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  • 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

Alabama native confirmed as Illinois mass shooting victim — ‘One of the most likable, lovable, Godly young men’

Josh Pinkard pictured with his wife and thee children. (Mary O'Connell/Twitter)

A Cullman County native was one of the five people shot and killed Friday by a disgruntled coworker at a manufacturing facility in Aurora, Illinois.

WBRC confirmed that Josh Pinkard, a 37-year-old originally from Holly Pond, passed away in the shooting.

The outlet further reported that Pinkard was a father of three. He had recently been promoted to plant manager at Henry Pratt Company, the facility outside of Chicago where the shooting occurred.

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NBC News reported that Mueller Water Products, the parent company of Henry Pratt, said that Pinkard joined the company 13 years ago in Albertville and just moved to Illinois last spring when he was promoted. Loved ones described him as a man devoted to his family and faith.

“He texted his wife, ‘I love you. I’ve been shot,’” Pinkard’s uncle David Chambers said, per WBRC.

That was the last Pinkard’s wife ever heard from him.

“Tried to think positive, but I think it was in all of our minds, with him not responding back, he probably didn’t make it,” Chambers added.

The uncle advised, “Josh was one of the most likable, lovable, Godly young men you’d ever want to meet. He was just a great, young fella. I don’t know of anybody that ever had a bad word to speak against Josh.”

Unfortunately, this family is no stranger to tragedy, as Pinkard’s younger sister was killed in an accident several years ago. However, even through the pain, the family remains strong, bolstered by their faith.

“We’re all struggling, we’re all saddened, we’re heartbroken. But we know where Josh is because of his testimony of Jesus was his Savior and Lord,” Chambers emphasized. “Therefore, we can rejoice in that we don’t have to wonder where he is.”

You can read more about the shooting here.

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

A Story Worth Sharing: Alabama’s Red Tail Scholarship Foundation takes flight to help African-American students soar to new heights

(Red Tails Scholarship Foundation/Facebook)

If anyone knows hard work, it’s Torius Moore. A self-professed “small-town kid” from Attalla, Alabama, Moore is an undergraduate student and pilot triple-majoring in Aerospace Science Engineering, Physics and Mathematics at the historic Tuskegee University.

Moore is the first person to receive a scholarship from the Alabama based non-profit, The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation, and now, the program’s chief pilot.

The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation’s mission is to honor the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African Americans trained by the U.S military to participate in combat situations. Funded solely by private donations and operating with no administrative costs, the foundation honors their mission by providing scholarships, mentors and flight training resources to African American students pursuing careers in aviation.

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According to Moore, “The scholarship foundation is revitalizing the historic, successful and gritty flight program from the 1940s. ”

He added, “For me, it is a change that is worth not just witnessing – but actually implementing.”

Not only does the foundation give back to their community, but they encourage their students to do so as well. In his role as the foundation’s chief pilot, Moore will teach members of the scholarship program to fly.

“I am always adamant about getting scholars in the airplane and in the skies where the Tuskegee Airmen used to fly. Let’s continue this tradition and uphold this legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen by creating more black pilots and transforming them into the new Tuskegee Airmen,” Moore said.

According to the foundation, only two percent of pilots in both commercial and military aviation are minorities, a statistic they are hoping to change, one student at a time.

Rich Peace, an accomplished military and commercial pilot, is a co-founder of the foundation and a mentor to many of the program’s students.

Peace says their organization is more than a traditional scholarship program.

“We’re going to teach you how to fly, we’re also going to provide guidance and mentorship beyond that,” Peace said.

Along with Torius, many other scholarship recipients have gone on to achieve success in the world of aviation. Since 2017, the non-profit has already awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships and training resources to 16 deserving students pursuing careers in aviation.

Peace says the foundation has had incredible growth over the last few years and is now facing a high demand from students hoping to become part of their program, which they hope to continue expanding.

“As leaders, not only do you have to lead the guys in this program, you have to develop them to do your job better than you can. That’s leadership,” Peace said.

To learn more or donate to the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation visit their website or email info@RedTailScholarshipFoundation.org

2 days ago

Southern Foodways Alliance shares labor and linkage of food with Birmingham symposium

(Michael Tomberlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

John T. Edge hopes participants in the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) Winter Symposium in Birmingham on Feb. 9 left the Magic City with “new ideas in our heads and new foods in our bellies.”

As director of SFA, Edge knows the central role food plays in Southern culture.

“We think about food as a narrative. Food is a story we tell about this place, the American South,” he said. “We tell stories about the South, we just happen to use food as a way to do it.”

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From the opening reception at Good People Brewing Company to the symposium at Haven on the Southside, there was plenty of food and drink.

Chef John Hall, owner of Post Office Pies in Avondale, served up bites of food at Good People and Rusty’s Bar-B-Q served a proper Southern lunch the next day. Feizel Vallie of Atomic Lounge served up special cocktails both nights of the symposium. Royal Cup Coffee and Hero Doughnuts ensured Saturday morning got off to a tasty start.

But beyond the food that was shared were ideas around food and the hospitality industry.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Archibald talked about how labor built Birmingham and how food helped sustain that labor – centering on the Birmingham hot dog, which he would put up against the Chicago dog any day of the week.

Archibald noted ambiguity and creativity have benefited Birmingham food in the past and present. But there is one thing he is not ambiguous about.

“Jesus wouldn’t put no sugar in his cornbread,” he declared to thunderous applause.

Archibald also reached another conclusion.

“Food has made Birmingham believe in itself again and that’s a powerful thing,” he said.

One of the reasons for Birmingham’s food-based pride is Highlands Bar & Grill.

“For Highlands to be recognized as the best restaurant in America means that the James Beard Foundation finally caught up with what I’ve known and you’ve known for a long time – it’s the best restaurant in America,” Edge told Alabama NewsCenter.

Other subjects tackled at the symposium ranged from leadership roles for women in restaurants, dealing with crisis in the industry, sharing in the prosperity with restaurant staff, to addressing drug and alcohol abuse in the food industry.

“We’re asking tough questions about the South,” Edge said. “The South is both a tragic and a beautiful place. We have to acknowledge that, that this is a complicated place. Food is one way to get at those complications. It’s a way to examine the problems of this place and to celebrate indeed the beauty that we’ve forged together.”

The symposium had a decidedly Birmingham flavor.

Local photographer Celestia Morgan had an exhibit that focused on the symposium’s theme of “Food is Work” and captured restaurant and food workers in their workplaces. That exhibit has been installed at the Birmingham Public Library.

Alabama School of Fine Arts instructor Ashley M. Jones shared food-based poetry.

Ava Lowrey premiered a film on Mac’s One Stop in downtown Birmingham.

The Birmingham symposium is one of three SFA will hold this year. Its Summer Field Trip is set for Bentonville, Arkansas, June 14-15 and the Fall Symposium is scheduled for Oxford, Mississippi, (where SFA is based) Oct. 24-26.

“They’re a chance for a tribe to gather. For people who are interested in Southern food culture, want to understand it more deeply, this is like a boot camp,” Edge said. “We come together for one day and we disperse, but we disperse with new ideas in our heads, new foods in our bellies and a community that moves forward together.”

Edge said Birmingham is a mainstay on the SFA schedule because SFA was formed at a meeting in the Magic City in 1999. That’s not the only reason.

“It’s a place we just love,” Edge said. “We live in Oxford, Mississippi. My wife and I come to Birmingham at least four times a year just to eat. Whether it’s eating at Little Donkey or whether it’s eating at Johnny’s or whether it’s eating at Niki’s West, we love this place.

“We also believe in this place and for the SFA we want to introduce people to the Birmingham we know and the Birmingham we love,” Edge continued. “I want people to go to Eagle’s and walk through the line and get ox tails and collard greens. I want people to go to Johnny’s in Homewood and I want them to get keftedes and chickpeas and spinach. I want them to see the Birmingham I see, taste the Birmingham I taste, meet the people of Birmingham and realize that this is a great town in which to eat but it’s also a great town in which to make sense of the South.”

Edge said food has great power in all cultures and the South is no different.

“One of the things that we share across color divides, across gender divides, across divides of all sorts … is an appreciation for this food,” Edge said. “This food was made together. This is not black food, this is not white food, this is Southern food.”

Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies and explores the diverse food cultures of the South. SFA produces a podcast and a journal both called “Gravy,” collects oral histories and publishes them on its website and produces up to 15 films a year.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

University of Alabama, AARP partner to study needs of Alabama’s older military veterans

(University of Alabama)

The University of Alabama Office for Military Families and Veterans is partnering with AARP Alabama to assess the needs of the state’s older military veterans in order to develop and deliver outreach and educational interventions.

The survey will focus on AARP members in Alabama who identify as having prior military service. AARP Alabama has more than 440,000 members, many of whom are older adults. Nationwide, approximately 4 million – nearly 10 percent – of AARP members have served in America’s military.

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Results are expected by the end of summer and will help AARP strengthen its ongoing efforts to connect military veterans to various resources and services. AARP expects to share the report later this fall and with partners serving veterans and military families.

AARP also provides relevant news and programming about health care, finances and government benefits to the state’s veteran population.

Dr. David L. Albright, Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health in UA’s School of Social Work and director of the Office for Military Families and Veterans, said the study focuses on behavioral health, caregiving, food insecurity, homelessness and other issues that may emerge.“

“Our older veterans likely experience challenges around multiple domains, including behavioral health – from opioid and other substance misuse to suicide or suicide attempts,” Albright said. “And, yet, often the face of this type of complex problem is a younger face, which is not necessarily consistent with data that shows that Alabama’s veterans are mostly over the age of 50 years.”

Candi Williams, director of AARP Alabama, said the state-focused veterans survey is the first of its kind for the nonprofit organization, which has more than 38 million members nationwide. The data will potentially influence AARP’s ongoing work to support veterans nationwide.

Williams said the disconnect between veterans and resources became increasingly evident in the AARP caregiving classes, where class leaders continue to meet former military service members caring for their spouses or children, or loved ones caring for a military veteran.

Issues facing older veterans go beyond topics that typically affect the entire age spectrum of former military service members, like new scams and frauds that directly target older veterans.

“These data will help us build a plan of education, outreach and advocacy to support our veterans, and is likely the pilot for a national effort,” she said.

Albright previously completed a veterans needs assessment study in South Alabama and Marengo, Dallas and Wilcox counties. And he recently announced a partnership with Vettes 4 Vetsand the United Way to assess veterans’ needs in Jefferson and Shelby counties.

The partnership with AARP is exciting and vital for both the success in identifying the needs of older veterans and helping to translate those findings into meaningful action and potential policies at both the state and federal levels, Albright said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to partner with and support Alabama AARP through the Office for Military Families and Veterans, which continues to be the leader in the state’s postsecondary space in coordinating and facilitating collaborative research, education and outreach across the state of Alabama among military families, veterans and the organizations serving them.”

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Del Marsh opposes Doug Jones’ continued calls for Medicaid expansion

(D. Jones, D. Marsh/Facebook)

Last week, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) renewed his call for Medicaid expansion in Alabama, and one state leader says the government run healthcare program already gets more than enough funding.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Alabama senate leader Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said Jones does not have a realistic view of the costs associated with the program.

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“The reality is that we are handful of states that chose not to take the money,” Marsh pointed out. “These states that have taken the money ultimately will see the costs, the down the road costs, they weren’t anticipating when the federal government steps away. We don’t want to be in that position because once you offer services, and then have to take them back, it’s a very painful experience.”

According to Marsh, Medicaid gets more discretionary money out of Alabama’s general fund budget than any other state agency. He said it totals approximately $750 million.

“They get their share,” Marsh said.

“We have worked over the last four years to bring Medicaid costs under control,” he added. “And we are going to continue to do that. We’ve made changes in the system to make it more efficient. And I think the worst thing we could do as a state right now is to change that philosophy and just let these [state] agencies spend all the money they can spend, and they will.”

Marsh believes the health of Alabama’s economy should feature prominently among the reasons not to expand the program.

He said that some Medicaid recipients should be coming off the rolls because of the strength of the economy.

“We worked to improve the economy,” he said “We’ve got a great economy right now. Unemployment is at record lows. When you’ve got a good economy, the pressure on Medicaid goes down.”

Marsh simply thinks the risk posed by increased spending for Medicaid far outweighs any available benefit.

“We want to encourage a good economy,” he said. “We want to encourage an efficient system and the last thing we want to do is send a message that ‘spend as much as you want because the federal government is coming to the rescue and oh, by the way, they are leaving in a few years and then it’s all on us.'”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

HudsonAlpha researchers help identify genetic change that is causing Alzheimer’s, opening door for prevention efforts

Dr. Nick Cochran, left, talks with Dr. Richard Myers at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Scientists in Myers' lab helped analyze data for a study that yielded new information on a cause of Alzheimer's disease. (HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology)

Scientists at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology have helped identify a genetic change that is causing Alzheimer’s disease, expanding what we know about how the disease can be inherited and giving participants in the study an opportunity to join prevention trials.

Researchers looked at 93 members of a family in Colombia that had a history of inherited Alzheimer’s disease. They found that 26 of them had a never-before-identified mutation on PSEN1, a heavily studied gene known to cause Alzheimer’s. By discovering new mutations, scientists are better able to understand how the gene works as a whole.

Current drug trials aim to alleviate Alzheimer’s symptoms through early treatment, and in unique families like those identified in this study, there is the opportunity to start therapy years before symptoms begin. By identifying this mutation, scientists hope to give affected individuals the chance to participate in these trials early to maximize the chance of a therapeutic benefit.

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PSEN1 encodes an enzyme that works almost like scissors in the production of a protein called amyloid beta. When PSEN1 is mutated, the amyloid beta proteins wind up being too long, making them stickier, so they more easily form into plaques in the brain. Preventing the formation of those plaques may help alleviate symptoms.

This latest study recently appeared in Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Ken Kosik, M.D., of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), led the study along with Francisco Lopera, M.D., from the the University of Antioquia. HudsonAlpha scientists from the Richard M. Myers Lab assisted with analysis of the data.

“These large family studies give us an incredible opportunity to understand how Alzheimer’s works at a genetic level,” said Kosik. “Studying these early-onset cases — including people who are presymptomatic — give us a chance to really dig deep into what specifically is changing in the body, brain and genome to cause the degeneration. It also allows us an opportunity to try to ward off the worst of the disease.”

HudsonAlpha’s Nick Cochran, Ph.D., said, “This is another example of a large family study in Colombia producing promising results. These rare families continue to teach us about how this disease works, and as scientists, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to be able to help find answers for these families, and potentially even accelerate their involvement in clinical trials.” Cochran is a postdoctoral fellow in the Myers Lab.

HudsonAlpha’s ongoing collaboration with UCSB and Colombia is made possible, in part, by funding from the HudsonAlpha Foundation Memory and Mobility Program, which creates the opportunity for further sequencing and study of Alzheimer’s patients, with the aim of moving toward better understanding and treatment.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Alabama Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley: DNC’s call for new state party elections ‘racial’

(AlabamaTV/YouTube)

Last week, the Democratic National Committee’s credentials committee responded to a complaint filed against the Alabama Democratic Party by voting to call for new elections for chair and vice chair of that party.

Last August, current Alabama Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley withstood a challenge to her chairmanship from Montgomery attorney Peck Fox. However, some of those supporting Fox and other candidates in those elections decried the process because of Alabama Democratic Caucus head Joe Reed’s involvement in the process.

In an interview by phone that aired on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Worley called the complaints “racial.”

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“It’s racial,” Worley said. “There’s no question about it. The slate that lost in that election on August 11, if they had won, even though everything was done exactly the same way, if they had won, they would not have filed this. They lost with an almost-all-white slate – I think in the whole group, they had maybe one black. But when they lost, they started looking for another avenue to go. And so, I think it is what it is.”

According to the DNC’s ruling, new elections are to take place in the next 90 days with the DNC’s supervision.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 days ago

Gee’s Bend has the nation’s first electric ferry

The Gee's Bend ferry in Wilcox County will soon be back in operation as the nation's first electric passenger ferry. (contributed via Alabama NewsCenter)

The Gee’s Bend Ferry will be back operating in the next few weeks. But it’s not your father’s ferry.

The boat has been retrofitted to become the first electric-powered passenger ferry in the United States.

It left Master Marine shipyard in Bayou La Batre on Feb. 12 and is scheduled to arrive Sunday, Feb. 17, in Camden, where it will undergo testing and resume service in about 10 days.

Alabama Power is proud to have played a part in a project that makes the ferry more dependable and efficient,” said Alabama Power Camden Business Office Manager Floyd Harris.

Gee’s Bend, an enclave of some 300 residents, lies on the Alabama River across from the Wilcox County seat of Camden. Gee’s Bend residents have a 38-mile round-trip drive to Camden, having to cross the river on a bridge near Millers Ferry Lock and Dam. Camden is home to the courthouse, banks, restaurants and other amenities unavailable in Gee’s Bend.

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The 15-minute ferry ride across the Alabama River is aboard a Hornblower Marine Services ferry operated by the Alabama Department of Transportation. The ferry has at times been unreliable because of the diesel engines breaking down. Discussions began three years ago to replace the engines with more-reliable electric-powered batteries for the 18-car-capacity ferry.

Two years ago, Alabama Power was at the table to evaluate the feasibility of converting the ferry to batteries. When the assessment was affirmative, the company upgraded a 2-mile stretch of power lines to carry enough energy to recharge the batteries at the Camden launch site.

“It was challenging, since the ferry’s engines have to keep running, even when docked, to keep it pushed against the on-off ramp,” said Tyler Cobb, a marketing representative for Alabama Power who was involved in the project. “But our specialist along with the ferry’s engineers came up with just the right setup to keep the batteries fully charged.”

The conversion was funded through a $1 million Environmental Protection Agency grant matched by $765,000 from ALDOT.

“This could be a big win for the state, the community and the industry,” said Tim Aguirre, general manager of HMS Ferries Alabama.

HMS also operates ferry service connecting Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines at the mouth of Mobile Bay.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

SoS John Merrill: We’re looking to address absentee ballot fraud this legislative session

(J. Merrill/Facebook)

Fresh off his appearance testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill acknowledged he was looking toward the 2019 legislative session to address abuse of the absentee voting process.

In an appearance on Huntsville’s WVNN on Thursday, Merrill explained how hundreds of complaints have been closed, some of which had been referred to various law enforcement agencies to handle.

Merrill insisted there was a necessity to maintain the integrity of absentee balloting to ensure every vote counts the way it was intended.

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“We do have some issues that we’re trying to address in this legislative session,” Merrill said to “The Jeff Poor Show.” “We have had 874 complaints that have been closed on voter fraud. Several of those have been closed generally. Some of them have been referred to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Some have been referred to the county sheriff from the district attorney’s office to the Attorney General’s Office. It just depends on what they were.”

“But what we’d like to see is a change in the absentee process, so when people make application, they know that their voice is being heard and their vote is being counted the way it is intended,” he continued. “The other thing that we want to do is to make sure when we have legitimate complaints, they’re followed up on and they’re followed through with by those local officials with which we turn that information over to.”

Merrill offered two examples that raised red flags, one of which was in Wilcox County.

“Let me give you an example, Jeff – when we’ve got a situation where a candidate had 109 absentee ballots mailed to one location, which happens to be his mom’s residence,” Merrill said. “And that still has not been investigated. That’s a problem, my friend. When we have 119 absentee ballots mailed to one location and it’s an abandoned home in the Black Belt in Wilcox County, that’s a problem, my friend. So if we’re not having people pursue that through additional investigative measures and we’re not coming up with warrants for people and indictments for people, that’s a problem. We’re continuing to introduce this until we get somebody who wants to work for the people of the state of Alabama and ensure their rights are protected and their vote is protected because when we allow illegal votes to take place. Jeff, that dilutes real votes cast by legitimate electors in this state.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

Trent Richardson’s redemption: ‘I’m back to a place where it’s just fun’

(Birmingham Iron)

Trent Richardson never played a snap inside Legion Field before Sunday afternoon, but he had experienced joy there.

Prior to the rebirth of his football career with The Alliance of American Football’s Birmingham Iron, Richardson was just a football dad in the stands, watching his son Trent Richardson Jr. playing youth football at Legion just a few months ago.

T.J. scored the first touchdown of his young career that day, a moment dad will always cherish. So when the elder Richardson crossed the goal line for the first touchdown in Iron history on Sunday, his mind immediately flashed to his son and the rest of his family. It is T.J. who has helped motivate Richardson on his path toward regaining his football career.

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The Birmingham Iron return to the field on Saturday, Feb. 16, hosting the Salt Lake Stallions. The first snap is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be televised on TNT. Tickets can be purchased here.

“Every time I go training, he go train with me,” Richardson said, beaming from ear to ear. “If he do an extra rep, I have to go do an extra rep, too. (Former Alabama receiver) Mike McCoy, my trainer, will tell you, ‘My hardest worker in this gym is the 6-year-old.’ And that’s T.J.”

Richardson ran for 58 yards and two touchdowns in the Iron’s 26-0 shutout win over the Memphis Express in the Alliance opener for both teams Sunday afternoon.

It was a reintroduction of sorts for Richardson. He gained national stardom at Alabama, becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011. The Cleveland Browns selected Richardson third overall in 2012 NFL Draft after he opted to forgo his senior season.

Richardson had a successful rookie season, but was traded early in Year 2. Things were never the same as Richardson spent time with three teams over the next three years and was out of the league in 2016.

Now, Richardson is playing carefree as he has rediscovered his love for the game with the Iron.

“It’s not even for the world, it’s for myself,” Richardson said of his performance on Sunday. “I never got a chance to actually play for myself and play for my kids. I’ve always had a lot of stuff on my shoulders and a lot I was running for. Now I’m back to a place where it’s just fun. It’s fun, man. I can play for myself, my small family, my fiancee and that’s it. That’s all I need.”

While the Express contained Richardson for three quarters, he eventually wore down their defense, punishing them with run after run in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 23 carries.

“If you’re going to turn around and give him the ball 20 or 30 times a game, he’s going to be effective,” Express coach Mike Singletary said. “We didn’t do a good job of taking him out of the game.”

Iron safety Max Redfield witnesses Richardson’s “relentless” running style every day in practice.

“He’s obviously hard to tackle because it takes two or three dudes every single time,” Redfield said. “He falls forward every single time. The way he was running in the first quarter and the fourth quarter were the same. He might have even gotten stronger. You love to see that.”

Not everything went perfectly for Richardson. He had a third-quarter fumble that almost led to points for the Express, but the Iron’s defense clamped down on a fourth-and-1 attempt from the 6-yard line to thwart the drive. Richardson used the turnover as fuel.

“Trent’s an unbelievable person and player,” Iron quarterback Luis Perez said. “He works very hard. He’s very hard on himself. After that fumble, he gathered us and said, ‘Guys that’s on me. I’m going to come back, and I’m going to win us this game. I’m going to run the ball down their throats, and we’re going to get this win.’ He did that.”

The Iron will continue to lean on Richardson as the season continues. Run lanes will get bigger as the offensive line continues to gel. If he’s healthy, Richardson has an opportunity to put together a strong season and garner the attention of NFL personnel.

For now, though, he’s focused on the building up the Iron.

“We’re going to do what we can to keep this league going, and keep Birmingham (Legion Field) packed,” Richardson said. “We’re trying to be in Vegas (for the Alliance championship) in April.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Civic innovation panel considers Birmingham’s future

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

“It’s about building an ecosystem that enables people to thrive,” declared Anthony Hood. “It takes partnerships between universities, the corporate community, nonprofits and elected officials. That means cooperation and, in Birmingham, we’ve never seen the level of cooperation that we’re seeing today.”

Hood is director of civic innovation at UAB, and his comments came in the introduction of a panel on that topic at the 15th annual A.G. Gaston Conference in Birmingham. The conference bears the name of the late entrepreneur and philanthropist who was a grandson of slaves and built a business empire in the segregated Birmingham of the mid-20th century. By the time of his death in 1996, at the age of 103, Gaston had long been hailed as one of Alabama’s greatest citizens.

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The 2019 edition of the conference was devoted to the theme “One Vision, One Cause: Elevating African-American Entrepreneurship.” That theme reflects the current attitude in Birmingham, a city that is enjoying what numerous speakers referred to as a “renaissance” as it continues to emerge as a center for technology-related business growth.

Hood’s civic innovation panel picked up on that theme. But the discussion also stressed economic and social gaps that must be addressed to ensure the presence of a workforce to support Birmingham’s continued growth.

“We have to be honest about the context in which we’re working,” said Kellie Clark, director of operations for Innovate Birmingham, a public-private partnership tasked with fostering inclusion and delivering increased economic prosperity. Clark said one aspect of fulfilling the mission of connecting talented people with prospective employers is providing wraparound services that ensure people can take advantage of programs.

“There are gaps in the pathway,” Clark said, mentioning the costs of housing, food and child care as obstacles that can stall or prevent people from developing their talent. “Wraparound services are crucial. If we want to maximize the potential of our workforce, that’s not charity, it’s necessity.”

That attitude is part of a comprehensive approach to business attraction and workforce development that will distinguish Birmingham in coming years, said Rachel Harmon, deputy director of talent development for the city of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity. Calling that approach “critical to making sure economic growth is inclusive,” Harmon added that “not a ton of cities have figured out how to do this well.”

“Single-minded approaches to economic development often fail,” Harmon said. “We have to think not just about attracting jobs, but about the quality of jobs we’re targeting. We also have to think about giving people the ability to be entrepreneurs, to create jobs for themselves. We need to make sure that all of those pathways are open.”

Adrienne Starks is founder and CEO of STREAM Innovations, a Birmingham nonprofit that helps students develop and explore their talents in science, technology, reading, engineering, the arts and mathematics. She said that, regardless of the discipline to which they may be inclined, there is a common thread for helping students excel.

“They’re waiting for us,” Starks said. “It’s up to us to create opportunities for them to express themselves.”

Access is a key ingredient to ensuring young people are positioned to take advantage of opportunities. That’s according to Brittney Smith, who recently left her role as manager of workforce development for the Birmingham Business Alliance to take on a similar position for Birmingham-based Protective Life. Smith stresses the value of networking, as companies sometimes overlook talented potential hires who are “right in their own backyard,” most particularly products of historically black colleges and universities. Making sure that doesn’t happen, she said, is key to optimizing Birmingham’s continued economic growth — and ensuring the local workforce is reaching its potential.

“How can we help companies make sure they’re not overlooking great talent?” Smith asked. “How can we challenge them to be a part of developing a pipeline for diversity and inclusion?”

From the corporate side of the economic growth equation, Alabama Power Company’s Ralph Williams echoed moderator Hood’s comments about the fruits of cooperation. He pointed to his company’s partnership with City Hall on “Smart City” initiatives aimed at enhancing public safety, including the recent placement of 21,000 LED lights on poles throughout Birmingham. Beyond such visible improvements, he said, the key is bringing together partners who are “being thoughtful and intentional about the future.”

“This is a wonderful time to live in Birmingham,” said Williams, government and community relations manager for Alabama Power’s Birmingham Division. “We’re only beginning to see the results of what can happen when we’re thoughtful about economic development, about the kinds of jobs we’re bringing to our community, about all of these things that have a positive impact.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Auburn AD Allen Greene doing a job that’s ‘rewarding beyond measure’

(Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Allen Greene had it all figured out.

“My plan was to be a Hall of Fame Major League Baseball player,” he said. “I had that plan in high school, which is why, when I got to college, I majored in finance because I wanted to manage my money. And I knew I was gonna have a lot of it.”

Baseball was the sport for which Greene, now the athletic director at Auburn University, had been known. He had played football, basketball and soccer, too, but the diamond was where he expected to make his bones.

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And the native of Bellevue, Washington, in suburban Seattle, was on his way, earning a baseball scholarship to Notre Dame and getting selected by the New York Yankees in the ninth round of the 1998 MLB draft. But after three seasons in the minor leagues, Greene’s plan appeared to derail when he was told he didn’t measure up.

“It was the first time that … I wasn’t good enough,” the 41-year-old said, sitting in his office in the Auburn Athletics Complex. “The reality of me not being good enough, that was the first time I’d ever experienced that. It creates chaos internally because my identity had been wrapped up into sports, baseball specifically, since I was 5 years old. To be 20, 22, 23 years old and my identity had been erased, truncated, if you will.

“How do you navigate that? You’re used to going to a locker room, being with teammates, playing a game, getting paid to play a game,” Greene continued. “Your world revolves around this lifestyle. When that abruptly comes to an end, you find yourself trying to figure out who you are and what you’re going to do.”

This is why Greene, the guy who dreamed of joining Micky Mantle, Willie Mays and Joe Morgan in the Baseball Hall of Fame, wanted to get his college degree. He knew this moment would come.

“I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could be, to be able to navigate it,” he said. “The plan didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but it worked out the way that it was supposed to. And I’m very fortunate, fast forward to right now, I’m here today.”

Greene is a year into his tenure as the director of athletics at Auburn. He is the first African-American to be in that position on the Plains and just the third to join that fraternity in the Southeastern Conference.

Greene’s love of baseball and his study of finance could have put him on a path to the front office of a pro franchise. But his experience in professional baseball opened his eyes to how much of a business sports is, and how professional sports wasn’t a fit for him.

“I would much rather spend time helping shape young people and helping shape their lives as opposed to the transactional side of professional sports,” he said. “Honestly, some people want to be a GM, and that’s great for them. But it wasn’t for me. I recognized that intercollegiate athletics was the way for me to have that impact, particularly at a time in my life that I cherished so much as a student athlete. To have the ability to impact 500-plus student athletes. … It’s rewarding beyond measure.”

Greene began his walk beyond the basepaths in the athletics department of Notre Dame, working in development and NCAA compliance from 2003 to 2009.

From there, he was an assistant athletic director at Ole Miss and then was the athletic director for the University of Buffalo.

As an athlete, Greene can relate to that euphoric time when a player of a sport is “in the zone.” He recounted his most memorable game, a basketball contest in which he took a knee to the head as he dove for a loose ball, proudly pointing out the scar over his right eye.

He’s not sure if he lost consciousness then, but he played that way when he returned to the court.

“I came back in the game and I shot the ball like I wasn’t conscious,” he said. “I remember coming back from that injury and playing better, being in the zone. That was a really unique feeling that most athletes don’t get a chance to experience.”

The Auburn AD paused when asked if athletic directors get that feeling, too.

“I find myself moving on quicker than other people,” he said. “If we win, that’s great. But I’m on to the next thing. It’s hard to try to slow down and smell the roses. It’s hard to slow down and just take it in.”

With 15 programs under his charge, Greene is always moving on to the next thing. In truth, there is no offseason for an athletic director, which makes it tough for Greene to follow the “other” seasons in his world.

His 13-year-old daughter, Rian, is playing travel volleyball. His son, Sammy, 11, just wrapped up basketball and is on to baseball while daughter Seneca, 7, is in T-ball. All three play piano.

“I’ve got my three kids and wife (Christy) at home. That’s one family,” he said, “and I’ve got then the Auburn family. For people like me, in order to do our jobs really, really well, we have to sacrifice a whole heck of a lot.”

But the Auburn athletic director isn’t complaining. He accepts it. He embraces it.

“I get up ready to come to work every single day excited because I know that I get to have such a large impact on everybody else, and (what I) try to do is bring my family into my work world as best as I can.”

Greene said being the first African-American athletic director at Auburn “never, never crossed my mind.” He thought carefully about simply being African-American.

Even now, he said, it doesn’t affect his role on the campus. But he acknowledges it could have an impact on student-athletes at Auburn, and beyond.

“I do recognize that me, a person of my profile in this position has a ripple effect throughout not only our league, but our country,” he said. “I’ve gotten more emails than I could guess with young people of color or females wanting to reach out to connect with me just to have some professional development discussions.

“Our student athletes, particularly our young black men, are probably surprised by the hire but I think welcome it because they see someone who looks like them in a prominent position that isn’t necessarily participating in sport or in entertainment.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

State Rep. Tommy Hanes on gas tax hike: ‘I’m going to be a no,’ ‘People are just tired of being taxed’

(Screenshot/Facebook)

Count State Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) as a “no” on the gas tax.

Although many Republicans are in favor of a gas tax, Hanes is solidly against the effort and cites the wishes of his constituents as the reason.

The Jackson County Republican, who represents the northeastern-most corner of  the state, explained his position in an appearance on Huntsville’s WVNN on Friday.

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“I consider myself as a servant of the people – you know, the people that elect me to office,” Hanes said. “And I stay in close contact with the senior citizens and working-class men and women in my area, and they’re an adamant no. They’re telling me no. The better part of my constituents are telling me no, and that’s the people I serve. And I’m going to be a no.”

Hanes insisted there were other options and noted the inflationary pressures a gas tax hike would have on the state’s economy.

“I don’t know how you look at it, or a lot of people look at it, but until we hold government’s feet to the fire, and get them to look at every option that they have, they’re never going to take a different road as far as taking care of the problem because it is so much easier to ask for more than it is to manage what you have. I am not for the gas tax for other reasons like, you know, as little as people think about it, when you go to the pump, you pay the tax.”

“When you fill your car up to go to work on Monday morning, you pay the tax,” he continued. “Then you go home, you decide you need to go somewhere – go to the store or whatever, you’re going to pay the tax as a consumer because the industry that trucked the goods to the store aren’t going to take that hit. They’re going to pass it on to the consumer. That’s causing the cost of living to rise. That’s not doing anything to stop inflation. And then thirdly, that’s twice now you’re going to pay the tax. But as little as you think about it, the money that you bring home on your paycheck, before you get it – it’s taxes. I mean, people are just tired of being taxed. I implore government to look at every option they have.”

An alternative Hanes previously proposed was to turn over gas tax authority to the voters of each county.

“I had a bill – Arnold Mooney and I, Rep. Mooney from Shelby County, just basically flipped a coin and decided who would sponsor the bill, and Arnold won, and I co-sponsored the bill to let all 67 counties vote for a gas tax, that every penny would stay locally. In the bill, they couldn’t hire personnel. They couldn’t give raises. They could only purchase material and put it on the road. We couldn’t even get it in committee. It wouldn’t even go through committee. I’m all for that. I’m all for letting the people vote.”

Hanes said if that had been the circumstance, he believed the people in Jackson County would have supported it.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 days ago

Alabama leads way with Walker County archery park

(Contributed/B. Pope)

Along with Alabama’s sparkling Gulf waters and beautiful mountains, our great state has another strength you may not have heard as much about: Alabama’s Community Archery Parks program ranks No. 1 in the nation.

The state’s 16th archery park, the Walker County Community Archery Park, was dedicated last week on the outskirts of Jasper on the banks of beautiful Walker County Public Fishing Lake.

Stuart Goldsby, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division Regional Hunter Education Coordinator, has been instrumental in the spread of the archery park phenomenon in Alabama. Goldsby said the Walker County park has taken a while to complete, but it has been worth the effort.

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“We’re very excited about this,” Goldsby said. “This is No. 16 for the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To be able to lead the country in developing grassroots, community archery locations, where school groups or clubs or retailers can use it to benefit the community with that life skill of archery, is very exciting for us.”

The Walker County park has covered shooting areas with targets at known distances for both adult and youth shooters.

The unique aspect of the Walker County park is that it is the first state-operated archery park in the nation with a wheelchair-accessible elevated shooting platform.

Ed Poolos, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner, said the new archery park is special to him for several reasons, including its location.

“I am a proud citizen of Jasper and Walker County, so this is home,” Poolos said. “I am glad this is here. The goal for the Department of Conservation on this project is to partner with local governments and foundations to make the Walker County Public Fishing Lake one of the best state fishing lakes in Alabama. At the same time, we want to bring people to the outdoors to enjoy the natural beauty of Alabama. Projects like this allow us to do that.”

Poolos highlighted the positive impacts that archery and bowhunting can have on individuals and communities.

“Archery is a sport that requires and teaches precision, focus, accuracy and determination. It teaches all those things, but the great aspect of archery is that, no matter your age, gender or ability, archery can be enjoyed by everyone. So we’re really proud to bring this park here.”

Poolos also recognized the contributions of two Boy Scouts, Mason Woodman and Jaylan Banks, who aided in the construction of the archery park as part of their Eagle Scout projects.

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary said the area where the archery park is located was annexed recently by the City of Jasper, which will allow city resources to be used to help operate the park.

“I’m an outdoor enthusiast,” O’Mary said. “When you put in an archery range of this quality, that is a recipe for a lot of fun for a lot of people.

“We at the City of Jasper can bring on board the administrative side of our Parks and Recreation to look after tournaments and events here. Our equipment and our labor will be available to support this.”

Jenny Short, chair of Walker County Health Action Partnership’s Livable Communities Priority Group, said, although it took a great deal of work to complete the park, it was a labor of love.

“This project is a perfect example of a true private-public partnership,” Short said. “We had so many partners in this project. As we say, this was ‘built by our community for our community.’ We’re really proud of that.”

Alabama residents ages 16 to 64 must have a hunting license, Wildlife Management Area (WMA) license or Wildlife Heritage license to use the range. For non-residents 16 and older, an annual WMA license or non-resident hunting license is required. Licenses are available from various local retailers or online at outdooralabama.com. Use of the archery park is free for those under 16 years of age or Alabama residents over 65.

“Alabama leads the nation in having the most community archery parks. That’s one thing I’m proud Alabama is first in,” Chuck Sykes, WFF Director, said. “There is a very important reason why a license is required to use the park. We receive no money from the General Fund, so none of your tax dollars go out to provide services we provide for the citizens of the state. The way we fund that is by people buying hunting and fishing licenses. We encourage you to come out and shoot the range and fish the lake. Matt Marshall, our State Lakes Manager, and Marisa Futral (Hunter Education Coordinator) and Stuart are doing a wonderful job as well as our state biologists. So, come out and buy a license and have fun.”

Sykes said the Archery Trade Association (ATA) and its president, Matt Kormann, are huge supporters of DCNR, and the Department is grateful for their partnership.

The ATA represents manufacturers of archery and bowhunting equipment, pro shops and retailers of archery and bowhunting equipment.

“As president of ATA, I have seen a lot of archery ranges,” Kormann said. “I can say I’ve never stood on one as gorgeous as this one. I hope y’all know how lucky you are to have this park in this surrounding because it is unique.

“I’ve also been able to see in my job a lot of public-private partnerships. I can tell you, there is not any like there is in Alabama. To see this all come together so that more folks can come out and experience archery and possibly get into bowhunting, there’s not a better feeling in the world.”

Kormann said the ATA’s board of directors and members have made a commitment to promote and assist in the construction of public archery ranges throughout the nation.

“Obviously, the ultimate goal is to get more folks out shooting and bowhunting,” Kormann said. “There is a lot we need to do to ensure the health of those sports. This really revolves around the ‘R3’ triangle of recruiting new folks to come out, retaining the shooters we have and reactivating folks who might have lapsed. The opportunity to come out in a setting like this with high-quality equipment makes it easier to get folks to come out to shoot.

“What archery teaches and what it gives back is hard to find in other sports. It doesn’t matter what your skill level is. It doesn’t matter what your physical abilities are. Anybody can learn this sport pretty quickly. Beyond all of that, the sense of community and the sense of family in this sport is really unmatched.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

4 days ago

Auburn Police officer shot in the line of duty

(Pixabay)

An Auburn Police Department officer was shot in the line of duty Friday evening.

Sources reportedly confirmed the shooting to WVTM. The condition of the officer was not immediately known.

The shooting occurred at the Dollar General near Niffer’s Place off of Opelika Road.

WSFA was on the scene live in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, which resulted in a massive police presence. The suspect is believed to still be at-large, with a “manhunt” underway.

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This comes after Birmingham Police Department Sgt. Wytasha Carter and Mobile Police Department Officer Sean Tuder were shot and killed in the line of duty in recent weeks.

This is breaking news and may be updated.

Update 8:00 p.m.:

WSFA posted a new live stream.

Update 8:15 p.m.:

Police administrators told reporters the incident occurred shortly after 5:30 p.m. as the officer pulled the suspect’s vehicle over responding to an armed robbery call. The officer was talking and alert when he left the scene. More on his condition was not released by law enforcement on the scene. The officer was shot “multiple” times. His name has also not been released.

The suspect is Christopher James Wallace. He is 38 years old. A female was in the vehicle with Wallace at the time of the shooting. Her name is not being released at this time.

Update 11:05 p.m.:

According to police, Wallace and the unnamed female are believed to have perished in a fire. Law enforcement tracked the two persons of interest to an apartment complex off of Wire Road across from the Auburn University Vet School shortly before 9:00 p.m.

While attempting a tactical entry into the residence, shots were fired from the apartment at the officers. Two uninvolved occupants were able to safely exit the residence before law enforcement deployed tear gas and other distraction devices. The two persons of interest still refused to exit the apartment, and a fire soon broke out inside. Wallace and the female never exited the residence, which eventually became “fully engulfed in flames.” A police spokesman said efforts to extinguish the fire were made by first responders. It is unclear how the fire started.

Auburn PD officials said Wallace is believed to have been residing in Eufaula, where he had family members. His driver license showed a Spanish Fort address.

Police Captain Lorenza Dorsey said he is “extremely thankful” no additional officers were injured in the efforts to locate and take Wallace into custody.

The police officer shot is in stable condition receiving medical treatment, according to Dorsey.

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

4 days ago

Del Marsh on Trump declaration: ‘It is an emergency — It is about protecting this country’

(Del Marsh/Facebook, ICE/Flickr)

Alabama Senate leader Del Marsh (R-Anniston) voiced his support for President Donald Trump’s latest action on border security while blaming Democrats for their inability to fix the long-standing issue.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Marsh said he supports Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency along the Mexican border.

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Marsh explained that the urgency of the threat made it necessary.

“It is an emergency,” Marsh stated. “It is about protecting this country. That’s where the threat is. The threat is the southern border. All our borders should be secure. But the threat right now is the southern border. No one can deny that.”

When asked where border security should rank among the country’s priorities, Marsh said border security should be number one.

And he expressed frustration at how policy-makers have approached the issue.

“I cannot for the life of me understand how people in Congress can put people who are not citizens of this country above our citizens’ welfare, and that’s what I see happening,” he remarked.

He cited a single reason why, in his mind, the issue of border security has gone on for so long without resolution.

“Politics,” Marsh declared.

Specifically, he believes Democrats view illegal immigration as providing a pool of potential new voters and that has threatened national security.

“They have put that above the safety of the citizens of this country,” he said. “Democrats are basically saying, ‘Don’t worry about a process. Come on! We’re your buddies!’”

Marsh also pointed out the fact that he has already filed a bill in the Alabama legislature to allow Alabamians to help build the wall.

The legislation would provide taxpayers the option of checking a box on their tax returns should they want to donate to We Build the Wall, Inc.

Marsh has already donated to the fund himself.

“It’s about sending a message to this president, President Trump, that we support him and by sending these dollars to build the wall, showing our support for him,” he explained. “I believe it and I think the people of Alabama believe that security is the most important thing, the most important issue at this point in time. We want to support the wall, and we want to see the wall built.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

4 days ago

Alabama Supreme Court reinstates Alabama Memorial Preservation Act

(Facebook)

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Friday that the Alabama Supreme Court has granted the state’s motion to stay a recent “[erroneous]” Jefferson County Circuit Court judgment that declared the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 to be unconstitutional.

This means the law, which prohibits the removal and alteration of monuments more than 40 years old on public property, will still be in effect while the state appeals the decision. Marshall requested the stay three weeks ago.

“I am pleased that the Alabama Supreme Court has granted the State’s motion to stay the Circuit Court’s ruling,” the attorney general said in a statement. “We think that U.S. Supreme Court precedent clearly demonstrates that the Circuit Court erred in striking down the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. Thus, we asked the Alabama Supreme Court to preserve the status quo regarding the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Linn Park until the Court rules on our appeal.”

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It was reported that the City of Birmingham was considering removing the monument at the center of the controversy after the law was struck down. The Sailors Monument has been covered by a large black wall since August 2017, near the end of former Mayor William Bell’s tenure.

“The Supreme Court’s stay allows the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act to remain in effect until the Supreme Court resolves this appeal over the Act’s constitutionality. We continue to hold that the Circuit Court erred when it ruled that the U.S. Constitution grants cities free speech rights that they can enforce against the State,” Marshall added. “For more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has held just the opposite, recognizing that ‘a political subdivision, created by the state for the better ordering of government, has no privileges or immunities under the federal constitution which it may invoke in opposition to the will of its creator.’ We look forward to presenting these arguments to the Alabama Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court’s order Friday also stayed the accrual of any financial penalties under the law.

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

4 days ago

David Cole departs Alabama Farmers Federation for BCA

(ALFA Farmers/Twitter)

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is adding another star to its governmental affairs team.

Shortly after breaking BCA’s hiring of Molly Cagle from Manufacture Alabama, sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News that Alabama Farmers Federation Director of State Affairs David Cole is coming on board at the same time.

Cole, like Cagle, is joining BCA’s governmental affairs staff effective February 28, just in time for the March 5 start of the state legislative session. Most recently, Cole spearheaded the federation’s lobbying efforts in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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Sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News Friday that federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan sent out an email announcing Cole’s departure and thanking him for his commitment to Alabama agriculture — the state’s biggest industry. Pinyan also outlined how the staff would be moved around in response to Cole leaving.

Director of External Affairs Matthew Durdin – and his staff members, Director of Agricultural Legislation Preston Roberts and administrative assistant Jessica Mims – will now be involved in some state governmental affairs work. Former Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman, who has been working as a political consultant for the federation, will now add governmental affairs work on contract.

An official announcement with details of the federation’s staff changes is expected to be released in the coming week.

Update, 6:15 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt announced the two major additions in an internal email sent out to the business council’s leadership Friday evening. Britt took the reigns of BCA January 2. Cagle and Cole are her first hires.

The email detailed that Cole is being named senior vice president of governmental affairs and Cagle vice president of governmental affairs.

“These two additions to our team position the BCA to serve our members and advocate effectively on behalf of the business community,” Britt wrote.

Mark Colson, who most recently filled in as BCA’s interim president after serving as chief of staff and senior vice president for governmental affairs, will continue to serve the organization in his new role as senior advisor through the transition period.

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

4 days ago

Molly Cagle joining BCA from Manufacture Alabama

(YHN, Manufacture Alabama)

One of Alabama’s rising stars in the governmental affairs world is on the move.

Sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News Friday that Manufacture Alabama (MA) Director of External Affairs Molly Cagle has accepted a governmental affairs position with the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). While an exact title has yet to be released, Cagle is expected to bolster BCA’s legislative affairs team.

The hire marks the first in BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt’s tenure. She was hired by the organization’s executive committee in December and took office January 2.

Cagle’s last day at MA is February 20, according to an email from her to the association’s membership obtained by Yellowhammer News.

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“My time at Manufacture Alabama over the last four and a half years has been incredibly rewarding. The friendships, lessons, and advice are things that I cherish and will take with me throughout my career,” she wrote.

Cagle comes to BCA with an impressive track record in legislative work, including past service as the Senate Liaison for Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh. She received her bachelor’s in Political Science, with a minor in Broadcast Journalism, from Troy University.

Named to Yellowhammer Multimedia’s “Power and Influence: Who’s Next?” list for 2018, Cagle will be a major addition to BCA as the organization refocuses on its pro-jobs mission of “making a sweet home for business” in Alabama.

Cagle’s email noted, “As I prepare to take on my new role, I want to assure everyone that the staff at Manufacture Alabama has taken the steps to make my departure as seamless as possible. A special thank you to George Clark for his guidance and support not only over the last several years but also throughout this process.”

The state legislative session begins March 5.

As of Friday at 2:30 p.m., BCA had taken down its online staff directory. An official announcement of the hire is expected in the coming days.

Update, 6:15 p.m.:

Cagle is being named BCA’s vice president of governmental affairs.

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

4 days ago

It is time for the Alabama legislature to end the state-mandated subsidy to print media outlets

(YHN, Pixabay)

Who won the 2018 general election in Alabama?

You might think with all the talk of $900 prison spending bills, gas taxes, Medicaid expansion and the lottery that Democrats won in a massive landslide and were preparing to implement their agenda. But that is not what happened — Republicans actually picked up seats.

The state of Alabama, with a Republican super-majority, is preparing to spend big and grow government.

As they do this, maybe they can toss the citizens of Alabama a bone and make the government a little more efficient by saving state agencies, counties, cities and school boards a substantial amount of money every year.

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Current Alabama law requires government entities in Alabama to advertise legal notices, legislation, constitutional amendments, voter rolls and other public matters in the local print media outlets.

This is not chump change:

  • The state of Alabama spends up to $800,000 each year.
  • The city of Huntsville spends up to $115,000 each year.
  • Madison County spends up to $153,000 each year.

If we were to add up all the costs to local governments, we would find that these costs are in the multiple millions of dollars range.

In a state that has a $6+ billion dollar education budget, this may seem like something that is minuscule and irrelevant, but that is not the case when adding all the entities required by law to hand government money over to private companies to print a product that very few use and could easily be uploaded to an official state/county/city website and be more accessible to your average Alabamians.

The only counter-argument, which will be made by those working in or for the print media industry and no one else, is that there are communities in Alabama that don’t have high-speed Internet and can’t access these websites.

This is a canard that only allows legislators to do nothing and not face the wrath of people who “buy ink by the barrel.”

Keeping these laws on the books only acts to subsidize the print media. It does not benefit your average Alabamian one bit.

This print media subsidy should be ended immediately. Surely there are other things these government entities can spend this money on.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

4 days ago

Tennessee Valley Authority selects next president and CEO

(TVA/Facebook)

The nation’s largest public utility has picked the leader of one of Canada’s largest power companies to head the $11 billion federal corporation.

On Thursday, the Tennessee Valley Authority board announced the selection of Jeffrey Lyash as president and CEO effective in April.

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Lyash is president and CEO of Ontario Power Generation Inc. He was formerly president of CB&I Power and executive vice president of energy supply for Duke Energy.

He also served in management roles with Progress Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Lyash is chairman of the Electric Power Research Institute, an international nonprofit for public interest energy and environmental research.

Lyash replaces Bill Johnson, who is retiring after joining the federal utility in 2013.

TVA serves about 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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4 days ago

Doug Jones on Medicaid expansion: ‘We’re losing out on billions of dollars … the state of Alabama damn sure could use’

(MSNBC/YouTube)

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Thursday, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) offered his thoughts on rumblings that policymakers in Montgomery were considering expanding Medicaid rolls.

The renewed discussion comes in the wake of Butler County’s Georgiana losing its hospital and some GOP lawmakers in the statehouse suggesting it was something to consider.

According to Jones, the expansion of Medicaid would be one of the ingredients necessary in ensuring rural hospitals in Alabama are sustainable.

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“I think it would go a long way,” Jones said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “There are a lot of factors that come into play when you’re talking about rural hospitals, including the wage index that we try to get things changed, so we get the same reimbursements as other states. But I think expansion of Medicaid would be a big help. I think it would be a huge deal for rural hospitals. It would bring in billions of dollars – billions of dollars that’s our money, by the way, that we haven’t been getting since the state refused to do that. And candidly, it was a political decision when they refused to do it. Everybody knows that. There was a legitimate concern about the cost.”

“But now that we look back, we can see that the cost-benefit – the benefit outweighs the cost tremendously,” he continued. “Plus the benefit with the good health outcomes – more people with good health care, better health outcomes. It’s just a win-win. And so I am hoping this year they can do that.”

Jones said he and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) were working on legislation to gives states that have not yet expanded Medicaid the incentive to do so, and that way the “money would start flowing in.”

When asked about the possibility of the state of Alabama being on the hook for extra cost when that initial infusion of federal money runs out, the Jefferson County Democrat said he expected the money to continue to be there for Medicaid.

“I don’t think the money will run out,” he replied. “I think the money is here to stay. It is one of those things that passed in the ‘60s. It is here to stay. I think the money is going to continue to be there. And the fact of the matter is, no one would get left holding the bag because if the Medicaid money went away, then obviously the insurance goes away. I don’t think anybody’s going to want to let that happen.”

When asked about lawmakers considering the possibility, Jones described his attitude as “hopeful.”

“I am very hopeful,” Jones said. “I think there’s a couple of dynamics in play, including the fact that we’re not really talking about ObamaCare anymore. We’re talking about the Affordable Care Act, and we’re talking about things – keeping people with preexisting conditions and making sure they have health care. And the other thing, too – now we have the evidence. No one can really say, ‘Oh, this is going to cost too much. We can’t afford it.’ We got the evidence from all the states to show that is just not the case and we’re losing out on billions of dollars that come in, and that’s billions of dollars the state of Alabama damn sure could use.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

4 days ago

Watch: Alexander Shunnarah helps with Alabama ‘promposal’

Billboards. Television commercials. Print ads. Everyone in Alabama knows Alexander Shunnarah.

In fact, the Birmingham-based trial lawyer has become a true celebrity figure in the Yellowhammer State, with his ubiquitous advertisements driving his name identification sky-high.

While he has poked fun at his own billboard empire before, the advertisements appear to be paying off through not just clients, but fans. The latest example of this was posted on the eve of Valentine’s Day, with the gregarious Shunnarah playing a starring role in a Birmingham-area high school student’s “promposal.”

Watch:

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For all those at home wondering, she said “yes.”

(Christy Burnett Ingram/Facebook)

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

A Story Worth Sharing: Alabama’s Red Tail Scholarship Foundation takes flight to help African-American students soar to new heights

(Red Tails Scholarship Foundation/Facebook)

If anyone knows hard work, it’s Torius Moore. A self-professed “small-town kid” from Attalla, Alabama, Moore is an undergraduate student and pilot triple-majoring in Aerospace Science Engineering, Physics and Mathematics at the historic Tuskegee University.

Moore is the first person to receive a scholarship from the Alabama based non-profit, The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation, and now, the program’s chief pilot.

The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation’s mission is to honor the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African Americans trained by the U.S military to participate in combat situations. Funded solely by private donations and operating with no administrative costs, the foundation honors their mission by providing scholarships, mentors and flight training resources to African American students pursuing careers in aviation.

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According to Moore, “The scholarship foundation is revitalizing the historic, successful and gritty flight program from the 1940s. ”

He added, “For me, it is a change that is worth not just witnessing – but actually implementing.”

Not only does the foundation give back to their community, but they encourage their students to do so as well. In his role as the foundation’s chief pilot, Moore will teach members of the scholarship program to fly.

“I am always adamant about getting scholars in the airplane and in the skies where the Tuskegee Airmen used to fly. Let’s continue this tradition and uphold this legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen by creating more black pilots and transforming them into the new Tuskegee Airmen,” Moore said.

According to the foundation, only two percent of pilots in both commercial and military aviation are minorities, a statistic they are hoping to change, one student at a time.

Rich Peace, an accomplished military and commercial pilot, is a co-founder of the foundation and a mentor to many of the program’s students.

Peace says their organization is more than a traditional scholarship program.

“We’re going to teach you how to fly, we’re also going to provide guidance and mentorship beyond that,” Peace said.

Along with Torius, many other scholarship recipients have gone on to achieve success in the world of aviation. Since 2017, the non-profit has already awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships and training resources to 16 deserving students pursuing careers in aviation.

Peace says the foundation has had incredible growth over the last few years and is now facing a high demand from students hoping to become part of their program, which they hope to continue expanding.

“As leaders, not only do you have to lead the guys in this program, you have to develop them to do your job better than you can. That’s leadership,” Peace said.

To learn more or donate to the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation visit their website or email info@RedTailScholarshipFoundation.org