7 years ago

Is this kindergartener Alabama’s most effective political activist?

Lillian Coker
Lillian Coker

It has only taken Lillian “Lilli” Coker, 6-year-old kindergartener from Gadsden, Ala., a few days to get over 1,000 Alabamians to sign a petition encouraging the Alabama legislature to “Say ‘no’ to wind turbines,” a spurt of political activism that was brought on by a memory she shared with her late father.

Her mom, Cara Coker, explains:

On March 12, 2014, I picked Lilli up from school and as we were walking out of the door she handed me a piece of notebook paper with “Partition” written in kindergartener handwriting across the top. She asked, “Will you please sign my petition, Mama?”

My previous profession of 14 years was education so I asked, “What’s a petition?”

Lillian quickly replied, “A petition is something you get people to sign if you want someone to do something or stop doing something. Ok…like say somebody is going to tear down my favorite playground. I would start a petition for them not to tear it down and if I got enough signs they would stop.”

I was quite impressed with her thorough definition and clever example and proceeded with, “Well, what are you petitioning?”

Without skipping a beat, Lillian said, “I want to stop those people from building windmills on top of our beautiful mountain! You know the one where we hike and climb? If they put windmills up there then we won’t be able to go there anymore and windmills won’t work here anyway…we don’t have enough wind, Mama! When they build them they’re going to be big and dangerous and they’ll have to tear up the rocks and land. It’s just not a good idea! We HAVE to stop them!”

Powerful words coming from a six year old!

Through social networking and word of mouth, Lillian’s petition has traveled fast and she has been asked to hand deliver her petition in Montgomery Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

When I asked her if she wanted to go to Montgomery and do this her response was, “I have to do it, Mama! Somebody has to stop them from building the windmills on my beautiful mountain!”

Cara and Lillian Coker
Cara and Lillian Coker

Yellowhammer has covered in-depth a bill currently making its way through the Alabama legislature that would provide basic oversight for wind energy companies seeking to operate in the state.


RELATED: Are your tax dollars going to help fund a wind farm in Alabama?


Sen. Phil Williams, who is Lilli’s senator, is sponsoring the bill, but it is currently bogged down in the Alabama House Commerce Committee, where lobbyists representing the wind energy companies are hoping it will die. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

Wind energy providers have proposed wind farms in 8 different Alabama counties, but there are currently no laws on the books to protect citizens and communities when it comes to wind energy production. For instance, while regulations on coal mining require an almost unimaginable amount of research, proposals, permits, reclamation plans, insurance and numerous other safeguards overseen by independent government entities, wind farms are largely free to do as they please without any real oversight to speak of.

That has caused citizens in areas of the state where wind farms are being proposed to seek help from their legislators. Two citizens groups have even filed lawsuits asking for a judge to block the proposed project, at least until the state creates a regulatory framework to protect the local community.

But Lilli’s petition may be the most effective maneuver yet, because it shows that the issue is starting to catch on with citizens all over the state in an election year.

Yellowhammer caught up with Lilli over the weekend to find out what compelled her to launch her petition. She said one of the areas where wind farms are being proposed reminds her of time she spent with her father, Jeff Coker, who passed away in 2012.

“Hiking there reminds me of my daddy,” Lilli said. “There are lots of people who go there to hike and I don’t know why they would want to build windmills on Cherokee Rock Village. They’re not going to work because there’s not enough wind. People at my school taught me about petitions and I started one because I want to stop them from building them there.”

Lilli said she’s excited to go to Montgomery this week and personally deliver the petition to her elected officials.

“I’m going to tell them Good afternoon, My name is Lilli. I started this petition to stop you from building windmills on my mountain,” she said. “I love to hike there and if you build them the animals that live there will have to find somewhere else to go and there’s not really anywhere else for them to go.”

And it sounds like this may be only the beginning for Lilli. She says she plans to continue pushing causes she believes in, even when she “grows up.”

“I want to be a helper for all the animals that might lose their homes because of stuff like windmills,” she said in conclusion.

If you would like to help Lilli reach her goal of 1,000 signatures before she presents her petition to the Alabama legislature on Wednesday, CLICK HERE TO SIGN, and take a moment to SHARE this story with your Facebook, Twitter and email friends.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

12 hours ago

Steve Flowers: Why a vote for Doug Jones is a vote against the state of Alabama

Our 2020 presidential election is less than two weeks away. We Americans will either elect Republican Donald Trump for another four-year term or Democrat Joe Biden.

In Alabama, we will either elect Republican Tommy Tuberville or Democrat Doug Jones for six-years to serve with our iconic senior Senator Richard Shelby. The winner will be elected to a six-year term in this august body.

Several of you took issue with my statement last week that a vote for the liberal Democrat Doug Jones is a vote against Richard Shelby and the State of Alabama. Allow me to clarify and explain to you as simply as I can why that is true and why I reiterate that declaration.

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The United States Senate is steeped in and governed by time-honored rules and traditions. The most revered and sacred shrine is the vestige of seniority. The rule of seniority is paramount. The longer you serve in the Senate the more powerful you become. Some become more powerful than others. Richard Shelby has become the most powerful and consequential U.S. Senator to have represented our state in Alabama history.

In my 2015 book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories,” I have a chapter titled, “Alabama’s Three Greatest Senators.” They are Lister Hill, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.

Senator Lister Hill was an austere, aristocratic gentleman who was renowned for health care. He was the author of the famous Hill-Burton Act and the father of the renowned UAB Medical Center. He served 30-years in the U.S. Senate.

Senator John Sparkman served in the U.S. Senate for 32-years. He was from Huntsville and is credited with being the father of Redstone Arsenal.

If I were writing that chapter today, Senator Richard Shelby would be alone as Alabama’s most consequential, powerful senator in our state’s history. He is in a league of his own. During his 34-year career in the Senate, Shelby has become renowned as the bearer of good tidings and federal dollars to the Heart of Dixie. If Lister Hill was the father of UAB and John Sparkman the father of Redstone Arsenal, then Richard Shelby can very aptly be referred to as the grandfather as well as great uncle to these two premier Alabama institutions. Richard Shelby is the reason UAB and Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center are Alabama’s most prestigious as well as Alabama’s two largest employers.

Huntsville has become Alabama’s fastest-growing and most prosperous city and one of America’s brightest high-tech destination locations. The City of Huntsville is soon to become the second home of the FBI. The state-of-the-art Huntsville FBI cybersecurity headquarters will employ over 2,000 very highly paid individuals. This coup for Alabama is due to one person – our senior Senator Richard Shelby.

It is not just Huntsville and Birmingham that have benefitted from Shelby’s prowess and power, it is the entire state. Every corner of the state can point to a Shelby generated road, building, industry, or military installation.

You might be asking, how has Shelby accomplished so much for our state? It is simple. It is federal dollars. Then you might ask, how does Shelby bring so many federal dollars to Alabama? It is simple. He is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He appropriates the United States budget, or in other words, he controls the federal checkbook.

In addition to being chairman of Appropriations, Senator Shelby is chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. If you do not think that is invaluable to Alabama, you best think again. There is no state in the nation that benefits more through defense preparedness and dollars in the United States than the good ole Heart of Dixie.

Under the Rules of the Senate, the political party that has the majority of members presides and makes the rules. More importantly, for Alabama, the majority party gets all the committee chairmanships. Our Senior Senator Richard Shelby is a Republican. Currently, Republicans have a slim 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. There are three Republican incumbent senators in Arizona, Colorado and Maine, who are in serious jeopardy of losing. If the Republicans lose these three and one more, then Senator Shelby loses the chairmanship of appropriations and Alabama loses all of its power in Washington. Suppose your vote for Doug Jones, a liberal, national, California Democrat, is the deciding vote that puts the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and puts Richard Shelby and Alabama out to pasture.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

13 hours ago

VIDEO: Democrats believe racism is on the ballot, Biden’s problems grow at the worst time, John Merrill addresses voting issues and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Why are some Alabama Democrats saying “racism is on the ballot” this year, and does that help or hurt them electorally?

— Have the issues former Vice President Joe Biden is currently having with his son changed the trajectory of the campaign?

— Does complaining about an opponent not debating actually win over any voters less than two weeks from an election?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Secretary of State John Merrill to discuss the latest Supreme Court ruling about voting in Alabama and the absentee voting currently taking place.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at those who think judges should be deciding the rules for voting and not the legislators who were elected to do just that.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

16 hours ago

Senate advances Barrett nomination — Shelby votes ‘aye,’ Jones ‘no’

The U.S. Senate on Sunday voted 51-48 to invoke cloture on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

This procedural vote sets up a final vote on Barrett’s confirmation, which is expected to come on Monday. Sunday’s vote was completed shortly before 12:30 p.m. CT.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) voted in the affirmative on invoking cloture, while U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) voted “no.”

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This comes after the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Thursday unanimously voted to favorably report Barrett’s nomination.

Shelby met with Barrett in recent weeks; afterwards, Alabama’s senior senator emphasized his strong support for the nominee.

“After speaking with Judge Barrett, I am confident that she is the right choice to serve on the Supreme Court,” stated Shelby at the time.

“Judge Barrett is exceptionally qualified for this role and maintains strong conservative values and a deep commitment to our Constitution. I have no doubt that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court,” continued the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Barrett currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She clerked for the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, as well as Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Before and while serving on the federal bench, she was a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School.

“I look forward to supporting Judge Barrett’s nomination to serve on our nation’s highest court, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Shelby concluded.

In stark contrast, Jones did not meet with Barrett and admitted that he did not even watch any of her confirmation hearing.

Alabama’s junior senator said at the time, “I have not watched the hearing. I’m in the middle of a campaign. I have not watched the hearings, and I left D.C. when we were there.”

Jones missed all Senate roll call votes Monday, Thursday and Friday of this past week. In total, he was absent from the Senate for 67% of the chamber’s votes during the week. For the votes he did take, Jones supported Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) position all but one time (86%).

Jones last Thursday did have time during business hours to instead campaign for the Biden-Harris ticket virtually in Ohio. This past week, Jones also fundraised for Biden’s campaign, and on Friday Jones campaigned with the cast of the TV show “Will & Grace.”

Last summer, Jones committed to opposing any hypothetical SCOTUS nominee during the final year of President Donald Trump’s current term. Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month, Jones announced his opposition to anyone Trump would nominate, regardless of merits.

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

and 16 hours ago

College football power rankings: This week was all about Bama, Big Ten contenders and pretenders

The Alabama Crimson Tide seems to be able to pick its score on a weekly basis. And now that the Big Ten season is underway, get ready for the national media to inflate its relevance in the playoff race.

Every week of college football brings a little more information about which teams have the staying power to make a playoff run.

Here is what our experts had to say about this week’s Yellowhammer Power Rankings.

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Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas AM
8. Oklahoma State

The lowdown: It was a boring weekend for college football with no top ten matchups. We know Ohio State and Heisman caliber Justin Fields belong in the top 5.  As expected, they looked like a playoff team. Speaking of playoff teams, Cincinnati made a strong case this weekend with their thumping of SMU.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. BYU
7. Texas A&M
8. Wisconsin

The lowdown: The Big Ten joined the 2020 college football fray this weekend. Ohio State proved to be what we thought they would be, led by standout quarterback Justin Fields. Wisconsin and Michigan also earned big wins in their first games, while Penn State lost by the nose of the football to drop to 0-1. Once the Pac 12 begins play next week, every team will be underway.

17 hours ago

Alabama Power Foundation seeking Classroom Grant applications

The Alabama Power Foundation is now accepting applications for its Classroom Grant Program.

The program focuses on improving and expanding educational opportunities at schools throughout Alabama. This year, the program has expanded to meet additional needs, such as technology support to enhance virtual learning, which has become commonplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grants are available to public elementary, middle and high schools to purchase materials, supplies and other resources to enhance learning in the classroom. Grants can also be used to buy sanitation supplies needed to keep classrooms safe and to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on the coronavirus.

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Funds can also be used to support mental health needs for educators and students.

Nonprofit organizations that work with schools to support these efforts are also eligible to apply. Up to $1,000 is awarded per grant.

“Many organizations, including our schools, face unique challenges this year. Overcoming these obstacles isn’t easy and can weigh heavily on students and educators,” said Tequila Smith, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “We want to find new ways to continue to meet their needs and hope these grants will serve as much-needed support for stability and enrichment in classrooms across Alabama in these difficult times.”

The grants are available to schools in which 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

The grant program will remain open for the remainder of the school year. Grants are awarded to eligible recipients on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds are exhausted.

For more information or to apply, visit https://powerofgood.com/grant/classroom-grants.

Since its creation in 1989 with funds donated by shareholders, the Alabama Power Foundation has supported Alabama communities, educational institutions and nonprofits through more than 20,000 grants and scholarships, using non-ratepayer dollars. Learn more at https://powerofgood.com/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)