2 years 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

3 hours ago

Restoration of Alabama’s Lightning Point nearly complete

Work to restore and preserve one of Alabama’s most iconic and important coastal habitats is wrapping up as planners shift their focus to building trails, boat ramps and a pavilion at the site.

The Nature Conservancy in Alabama (TNCA) said heavy construction at Lightning Point in Bayou La Batre is almost complete. Judy Haner, Marine Program director, said contractors finished this phase of the project two months ahead of schedule.

“The contractors really went above and beyond,” Haner said. “The great thing about working with really good contractors is they know how to do it and to do it right. They found ways to do a couple of things at the same time, so it saved us time and made this project progress faster than what we thought.”

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Lightning Point restoration moves into next phase from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Contractors installed two jetties at the mouth of the channel and 1.5 miles of overlapping, segmented breakwaters along both sides of the navigation channel. The breakers provide a buffer from waves and boat wakes while the jetties help maintain access for all types of vessels, including commercial shrimp boats and recreational bay boats.

“The project was about more than the habitats,” Haner said. “It was about how those habitats supported the fisheries and the livelihoods, how the breakwaters protect the entry to Bayou La Batre, this fishing hamlet on the coast of Mississippi Sound. That is the biggest win for me.”

TNCA broke ground on the restoration project in April 2019 after securing support from public agencies and private organizations, including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Alabama Power. As the project got underway, additional support was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security ActCITGORestore America’s Estuaries, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, the city of Bayou La Batre, Mobile CountyDauphin Island Sea LabMobile Bay National Estuary ProgramPartners for Environmental ProgressUABEmbrace the Gulf 2020Alabama Law Enforcement AgencyAlma Bryant High School and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Haner said construction was handled by engineers and contractors at Moffatt & NicholGEC, J & W Marine, Magnolia Dredge & Dock, Wildlife Solutions and Hydroterra.

“When we first started this project and we saw this schematic our engineer firm, Moffatt & Nichol, came up with, we all thought, ‘Doesn’t that sound good? It looks good. It’s pretty on paper, but can we really build it?’” Haner said. “What we’ve seen is we have. We’ve watched that transformation over time and what’s really cool is the community has watched that transformation over time and they are excited.”

In addition to the breakwaters and jetties, the project created 40 acres of coastal habitats ranging from marshes to tidal creeks, scrub-shrubs and shell hash beaches that support a wide range of fish, shellfish and birds.

“We’re really excited about the diversity of the habitats we’ve been able to create at this project,” Haner said. “The wildlife we’ve seen over on the west side – otters, alligators and, in our tidal creeks, we have schools of minnows that have come in and are already using areas that don’t have the habitat fully set yet. So if you will build it, it looks like they will come.”

The project got its first test in June when Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall in Louisiana, dumping lots of rain and generating a 4-foot storm surge at the new breakwaters. Haner said the breakwaters performed as designed.

“Four feet of water came over the top of these breakwaters, but it held up like a champ,” Haner said.

What’s Next?

As TNCA moves into the monitoring phase, Haner said its team is working with partners to construct and install multiple public access amenities at Lightning Point, including a new boat ramp, an ADA-compliant viewing platform, trails and pavilion.

“What we’re doing now is we’re trying to line up the contracts, which will be super-exciting,” Haner said. “We’re really looking at big things happening down here still, even though the major part of the construction is done.”

All of the amenities are scheduled to be complete by the end of 2020.

“The best thing about Lightning Point was how it brought the community together,” Haner said. “Everything that we heard from the community we were able to input and implement within this project. It’s really exciting.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

O’Neal Cancer Center and ADPH bring enhanced cervical cancer education and screening options to 13 counties in state

Women in 13 counties across Alabama are gaining better access to education and screening for cervical cancer through a collaboration between the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The ADPH Family Planning Community Education and Outreach Pilot, which began Aug. 1, provides a team of community health workers who will work to increase cervical cancer screenings throughout the state in Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Chilton, Dallas, Fayette, Lowndes, Macon, Shelby, Walker and Winston counties.

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Cervical cancer causes the deaths of about 4,000 women in the United States each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama has one of the highest cervical cancer mortality rates in the country.

Most cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus infection but can be treated successfully if found early. The HPV vaccine is effective in preventing cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers in men and women.

“We are excited to partner with ADPH to do this work. Local health departments are the only means of health care for many women and families in our medically underserved communities,” said Claudia Hardy, MPA, program director of the O’Neal Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement. “Our goal is to increase the number of people who use the local health department for health care.”

Seven community health workers from the Cancer Center, who live in the targeted areas, will educate the public about the services of local health departments, including cervical cancer screening and HPV testing. The team will also connect patients to additional resources within their communities.

The pilot program will run through Dec. 31. The initiative adopts a local grass-roots model already used by the Office of Community Outreach and Education to promote health awareness and cancer education.

“Historically, individuals in underserved communities are suspicious of health care systems,” said Grace Thomas, M.D., medical officer of Family Health Services at the ADPH. “Community health workers will serve a vital role in bridging this divide, particularly as the nation weathers the COVID-19 pandemic and women are less likely to seek routine well-woman care.”

Hardy called the initiative a natural fit for the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, as cervical cancer is already among the “impact cancers” that the office targets. Additionally, Hardy says the program comes at a pivotal time when many health care needs may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For additional information on the partnership and resources, please contact coeinfo@uab.edu.

(Courtesy of UAB)

6 hours ago

Hey, ABC Board … know your role!

Let’s start with clearing the air … generally speaking, I don’t hang out in bars. This is not a puff piece to defend pub crawls. So before any of my folks, fans or friends think that I’m writing this because I was hoping for one last round after 11 p.m., the answer is “no.”

What I do have a problem with is unelected bureaucrats enacting policy outside of their charter that has the effect of shutting down private enterprise. Last week the Alabama Beverage Control Board did just that.

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Before putting my thoughts in print I took the time to review the enabling legislation that established the ABC Board and its mission. I also took the time to review Governor Ivey’s proclamations regarding Alabama’s societal efforts against the coronavirus. Nothing in the Code of Alabama or the various iterations of Governor Ivey’s orders told the ABC Board that they should become the arbiters of what time of day is considered safe and healthy. Although one Board member did espouse concern that late-night consumption could increase fraternization. Well, that’s every country song ever sung. But despite a complete lack of marshaling orders the members of the Board allegedly agonized over how best to save the good people of the state of Alabama from themselves … after 11 p.m. And just like that another regulatory agency created a sweeping blanket regulation that stymies the free market.

The immediate assumption if you take this at face value is that drinking alcohol in a social setting is inherently more dangerous after the evening news has concluded. It’s a true headscratcher. And in the meantime, business owners who have invested in tourism locales, entertainment venues, restaurants, and yes – bars, have to take another hit from the government that does damage to their ability to run a business. Only this time it wasn’t from the people they elected to watch over the state. It wasn’t from some form of representative leadership. The body blow this time came from an unelected group of people whose sole function is the determination of licensure to operate.

That’s right. The business owners on the receiving end of this jackslap face the potential loss of their license because it is the licensing authority who made the rule. That’s not my interpretation. The Board explicitly stated in their emergency proclamation that violators will be subject to license revocation.

Having reviewed the verbiage in the various statutes and proclamations I suspect that the ABC Board will attempt to assert that 28-3-47 of the Code of Alabama states “The board may, with the approval of the Governor, temporarily close all licensed places within any municipality during any period of emergency proclaimed to be such by the Governor.” But they didn’t do that. Nowhere in the ABC Board resolution does it state that the Governor approved of anything. The Board resolution simply recites the fact that the Governor has declared a state of emergency. The Board then took it upon themselves to shut down businesses at 11 p.m. each night.

I could also reasonably foresee the Board responding that 28-3-2 of the Code authorizes the ABC Board to act “for the protection of the public welfare, health, peace and morals of the people of the state.” We can set aside the part about peace and morals for now…what about “health?” Is it really the purview of the ABC Board, the body that issues and regulates liquor licenses, to interpret the time of day at which bars become “unhealthy?” The Supreme Court of Alabama has already weighed in on this in the 1995 case of Krupp Oil Co. v. Yeargan by affirming that the legislature may delegate certain powers to the various executive boards and branches (such as the ABC Board) to promulgate rules at their discretion but only if clear guidance is given to do so. In this case, the guidance given required the “approval of the Governor.”

The ABC Board is made up of appointees. They are non-elected officials with regulatory authority. They are not the governor. They are not the legislature. They are not the various city councils or county commissions in which these businesses lie. And they are not the owners of businesses who have been shut down for months and are struggling to do everything right under extreme conditions only to have their regulatory agency tell them that they cannot be trusted.

The law of this state does not give the ABC Board the authority to act in this manner without the express and open approval of the governor. The Board cannot speak for the governor, only the governor can voice that approval.

This is another proverbial slippery slope. If we sit idly by and say nothing which board of appointees will act next to limit life as we used to know it? Will the Board of Dental Examiners decide that cavities can only be filled after 3 p.m.? Will the Real Estate Commission decide that houses cannot be sold during the hours of darkness? This is not about bars my friends. This is about liberty, and regulatory intrusion, and the erosion of the free market.

Hey, ABC Board … know your role.

Phil Williams, API Director of Policy Strategy and General Counsel, is a former State Senator from Gadsden. For updates, follow him on Twitter at @SenPhilWilliams and visit alabamapolicy.org.

9 hours ago

UAH student rocket team takes third overall, first in safety at NASA Student Launch

A student rocket team at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) earned first place in project safety and third place overall in competition at a COVID-shortened national NASA Student Launch.

“The students worked really hard and faced a lot of technical challenges this year, not to mention a shutdown at the end of the spring semester,” says Dr. David Lineberry, team advisor and a research engineer at the UAH Propulsion Research Center (PRC).

“This is well deserved,” Dr. Lineberry said. “It would not have happened without support from the College of Engineering, the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the Alabama Space Grant Consortium and the PRC.”

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The UAH team was mentored by Jason Winningham, who assisted in rocket launches and advised throughout the project.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of the students and their UAH instructors and mentors,” says PRC Director Dr. Robert Frederick. “Safety is an essential part of rocket science and these experiences will serve them well as they transition to industry.”

Named Baedor and designed by the UAH Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 490/491 Rocket Design team, the rocket carried a rover as its payload. It uses a Level 2 Aerotech L2200G solid fuel motor, is 136 inches long and 6.17 inches in diameter and weighs 61.5 pounds with a loaded motor and payload.

Little Dipper, the rocket’s rover, is piloted by remote control. Its mission was to deploy from the vehicle after landing, advance to a mission collection area and use its scoops to collect samples of simulated ice.

“During the spring semester, as segments of the country started to close down, the team recognized the potential impacts on the project and felt a sense of urgency to complete a demonstration flight,” Dr. Lineberry says. “After a busy couple of weeks, they were able to demonstrate the full vehicle and payload missions at a launch in Woodville, Ala., with the Huntsville Area Rocketry Association.”

Baedor achieved an apogee of 4,454 feet in its final demonstration flight, days before the UAH campus closed as a precautionary measure for COVID-19. When it landed, the rocket successfully deployed Little Dipper, which achieved its collection mission.

Competition category and overall winners were announced virtually by NASA on July 23.

NASA Student Launch challenges middle school, high school, college and university teams from across the United States to build and fly a high-powered amateur rocket carrying a complex payload to over 4,000 feet above the ground. The rocket then must descend and land safely before its scientific or engineering payload can begin its work. This year’s competition drew teams from 19 states and Puerto Rico.

College and university teams developed payloads to navigate to a designated sample site, retrieve a simulated sample of planetary ice, and navigate at least 10 feet away from the site with the sample stored safely aboard. How they tackled the challenge was up to them.

Teams earn points for progress and successes during the eight-month competition, and the team with the most points wins. Awards also are presented in 11 different categories that range from payload design and safety to best social media presence and STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – outreach.

UAH team members are:

  • Nicholas Roman, project manager; senior, aerospace engineering, Cullman, Ala.
  • Joshua Jordan, chief engineer; senior, mechanical engineering, Mount Vernon, Wash.
  • Peter Martin, vehicle team lead; senior, mechanical engineering, Coopersburg, Penn.
  • James Venters, payload team lead; senior, mechanical engineering, Huntsville, Ala.
  • Jessy McIntosh, safety officer; senior, mechanical engineering, Beaufort, N.C.
  • Maggie Hockensmith, technical writing coordinator and vehicle safety deputy; senior, aerospace engineering, Lexington, Ky.
  • Claudia Hyder, payload safety deputy; senior, mechanical engineering, Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Patrick Day, project management team; senior, aerospace engineering, Johnson City, Tenn.
  • Will Snyder, project management team; senior, aerospace engineering, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Rodney L Luke, vehicle team; senior, aerospace engineering, Pleasant Grove, Ala.
  • Roman Benetti, vehicle team; senor, aerospace engineering, Woodbury, Minn.
  • Rachel O’Kraski, vehicle team; senior, aerospace engineering, Huntsville, Ala.
  • Ben Lucke, vehicle team; senior, aerospace engineering, Saint Petersburg, Fla.
  • Jeremy Hart, vehicle team; senior, aerospace engineering, Gainesville, Ga.
  • Jacob Zilke, vehicle team; senior, aerospace engineering, Wilmington, N.C.
  • Joseph Agnew, payload team; senior, mechanical engineering, New Market, Ala.
  • Johnathon Jacobs, payload team; senior, aerospace engineering, Valley Head, Ala.
  • Thomas Salverson, payload team; senor, mechanical engineering, Gretna, Neb.
  • Kevin Caruso, payload team; senior, mechanical engineering, Lawrenceburg, Tenn.
  • Jacob Moseley, payload team; senior, aerospace engineering, Gaylesville, Ala.

(Courtesy of UAH)

10 hours ago

State Sen. Elliott: ‘No way in the world’ financing for Ivey new prison plan passes the smell test

Within the coming weeks, state officials are expected to announce the details of a prison build-lease plan, part of Alabama’s effort to reform its prison system and get it in compliance with federal standards. According to reports, the state of Alabama would enter into a deal with a company (or two companies) that would build three new prisons, which would be leased by the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Under this plan, savings would be generated by the upgraded facilities that would reduce costs in terms of personnel and upkeep, which would make it possible for Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration to enter into the agreement without input or a vote of the Alabama Legislature.

Critics argue the state could save taxpayers money if the state bonded the construction costs out while interest rates were low and built facilities that would be owned by the state, as opposed to paying a contractor rent on new facilities. However, previous legislatures had been unable to agree on an overall plan, which has seemingly forced the state to seek alternatives as the Department of Justice’s scrutiny increases.

During an interview on Friday’s broadcast of Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) expressed his willingness to take on the prison issue. At the same time, some of his legislative colleagues are reluctant.

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“[I] didn’t run for office to not have to make tough decisions,” he said. “I welcome those tough decisions. That’s why the people of my district elected me. That’s what I’m here to do. I think shying away from that once you’ve been elected is really the wrong answer. But I would say to anybody who is not willing to take this on, you know, we have a responsibility to the taxpayers to make sure we run this government as efficiently as possible.”

Elliott expressed his skepticism about the cost savings from using upgraded facilities as being enough to fund the Ivey administration’s proposal.

“Mark my words — we’re going to run into a situation where the governor’s projections on the annual cost of these leases are going to fast outpace what they say they’re going to be able to fund with and that is the savings on maintenance,” Elliott continued. “This is going to end up costing a whole lot more money. And most of this legislature and this governor are going to be gone by the time those chickens come home to roost. And it’s going to be left to the taxpayers to fund an inefficient and expensive plan.”

“I think there is no way in the world that that passes the smell test, and anybody believes that is going to happen,” he added.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.