9 months ago

World’s largest collection of Ford Mustangs in Alabama

Bob Powell and his family love Ford Mustangs.

“I’ve always been a car enthusiast and got attached to Ford Mustangs several years ago. Our collection goes back over 30 years.”

Their love for this iconic vehicle got more serious four years ago when he and his sons decided to open a museum.

“We want to preserve Mustangs. We don’t want them to go to the junkyard.”

Mustang Museum of America preserves iconic history from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

So he and his family started a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, educating and celebrating the life of the Mustang. The result of their hard work is the Mustang Museum of America, a more than 30,000-square-foot building in Odenville currently housing 99 Ford Mustangs produced over five decades.

“We want to preserve the history and by walking through the museum you can follow from the first year production all the way through 2015, see how they changed.”

Since opening in March 2019, Powell says the museum has had visitors from Germany, France, Mexico and Australia.

“They were all very impressed,” Powell said. “There are some other museums around that have Mustangs in them, but to have 99 Mustangs under one roof is unique.”

To learn more about the Mustang Museum of America, including hours of operation and admission prices, visit the website at mustangmuseumofamerica.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 hours ago

Ivey announces support for corrections reform bills

Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced her support for a major, bipartisan package of bills that have been introduced in the Alabama legislature upon recommendation from the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy.

Ivey established the study group in July 2019, which came after the Department of Justice concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution regarding “cruel and unusual punishment.” Ivey inherited decades-old systemic problems in the state’s prison system upon becoming governor and has been working to improve the Alabama Department of Corrections since taking office. The issue was a major focus of her 2020 State of the State Address.

Upon conclusion of the study group last month, the members presented the governor with their recommendations for comprehensive reform.

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RELATED: Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy yields positive recommendations

“I tasked the Criminal Justice Study Group with the mission of finding data-driven solutions to our longstanding challenges in our prison system,” Ivey said in a statement on Thursday. “I’m not only proud of their efforts, but I’m pleased there were solid recommendations, which came as a result of their hard work. Through these legislative items, we can build upon steps my administration has already begun taking to improve our criminal justice system.

The package of bills she is recommending as follows:

• SB 226, by Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), will establish a Deputy Commissioner of Rehabilitation within the Department of Corrections (DOC), as well as within the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. This bill will refocus these agencies toward reducing recidivism among those in the state’s custody while promoting public safety.

• SB 244, by Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), will ensure that all inmates coming to the end of their sentences undergo mandatory, pre-release supervision. A 2015 law accomplished this result for offenders sentenced after its enactment; this bill will make that statute retroactive. While reducing burdens on DOC, this bill will also improve public safety by helping inmates successfully re-enter society.

• HB 323, by Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), will require the Department of Corrections to report more information to the Legislative Prison Oversight Committee. This bill will provide lawmakers with information to make knowledgeable decisions during the appropriation process. It will also update the Oath of Office that is taken by Correctional Officers to reflect the Department’s renewed focus on the rehabilitation of inmates.

• HB 329, by Rep. Jim Hill (R-Moody), will make retroactive the state’s existing “presumptive sentencing guidelines.” Prior to October 1, 2013, offenders were sentenced to lengthy sentences, even life imprisonment, for nonviolent crimes. This bill will allow nonviolent offenders who are currently incarcerated under the previous guidelines to be eligible for resentencing under current, presumptive sentencing guidelines if they have demonstrated acceptable conduct while in prison.

• HB 342, by Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper), will provide former inmates the ability to receive a non-driver photo identification card. One of the greatest barriers of joining the workforce for those coming out of incarceration is a viable form of government identification. This bill will require the DOC and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to work together to assist an inmate in obtaining a Social Security Card, Birth Certificate and Non-Driving Photo ID prior to release from a state facility.

• SJR 25, by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), will establish a study group to address uniformity and increasing access to pre-trial and diversionary programs while also looking at best practices. The study group will be made up of legislators, members of the Alabama Sentencing Commission, counties, district attorneys, judges and legal researchers.

In addition to this package of bills, Ivey is working with the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to grant parolees increased access with their probation officers.

The governor has also made recommendations within both the proposed Education Trust Fund budget and the General Fund budget to further strengthen initiatives aimed at helping inmates.

Those recommendations as follows:

• An increase of $4.2M to expand prison education programs.

• An increase of $1,829,250 to expand the Stepping Up program which is a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail. Alabama has a goal of implementing the program in every county by Fiscal Year 2022.

• An increase within DOC’s budget to continue to expand the number of Correctional Officers in order to comply with the federal court order and add 104 mental health professionals within the prison facilities.

The governor also met with legislative leaders on Thursday regarding corrections reform. Speaking to reporters after the chamber adjourned for the week, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) expressed optimism that the corrections reform package is on track to be passed towards the end of the regular session.

“We’re very happy where we are on prison reform,” he remarked.

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

13 hours ago

Nancy Worley, Joe Reed faction of Alabama Democratic Party dealt major blow with suit dismissal

The faction of the Alabama Democratic Party that maintains Nancy Worley is the rightful chairperson suffered a big defeat on Thursday when Montgomery Judge Greg Griffin dismissed Worley’s lawsuit that aimed to return her to power.

The opinion handed down by Griffin stated simply that the judge did not believe he had jurisdiction over an intra-political-party dispute.

The decision is a big win for Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), who the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had already been dealing with as the Chair of the Party. England is supported by Alabama’s lone statewide elected Democrat, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

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Worley’s most powerful ally in the party, Joe Reed, told the Montgomery Advertiser that “it’s not over yet.”

He added about the possibility of a federal lawsuit, “We’ve got a good case, I’m very satisfied we’ve got a good case.”

The dispute over control of the Alabama Democratic Party can be traced back to August 2018 when Doug Jones attempted to install his ally, Peck Fox, as the new chairman of the party.

RELATED: Jones on Worley separating Alabama Dems from DNC: ‘Just silly’

That attempt by Jones to install Fox failed to get the votes needed, but irregularities in the way the Worley/Reed regime conducted the election were reported to the DNC.

After a lengthy investigation and several attempts at conflict resolution, the DNC revoked Worley’s credentials and ceased recognizing her as the chairperson of the party.

After more months of fits and starts, a sizable contingent of the party gathered and elected England to be the new chairperson of the state party.

RELATED: Alabama Dem Party ramps up 2020 election effort, hires 3 staffers

Worley, who never lost the support of longtime Democratic Party power player Joe Reed, filed a lawsuit against England and the other new officers of the party.

That lawsuit bounced around Alabama’s courts until Thursday when it was dismissed by Griffin.

England released a statement on Thursday, saying in part, “I’m excited both to put this matter behind us and to get to work doing what matters most, electing Democrats in Alabama.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

14 hours ago

Apple CEO Tim Cook, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin unveil tech training facility

BIRMINGHAM — Alabama native Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., joined Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Thursday morning to unveil the headquarters of Ed Farm in downtown Birmingham.

Ed Farm is a new technology-education initiative that will provide citizens of Alabama with the opportunity to jump-start their coding skills and become proficient in other areas of modern computer technology.

The high-tech headquarters — located on 4th Ave N in downtown Birmingham — that was shown on Thursday will be the base of operations. Through partnerships, Ed Farm aims to make its way into local classrooms and workforce training programs.

The venture has three main offerings at the start, one each for students, teachers, and adult learners.

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The City of Birmingham, Apple Inc. and the Alabama Power Foundation were identified at the ceremony as the three main sources of funding for the new initiative. In addition to money, Apple is contributing devices, software, and technical support for the program. Apple’s gifts are part of the company’s Community Education Initiative.

The financial conduit that aggregates the funding and hosts Ed Farm is the 501(c)3 organization TechAlabama. TechAlabama, which grew out of TechBirmingham, has been around since 2002 and invests in initiatives that advance Alabamians’ ability to learn about technology.

Mayor Woodfin and other leaders receive a brief lesson in coding (Henry Thornton/YHN)

Woodfin said in his remarks, “We’ll be opening doors for both children, as well as adults to explore careers in technology, STEM, and coding.”

“Tim is one of us. He’s a native of Robertsdale, Alabama. He went to Auburn University, but we won’t hold that against him,” joked Woodfin in his introduction of Cook.

“Tech education is the key to unlocking opportunities for future generations,” began Cook.

“Education is in Apple’s DNA, and Alabama is in mine,” he added.

“By creating this community hub, and by giving teachers the tools and skills to bring coding and creativity lessons in their classrooms, we can make a ripple in a much bigger pond. Ed farm is helping us achieve that,” Cook continued.

The three offerings Ed Farm has publicized are named Teacher Fellows, Student Fellows and the Pathways program.

The Teacher Fellows program has been underway the longest. Since 2019, a group of 25 Birmingham City Schools teachers spread across 13 schools have been undergoing training for how to best bring coding and other computing lessons into the classroom. Ed Farm has provided them with curriculum support and technology for their classrooms.

Ed Farm plans to bring in more groups of teachers in the future to continue the growth of computer-science lessons in Alabama’s schools.

The Student Fellows program is aimed at Birmingham students in middle and high school. The goal is for students to be given a technical challenge at the beginning of the year that they learn to solve over time.

Tim Cook looks on as students are given an introductory lesson in coding. (Henry Thornton/YHN)

The Pathways program is designed to serve adults in the greater Birmingham area. Free 11-week classes will be offered at the Ed Farm headquarters where adults can learn how to develop apps and code in Apple’s Swift programming language. Successful participants will receive assistance in being placed at an institution like Lawson State Community College that can provide a pathway to receiving a postsecondary credential.

The Birmingham headquarters of Ed Farm will have an open doors policy for those interested in learning more. Ed Farm’s website lists five employees for the beginning of the location.

Woodfin told the press after the event that the Ed Farm initiative can be traced to a trip Birmingham leaders took to Chicago in 2018. They saw a partnership the Windy City had with Apple, and began a relationship with the tech company that culminated in Ed Farm.

Deon Gordon is a Birmingham City Schools alum and the president of TechBirmingham, the parent organization of Ed Farm.

He remarked about Ed Farm, “Is it a coding initiative? Yes. And is it a workforce development plan? It is that too. But at the end of the day, it is an idea, an idea as big as Birmingham’s founding. The idea that we don’t just have to just survive the fourth industrial revolution, we can thrive in it.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

14 hours ago

Birmingham’s inland port gets state grant for capital improvements — ‘Sleeping giant’

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) has announced that the Birmingham-Jefferson County Port Authority will receive $840,000 for inland port capital improvement initiatives.

The grant is being awarded through the Alabama Inland Port Infrastructure Program, which focuses on capital improvement initiatives such as activities to facilitate and coordinate inland port development, improvement, maintenance, onsite storage, moorings and construction. You can view the grant application, entitled “Project Locus,” here.

The entire Jefferson County state legislative delegation applauded the news of the grant in statements on Thursday.

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Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said, “This is welcome news for all of Jefferson County. Because the port has access to the Port of Mobile and the Gulf of Mexico, if the Birmingham port is thriving that means that all of Alabama is thriving.”

“These improvements will ensure that the port is viable and helpful to commerce in Alabama for decades to come,” he added.

Senator Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham) thanked ADECA for the funding through the Alabama Inland Port Infrastructure Program.

“We are excited to open up economic trade in Central Alabama and West Jefferson County with the port in Birmingham. This waterway leads to the Gulf and gives access to all major interstates and railroads. It will be an economic boost like U.S. Steel was in Central Alabama,” Coleman-Madison remarked.

Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia) expressed excitement about the new opportunities that this project will foster.

“I think the upgrading of the Birmingham Port will bring new life to Birmingham. It has been a sleeping giant for too long. The Port of Birmingham gives water access to the Port of Mobile, which will open up numerous opportunities,” Waggoner advised.

Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) outlined how the improvements would help the Birmingham area.

“I think this is wonderful for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Port Authority, because it gets us started with our efforts to improve the infrastructure,” he explained. “It will mean more commerce, more jobs for our district, and an increase in our tax base for the county.”

Senator Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) highlighted his enthusiasm about the growth that ADECA’s funding will bring to Birmingham.

“This funding will bring about a new era to revitalize and grow the city of Birmingham. It will lead to new opportunities that will boost Birmingham forward by expanding its capacity for exports to Mobile and beyond,” Shelnutt stated.

Senator Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) was also very appreciative of all the cooperation throughout city, county and state governments that made the grant successful.

“This is something where the Jefferson County delegation, county commission, mayor and city council have spoken with one voice. If we can continue to work together, there is no limit on what we can accomplish. I sincerely hope this is the first of many accomplishments that working together will achieve,” Roberts concluded.

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

15 hours ago

Senate committee advances bill to trim death penalty appeals

A legislative committee has approved a bill that would shorten appeals in death penalty cases.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill by State Sen. Cam Ward on a 4-3 vote.

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It moves to the full Senate.

The legislation would remove having appeals considered by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and instead send them straight to the state supreme court.

Ward said he believes condemned inmates still had plenty of avenues to appeal their cases, including the federal courts.

The proposal drew criticism from a defense lawyer who said inmates have been exonerated but those cases took years.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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