11 months ago

Yellowhammer exclusive: Bentley gives scoop on social media activity, leaves door open for 2020 US Senate run

Former Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley is back.

This summer, Twitter and Facebook accounts representing the former Alabama governor were reactivated to coincide with the unveiling of Bentley for Alabama.

This new site, launched on Memorial Day, examines Bentley’s time serving as Alabama’s 53rd governor and provides contemporary updates on his life since leaving office.

The platform also makes available to the general public archived digital content from the Bentley Administration and both of his gubernatorial campaigns.

“Governor Bentley was Alabama’s first governor to serve during the rise in popularity of digital mediums and social media platforms,” the site notes, before outlining the litany of online resources that it provides.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Bentley discussed his new project, his post-public life and even left the door open on a 2020 U.S. Senate run.


Transcript as follows:

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: What would you like people to know about Bentley for Alabama and what’s the goal of this new endeavor?

BENTLEY: Bentley for Alabama is really a continuation of the work we began during my Administration. The goals and initiatives of all the people who worked so hard in our Administration are important and matter to our people, such as job creation, Pre-K growth and even the need to build new prisons. We were inspired by President George W. Bush, and the philanthropic work he continues to do after leaving office. The Bush Administration makes available its digital resources from his time in office.

I love history, and we felt that is was important to preserve the work we did, and the recording of that work. It just so happens now that’s all in a digital format where it can be accessed by anyone. We wanted to make it easily available online for anyone.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Should we expect frequent social media posts from you?

BENTLEY: Absolutely! Social media really exploded during our administration, and we found it to be very effective when it came to communication with both the media and the people of our state. The Internet can be dark and dirty, but it can be used for good. I love staying in touch with what people are thinking and talking about, social media is a great way to do that.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS:  What are you most proud of from your tenure as governor?

BENTLEY: Without a doubt, lowering unemployment and changing the state’s jobs strategy. We were over 10 percent unemployment when I became governor, and we hit full employment when I left office. It’s gratifying to see the strategy we put into place, Accelerate Alabama, net so many good jobs. Especially in Wilcox County and other small towns that were hurting. I always believe if you educate people and give them an opportunity to succeed in a good job, they’ll be fine. I believe we are helping do that by expanding Pre-K, and by creating jobs. I’m also proud of how our administration responded and rebuilt after the 2011 tornadoes.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: How has the adjustment back to private life been?

BENTLEY: It was a little awkward at first, sometimes you feel like a baby giraffe learning to walk, especially driving around town when you really haven’t driven much in seven years. I had a few health issues, and I needed some time just to rest and get re-acclimated. I actually enjoy doing ordinary things like going to Winn Dixie to buy groceries. I’ll see folks and they still want to ask me how I’m doing, tell me they appreciate my time as governor and get their picture made with me. That’s always sweet and very humbling.

I opened a new medical practice June of 2017. I started on that a few days after coming home, and it has been an absolutely blessing. We are busier that I could have ever imagined.  The practice is a true miracle, and God gets the glory for every bit of that. My medical practice staff is top-notch and like family to me. I’m a creature of habit, so I just settled back into my old routines at my house. I love to get out and cut grass when I have some free time. But people have been so kind and supportive and I can’t thank them enough.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Would you consider a return to public office? Maybe the U.S. Senate in 2020?

BENTLEY: I love serving the people of this state. Serving as governor was the greatest honor of my life. I have a heart for our people and I believe we are all called to serve one another in some capacity. I found public service was a way to do that. I believe what is missing in public service today is loving the people that you serve and wanting to help those who need help, especially those who are less fortunate and really have nothing. If God shows me a new avenue where I can do that, I’ll do it.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: How do you want people to remember Robert Bentley?

BENTLEY: I just want people to know how much I truly care about them. I love being a physician and taking care of patients. Being governor opened up a whole new world to me, and it changed how I see people. Especially after the tornadoes. When you go through something like that, you realize hurt and suffering are no respecters of people.

We’re all equals and that’s how I see the people of Alabama. White Republican governors in their 70’s usually don’t push to fund Medicaid for the disabled, elderly or poor, much less try to make people care about building a new women’s prison where female inmates were once subjected to humiliation, shame and abuse. And politically speaking, doing that probably hurt me. But I always tried to put the people first. And I’m proud of that.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Is there anything else that you want our readers to know?

BENTLEY: I would just thank them again for allowing me to serve as their governor. In this campaign season, just remember public service is tough, and credit goes to anyone who is willing to step in the arena. I never intended to be a caretaker governor. If you want to be a public servant and see change, be ready to get bloodied. As a voter, look for a candidate who cares about people, not just one who panders

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

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

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

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Background:

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

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

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

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

New Developments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 hours ago

SEC media days kicks off in Hoover

Southeastern Conference media days begins at the event’s longtime home.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey kicks the four-day event off Monday with his annual media address about the state of the league and college football.

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Media days returns to the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, Alabama after one year in Atlanta.

The spotlight will be on LSU coach Ed Orgeron on Day 1, with Florida’s Dan Mullen and Missouri’s Barry Odom also taking the podium.

Some things have not changed: Alabama and Georgia remain the division favorites.

The Crimson Tide’s Nick Saban speaks Wednesday, a day after Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has his turn.

All 14 teams will make the rounds, including star quarterbacks like Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

Every SEC head coach returns this season for the first time since 2006.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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3 hours ago

Defense expertise helping Huntsville’s Dynetics become space juggernaut

Since being founded in the Rocket City in 1974, Dynetics has spent the last 45 years becoming an unquestioned worldwide leader in the defense, intelligence and aerospace industries.

With the 50th anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 mission to the Moon being celebrated this week, it is especially fitting that Dynetics recently cemented its rise in the space sector, too.

This ascent has taken place quickly, really over the past decade. It all started in 2009, when Dynetics first expanded its state-of-the-art capabilities to include the space sector, shocking longtime industry leaders with the success of its Fast, Affordable, Scientific, SATellite (FASTSAT) small satellite.

From that initial milestone, Dynetics has built a reputation as an Alabama-based company that provides reliable, rapid and efficient space solutions.

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In a statement, Dynetics Vice President for Space Systems Kim Doering explained, “Dynetics has a rich heritage in defense and intelligence, and really what we needed to do in the last few years was translate what we’ve done for those government contractors into ‘NASA speak’ and demonstrate that the rigor that we place on weapons systems development and things we do for the warfighter, that those are mission critical systems, just like the systems that support astronauts.”

The company has done just that, continuing to build a reputation on such contracts as the NASA/Boeing Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage Exhaust Gas Heat Exchanger, NASA/Radiance SLS Core Stage Pathfinder and NASA SLS Universal Stage Adapter.

Additionally, in the commercial sector, Dynetics has supported United Launch Alliance (ULA) to test the Vulcan.

Then, in November, Dynetics was also selected to develop small satellites for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) Technical Center program — Lonestar.

Now, Dynetics says their “next goal” is to “become the ‘go-to’ propulsion provider for partners in both government and industry.”

They are well on their way to doing just that, as three recent contract awards regarding lunar exploration architecture exemplify.

First, Dynetics was chosen to provide the propulsion system for Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander, which is scheduled to land on the Moon in 2020.

The company is also a key player in NASA’s Artemis Program, which is the United States’ plan to return human beings to the Moon by 2024. Dynetics was one of eleven companies selected to study and build five descent stage prototypes for a new human lunar lander.

And, as reported by Yellowhammer News last week, Dynetics is now playing a key role in Maxar’s plan for NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a vital part of Artemis’ success, as well as future expeditions to Mars. Dynetics will provide support for the power and propulsion element of Gateway and aid establishment of a sustainable lunar presence.

So, as humankind fondly looks backwards upon one of history’s greatest accomplishments this week, Alabamians should be proud to know that the future of space exploration is in good hands, with Marshall Space Flight Center and companies like Dynetics helping turn dreams into reality.

“At Dynetics, we love challenges, and there is a spirit of tackling anything that comes in,” Doering concluded. “It’s an exciting time to be here.”

View a detailed timeline of Dynetics’ rise in the space sector over the last decade here.

RELATED: Alabama: The ‘backbone of national security space launch’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

7 Things: Immigration raids have started, Trump tweet gives Democrats a reprieve, Doug Jones advocates for Obamacare and more …

7. Support for impeachment craters 

  • The support for impeaching President Donald Trump has fallen to new lows with only 21% of the nation agreeing it should move forward, while 18% of independents, and, more surprisingly, only 39% of Democrats are on board.
  • The poll shows that the American people do not believe the president committed an impeachable offense, that the Russian investigation came up empty and a new report finds another much-ballyhooed investigation into the Trump Organization will lead to no charges.

6. Facebook is getting fined

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  • Facebook is getting fined $5 billion for privacy violations. The fine was approved by a 3-2 vote from the FTC.
  • This was the settlement to the long debate over the Cambridge Analytica debacle that started over a year ago. Facebook later admitted to giving Amazon and Yahoo access to users’ personal data, as well as collecting call and text data from phones on Google’s Android system in 2015.

5. More tolls for Alabama

  • State Senator Chris Elliot (R-Daphne) has said that tolls coming to help build the $2.1 billion Mobile Bay Bridge could open the opportunity for more tolls coming to additional roads in Alabama.
  • Elliot warned that this could be the first case it will be used, but it will not be the last, stating, “And that toll authority legislation, while it is probably going to be rolled out for the first time in coastal Alabama, could be used in other parts of the state as well, which is why I think it ultimately passed both houses and had the governor’s signature on it because the next time it gets used is going to be in Birmingham, or it’s going to be in Huntsville between Huntsville and Decatur, or some other area like that.”

4. Chaos and terrorism at detention centers across the country

  • Talk of mistreatment, child separation, “concentration camps” on the southern border and new immigration raids have led to an escalation in rhetoric, calls for immediate action and protests to end the practice of detaining people who enter the country illegally.
  • This weekend, the American flag was ripped down in Colorado so the protestors could fly a Mexican flag, and more seriously, a domestic terrorist attack a Tacoma, Washington detention facility with “incendiary devices” and firearms by Willem Van Spronsen who sent a manifesto laying out his reasoning for his attack.

3. Doug Jones wants to keep Obamacare

  • In New Orleans, the federal appeals court heard arguments over a lawsuit that says the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Alabama is included in the lawsuit, but U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) wants you to know that the Affordable Care Act is essential to Alabama.
  • Jones said that for people with pre-existing conditions or those who rely on their health care coverage for mediations and treatment, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act “could literally be a life or death matter” and Alabama apparently “has the most to lose.” Jones also claimed that the lawsuit is just another “attempt to take healthcare away from folks.”

2. Trump tweets give the media and their Democrats a common enemy

  • As the Democrat civil war escalated, President Donald Trump decided to unify them by tweeting that U.S. Representatives Ayanna Presley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) should “go back to and help the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” amid the four congresswomen being critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
  • The tweet was roundly criticized with some calling it racist. Others pointed out that it was a foolish thing for the president to do while the Democratic Party was engaging in open infighting and their more vocal members were becoming wildly unpopular.

1. The raids have started

  • As promised, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun immigration raids across the country. Acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli has kept most of the details quiet, including not saying whether families will be separated in the raids, which happens every-single-day in America.
  • What Cuccinelli did say is that 1 million people have removal orders. He didn’t confirm that raids have started, but according to Fox News, a senior administration official said that they began on Saturday evening.

6 hours ago

Alabama high school students’ experiment set to launch to International Space Station

One local public education system in Alabama is helping give a new meaning to the phrase, “The sky’s the limit.”

Students from Winfield City High School are set to have their experiment launch on Sunday to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

SpaceX-18 is set to depart Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:32 p.m. EDT on July 21 with the payload designated “SSEP15 – Gemini.” This signifies SSEP’s 15th overall flight opportunity and is the 13th SSEP mission to the ISS. NanoRacks handles stowage of the payload on the spacecraft.

The launch will come the day after the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Student experiments were chosen from around the Western Hemisphere through a process that began in the fall of 2018.

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Entitled “Purification of Water in Microgravity,” Winfield’s experiment will join experiments from 39 other communities in being tested in a laboratory setting aboard the ISS over an approximately four-week period.

Winfield’s proposal summary as follows:

The recent discovery of water on Mars has opened a possibility of new ways that the life sustaining liquid can be obtained in space travel. This new method would rely on collecting water from space bodies that are not our own. The only problem with this method is determining if this water would be safe to drink. Our team is proposing to study if microgravity has any effect on the purification of water. We would collect water from a non-sterile source, like a pond and mix it with purification tablets. Next, we would test the water to see if anything harmful survived.

The Winfield 12th grade students designated as co-principal investigators on the experiment are Luke Clark, Tanner Edmond, Davis Holdbrooks, Luke Jungels and Savannah Williamson. Jennifer Birmingham is their teacher facilitator.

Winfield’s SSEP students precisely measuring the amount of iodine tablet for their Water Purification experiment. (Contributed)

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04), whose district includes Winfield, told Yellowhammer News that he is proud of his young constituents.

“It’s great to see these students engaging in this type of science,” the congressman said. “I congratulate them and their teachers at Winfield for participating in this program.”

“It also shows how space applications have a direct impact on the quality of life back here on earth. I look forward to following their experiment and seeing its outcome,” Aderholt concluded.

SpaceX-18 is slated to berth at the ISS one to four days after launching.

Read more about “SSEP Mission 13 to ISS” here.

Winfield City Schools also was represented on “SSEP Mission 12 to ISS” last year, when Winfield Middle School students saw their experiment make the trip.

Watch:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn