The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

3 weeks ago

Watch: Nick Saban surprises 103-year-old WWII veteran with Facetime call

(Nick's Kids Foundation, Rick Karle WVTM 13/Facebook, YHN)

It takes a lot to impress a 103-year-old World War II veteran who landed on the beaches of Normandy. Alabama head coach Nick Saban pulled it off earlier this month when he surprised the American hero with a call.

WVTM 13’s Rick Karle reported Major Wooten’s encounter with Saban and posted video of the scene on his social media accounts on Thursday.

Watch:

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Here is what Karle wrote:

Major Wooten (yes, Major is his first name) is a World War II hero from Cullman who is in hopice, his heart giving out after what has been a wonderful life. Back in the 40’s, Major Wooten landed in Utah Beach and helped liberate hundreds as he marched through France near the end of the war.

One of Mr. Wooten’s dreams has been to meet Coach Nick Saban- his planned meeting with the coach was dashed weeks ago when COVID-19 hit. His chances of meeting the coach dwindled, as his days were numbered.

It looked as if Mr. Wooten would leave us last Saturday. As his family huddled and prayed, something amazing happened: Mr. Wooten climbed back, and God gave him another chance to talk with Coach Saban.

Yesterday morning came the call: It was the the UA Athletics department!
Could it be? Could Nick Saban be standing by to talk to this hero?
The answer was “yes”, and soon after that call, Mr. Wooten and the coach were chatting (click the video to hear the conversation) alongside family members in Alabama and Florida.

I pray that Major Wooten has many days remaining, but if he leaves us soon, he will leave us content in knowing that he served his country, he loved the Alabama football team and just when he thought it would never happen, he chatted with Coach Nick Saban.

1 month ago

Alabama’s HPM hires senior manager with 35 years in design and construction

(Hoar Program Management/Contributed,

Birmingham-based HPM recently announced the hiring of industry veteran Bruce Quisno as the company’s newest senior program development manager, according to a release from the company.

Founded in 1997, HPM provides comprehensive guidance to clients on the construction and development process and offers “a one-stop approach to complete program management and owner’s representation.”

HPM says Quisno will provide strategic leadership and direction for new and developing client engagements while serving as a key component between business development and the operational phases of an assignment.

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“Bruce’s diverse background, deep connections in the industry, and ability to see through the lens of the owner make him an extremely valuable addition to our leadership team,” said Greg Ellis, vice president of program development at HPM. “His can-do personality and passion for cultivating strong client relationships have served him well throughout his career, and those traits will play an integral role moving forward as HPM prepares to enter new markets and expand our service offerings. We look forward to seeing Bruce apply his strategic leadership skills as he helps guide us into the next chapter of our growth story.”

Quisno, a registered architect with more than 35 years of experience in design and construction, most recently served as vice president of retail at CR architecture + design in Cincinnati, where he directed strategy and execution for the firm’s national retail teams. He spent 20 years as vice president of construction at Macy’s, where he managed projects for Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s Southeast, South Central and Midwest regions. He led design and construction efforts for new stores in both Hawaii (Bloomingdale’s) and Puerto Rico (Macy’s), as well as supervising the design and construction of a 2.2 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I’m thrilled to join the team at HPM and look forward to building upon its strong foundation of integrity and creative, client-focused solutions,” said Quisno. “My background and prior experience provide key advantages for building holistic strategies that are responsive to the needs of owners and help generate meaningful results. Now more than ever, program managers must rise to meet the emerging challenges in our industry while identifying new opportunities to add value for clients. I’m grateful for the firm’s confidence and look forward to hitting the ground running.”

1 month ago

Read it for yourself: The proposal to reopen Alabama’s economy immediately

(W.Miller/YHN)

Formed by Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) and chaired by State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), the Alabama Small Business Commission Emergency Task Force’s “Subcommittee to Reopen the Economy” on Friday released its plan to begin getting Alabamians back to work.

Entitled “Reopening Alabama Responsibly Phase One,” the plan was unveiled in a press conference by Ainsworth and Garrett at the State House in Montgomery.

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The plan has been presented to Governor Kay Ivey, who ultimately controls when Alabama’s economy can reopen.

The plan recommends many sectors of the economy get back to work “immediately,” including retail; close-contact services such as barbershops and salons; and restaurants (but not bars). Others, such as beaches, would reopen May 1. Social distancing and protective measures would be put in place for all areas covered by the report, hence the word “responsibly” in the plan’s title.

You can read the full report here.

Yellowhammer News will also breakdown the report’s contents in a separate article.

2 months ago

‘Don’t let the corona get on ya!’ — Alabama retirees sing during COVID-19 crisis

(Wesley Gardens/Facebook)

An Alabama retirement community shared a helpful message on social media this week amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a video posted on Facebook, residents of Wesley Gardens Retirement Community in Montgomery joined with facility driver Lee McBryde (while practicing social distancing by staying six steps away) to dance and sing some important lyrics during the COVID-19 crisis such as properly washing hands and covering up when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread.

“Don’t let the corona get on ya!” McBryde sang as residents danced around him while holding containers of disinfectant wipes.

Watch:

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2 months ago

Auburn University launches website for coronavirus resources

(Pixabay, YHN)

Auburn University on Friday announced that it has launched a website on coronavirus-related topics as a helpful resource for the public.

Through the new website, Auburn researchers share their expertise regarding healthcare, the economy, community impacts and education. The site is intended to support Alabamians and people across the country as they navigate the landscape inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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To access the site, click here.

The university will finish its spring 2020 semester via online instruction. Spring commencement has been combined with the summer commencement, scheduled for August 8-9.

Summer courses will also only be offered online for at least sessions 1 and 2.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is now providing real-time updates of the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state. You can view that information here.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

3 months ago

Video: Look inside Blue Origin’s new Huntsville rocket engine plant

(Blue Origin/Twitter)

Blue Origin officially opened its Huntsville manufacturing facility on Monday. The company will use the facility to manufacture its BE-4 rocket engines.

The opening was lauded by numerous industry leaders and Alabama’s elected officials across social media platforms.

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Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine will power United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket built in Decatur.

Watch this video produced by Blue Origin providing a sneak peek inside the pristine facility:

4 months ago

Auburn cruises past South Carolina to get back on winning track

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

The No. 16 Auburn Tigers basketball team returned to its winning ways with a decisive 80-67 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks on Wednesday night.

Auburn got a boost from small forward Isaac Okoro at the end of a strange first half when Okoro barely beat the buzzer on a tip in. After a sluggish start to the game, Okoro’s basket gave the Tigers a 39-31 lead into the locker room and also provided the Tigers with much-needed momentum going into the second half.

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The catalyst for Auburn was a breakout performance from freshman guard Devan Cambridge, who went for 26 points, including a six of nine performance from behind the three-point line. Coming into Wednesday’s contest, Cambridge had been averaging 10.4 points per game and 25% from three-point range.

Between Cambridge finding his stroke, and Auburn’s ability to really lock down on defense in the final 20 minutes, the game went comfortably toward Auburn for most of the second half.

The Tigers improved to 16-2 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.

Following its two losses last week, Auburn had dropped to a predicted No. 4 seed in the latest NCAA tournament prediction from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Lunardi’s “Bracketology” is a weekly feature slotting teams according to similar metrics used by the tournament selection committee to make its seedings.

Head coach Bruce Pearl’s squad faces off next with Iowa State on Saturday morning in Auburn Arena as part of the Big 12/SEC challenge. The Cyclones are 9-9 on the season and currently seventh in the Big 12 standings.

5 months ago

Crimson Tide reload for another championship run

(RollTide.com)

Head coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide announced the signing of 22 players to national letters of intent on Wednesday.

Rivals.com and 247 Sports both currently rank Alabama’s 2020 class second in the nation.

As part of a release from the athletic department, the team stated the signees came from eight states – Alabama (9), California (2) Florida (3), Georgia (3), Louisiana (1), Maryland (1), Ohio (1) and Texas (2).

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The team also provided detailed biographies for each.

William Anderson, Jr. (DL, 6-4, 230, Hampton, Ga./Dutchtown)

A consensus four-star prospect by all major outlets … rated as a top-10 player in the state of Georgia by 247Sports, ESPN.com and on the 247Composite … the No. 5 weakside defensive end and No. 87 player nationally by 247 and the sixth-rated weakside defender to go with a No. 97 ranking on the Composite … the No. 55 recruit on the ESPN300 and sixth-ranked defensive end by the site … also tabbed the No. 23 player in the Southeast Region by ESPN … No. 159 on the Rivals250 by Rivals.com … that same sites lists him as the 11th-rated weakside defensive end and No. 17 player in Georgia … member of the PrepStar Top 150 Dream Team as the No. 116 recruit in the country … selected to play in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas … earned first team all-state honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2019 … also selected to the AJC’s “Super 11” as a senior … totaled 22 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his final season, playing a major role on a Dutchtown defense that allowed an average of just 7.7 points per game … selected as the Henry Herald’s 2018 All-County Defensive Player of the Year following his junior season … coached by Clifford Fedd at Dutchtown High School in Hampton, Ga. … signed with the Crimson Tide over Auburn, LSU and Tennessee among his nearly 40 offers.

Brian Branch (DB, 6-0, 185, Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek)

Elite safety prospect from the neighboring state of Georgia … rated as a four-star recruit by all major sites … member of the PrepStar Top 150 Dream Team as the 72nd-rated player overall and the No. 3 safety in the country … the No. 79 player on the Rivals250 … ranked 18th in his home state and the No. 21 safety prospect nationally by Rivals … No. 101 on the ESPN300 … ESPN also lists him as the third-rated player in the country at his position and the No. 44 overall recruit in the Southeast Region … fifth-ranked prep safety overall and No. 90 player in the country by 247Sports … the 10th-rated player from Georgia by both ESPN.com and 247 … ranked as the No. 7 safety prospect and No. 11 player in Georgia on the 247Composite … earned a spot in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas … finished his career at Sandy Creek High School as the program’s career interceptions leader … selected as the Georgia 5A Ironman of the Year by the conference coaches as a senior, presented to the top-two way player … named to the Fayette News’ “Super 12” squad following his junior season … earned All-County Defensive Player of the Year from his conference coaches in 2018 … totaled 58 tackles, five interceptions and six pass breakups in that junior campaign … also contributed at wide receiver and on special teams for the Patriots … led by Brett Garvin at SCHS … picked Alabama over Ohio State, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Chris Braswell (DL, 6-3, 220, Baltimore, Md./St. Frances Academy)

Highly-regarded pass-rushing threat from Maryland … the nation’s top-rated weakside defensive end and No. 2 player from his home state by both 247Sports and on the 247Composite … a five-star prospect on the Composite along with Rivals.com and ESPN.com … also earned a five-star rating by PrepStar where he is a member of the magazine’s Top 150 Dream Team and listed as the No. 12 player nationally … No. 8 on the ESPN300 and the site’s No. 4 defensive end, No. 3 player in the East Region and second-rated player from Maryland … listed at No. 24 on the Rivals250 list … the second-rated outside linebacker and player from Maryland by Rivals.com … the No. 18 player on the Composite while 247 ranks him at No. 31 overall in the latest recruiting cycle … selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game … played his prep ball at St. Frances Academy where he was coached by Biff Poggi … chose Alabama over Clemson, Georgia and LSU.

Jackson Bratton (LB, 6-3, 233, Muscle Shoals, Al./Muscle Shoals)

In-state product who is rated as one of the top middle linebackers in the country … a four-star prep standout by all major recruiting sites … the No. 7 player from Alabama and No. 171 prospect nationally by 247Sports … 247 also rates him as the No. 10 inside linebacker in the class … ranked No. 8 in the state and No. 9 at his position on the 247Composite … third-rated inside linebacker nationally and No. 153 on the ESPN300 according to the site … ESPN.com also tabbed him as the 69th-ranked player in the Southeast Region and No. 9 player from Alabama … a PrepStar Top 350 All-American and the No. 4 inside linebacker prospect by the magazine … named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award during his senior season … totaled 155 tackles, including 12 for loss, to go with seven sacks as a junior … selected to the Class 6A All-State First Team by the Alabama Sports Writers following the 2018 season … also earned AL.com Super All-State recognition in that junior campaign … recorded 118 tackles and four sacks as a sophomore … named to the all-state second team following the 2017 season … dual-sport athlete who also competed in baseball for the Trojans … coached by Scott Basden as Muscle Shoals High School … committed to the Crimson Tide over Auburn, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Caden Clark (TE, 6-4, 258, Akron, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban)

Versatile tight end recruit from Northeast Ohio … four-star prospect by PrepStar and ESPN.com … also listed as the site’s No. 7 tight end, No. 23 player in the Midwest Region and No. 5 player in Ohio … the nation’s No. 16 tight end per Rivals.com … the site also lists him as the 11th-rated player from his home state … tabbed to the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Division II All-Ohio Second Team as a senior … selected to the USA Today All-USA Ohio Football Team as a first-teamer following his junior season … caught 30 passes for 650 yards and 11 touchdowns in the 2018 campaign … attended Archbishop Hoban where he was coached by Tim Tyrrell … helped the Knights to a Division II state title in 2017 and 2018 … committed to the Tide over Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State among others.

Javion Cohen (OL, 6-4, 296, Phenix City, Ala./Central)

In-state offensive line prospect from Phenix City … four-star recruit by Rivals.com and 247Sports along with the 247Composite … a top-15 player in the state of Alabama, including a No. 9 ranking from Rivals … the state’s No. 13 player by 247 and No. 15 player by the Composite … selected to play in the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame World Bowl in Cancun, Mexico … earned a spot in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game following his senior season … named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 7A Second Team All-State squad as a junior … played at Central High School where he was coached by Jamey DuBose … chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn and South Carolina among others.

Kyle Edwards (RB, 6-0, 205, Destrehan, La./Destrehan)

Powerful runner from Louisiana … a four-star recruit and the No. 18 running back in the country according to Rivals.com … also a four-star selection by PrepStar … selected as a PrepStar Top 350 All-American … the No. 18 player from Louisiana by both 247Sports and on the 247Composite … the nation’s 26th-rated running back according to the Composite … ranked by 247Sports as the No. 32 tailback nationally … highly-rated runner by ESPN.com … rushed for 1,000-plus yards and over 16 touchdowns in 2019 … helped Destrehan to Class 5A state championship during his senior season … played a key role in the Wildcats’ run to the 2018 District 7-5A championship … accumulated 708 yards and eight touchdowns on 112 carries as a junior … coached by Stephen Robicheaux at DHS … signed with Alabama over LSU, Michigan and Penn State.

Traeshon Holden (WR, 6-3, 196, Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne)

Athletic wide receiver with size who earned four-star rankings across the board … the No. 26 overall prep prospect in California by Rivals.com and No. 244 on the Rivals250 … the Golden State’s 14th-rated player by 247Sports and No. 19 on the 247Composite … ranked by ESPN.com as the No. 37 player in the West Region and No. 21 player from California … the nation’s No. 20th-rated wide receiver per 247Sports … the site also lists him as the No. 128 prospect nationally … selected as a Top 350 All-American by PrepStar … transferred from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Md., to Narbonne High School in Harbor City, Calif. for his final prep season … finished his senior campaign with 31 catches for 512 yards and seven touchdowns across seven games of action … selected to play in the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame World Bowl in Cancun, Mexico … coached by Manuel Douglas at Narbonne High School in Harbor City, Calif. … chose the Crimson Tide over Clemson, Florida, Oregon and USC among others.

Thaiu Jones-Bell (WR, 6-0, 190, Hallandale, Fla./Miami Carol City)

One of the top-20 players in Florida in the latest recruiting cycle … tabbed as a four-star wide receiver by all major recruiting outlets … rated as the No. 16 wideout and the No. 81 player nationally on the 247Composite … ranked as the 15th overall player in Florida and No. 15 receiver prospect in the country by 247Sports … No. 91 on the ESPN300 … also listed as the No. 11 receiver, No. 17 player in the Sunshine State and No. 41 in the Southeast Region by ESPN.com … No. 92 on the PrepStar Top 150 Dream Team and the nation’s No. 20 receiver … selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game … caught 38 passes for 745 yards and six touchdowns as a senior in 2019 … posted a breakout junior season in 2018, scoring 17 touchdowns on just 38 catches for the Chiefs … played for Joshua Taylor at Miami Carol City High School … chose Alabama over in-state Florida and Florida State.

Demouy Kennedy (LB, 6-3, 215, Theodore, Ala./Theodore)

Consensus four-star prospect and one of the top inside linebackers in the 2019 recruiting cycle … rated the No. 3 inside linebacker and the No. 52 overall player in the country by the 247Composite … the second-rated player in Alabama on the Composite along with 247Sports and Rivals.com … sixth-rated inside linebacker in the country according to Rivals.com … tabbed the No. 92 prospect on the ESPN300 … also listed as the No. 9 player at his position, No. 42 prospect in the Southeast Region and the No. 4 player in Alabama … a PrepStar Top 150 All-American and the No. 7 outside linebacker prospect by the magazine … named a semifinalist for the 2019 Butkus Award … capped off his senior season recording 69 tackles, including eight for a loss, to go with two pass breakups and a pick-six … also contributed three touchdown runs out of the Wildcat and added a blocked extra point … selected to participate in the All-American Bowl in Orlando, Fla. … earned a spot in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game following his senior season … also earned an invite to play in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas … coached by Eric Collier at Theodore High School … chose Alabama over in-state Auburn along with Georgia and LSU among his many offers.

Jah-Marien Latham (DT, 6-3, 297, Reform, Ala./Pickens County)

An elite defensive tackle who travels down the road from Reform to Tuscaloosa … rated as a four-star recruit on the 247Composite and also by 247Sports and ESPN.com … the No. 9 defensive tackle in the country by ESPN … listed at No. 240 on the Rivals250 and ranked as the No. 31 player at his position by the site … the No. 22 defensive tackle on the PrepStar Top 150 Dream Team … the 10th-rated player from Alabama on both the Composite and by 247 … No. 18 defensive tackle by 247Sports … helped the Tornadoes to the Class 1A semifinals with 69 total tackles, including 27 tackles for loss and eight sacks … also served as the team’s punter … member of the Alabama squad for the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game … attended Pickens County High School where was coached by Michael Williams … signed with Alabama over Maryland, Ole Miss and Tennessee.

Jase McClellan (RB, 5-11, 200, Aledo, Texas/Aledo)

One of the nation’s top running back prospects and a big get out of the state of Texas late in the early signing day window … a consensus four-star prospect … ranked 43rd nationally in the 247Composite … the No. 8 running back and No. 6 player in the state of Texas in the composite … ESPN ranks him as the No. 34 player in the country, the No. 5 running back, No. 6 player in the Midlands Region and the fifth-best prospect in Texas … No. 60 in the Rivals100, ranking as the No. 7 running back and No. 6 player in the state … 74th in the Top247 and the site’s No. 8 running back and No. 6 player in Texas … selected to play in the Under Armour All-American Game … competed in Nike’s “The Opening” … led his team to the Texas 6A-Division II State Championship game in 2019, which will be played on Dec. 21 … has rushed for 1,268 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior … has totaled 6,468 yards on 842 career carries with 122 touchdowns while catching 28 passes for 429 yards and three more scores … rushed for 2,073 yards and 47 touchdowns as a junior in 2018 … Class 5A All-State selection as a junior in 2018 … scored 28 touchdowns while rushing for 1,599 yards on 203 carries during his sophomore season (2017) while missing six games due to injury … rushed for 1,528 yards and 20 scores as a true freshman, earning MaxPreps All-Freshman Team National Player of the Year … also named the state championship game MVP as a freshman … played for head coach Tim Buchanan at Aledo High School … chose Alabama over Oklahoma after being a Sooner pledge for almost two years.

Seth Mclaughlin (OL, 6-4, 278, Buford, Ga./Buford)

Versatile offensive line prospect from Georgia … a four-star at center and the No. 294 player on the ESPN300 per ESPN.com … the website also rates him as the No. 3 center, No. 136 player from the Southeast Region and the No. 29 recruit from his home state … selected as a PrepStar All-Southeast Region honoree and a four-star recruit by the magazine … ranked as the No. 9 center in the country on the 247Composite … the 37th-rated center by Rivals.com … the anchor of a Buford offense that scored 467 points and accumulated 3,400 rushing yards last season … graded out at 91 percent with only one sack and two quarterback pressures allowed as a senior … helped the Wolves a state championship in 2019 … played at Buford High School where he was coached by Bryant Appling … chose to sign with the Crimson Tide over Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson and Florida State.

Malachi Moore (DB, 6-0, 180, Trussville, Ala./Hewitt-Trussville)

A top-rated safety in the 2020 recruiting cycle … tabbed as a four-star recruit by all major sites … rated as the No. 8 safety by 247Sports and the No.3 prospect in Alabama … ranked fifth in his home state and the No. 13 cornerback prospect nationally by Rivals … No. 266 on the ESPN300 … ESPN also lists him as the No. 12 player in Alabama, 23rd-rated player in the country at his position and the No. 121 overall recruit in the Southeast Region … eighth-ranked prep safety overall and No. 98 player nationally by 247 … also listed as 247’s third-rated player from Alabama … ranked as the No. 10 safety prospect and No. 5 player in Alabama on the 247Composite … member of the PrepStar Top 150 Dream Team … participated in Nike’s “The Opening” Finals in Frisco, Texas … also selected to play in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas … earned a spot in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game following his senior season … totaled 83 total tackles, including 46 solo stops with five tackles for loss as a senior … also recorded four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns in 2019 … led by Josh Floyd at Hewitt-Trussville High School … elected to sign with Alabama over Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia.

Jahquez Robinson (DB, 6-2, 185, Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood)

Skilled cornerback from Jacksonville … tabbed as a four-star prospect on the 247Composite and by Rivals.com … ranked as the No. 22 cornerback by 247Sports and the No. 53 player in the state of Florida … the No. 34 corner on the 247Composite and the No. 54 player in the Sunshine State … tabbed the No. 16 cornerback back by Rivals.com and the No. 34 player in Florida … ESPN’s No. 33 corner … played for head coach Adam Geis at Sandalwood High School … chose Alabama over Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Quandarrius Robinson (LB, 6-5, 220, Birmingham, Ala./Jackson-Olin)

A unanimous top-80 player nationally … projects as a natural pass-rusher due to his long frame and incredible athletic ability … a four-star prospect who is ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama by 247Sports and Rivals.com, while ESPN has him rated as the state’s No. 2 overall prospect … rated No. 36 nationally by 247Sports and as the outlet’s No. 5 outside linebacker … No. 48 on the 247Composite and the No. 6 outside linebacker … Rivals.com lists him at No. 69 nationally and as the No. 3 outside linebacker … rated 82nd nationally by ESPN and the No. 8 player at his position while ranking as the No. 48 player in the Southeast Region … a five-star prospect by PrepStar … named to the magazine’s Top 150 Dream Team and was rated as the No. 4 outside linebacker and the 36th-ranked player in the nation … selected to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas … earned an invite to the 2019 Nike “The Opening” Finals … an injury cut his 2019 season short … registered 40 tackles with 13 tackles for loss and eight sacks as a junior in 2018 … coached by Tim Vakakes at Jackson-Olin High School in Birmingham … chose Alabama over Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee.

Drew Sanders (LB, 6-5, 230, Denton, Texas/Ryan)

One of the nation’s top all-around athletes and a prototypical outside linebacker or tight end … choose to focus on the defensive side of the football in high school before arriving in Tuscaloosa … a five-star recruit by 247Sports … rated as the No. 2 player in Texas by 247 and the No. 3 player in the state by ESPN … ranked 21st nationally on the 247Composite and the No. 2 outside linebacker … 247Sports ranks him as their No. 12 player nationwide and the country’s top outside linebacker … a four-star prospect by ESPN who is No. 30 in the ESPN 300 and the outlet’s No. 2 athlete … rated as the No. 4 player in the Midlands Region by ESPN … Rivals.com rates him as the No. 7 outside backer, the No. 34 player nationally and the No. 8 prep prospect in Texas … a five-star player by PrepStar … selected to the magazine’s Top 150 Dream Team and was rated as the No. 5 outside linebacker and the 37th-ranked player in the nation … selected to the Under Armour All-America Game … named the 2018 SportsDayHS Utility Player of the Year after completing 8-of-9 passes for four touchdowns, rushing for 280 yards and 13 touchdowns while making 119 tackles on defense, including 10 for loss and eight sacks, to go with three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns … threw five more touchdown passes in 2019 on just eight attempts while rushing for 326 yards and 10 scores … also caught 34 passes as a senior for 717 yards and 12 scores … finished with 48 rushing/receiving touchdowns in his career while throwing for 10 scores … finalist for the 2019 Landry Player of the Year, which goes to the top high school football player in North Texas … played for head coach Dave Henigan at Ryan High School in Denton, Texas … decommitted from Oklahoma to play for Alabama while also considering LSU, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oregon and Penn State.

Timothy Smith (DL, 6-4, 325, Sebastian, Fla./Sebastian River)

A talented defensive tackle in the 2020 cycle who can bolster the Tide’s rush defense immediately … a four-star prospect that ranks 136th nationally on the 247Composite and the No. 11 defensive tackle and the No. 21 player in Florida … ranked No. 70 in the Rivals100 and the No. 5 defensive tackle nationally … Rivals also ranks Smith as the No. 12 player in the state of Florida … 168th on the ESPN300 … also listed as ESPN’s No. 14 defensive tackle, the No. 74 player in the Southeast Region and the 25th-ranked player in the state … 247Sports rates him as 288th nationally, the No. 22 tackle and the No. 39 player in Florida … a four-star prospect who was rated as the No. 11 defensive tackle and No. 130 player in the country by PrepStar … selected to the magazine’s Top 150 Dream Team as well … recorded 62 tackles with 32 for loss and 10 sacks as a senior … added four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 2019 … coached by Tyrone Perry at Sebastian River High School … chose the Crimson Tide over Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Miami.

Kristian Story (ATH, 6-1, 213, Lanett, Ala./Lanett)

A truly special football player who led his high school team to the 2019 Alabama State Championship … earned Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year honors … a consensus four-star prospect who played quarterback in high school but could project all over the football field … set the record for career touchdowns in the history of the Alabama High School Athletics Association with 175 total scores … ranked 215th nationally on the 247Composite along with being tabbed as the site’s No. 6 athlete in the country and the No. 9 player from Alabama … No. 170 in the Rivals250 … also named the No. 3 athlete and the No. 6 player from the state … listed at No. 190 in the Top247, Story is the sixth-ranked athlete nationally and the No. 8 player in the state … rated No. 299 in the ESPN 300 and the outlet’s No. 25 athlete and No. 14 player in Alabama … a four-star prospect by PrepStar who was selected to their Top 350 All-American Team and was rated as the No. 11 safety and No. 180 in the nation … selected to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … finished his career with 13,219 yards of total offense while also setting the AHSAA record … earned all-state honors as a safety in 1A following the 2018 season … threw for 2,434 yards and 40 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018 to go along with 1,207 rushing yards and 16 scores … added 33 tackles and nine interceptions on defense as a junior … threw for 3,286 yards and 35 scores while rushing for 765 yards and seven scores in 2018 … coached by his father Clifford Story at Lanett High School … chose Alabama over Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Ronald Williams (DB, 6-2, 188, Ferriday, La./Hutchinson C. C./Ferriday)

One of the top junior college players in the nation and a highly coveted cornerback prospect … an NJCAA All-American as a sophomore at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community C0ollege … a four-star prospect who ranks No. 13 in the 247 Junior College rankings and the No. 5 corner … the No. 9 player nationally in the 247Sports Junior College rankings and the No. 3 cornerback … played in 10 games for Hutchinson in 2019, making 31 tackles with three interceptions and five pass breakups … recorded 18 tackles, three pass breakups and one interception as a freshman in 2018 … was a three-star prospect coming out of Ferriday (La.) High School two years ago … ranked No. 377 on the 247Composite in 2017 … played for head coach Stanley Smith at Ferriday and coach Rion Rhoades at Hutchinson C.C. … chose Alabama over Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Texas A&M.

Roydell Williams (RB, 5-10, 207, Hueytown, Ala./Hueytown)

One of the top players in the state of Alabama and one of the best running backs in the nation … a consensus four-star prospect … ranked 86th on the 247Composite … the No. 9 running back on the Composite and the No. 3 player in the state of Alabama … ESPN lists Williams at No. 70 on the ESPN300 … the top-ranked player in the state and the No. 10 running back prospect by the site … ESPN also ranks him as the No. 28 player in the Southeast Region … No. 92 in the Rivals100, the ninth-ranked running back and the No. 3 player in the state … 247Sports has him at No. 142 in the Top247, the No. 11 running back and the No. 5 player in Alabama … a PrepStar Top 350 All-American … also the No. 168 player in the nation, the No. 12 running back and the No. 7 player in the state by the magazine … selected to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … a first team all-state selection in 2018 and a second-team pick as a sophomore in 2017 … accounted for three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, finishing with 5,929 yards rushing in his career at Hueytown with 84 rushing touchdowns 92 total touchdowns … rushed for 1,289 yards and 24 scores as a senior with injuries limiting his production … gained 2,757 yards and registered 32 touchdowns as a junior in 2018 while catching 21 passes for 216 yards and three more scores … rushed for 1,509 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2017 … had 374 yards and four scores as a freshman in 2016 … played for head coach Greg Patterson at Hueytown High School where he helped the Golden Gophers to the 6A state semifinals … chose Alabama over Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Kentucky.

Bryce Young (QB, 6-0, 190, Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei)

The nation’s top-ranked dual-threat quarterback by all major outlets … an Elite 11 quarterback … a composite five-star prospect … No. 6 nationally and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback on the 247Composite … the top-ranked dual-threat passer nationally by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals.com … rated as the No. 2 player in California by 247Sports and the No. 3 prospect in the nation … Rivals rates him as the No. 3 player nationally while ESPN has him 24th in the publication’s ESPN300 list and the No. 6 player in the West Region … a five-star prospect by PrepStar … also selected to the magazine’s Top 150 Dream Team and was rated as the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback and the 35th-ranked player in the nation … invited the Nike’s “The Opening” … selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas … named to Sports Illustrated inaugural high school All-American team … Gatorade Football Player of the Year in California … Trinity League Most Valuable Player after leading Mater Dei to the state championship game in 2019 and finishing second nationally in the high school rankings … completed 72.6 percent of his passes for 4,528 yards and 58 touchdowns with just six interceptions as a senior … also rushed 73 times for 357 yards and 10 more scores to account for 68 total touchdowns in 13 games, an average of 5.23 per game … … helped Mater Dei to a state championship in 2018 as a junior after throwing for 3,846 yards and 39 scores … tossed 41 touchdowns as a sophomore with just three interceptions while throwing for 3,431 yards … added 1,445 yards and 14 scores as a freshman … finished his high school career with 13,250 passing yards and 152 passing touchdowns to go along with 1,084 rushing yards and 26 more scores … accounted for 178 total touchdowns in high school … coached by Bruce Rollinson at Mater Dei in Santa Ana, Calif. … chose the Crimson Tide over USC.

5 months ago

Malzahn stacking more talent with Auburn’s top 10 recruiting class

(Auburn Football/Twitter)

Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers added even more talent to its roster by way of its 22 member 2020 recruiting class signed on Wednesday.

247 Sports ranks Auburn’s class No. 7 nationally, while Rivals.com places Malzahn’s current class as the eighth best in the country.

In a release from the athletic department, the team provided biographies for each of its signees.

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Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby (RB, 6-0, 209; Callaway HS; LaGrange, Ga.): Top five-rated running back nationally … rushed for 1,636 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior for Coach Pete Wiggins, leading the Cavaliers to the state semifinals … 2018 Class AA state and region offensive player of the year after rushing for 2,221 yards for a team that finished 11-3 and reached the state semifinals … Under Armour All-American Game … AJC Super 11 … also a track and field letterman … five-star prospect rated nation’s top RB by Rivals … top 7 recruit in Georgia by 247, Rivals, ESPN, PrepStar.

Elijah Canion (WR, 6-4, 201; Chaminade-Madonna HS; Sunrise, Fla.): Talented big-play receiver who averaged more than 21 yards per catch during his career for Coach Dameon Jones and the Chaminade Lions, winning three consecutive Class 3A state championships … first team all-Broward County as a junior and senior … also a track and field letterman … ranked among the top 75 prospects in Florida and the top 80 receivers nationally by ESPN, 247, Rivals … PrepStar all-Southeast.

Ze’Vian Capers (WR, 6-4, 192; Denmark HS; Alpharetta, Ga.): Tall, talented target at wide receiver … 45 receptions for 922 yards, 10 TD as a senior for Coach Terry Crowder at Denmark High … first team all-state, all-region, all-county … Forsyth County News offensive player of the year as a junior, with 60 catches for 1,182 yards and 11 scores … AJC Super 11 … also a basketball letterman … ESPN, 247, PrepStar rank him among top 15 players in Georgia.

Brenden Coffey (OT, 6-6, 264; Butte (Calif.) CC; Paradise HS; Paradise, Calif.): Elite blocker with a top 5 juco rating … two-year starter at tackle for Coach Rob Snelling at Butte College in Oroville, Calif., earning all-conference honors … CCCAA state and Golden Valley Conference shot put champion … for Coach Rick Prinz at Paradise High … three-sport competitor for the Bobcats who was a state qualifier in shot put … ESPN rates him the No. 2 juco offensive line prospect … top 5 California juco recruits by 247.

Marco Domio (CB, 6-1, 172; Blinn (Texas) JC; Heights HS; Houston, Texas): One of the nation’s top-rated junior college defensive backs … 26 tackles, 8 PBU as a second team all-conference selection for Coach Ryan Mahon at Blinn College … first team all-district in 2017 and 2018 at Heights High for Coach Stephen Dixon … also competed for the basketball and track teams … top 5 juco DB prospect by ESPN, PrepStar, 247 … No. 3 among Texas juco players by 247.

JJ Evans (WR, 6-2, 192; Montevallo HS; Montevallo, Ala.): Speedy receiving prospect with dynamic skills … consistent playmaker for Coach Brandon Wilcox, helping the Bulldogs to the Class 4A playoffs … 74 receptions for 1,706 yards and 18 TD as a junior … Class 4A Back of the Year finalist … 38 catches for 617 yards, 7 TD, during an injury-plagued senior season … Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … 247 ranks him No. 5 among state recruits, ESPN and Rivals No. 7.

Daniel Foster-Allen (DE, 6-4, 264; St. Paul’s HS; Saraland, Ala.): Explosive defender who recorded 53 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks, 13 QB hurries as a senior, helping Coach Steve Mask’s Saints advance to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs … Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … also a basketball letterman … ranked among the top 25 overall recruits in the state by ESPN, 247, Rivals, PrepStar.

Chayil Garnett (QB, 6-1, 211; Lakeland HS; Lake Wales, Fla.): Highly rated dual-threat quarterback prospect … injury limited his play to eight games as a senior for Coach Bill Castle … passed for 2,028 yards, 18 touchdowns as a junior at Lake Wales High … Lakeland Ledger Super 16 … honor student … ranked among the top 15 prospects at his position by PrepStar, ESPN … Florida top 60 by ESPN.

Romello Height (Buck, 6-4, 217; Dublin HS; Dublin, Ga.): Tall, agile defensive prospect … set a school record for sacks as a junior and senior playing for Coach Roger Holmes at Dublin High … led the Fighting Irish to the 2019 Class AA state title … GACA all-star classic … second team all-region … also a basketball letterman … top 30 prospect in state of Georgia by ESPN … 247 ranks him 28th nationally at his position.

Kobe Hudson (WR, 6-0, 185; Troup County HS; Pine Mountain, Ga.): Ultra-talented athlete who projects as a wide receiver prospect … 62 catches for 1,424 yards, 13 TD as a freshman and sophomore for Coach Tanner Glisson and the Troup County Tigers … AJC Super 11 … Class 4A state player of year and Region 5-AAAA player of year as a junior QB, passing for 3,386 yards, 32 TD, and rushing for 1,410 yards, 18 scores … passed for 1,629 yards, 18 TD and rushed for 976 yards, 7 TD as a senior … All-American Bowl … also a basketball letterman … top 10 recruit in state of Georgia by 247, ESPN, PrepStar … Rivals, ESPN, 247 rank him among the top 20 nationally at his position.

Avery Jernigan (C, 6-3, 306; Pierce County HS; Blackshear, Ga.): Explosive offensive line prospect … first team all-region and all-state for Coach Ryan Herring as a junior and senior … honors student … also a basketball and track and field letterman … rated among the to p20 at his position nationally by 247, ESPN, PrepStar.

Tate Johnson (OG, 6-3, 325; Callaway HS; LaGrange, Ga.): Versatile, hard-working lineman with great size and skills … outstanding leader as a senior for Coach Pete Wiggins, spurring the Cavaliers to the state semifinals as a junior and senior … GSWA first team Class AA all-state … Pro Football Hall of Fame World Bowl … ranked among top 15 at his position nationally by Rivals, ESPN.

JJ Pegues (TE, 6-2, 298; Oxford HS; Oxford, Miss.): Versatile offensive threat who projects as a tight end at the collegiate level … led Coach Chris Cutcliffe’s Oxford Chargers to the Class 6A state championship as a senior … Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Clarion Ledger Dandy Dozen … also a basketball letterman … top 10 prospect nationally at his position by 247, Rivals, ESPN … ranked among top six recruits overall in state of Mississippi.

Eric Reed, Jr. (CB, 6-0, 195; Calvary Baptist Academy; Shreveport, La.): Highly rated cornerback prospect … all-state performer for Coach Rodney Guin, helping the Cavaliers to the state playoffs … Shreveport Times Top 10 … also a basketball and track letterman … 247, Rivals and ESPN all rank him among the top seven recruits in Louisiana … rated among the top 15 nationally at his position

Cam Riley (LB, 6-4, 207; Hillcrest HS; Evergreen, Ala.): Productive linebacking prospect with a quick first step … 112 tackles as a junior for Coach Clinton Smith … Jaguars won a state title his sophomore year … Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … also a track letterman … rated among the top 15 prospects in the state by 247, ESPN, PrepStar, Rivals.

Wesley Steiner (LB, 6-0, 226; 6-0, 226; Houston County HS; Warner Robins, Ga.): Powerful defender with great commitment and dedication … recorded 81 tackles, 6.0 TFL as a senior for Coach Ryan Crawford and the Houston County Bears … Under Armour All-America Game … HHJ multi-sport athlete of the year … two-time state champion in the discus and a wrestling letterman … ESPN rates him the No. 6 prospect in Georgia … top five nationally at his position by 247, PrepStar, ESPN.

Ladarius Tennison (S, 5-10, 195; Rockledge HS; Rockledge, Fla.): Hard-hitting athletic safety prospect … recorded 98 tackles, 24.0 TFL as a senior for Coach Wayne Younger’s Raiders … Space Coast Daily player of the year … all-Space Coast team … also a track and field letterman … ranked as the No. 4 athlete nationally by 247 … top 15 at his position by Rivals, ESPN, PrepStar.

Chris Thompson Jr. (S, 6-1, 201; Duncanville HS; DeSoto, Texas): Physical defender who was a punishing tackler for Coach Reginald Samples at Duncanville High, helping the Panthers advance to the Class 6A state semifinals as a senior and finals as a junior … Under Armour All-America Game … second team TSWA all-state as a junior … preseason SportsDay area defensive player of the year … also a track and field letterman … MaxPreps All-American … ESPN rates him the No. 2 safety prospect nationally … top 30 player in Texas by 247, ESPN, PrepStar.

Desmond Tisdol (LB, 6-0, 210; Wilcox County HS; Rochelle, Ga.): Terrific athlete productive on both sides of the football … first team all-state linebacker for Coach Rob Stowe’s Wilcox County Patriots … All-American Bowl … Region 2-A defensive player of year … also a basketball and baseball letterman … ESPN and 247 rank him among the top 25 overall recruits in Georgia … rated No. 6 nationally at his position by ESPN.

Zykeivous Walker (DE, 6-4, 267; Schley County HS; Ellaville, Ga.): Aggressive pass rusher who led the Schley County Wildcats to the playoffs … 85 tackles, 11.0 sacks, 29,0 TFL as a senior for Coach Darren Alford … GHSA regional player of the year as a junior with 10.5 sacks … GSWA all-state … also a basketball and track and field letterman … 247 ranks him the No. 7 prospect nationally at his position … top 15 recruit from Georgia by 247, Rivals, PrepStar.

Jeremiah Wright (OL, 6-5, 340; Selma HS; Selma, Ala.): Sizeable offensive line prospect with plenty of potential … played offensive tackle and defensive tackle for Coach Willie Gandy and the Selma Saints … Selma Times-Journal all-Dallas County … ESPN ranks him the No. 13 player nationally at his position … top 30 prospect in Alabama by ESPN, 247, PrepStar.

Kilian Zierer (OT, 6-7, 284; College of Canyons CC; Hohenkirchen, Germany): Top-rated junior college offensive line prospect … starting tackle for Coach Ted Iacenda, helping the Cougars to the Southern California championship game … SCFA all-league second team … started playing football at age 16 … ESPN and 247 rate him the No. 1 juco prospect nationally at his position … Rivals ranks him No. 11 overall among juco recruits.

7 months ago

Jalen Hurts reacts to Tua’s devastating injury: ‘It hurts me to hear it’

(University of Oklahoma)

After leading the University of Oklahoma in an impressive comeback victory to defeat Baylor, Jalen Hurts expressed deep sympathy and concern for former teammate and friend Tua Tagovailoa after learning of the seriousness of his injuries.

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“It hurt me to hear it. He’s a great friend of mine.” Hurts said during a press conference after the Baylor win.  “I’m praying for him and his family. I hope nothing but the best. I hope everything works out for him and his family.”

Tagovailoa sustained a right hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture during the first half of Saturday’s game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.

After the news of his prognosis went public, Tua did not hesitate to express gratitude for the outpouring of support and, once again, acknowledged the role his faith plays in his life.

Team orthopedic surgeon Lyle Cain released a statement regarding the injury: “Tua Tagovailoa sustained a right hip dislocation that was immediately reduced at the stadium. He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment. He is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the remainder of the season.”

11 months ago

Alabama company encounters obstacles to creating jobs, renovating Fort McClellan buildings

A contentious legal dispute between the McClellan Development Authority (MDA) and defense contractor Xtreme Concepts has led to concerns that the MDA has allowed personal issues to distract them from their core mission to drive investment and economic growth for the local community, according to numerous Yellowhammer News sources involved in the dispute, including on the MDA board.

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Background:

In 2009, then-Alabama Governor Bob Riley authorized the creation of local “development authorities for the purpose of developing real and personal property of closed military installations” around the state. Among those installations was Fort McClellan, a famed, century-old military facility that was shuttered in 1999.

Since that time, the local area has struggled to find private sector suitors to fill parts of the property, including a large, concrete barracks facility known locally as the Starship. But in recent years, Xtreme Concepts, a defense contractor, leased the property with an option to buy. The property houses an Xtreme subsidiary called iK9 that trains dogs for military and law enforcement entities, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Yellowhammer News previously reported on Xtreme CEO Landon Ash’s commitment that his company would make $1.4 million in improvements to the facility. Ash categorized the expenditure as a win for the community because, prior to Xtreme’s arrival, taxpayers were facing the likelihood of having to spend $3 million to tear down the buildings.

But in recent months, as Xtreme moved to purchase the property a stalemate emerged between the company and the McClellan Development Authority (MDA), ultimately resulting in the MDA rejecting Xtreme’s purchase agreement. The dispute spilled into the public, with the editorial board of the local paper urging the two sides to come together and patch up their differences. Roughly three-dozen local jobs hang in the balance after a nine-hour court hearing resulted in Circuit Court Judge Debra Jones allowing Xtreme to stay on the property as the court battle proceeds.

New Developments:

In recent weeks, Yellowhammer News has spoken to numerous individuals on both sides of the issue, including members of the MDA board, Xtreme Concepts and iK9 employees, as well as local officials and private citizens with first-hand knowledge of the ongoing dispute.

The MDA board has remained publicly unified in its intent to have Xtreme’s iK9 division removed from the property, but behind the scenes, some members of the board have grown weary of fighting a legal and PR battle that does not appear to have any upside for local taxpayers.

“Some folks got crossways with [Xtreme Concepts CEO] Landon [Ash] and decided they wanted to do something else with that land,” said one member of the MDA board on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. “Whether or not that’s the best thing for the community–it comes up in conversation but I don’t think that’s the primary concern. It’s just gotten personal.”

Another member of the board disputed that characterization and said there were legitimate concerns about Xtreme’s business operations on the land.

“They’ve done military-style simulations on the property and other things that were outside the terms of our agreement,” the second board member said. “They’ve been late on their rent payments. There are a lot of things going on here and it’s not as simple as us turning down millions of dollars and losing local jobs. There’s more to it than that.”

When asked about the military-style simulations during the court proceeding, Xtreme Concepts CEO Landon Ash testified that what they had done was the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set, allowing them to create an authentic-feeling combat simulation without actually blowing anything up. According to him, that would not run afoul of the agreement.

And a spokesperson for Xtreme said they only stopped making lease payments as they moved to purchase the property, per the terms of the agreement, which they never anticipated to take more than a couple of weeks.

For now, the dispute will continue to play out in court, with stakeholders and the community having to consider the risk of evicting a job-creator without any clear alternative.

11 months ago

Alabama State Port Authority names new deputy director

(J. Lyons/Contributed, Alabama State Port Authority/Facebook)

The Alabama State Port Authority has named Richard T. Clark to the position of deputy director. According to a release from the agency, Clark’s appointment will take effect July 16.

“We conducted a nationwide search with one of the country’s premier maritime and port industry recruiting firms and the Port Authority received resumes from quite a few qualified candidates,” said James K. Lyons, director and chief executive officer of the Alabama State Port Authority. “Mr. Clark stood out amongst all the applicants and was selected for this position. We look forward to Rick joining the Port Authority team.”

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Clark, with over 30 years of maritime industry experience, began his career at Cooper T. Smith in New Orleans before joining Puerto Rico Marine Management, Inc. to direct the company’s terminal, cargo and warehouse operations. Clark additionally held a number of senior management positions with both ocean carriage and terminal stevedoring companies. He most recently served as interim chief operating officer of GT USA Wilmington and U.S. manager of operations at GT USA, LLC, a subsidiary of Gulftainer, an independent port management and 3PL (third-party logistics) company based in the United Arab Emirates with operations in six countries.

“I have been privileged to work a career surrounded by some brilliant leaders and look forward to bringing the knowledge and experienced gained through those many years to serve the Alabama State Port Authority team,” remarked Clark.

The Alabama State Port Authority owns and operates the State of Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile and its public facilities handled over 25 million tons of cargo.

11 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol XI

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Beverly Hills flop. Los Angeles County has joined the ranks of out-of-state voices protesting the passage of Alabama’s new abortion law. The county’s Board of Supervisors recently sent Alabama Senate leader Del Marsh (R-Anniston) a letter notifying him of its disapproval of the law’s passage and conveying an empty promise of a one-year travel ban to the Yellowhammer State.

The letter, signed by all five members of the county’s governing body, says, “Alabama’s law is the most restrictive in the country…As a result, the County of Los Angeles has implemented a one-year travel restriction to the State of Alabama for official County business.”

(D. Marsh/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

This is not the first time Californians have expressed their disapproval of Alabama’s law.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), a presidential hopeful from the Golden State, has said Alabama “couldn’t care less” about babies, while one second-tier Hollywood actress posed nude in anger over the bill.

A spokesman for Marsh informed Yellowhammer News that Marsh has now restricted official travel to Los Angeles County for those in his own office.

County of Los Angeles Letter to Del Marsh by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

2. Once upon a time in the West. Now that Roy Moore has announced his candidacy for another run at the U.S. Senate, the old stories that go along with years of scrutiny and research have quickly re-entered circulation among the political class. One story which dropped into our inbox yesterday has always been a favorite.

Following his failed bid for circuit judge in 1982, Moore went on a personal sojourn to Texas and then Australia for some very specific purposes. While in Texas, he trained to become a professional kickboxer. Moore told the Press-Register newspaper in 2000 that kickboxing was something he had always wanted to try. He said he trained hard, dropped weight, worked construction jobs to get by and spent time on the Texas coast.

And then Moore eventually made his way to Australia where he worked as a ranch hand on a large cattle property.

Two things have always struck us as odd — OK, particularly odd — about this part of Moore’s biography. First, is the fact that he went to the Lone Star State to kickbox and to the south Pacific to work as a cowboy. One would think it would have been the other way around. Secondly, it’s somewhat of a surprise that during none of his numerous campaigns for office did anyone delve more deeply into this chapter of his life, the people he met or the surroundings where he lived. Whether in opposition to Moore or in support of Moore, it’s possible there are some insightful stories to be told by the people with whom he fought and rode.

3. Restrain yourself. After Yellowhammer News wrote in last week’s Rumors and Rumblings about the moving target of being Donald Trump’s Alabama campaign “chairman,” former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper, Jr. is back in the national spotlight.

A Thursday Vice News article from the immediate aftermath of Moore’s announcement dubbed Hooper as “Trump’s Alabama campaign chairman.”

On Moore, he told the outlet, “I’m concerned. As much as I like Roy Moore, he’d have an extremely tough time beating Doug Jones. Right now we need to elect a Republican U.S. senator. I wish Roy would honor the wishes of the president.”

Now, to be clear, Hooper is state chair of Trump Victory — a fundraising entity separate from the president’s campaign itself.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News after he was quoted in Vice on Thursday, Hooper said, “It’s a free country. He has every right to run. I just wish Roy had honored the wishes of the President of the United States and not run.”

Expect national outlets to continue seeking out comments from Alabama representatives purportedly tied to Trump and party establishment figures. The circus is in town until at least March now, and outlets will be trying to one-up each other on the kind of headlines they can create, quotes they can land and “surrogates” they can utilize.

12 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. X

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Success has 1,000 fathers. President Donald Trump has held a special affinity for the state of Alabama since the early stages of his 2016 campaign. And the feeling has been mutual. Thirty thousand people turned out to his first rally in Mobile all the way back in August 2015. Then on Super Tuesday in March 2016, he received over 43% of the vote in the state’s Republican presidential primary. The next closest candidate was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) with 21%. As recently as this week, polling showed that his favorability rating among Republicans in Alabama hovers around 80%.

Trump maintains a lofty perch in the state. There’s no doubt about that. What’s a little more unclear is who is responsible for getting him there. Alabama political observers have for some time marveled at the perpetual jockeying to stay at the front of the line of people representing Trump’s interests in the state.

Four stand out to us as being those most readily acknowledged as having a claim to the Trump throne in Alabama. All four evidently have, or had, the title “chairman” attached to their names in some form.

Two held visible roles from the beginning. State Rep. Jim Carns (R-Mountain Brook) and former State. Rep. Ed Henry. Both participated in the original Trump rally in Mobile and evidence would indicate that Carns carried the title “campaign chairman” while Henry carried the title “campaign co-chairman.” Considerable talk arose after Trump’s win that Carns could even fill an ambassadorship in Central America.

A third, Chess Bedsole, seemed to have held a hybrid role. Bedsole was both a paid political consultant for the Trump campaign and in leadership as “Trump’s Alabama campaign Chairman.”

Finally, former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper, Jr. is the man who — by at least one account — has risen to the top of the Trump leadership ladder in Alabama. For a time, Hooper shared the campaign chairman title with his peers. Perhaps  as a nod to his elevated status, however, Hooper somewhere along the line received the unique title “Trump 2016 Alabama Victory Chair.”

Hooper’s social media accounts document him becoming a fixture at the White House. According to his own account, he has been in the middle of West Wing meetings on fighter jets and trade and the Easter Egg Roll.

2. Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him. While Hooper has asserted himself as the unofficial Trump contact in the state, it has not happened without risk. It is fairly common in politics for someone to claim a significant piece of political real estate and then be the object of derision from others who aspire to occupy the same space. The key for someone in that potentially vulnerable position is to be ready and aware.

Opposition to Hooper’s role in Trump world came to a boiling point a few weeks ago following an NBC News article in which Hooper said he spoke to Trump about Alabama’s U.S. Senate race. The article quoted Hooper as saying that there was a “plan” in place for Trump to endorse former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Republican primary.

Yellowhammer News had picked up some rumblings earlier in the year that a certain amount of consternation existed regarding Hooper’s service as an unofficial spokesman for Trump in the state. Sources with knowledge of the situation told us that a conference call on the subject took place among Republican National Committee (RNC) officials, and on that conference call the phrase “restraining order” was used, at one point.

While those in Washington, D.C. continued to monitor, Hooper’s use of the national media to convey Trump’s purported thoughts on Alabama’s senate race may have sent some over the edge. One RNC official told us Hooper’s outspokenness on Trump’s views went from harmless to meddling to dangerous in light of the NBC News article. We were told that RNC Trump Victory Political Director Chris Carr spoke with Hooper to clarify some of the boundaries of his involvement in Trump world. We were also told that Carr directed Hooper to refrain from issuing statements to the press, holding press conferences and otherwise representing the thoughts and views of Trump.

Hooper told Yellowhammer News that the Trump comments he conveyed to NBC News occurred during a meeting he had with the president on tariffs. He said the president asked him about Tuberville and the state of the race, in general, and he simply offered his assessment. Hooper said he considers both Tuberville and Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) friends.

Whether any of this amounts to anything — or deters Hooper in any fashion — remains to be seen. Merely five days ago, Hooper posted a photo of himself attending a Chicago Cubs baseball game with Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

3. What are the odds? Scott Cooley of SportsBetting.ag has provided Yellowhammer News with some prop bets surrounding a number of current political storylines.

Bettors can wager on the blockage of a potential Mexico tariff, the possibility of a presidential impeachment, whether or not President Trump will attend a World Cup match and whether he will have to hand over his tax records.

The oddsmakers don’t anticipate an impeachment or Trump’s tax records to be made public, but the numbers do suggest Congress would block a tariff on Mexico.

Will the House of Representatives pass Articles of Impeachment against President Trump before end of his first term?

Yes 2/1 (+200)
No 2/5 (-250)
–Note: The odds imply a 71.43% probability articles will not be passed

Will the Democratic Party gain access to President Trump’s federal tax returns before the end of his first term?

Yes 3/2 (+150)
No 1/2 (-200)
–Note: The odds imply a 66.67% probability returns will not be accessed

Will Congress successfully block President Trump from imposing tariffs on imported Mexican goods? (disapproval vote must take place for action)

Yes 1/2 (-200)
No 3/2 (+150)
–Note: The odds imply a 66.67% probability a tariff would be blocked

Will President Trump attend a World Cup match?

Yes 20/1 (+2000)
No 1/100 (-10000)
–Note: The odds imply a 99.01% probability Trump will not attend

12 months ago

Birmingham organizations team up to show off the Magic City to summer interns

Birmingham Business Alliance

The Birmingham Business Alliance will kick off its annual summer intern engagement program, Magic City Summer, Monday in downtown Birmingham.

Magic City Summer is a series of free social events that connect summer interns to Birmingham’s culture, communities and influencers. Participants will enjoy a VIP summer experience, receiving discounts for some of Birmingham’s most popular summer events and activities.

Recent studies suggest several of the most important factors that contribute to talent attraction are experienced during internships. Talent is more likely to move to or stay in a city where they have visited, a job is available and their quality of life expectations are met.

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This talent attraction program allows Birmingham’s exceptional quality of life to take center stage for those returning to Birmingham from college or living in the Magic City for the first time, said Dr. Sanjay Singh, chairman of the BBA’s Workforce Advisory Council.

“Birmingham is an ideal place to live, work and play, and Magic City Summer allows us to highlight the best that Birmingham has to offer,” Singh said. “I would argue that Birmingham’s quality of life stacks up against any other city in the country, and this program allows us to not just tell interns that, but show them.”

The BBA is partnering with Young Professionals of Birmingham (YP Birmingham) this year to provide benefits to the interns participating in Magic City Summer.

Benefits of joining YP Birmingham include no cover at Lakeview District hotspots like Innisfree, Tin Roof and Sidebar; tickets to Birmingham Barons and Birmingham Legion games; and discounts and free classes at gyms and fitness centers across Birmingham. All benefits afforded to YP Birmingham members will also be given to Magic City Summer participants.

“Young Professionals of Birmingham prides ourselves on being an organization that provides opportunities for new and current young professionals of the city to increase their network, both personally and professionally,” said Lorenzo Johnson, YP Birmingham president. “Supporting local businesses and nonprofits are a staple of our organization and we are excited about this new partnership with the Birmingham Business Alliance due to the similarities in vision and mission as well as the opportunities it will provide members of both organizations!”

A city’s quality of life plays a significant role in young talent’s decision to stay or leave in a community, said Waymond Jackson, senior vice president of public policy at the BBA. “Internship opportunities are the first and, sometimes, only chance an employer or community has to make a great impression on potential talent,” Jackson said.

“With talent attraction being at the forefront of any successful economic development strategy, the BBA’s efforts to engage visiting interns throughout the summer are critical to building a talent pool that can fuel dynamic job growth in our region.”

In 2018, 251 summer interns participated in the program, hailing from 135 hometowns, 21 states and four countries.  They represented 79 different colleges and universities, as well as 65 regional companies.  Of those who participated in the program, 51% said Birmingham’s food scene is what they’d heard the most buzz about, and over three-fourths said job opportunities were the top motivating factor when deciding where to live post-graduation.

Companies can register their interns for Magic City Summer here.

1 year ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. IX

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Twinkle for…?  Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, president of the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC), fired off a tweet earlier today indicating that she will be on the ballot as part of the 2020 election cycle.

What makes this tweet curious is the fact that she did not identify the office for which she was running. Cavanaugh defeated Democrat Lucy Baxley in 2012 to take over the presidency of the PSC. At the time, Baxley was the last-remaining Democrat to hold statewide office. Cavanaugh’s current term concludes in 2020, so it may be that she is seeking re-election to her seat on the PSC.

Like many other prominent Republicans in Alabama, though, Cavanaugh is known to have performed some amount of due diligence on what a candidacy for the U.S. Senate might look like. No female has announced for the seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). The entrance of a well-known conservative woman — a description which fits Cavanaugh — into the race would completely change its complexion. One Republican political consultant told Yellowhammer News that if a strong, conservative female jumped in, then you could probably pencil that person into the run-off.

Cavanaugh has been a zealous advocate for conservative causes for many years. And as recently as 2018, she served as co-chair for the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama, which helped pass the state’s pro-life constitutional amendment.

Efforts to reach her at the time of publication were unsuccessful.

Cavanaugh’s Twitter handle is @TwinkleForAL. That much we know, at least.

2. “It’s easier to stay out than get out.” Mark Twain’s pearl of wisdom could easily describe the predominant political calculation of many considering a run for the U.S. Senate. Secretary of State John Merrill has said he is going to make a decision on the race this week or next. Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) has not ruled it out, yet, and has told people he will make a final decision at the end of the summer — which would lend to the notion that he is not running.

We have learned that State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) now fully intends to get into the race. We have reported previously that Dismukes was giving it strong consideration and had begun getting his feet wet campaigning in parts of the state outside of his district. In addition, he has spent time in Washington gauging potential support from interest groups and others in the nation’s capital.

As is the case with announced candidate State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), beginning a high-profile statewide race from the relatively small footprint of a State House district presents a significant challenge.

3. Follow the money. Yellowhammer News alerted its readers earlier this week to the fact that the House of Representatives had drastically cut funding for rural broadband in its version of the budget. The budget passed by the House cut the program’s funding by 73%.

Senate leaders Del Marsh and Arthur Orr had long made ramping up rural broadband efforts a priority so it was no surprise to see them dig in and fight for that number to climb back up to an acceptable level during conference committee negotiations on the budget. When all was said and done, the conference committee adopted a 150% increase in funding over the House-passed version of the bill, increasing the broadband appropriation from $8 million to $20 million.

The timing of that funding increase was critical given the passage of certain legislation this session. Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), widely-recognized as the father of the rural broadband initiative, passed a bill to strengthen the program even further. His was one of two bills aimed at fueling economic development and increasing quality of life through expanding internet access in rural areas.

 

1 year ago

Report: Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. curses at God, University of Alabama following state’s abortion ban

(Florida Politics/Twitter)

Millionaire Florida resident Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. directed some explicit comments at lawmakers in both his home state and in Alabama, as well as the University of Alabama, according to a Sunshine State media outlet.

The “Florida Politics” blog on Thursday posted an interview with Culverhouse, Jr. which followed up on the events of the previous day.

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The same blog on Wednesday said that Culverhouse, Jr. was calling for a boycott of the state of Alabama and the University of Alabama over the recently signed into law abortion ban, the “Human Life Protection Act.”

The Florida businessman, who did not graduate from UA at any level of study, last year donated $21.5 million to the university’s law school, which was in turn named after him.

Culverhouse, Jr. is currently the largest donor in the University of Alabama’s history, and outlets like Alabama Media Group on Wednesday zealously pushed the narrative that his support of the university was ending because of the abortion debate.

However, in a concise press release later that day, a spokesperson for the University of Alabama System explained that Wednesday’s outburst by Culverhouse, Jr. came at the tail-end of a prolonged dispute between him and the university that had nothing to do with abortion — or any type of liberal social justice issue.

Culverhouse, Jr. had claimed of his supposed abortion-related stand, “I cannot stand by silently and allow my name to be associated with a state educational system… which promotes blatant discrimination.”

Yet, the UA System advised, “As part of an ongoing dispute, last week Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. asked for the return of $10 million, repeating numerous demands about the operations of the University of Alabama School of Law.”

The System press release also detailed that the System chancellor had recommended to give Culverhouse, Jr. back all of his $21.5 million donation — the day before his comments on Alabama’s abortion ban.

The release continued, “Consequently, [Tuesday] Chancellor St. John recommended to the Board of Trustees that it return all of Mr. Culverhouse’s $21.5 million donation to the Law School, which will be acted on at the Board’s meeting next week.”

“None of the issues between the Law School and Mr. Culverhouse had anything to do with the passage of legislation in which the University had no role,” the System spokesperson concluded. “Donors may not dictate University administration.”

‘Fu** you, and have a nice day’

This release seemed to have angered Culverhouse, Jr., who responded to the System in an expletive-filled Florida Politics article.

“I’m sorry for the university,” he reportedly told the website, “but fu** you, and have a nice day.”

The outlet reported he asserted that an “agreement” was made with the university when making the donation that he would “have involvement in decisions at the school.”

Culverhouse, Jr., according to Florida Politics, acknowledged he had been involved in a dispute with the university over that claim, with the outlet specifying one example that he “disagreed with the law school dean about upping entrance requirements.”

Again, remember the System emphasized, “Donors may not dictate University administration.”

However, Culverhouse, Jr. reportedly made another demand of the university.

Florida Politics wrote, “As far as abortion, Culverhouse said he did say no endowment chair should be appointed until the abortion issue gets resolved.”

To be clear, the university, the law school and the System have nothing to do with Alabama’s abortion law.

Yet, in the Thursday Florida Politics interview, Culverhouse, Jr. still teed off on the issue in dramatic fashion.

“Saudi Arabia is more liberal in granting abortions than Alabama,” the Floridian lamented.

He remarked, “What really f—ing pisses me off is if I sent my daughter to Alabama and she got gang-raped by 15 to 20 men, she could not obtain an abortion without the doctor going to prison. But a lot of rape cases, they get probation, or get 5 years, 15 or 20 years. A doctor faces 99 godd*** years.”

This comes in spite of the fact that Alabama’s new abortion law is not in effect — and will almost certainly never go into effect.

Culverhouse also said he would make similar boycott demands for other states enacting new abortion restrictions, including his home state of Florida.

Multiple abortion restrictions were filed this year in Florida, though none passed, the outlet reported.

Yet, State Rep. Mike Hill, (R-Florida), told the Pensacola News-Journal he intended to file a bill similar to Alabama’s next year, notably telling that local newspaper God had spoken to him after the Yellowhammer State passed its law and encouraged Hill to do so.

“Mike Hill got told by God to do that,” Culverhouse, Jr. commented. “But you can tell Mike Hill that God and Jesus talked to me last night and they said you fu** anybody who violates Supreme Court law. So I’m following God.”

Culverhouse, Jr. added, “Maybe his God and my God are schizo-fu**ing-phrenic, or maybe he should stop using religion to go after women.”

1 year ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VIII

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Hey Arnold! State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) caused a bit of a stir this week when he introduced a request to censure State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) for comments Rogers made during the chamber’s debate of the abortion bill. Numerous GOP House members were upset by the move, not so much for the substance of the request as much as for the timing — and the perceived motivation behind it.

The request came as the body was attempting to address a “ten-minute” calendar of bills. The aim of a ten-minute calendar is to quickly dispose of some of the more mundane pieces of legislation with the idea being that each member gets ten minutes to pass their bill or else the House moves on to the next item. As soon as Mooney introduced his letter of censure, the environment in the chamber became hostile, resulting in an adjournment and the end of the calendar. Dozens of members lost the opportunity, at that point at least, to pass their individual pieces of legislation, including an anti-human trafficking bill and legislation to help feed needy children in the state.

Some members wondered why Mooney waited nine days to introduce his letter. His letter was dated May 13 and not introduced until May 22. This event came on the heels of Mooney previously sending out a campaign letter to supporters questioning the ideological bearings of his fellow Republican legislators. When asked if Mooney had expressed any of these concerns to the GOP caucus at-large prior to his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, one member responded, “No. He had not.”

2. A tale of two cities. As Mooney spent the week trying to burnish the type of outsider credentials attractive to Club for Growth, another one of his colleagues spent his week in D.C. trying, presumably, to lay a similar foundation. State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was boots on the ground in the nation’s capital this week. Dismukes has let it be known that he was contemplating his own run for the U.S. Senate. He has done a fair job of keeping those cards close to the vest, although his trip to Washington would lend to the notion that he continues to have interest in a federal office.

The mathematical side effect of Dismukes’ absence nearly reached a heightened level of consequence. Consideration of any legislation prior to the passage of both budgets requires a 3/5 vote of those in the body voting. The lottery failed this week because it did not receive the required 3/5 threshold of those voting. In Dismukes’ absence from the state, someone voted his machine on his behalf as an abstention rather than simply not voting at all. He was the only legislator to vote to abstain. This still raises the threshold of required votes.

There were 90 total members that voted — which means the lottery needed 54 votes to proceed. It only received 53. Had someone not voted Dismukes’ machine and 89 members had voted, the lottery would still have needed 54 votes but by a much slimmer margin since 3/5 of 89 equals 53.4. That’s how close the lottery came to advancing to full consideration by the House.

3. Is broadband really a priority for members of the Alabama House? While the state legislature’s budget negotiations have been relatively smooth so far this session, there is one major issue that has seemingly popped up at the last minute.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Finance and Taxation Education Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) put $30 million in the Senate-passed Education Trust Fund Budget for the state’s rural broadband grant program established last year by State Senator Clay Scofield’s (R-Guntersville) landmark legislation.

As the legislature continues to work on beefing up last year’s legislation through Scofield’s SB 90 this year, the House is now seemingly set to slash the broadband funding approved by the Senate. The House Ways and Means Education Committee this week approved an education budget that cut the broadband funding by 73%, dragging the total down from $30 million to only $8 million.

Proponents of the larger number have said that there is not a better use of one-time money than to expand broadband services across the state. Will Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and the House at-large work with the Senate and restore the important broadband funding?

4. Art of the Deal. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) once again proved his master negotiating skills this week, securing a crucial disaster relief package deal against seemingly insurmountable differences between the increasingly polarized factions in Washington, D.C.

This package will provide much-needed aid to many in the Yellowhammer State, including those in southeast Alabama devastated by Hurricane Michael.

Shelby bridged the gap between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, while even managing to get President Donald Trump to drop his demands to include non-disaster related earmarks in the package — a concession that was key to getting enough votes in the Senate and House. The legislation quickly passed the Senate 85-8 Thursday before a lone House member objected to its unanimous passage on Friday. The House can take the legislation up after Memorial Day on Tuesday, when it is expected to overwhelmingly pass that chamber and then be signed into law.

One keen observer told Yellowhammer News that this type of achievement will not make nearly the number of headlines it should back at home, but once again Shelby has delivered for his state as he continues to cement his legacy as “Alabama’s greatest statesman.”

1 year ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VII

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. “The only deadline is the one I give myself”

One place elected officials, candidates and political committees don’t want to see their names is on the civil penalty section of the Alabama Ethics Commission meeting agenda. Among the duties the ethics commission is charged with is handling missed filing deadlines for campaign and political action committees. The secretary of state’s office refers these cases to the commission which then decides whether to accept or reject the explanation for missing the deadline provided by the responsible person.

And, so, it has not gone unnoticed in political and legal circles that the Alabama Ethics Commission has a few filing deadlines of its own that it has missed. Under Alabama law, the commission is required to submit an annual report to the governor and the legislature at the conclusion of each fiscal year. As of the time of this article’s publishing, the commission has not filed any of its 2016, 2017 or 2018 annual reports. When Yellowhammer News contacted the commission about these reports, executive director Tom Albritton noted that the commission planned to submit a combined analysis of the 2016-2018 fiscal years in the very near future.

2. Mr. Tuberville goes to Washington

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville has drawn some criticism over his recent Florida residency, however the former Auburn head football coach has put together a campaign team that is about as Alabama as they come.

Tuberville also seems to be doubling down on his east Alabama ties. Rob Jesmer, a former chief of staff for Mike Rogers, will be handling media for the campaign, with Tripp Skipper, a former district director for Rogers, serving as the general consultant.

Skipper is well know in Alabama political circles and helped Tuberville with his exploration of the governor’s race in the 2018 cycle, so this hire was always the obvious move.

However, the real intrigue here revolves around Jesmer, who is a major power player in D.C. that gives Tuberville’s campaign some serious Beltway heft for a political outsider. Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), is also currently the general consultant for Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who just term limited out after serving six years in the Senate Republicans’ second highest leadership role — the whip.

With Sean Spicer also advising the team, along with Erik Iverson of Moore Information doing polling and Jon Downs working with Jesmer on media, Tuberville is showing that he is 100% serious about mounting a professional, top-notch bid.

3. Making political odds-making great again

Alabama will hold its presidential primary elections on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The early March date continues to place the state among the earlier presidential primaries. As a result, it can continue to expect occasional visits from candidates vying for their party’s national ticket. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have all traveled to Alabama this year, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) plans to visit Alabama in June to address the Alabama Democratic Conference.

With former Vice President Joe Biden widening his polling lead and President Donald Trump not facing any credible opposition on the Republican side, we thought it would be a good time to look at a snapshot of what the oddsmakers are thinking in the race. Scott Cooley and his team at sportsbetting.ag have provided us with data on where they see the field right now and who is the favorite to win the 2020 presidential election.

Cooley has Trump as the odds-on favorite followed closely by Biden. In order of likelihood, here is a broader list of the candidates and others who could win the election (remember, the higher the number the lower the odds of winning):

Donald Trump +100
Joe Biden +300
Bernie Sanders +1000
Pete Buttigieg +1400
Kamala Harris +2000
Beto O’Rourke +2000
Cory Booker +6600
Amy Klobuchar +6600
Mike Pence +8000
Niki Haley +10000
Hillary Clinton +20000
Mark Cuban +20000

With Buttigieg facing extreme difficulty in southern Democratic primaries, and O’Rourke getting more awkward by the day, there doesn’t seem to be much hidden value when you get farther down the list.

1 year ago

Hollywood actress takes her clothes off in anger to protest Alabama abortion law

(E. Ratajkowski/Instagram)

In an apparent act of defiance toward Alabama policymakers, Hollywood actress and model Emily Ratajkowski has removed her clothes for everyone to see.

In response to the recent passage of a law outlawing abortion in the state, and employing what can only be described as an “I’ll show them” approach, Ratajkowski posted a naked photo of herself on Instagram with a caption deriding members of the Alabama legislature who voted in favor of the ban.

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Below a photo showing her wearing only a strategically placed flower, the British-born, California resident provided her own analysis of Alabama public policy and legislative intent.

“This week, 25 old white men voted to ban abortion in Alabama even in cases of incest and rape,” she wrote. “These men in power are imposing their wills onto the bodies of women in order to uphold the patriarchy and perpetuate the industrial prison complex by preventing women of low economic opportunity the right to choose to not reproduce.”

A common theme among those voicing opposition to the law has been the involvement of men in the process despite the legislation having been sponsored by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) and signed into effect by Governor Kay Ivey.

As the Daily Mail noted, Ratajkowski has been a frequent supporter of liberal causes and was a vocal critic of the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States.

1 year ago

Alabama jobs hang in the balance in dispute over former military facility

Several dozen high-paying jobs hang in the balance as a defense contractor and local economic development authority square off over the future of an aging military base in northeast Alabama.

In 2009, then-Alabama Governor Bob Riley authorized the creation of local “development authorities for the purpose of developing real and personal property of closed military installations” around the state. Among those installations was Fort McClellan, a famed, century-old military facility that was shuttered in 1999.

Since that time, the local area has struggled to find private sector suitors to fill parts of the property, including a large, concrete barracks facility known locally as the Starship. But in recent years, Xtreme Concepts, a defense contractor, leased the property with an option to buy. The property houses an Xtreme subsidiary called iK9 that trains dogs for military and law enforcement entities, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

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“We worked out a deal that allowed us to lease the property, make $1.4 million in improvements to the facilities and ultimately purchase it over time,” Xtreme CEO Landon Ash explained in a recent Anniston Star op-ed. He called it “a win for the community” because, prior to Xtreme’s arrival, taxpayers were facing the likelihood of having to spend $3 million to tear down the buildings.

But in recent months, as Xtreme moved to purchase the property a stalemate emerged between the company and the McClellan Development Authority (MDA), ultimately resulting in the MDA rejecting Xtreme’s purchase agreement.

“As we moved to purchase the Starships property in accordance with our agreement with the MDA, communication broke down and unfortunately spilled over into public meetings and news stories,” Ash wrote in his op-ed, which included a pitch for the two sides to put their differences aside and preserve the roughly three dozen jobs currently provided at the once-dormant facility.

“It is my desire to do whatever I can to protect these hardworking Alabamians, many of whom are veterans,” Ash wrote.

But to this point the MDA has held the line. In March, the MDA agreed to give away 900 acres of the former Army base to be turned into recreational horse trails, but there does not appear to be any companies interested in succeeding Xtreme Concepts to create additional jobs if they are forced out.

Late last week, the editorial board of the local paper urged the two sides to come together and patch up their differences.

But for now the two sides remain embroiled in a legal dispute with uncertainty continuing to surround roughly three-dozen jobs.

“I am optimistic that we can put our differences behind us, come together and do what is best for the community we all love by approving our purchase agreement,” Ash wrote.

The MDA is set to meet Thursday for another round of conversations.

The group’s executive director did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.

1 year ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VI

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. The Alabama Policy Institute (API) hosted a panel discussion last night in Huntsville. Among the many topics discussed was one which has bubbled under the surface for quite a while: What will happen to Huntsville in the next round of apportionment following the 2020 census?

The Alabama legislature will take up the task of updating the state’s congressional districts based on those census numbers during its 2021 session. Most expect population shifts — as well as population loss — to result in some significant changes in the district lines for members of Congress.

Discussion at the API event centered, specifically, on whether Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) would want to absorb parts of Huntsville into his district. His fourth congressional district currently ends south of the Rocket City. Panelists speculated that he may wish to include some of the areas, such as Redstone Arsenal and Research Park, which contain key aerospace industry stakeholders.

That scenario spurred discussion about what such a change might mean to Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05). Brooks currently has the entirety of Huntsville contained within his district. Now that Brooks is officially out of the 2020 U.S. Senate race, might his approach change to reapportionment? Or could his stated interest in running for the U.S. Senate race in 2022 — if Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) decided to retire — focus his attention elsewhere?

As a participant on the panel, State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) advised to consider carefully whether to split up a city between districts. She recalled that her hometown of Decatur was, at one time, split between the districts of Aderholt and former Congressman Bud Cramer. She felt that it did not work well for Decatur and may not work well for Huntsville.

One of the other scenarios being bandied about could make the discussion moot. Some believe a decrease in Alabama’s population could result in the state losing a congressional seat. The merger of Aderholt’s district with that of Brooks is one of the options being rumored in that case.

2. As ridiculous as the whole spectacle has been, don’t discount the impact State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) could have on the 2020 U.S. Senate race. National Journal even touched on this in one of their daily email blasts this week.

What hasn’t been mentioned yet is how the whole Rogers/Jones dynamic ties into the fight Jones has picked with the ADC, the black caucus of Alabama’s Democratic Party.

Jones has been fighting with the ADC and the state party, which longtime ADC head Joe Reed is viewed as controlling, since 2017 when Jones publicly complained they didn’t help him enough in the general election. Of course, things really came to a head when Jones backed a failed takeover of the state party last summer. And, as this possible Rogers primary challenge unfolds, the party is reaching the end of the timeframe that the DNC gave Worley and Reed to hold a do-over election for its leadership. There are whispers around Goat Hill that Jones is now seeing the fruits of picking a fight with the ADC, jeopardizing the already long-shot chance he has at re-election in 2020.

3. The lottery bill, SB 220, has become another example of State Rep. Bill Poole’s (R-Tuscaloosa) huge influence in the House.

Poole’s statesmanship delivered another major win for the ETF on Thursday when the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee unanimously adopted a substitute version of the lottery bill that will now send 25 percent of revenues to the ETF rather than education getting none of the lottery windfall. That Poole helped deliver this important concession quietly and effectively behind the scenes (yet again) only adds to what has been a historic few months for him. Kudos also go to State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), that chamber’s general fund chair and House carrier of the bill, who helped reach the compromise in an amicable and clean way, giving the lottery the best chance of passing possible on the floor.

4. Speaking of the lottery, there are a lot of major issues and spending priorities being intertwined in the conversation around SB 220. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has publicly emphasized the importance of bolstering general fund revenues, and he made another compelling case to House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) this week.

Daniels met with Marsh on Wednesday, continuing Marsh and other Republican leaders’ pledge (made during the Rebuild Alabama process) to hold substantive discussions with Democrats in the legislature about healthcare needs in the state. Daniels told reporters after the meeting on Wednesday that Marsh had committed to working on Medicaid expansion. However, Marsh’s office elaborated on how the conversation went.

Marsh reaffirmed his caucus’ commitment to improving rural healthcare and told Daniels Medicaid expansion was not on the table right now as an option because the state couldn’t afford it. However, Marsh said, if the general fund is boosted sufficiently by SB 220 lottery revenues, then Medicaid expansion could be a constructive conversation moving forward.

Clouse has emphasized that he needs Democrat votes to pass SB 220 in the House, so consider how these issues are linked, as expanding healthcare access and affordability has been the Democrats’ self-professed number one priority this year in Alabama, along with the prison system, which would also be set to benefit from increased general fund revenues.

1 year ago

Video contest will award funding to nonprofits making a difference in Alabama

(Partners in Progress)

Wind Creek Hospitality (WCH) is planning to award funding to seven nonprofit organizations as part of its inaugural Partners in Progress Video Contest.

Nonprofits in Alabama and North Florida wishing to participate can visit the contest website to submit an entry form along with a short video explaining how their organization makes a difference in the community.

The deadline to enter is May 14. Beginning on May 16, all qualifying entry videos will be posted on the contest website for voting to begin.

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The seven nonprofits to receive the most votes by May 31 will win a share of $125,000 according to the list below:

• 1st place: $40,000
• 2nd place: $30,000
• 3rd place: $15,000
• 4th place – 7th place will each receive $10,000

WCH spokesperson Danielle Sanspree explained, “Wind Creek is fortunate to be able to give back in our communities and there are so many organizations doing great work. The idea behind this contest is to give nonprofits a platform to tell their stories to a larger audience and then to learn what non-profits people want us to support.”

Sanspree said she hopes people will jump behind the effort by making sure their favorite organizations enter the contest and then by encouraging friends and family to vote.

“Nonprofits provide resources that no one else can or will; they stand in the gaps every day. This is a way for us to let them know they aren’t standing alone,” she stated.

Those wanting to learn more can visit the Wind Creek Hospitality Facebook page and search for Partners in Progress Video Contest or visit the contest website at https://3bb86cf2.wishpondpages.com/partners-in-progress/

1 year ago

Rumors and Rumblings 2nd Ed. Vol. V

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. The Republican U.S. Senate primary is still a two-person race, but expect that to change in the weeks ahead. Yellowhammer News first reported that freshman State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was exploring a run, and now we can confirm that he is seriously weighing jumping in. Today, Dismukes is in Washington, D.C. meeting with groups – potential benefactors – that include Club for Growth, which has let its anti-Bradley Bryne sentiments be well known.

With Mo Brooks telling Talk 99.5’s “The Matt & Aunie Show” today that he is not running in 2020 (he has long maintained it would take a “seismic” event for him to change his mind) and Gary Palmer still looking unlikely to enter the Senate field, Club is frantically looking for a horse to back.

Brooks also newly introduced the possibility of State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) or former State Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) running.

A source has told Yellowhammer News that Mooney, 68, could be set to announce for the Senate next week. Mooney would definitely start with the lowest name ID in the field. He is telling people that he has the Club endorsement locked up and that he is going to hire national political players to handle the campaign: Fred Davis for media/advertising consultant, Jordan Gehrke to be the general consultant and Public Opinion Strategies to do polling. Gehrke was the GC for Brooks in 2017. Davis is recently best known for handling the media for John Kasich’s 2016 presidential bid.

Based on a conversation with someone familiar with Pittman’s thinking, his interest in running is fueled by a desire to inject serious issues of fiscal responsibility into the debate. Pittman had always been a fiscal hawk throughout his time in the Alabama legislature and was known for forcing tough decisions when he oversaw the budget. He is a big-thinker who it sounds now is being stirred to run by trillion dollar deficits and renewed interest in socialist policies. Pittman and Byrne hail from the same area of the state so dual candidacies could mitigate any geographic advantages in the Republican-heavy area.

Secretary of State John Merrill very well might announce a Senate candidacy in the next month or so, and he certainly seems like an option for Club. However, do not discount the possibility that the D.C. organization could still back Tommy Tuberville.

Finally, don’t sleep on Robert Bentley. Appearing on “The Jeff Poor Show” last week, the former governor sounded like a guy who truly wanted to run.

2. The Alabama House Minority Caucus and the Black Caucus have a pivotal decision to make on State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham), who managed to make his viral abortion remarks even worse with follow-up comments on Donald Trump, Jr.

The Minority Caucus leadership was already set to throw Rogers under the bus before he dug himself a deeper hole, and Black Caucus Chair A.J. McCampbell was in utter disbelief when he heard Rogers’ remarks about Trump, Jr.

House Democrats, in a superminority, have been working diligently and purposefully behind the scenes since Election Day to slowly build good will and political capital that they can leverage behind the scenes in negotiations about select priorities, including healthcare and Medicaid discussions.

Rogers’ actions could very well set them – and their state party – back at least another election cycle from having a meaningful seat at the table on the issues most important to them.

However, taking forceful action against Rogers (including asking for his resignation), comes with the risk of angering the Democratic base. In a state where primaries are king, there will be House Democrats afraid of their most strident voting blocs. Rogers is a longtime fixture in Democratic state politics and was already at odds with Caucus leadership over their decision to walkout on Tuesday’s abortion debate. The leadership risks making him an enemy in a place where they already have few friends, and Rogers could take a few Caucus veterans like State Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) with him.

3. One potential big winner in the 2019 legislative session is David Bronner of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA). As the pension systems’ head man, Bronner once again tops the list of highest-paid state employees and has leveraged his position to enjoy an enviable lifestyle. He is also, perhaps, the most feared man in Montgomery.

As CEO of RSA, Bronner oversees a pension system into which more than 300,000 people have paid or are currently paying. This means that he has a communication pipeline to names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for 300,000 Alabamians with a vested interest in engaging the political process. Priming that pipeline with a message advantageous to him allows Bronner to quickly whip up an educated constituency when the time comes to apply pressure to members of the legislature on issues affecting the pension system.

Thus, it is no surprise that the legislature seems poised to pass a bill sweetening the pot of pension benefits for state employees. Proponents of the legislation believe it will help state government attract and retain its employees. As a credit to Bronner’s near total control over pension policy, there are no opponents. The bill passed the House on a 100-0 vote.

The cost of the increased benefits comes in at a paltry $2.53 billion over the next thirty years. While Bronner has voiced his displeasure in the past over the reluctance of Alabamians to raise taxes, and advocated for the legalization of marijuana and gambling so it can be taxed, the issue of funding for this measure seems to be of no concern.

As a result, the work done by RSA in the 2019 legislative session may go down as one of David Bronner’s greatest achievements.