competition. Rather than learning lessons about life, they will learn that the political agenda of the far-left trumps fair play, and that they will use people as pawns in order to reshape society as they see fit. The confidence, trust, and toughness girls are supposed to learn through sports will be a thing of the past.

Those on the left will try and downplay all of this and say it’s really not a big deal, and this is just a “culture war” that conservatives created. But the fact of the matter is this: girls are now at risk because far left policies are eroding our values.

And this argument really has nothing to do with transgender rights or gender dysphoria. Simply put, we shouldn’t be imposing a sports ceiling that will make girls feel less valuable. If we are going to allow biological males to compete against biological females, we might as well tell young women, “don’t even bother.”

Just watch the Olympics this year and see for yourself. Witness what happens when a transgender athlete competes in weightlifting against biological females. And see how the left will celebrate it all and tell our kids that it was heroic.

17 hours ago

Will the SEC shine on Texas and Oklahoma?

Big oil is under attack. So it is doing what any other group would do to protect itself from regulators and turn a huge profit: it’s trying to play football in the SEC.

The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma want to join college football’s one sure thing and true power conference.

College football realignment rumors whip the sport’s fans into a frenzy, without fail.

The grass in the new yard is always greener for the schools looking to make the move. For the conference taking in the new schools, it’s like adding a pool in the backyard. They think of how much more enjoyable Saturdays are going to be and the added value to the house. Once the novelty wears off, people usually find out what a pain it is to take care of a pool. Remember when the SEC was excited about having South Carolina as a new member?

These are very different programs, though. Maybe it has reached the point where the oil money at Texas and Oklahoma has just about had enough. It could be they are tired of taking a back seat to schools in the SEC they once viewed as nothing more than roughnecks.

While the decision-makers inside these institutions are really the only people who know what will happen, there are still a few things we can say for certain from the outside looking in.


Greg Sankey will make the right decision

Those advocating for some kind of national college football czar need to recognize that the sport already has one. His name is Greg Sankey, and he is the commissioner of the SEC. Sankey assumes control over college football in much the same way the President of the United States is regarded as the leader of the free world.

It was almost exactly a year ago that Sankey single-handedly saved the 2020 season. If Sankey believes it is in the best interest of the SEC for Texas and Oklahoma to gain membership in the conference, can you guess what is going to happen?

The better question is if he thinks it is, in fact, in the conference’s best interest. We are talking about a conference which has dominated the last 15 years on the field and in the revenue department.

Is adding two more schools a necessity or a luxury? Sankey undoubtedly knows the answer to that question.

Sure, the member schools get to vote. But Sankey has earned the trust and credibility to steer the process.

Texas A&M is not happy

This is not exactly breaking news nor thoughtful analysis. They’ve said so.

The Aggies fled the Big 12 for more money — and to get away from the Longhorns.

Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork did not hesitate to say so when asked.

Texas A&M’s camp felt dismayed enough by the expansion momentum that it leaked the information in an effort to derail the process.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher was prepared when he was asked at SEC Media Days about Texas wanting into the SEC.

“I bet they do,” Fisher snickered.

He went on to brag about the strength of a conference which has won 11 of the last 14 national championships.

But 11 of 14 is an important equation for another reason. SEC bylaws require 11 of 14 teams to approve the addition of new members. No doubt Texas A&M is trying to whip votes against Texas from within the “No-Instate Rivals” caucus. Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina have a long-standing pact to prevent their instate rivals — Georgia Tech, FSU, Louisville and Clemson — from becoming SEC programs.

If the Aggies can get three of the four to hold, then all this expansion talk is pointless.

Negotiating tactics rule the day

Legendary college football commentator Tony Barnhart thinks Texas and Oklahoma’s exit from the Big 12 is a known fact.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Texas has flirted with leaving before and was welcomed back with open arms.

If someone else other than Texas A&M leaked the expansion talks, then one might conclude the whole thing is a ploy by Texas and Oklahoma to get more money out of the Big 12’s next television contract.

Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported that Texas and Oklahoma planned to notify the Big 12 next week that the schools would not renew grant-of-rights contracts with the conference. This is the lawyer’s way of saying, “Bye. Last one to leave, flip the lights off.”

One thing Barnhart is correct about is that there will not be any “no” votes if the SEC takes big oil in.

It sounds like votes are still being counted, though.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

19 hours ago

AEA orders local educator to ‘cease and desist’ criticism of national union’s Critical Race Theory support

Local board of education employee Mary Crosby earlier this week received a cease and desist letter from the Alabama Education Association (AEA) after she took to social media to express her dissent with the National Education Association (NEA) and the union’s official position regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Crosby, on Facebook, shared an article published by Fox News which reported that the NEA’s official position regarding Critical Race Theory is that the controversial academic concept is “reasonable and appropriate” to incorporate in social studies curriculum. In her post, the North Alabama educator acknowledged that the AEA and NEA aren’t entirely the same entities, but noted that dues payments may be shared between the local, state and national organizations.

Nearly two weeks later, Crosby received a letter from the AEA general counsel threatening to take legal action against her if she failed to retract her comments.

“I received the cease and desist letter from AEA in my office mailbox,” said Crosby. “I learned later that our UniServe Director had been in contact with my superintendent advising him to ‘inform me to stop campaigning and publishing false information’ and my superintendent had also received a copy of this letter.”


The letter states, “The Alabama Education Association has been informed that you have been distributing a false, libelous, now-retracted newspaper article about recent developments at the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly and how AEA’s delegates voted on those matters in an effort to interfere with AEA’s relationship with our members and disrupt the recruitment of potential members.”


The letter further demanded that Crosby “retract the false publications” and “inform any and all persons to whom you issued such communications to that they are false.

The AEA also alleged that Crosby was distributing this information at her workplace during work hours, which she claims is false.

“I was at a conference,” Crosby said. “This was actually a non-working school day for my system.”

The AEA letter continued, “I am informing your superintendent that should you continue to publish libelous materials about AEA, or make false statements about AEA, during work hours, without disciplinary action against you, we will deem your employer to have approved of such activities.”

The letter concludes, “Your refusal to stop defaming AEA will lead to legal action against you. Please consider this your official notice that we will initiate litigation should you continue your current course of conduct.”

Crosby told Yellowhammer News that she viewed the letter as an attempt to intimidate her.

“If you read the letter from the AEA legal department, it’s a harassing and threatening letter to an AEA member,” said Crosby. “The entire letter is based on false allegations and I am deeply disappointed in the organization that I have been a part of for more than 25 years.”
Crosby described what she saw as an organizational political shift, and decided that her money would not support causes that were antithetical to her values.”

“In recent years, I began researching everything that was going on at the national level of our union and noticed some left-leaning tendencies,” she said. “I was told by our local chapters that ‘that’s just the NEA, folks at AEA feel the same way we do,’ more conservative in our beliefs.”

“I made some calls to determine if in fact part of my monthly dues went to NEA,” continued Crosby. “I was informed that all school employees’ dues went to AEA, NEA and our local organization. At that point, I notified my school system’s payroll department that I wanted to opt out as soon as possible. I didn’t want another dollar of my money to support some of the radical leftist agenda.”

Crosby vowed to remain steadfast in her efforts.

“I will accept nothing less than a written and public apology for this ridiculous written shake down from the AEA,” Crosby advised. “I won’t be bullied, harassed or threatened into silence. I am currently researching other organizations that provide school employees with liability coverage and actually look out for their members. I will use my voice to share this information with my local, state and national friends.”

UPDATE 3:40 p.m.:

The Alabama Education Association provided a statement to Yellowhammer News saying that the basis of the letter was a now-retracted article from Mountain Valley News. However, Crosby maintains the only content she shared was from the unrefuted Fox News article.

In its response to Yellowhammer News, the union added, “As always, AEA is committed to public education in Alabama.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News