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.

2 days 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.

3 days 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.

4 days 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 week 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 week 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/

2 weeks 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.

3 weeks ago

Birmingham neighborhood president named United Way corporate volunteer of the year

(Contributed)

The United Way of Central Alabama recently named Thomasine “TC” Jackson as the 2019 recipient of its Corporate Volunteer of the Year.

Jackson serves as president of the East Thomas Neighborhood Association in Birmingham and is a report reproduction supervisor for Drummond Company, Inc. where she has been employed for 34 years.

According to United Way, the award “recognizes a company employee that shows an exemplary approach to supporting and serving the community through volunteerism through their place of employment.”

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Her priorities as president of the East Thomas neighborhood have included improving parks and schools within the Smithfield community and helping to create a “Back to School Family Fun Day.”

Over the years, Jackson has advocated for numerous health initiatives and has served in numerous faith-based ministry programs, fulfilling volunteer needs in areas of music, administration, missions and health programming.

She has been a resident of the East Thomas Neighborhood for over 48 years. She is a product of the Wilkerson Elementary, A. H. Parker High School and Alabama School of Fine Arts. She has studied at Birmingham Southern, Alabama A& M University and University of Alabama in Birmingham. She is member of Payne Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Jackson is a past recipient of the Sarah Bass Allen Leadership Award from the Ninth Episcopal District Women’s Missionary Society, and she received the 2015 NAACP Award for Leadership in the Community.

She is married to Sidney W. Jackson and is the proud mother of two sons and has four grandchildren. She also helps out as a musician with the youth choir at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.

Thomasine Jackson is frequently heard making a statement which may best sum up her attitude toward service: “Thank you for the opportunity to serve.”

3 weeks ago

Rumors and Rumblings 2nd Ed. Vol. IV

(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 sands of the U.S. Senate race continue to shift — daily, it would seem. On Monday, Alabama senate leader Del Marsh confirmed to Yellowhammer News that he was not running. The following day, we learned that freshman state representative Will Dismukes was exploring a run. Then on Wednesday Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told “The Jeff Poor Show” that he had engaged in extensive conversations about a candidacy and would decide by the end of May whether to enter the race.

Perhaps getting a feel for what it will be like as a candidate, Dismukes subsequently spoke on Merrill’s home turf to the Tuscaloosa County GOP meeting on Thursday evening. State legislators speaking to groups outside of their district is unusual.

A person very familiar with Tuscaloosa area politics told us this morning of Merrill, “He’s running.”

And staying in T-Town, former Gov. Robert Bentley appeared on “The Jeff Poor Show” on Friday at 2:30 p.m. CST. Yellowhammer News has been told that Bentley is seriously considering a U.S. Senate bid, despite politicos around the state blowing the notion off. In the interview, host Jeff Poor asked Bentley if he is going to enter the race, but the former governor gave a non-answer. Could a Byrne, Tuberville, Bentley field work out like Byrne, James, Bentley did in 2010?

2. We also continue to hear that Congressman Mo Brooks has definitely not made up his mind on the race and continues to mull a run. We were given the “not so fast” warning following a north Alabama report that Brooks was not running. Rumors and Rumblings noted in its last edition a Brooks campaign fundraising invitation making the rounds which did not identify the specific office sought by Brooks. That fundraiser occurred last night.

3. With all the focus on the Republican primary, it was notable to us that incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) may be looking over his shoulder for a primary challenge of his own. The rumblings of concern coming from the Jones camp could simply be an attempt to awaken a potential donor base for the junior senator.

Last reports showed Jones had only raised 12 percent of his campaign dollars from within Alabama’s borders. On the other hand, Jones announced his support this week for former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary. Candidates scheduled to appear on the ballot generally do not involve themselves in other primaries for fear of drawing opposition based on that stance.

4 weeks ago

Ivey to introduce book published by Alabama nonprofit dedicated to health and literacy

(Pixabay, YHN)

As part of its HEAL Day celebration in Montgomery, an Alabama nonprofit advocating for health and literacy will host Governor Kay Ivey for the introduction of a new book written by its founder.

Ivey will read the book, written by HEAL founder and CEO Christy Swaid, to 200 children in the state capitol auditorium.

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The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is a book that Swaid hopes will help children better understand the connection between health and literacy.

HEAL is an acronym summarizing the group’s mission: Healthy Eating Active Living. According to HEAL, it is “dedicated to unifying Alabama to reverse the trend of chronic disease and poor literacy.” The organization works with 30,000 students and 85,000 family members in 153 schools across the state.

Ivey’s book reading is part of an event the group is calling “HEAL Day: A day of education & celebration of health, academic achievement and literacy in the great state of Alabama.”

Where: Alabama State Capitol
When: May 1, 10:30am-1:00pm — Governor’s presentation is set for 11:00am with book reading to follow
Watch:

1 month ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. III

(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. Got Trump? We now have one candidate in, for sure, and one candidate out, for sure, since our last Rumors and Rumblings. Former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville announced he’s running. Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth announced he is not.

But a common approach developing in the campaigns of Tuberville and Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) is an attempt to demonstrate a connection to President Donald Trump through his political operation. Tuberville has engaged former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer for his campaign.

Now, it sounds as if Byrne’s team is in talks with former Trump official Andy Surabian to help Byrne with his bid to join the U.S. Senate. Steve Bannon has said Surabian was a “one man war room” during Trump’s campaign.

As one political observer told Yellowhammer News, “Hiring former Trump team members is the quickest way to establishing Trump street cred in a Republican primary.”

2. Congressman Mo Brooks (R-05) sent out invitations to a fundraiser in Huntsville taking place in two weeks, and it’s what is not on the invitation that has people talking. The invitation, a copy of which Yellowhammer News has seen, does not specify the office he is seeking. A candidate for federal office may utilize funds raised should they decide to seek a different federal office.

3. The confirmation of Finis E. “Fess” St. John, IV as chancellor of the University of Alabama System has opened up a seat on the board from Alabama’s fourth congressional district. Look for much jockeying to occur in the coming weeks for that coveted seat on the board.

The board is composed of three members from the congressional district in which the Tuscaloosa campus is located and two members from each of the other six congressional districts. The governor and the state superintendent of education are ex-officio members of the Board.

4. The anticipation of reprisal against those voting against the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure funding bill continues to emanate throughout the Alabama statehouse. The House of Representatives shifted around some committee assignments this week. Among the moves were Rep. Paul Lee (R-Dothan) replacing Rep. April Weaver (R-Alabaster) as chair of the House Health Committee and Rep. David Wheeler’s (R-Vestavia Hills) removal from House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure. Both Weaver and Wheeler voted “no” on the Rebuild Alabama bill.

Members of the legislature have also noted to Yellowhammer News that lobbyists have shied away from having legislators who voted “no” on the infrastructure package sponsor bills for them. Lobbyists are said to fear that bills sponsored by “no votes” will have little chance of passing this session. This apparent fear has left some members sponsoring more bills than usual.

1 month ago

Manufacturing and IT leaders set to talk job skills with high school students, parents in Birmingham area

(ShopChat/Contributed)

A group of leaders from the manufacturing and IT industries is planning to meet with high school-aged students and their parents to discuss preparation for today’s job market.

The event, put together by Central Six Development Council, will take place on the UAB campus on April 11 and will include representatives from Mercedes Benz, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Altec, Shipt and UAB.

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Central Six Development Council is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to create a 21st Century workforce that is proactive, responsive, and results driven; supports the region’s diverse population and employers; and, provides quality job opportunities in support of a vibrant regional economy.”

Those seeking more information on the event, and how to attend, can visit the event’s website.

1 month ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. II

(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. It was not long ago when the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) was in turmoil as a result of its leadership and direction. A group of its key members took a stand, changes were made, fences were mended and the BCA brought in Katie Boyd Britt to reinvigorate its membership and fortify its position in the areas of politics and public policy. The turnaround has been strong and immediate.

With Britt at the helm as president and CEO, the BCA led the business community’s effort in passing the historic infrastructure package, Rebuild Alabama. Keen observers also took notice of the palpable change in the energy and attendance at the BCA’s annual legislative reception this week. One prominent elected official, impressed by the buzz at the event, remarked to Yellowhammer News, “I’m telling you, BCA is back.”

2. The intrigue surrounding Alabama’s 2020 U.S Senate race has spiked in recent days. Yellowhammer News wrote last week of the D.C. interest group Club for Growth’s recruitment efforts in the state. Announced candidate Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) continues to move around the state, and it sounds as if other potential candidates continue assessing the race.

A source close to Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth said that he is actively considering his options. The source said Ainsworth is bringing a team in next week to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the race and what a campaign could look like. We’re told financial backers have conveyed their ardent interest in an Ainsworth candidacy should he decide to run.

Someone familiar with Congressman Gary Palmer’s (AL-06) thinking told us that he continues to feel no pressure to make a decision any time soon. We hear he remains cognizant of what it could mean for the seat he currently occupies and its legacy if he chose not to seek re-election to the House. Palmer has faced only nominal opposition in his seat since his 2014 victory over former state House member Paul DeMarco in the Republican primary runoff.

A source with direct knowledge has confirmed to Yellowhammer News that former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville is now past seriously considering a Senate bid and is “all-in” on entering the race. He has been active in traveling the state and speaking to various civic and political organizations over the last few months, including being spotted at the ALGOP Winter Dinner by Yellowhammer News in February. Do not be surprised if Tuberville makes an announcement this month, as he has been meeting with national consultants and is currently focused on compiling a first-class campaign team. He even recently visited with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Sean Spicer with Tommy Tuberville (Tuberville/contributed)

3. Speaking of potential Republican candidates to challenge Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020, the out-of-the-blue news that Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) is considering moving across the state line into Alabama to mount a bid has Democrats in Washington, D.C. giddy about their newfound opportunity to keep the Senate seat blue.

Sources inside the Beltway tell Yellowhammer News that national Democrats would do everything in their power to get Gaetz nominated if he does decide to enter the race. After all, Jones’ best shot at convincing enough Alabamians to vote for him to stay in his seat would be running against someone who is not an Alabamian. Yellowhammer State Republicans have expressed similar sentiments and are worried that a Gaetz candidacy would torpedo what should be a clear-cut general election against Jones.

4. Former Attorney General Troy King made an appearance at the Alabama statehouse this week. King attended a Senate committee meeting involving the competing lottery bills. Observers saw King conferring with Greene County elected officials who were at the meeting advocating on behalf of smaller electronic bingo operators.

Yellowhammer News contacts in the legal community have told us they believe King has advised clients in Walker County, as well. Walker County was the site of a recent raid by law enforcement on a newly-established electronic bingo parlor.

5. The race for Alabama House District 74 is shaping up. This is the seat that became vacant after the sudden passing of beloved State Rep. Dimitri Polizos (R-Montgomery).

Former House candidate Charlotte Meadows officially announced her candidacy on Friday. Meadows is known to be a staunch school choice advocate and could draw the fire of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) in the race.

Daniel Sparkman, Governor Kay Ivey’s press secretary, is expected to enter the race in the coming days and will be a formidable candidate.

Have a rumor or rumbling you want to share? Email us at editor@yellowhammernews.com.

2 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings … is back!

(YHN)

Early on in Yellowhammer’s history, founder Cliff Sims produced a feature called “Rumors and Rumblings” that became a staple of Yellowhammer News content.

Well, it’s back!

It’s back because we have listened to our readers. In the last few months, we have had more people say they wanted us to bring it back than any other piece of content we can remember.

So we will give the people what they want.

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1. Speaking of Cliff Sims, Alabama’s newest New York Times bestselling author is back in Birmingham. The ultra-talented Sims is keeping his next move under wraps but we are able to tell you it is quite a unique opportunity, one that compelled him to opt for Alabama after having been courted by major firms in New York and Washington, D.C., as well as more than one major television network.

2. With ethics reform about to take center stage in the Alabama legislature, it sounds like longtime member of the Alabama Supreme Court Lyn Stuart is in line to begin a new chapter in her distinguished career on the Alabama Ethics Commission. Look for another renowned lawyer from the private sector to also join the commission later in the year as Butch Ellis and Jerry Fielding finish their terms in 2019.

3. We have heard one statewide official is close to making a 2020 election decision of her own. Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh appears likely to sign up to run for another term as president of the Alabama Public Service Commission — a position she has won twice before. She most recently co-chaired the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama’s successful effort to pass a constitutional amendment on last November’s ballot. It will be nearly impossible to run to her right in a Republican primary given her conservative track record.

4. It is a poorly kept secret that State Rep. Matt Fridy (R-Montevallo) has designs on running for the Court of Civil Appeals in 2020. Fridy has a $75,000 balance in his state campaign account which would give him a solid head start on fundraising in any court race. However, several prominent Republicans have mentioned his name to us as someone they hope considers a run for Congress should Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-6) jump into the U.S. Senate race.

5. It sounds, though, as if the D.C. interest group Club for Growth no longer believes Palmer will throw his name in the hat for the Senate in 2020. The sentiment seems now to be that Palmer, a Club favorite, will wait to see what Sen. Richard Shelby decides to do in 2022. Evidence of this is the Club’s zeroing in on Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) as a potential candidate to run this cycle. Brooks aligns with the group’s ideology, but the Club continues to privately harbor concerns about Brooks’ statewide viability. Other D.C.-based groups have made the same case behind the scenes in hopes of discouraging a Brooks candidacy. Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) is currently the only declared Republican candidate in the race.

6. A recent move on Byrne’s congressional staff could be a clue as to the validity of rumors that Jeff Sessions plans to jump in to reclaim his old seat. Former Sessions staffer Bradley Jaye was recently named Communications Director for Byrne’s congressional office, taking over for the highly-regarded Seth Morrow, who is serving as Byrne’s campaign manager. Normally when potential candidates are heavily considering a move, word goes out to their team — past and present — to hold steady in anticipation of a run. Could Jaye’s move indicate Sessions plans to pass on the Senate race? Time will tell.

Have a rumor or rumbling you want to share? Email us at editor@yellowhammernews.com.

2 months ago

Cheers! Commemorative bourbon celebrate’s Alabama’s 200th

(C. Wycoff/Flickr, Blanton's/Contributed, YHN)

Another special product has been created to commemorate Alabama’s bicentennial.

This time it is a commemorative release of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon.

The limited-release product is the result of a partnership between Buffalo Trace Distillery and the Alabama ABC, according to a release from the agency.

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Alabama ABC Board Administrator Mac Gipson spoke of the appropriateness of this unique offering.

“Just like Buffalo Trace Distillery, Alabamians take great pride in their rich history and heritage,” said Gipson. “The 200th anniversary of our state’s founding is another wonderful opportunity for Buffalo Trace and the Alabama ABC Board to collaborate on this one-of-a-kind commemorative release. Alabamians who enjoy Blanton’s or any of the other Buffalo Trace offerings will want to add this special 200th Anniversary release to their collection.”

Two single barrels of Blanton’s were hand selected for this limited release. The commemorative bicentennial bottles will be available in 750ml and will be sold in ten participating Alabama ABC stores beginning Thursday, March 14.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is an American family-owned company based in Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky. Introduced in 1984 as the world’s first single barrel bourbon, Blanton’s is aged in Warehouse H at Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Earlier this year, the United States Postal Service introduced its own commemorative product for Alabama’s 200th anniversary. It has created a Forever Stamp which includes artwork of the state’s scenery.

3 months ago

State leaders help introduce Alabama Statehood Forever stamp

(S. Clouse/Twitter)

Several Alabama leaders gathered recently at the introduction of a stamp commemorating the state’s 200th birthday.

Among those present at the unveiling of the stamp were Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison Mayor Paul Finley and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

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The U.S. Postal Service introduced the Alabama Statehood Forever stamp during the Alabama200 ceremony at the Early Works Children’s Museum in Huntsville, according to a postal service release.

“Since becoming America’s 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819, Alabama has built a rich history grounded in the diversity, tradition and hard work of its people, and the natural beauty and wonderment of its land,” said USPS Acting Chief Human Resources Officer Isaac Cronkhite, who officially dedicated the stamp. “Alabama has been pivotal in the growth of our nation to constantly strive to be a more perfect union.”

The Alabama Statehood Forever stamp features an existing photograph taken at sunset in Cheaha State Park.

Alabama photographer Joe Miller shot the picture from the park’s Pulpit Rock Trail, and Pulpit Rock is visible in the foreground.

Orr serves as chairman of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, a group “created to guide and support the commemoration of the anniversary of Alabama’s statehood.”

Orr said the introduction of the stamp was one part of a “very multi-faceted program” conducted by the Bicentennial Commission.

3 months ago

Save the date: Yellowhammer News Shaper series kicks off with its 2019 legislative edition

(Calhoun Chamber /YouTube, K. Carpenter)

Yellowhammer News will host its next “Yellowhammer News Shaper” event in Montgomery on March 19. The gathering will offer a networking opportunity as well as a live interview with Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).

The discussion will be moderated by Yellowhammer News editor and owner Tim Howe and will cover issues surrounding this year’s legislative session.

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The event will take place at the Alabama Association of Realtors, 522 Washington Avenue, and will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception followed by the moderated interview and questions from the audience.

Several more Yellowhammer News Shaper events will take place across the state this year. The series is non-partisan, on-the-record and designed to localize issues and highlight thought leaders.

Continue to visit Yellowhammernews.com for announcements during the 2019 calendar year.

3 months ago

Alabama’s ‘Democrat-Reporter’ calls for KKK ‘to night ride again’

(Pexels)

The longtime publisher and editor of The Democrat-Reporter in Marengo County – a man once celebrated by The New York Times as an exemplar of courageous journalism – is now drawing national criticism over a recent editorial advocating for the return of the Ku Klux Klan.

Goodloe Sutton has worked for the Linden newspaper since 1964, his family having owned it since 1917.

The Montgomery Advertiser contacted Sutton after Auburn Plainsman Editor-in-Chief Chip Brownlee and managing editor Mikayla Burns tweeted about an editorial published last week in The Democrat-Reporter entitled, “Klan needs to ride again.”

Sutton confirmed to The Montgomery Advertiser that he wrote the editorial in question.

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(Chip Brownlee/Twitter)

The editorial outlined, “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.”

“Slaves, just freed after the civil war, were not stupid. At times, they borrowed their former masters’ robes and horses and rode through the night to frighten some evil doer,” Sutton wrote. “Sometimes they had to kill one or two of them, but so what.”

He concluded the editorial by calling on the Klan to return to intimidate “the ruling class.”

“Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there. They call them compounds now,” Sutton said.

Read The Montgomery Advertiser’s full report here.

3 months ago

Alabama native advances on hit television competition ‘Top Chef’

(Kelsey Barnard Clark / Facebook)

Alabama foodies and ‘Top Chef‘ fans can celebrate one of their own advancing to the final six on Bravo’s hit television series. Dothan native Kelsey Barnard Clark continues to impress celebrity judges and fellow contestants on the show’s 16th season set in Louisville, KY.

Clark is the chef and proprietor of KBC — a local Southern-French fusion restaurant, bakery and catering establishment. The eatery promotes “comfortable Southern cuisine” with a focus on whole food, prepared classically and plated with “big-city flair.”

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In an interview with the Dothan Eagle, Clark explained her strategy to stay true to her cooking style during the grueling competition, a commitment that paid off during a solo challenge win in episode eight.

“The only game plan I had going into ‘Top Chef’ in general was I’m going to cook my food and I’m going to be myself,” Clark said. “If I win, I’m going to win with what I do. I’m not going to try and be some frou-frou person that I’m not. I’m not going to try and do pasta because I don’t make pasta − I’m not going to do that just to impress them. I’m just going to do what I do.”

Clark’s start in the food industry began in middle school with a baking obsession. She had her first catering gig at 16 and, at the age of 20, moved to New York to learn from world-class chefs at the Culinary Institute of America.

Clark’s resume includes working in Manhattan’s top restaurants Cafe Boulud and Dovetail before coming home to Dothan. She launched her business in 2008.

In last week’s episode, Clark competed against remaining contestants in a challenge set at University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena for future Hall of Fame head basketball coach John Calipari and a crowd of several thousand fans.

The next episode will air on Bravo Thursday, February 14 at 7 p.m. and will feature undefeated boxing world-champion Laila Ali. Clark is hosting a Top Chef Valentine’s dinner and viewing party at KBC to celebrate. Tickets are available online.

3 months ago

‘Where is Leigh Corfman?’: Roy Moore says accuser avoiding giving ‘her testimony under oath’

(Photo: YouTube)

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is now alleging that Leigh Corfman is ducking being “examined under oath” because she wants him to provide her information she could use to corroborate her own claims first.

During Moore’s failed campaign against Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2017, Corfman accused Moore of sexually assaulting her in 1979, when she was 14 and he was a 32-year-old prosecutor in Etowah County. Moore has denied the allegations.

Corfman filed a defamation suit against him after she made the accusations, and Moore later filed a counterclaim for defamation of his own.

In the course of these court proceedings, Moore’s legal defense fund in a press release Friday said that he has “appeared for an entire day to give sworn testimony under extensive examination by Corfman‘s attorneys while Corfman has successfully avoided numerous motions to compel her testimony.”

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The release further explained that these alleged delay tactics are occurring as Coffman’s attorneys try to obtain information from Moore “which she will use to substantiate her false and malicious claims.”

Per the release, Coffman’s attorneys “now refuse to allow their client to be examined under oath until Judge Moore answers specific questions regarding his home, car, and property in 1979.”

“Judge Moore by and through his attorney, Mrs. Melissa Isaak, has now filed a Motion to Dismiss Corfman’s frivolous lawsuit, for simply denying her false claims,” the release concluded. “Not only does Judge Moore have a right to deny Corfman’s claims, he also has a right to confront her in court. Where is Leigh Corfman? It’s been a year!”

Full release as follows:

“Where is Leigh Corfman?”

The case of Corfman v Moore in Montgomery [C]ounty has been pending for over a year and Leigh Corfman has yet to appear before a court reporter to give her testimony under oath. On the other hand, Judge Roy Moore appeared for an entire day to give sworn testimony under extensive examination by Corfman‘s attorneys while Corfman has successfully avoided numerous motions to compel her testimony[.]

Corfman’s attorneys from New York, San Francisco, Washington DC and Birmingham who represent Corfman pro bono (for free) now refuse to allow their client to be examined under oath until Judge Moore answers specific questions regarding his home, car, and property in 1979.

Shortly after Corfman‘s story was printed by the Washington Post she appeared on several national television and media outlets. Before her appearances Corfman was “coached “for 6 to 8 hours by her present attorney from New York on how to respond to the media. But now in court documents she cannot recall whether or not Judge Moore lived in a mobile home or a house in 1979, whether he had a carport or a garage, or any specifics concerning his property.

Judge Moore has refused to give Corfman facts which she will use to substantiate her false and malicious claims.
Every person has an absolute right to defend his or her character and reputation from false and slanderous attacks. In a strange twist of logic Judge Moore has now been sued for defamation for simply denying Corfman’s false and malicious accusations[.]

Judge Moore by and through his attorney, Mrs. Melissa Isaak, has now filed a Motion to Dismiss Corfman’s frivolous lawsuit, for simply denying her false claims.

Not only does Judge Moore have a right to deny Corfman’s claims, he also has a right to confront her in court.

Where is Leigh Corfman? It’s been a year!

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘I don’t know how’ you can compare Virginia Democrat, Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations

4 months ago

Bradley Byrne: We need term limits

(Contributed)

On Wednesday, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) announced the introduction of a proposed amendment to the Constitution to impose term limits on members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

House Joint Resolution 25 would amend the Constitution to limit Congressional service to six two-year House terms and two six-year Senate terms, or 12 years in each case.

The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

In a statement, Byrne said, “Seats in Congress belong to the American people, not any single elected official. Our Founding Fathers never expected individuals to make a career out of Congressional service, and term limits will allow us to keep fresh blood and ideas in the halls of Congress.”

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This is the latest action in Byrne’s long-standing pledge to support term limits, as he cosponsored similar amendments in the 113th, 114th, and 115th Congress.

“When I first ran for Congress, I pledged to support term limits, and I remain committed to that promise. I urge my colleagues in Congress to support this legislation to ensure the power remains with the people, not the government,” Byrne added.

Sign-up now for our daily newsletter and never miss another article from Yellowhammer News.

5 months ago

Sixteen must-read books by Alabama authors

(Amazon)

With 2019 just around the corner, many of us are starting to map out our New Year’s resolutions, lists of goals and annual plans.

Reading more books seems to be a perennial goal for many people, but where to start? Well, if you’re an Alabamian, here are 16 books by Alabama authors — broken down into a handful of different categories, depending on what you’re looking for — that could get your year started off right.

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Faith

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

When David Platt wrote this New York Times Bestseller in 2014, he was pastor of Birmingham’s Church at Brook Hills.

From Multnomah: “In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple — then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a ‘successful’ suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.”

How to Be a Man: Pursuing Christ-Centered Masculinity by Rick Burgess 

From YM360: “Manhood is in crisis. In the majority of our churches, men make up the minority of regular attenders, and many of the men who show up on Sunday mornings are disconnected from the work and life of the church. How can men become who God wants them to be? And what does it even mean to be a man anyway? The truth is that it’s impossible to be a man without grounding your definition of manhood in the person of Christ… Using 8 core characteristics, this devotional experience will challenge men to exemplify these in their own lives as they passionately pursue a Christ-centered manhood.”

The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm and Love Well in a Culture of Compromise by Chris Hodges

From Thomas Nelson: “Christians today face a dilemma: in a world that seems to reject everything we believe, how do we walk closely with God without caving to pressure or alienating those we hope to reach? In this eye-opening new book, Chris Hodges, pastor of Alabama’s Church of the Highlands, provides a solution by examining the life of the prophet Daniel, who persevered in a corrupt culture that closely resembles our own—and emerged as an influential force in God’s redemptive plan.”

Classic Novels

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

From Grand Central: “The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Alabama town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.”

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

From Vintage: “The modern classic that inspired the beloved movie starring Tom Hanks. Six foot six, 242 pounds, and possessed of a scant IQ of 70, Forrest Gump is the lovable, surprisingly savvy hero of this classic comic tale. His early life may seem inauspicious, but when the University of Alabama’s football team drafts Forrest and makes him a star, it sets him on an unbelievable path that will transform him from Vietnam hero to world-class Ping-Pong player, from wrestler to entrepreneur. With a voice all his own, Forrest is telling all in a madcap romp through three decades of American history.”

Sports

Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football by Bobby Bowden

From Howard Books: “In this New York Times bestseller, legendary coach (and Alabama native) Bobby Bowden gives readers an inside look at the path that led him to become one of college football’s most successful coaches.”

Game of My Life by Mark Murphy

From Sports Publishing: “Several prominent Auburn football players of the past share their fondest single-game experience and memories. Some of these games involve championships, while others seem ordinary save for extraordinary personal meaning. In each case, it is the player who singles out the game, the moment in time that to him is the most defining of his Auburn Tiger football career. Each player has his own unique story, but together they weave a tapestry of Auburn’s legendary history.”

The Storm and the Tide: Tragedy, Hope and Triumph in Tuscaloosa by Lars Anderson

From Sports Illustrated: “On April 27, 2011, a powerful tornado ripped through the heart of Tuscaloosa, Ala., leaving 53 dead and a path of unimaginable devastation. In the aftermath, Alabama coach Nick Saban and his football team went out into the community, sharing its grief and aiding in the recovery. Together they forged an unbreakable bond, and in a place where Saturdays are dedicated to Crimson Tide football, ‘Let’s play for Tuscaloosa’ became a rallying cry, an emotional touchstone that transcended the playing field.”

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John

What is it about sports that turns otherwise sane people into raving lunatics? Why does winning compel people to tear down goal posts, and losing, to drown themselves in bad keg beer? In short, why do fans care? In search of answers, Warren St. John seeks out the roving community of RVers who follow the Alabama Crimson Tide from game to game. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is not only a hilarious travel story, but a cultural anthropology of fans that goes a long way toward demystifying the universal urge to take sides and to win.

Hometown Heroes

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, legendary NASA engineer based at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center

From Random House: “One of the most beloved bestsellers in recent years, Rocket Boys is a uniquely American memoir. A powerful, luminous story of coming of age at the end of the 1950s, it is the story of a mother’s love and a father’s fears, of growing up and getting out. With the grace of a natural storyteller, Homer Hickam looks back after a distinguished NASA career to tell his own true story of growing up in a dying coal town and of how, against the odds, he made his dreams of launching rockets into outer space come true.”

Send the Alabamians: World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division by Nimrod Thompson Frazer

From the University of Alabama Press: “Send the Alabamians tells the remarkable story of a division of Alabama recruits whose service Douglas MacArthur observed had not ‘been surpassed in military history.’ The book borrows its title from a quip by American General Edward H. Plummer who commanded the young men during the inauspicious early days of their service. Impressed with their ferocity and esprit de corps but exasperated by their rambunctiousness, Plummer reportedly exclaimed: ‘In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in time of peace, for Lord’s sake, send them to somebody else!'”

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

In one of the most famous autobiographies in American history, Booker T. Washington tells the remarkable story of his rise from a childhood of slavery to a life of extraordinary accomplishment. He earned a wide range of titles along the way, from author and educator to entrepreneur and presidential advisor.

Current Events

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson 

From Spiegel & Grau: “A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time,” Bryan Stevenson of Montgomery, Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative. This No. 1 New York Times Bestseller will soon be a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims

 From St. Martin’s Press: “The first honest insider’s account of the Trump administration, due out January 29. Sims stood with the President in the eye of the storm raging around him, and now he tells the story that no one else has written―because no one else could. The story of what it was really like in the West Wing as a member of the President’s team. The story of power and palace intrigue, backstabbing and bold victories, as well as painful moral compromises, occasionally with yourself. Team of Vipers tells the full story, as only a true insider could.”

How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews

From Thomas Nelson: In this New York Times Bestseller, “Andy Andrews [shows] that good answers come only from asking the right questions. Through the powerful, provocative question, ‘How do you kill eleven million people?’―the number of people killed by the Nazi German regime between 1933 and 1945―he explores a number of other questions relevant to our lives today.

Career Advice

 Climbing the Hill by Amos Snead and Jaime Harrison

From Yellowhammer News’ Sean Ross: “For young people seeking careers in public service or politics, it is often the lessons learned outside of the classroom that make the difference between success and failure. Now, one Alabama native is providing a guide to help aspiring politicos find their way.” In Climbing the Hill, Alabama native Amos Snead has co-written a book chock full of advice and insight for anyone seeking a career in the political arena.

5 months ago

BJCCA hosts groundbreaking ceremony for new stadium

(BJCCA)

Local and state leaders came together yesterday at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex to break ground on a new open-air stadium that will serve as the home of UAB football and host other sports and entertainment events.

 The $175 million stadium will seat up to 55,000 people.

Speakers at the groundbreaking event noted that a new stadium in Birmingham has been discussed for more than three decades, and that there have been two previous groundbreakings for stadium projects that never came to fruition.

“This one,” said Birmingham City Council President Valerie Abbott, “is going to stick.”

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Officials from the Jefferson County legislative delegation, the Jefferson County Commission and the City of Birmingham said the long-sought project is happening now because of an unprecedented level of cooperation and commitment among public and private partners – cooperation that bridged racial, partisan and geographical divides.

“This transformational change we’re witnessing today is happening for this one reason: cooperation,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “Everyone has come together to say what can be and make it a reality.”

Said State Rep. Jim Carns, “This is a good day when we’ve got everybody pulling in the same direction.”

Utility work and other site preparations are already underway at the stadium site. Construction is set to begin in the early summer of 2019, with completion targeted for mid-2021, in time for The World Games, said Tad Snider, BJCC executive director and CEO.

The stadium will be home to the UAB Blazers, but President Ray Watts noted that the stadium project will have a much bigger impact for Birmingham. “On the 350 some odd other days, it’s going to be a great attribute for the city of Birmingham,” Watts said. “This is going to be the finest facility of its kind in Alabama.”

Officials said the multi-use stadium – along with anticipated renovations of Legacy Arena – will spark additional development in the area surrounding the BJCC.

“This is just the beginning for this part of Birmingham. You’re going to see, in my opinion, north Birmingham explode,” said State Sen. Jabo Waggoner. “North Birmingham will come back to life.”

The benefits will go beyond the north Birmingham area, officials said. “This project is only the beginning for what I think is going to be a golden renaissance time for Jefferson County,” State Sen. Rodger Smitherman said.

Said Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens: “I can’t think of a better time to live in Birmingham, Alabama … A rising tide raises all ships, so hold on: The tide is about to come in.”

Rep. Rod Scott said the cooperation that led to success for the stadium will be a foundation for other successes moving forward. “This is just the beginning … to begin making Jefferson County what it always should have been, and of course, that is the best county in Alabama,” he said.

Carns said the stadium project is coming to life in a Birmingham that is already experiencing considerable momentum. Carns recalled his time as a county commissioner when no construction was happening downtown.

“When I walk outside of any building downtown now, you can hardly see the sky for all the cranes,” he said. “That is an unbelievable thrust forward.”

The stadium will allow the BJCC to attract additional sports and entertainment events – and boost the tourism revenues that have a huge economic impact.

Dennis Lathem, chairman of the BJCC Authority board of directors, said the complex is already “a tremendous asset” that supports 2,500 jobs, produces $73 million in earnings, and generates $217 million in spending.

Rather than being satisfied with success, Lathem said, “The people you see here today …  had the courage to look beyond that and look to the future and ask how can we be a bigger asset.”

Woodfin noted that new revenues generated because of projects in the BJCC area will support a revitalization fund that will assist all 99 neighborhoods in the city of Birmingham.

“Elevating small businesses, boosting tourism and entertainment options, and stimulating neighborhood revitalization is what we’re committed to doing,” Woodfin said. “This groundbreaking today has allowed us to lay that foundation.”

6 months ago

Auburn University honors Lionel Richie, Judy Woodruff at 25th annual International Quality of Life Awards

(Auburn University/Flickr)

The College of Human Sciences at Auburn University honored singer, songwriter and actor Lionel Richie and journalist Judy Woodruff during the 25th annual International Quality of Life Awards (IQLA) Monday, December 3 at the United Nations in New York City “as exemplary contributors to the well-being of individuals, families and communities around the world.”

Launched in 1994, Auburn’s College of Human Sciences aims “to recognize people and partnerships representing all sectors of society that demonstrate a strong commitment to empowerment through public policy and educational initiatives to enhance quality of life.”

“This evening, we are privileged to honor Judy Woodruff and Lionel Richie,” Auburn Provost Bill Hardgrave said, per a news release. “Two individuals who have reached the highest pinnacles of success in their respective professions and have chosen their celebrity to champion causes that advance medical research, promote a free press and address issues of poverty and social injustice.”

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Presenting the “true music icon and international superstar” Richie with the 2018 IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award was his “American Idol” coworker, Ryan Seacrest.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Auburn University and my fellow Alabamans,” Richie said of the award. “I am so proud to receive this prestigious award and to be included in the incredible company of past IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.”

Vernon Jordan, civil rights leader and advisor to former President Bill Clinton, presented Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of “PBS NewsHour,” with the 2018 IQLA Laureate for her “powerful legacy of truthful, ethical reporting and trailblazing for women in the journalism industry.”

“I am humbled to be standing here as the 25th anniversary IQLA Laureate,” Woodruff stated. “To be included among the distinguished list of prior IQLA Laureates such as John Lewis, Madeleine Albright and Norman Borlaug is an honor I will never forget.”

Auburn said of the two award recipients, “Both Richie and Woodruff are powerful role models that embody the College of Human Sciences’ mission. IQLA recipients have gained unrivaled professional success in their respective industries and have contributed greatly to the quality of life of those far beyond the bounds of Alabama. For 25 years, the school has been proud to call attention to these esteemed individuals through IQLA.”

6 months ago

Dave & Buster’s opens first Alabama location

The national restaurant and entertainment chain Dave & Buster’s opened its first Alabama location last week. The new Dave & Buster’s in Hoover features a 33,000 square foot venue of arcade games, premium sports viewing in addition to its food and drink offerings, according to a company release.

The company’s 120th overall location will reportedly bring 240 new jobs to the greater Birmingham area.

 The facility includes more than 175 of the latest arcade games, a chef-crafted menu and the state-of-the-art D&B Sports Bar filled with dozens of large HDTV screens. Patrons can use the brand-new multi-player virtual reality attraction platform featuring Jurassic World as part of the Hoover location’s interactive virtual reality experience.

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Dave & Buster’s also offers event spaces to service corporate events and meetings, birthday parties and other activities.

The new Dave & Buster’s is located in the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover. The company is headquartered in Dallas and operates complexes throughout North America.