Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Monday, May 30, 2011

Deconstructing 'Road Man' Hubbard

Representative Mike Hubbard-R receives praise from USS Steel's Paul Vercher for his voice of support in the $90 million a mile Northern Beltline project. Hubbard has been a harsh critic of federal handouts, so why is he talking out of both sides of his pothole now?  
"The people of this great country – and especially here in Alabama - know that the greatest success is when you accomplish it on your own – not with a handout. If that is not enough for the American people to stomach, there are rumblings in Washington of a possible additional round of economic stimulus. The spending is reeling out of control. It’s like eating potato chips – "you can’t have just one." How in their right (or left) minds do these Democrats in Washington think we are going to pay for all of this?" Representative Mike Hubbard-R April 18, 2009
A letter to the editor in the May 29th edition of the Birmingham News "applauds state representative Mike Hubbard's support" of the boondoggle of an idea known as the Northern Beltline. With the financial cost nearing $5 billion for a 52 mile road as America faces a record deficit, wouldn't it make more sense to just say no to that pricey bag of chips?

Senator Shelby, Representative Bachus and Alabama House of Representatives Speaker Mike Hubbard seem unable to resist dipping their salty hands into the federal bag while saying "We must rein in out of control federal spending!"
Why are our state republicans so quick to attack federal handouts when it yields political points, but sorely lacking in the same convictions when it involves one of their own federally funded pet projects? Look no further than the large campaign contributors such as Drummond and USS Steel. Both of these private corporations are large landholders with thousands of acres in the Northern Beltline route.

They'll make millions from the deal and they'll be generous around election time. 
The history of the NB has been controversial from the start. It falls under the "cost to complete system" that ensures the federal stream of money keeps flowing for years, and states keep it moving by "building these roads as expensively as possible."

But here's another aspect to federal transportation dollars allotment--earmarks for pet projects often have a reduction effect on the calculated amounts states receive. Lawmakers cannot resist loading up transportation bills with all kinds of pork and when they do, less money is handed out by the government. USA Today wrote about this in a special report from January 2011 entitled 'Earmarks' to Nowhere: States losing billions:

The federal government treats an unspent earmark like an undated check that could be cashed at any time. It affects the federal budget only if it's cashed. Nevertheless, because lawmakers inserted some of the earmarks into particular sections of transportation bills, many of the orphan earmarks also count against a state's share of federal highway funds and have taken billions of dollars away from state transportation departments across the nation
During the past 20 years, orphan earmarks reduced the amount of money that states would have received in federal highway funding by about $7.5 billion, USA TODAY found. That's $7.5 billion that states could have used to replace obsolete bridges, repair aging roads and bring jobs to rural areas.
Another point that’s important to note in the story is that some states think a better use of the federal money would be to take care of what they already have such as "crumbling bridges and roads to make highways safer." They ‘get it’ and realize maintaining their existing infrastructure system is just as important, if not more so, than adding new roads to an aged system in disrepair.
In typical Alabama fashion, good sense always veers off the road and straight into the tree of political rotten apples every time--throw the stink of blame at federal government and not at our own politicians culpability in this mess who load up transportation bills with their own goodies.

In an article from March 2011, Billy Norrell, the executive director of the Alabama Road Builders Association (ARBA), blames the federal government  for "kicking the can down the road" in the lack of federal highway dollars, selectively leaving out the fact that earmarks in transportation bills might be the bigger culprit.
Mr. Norrell seems to be reading from the same playbook of altered facts to support my side of it that Mr. Hubbard is so fond of--never question a republican when the government or a democrat is nearby to hurl under the bus.
Alabama, by its own admission, does not have a reputation of good infrastructure-- its roads and highways have been described as "in a desperate state of disrepair that is stunting economic growth." In 2010, Alabama's interstates proved to be deadly for a South Carolina woman, who was killed by a chunk of flying concrete from a pothole in a badly deteriorated section of I-20 near the Georgia line.

The state quickly settled with the family because of a "serious risk" of losing the case, and then turned right around and caved into the road lobbyists demands and limited the time of liability if the same thing ever happens again. Alabama HB 9 was written to allow near total immunity from accountability in court for companies entrusted with public tax dollars to build our highways in Alabama. 

The bill was introduced and quickly signed into law in one day according to records from OpenBama.org. 
That's moving at lightning fast speed no matter who you ask. Rarely does any bill move through the mire in Montgomery that quickly without the strength of huge political muscle behind it (ARBA) and we find it interesting that not one citizen, who might be hurt or killed on Alabama's highways, was allowed a voice in the process.

All of this seems to point to an inability by the "new day" republicans to adhere to truth in their campaigning, and the catch phrase of "We will work for you citizens of Alabama" wasn't worth the hot air it took to speak it. These political mules are not really motivated to rein in out of control federal spending if it costs them potential hefty campaign donors. 

This kind of behavior gives additional credence to the increasing criticism of who they are really handshaking with--their corporate campaign contributors.
No wonder Mr. Hubbard came up with the inane suggestion of locking down the statehouse to the public earlier this year, citing security concerns in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting--if he keeps going like this he can expect to answer some questions from angry constituents. 

Restricting access of the people's house quickly blew up in Hubbard's face, and he was forced to abandon the idea and fall back on the "new day" chant of "greater accountability." That didn’t go so well either. Alabama Democratic Chairman Mark Kennedy summed it up brilliantly:

“After 136 years of open door policies under Democratic leadership, a new day of Republican control has dawned in the Alabama Legislature, but the sun isn't shining," he said.
That "new day" mantra is more of a dictatorial agreement than handshake: 'You elected me so I have a mandate to do whatever the hell I want to.' Overstepping has become the latest line dance on Goat Hill and everybody hoofs it to the republicans call.

Representative Hubbard makes a good partial point in his opening statement of the ability to pay for federal projects, but he has it purposefully upside down because his argument is designed to deride the federal government in a specific area and throw red meat to the faithful. Federal spending is bad when it's for social programs and the average Joe, but encouraged and justified when it benefits corporate interests. And certain politicians.
We'd like to know how Mr. Hubbard justifies burdening this state, flailing in the throes of a serious economic crunch itself, to pay for its share of the Northern Beltline with possibly 32 long years worth of appropriations? That's not just fuzzy math, that's a hulking wooly beast of financial foolishness.

We would also like to ask him why the state chose to hurry up a bill designed to shield private road builders from future liability resulting from shoddy work, rather than do what would be in the best interest of Alabama as a whole: use the federal highway dollars to make our existing roads better and safer before we embark on building new ones.

This party of the people and government accountability is looking pretty shoddy from our catbird seat and the sign we see in the distance on the road to truth in Montgomery reads "Caution: Potholes Ahead-- Four Year Deconstruction Zone."

*Note--HB9 changed to a different form with HB132 including more detail and specificity for absolving road-builder liability and did pass the legislature during the 2011 session.
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  1. Follow the money it always leads you to the truth.
    This project is designed to make special interests happy and fat period. Our lawmakers are not good for much else.

  2. Alabama loves its outdated and expensive ideas.
    Especially when you get both in scheme.

  3. If it weren't for Riley we probably wouldn't have ever had Hubbard. Just more to be so proud of from that crooked hair hat.

  4. Just "Potholes Ahead" would have worked too. There's not a smooth, straight stretch of good anything in Montgomery except for the short route from lobbyists hands to politician
    s pockets!

  5. All I see in that letter is one big jobs chant.
    What I don't see is Mr. Vercher and full disclosure on his intere$t$.
    "Chairman of the CRT"
    C'mon now Paulie, we know who you and what you are, are you ass-uming we don't?

  6. Remember this Clintonesque side step from Hubbard on the pay raise?

    Now we know. Republican legislative candidates beat up their opponents last year over a 61 percent pay raise because it made for fine campaign strategy.

    It had nothing to do with the Republicans elected to the Legislature actually wanting to repeal the pay raise lawmakers approved for themselves in 2007. Don't take our word for it. Take Mike Hubbard's.

    "We never promised we would roll back the pay raise when we were running," Hubbard, an Auburn Republican and speaker of the House of Representatives, said to The Associated Press. "We simply said we disagreed with the process by which it was passed."

    Now we know. It was all about the process, not the pay.

    He's just as smarmy as his buddy Riley!

  7. Of course the legislature wants to protect the road builders and their deep pockets!!
    I didn't know the bill moved that fast though, that's kind of scary, but everything about Goat Hill is.
    We have way too many lawyers sitting in the legislature. They will always protect each other and corporate interests first, while they work against the people's interests.

  8. i'myourhuckleberryMay 30, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    State of Alabama and Road Gang---"Hey boys we can't let a citizen sue us again for road conditions, can you write us a law real quick like?"

    Lone voice of reason--"Well how about we make sure the roads are in good shape and there won't be a problem."

    State of Alabama and Road Gang--"You're new in the legislature aren't you?"

    Lone Voice of reason--"Why yes I am and I look forward to serving the people of this great state for some time to come."

    State of Alabama and Road Gang--"Sure you do son." (condescending laughter)

    Lone voice of reason--silenced.

  9. Great work if you can get it.
    Get yourself elected to the legislature, walk in a farmer and come out a millionaire.
    There isn't a dimes worth of difference between dems and repubs in Alabama. They're all worthless as a plug nickel.

  10. "In typical Alabama fashion, good sense always veers off the road and straight into the tree of political rotten apples every time."

    What's with all the food references in Hubbard's statement? Weird.

  11. Next governor's race I bet we'll see Hubbard, Strange and Riley (maybe) figure prominently.
    Hubbard and Brother Riley are already showing their hand with their attempt to split the party into two separate factions.
    If I were a challenger, I would take that quote on the pay raise by Hubbard and make an attack ad out of it in a minute.
    Even the simplest minded person can see what doublespeak BS he is spinning.

  12. There was a time when I though Mike was a decent fellow. His actions have caused me to revisit that feeling and open my eyes to what he's all about. Himself.

  13. chittychittybangbangMay 30, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    Republicans are the enablers of corporate welfare and they get worse daily. Slash Medicare, disaster relief/weather warning budges, no regulation enforcement on WS/banking, fight against consumer protections, abolish the EPA.

    Meanwhile you big oil boys, insurance companies (to replace Medicaid) and ARTBA step on on here and get you some more chips!

  14. Hubbard is Riley Part III.
    Enough said.

  15. Excellent article. Certainly sheds light on who is buttering some politicians bread. As a taxpayer I say repair our current infrastructure. I am tired of my hard earned money being exploited by corporations and our legislators.

  16. Such a good article and great research. FIX OUR ROADS FIRST! And while you're at it, FIX our politicians! Well, I can dream!

  17. Dreaming is much better than opening your eyes and seeing a living nightmare!
    USA Today article is interesting. Wonder why I have never seen that in Alabama press? Maybe a little to scrutinizing of Senator Shelby's porking?


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