6 months ago

City of Ashford develops Master growth plan, aims to maximize growth potential

The city of Ashford has hired professionals to help it develop a master growth plan.

Brad Kimbro, chairman of the Ashford Downtown Redevelopment Authority (ADRA), said KPS Group in Birmingham will help city leaders put together a comprehensive action plan to maximize the city’s business growth potential.

“There’s a lot of things Ashford can do,” Kimbro said, “but their experiences and professional expertise will tell us what they think Ashford needs to be, based on what we want and what our experiences say you need to do or can do. That will be important because it will be a master plan that will help us stay focused on what we need to do and what we need to avoid.”

Kimbro said a rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay for the project.

“Basically the mission is to revitalize the downtown Ashford and the surrounding community,” Kimbro said. “Businesses are going to locate where there are good people but also where there’s good business and that’s what our whole objective is.”

Team effort helping Ashford grow from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

This project is the latest in a series of steps city leaders have taken in recent months to redevelop the downtown area. Other grants and government funding have helped the ADRA revitalize McArthur Park, pour new sidewalks and repave parking areas. Kimbro credits assistance from the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, the Houston County Commission, the Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development Council and city leaders in making these projects happen.

“I just see everybody — perhaps for the first time in a long time, working together, on the same page, wanting the same goals, pulling on that same rope and trying to do what we can for the good of all,” Kimbro said. “It’s a great place to be.”

The teamwork is already creating dividends. The Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine earlier this year agreed to build a $1.2 million medical clinic in downtown Ashford after the city donated land to ACOM. The clinic will provide basic health care to patients with or without insurance and provide medical students a supervised learning environment.

“The doctors are going to help save lives,” Kimbro said. “That’s what Ashford is doing for this community. Our citizens are going to benefit from that.”

Kimbro said Ashford’s future is bright.

“It’s only 8 miles from the largest city in the Wiregrass, yet it’s here in the rural setting where you’re not suffering for anything,” Kimbro said. “It’s a great place to raise your family, property taxes are low, energy is reliable, and energy costs are low. I’ve lived other places, in big cities in Florida and Alabama, and I wouldn’t trade Ashford for any of them.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 mins ago

Shelby, Jones introduce legislation to make Alabama’s Black Belt a National Heritage Area

U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Doug Jones (D-AL) have introduced legislation to establish the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area, authorizing 19 counties in the Yellowhammer State’s Black Belt Region as an official National Heritage Area (NHA).

The bill – entitled the “Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area Act” and designated S.3363 – would allow for federal funding to be directed to the region over the span of 15 years. U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Mike Rogers (AL-03), Terri Sewell (AL-07) and Martha Roby (AL-02) have introduced a companion bill in the lower chamber, underscoring the bipartisan and bicameral nature of the effort.

“Designating Alabama’s Black Belt region as a National Heritage Area will not only promote tourism, but it will also increase public awareness of the natural, historical, and cultural assets our state has to offer,” Shelby said in a statement on Friday.

“Investing in this region to preserve these unique and diverse resources is important for future generations. If passed, this legislation could have significant impact for years to come,” he added.

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NHAs are partnerships between the National Park Service (NPS), states and local entities to protect and support conservation and public access. Through public-private partnerships, NHAs create a diverse, community-driven approach to increase heritage conservation, economic development, recreation and tourism. Currently, the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area is the only NHA in the state.

“Alabama’s Black Belt counties were originally named due to the area’s rich, black topsoil,” Jones stated. “While that is still an accurate depiction of the area, another is of the Black Belt’s rich history and culture. The 19 counties that make up Alabama’s Black Belt has been home to some of our greatest artists, writers, and leaders. This legislation will help preserve and celebrate this historic region through much needed investment.”

The established area would include Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox Counties.

The legislation names the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at the University of West Alabama (UWA) as the local management entity. The designation of a local entity, like UWA, ensures its ability to address the interests and needs of those in the surrounding communities, according to Shelby’s office.

Shelby introduced similar legislation during the 111th Congress and the 113th Congress.

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

44 mins ago

National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council endorses Jeff Sessions in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race

Friday, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council announced its endorsement of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race.

The National ICE Council represents approximately 7,600 officers, agents and employees who work for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) throughout the United States and its territories and possessions.

The National ICE Council endorsement comes just days before Alabama Republicans are set to vote in the party’s primary on Tuesday.

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“On behalf of the men and women of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, we’re proud to endorse Jeff Sessions for Senate in the State of Alabama,” Chris Crane, president of the ICE Council, said in a statement. “We know Jeff Sessions and we know what he stands for. As the United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions led the fight against sanctuary cities and illegal immigration, and was an unwavering champion of law enforcement officers across the nation. As a U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions was the strongest supporter in the U.S. Congress of ICE, its mission, and its employees. We have no doubt that Senator Sessions will pick up right where he left off – standing up for law enforcement and the enforcement of our laws. We know he will continue to lead the fight against sanctuary cities that threaten our communities and endanger our law enforcement personnel across the country. And we know that he will keep fighting against radical open border policies that threaten our national security.”

“Jeff Sessions has always stood up to The Swamp and always worked to hold Washington accountable,” he added. “We need him now more than ever to stand up for what’s right and stand with President Trump to keep America safe.”

Sessions applauded the endorsement in a statement of his own, and warned of the threat sanctuary cities, open borders and illegal immigration pose to the nation.

“The men and women who serve with the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement are honorable law enforcement officers who serve at the center of this nation’s effort to end illegal immigration,” Sessions said. ‘I am honored beyond words to have the ICE Council’s strong endorsement. We have fought side by side against the powerful, special interest forces that constantly work to further the lawlessness that is occurring at the border. We stood side by side in the effort to elect President Trump. Sanctuary cities and open borders are a threat to our nation. They encourage illegal immigration, protect dangerous criminal gangs, and undermine the rule of law.”

“I am extremely proud of this endorsement,” he added. “No organization has been more committed to law and our national sovereignty than the ICE officers. Their endorsement is therefore extremely valuable. I believe the people of Alabama should recognize how important this endorsement is in understanding who can be most effective in the Senate. I have fought to stop sanctuary cities and I will not rest until our immigration laws are enforced and dangerous aliens are taken off the streets.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

2 hours ago

McCutcheon endorses Chris Lewis in AL-05 GOP primary — ‘Time to make a change’

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) on Thursday announced his endorsement of Congressman Mo Brooks’ (AL-05) Republican primary challenger, Chris Lewis.

In a brief video filmed outside the State Capitol and released by Lewis’ campaign, McCutcheon explained his support.

“Many people and organizations across North Alabama have discussed with me that it is time to make a change in our congressional seat,” the speaker said. McCutcheon represents parts of Madison County and Limestone County.

He further spoke to Lewis’ service in the United States military.

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Lewis is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Naval War College. He retired as a commander from the Navy after 23 years of service. His extensive experience reportedly includes multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, service as a strategic analyst for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a decade of defense acquisition experience and Contract Transition Team Lead for Arnold Engineering Development Complex at Arnold Air Force Base.

“Chris has proven his commitment to our nation through his military service,” McCutcheon remarked.

The speaker also highlighted some of the groups who have endorsed Lewis’ bid, including the Alabama Farmers Federation’s political arm.

“I believe Chris has the heart of a servant leader and would be a fine congressman for North Alabama,” he concluded.

Brooks has been endorsed for reelection by President Donald Trump.

The primary will be held on Tuesday, March 3.

UPDATE 12:15 p.m.

Responding to the McCutcheon endorsement, Brooks told Yellowhammer News in a statement, “I love the endorsement contrast!”

He continued, “I have the strong endorsement of President Trump, a man I worked hard with to CUT TAXES on American families and secure America’s borders! In contrast, Chris Lewis has the endorsement of legislator Mac McCutcheon, whose greatest expertise has been RAISING TAXES on struggling Alabama families!”

“Personally, I wouldn’t want the endorsement of a tax hiker! But, hey, if Chris Lewis wants to go to Washington to raise taxes, he picked the right endorsement to get! Similarly, Chris Lewis has ALFA’s backing,” Brooks added. “No surprise there. ALFA is a special interest group that intensely lobbies me for open borders, more welfare, and taxpayer payments for capital improvements on ALFA members’ land, greatly enriching ALFA members at taxpayer expense. Again, I stand with President Trump and border security. Chris Lewis stands with special interest groups that support open borders and prefer to hire cheap foreign labor rather than pay American workers a living wage. I will take that border security contrast any day of the week!”

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

5 hours ago

7 Things: UAB battling the coronavirus, ‘Teachers Bill of Rights’, activists want Madison County to ignore marijuana laws and more …

7. Ban on an occupational tax passes

  • The City of Montgomery wanted to tax people who worked in the city but didn’t live in the city, which is essentially a tax on a job, but the Alabama legislature didn’t think this was a good idea and have killed it.
  • The tax on non-residents has been a problem for legislators for years, but the bill would not repeal any occupational taxes. It just stops city councils from implementing new ones without legislative approval.

6. Senate committee advances death penalty bill

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  • The bill by State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) that would shorten the appeals process for death penalty cases has been advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee and will now move to the full Senate.
  • The bill seeks to remove having to go through the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and just going straight to the Alabama Supreme Court, but will still provide the ability to appeal on the federal level.

5. Aniah’s Law passes

  • The bill that would allow judges more ability to deny bail for those who are accused of violent crimes has been passed by the Alabama House of Representatives.
  • State Representative Chris Brown (R-Mobile), the sponsor of the bill, said, “Too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back.”

4. Bernie Sanders is in first and he can beat Trump

  • In new polling data released by Fox News, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary with 31% polling, while former Vice President Joe Biden slips to second with 18%, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in third with 16%, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has 12% in fourth place and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren is down in fifth place with 10%.
  • Biden looks good in the most recent polling out of South Carolina which has him leading Sanders 36 to 16%. A big victory in the Palmetto State could give new life to Biden’s flailing campaign.

3. Decriminalizing marijuana in Madison County

  • A letter sent to Madison County leaders by the Madison County Democratic Executive Committee, League of Women Voters of the Tennessee Valley, UAH College Democrats and the NAACP of Huntsville requests that marijuana be decriminalized.
  • The letter states that “to improve the public safety, social equity, and overall well-being of our community” the county should stop arresting people for marijuana possession and also “drop all criminal charges related to cannabis possession,” claiming that this “will help ease racial disparities in community policing, allowing greater enforcement emphasis on crimes that have victims.”

2. Students need to start respecting their teachers

  • Legislation that’s been deemed the “Teacher Bill of Rights” is being considered, which would give teachers 10 rights, including being able to discipline students, remove students from the classroom and to “be treated with civility and respect.”
  • An attorney for the Alabama Education Association Clint Daughtry explained, “Teachers are … the only group of college-education professionals that I know of that run the risk on a daily basis of being hit, kicked, slapped, scratched, what have you.”

1. UAB helping solve the coronavirus crisis

  • With coronavirus wrecking the stock market, a panic is underway, but the University of Alabama at Birmingham has been researching and developing the drug remdesivir through the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center; that same drug is being used to treat coronavirus patients across the United States and in China.
  • The work to develop the drug was funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee after U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) became the chairman. Shelby said that this research “could help save thousands around the world.”

5 hours ago

Sessions: Tuberville’s position on trade undermines Trump’s negotiating position

Trade has been at the forefront of public policy discussions in recent days, especially as President Donald Trump has taken a more hawkish approach to the issue in his first term.

That has especially been true with regards to U.S. trade policy regarding China, a nation in which Trump has used tariffs as bargaining tool.

During an interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in November, applauded Trump’s approach. However, he also took a dig at his opponent, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, who Sessions said referred to himself as a “100% free trader.”

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“[China] has got to come to the table,” he said. “You have got to use tariffs to bring them to the table. And if we bring them to the table, we’ll be able to begin a real historic change in their behavior and help American manufacturing. That’s one of the reasons I’m running. Both the border and this need to be done within a year or two of taking office.”

Sessions argued Tuberville’s position on trade undermined Trump’s negotiating ability, given the contrast.

“And I’ve got to say — Tommy Tuberville said he is a 100% free trader,” Sessions added. “He said he opposes tariffs. And he even said he didn’t agree with Trump’s China policy. This is cutting his legs out from under him, making it harder for him to negotiate. The last thing we need to be doing is undermining President Trump’s negotiating position. We’re going to win that negotiation, I’m telling you. And we’re going to make this situation better with China, and we’re going to keep winning in the future.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.