In keeping with the theme “Keep Alabama Growing,” Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee on Friday announced plans to promote children’s literacy throughout the January 2019 inaugural festivities.
“Investing in the next generation is critical to our ability to keep Alabama growing,” Ivey said in a press release. “As we prepare for four more years of growing opportunities for Alabamians, I can’t think of a better place to begin than with our children’s literacy, ensuring they get a strong start.”
It’s that time of year to eat, drink and be merry.
Christmas magic is at the 25th annual ZooLight Safari with seasonal songs and holiday classics. Celebrate with writing letters to Santa, crafts, ornament decorating, train and carousel rides and holiday games. Join in the fun Dec. 14-23 and Dec. 26-31 from 5-9 p.m. Admission is $10 and ride tickets are $3.50. Parking is free.
Carlos Chaverst, Jr., the self-proclaimed leader of protesting in Hoover, is calling for activists to come to Alabama from Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago and potentially more areas that have been affected by rioting in recent years.
In a Facebook post just after noon on Friday, Chaverst wrote, “Calling ALL activist and organizers from Baltimore, Chicago, Ferguson, Florida, etc. ITS TIME!! We need y’all here in Hoover, NOW!!”
“There will be a organizing [sic] conference call Sunday night. Details released tomorrow,” he added.
In another post shortly beforehand, Chaverst claimed that protesters would take to Hoover High School after 1:15 p.m. on Friday.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Doug Jones on Trump wall pledge: ‘I cannot imagine’ any president would be proud to shut down the government
During a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) said in 2019 he did not expect any congressional business to be held “hostage” by President Donald Trump for border wall funding.
After commemorating the one-year anniversary of his special election upset win over Republican Roy Moore, Jones was asked to react to remarks Trump made claiming he would be “proud” to shut the government down to get funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The junior Alabama senator explained he could not “imagine” a president being “proud” of shutting the government down to achieve such an end.
“I don’t think it will be for next year,” Jones replied. “He’s holding that hostage for the appropriations bill. He said he’s proud to shut down the government. I cannot imagine any president of the United States would be proud to shut down the government for any reason, much less simply over a wall. He’s getting money for border security. We’ll see how it goes.”
In the coming year, Jones said he didn’t think the wall issue would be as prominent and that he hoped Congress would take up immigration policy.
“I don’t think that’s going to be as big an issue next year,” he added. “Hopefully, we’ll take up immigration reform.”
Women’s clothier raises $4,500 for police, others with ‘#HooverStrong’ T-shirts sales
(Lou Lou's Women's Clothing)
There’s no question that the last two weeks have been trying for Hoover retailers in the wake of the tragic shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.
With protests flaring up over dissatisfaction with law enforcement’s handling of the incident’s investigation, the circumstances have been trying for local retailers that were already dealing with the busy shopping season.
However, one Hoover retailer is making the most of the situation.
Lou Lou’s, a women’s clothing store located off Galleria Boulevard near the Riverchase Galleria, has created “#HooverStrong” T-shirts and is selling them, with proceeds from the sales put toward “a fund to buy food and coffee gift cards for the officers and other workers.”
The reaction was immediate with Lou Lou’s raising $900 in the first two hours of sales.
“So far between Friday and Saturday, we’ve sold 292 shirts,” Lou Lou’s clothier told Yellowhammer News in a Facebook message on Sunday. “And [we’ve] raised $4500 from sales of the shirts in those two days.”
On Sunday afternoon, the retailer announced on Facebook the shirts are available for sale online.
“We are floored by the amazing response, and we’re a bit unprepared for it,” the representative from Lou Lou’s added. “So we were literally just making shirts to order with what we had on hand at the time. A large order of shirts will be here on Monday and gives us the opportunity to make even more.”
The sale of the “#HooverStrong” shirts has drawn the ire of Carlos Chaverst, Jr., the self-proclaimed leader of the anti-Hoover protest movement.
AG Marshall: Prosecution of corruption remains a priority after Matt Hart’s departure
On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall downplayed the departure of now-former Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart.
Hart formerly led the AG’s Special Prosecutions Division and was perhaps best known for his prosecution of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
In the interim, Hart had become somewhat of a media darling, and Marshall’s critics had charged politics was a motivation in Hart’s resignation. Marshall dismissed those claims and touted Hart’s successor, Clark Morris.
“It’s a very important position and the change in leadership is not a reflection in the change in priorities,” Marshall said. “We appreciate the service that Matt Hart gave to the state. He submitted his resignation and we’ve moved forward. We’ve named Clark Morris, who you know is a 20-plus-year prosecutor and an expert in white-collar crime, and somebody who has been a leader in both the Northern District and Middle District U.S. Attorney’s office. We are very confident in what she’s doing, and we have a core group that’s working in that division that is continuing to work very hard.”
Marshall maintained investigating corruption continued to be a priority despite Hart’s departure.
“Capitol Journal” host Don Dailey went on to ask Marshall if Hart’s resignation was political, to which Marshall denied the charge and pointed to his prosecutorial record.
“It’s anything but,” he replied. “You look at the Mike Hubbard case, for example – my name is on the briefs. My name has been on the pleading as we continue to enforce that conviction in Lee County.”
Marshall, who easily won his general election contest last month, acknowledged there was a lot of focus on the Special Prosecutions Division, but also said there were a lot of other components to what the Alabama AG’s office does.
“I think what they do is maybe more known to people from time to time,” he said. “Let’s also understand there 150-plus dedicated employees in the AG’s office. We’re working a mission that is important for the state of Alabama.”
He went on to say Morris would continue with that Special Prosecutions Division’s focus and pointed to her track record as evidence.
“The priority is not shifting,” he said. “I absolutely challenge anybody to look at Clark Morris’ history and experience and see we made anything other than bringing somebody in that’s an outstanding leader. I look forward to being able to work with her as well as the fine people that work in that division. They are working hard today, as they are working hard tomorrow. We will continue to make sure we have the ability going forward to be that leader in these type of cases.”
The Alabama attorney general explained that Morris’ presence allowed his office to “cement” a partnership with federal prosecutors and federal law enforcement agencies.
“I really don’t care if somebody that has engaged in corruption is prosecuted in federal or state court,” he said. “What I worry about is making sure we have accountability. And so, we’ll work collaboratively with our federal partners. I think you’ll see a better job of that over the coming months and years in a way that we can make a difference in this area.”
In an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” on Friday,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall discussed the ongoing investigation into the shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover on Thanksgiving night and the events that have followed in its wake.
Marshall told “Capitol Journal” host Don Dailey his office didn’t have any direct involvement as of yet, but he was monitoring the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s effort and receiving updates.
“We don’t have any direct involvement, but it is something that is very much in the forefront of what we’re doing right now,” Marshall said. “I’ve had multiple conversations with ALEA, talked specifically with the ALEA investigator in the case, spoke yesterday with our department of forensic science to make sure they have prioritized that evidence to make sure everything is processed as quickly as possible.”
The Alabama AG also said he was interested in the protests that have followed the incident, given there are public safety concerns, especially as protesters closed down portions of Interstates 65 and 459 earlier this week.
“We’re also very interested in what we’re seeing for the citizens of Hoover,” Marshall added. “And when you see protests that are shutting down the Interstate – not only is that dangerous for public safety standpoint, it’s also dangerous for the protesters that are involved. I want to make sure that the citizens of Hoover feel safe as well while this investigation is ongoing.”
For now, Marshall said his office was on the sidelines as Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr was handling the effort. However, he said that could change if needed.
“It clearly could have some involvement,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons why I personally have been directly involved in what’s going on. I’ve been a prosecutor for 20 years. I’ve handled officer-involved shooting cases. I’m clearly aware of what are best practices and what we need to be able to do in those cases. And so, we’re ready, willing and able to assist in whatever capacity with the DA in Jefferson County. You know, Danny Carr has been a prosecutor for a long time, as well. I know that he is fully prepared to do what he is required to do once ALEA has finished the investigation. But we stand ready to be ready to be able to assist.”
Marshall added Carr was engaged with his state and federal law enforcement partners and that he had “great confidence” in the recently sworn-in Jefferson County district attorney.
Is the Riverchase Galleria really ‘the safest place in America?’
In an interview discussing the Thanksgiving night shooting, Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato encouraged people to support local businesses. It is a call that comes despite the lingering cloud shadowing a city that has erupted in protests over the killing of Emantic Bradford, Jr.
He also made an astounding claim by calling the Riverchase Galleria “the safest place in America” on three separate occasions during the lengthy interview with Birmingham’s ABC 33/40’s Lauren Walsh on Thursday.
The problem: Aside from it being a curious thing to say after the killing of a man, the Riverchase Galleria is far from the safest place in America — even before the shooting. It’s not even the safest place in the city of Hoover.
“Hoover is very, very safe,” Brocato contended. “The Galleria Mall is probably the safest place in America. We had an unfortunate incident that occurred there. We want people to know all over the Birmingham and Hoover metropolitan area, all over the state of Alabama – the mall is very safe. Hoover is very safe. Please don’t stay away. We guarantee we have our boots on the ground just like we would do in a normal Christmas season.”
He went on to emphasize his desire to see merchants within the city limits of Hoover supported.
“It’s very safe,” he added. “The merchants need to be supported. There are people down there that have to pay their rent. They are working part-time. A lot of folks have part-time jobs down there during the Christmas season so they can make ends meet. So, I hope we won’t be scared off so to speak, and not support the Galleria and the businesses around that.”
Statistically, the Riverchase Galleria and the area surrounding it have the highest crime rates within Hoover according to real estate data tracking company Neighborhoodscout.com.
It’s a false statement coming from a high-ranking public official.
This is not what the business owners and citizens Hoover need. It’s especially not what the Riverchase Galleria needs. Before last months shooting, the Galleria had become the MySpace of shopping choices in the Birmingham metro area. That is, it used to be a cool place with lots of exciting things and high-end retail, but it seems kind of icky these days. The shooting didn’t help matters.
For the sake of the livelihoods of those that have jobs tied to the Riverchase Galleria, you want to see those businesses succeed. Success won’t come with feel-good rhetoric and over-the-top false claims. Hoover, and more specifically the Riverchase Galleria, have branding problems.
Human behavior generally dictates that people don’t want to deal with the hassle of protesters or even the chance of some kind of gun violence. Given their druthers, is someone going to buy a pair of expensive tennis shoes at the place a guy a got shot, or the place the guy didn’t get shot?
The Riverchase Galleria has a stigma now. Overcoming it will require Mayor Brocato to channel post-Sept. 11, 2001 Rudy Giuliani, not 2003 Baghdad Bob.
Sonny Brasfield: Building local support for gas tax hike to fund roads, bridges key takeaway from ACCA’s pre-2019 legislative session conference
MONTGOMERY — Around lunchtime on Thursday, the attendees of this year’s Association of County Commissions of Alabama’s annual legislative conference were departing the Renaissance Hotel on Tallapoosa Street and headed back to home counties.
Upon their departures, most of those county commissioners seemed to be walking away with an agreement that acquiring additional revenue for infrastructure by an increase in the state’s gas tax was imperative for next year’s legislative session.
In a sit-down interview with Yellowhammer News immediately after the close of the conference, ACCA executive chairman Sonny Brasfield explained how the takeaways from this conference on infrastructure and other issues would serve as a table-setter for the 2019 session of the state legislature.
Brasfield echoed Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), who a day earlier at the two-day event called for attendees to grow local support for more road and bridge funding from a gas tax, which hasn’t been altered since 1992.
“We got three months, so there’s still some work to be done,” Brasfield said. “Our folks left with a charge from us to get back to work at the local level. In some ways, we were unsuccessful in 2017. But in other ways, we have moved the issue to the point that I think there’s pretty consistent agreement that it is time to do something on roads and bridges. What is that? How do we do it? We got three months to get that ready. I think our folks – what we need to be doing between now and then is building support at the local level. And that’s the charge I left them with this morning is go back and communicate with the opinion leaders in their communities about what we can do if we have additional revenue, and what happens if we don’t.”
Proponents have been reluctant to offer a specific percentage or dollar amount for a hike, the dollar amount required to get back on the so-called 15-year cycle, which is the lifespan of the asphalt typically used for Alabama’s road projects comes to about $390 million.
For now, Brasfield argues that number was less important than making a case for the need of the revenue and earning the public’s trust that it would be appropriately used.
“Rather than talking about what the number needs to be, where our people are is that we believe if we communicate to the public is what we’ll do with the money, however much it is – that’s how we build support,” he said.
Brasfield said his organization has been consistent with its position that language written for this new stream of additional revenue needed to be separated from the other gas tax revenue and used solely for roads and not salaries, equipment, or other types of construction like buildings for offices.
“It can’t be used for anything except asphalt and concrete,” Brasfield about the stipulations for the possible increase in the fuel tax.
“A great scenario for us is we get everybody on that position,” he added.
According to the ACCA executive director, one component required to win over public support might include a reporting mechanism that shows precisely what the money is being used for on a project-by-project basis.
“If we do those things, then the public is going to support us having money to fix the roads,” he said. “I don’t think the public will support us having money to just do what we’ve always done.”
The key he argued was building the public’s confidence by following through on the initial justification for the tax increase.
“When you talk to people, they will all say the same thing; If you fix my roads with the money, I’ll pay for it,” he added. “I don’t know that over the years there has been a great deal of confidence that the money would go only there.”
Headed into March’s legislative session, a potential hangup is how the revenue would be distributed to all 67 of Alabama’s counties. Although it is likely a matter of months before an actual proposal explaining those specifics is laid out for the public, Brasfield said his members were in favor the current distribution structure, which was a hybrid of an even-split and a split based on population.
“What our members said at this meeting is that we support additional revenue with these constraints with the money distributed using the traditional distribution formula,” he said.
Brasfield explained that initially with former Gov. “Big” Jim Folsom’s Farm-to-Market road program, gas tax revenue was split 67 ways and each of the counties getting an equal share. In the mid-1970s, the formula was changed with 55 percent of the revenue given to counties based on population, and the other 45 percent split equally.
Coming out of the conference, Brasfield said there seemed to be a consensus from ACCA members on their support for something to be done by the legislature on roads and bridge, noting that for a lot of county commissions, roads and bridges are a primary focus given they are a significant constituent concern.
For Brasfield, another area of concern for this upcoming legislative session includes the Alabama Simplified Sellers Use Tax, specifically how revenue is collected from the internet is collected in the wake of this year’s South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. U.S. Supreme Court decision.
In addition to that, there was solidifying Gov. Kay Ivey’s executive order through legislation regarding the handling of jail food money by county sheriff’s departments and plotting a course that would allow public employees to opt in the Retirement Systems of Alabama “Tier 1,” which is much more lucrative than the “Tier 2” plan created for employees hired on or after January 1, 2013.
Brasfield indicated he didn’t see his organization getting involved in the hot-button statewide issues like the lottery or Medicaid expansion. But he said given county commissions were legislative bodies, the state’s current ethics laws were a significant concern.
“I think at this point, we would like a little more clarity in the ethics law,” Brasfield said. “I have a real difficult time – people asking me questions, ‘Can you do this or that?’ If it is a complicated question, the answer is ‘maybe.’”
Kay Ivey lauds Shaw Industries $250 million upgrade at Andalusia ceremony
ANDALUSIA — For the last few decades, manufacturing has been on the decline in Alabama. This trend is especially true when it comes to textiles in the southern portion of the state.
Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Industries officially bucked that trend with a formal announcement on Wednesday that the company was putting $250 million into its Andalusia carpet manufacturing facility. That investment includes technology upgrades with an anticipated completion date of 2020.
On hand for the announcement was Gov. Kay Ivey, local Covington County and City of Andalusia leaders, along with executives from Shaw Industries.
Ivey, who has mastered the art of economic development ribbon-cutting ceremonies since becoming Alabama’s governor in 2017, touted the elements that have made announcements as such as the Shaw Industries possible.
“When we talk about building on success and momentum, this is how it is done,” she said. “We share with our companies an unparalleled workforce, a favorable business climate, and we work with those companies that choose to be Made in Alabama, We show them if they choose to be Made in Alabama, they can expect excellence.”
“Today, we’re not only celebrating a major investment of some $250 million here in the state of Alabama — we’re celebrating a facility that has grown, been successful and will find even more success in the future. This $250 million investment on this facility took teamwork. In fact, everything the Ivey administration does is a team effort. I’m proud of that.”
Among those Ivey recognized were Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson, Covington County Commission president Greg White and the two members representing Andalusia in the state legislature, State. Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba) and State Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia).
“To our friends at Shaw, we thank you for continuing to do business in the great state of Alabama,” Ivey added. “Thank you for investing in the development of our workforce. And thank you for participating in Made in Alabama. You’re a great team and do great work. And I am confident that I’ll be back here pretty soon, not too long — and we’ll have another celebration for another expansion.”
Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson called it a “red-letter day,” and noted the local utilities that helped make Shaw’s expansion feasible.
“This is a red-letter day for Andalusia and Covington County, and by red-letter, I mean a good day,” Johnson said. “It has truly been a team effort that has gone over the course of a year. [Plant Manager Ron Fantroy] asked me if I could come out and speak with him one afternoon about a year ago. He said, ‘Mayor, we’re thinking about expanding, the leaders of our company, investing $250 million in our plant here. And I just wanted to know, would you be willing to help us with that.’ And I said, ‘Is that a trick question?'”
Johnson also credited PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Southeast Gas and the Covington County Economic Development Commission for help in pushing the investment “across the finish line.”
Covington County Commission president Greg White noted that the size of the investment signaled the company intends on having a presence in Andalusia for the long-term.
“I can’t overstate how proud we are to have smart, sustainable, surging, advanced manufacturing operations in our county like those that Shaw offers and is now committing to for the long term,” White said. “When you make a quarter-of-a-million dollar investment in the community, you’re here to stay, and we’re thrilled about that.”
In comments to the media following the announcement ceremony, Ivey emphasized the importance of the economic initiatives for the rural parts of the state.
“Rural Alabama is very special to me for a lot of natural reasons, but it’s most important because we get more of our people employed and they can better care for themselves and their families. So yes, industries like this and towns like Andalusia are very important.”
Shaw Industries Executive Vice President David Morgan explained to Yellowhammer News why Andalusia was chosen as the site of his company’s expansion and credited the people of the area for Shaw’s ultimate decision.
“The technology is changing in this part of our business in the production of fibers and the type fibers that our customers want in the carpets that we produce,” Morgan said. “We look at several sites, and we’ve been working with the technology for about five years, and we looked at this site as one of the potentials to put it. What drew us here was certainly the community, working with the state and the local agencies, the utility cooperation, and primarily the people.”
“The people of Andalusia and this facility — it is an excellent team,” he continued. “It is very capable of integrating this technology, and we came here to reset this facility rather than move it somewhere else. The people really drew us here. The technology drove us to make the change because our customers were wanting different products.”
Long-time plant manager Ron Fantroy said the investment was necessary given the continuous changes in the industry.
“The plant was started in 1982,” Fantroy said. “I actually started in 1983 — nine months after the initial start of the facility. Over that period of time, we have seen a lot of change — technology improvements, technology advancements, technology progression and what’s happening here is a continuation of that process. From that experience from being here for the past 35-plus years, I have seen where we have undergone major transitions every four-to-five, six years on average.”
Fantroy also touted strides the community had made in keeping its workforce on pace with changes in technology.
State Senate Majority Ldr Reed lists rural broadband, waterways at top of Alabama infrastructure priorities
MONTGOMERY — Often when the topic of infrastructure concerns is raised by Alabama politicos, the discussion will almost immediately go to road and bridge deficiencies around the state. This is especially true as the Alabama legislature is likely to consider raising the gasoline tax in the 2019 session to finance improvements to the state’s transportation system.
However, State Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) is quick to note there are other pressing infrastructure concerns beyond Alabama’s highway system.
In an address to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama conference at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday, Reed stressed his desire to enhance the state’s access to high-speed internet and improve Alabama’s system of navigatable waterways.
The Walker County Republican explained that how in his backyard in nearby Winston County, the lack of broadband internet access almost forced out a company, which he suggested was proof that it was an area of concern worthy of the legislature’s attention.
“There’s been a focus on growing broadband access in rural Alabama, and I know that’s a big deal in my area,” Reed said. “I’ve seen a couple of my colleagues from Winston County. We had difficult circumstances related to broadband access where we were going to lose a significant employer if we didn’t come up with some kind of one-time solution to try and figure that out. Thankfully we were able to do it, but that problem presents itself over and over again and will continue to be a requirement that is something we got to look at at the state level.”
Reed acknowledged that the infrastructure issue was also seen as a priority by Gov. Kay Ivey, and he once again maintained the need for improvements in the area of broadband access.
“Number one, I think the governor’s number one focus — she told me that personally — and that is infrastructure,” Reed said. “The definition of infrastructure, in looking at, of course — roads, bridge, issues that you guys have to work with and deal with on a daily basis. But also, infrastructure that includes broadband access.”
He likened the broadband issue to the arrival of electricity to rural areas, which made a big difference in lifestyle of Americans residing in rural areas.
“If Alabamians and Alabama businesses do not have access to high-speed internet, then the opportunity for us to grow economically and industrially in rural areas of our state is going to be limited. And so, that is a big issue. That is a big topic the legislature has worked on and will continue to look for ways to impact that and deal with it.”
On the topic of navigatable waterways and ports, he argued they were relevant to the entire state beyond just the state’s coastal areas.
“Do you realize that 40 percent of everything that goes out of the Port of Mobile is coal? It’s going to places in Japan and Europe, and we have a lot of coal in Alabama. We have a lot of coal in my area.”
“Those kind of topics are important if you look for ways to strengthen infrastructure at the port, what does that mean economically for all of Alabama? It’s significant. Those type of issues will continue to be looked at and dealt with.”
The Jasper Republican said that the “devil was in the details” as it pertained to how the legislature would tackle infrastructure concerns during next year’s legislative session. He added that as a representative for a rural area, he would work to see that resources are dedicated to the road and bridge needs for rural Alabama, which was received with applause from the commissioners gathered in the audience.
“I think that is an important issue for all of us as we look to move forward and try to determine what’s best,” Reed said. “We’re looking for what’s best in Alabama. There will be a little back-and-forth with that.”
State House Majority Ldr Ledbetter urges county commissioners to make gas tax hike not about increase, but keeping ‘kids safe’
MONTGOMERY — It’s a near certainty that when the Alabama legislature convenes next year, an effort to raise the state’s gasoline tax will be front and center.
An adjustment to the tax, which was last done in 1992, is seen as a means to finance infrastructure needs across the state of Alabama, and the start of a new quadrennium is the most politically opportune time to do so.
In a speech to the attendees at a conference hosted by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday, State House of Representatives Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter warned of the consequences of not addressing infrastructure concerns.
“I truly believe if we do not fix our infrastructure – if we do not fix our roads and our bridges, the growth of our economy will come to a halt,” Ledbetter said. “When you’ve got the CEO of Mercedes-Benz stands up and says to me, ‘If you do not fix your infrastructure, we’re not going to expand. We can no longer get our product from Tuscaloosa to Mobile Bay.’”
“How many have been on I-10 lately?” he added. “That’s an adventure as well. Or [Interstate] 65 during holiday traffic, or [Interstates] 59 or 459, or in Huntsville? The road to our economy dictates that we do something about our infrastructure.”
On the gas tax, Ledbetter acknowledged he was “preaching to the choir” about the state’s infrastructure deficiencies given it was an audience comprised mainly of the state’s county commissioners. However, he encouraged those in attendance to take a proactive approach in promoting a proposal.
“The thing we’re asking you to do is preach to your choir,” Ledbetter said. “Go back to your district, let the people know why we need to have infrastructure improved in Alabama.”
Ledbetter said in his home county of DeKalb with a population of 70,000, school buses were required to travel an additional 30,000 miles to avoid “bad bridges.”
“The thing about it is, when we talk to our constituents about our infrastructure – it’s not about a tax increase,” he explained. “If you’re saying we’re going to have a tax increase on gasoline, you’re going about it the wrong way. You need to tell people we’re doing this to keep our kids safe, so they don’t have to travel an additional 30,000 miles a year on school buses. We’re doing it to keep our family safer, so they don’t hit a pothole on a county road and wind up in a ditch somewhere.”
Ledbetter added that more than half of all gasoline bought in the state was not purchased by Alabamians, meaning the bulk of the burden of the tax would not necessarily be carried by the people of Alabama.
Ivey on unfolding Hoover shooting situation: ‘Law enforcement must be supported’
ANDALUSIA — Wednesday at an appearance formally announcing Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Industries $250 million investment in its Covington County facility, Gov. Kay Ivey reacted to the ongoing situation in Hoover.
Hoover is at the center of turmoil after the Thanksgiving night shooting death of Emantic Bradford Jr. at the Riverchase Galleria allegedly by Hoover Police, which has resulted in widespread protests in various locations around the Birmingham suburb.
Ivey reiterated her faith in state authorities and urged for law enforcement to be supported.
“This is a homicide investigation,” she said to Yellowhammer News. “Law enforcement must be supported. The State Bureau of Investigation is in charge. And I trust them, and I wait for their report.”
State authorities assumed control of the investigation under the banner of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency after it was ceded by the Hoover Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
Radio talker Matt Murphy on Hoover protests: At some point you have got to arrest people; Asks ‘where has Mayor Frank Brocato been?’
Tuesday during Birmingham’s Talk 99.5 “Matt & Aunie Show,” co-host Matt Murphy sounded off on the city of Hoover’s response to protests at local businesses in the wake Thanksgiving night’s shooting at the Riverchase Galleria.
Murphy questioned what impact these protests are having on local businesses and why the city hasn’t taken a more active role in maintaining the peace and protecting private property.
The morning drive host was especially critical of Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato, who he suggested had been missing in action for some time as these events in his city have unfolded.
“You have some of these so-called advocates and activists saying ‘f— peace,’” he said. “They are pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing – and at some point the city of Hoover, you have got to arrest people. Are you going to continue to allow – and I’m not trying to come down on the city of Hoover here – I’m just wondering how long you allow this to go on before you stop it. Your businesses at the Galleria are suffering. They are shutting down businesses – local businesses, minority-owned businesses are suffering at the hands of these people. And at some point, if you’re not going to release the video – at some point, you have to shut this down because you are hurting your businesses in Hoover the way that you are responding to this.”
“I understand it is tough. And I understand it is frustrating, but I want to see some leadership out of Frank Brocato? Where has Mayor Frank Brocato been? As a matter of fact, where has he been since he made that statement last week? Has anybody seen him? … Do we not expect that he is going to get in front of this situation, and I don’t care if he doesn’t have anything to say. At least say something to the business owners. Say something to the Henley family, who owns the Mint Leafe in the Galleria, who is suffering because of this. You’re allowing a group of 25 or 30 people – you’re giving them what they want. They said they wanted to being down your city and you’re letting them do it.”
The (apparent) many lives of self-proclaimed Hoover civil rights champ Carlos Chaverst, Jr.
(C. Chaverst Jr./Facebook)
Before his post-Galleria shooting exploits, no one had ever heard of Carlos Chaverst, Jr. There was no reason to have heard of him.
It remains to be the case that no one should know who Chaverst is. However, the media covering this sad and tragic chapter of Hoover history have a knack for tracking this individual down and offering their audiences on-the-scene play-by-play reports of his misdeeds – theatrical presentations performed in the name of justice for Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr.
For a better understanding of the man known as Carlos Charverst, Jr., Yellowhammer News did a deep dive into his social media postings and with the goal of determining the inspiration of this central figure in the Bradford shooting aftermath.
Threats aimed at the public and the derogatory name-calling of Hoover Police Officers aren’t Chaverst’s foray into the political realm. He’s been quite active based on a biography provided by the left-leaning Huffington Post. He served as a committee assistant for outspoken Birmingham city councilwoman Sheila Tyson and is currently the youth director of the Alabama chapter of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
AL(dot)com has taken a keen interest in Chaverst’s activities. On Sunday, Alabama’s juggernaut of three-day-a-week major city newspapers deployed breaking news reporter Anna Beahm to AMC Patton Chapel movie theater in Hoover to witness Chaverst hurl insults at police and intimidate individuals with no involvement in the Thanksgiving night shooting whatsoever seeking to patronize the theater. She was also on the scene for Chaverst grandstanding overture at a Hoover City Council meeting on Monday, and for a disruption at the Sam’s Club in Hoover immediately after the council meeting.
Also sent to Hoover to chronicle Chaverst’s endeavors was education reporter Tricia Powell Crain, stationed at the Riverchase Galleria on Monday.
Given the media attention granted to Chaverst and his apparent role as a figurehead for this protest movement, he is worthy of a deep-dive analysis. Our analysis starts with his tweets given Chaverst declares as a place he can be himself, as opposed to Facebook.
At first glance, it appears Chaverst is a jack of many trades, but it’s not clear that he is a master of any. In his Twitter biography, he declares himself to be a “National Award Winning Journalist,” the president of a namesake company called “Chaverst Strategies,” and also a strategist, organizer, talk show host and activist. He also is a self-proclaimed entrepreneur.
Based on his Twitter, Chaverst enjoys an active nightlife, which as he has pointed out sometimes becomes the-morning-after-last-nightlife.
In 2016, Chaverst was a candidate for public office. He ran in the Democratic Party primary for the Constable of Alabama House District 60. A Twitter account he used in that effort shows some semblance of an organized campaign. However, he came up short in securing the Democratic Party’s nod by a little over 1,200 votes.
Despite his online shenanigans, there is at least one calming influence in his life, his mother, Sonja Curtis. Curtis has reached out to her son on social media and warned him to “stay classy” and is also aware of the activities he is publicizing on Twitter.
For the time being, Chaverst remains a central figure of the backlash to last week’s tragedy given he is frequently cited by media outlets. However, it’s not entirely clear that Chaverst isn’t exploiting the shooting to promote himself.
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.
Listen: State Auditor Jim Zeigler sizes up possible 2020 U.S. Senate opponents Bradley Byrne, Del Marsh
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler
During Friday’s broadcast of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” State Auditor Jim Zeigler weighed in on his possible opponents should he decide to run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat up in the 2020 election.
That seat is currently occupied by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) and is thought by many to be a likely pick-up for the GOP in that 2020 cycle.
Zeigler, who announced he had formed an exploratory campaign in anticipation of a possible 2020 run two weeks ago, explained to host Don Dailey why two of the perceived front-runners for the GOP nod, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), might think twice about running in 2020.
According to Zeigler, Byrne would have to give up his first congressional district post, which could be a deterrent.
“Congressman Byrne would have to give up his seat – would have to give up a safe seat – in order to run for this, unlike the special election of ’17 when Congressman Brooks did not have to give up his seat to try for the U.S. Senate seat. That’s a difficult choice.”
As for Marsh, Zeigler said the Calhoun County Republican was the “second-most-powerful” politician in Alabama, and that as well might prevent Marsh running.
“Del Marsh may be the second-most-powerful political figure in Alabama,” he added. “So, why should he step down to take a U.S. Senate seat? That’s just something to weigh.”
After Bellefonte Nuclear Plant deal ‘setback,’ developer Frank Haney sues TVA
(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)
Late Friday, TVA issued a statement announcing Nuclear Development LLC, the prospective buyer of Jackson County’s long-dormant Bellefonte nuclear power plant, was unable to meet “its legal obligations” required to complete a $111 million sale.
The sale was due to be completed by Nuclear Development on Friday and is viewed by many to be a significant setback to the decades-long on-again, off-again ordeal of TVA’s Bellefonte facility.
“Nuclear Development did not complete the necessary [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] license transfer prior to the closing date as required by the Atomic Energy Act,” the statement explained.
This is not the end for Nuclear Development’s Bellefonte.
Almost immediately after the announcement, attorneys for Franklin Haney, a Chattanooga developer who is a principal with Nuclear Development, announced a lawsuit against TVA for illegally blocking the sale.
According to a report from Chattanooga, Tenn.’s Times Free Press, a 14-page lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Huntsville arguing the basis of TVA rejection of the Nuclear Development’s purchase, which is an application of the Atomic Energy Act, was “erroneous.”
“The transfer of the Bellefonte site and its improvements in their current condition to Nuclear Development does not violate the NRC permits, the NRC regulations or the Atomic Energy Act,” Caine O’Rear III, a Mobile attorney who filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of Haney said to the Times Free Press. “Moreover, the transfer of the NRC permits is not a prerequisite to closing under the contract.”
Nuclear Development won a 2016 auction with a $111 million winning bid to purchase Bellefonte and was prepared to close the sale on Friday.
In a text message to Yellowhammer News, State Sen. Steve Livington (R-Scottsboro) called it a setback and applied a quote from New York Yankees great Yogi Berra to the situation.
Mike Rogers: Border security a focus in new Homeland Security Committee ranking member role
(Congressman Mike D. Rogers/Facebook)
Earlier this week, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) was chosen by his Republican colleagues to serve as the ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee once the new Congress convenes early next year.
Given the political climate and a Democratic-controlled Congress poised to oppose President Donald Trump, Rogers said this committee would be “active” given the proposal the president has made regarding immigration.
Rogers, who has been a member of the committee since its inception following early last decade, discussed his new post with Huntsville’s NewsTalk 770 AM/92.5 FM WVNN on Friday.
“I’ve been on the committee since it was established back in 2003 and it’s obviously very important to our country that we maintain safety and security from the folks that are trying to do us harm,” Rogers explained. “It’s something I’m very proud of. I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing. It’s important to Alabama.”
Rogers pointed to the Center for Domestic Preparedness at the former site of Fort McClellan near Anniston where first responders and hospital personnel are trained as an example of why his position on that committee was important.
“It’s going to be a very active committee in this next term as the Democrats start going after President Trump and his wall, and they try to open our borders to caravans of illegals who want to come into our country and many of whom do us harm. So, it’s going to be a real battleground.”
The Saks Republican said congressional Democrats have already signaled they intend to make Trump’s proposals, including the border wall, a target.
“The incoming chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, already put out a statement earlier this week that he intends to go after the wall,” Rogers added. “It falls squarely in our committee’s jurisdiction. Customs and Border Protection is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security who is charged with preventing people from coming in illegally. Once they get in the country, it is the responsibility of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is another DHS – Department of Homeland Security – agency to find illegals and get them out.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was elected by his colleagues to serve as the House Minority Leader in the new Congress, praised Rogers, who he said would “keep that steadfast leadership” as the ranking member.
“I am looking forward to having Mike Rogers as the leading Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security,” McCarthy said in a statement released Friday. “Protecting America and the American people has been a top priority for every Republican in Congress and Mike has been a championing voice. I know Mike will keep that steadfast leadership as he approaches this new role.” @Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.
— FoxNews.com reports one-third of the migrants in the caravan at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana are being treated for “respiratory infections, tuberculosis, chickenpox and other serious health issues,” per the Tijuana’s Health Department.
— Perhaps the Trump administration should have sought more than $5 billion for border wall funding, given the optics of this potential threat to public health.
— Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel showed a little of the Democratic Party’s hand in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday. Democrats know to ensure a defeat for Trump in 2020, you’re going to have to take some of the wind out of the sails of his supporters.
— It worked with Richard Nixon. Nixon dominated his 1972 presidential reelection against his Democratic opponent George McGovern. With such a dominating performance, Nixon looked impenetrable. But once Nixon lost GOP support, it was curtains.
— The Trump West Wing has nothing on my alma mater. The circular firing squad within Auburn University is not only trying to take down the head football coach Gus Malzahn after an uninspiring, mediocre 7-5 season record and 3-5 conference record, but insider reports have also it threatening the tenure of University president Steven Leath.
— This is eerily reminiscent of the so-called 2003 Jetgate scandal. The university went courting Bobby Petrino to replace Tommy Tuberville, but it backfired after Auburn pulled out a win in the Iron Bowl and that ended that discussion. The next season the Tigers went undefeated, but the mistrust within Auburn persisted.
— As world leaders from the planet’s 20 most industrialized nation gather in Buenos Aires, we are told that trade and climate change are going to be at the forefront.
— I wouldn’t expect to see Trump changing radically on climate change, especially when the world looks to the United States to bear the brunt economically. That’s what sunk the United States’ participation in the Paris Agreement. However, trade could be a different matter. Trump will meet with China’s President Xi Jinping. Perhaps an agreement could be reached on averting the $200 billion in tariffs with which the president has threatened China.
— On Thursday, the FBI revealed it was bringing at least an additional 1,000 jobs to Redstone Arsenal, up from the current 500. The idea is there will be an opportunity for the FBI to work with the existing defense intelligence on explosive and missile defense for the FBI.
— While this is certainly good news, it adds some pressure to local and state officials to address infrastructure concerns. This means a heavier use of the roads, power grid, etc.
— Erron Martez Dequan Brown, 20, of Bessemer, was arrested in Fairburn, Ga. on Thursday. As we know, Hoover police shot and killed Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr., 21, while responding to the shooting call at Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night. As it turned out, Bradford wasn’t the gunman. It took a day for Hoover Police to come forward with that revelation.
— Since that report, the city of Hoover is at the center of controversy. Protests have erupted, and there’s a general distrust of the local government. There is a lot at stake for Hoover, not just in terms of possible litigation and damages, but for the city’s overall economy and reputation.
— Remember back a couple of months ago when the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination confirmation hearing took the Mueller probe off the front page? It’s back again. Thursday, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded to lying to Congress about Donald Trump’s involvement in a Moscow development project.
— As talk radio shock jock Dale Jackson would say, “Is this what gets Donald Trump?” If everything about this narrative is a bombshell revelation, then nothing is a bombshell revelation. Don’t tell the pseudo-pundit class in the media that. None of this is “good” for Trump, but we’ve long past the point of diminishing returns on 2016 election Russia meddling for the Democrats.
Black Friday Eve shooting the likely death knell for Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria
It was February 1986. Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” was at the top of the charts. “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” was the current big hit at the box office.
And the Riverchase Galleria, seen by some as the eighth wonder of the world, opened.
As the brainchild of developer Jim Wilson, Hoover’s Galleria at the recently completed intersection of I-459 and U.S. 31 was a quarter of a mile long and had at the time the nation’s largest skylight: 120,000 square feet of glass suspended ten stories above the mall according to reports at the time.
For the next three decades, it would serve as the heart of the city of Hoover and be the centerpiece of the city’s retail-driven economy. People would come from all around the state of Alabama and beyond to shop at the Galleria.
It was even a stop for President George H.W. Bush in his failed 1992 re-election bid against Bill Clinton.
As they always do, things changed. Brick-and-mortar retail has given way to online shopping. And little by little, the once bustling Riverchase Galleria has been in a consistent and steady decline.
It wasn’t without trying. The Galleria has undergone additions, renovations and added retail on the western side of its property. It even got its own exit off of I-459
But like most indoor shopping malls in America, the Galleria’s days seem numbered, especially after last week’s deadly shooting and the chaos that has since ensued.
Months earlier, one long-time Galleria independent business owner told me that he was just barely hanging on and that his sales were a fraction of what they were in the 1990s and early 2000s.
This year, the mall’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony, once one of the signature holiday events of the area, hardly drew anyone.
People were already reluctant to go to the Galleria and were opting to shop online or to head for U.S. 280’s The Summit. The threat of gun violence in broad daylight will shrink the already dwindling customer base. It’s difficult to see how ownership can alter that perception.
Even with the demise of the Riverchase Galleria, Hoover should remain one of Alabama’s premier communities. Despite being looked upon by its northern neighbors Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook as nouveau riche, the city of Hoover maintains a strategic advantage geographically and is bolstered by a successful public school system.
With or without the Riverchase Galleria, Hoover will survive. The question is, what’s the next big thing for the southern Jefferson County suburb?
State Sen Cam Ward: Infrastructure, lottery, Medicaid expansion, rural health care among legislative ‘priorities’
On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) signaled that addressing infrastructure would be a primary focus of next year’s legislative session.
Ward told APTV’s Don Dailey that the lottery, Medicaid expansion and addressing rural health care were also among the legislature’s priorities, but indicated that infrastructure was at the top of the list.
At the center of the infrastructure discussion is the state’s gasoline tax, according to Ward.
“If you’re on I-65 North in my district any time between June, July and August, I can tell you roads are hands down the biggest issue our state faces,” Ward said. “I think you’ll see roads and infrastructure. I think a lottery will come back up. There’s always the discussion on Medicaid expansion. And of course, there’s the rural health care needs, too. So, I think all of those will be big. However, I think if you had to pinpoint one issue, Don – it’s going to be infrastructure, roads.”
The Shelby County Republican suggested an adjustment to the gas tax was long overdue given it had not been changed since 1992.
“If you had the same amount of the revenue coming in that you had today, yet you have more fuel-efficient cars, and you have more people driving on the roads, but you have the same amount of revenue coming in – there’s no way you can improve and widen I-65 Montgomery to Birmingham if you have the same amount of money you had in 1992. It’s not going to work. You’re going to have to have more revenue to pay for it. If you want better roads, safer bridges – you will have to have more money to pay for it.”
The gas tax is at the center of the infrastructure discussion and while raising taxes may not be popular, Ward urged his colleagues to do what they thought would “help the state best.”
“[I] do think people shouldn’t be as scared about it,” he added. “Do what’s right. Do what you think is going to help the state best. And you know what? At the end of the day, it’ll work out.”
Dailey raised the issue of the legislature addressing the state’s general fund, to which Ward expressed his confidence in the new leadership’s ability to resolve.
“You’ll have tough decisions, but also I think you got some new leadership there that’s going to help and I think we can get it done. Mental health, prison and of course Medicaid are always driving that decision,” Ward replied.
Alabama SoS John Merrill: ‘I’ve had instances in 2016 and again this year where we had people that were allowing drive-by voting’
On Friday’s broadcast of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill compared the structure that governs elections in his state to that of Florida, which had some high-profile difficulties in this year’s general election.
Merrill touted Alabama’s strict conformity to the law on elections and referred to situations that required his intervention to maintain this adherence to the law.
One situation involved so-called “drive-by voting,” also known as “curbside voting,” which according to Merrill was a case of some polling locations allowing people to take ballots out to cars to be filled out on Election Day.
“You have to make sure those people are doing what they’re supposed to do,” Merrill said. “You can’t have people going rogue, which is one of the things we’ve seen in our state. I’ve had instances in 2016 and again this year where we had people that were allowing drive-by voting – curbside voting. If you came up to the polls and you were not able to get out of the car, or you said you were disabled, they were allowing people to take the ballots out.”
Merrill explained how he addressed it and said if this were something that should be allowed, it shouldn’t be done by local election authorities, but statutorily by the Alabama legislature.
“Now when that was introduced to me, I made a call to the probate judge and we stopped it dead-cold right when it was introduced to us,” he added. “I asked them, ‘Under what authority and what jurisdiction do you have to be able to provide that?’ And they said, ‘Well, it’s just a courtesy.’ Well, let me tell you something: If you don’t like the law, change the law. Don’t make the law on the spot. That’s not acceptable.”
According to the recently re-elected Alabama secretary of state, the proper response for the state of Florida regarding these election woes should be handled by the Sunshine State’s legislature, or possibly by investigators through the indictment process.
“What they’re doing in Florida is making the laws up as they go, and it’s a problem,” Merrill stated. “But it’s a problem that needs to be addressed by their legislature. It may need to be addressed by indictments, but it needs to be addressed because those people need to be removed from office that are behaving that way. That’s not acceptable.”
State tourism director credits Doug Jones’ election win for boost in Alabama tourism
(tourism.alabama.gov, Wikipedia Commons)
It’s fair to say the world would be a much different place if Roy Moore had defeated Doug Jones in last year’s U.S. Senate special election in Alabama.
Beyond just raw Republican-versus-Democrat totals in the U.S. Senate, some credit Alabama voters choosing Jones over Moore, including Jones himself, for the selection of the Limestone County site for the new $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda plant.
Add a bump to Alabama tourism economy according to Alabama Tourism Department director Lee Sentell.
At the top of the list of factors contributing to a $1 billion spike in tourism, Sentell credits Jones win according to a report published on Friday by the Montgomery Advertiser’s Brad Harper.
“I think the average person would be surprised to know that something like an election could have a potential impact on the tourism industry, which is obviously non-political,” Sentell said. “But we had lots of calls and emails the month leading up to (the election of Sen. Doug Jones), people saying, ‘We will never come to Gulf Shores again if’ the election turned out opposite the way they wanted it to.
“In a way, people vote with their money when they go on vacation.”
Sentell said the beaches were the biggest tourist draw for Alabama. He also credited the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s downtown museum and memorial to lynching for increases in tourism specific to Montgomery.
To the prospective ‘Hilton-affiliated’ buyer for Downtown Selma’s St. James Hotel: Do it!
For 180 years, the building at the corner of Water Avenue and Washington Street has been a fixture in Selma. It survived the Civil War, the Great Depression and the Civil Rights Era turmoil in Selma.
It was known a The Brantley throughout the 19th century, but that closed in the 1890s. Throughout the 1900s, it was used for commercial and industrial purposes, including as a tire shop in the 1980s.
In 1997, after millions of dollars in renovations and much fanfare, it reopened as the St. James Hotel. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill after that. After a tumultuous 20 years, chronicled by The Selma Times-Journal, it was boarded up in 2017 and shopped by the city of Selma for a potential buyer.
According to a report from Alabama News Network’s George McDonald published Wednesday, a new buyer has emerged that is affiliated with Hilton Hotels.
This might be what the St. James Hotel needs to work: a company running this property that is in the business of hotels and has an idea of what is sustainable.
There is no shortage of abandoned buildings and blight in downtown Selma. That is a reflection of the city that as a whole consistently struggles with high unemployment, crime and an unnecessary saga of in-fighting at the local levels of government.
Conspicuously missing from Selma’s portfolio of business are the corporate brands that wear their progressive views as a badge of honor. They make commercials touting their dedication to sustainability, diversity, inclusion or [insert left-of-center feel-good buzzword here].
However, if you live in Selma and you want Starbucks, be prepared to drive to Prattville. Target? Prattville as well. The closest Apple Store? Birmingham. Subaru dealership? Montgomery.
Obviously, these are private companies that have to look out for their shareholders’ interests. But they don’t back up their virtue-signaling by putting money where their mouths are, at least when it comes to a place like Selma, Alabama – ground zero of the Civil Rights Movement.
They may take on some corporate sponsorship for Oprah Winfrey’s movie about Selma. They will give themselves awards for doing so.
But at the end of the day, Selma’s economy remains beleaguered. It has the highest unemployment rate among the state’s top 25 municipalities in excess of seven percent.
That is why it is a breath of fresh air to see an entity take an interest in the St. James Hotel property that is affiliated with the Hilton Hotel chain. (To be fair, there is a Hilton-affiliated Hampton Inn on the western edge of Selma out U.S. Highway 80 headed west toward Demopolis.)
The property has potential. It sits on the banks of the Alabama River and overlooks the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It’s also a place where the availability of hotel accommodations is severely lacking.
The revival of the St. James Hotel won’t by itself be what turns downtown Selma into a facsimile of New Orleans’ French Quarter, as was the hope of Selma City Councilman Michael Johnson when hotel FUBU flirted with the idea of investing in the property last year. Such a vision may be a little ambitious.
However, if Selma’s city leaders are realistic with this iteration of the St. James Hotel and can guarantee the city will do the things most people expect out of a city government – public safety, sanitation, utilities, etc. – then they can build upon that. It’s these small gestures that can be the foundation for a turnaround.
A satisfactory functional downtown hotel won’t be a cure-all for the city of Selma’s woes, but there is an upside for the city’s residents and this potential hotel proprietor.
To this “Hilton-affiliated” buyer: If circumstances allow for it, it is worth a gamble. Given that Selma is centrally located on the map of Alabama, it has the potential of someday serving as a venue that’s an alternative to Montgomery or Birmingham.
More importantly for Selma, the reemergence of the St. James Hotel means Selma won’t be thought of as just another place off the beaten path but as a destination.
Sewell decries ‘voting irregularities’ in Alabama; Says first bill introduced in Dem-controlled Congress will address
SELMA — Although the focus on so-called “voting irregularities” in the midterm elections earlier this month was put on votes in neighboring Georgia and Florida, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) spoke out on those happening here in Alabama at a town hall meeting she hosted on Monday.
Sewell spoke of voting irregularities in Huntsville earlier this month at a gathering at the Selma Interpretative Center in downtown Selma.
Despite a federal judge’s ruling earlier this month calling that claim into question, Sewell criticized how voters at Huntsville’s Oakman College and Alabama A&M were allegedly taken off the voter rolls.
“We all saw voting irregularities occur across this nation in this 2018 midterm elections,” she said. “We saw it in Florida. We saw it in Georgia. We saw it in Alabama. I want you to know there were historically black colleges in Huntsville where Oakwood and Alabama A&M students were taken off, purged from the voter rolls because the notice that they were given from our secretary of state went to a P.O. box at the school. Many of those students live off campus, so they didn’t respond, they didn’t receive this notification that they had to go and make sure that their names were spelled right. And they were purged from the rolls. We had to get provisional ballots and have election protection officials go to Huntsville on Election Day. That’s in Alabama.”
Sewell said it was “worse” in Georgia, where Gov.-elect Brian Kemp was “a referee and a player” as a candidate in that election, and she criticized where some voters purged from the rolls for mismatching of names in some circumstances.
The Birmingham Democrat insisted some of these irregularities may have been prevented had the U.S. Supreme Court not overturned certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.
“What would happen is states like Georgia and Alabama would have to pre-clear any changes in voter laws – any changes,” Sewell said.
Sewell promoted her Voting Rights Advancement Act, which she said would restore some of the pre-clearance requirements.
“We have got to put the teeth back into, the enforceability back into the Voting Rights Act and that is what my bill does,” she said. “And I was told by Ms. Pelosi last week that H.R. 1, the first bill the Democrats will produce will be a bill to have democratic reform to our democracy, so we can truly be a democracy for the people – working on behalf of all the people. And my bill will be a part of H.R. 1.”
Doug Jones at Mobile U.S. Senate trade roundtable: Pentagon could play role in national security tariffs
MOBILE – Although President Donald Trump remains very popular in Alabama, his trade policies among the state’s business leaders appear to be mixed.
For the steel industry, which has been a fixture in Alabama for generations, the Trump administration’s handling of trade is a resounding success. Yet, for those in agriculture and auto manufacturing, there is much room for improvement.
That seemed to be the takeaway from a roundtable convened by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) at the University of South Alabama on Monday.
The roundtable, an event sanctioned by the U.S. Senate under the body’s Homeland Security Committee, will be part of the permanent record of the Senate and that will be considered for legislation.
“I have a couple of bills pending involving automobile tariffs and national security tariffs,” Jones said. “So, it will be part of that record in the legislative history should those come to the floor or come to a vote.”
A statutory change under consideration according to Alabama’s junior senator regarding trade has to do with which cabinet department handles tariffs levied on a national security basis.
Jones says that could be best handled by the Department of Defense and not the Commerce Department.
“Under the national security threat, it bifurcates the process and moves the initial determination about national security – for instance, automobile – whether or not automobiles are a national security threat – that would move that to the Defense Department, who is better equipped to address national security concerns rather than the Commerce Department.”
Jones told Yellowhammer News the roundtable provided insights into how current trade policy directly impacted Alabama and influenced decision-making by business executives.
“It confirms what we’ve been saying – that the uncertainty of this policy is creating some problems,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “People are holding off. They’re not sure whether or not to expand their business, whether it is a small business or whether it is a big business. It shows there can be some serious consequences if certain tariffs are imposed. At the same time, it shows you where there can be successes – with the steel industry to stabilize markets.”
“One of the purposes of the hearing is to make sure the public is aware, people are aware,” he continued. “I think one of the takeaways that people will understand is that this policy and the retaliatory tariffs right now are having a devastating impact on farmers. We stand to lose a lot of overseas markets if this is not resolved. That’s the whole point of this. Let’s get it resolved one way or another, so we know where we stand. It’s gone on long enough.”
Jones elaborated on his personal views on trade when asked if a “free trade” or “fair trade” label could be applied to his views. He acknowledged there needed to be a balance of elements of free and fair trade. However, he also said his preference is trade alliances as opposed to trade wars.
“I don’t if you can really describe – I think fair trade is the most important aspect of that,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “There is always a strong element of free trade that’s included in that. You’ve got to balance trade with rogue countries like China has been over the years. And you got to make sure that countries that are subsidizing their trade do not have an unfair advantage because we want to protect our workers here in this country.”
“At the same time, we are much more of a global economy now and interconnected than we have ever been in the history of this earth,” he added. “And we got to recognize that – that what we can do, work together, is the way to try and manage this and help our country help other countries and help the global economy as well as our own. We want to make sure our workers are protected. We can do that better by forming alliances instead of doing trade wars.”
Monday’s roundtable participants included Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama vice president Robert Burns, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International general counsel Rick Clementz, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama assistant division manager Allyson Edwards, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama president David Fernandes, Aker Solutions project director Graham Jones, Baldwin County farmers Mark Kaiser and Daniel Perry, Nucor Steel Decatur vice president Mike Lee, Alabama State Port Authority Director & CEO Jimmy Lyons and Fairfield Works Tubular plant manager Brent Sansing.
Terri Sewell slams Kay Ivey — Claims ‘daughter of the Black Belt’ would not help save Camden hospital
SELMA – One of the primary themes at a town hall hosted by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) on Monday night was health care, which is also one on which that House Democrats campaigned in this year’s midterm elections.
Although Democrats nationally had success in the midterms, in Alabama they were unable to capitalize electorally on health care, especially given the emphasization Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox gave to expanding Medicaid in his failed gubernatorial bid.
Nonetheless, Sewell argued before a crowd assembled at the Selma Interpretive Center for her town hall event in downtown Selma that Medicaid expansion was a priority and she decried the unwillingness of Alabama policymakers to agree.
“States like Alabama were not supposed to be able to opt out of expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “The last two governors have not done that. It’s horrible. The reality is the fact that we have not expanded Medicaid means rural hospitals are under threat. Alabama has a bare-bones Medicaid system. They pay less than 10 percent on a dollar for the services for Medicaid.”
According to Alabama’s lone Democratic member of Congress, the closure of rural hospitals was the result of not expanding Medicaid.
“We have missed out on millions – actually billions of dollars in the state of Alabama in not expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “We could use that money, and the fact that we don’t have that money means that so many of our rural hospitals are under threat of closing. I don’t have to tell the Black Belt.”
She took aim at Gov. Kay Ivey, a native of Camden, for not doing more to save the Wilcox County hospital.
“We saved [John] Paul Jones Hospital, but we did so with the help of UAB,” she said. “Now, that’s not a model that can be done to scale. What I did is I begged UAB because our own governor, who is from Wilcox [County], would not help us to save Wilcox County’s hospital. That’s unacceptable, by the way. And I’m not telling her anything that I wouldn’t tell her to her face and have told her because when you’re a daughter of the Black Belt, you have to understand that you have got to take care of home.”
Sewell told those in attendance she went to UAB Health System CEO William Ferniany and warned if Camden’s John Paul Jones Hospital closed, hospitals in Selma and Demopolis could be threatened, and that might result in everyone “bum-rushing” UAB for health care.
“Rural hospitals are on the chopping block and the number-one priority for me is keeping the doors open and making sure access is there, but also making sure quality is there,” she added.