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3 months ago

Alabama city considers ordinance limiting homes to 3 dogs

An Alabama city council is considering limiting the number of dogs allowed in a residential home to three.

Northport City Attorney Ron Davis tells The Tuscaloosa News that city code already bans keeping more than three dogs in an enclosure that’s less than 50 feet (15 meters) from another residence. But he says residents have argued that as long as they have only three dogs in the yard at one time, they’re complying with the code.

The proposed ordinance would replace that law with clearer language. Exceptions would apply to newborn litters, shelters, humane societies, licensed kennels, veterinary offices and farms that are at least 300 feet (90 meters) away from other residences.

Homes with more than three dogs would not be grandfathered in, but would receive a grace period.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

25 mins ago

Coal company executive, Alabama attorney convicted of bribery

A prominent Alabama attorney and a coal company executive have been convicted on federal charges involving bribery of a state lawmaker.

The verdict against Joel Gilbert, a partner with Balch & Bingham law firm, and Drummond Company Vice President David Roberson was announced Friday after a four-week trial. Jurors found them guilty of conspiracy, bribery, three counts of honest services wire fraud and money laundering.

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Prosecutors said the two men bribed former state Rep. Oliver Robinson to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s expansion of a Superfund site, and also to oppose prioritizing the site’s expensive cleanup. Robinson pleaded guilty last year to bribery and tax evasion. He has not yet been sentenced.

A third defendant, Balch attorney Steven McKinney, was dismissed from the case one day before closing arguments began.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

Yes, we DO get along!

I don’t remember the airline or where the flight was headed. But I will never forget the woman seated next to me.

During the course of our brief conversation, I mentioned that my family lives in Orange Beach, Alabama. Her eyebrows furrowed as she received that fairly innocuous information. Without hesitation, however, she said, “I wouldn’t live there in a million years.”

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I was taken aback, but smiled gamely, and asked, “Really? Why’s that?”

“I just couldn’t take the rain,” the woman told me.

I was silent for a beat or two, looking into the woman’s eyes, mentally scrambling to figure out what I had missed. She also continued to look at me, waiting I suppose, for a response. When none tumbled from my lips, she leaned in my direction somewhat aggressively and as if she were talking to an idiot, being forced to explain something obvious and simple, said, “The Rain. Your rain. It rains all the time in Orange Beach. I could never live in a place like that.”

I nodded as if I understood and asked how many times she had been to Orange Beach.

“Twice,” she told me. “Once for three days and another time for a whole week. We never saw the sunshine. It rains constantly in Orange Beach.”

I’ve thought about that woman off and on for years. It was such a ridiculous exchange that I’ve never really decided if it was funny or just stupid.

Obviously, it rained the only two times she ever visited. Now, I don’t study weather patterns, I don’t know Jim Cantore, and I haven’t stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in a long time, but I’m fairly certain that it rains every day somewhere! In a lot of places, I’ll bet it even rains for a week at a time! And who, over the age of six or seven, has not seen it rain during a vacation?

Yeah, I’m sorry, but for a person to single out a week and a half and believe they can accurately extrapolate the cloud and moisture conditions that visitors to Orange Beach can expect for the rest of forever…is nuts. It’s beyond nuts.

Except that you and I virtually do the same thing almost every day.

We allow the media to dictate what we believe is “happening everywhere.” In print, online, and on television, we allow our fears to be stoked and our thoughts to be directed. By consuming “overlarge” portions of what they are serving, we encourage the news media’s overwhelming coverage of All Things Horrible.

Understand, I am not blaming the media for what they do or how they do it. I’m not even suggesting they do anything differently. Would it have any effect if I did? (The correct answer is “no”.)

Neither am I suggesting that racial anger, regional bias, political selfishness, or deranged behavior do not exist. But if you and I begin our day with the news and check in on the news several times during the day, then end our day with the news, it doesn’t take long for us to become convinced that what we see in the news is an accurate portrayal of society. And it’s
not.

Consider the fact that there are 19,519 towns and cities in America today. There are another 16,360 unincorporated townships. We have a population of 326 million people. All those people have access to multiple channels and online entities. They are available to us 24-hours a day. And they use those twenty-four hours every single day to keep us “informed” about exactly what is happening—not just in America, but in the whole world…

So here’s a question: If things are as bad as many of us have begun to believe, what are all those news outlets leaving out?

Shouldn’t there be at least enough bad stuff to fill twenty-four hours without repeating the same things again and again?

But as far as I can tell, when something crazy happens, not only does every channel “break” the same news, they “report” it over and over for days on end.

Look, we do care about what’s happening nationally. You and I care about race relations and politics and schools and statues and prison reform and the Boy Scouts and killer lettuce and whatever the heck that goofy looking psycho in North Korea will do next…

But I have to believe that you and I would rather put more time and constructive thought into our own families and communities. Yet, even those subjects—when they are mentioned at all—are delivered by most of our national media drenched with the overarching message: People who are different from each other in visible ways do not get along.

My point is a simple one. I’m convinced that we get along better than some folks would have us think. I’ve been watching this whole thing for quite a while now. I travel extensively and am through airports, in hotels, visiting cities, their suburbs, and exploring small towns.

I don’t always fly. I drive—sometimes long distances—and stop often to talk with the people I meet. I’ve spoken to and talked with the students on more than 400 college campuses, eaten at great restaurants, not so great restaurants, and locally favorite restaurants in every corner of this nation.

I have spoken to audiences in all fifty states and each of our nation’s territories. I have spoken to convention halls filled with men and arenas with thousands of women. I have spent time with the men and women who serve on military installations around the world.

I have watched people pull together during times of enormous stress. I have witnessed families with nothing to spare, give generously to families with nothing at all.

And after all that, I must say that I’m not sure why the media appears so determined to convince us that we do not get along…(the only possible answer is “ratings”) but assuming their efforts will not stop, we need to recognize the effect it has on us and at least stop bathing in the information.

We understand what drives television ratings. We know what sells newspapers. I wonder however, if we understand the strategy the media employs in order to attract enough viewers to stay on the air?

There is one major rule governing that strategy and it is this: If there is no large and wide-spread amount of anger and outrage to show the public, we will seek out the largest that can be found at the moment. Even if the only anger and outrage we find is a small and contained amount, with proper camera angles and specific wording by the reporter, it can be presented as an example of “what is happening everywhere.”

Except that it’s not.

What is happening almost everywhere? Folks are being polite. They are being considerate.

Yes, especially in the south.

I was checking out of the Bay Minette, Alabama Wal-Mart last week. As the cashier scanned my items, a forty-ish-year-old guy in a ball cap leaned around me, apologized for the interruption and spoke to the cashier. The following, word for word, is exactly what each of them said to the other.

Man: Excuse me, ma’am. When you get a chance, I need some help in the Photo department.

Cashier: Sure. (She turns to speak to a manager several lines away…) Miss Dana! Miss Dana, there’s a gentleman who needs help in Photos.

Man: (walking away) Thank you, ma’am.

Cashier: You’re welcome, sir.

I have to say, I smiled. I was proud of us. Yeah, us. You know…America. The South. Alabama. Baldwin County. Bay
Minette. Us!

Oh sure, I was proud of the cashier and the man. But they are us. It is, after all, how most of us act. Especially in Orange Beach. Even when it rains.

One more thing about the cashier and the man in the ball cap….Seeing them act with such respect towards each other really made my day. It crossed my mind to hug them. But I didn’t. I didn’t even know their names…

So I just took their picture. For US!

Let’s all do our part this week and continue to “Get Along.”

Perform an act of kindness or “Notice” a good gesture—then let me know about it in the Comments section of my website or on Facebook or Instagram.

I would love to continue to hear about how we are continuing to get along.

Andy Andrews is hailed by New York Times reporter as “someone who has quietly become one of the most influential people in America,” Andy Andrews is the author of multiple international bestsellers including The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer. He is also an in-demand speaker, coach, and consultant for the world’s largest organizations.

3 hours ago

From Cheaha to Meaher, state parks diversity abounds

From a shaded retreat on John’s Bay in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta to the boardwalk atop the highest mountain in the state, the Alabama State Parks System offers an incredible diversity of nature’s wonders to explore.

Just north of the point where the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and Mobile Bay converge, Meaher State Park offers a respite from the hustle and bustle that can be seen in the distance on the Bayway crowded with frustrated travelers.

Tall pine trees blanket the 1,300-acre park that borders the Delta’s biologically rich John’s Bay to the south and Ducker Bay to the east.

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According to Anna Bryant, Meaher’s new park superintendent, visitors head to the park with their travel trailers in tow, attracted to the shade on the water’s edge.

A native of Auburn, Bryant came to love the area while teaching environmental education for two conservation organizations and jumped at the Meaher job about a year ago.

“I enjoy being in the outdoors,” Bryant said. “I love the water. I didn’t grow up near the beach. But the water and flora and fauna here at Meaher is a very therapeutic place for me. That is a bonus of this job for me.”

Callie Thornton, the assistant park superintendent at Cheaha State Park, finds her therapy in the mountains, and Cheaha, completely surrounded by the Talladega National Forest in northeast Alabama, is the perfect location for her.

Already a dedicated backpacker before she took the job at Cheaha a year ago, Thornton now gets to share her love of hiking with an abundance of park visitors and fellow hikers.

“What attracted me to Cheaha was the mountain and the Pinhoti Trail,” said Thornton, the former Town Clerk at Rockford, Ala. “I wanted to be able to teach others how to backpack, the importance of being outdoors and inspiring others to love the outdoors.

“I’ve been backpacking for about 12 years now, doing anything and everything adventurous. I’ve done more than 1,000 miles backpacking, so now I teach backpacking courses. And a lot of people are scared of camping. My goal is to teach people to not be afraid of being in the outdoors.”

Thornton’s instructions include camp cooking, first aid, what’s needed in your backpack and, possibly more important, what’s not.

“I’ve been able to get my backpack down to 27 pounds for a seven-day trip,” she said. “If people will bring me their backpack, I will go through it and divide and conquer, as I say. I advise them on what kind of gear they need as far as shoes and clothing. A lot of people think they need to take multiple days of clothes. If you pick the right gear, you might need an extra pair of socks, but you don’t need anything else.

“I had a friend with me on one trip who had 60 pounds in her backpack. She was really suffering. While we were on the trip I went through her bag. When we got to the next station, I told her to take this and that out and put it in the hiker box or mail it home. I’ve learned through experience about a lot of things, like blisters and how to deal with them and how to protect your feet. A lot of it is simple stuff that I want to pass on to make the person’s trip a lot better the next time around.”

At one time, Cheaha was the southern terminus of Thornton’s beloved Pinhoti Trail. That terminus has since been moved about 60 miles south to Flagg Mountain. The Pinhoti Trail covers about 170 miles in Alabama and 166 miles in Georgia before it connects with the Appalachian Trail. Hikers can also gain access to the Eastern Continental Trail that transits the entire eastern U.S.

Thornton, also president of the Alabama Pinhoti Trail Association, hopes to bring more exposure to Alabama’s Pinhoti segment.

“We don’t get a lot of publicity on the Alabama Pinhoti Trail,” she said. “Georgia’s trail gets a lot, but Alabama’s doesn’t. It could be a big tourism booster for Alabama.

“My goal is to raise the awareness of the Alabama section of the trail. People don’t know that it also is a connector from Key West (Fla.) all the way to Maine.”

On a hot summer day, a bonus of being at Cheaha is the weather.

“It’s about 10 degrees cooler on the mountain,” Thornton said. “Sometimes it’s more than that, depending on the wind. When I got here last May (2017), I was freezing to death. We can sit in the restaurant and see the weather around us. If I see a storm coming and we’ve got people in the pool, I can go get them out. The good thing is, most of the time, the bad stuff goes around us.”

Another attraction for Cheaha visitors is the solitude of the mountain, which is 2,407 feet above sea level, the highest in the state. A variety of accommodations await, from cabins and chalets to improved and primitive camping.

“A lot of people come to Cheaha to disconnect,” Thornton said. “If you want to get away from it all, if you want to get away from your telephone, your Wi-Fi, this is where you come. Once you come around the curves on (Hwy.) 281, you lose your connections. I just got a call from a man who said he was ready to get away from work. People disconnect and they go hiking, swimming and enjoy the restaurant. They come to hike. They come to see the wildlife, the deer and turkeys. We have a lot of birdwatchers who come to the park. We have gem-mining for the kids and a lot of interpretive nature programs for the whole family.”

Now hop in your vehicle, come down the mountain and head south about 260 miles to Meaher State Park to experience Alabama’s coastal plains and the expansive Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Meaher offers 61 improved campsites, 10 improved tent sites, a couple of primitive tent sites and four cabins. Two more cabins will be available later this year.

Bryant said Meaher appeals to campers in a couple of different ways.

“We’re kind of a quiet park,” she said. “We don’t have a pool or tennis courts or facilities that some of the bigger parks have. The fact that people can come and relax, see the sunsets and see the water is a big attraction for our overnight guests. But we also have a lot of day visitors who love to fish. We have a fishing pier and a boat launch. They can canoe and kayak or take their motor boat into the Delta or Mobile Bay. We also have the Gateway to the Delta boardwalk that allows visitors to see the Delta from a different perspective.

“Part of the draw is we have easy access to the Delta and being able to stay overnight between Mobile and Baldwin counties.”

Because of its size, Meaher doesn’t have a park naturalist, but Bryant has been able to utilize the environmental programs from Gulf State Park and 5 Rivers – Alabama Delta Resource Center, which is located directly across the Mobile Causeway from Meaher.

“The last program we had was a reptile show that 5 Rivers conducted,” Bryant said. “They brought native snakes and turtles to show our guests.”

Bryant will soon be involved in a park expansion, thanks to a $3.5 million award from the Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill through the RESTORE Act.

“Our hope is to expand not only RV sites but add a couple more cabins and possibly another fishing pier,” she said. “We’re still in the process of finalizing our plans. We want to offer our visitors a gamut of options from just relaxing to enjoying the Delta.”

Visit here and this link for more information.

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.

17 hours ago

The surprising link between Alabama seafood, timber and U.S. national security, and how Shelby is leading the way

There are plenty of areas of debate over exactly how and where the U.S. should spend its foreign aid dollars. But for Alabamians in particular — and the entire Gulf Coast region more broadly — the international assistance that flows into cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking is paying massive dividends, both economically and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of national security.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates Americans grossly overestimate the amount the federal government spends on foreign aid.  The average answer was foreign aid accounts for a whopping 31 percent of spending. Fifteen percent of respondents actually thought it represented over half of the U.S. budget.

In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, it accounts for about 1 percent total when military, economic development and humanitarian efforts are combined.  And it is paying massive dividends for Alabama.

Here’s how:

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First, foreign aid dollars fund multi-nation efforts to combat illegal trade in timber and fish. These illicit practices cost U.S. foresters and fishers billions of dollars in lost revenue every single year by flooding the market and driving down prices.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, “Alabama has the second largest commercial timberland base in the U.S., with 23 million acres. Forestry is the state’s second largest manufacturing industry, producing an estimated $14.8 billion worth of products in 2013, the latest data available.” Alabama also ranked second in the country in fish production. By cracking down on the black-market trading of timber and fish, our foreign aid dollars are protecting Alabama jobs.

Second, foreign aid that flows into international conservation efforts, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, helps countries manage their natural resources sustainably. This prevents the scarcity of water, food or forests that often contributes to instability and sparks regional conflicts.

Third, cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking cuts off a major source of income for armed groups and organizations with terrorist ties throughout the world, many of which pose a direct threat to American interests.

A report by the United Nations and Interpol found that the “illegal wildlife trade worth up to $213 billion a year is funding organized crime, including global terror groups and militias.” Additionally, “the annual trade of up to $100 billion in illegal logging is helping line the pockets of mafia, Islamist extremists and rebel movements, including Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked terror group al-Shabaab.”

Fortunately, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who recently rose to the powerful post of Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has remained a staunch supporter of ensuring that resources continue to flow into efforts to combat the illegal trade in timber and fish.

“The Committee has worked together to strike the appropriate balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” Shelby said after announcing critical funding for Fiscal Year 2018. “Additionally, the measure includes necessary oversight provisions to fight waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a step forward in maintaining critical funding for core programs and addressing the needs of our nation while staying within our spending boundaries.”

The move did not go unnoticed by leaders in the seafood industry, a major source of economic activity in all Gulf States, including Alabama.

“We cannot thank Senator Shelby enough,” said Southern Shrimp Alliance Executive Director John Williams after fiscal year 2018 appropriation. “Their extraordinary efforts ensure the survival of the domestic shrimp fishery in the face of what has been an endless stream of illegal shrimp imports.”

Support for foreign assistance and international conservation is smart domestic policy. It protects our economy and cuts off the flow of cash to criminals and terrorists. Sen. Shelby and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from whom he has helped rally support deserve recognition and praise for their leadership.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

 

 

18 hours ago

What’s wrong with Calhoun County’s economy?

Earlier this week, Zippia, one of the many job search websites out there, released its list of 2018’s 50 worst job markets in America. Only one in Alabama made the list: Anniston-Jacksonville, AL, which came in at number 43.

That’s not bad given what we’re told about Alabama and poverty. But it does raise one question: Why are Anniston and its surrounding areas struggling compared to other similar places in the state?

Although unemployment in Calhoun County is not nearly as high as counties in the Black Belt, compared to other quasi-urban areas of Alabama, Calhoun has the highest unemployment rate, coming in at 5.9 percent according to data posted recently on the Alabama Department of Labor’s website.

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That far exceeds the seasonally adjusted numbers for the state of Alabama, at 4.1 percent, and nationally, at 4 percent.

So, what gives? Why does Calhoun County struggle economically?

“It’s a good question,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said in response to that in an interview with Yellowhammer News back in April. “I saw those numbers come out for my congressional district and Calhoun County had the highest unemployment rate, still. It is better than it has been, but I don’t know the answer to that question.”

Rogers said part of the answer to that question may be tied to military spending during the Obama administration and its impact on the nearby Anniston Army Depot.

“[T]here was a real downsizing at the Depot,” he added. “They had had a couple more thousand employees than they have now at the height of the war and there had been a downsizing since the drawback from Iraq and Afghanistan. You don’t need to refurbish as much equipment. But now they’re trying to ramp back up as we try to rebuild our military.”

He credited the potential for a turnaround in that trend to President Donald Trump’s commitment to the military.

Beyond that, why isn’t Calhoun County booming? It seems like every other day, Gov. Kay Ivey is announcing a new addition or manufacturing facility in the Huntsville area that includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Let’s compare the Anniston-Oxford area to another economic hot spot in Rogers district, the Auburn-Opelika area.  Although Lee County isn’t quite enjoying the successes of Madison and Limestone Counties, it seems to be growing. Its unemployment rate is 4.7 percent – a little higher. But when you look around Auburn and Opelika, there are all kinds of new commercial and residential construction projects.

That doesn’t seem to be a trend in Anniston and Oxford.

Both Lee and Calhoun Counties have some similarities. Having Auburn University in Lee County is a big difference. Besides that, the two approximately the same distance from Atlanta and its international airport. The two are served by the Interstate Highway System – I-20 in Calhoun County and I-85 in Lee County.

If Lee County can make it work, then why not Calhoun County?

Getting to the bottom of determining what is ailing Calhoun County is not an easy chore. Although reading the pages of The Anniston Star is not quite the adventures of “Alice in Wonderland” it was when H. Brandt Ayers was in charge, under Josephine Ayers and Anthony Cook, it still tends to dwell in the politics outside of Calhoun County.

Addressing Calhoun County’s struggles is a politically worthwhile endeavor. While Kay Ivey is patting herself on the back for economic prosperity in north Alabama at plant-opening ceremony number 105, and Walt Maddox is championing his heroics in Tuscaloosa post-2011 tornado devastation, what about Anniston? What about Oxford? What about Jacksonville?

From an outsider’s perspective, there seems to be a presentable case for manufacturing to make Calhoun County a home given its infrastructure and proximities it Atlanta and Birmingham. But first, we need to determine what’s behind its current struggles.

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