Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Politics of Mean--Republicans and Tea Party PSC Candidate Kathy Peterson Ridicule Democrat Lucy Baxley

"I don't think she's in a position health-wise to do what is in the best interest of the people of Alabama."--Kathy Peterson wife of failed Alabama Ag Commissioner candidate Dale Peterson

Who knew that the Koch Tea Party Llama lady would assign herself to be as qualified as a neurosurgeon to make a diagnosis on the health of PSC member and stroke victim Lucy Baxley? Mrs. Peterson wants the voting public to believe that her opinion outweighs the professional medical opinion of Baxley's doctors, including neurologists, who are always at the forefront of stroke victims medical needs and post injury care.

Peterson has kicked off her campaign from way down in the gutter of mean politics.

Kathy Peterson wants Baxley's seat so she can get the "EPA gorilla off our backs" and "help the utilities be successful."  Maybe Mrs. Peterson hasn't noticed the immense profit machine that is Alabama Power (APCO) and what those profits pay for, then again maybe she has, and the lure of loads of campaign cash is too good to resist cheer-leading for:
The cost of influence is high. And nobody buys it like Alabama Power Co.
Alabama Power spends almost $20 million a year to sway public or political opinion, federal documents show.
The purpose of the Alabama PSC is to "ensure a regulatory balance between regulated companies and consumers in order to provide consumers with safe, adequate and reliable services at rates that are equitable and economical." If anyone is confused in this equation it's not the 74 year-old Baxley as Peterson suggests, it's the younger and more corporate friendly challenger herself.
Lucy Baxley
 Peterson's assessment of the wheelchair-bound Mrs. Baxley is mean-spirited and totally uncalled for. Debate Baxley on the issues and leave the personal attacks about her health and physical status out of the discussion. We'll offer you a word of caution on that just because we're feeling momentarily charitable Mrs. Peterson--you may want to get your talking points from somewhere other than what Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh tried this past January.

Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, always delighted to serve her corporate masters before the citizens of Alabama, is joining Peterson's mean girl gang, and taking her turn at a Baxley beating that's couched in a more politically correct statement than Peterson's acerbic remark:
Public Service Commission member Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, a Republican who narrowly lost the 2008 race to Baxley, is considering running for president but hasn't made a decision.
"It is good to hear that Commissioner Baxley feels her health would allow her to serve another term on the Public Service Commission. But, as the only remaining Democrat elected statewide in Alabama, I'm sure she will face strong opposition and a vigorous campaign," the 45-year-old commissioner said Tuesday. 
Note how she says "it's good to hear that Commissioner Baxley feels her health would allow her to serve another term..." like that truly is good news to Alabama Power's favorite twinkling twit, who gets her talking points from APCO power point presentations, and then takes to the editorial pages to strike fear into the hearts of Alabama ratepayers (and voters!) Cavanaugh ran a nasty campaign against Baxley in 2008 and we don't believe for a minute that she's harboring anything good towards Baxley unless it's good riddance.

The Twinker Cavanaugh
Judging from the early positions of Cavanaugh and Peterson, we believe it's safe to presume that these two compassionate Christian women haven't been paying enough attention to their ever-ready bibles. Their Christ is a corporate deity who does not subscribe to the gentility of decorum towards the disadvantaged. It's disgusting to watch personal, hate-filled partisan politics enter into the arena for this PSC position, especially from women.

Mrs. Baxley has different political views from the republicans admittedly, and that makes her fair game for a contentious campaign--but to stoop so low as to question her health for the race in the public eye is beyond the pale.

Baxley's doctors have cleared her for campaigning and her disability in physical strength has no bearing on her mental facilities to continue in her position at the PSC:
The 74-year-old Baxley, who uses a wheelchair because of a stroke in 2006, said her doctors have told her that she is healthy enough to run a statewide race and serve four more years:
"The doctors told me it didn't affect my heart and brain. You use your heart and brain to serve the public," she said. 
We suspect that the two mean girls are attempting to portray Baxley as a weak, dottering old woman unable to do anything for the people of Alabama other than drool out a few statements here and there. 

State GOP head Bill Armistead hasn't put his hoof in his mouth yet but he's signaling the fight for Baxley's seat is going to be an all out war:
State Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said the ALGOP is making Baxley's defeat a priority, and the normally low-profile race for the utility regulatory board should become one of the premier races in Alabama in 2012.
"We will run a vigorous campaign to make Alabama redder than it's ever been," Armistead said. 
Kathy's husband, Dale Peterson, is on the bought and paid for Koch candidate Herman Cain train with gusto making the Peterson's the latest addition to the Koch family values. They're the antithesis of the qualities the Tea Party claims as part of their core values: honesty, integrity and sincerity just to name a few:
Bloomberg.com--For six decades around the world, Koch Industries has blazed a path to riches -- in part, by making illicit payments to win contracts, trading with a terrorist state, fixing prices, neglecting safety and ignoring environmental regulations. At the same time, Charles and David Koch have promoted a form of government that interferes less with company actions. 
That form of government roots itself in the Tea Party, the political platform (with a lot of Shelby County republican mixed in) of PSC candidate Kathy Peterson. In the state of Alabama, the Tea Party and republicans are closely aligned, despite most TP'ers claiming disappointment with the republican party.  It seems they do agree on one thing in the race for the Alabama PSC seat currently held by Baxley: come out swinging, hit below the belt and don't be afraid to get mean for the team.

Take a look at the following video and imagine the kind of world Kathy Peterson, the Tea Party and most republicans are campaigning for. It's the world according to Koch, but at least there will jobs right?

So Say We The Opinion Board Of The Vincent Alabama Confidential

Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Circuit Court Rules Against Conecuh Woods Landfill Developers Motions

In a ruling filed October 25th, Conecuh County Circuit Judge Burt Smithhart handed the Town of Repton and their feisty Mayor, Terri Carter, a huge victory against the 5,100 acre landfill development planned for the area.

Opposition to the landfill has been fierce from the Mayor and a well-organized citizen group who can breathe a little easier for a few reasons now. The war is not over by a long shot, but this battle is squarely in the victory column for the citizens.

Not bad for a town whose population was only 261 in July of 2007. We should note that citizens report to us that Senator Richard Shelby and Balch & Bingham have been instrumental in aiding the citizen opposition group.

We're hopeful for once, in both of their careers, that these two very unexpected allies will remain on the right side of this issue, and not be up to any of their usual tricks that could spell big trouble for this small community.

Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Monday, October 24, 2011

Disappearing Ink—Al.com Vaporizes Montgomery Independent Story Critical of House Speaker Hubbard’s Planned Book “Storm in the State House”

I'm David Azbell and I want to thank the public for the cigar and the Texas trip.

*Breaking update: 10/26 9:10 CST--Martin republishes his article and a lot more: "State Agencies Bow to Speaker" (Link broken, story pulled. ???)

If you blinked you missed it--a really good story from The Montgomery Independent that is.

For a brief time on October 21, 2011, a potentially explosive story ran on Al.com entitled “Researcher For Hubbard Book Paid By House.” The Montgomery Independent authored the story, based on information from Inside Alabama Politics, that revealed David Azbell of Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross had collected $136,000 of public money via an authorization from the Alabama House of Representatives and presumably green-lighted from the likely source of Mike Hubbard.

Azbell had been (and may still be) acting as a consultant with Hubbard on the book and assigned the duties of “research, editing and writing.” From 2007 until March of this year, Azbell was collecting $2,000 per month for “public relations work for the House Republican Caucus ."  In March of 2011, the sum jumped four fold to $8,000 per month for duties unclear to the Montgomery Independent before deadline of the story prior to the October 21st publication.

As suddenly as the story appeared, it quickly disappeared.

Here’s what *originally ran:

Researcher for Hubbard book paid by House
Published: Friday, October 21, 2011, 12:27 PM  Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011, 12:37 PM
By Alabama’s State Capital News Source (The Montgomery Independent)

Last month the political newsletter Inside Alabama Politics reported that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard of Auburn had turned his attention earlier this year to writing a book on the rise of the Republican Party in Alabama.
The planned title is “Storm in the State House” and will be published by New South Books of Montgomery. Hubbard said the planned publication date is next January.
The speaker was quoted as saying that the book would document the Republican takeover of the State Legislature in the 2010 elections. That ended a 136-year by Democrats in control of the lawmaking process in Alabama.
“It (the book) starts when I became party chairman in 2007 and goes through the 2010 election, the 2011 legislative session and the passage of our Handshake with Alabama package of legislation,” Hubbard said.
Former Riley administration Press Secretary David Azbell is helping Hubbard with research, writing and editing. Azbell is a founding partner of Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross (SAHR), a governmental and political affairs firm located in Montgomery. He also worked in the press office of former Gov. Fob James and has worked for the late Gov. George Wallace. His father, the late Joe Azbell, was a longtime columnist for The Montgomery Independent.
Since about the time of Hubbard’s rise as GOP chairman in Alabama in 2007 through this past February,  an LLC by the name of Azbell Communications and incorporated by David Azbell, has been paid $2,000 per month by the House of Representatives to do public relations work for the House Republican Caucus. That amount totaled $80,000, according to state records. In January of this year that job moved to someone else.
Then suddenly, this past March, the payment by the House of Representatives to Azbell Communications increased to $8,000 per month. Through August of this year state records show that Azbell Communications had been paid $56,000.
The Independent was unable to confirm by deadline this week the nature of the services Azbell Communications performs for the public body over which Rep. Hubbard presides.
But the book is on the way.

*(Google cached link. Bing.com cached link no longer works. Google's may also go inactive.) 

This story has all the smarmy factor of the arrangement that Representative Barry Mask-R had with lobbyist Steve Windom in which Mask received $10,000-$50,000 annually from Windom for “client referrals.” Mask was excused for his 'transgression' by the Alabama Ethics Commission because the deal “was in place before he was a member of the legislature.”

The public response to the Mask revelation was not kind and we suspect Hubbard was (and is) not willing to submit himself to the same type of criticism. The question in our minds is: Did he have anything to do with the rapid disappearance of the story? Someone made the call to pull it from the Al.com website, who was it? And why?

Azbell’s deal with Hubbard seems to suggest that cronyism is alive and well in the republican controlled state house despite Mike Hubbard himself lambasting the democrats for the same sins the ‘shakedown Alabama’ crowd, led by the virtuous as a pole cat Hubbard, are perpetrating against the public:
“For the past 136 years, Alabama Democrats have held the majority in both the Alabama House and Senate. And what have we gotten in return? They have given us a substandard education system, rampant government corruption, wasteful spending…” "If you believe… our public officials are honest and squeaky clean and all of your hard-earned tax dollars are being spent wisely, nothing I can write in this column can convince you we need a change."
The winds of change Mr. Hubbard and the republicans promised Alabamians aren't the cleansing breezes heralding a "new day of ethics and accountability in Alabama." What they really are are the same old ill winds that have blown unabated through Alabama politics for decades.

Hubbard was right about one thing--we do need a change, but we got shorted on our investment by putting our faith in Hubbard and Co. Perhaps he has a good explanation for using taxpayer money to publish his rah rah propaganda book, but we're hard pressed to imagine one no matter how you look at it.

(How much of the total amount paid to Azbell that's directly tied to Hubbard's book is indeterminable at this time.)

Hubbard's choice of Azbell and the timeline of his 'contract' with the House is interesting to ponder. According to the Montgomery Independent story, Hubbard's book has been in the works since 2007. Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross formed their political powerhouse group that same year touting itself as an organization of "credibility, integrity and ethics that we think is important in this new day in Montgomery" and who think they are "better" than anyone else at "tackling this thing" known as Alabama politics:

The head of this group, Dax Swatek, has some issues with ethics and integrity that Legal Schnauzer covered in a recent article on his blog:
A group called the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) has received $13.1 million from an "at-risk fund" controlled by State Superintendent Joe Morton. And who handles lobbying efforts for CLAS? Why, it's the new Montgomery outfit called Swatek Azebll Howe and Ross (SAHR), whose members have held prominent roles in Alabama Republican politics.
Schnauzer referenced a story by the seasoned journalist, Bob Lowry, formerly of the Huntsville Times, who uncovered the $13.1 million dollar "wasteful spending" that also had lingering ties to House Speaker Hubbard through his former partner, Brian Schulman, Auburn Network, Inc. and Learning Through Sports:
The software company, Learning Through Sports Inc., was formerly a partnership between Brian Shulman, a former Auburn football player, and Auburn Network Inc., a multimedia company owned by House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn.
While we're on the subject of Bob Lowry, something odd happened on the way to his abrupt dismissal--Mike Hubbard rolled through the area right before it occurred. Schnauzer has some thoughts on what may have happened that ended the Alabama career of this talented investigative journalist:
"...Lowry was perhaps the only mainstream journalist in Alabama who reported seriously and wrote critically about the Bob Riley administration. It has been reported in several venues that Riley contacted higher ups at the Huntsville paper in an effort to get Lowry off his back."
"...Lowry has written critically about state representative Mike Hubbard, a staunch Riley ally and now speaker of the Alabama House. In early August, Hubbard made a well-publicized trip to Huntsville for a speech and a tour of high-tech facilities. Not long after that, word leaked about the Times' plans to close the Montgomery bureau and send Bob Lowry packing."
Perusing a list of some of the stories from Mr. Lowry's tenure at the Huntsville Times shows he was hounding our politicians antics, and holding them up to public accountability with the well-honed nose of an experienced journalist who knows how to sniff out the facts. He was on to some hot trails in 2011 and the republican hypocrisy was a frequent target of his keen senses.

Then, just like the Montgomery Independent story, he disappeared. There was no announcement by the former employers he helped lend credibility to despite the fact that Lowry was among the reasons the Huntsville Times received 24 AP awards in 2008 and 4 top writing awards in 2009.
An oddly prophetic picture of Lowry sitting in Alabama's infamous electric chair "Yellow Mama"
What's going on in Alabama journalism? Have our news outlets become proof that the Propoganda Model (i.e Fifth Estate) Herman and Chomsky wrote about is alive and well?
The Propoganda Model traces the route by which money and power and able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalise dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their message across to the public. The essential ingredients of our propaganda model, or set of news "filters" fall under the following headings: (1) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business and "exports" funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) "flak" as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) "anti-communism" as a national religion and control mechanism. These elements interact with and reinforce one another. The raw material of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print. They fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and operations of what amounts to propaganda campaigns.'
What about our self-professed virtuous, conservative politicians? Haven't they shown us that there isn't one thin dimes' worth of difference between republicans and democrats in Alabama? And why is the state media, more often than not these days, such willing accomplices in covering for their misdeeds?

This move by Al.com strikes yet another body blow to public interest media.

"All the news that's fit" to print is clearly a subjective stance. One that's based more in corporate and political interests ideas of what the public needs to know, not necessarily what they should know and have a right to know, about those who hold so much power over their lives through governance and political influence.

*CrooksandLiars.com 10/26--"Alabama Republicans Put Taxpayers Dollars to Work for Alabama Republicans"
*Update 10/25--Legal Schnauzer adds legs to the MI story 
*2nd Update 5:47 pm--Bob Sims, Director of Al.com forum 'defends' deletion:
From: Robert Sims <rsims@al.com>
Date: Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 12:20 PM
We are/were working on some of the backend structure of the web site and made changes to our structure in news, entertainment, sports and lifestyle sections late Friday.
The story was a casualty of this backend work.
As an aside, The Independent’s blog is among 26 that will be retired in coming days.
Bob Sims
Director of content
*photo credits: Lowry from his UPI related image files
                       Azbell from his own egotistical proclivities
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bronner pulls a few surprises from his hat - The Wetumpka Herald: Opinion

"Superman's" palace--RSA Boardroom
The Huntsville Times called it “the ultimate recycling project.”
I call it “the ultimate Hat Trick.”--Bob Martin--The Montgomery Independent

Luring National Steel Car (NSC) to Alabama was hailed as a "victory" by former Governor Bob Riley in 2007. It was a short-lived economic win because, as Mr. Martin writes, "the company defaulted" on their loans and Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) became the new owners.

"Waiting For Superman"

David Bronner is the CEO of RSA.

Bronner has turned the brim around on the bad hat deal and found a tenant for the site in Navistar. It's deal that best hold together more cohesively than the last go around with NSC for Bronner's sake, but is there more to the Navistar announcement than meets the eye? Will the company's move result in a draining of union jobs in their northeast locations to the non-union right-to-work state of Alabama?

Navistar's Melrose Park, Illinois facility is almost the same square footage of the never materialized NSC facility in Alabama. Former employees aren't real happy (admittedly there is the potential for bias in their reviews) and describe the company as "stuck in the old ways...disorganized and less professional than competitors" along with this less-than-glowing accolade of the corporate environment at the Melrose Park location:
If you're a hard worker then management is more than happy to work the life out of you. Hard work, talent, and accomplishment as a rule do not lead to promotions, recognition, or advancement. The path to management is too often being loudest, brashest, most cut-throat person, not the most talented. Workplace politics, gossiping and rumors are excessive.
(Source: Glassdoor.com)
If there's one thing we don't need in Alabama, it's the presence of another oligarchic corporation made worse by the exploitative nature of wage suppressing right-to-work laws. Odds are Alabamians will be paid less than their union counterparts and be subject to the whims of management who will have a freer hand in taking advantage of workers.

Navistar recently announced on October 6th the loss of 186 jobs (only 27 are non-union) at its Ft. Wayne, Indiana facility:
– Fort Wayne will have 186 fewer jobs by the end of the year.
Navistar International Corp. on Wednesday notified the state of plans to eliminate 106 union positions and 27 non-union jobs by Dec. 31.
The cuts are scheduled to begin Dec. 2.
The company cites consolidation to its Chicago location, but the timing is a bit coincidental in light of the Alabama move in our opinion.

Republicans control Alabama on all levels of government and their disdain for unions is no secret--they've convinced the public (with the help of 'all right wing all the time' state radio) that unions are only a notch above chicken droppings in terms of value to society and companies interested in locating in Alabama:
(Governor) ...Bentley laid out an economic strategy that he said is designed to recruit new industry and help existing businesses to expand.
One of the keys to job growth, he said, is Alabama's status as a right-to-work state. That status makes it difficult for labor unions to organize, because workers are not required to join a union as a condition of employment.
"There are companies across the world that won't even consider you unless you're a right-to-work state," he said. "Your Asian companies, they won't even talk to you. So they're not going to Michigan. They're not going to the Northeast. They're coming to Alabama, and we're happy to have them."
Workers who belong to unions, however, have a different value determinant, and believe that union protection against corporate exploitation keeps them from being covered in droppings in terms of wages, rights, legislative representation and worker benefits.

If Navistar saves this NSC site from just being an expensive "rent house" for the RSA, then kudos to Bronner, but we'll have to wait and see if the workers join in on the Bronner "superman" acclaim.

David Bronner's annual salary of $611,000.00 makes him the highest paid state employee on the rolls. 

He should be capable of more than a hat trick or two at that taxpayer funded price!

Revolving Doors

Martin goes on to alert us to what he calls a "Montgomery Surprise." Leura Canary, former US Atty. for the Middle District of Alabama, has a new gig courtesy of Bronner (and Alabama taxpayer money) and she's joining Bronner's team of persuaders to better position RSA wants with the legislature's law making powers.

No need to hold the door for folks in positions of power in Alabama--many of them, like our former-governor-turned-lobbyist, tread easily on moving sidewalks leading to revolving doors of inside influence at the drop of a hat.
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe in a reader

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Devil Went Down to Gurley

What's the difference between the Devil and Brian McCord...? The Devil doesn't think he's Brian McCord.

Update 12/13--Justice denied to Gurley. McCord prevails, town readies for appeal and bankruptcy filing

The Town of Gurley, Alabama is on the verge of bankruptcy after a multimillion dollar ruling of $4.9 million in favor of M&N Materials was awarded to the company. The judgement is the near-end result of a long, contentious battle to develop a quarry in the small north Alabama town of less than 1000 people. 

It's a sad end to a brave fight described by one reporter as similar to a scene from a "Hollywood environmental film."

Company founders, Brian McCord and Brian Nelson, are "elated" with the jury verdict and a further ruling by District Court Judge Karen Hall, who piled on more injury in the form of an additional $1.1 million judgement against the Town of Gurley to cover M&N's legal fees.

Gurley's annual revenue is only $850,000.00 and the town is now forced to prepare for the worst, bankruptcy, to continue to pay its debts and provide essential services to the residents. Unless Judge Hall comes to her senses and overturns the judgement and/or orders a new trial. 

Oral arguments will be heard in Judge Hall's court October 13th on the ruling.

Gurley has fought hard for its town. They did not (and still do not) want to become an industrial community. Citizens tell us that former Distinct 22 Representative Albert Hall, (now deceased) fought right alongside with them, and managed to get a Annexation Bill through the legislature and onto former Governor Riley's desk that allowed the town to annex in the M&N property from outside the city limits. (HB170--2004) In effect, stopping the quarry dead in its tracks.

'Devil' McCord fought back and presented his own petition to the Town Council who rejected it after less than one hour. McCord had a big fish on the line in Vulcan Materials, who had an option to buy the property for $3.75 million. After the legislative and council actions, Vulcan chose to let their option expire and the end selling price was much less than McCord had counted on--$1 million.

Construction is McCord's game and he was making bank on his heavy truck fleet getting the contract to haul material from the site, in addition to making millions from the land sale to Vulcan. (It's important to note that M&N paid $500K for the 269 acres and the price they eventually got was double their initial investment--a good return by most standards.) The 'Devil from Gurley' was not happy when his intentions were thwarted by the will of the people.

McCord decided to make Gurley pay and pay BIG. One man, a young man at 34 years of age, condemned an entire town to bend to his black-hearted greed: 'If I can't have what I want then I am going to break you and break this town.' We can imagine that's what he said based on what we've heard from the area. Sources also tell us McCord is 'suit happy' and has "sued everybody in his family."

What happens to a man, early in life, that makes him so evil he would sacrifice the well-being of an entire community and their children in his lust for money? And why has he prevailed so far? 

We hear from insiders the jury was made up of "people from Madison County we didn't know" and there wasn't a Gurley resident among them. Madison County is a big county and we hope the jury was fair and able to fully understand the seriousness of their decision.

Our opinion is they weren't and didn't. 

The judge is the only one who can intervene in the mess now and lots of lives depend on her decision. Bankruptcy will destroy the town financially, a town already in financial dire straits over sewer and waste-water debts they were struggling to meet before the hellish judgement from the jury and Judge Hall's bench.

But Gurley has an even bigger problem now because the powerful and deep-pocketed Vulcan Materials owns the site. Vulcan rarely loses, and if the company is determined to open a quarry on the site, then odds are they'll do just that and Gurley will be forever changed.

With the death of Rep. Hall, Gurley has no friends in the legislature willing to help, despite the fact that five could. When the 2004 Annexation Bill came up for signatures, Senator Arthur Orr-R refused to sign it, offering this as his excuse: "I'm not signing it because they didn't vote for my bill." Nice going Senator Orr. It's comforting to know that you don't let petty politics get in the way of real political leadership, sir.

Where's the governor? Isn't he the same man who thinks "bankruptcy for Jefferson County would give all of Alabama a black eye?" Is it okay with you that small town Alabama goes bankrupt instead, governor? The legislature is going into special session to address Jefferson County's woes, who among the five representatives of the Madison County area will step up for Gurley?

Ask any of these men if they will:
Representative Wayne Johnson-R--District 22
US Representative Mo Brooks-R AL District 5
Senator Paul Sanford-R--District 7
Senator Shadrack McGill--R District 8
Senator Clay Scofield--R Distinct 9

Whatever happens, the Devil jumped up on a stump in small town north Alabama when McCord and Co. hoofed it in and it looks like they found more than a few souls to steal in the process.

So Say We The Opinion Board Of The Vincent Alabama Confidential
photo credit before revisions: Huntsville Times
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

The Faces of the Randolph County Commission--Racists (and felons)

*Updated--October 12th
WEDOWEE, Alabama — A county commissioner from east Alabama has resigned after being videotaped using a racial slur to describe black children.

Thomas "June" Waldrep submitted his resignation after this video was made public.

Does anyone believe the rest of the commission did not know what a racist he was is?

There's a separate video, as a selection choice after the one above plays, about "redistricting" in which Waldrep is running off at the mouth about a fellow black commissioner, Lathonia White, and he drops the "N" word again.

RCC Doug Sheppard-District 2 refused to accept an offer for one count of misdemeanor ethics violations in exchange for all fifteen felony counts being dropped against him.
*Update--A second RCC member facing 15 felony charges of ethics violations has also resigned his seat.
photo credit--The Randolph Leader 
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dr. Bentley's Rx: Deception--Costs and In-Depth Details of Elevated Highway 280 Plan Remain Hidden

Works of "art" or outdated concrete behemoths?
August 11, 2010 Stan Diel Birmingham News--Dr. Robert Bentley, the Republican candidate for governor in the November election, today said he favors building an elevated toll road over U.S. 280 to relieve congestion.

Governor "Dr. Dr." Bentley prides himself on his medical curriculum vitae and claims to be the "smartest man ever elected governor of Alabama." He's convinced himself he's just what Alabama needs and will cure all of our ills with his own brand of corporate-infused republican medicine. Especially our so-called current state budget crisis that's resulted in deep cuts to education, slashed social services and a gutting of numerous programs that directly affect regular folks who are struggling just to get by.
“Alabama is hurting, and we need a doctor,” Bentley, a former dermatologist from Tuscaloosa, told voters in last year’s campaign. Once he took office in January and looked at the patient — the budget — he said: “We’re a lot worse off than you think.”
Predictably, the usual suspects joined in the chorus of misery: Speaker of the House Mike 'Road Man' Hubbard and Senator Jabo "Clueless" Waggoner. Neither of these two political animals experiences life by the drop as most of Alabama does. The same public who did not create the mess are the ones being asked to bleed for the good of the state's insiders economic prosperity--i.e. private profit equals public pain.

The 'Dr. who can't' seems oblivious to the practice of good-for-the-folks medicine, because he refuses to end cronyism, despite promises to the contrary, and he's created a public-private merger through ADO and EDPA that in effect allows wealthy private corporations an all access pass to the state till and taxpayer's money. In addition to allowing the appointing of like-minded players to power positions within the framework of the organization and to state offices.

Creating a public-private partnership, and placing it in the hands of Alabama schemers, won't remedy our politician and corporate inflicted ills--in fact, they'll only worsen the sickness of corruption that got us into the state we're in now by allowing more insiders to walk away with millions in taxpayer money and leave communities holding the bag. Corruption, theft and abandonment of long-standing public policy are real possibilities in PPPs as they give rise to entities larger than the original government: they can become monstrous-sized power structures with a full stranglehold on democracy and public good.
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power” - Benito Mussolini
We're on a slippery slope that isn't going anywhere near the smaller government republicans swear they support.  Road building and economic development are the breeding grounds for these unholy alliances of state and corporate power. Foreign entities get in on the act too with groups like Cinta and Macquerie, who have been "nosing around in Alabama" looking for roads and bridges (Macquerie has one in Alabama already) to privatize and toll.

Will one of these two foreign investors own the Elevated Hwy 280 toll road? How can Alabama claim to pay for the project when the lion's share of toll fees will go out of the country? Isn't this selling off the state's infrastructure to the highest bidder? If the county a toll road runs through gets their hands on toll fees then Harris County, Texas should serve as a clear warning of the potential for misuse.
*(Must watch video at a republican campaign event in Texas of an audience member asking about PPP's and toll roads. The candidate sits down, a yes man jumps up, and with great animation addresses the audience member's query. Watch how quickly he evades real answers, executes a classic political bait and switch, and turns the argument into those "socialistic democrats" are the real problem lady!)

So many questions. So few demanding honest answers.

The special interests involved in the the antiquated Elevated Highway 280 plan are made up of some of these types of caballers: deep-pocketed campaign donors and selectively hand-picked beneficiaries of Alabama's supposedly hard-to-come-by greenbacks. Interests like the *road gang for one.
(*Section II-- "Who Is The Road Lobby?")

They're connected to Alabama's purse strings by way of Governors Riley and Bentley and consist of groups like: cement companies (ACPA SE, Cemex), an out-of-state engineering firm (Figg), and the strategically located likely road material supplier, White Rock Quarries (WRQ), who's set to blow the smithereens out of small town Vincent, Alabama. WRQ also just happens to be a subsidiary of the stinking rich Vecellio Group. Vecellio's subsidiaries include road building (Vecellio & Grogan is one of the largest in the nation) and asphalt companies among its corporate pool.

The coziness of certain players involved with the 280 idea and sheer coincidence of 'we do that too' is a bit too handy to discount as chance. Add to the mix that the second biggest take of the WRQ quarry profits goes straight into Shelby County's coffers, and their palpable disappointment that the project may not have gone forward starts to make a lot more sense to even a casual observer.

In March of 2010 ALDOT halted all work on the 280 project due to "a lack of consensus from local governments." Shelby County took a counter view to the Birmingham News and cried foul over the abrupt stoppage. (It's important to note that unchecked development by Shelby County created much of the traffic woes that exist on 280 today.) By the summer of 2010, after a full court press by certain entities working behind the scenes in all the cities that counted, from Jefferson to Shelby County, the project roared back to life as the must-build toll road to 'breathe life into our cities.'

Vincent's Mayor claimed the "town of Vincent cannot survive without the highway" and he used that claim to push through a fast vote on a resolution supporting the project. Does WRQ's Vincent Hills Quarry have anything to do with his fervent support and was he repeating instructed propaganda from BARD, who's creator and former Bentley transition team member, Stephen E. Bradley (Bradley & Associates), represents White Rock Quarries? Were Mr. Bradley and his BARD legal sidekick, Balch & Bingham lawyer Rob Fowler (also representing WRQ), the ones who led the charge to get as many cities on board as possible through those so-called supportive resolutions?

One other notable thread seems to run throughout the road gang and their high-minded ideas in Alabama: Figg Engineering.

CEO Linda Figg, who has close ties to Vecillio, suitably "impressed" former Governor Riley so much he put her company on the state dole in 2005. Figg has been raking in the megabucks from state coffers on projects around Alabama ever since, including the Hwy. 280 plan. She's a mover and shaker who carries substantial clout according to Concrete 2011:
Linda Figg: CEO Figg Engineering Group, Tallahassee, Florida, U.S.A. The Figg Group is a relatively small but highly influential consulting firm specialising in bridge engineering, with a portfolio of inspirational structures which have realised the company’s philosophy of ‘creating bridges as art.’
We would like to know why these special interest's projects, including the far from economically challenged Ms. Figg, don't seem to be suffering from the same "debridement procedure" that the good doctor governor is applying to programs that deeply hurt average and low-income Alabamians.

And why is ALDOT being evasive with their figures to Figg and others?

Queries have been made to ALDOT by numerous individuals asking for the full amount to date spent on (the now double its initial estimate of $800 million) the Elevated Highway 280 plan. So far, ALDOT is avoiding an honest answer. John Cooper, Director of Transportation for ALDOT, recently received the green light from Governor Bentley's ATRBTA board to "talk privately with an engineering company that (allegedly) came up with a lower cost estimate."
“Governor Robert Bentley believes transparency in government is critical to earning the trust of the people it serves.”
Bentley campaigned on that issue of transparency too. Yet, the board he chairs (and John Cooper sits on) thinks it's appropriate to conduct state business "privately" about a public use road project. Trust is gained through open transparency throughout a process and quickly lost by selectively applying transparency at will, Dr. Governor. Why is the cloak of unaccountability being thrown around your appointee Mr. Cooper?

What else is ARTBTA, Governor Bentley and ALDOT not telling us about this project?

And why can't the press get it right on what the actual figure is?

Birmingham News' transportation reporter, "Driving Miss Crazy" Ginny MacDonald, has stated in her online "Live Chat" that ALDOT has "paid out $316,000.00 on the Highway 280 study" as of early summer 2011. Where is she getting her low-balled information? From ALDOT's press chat room?

Ms. MacDonald has cited difficulty in obtaining the figure because of "ALDOT in-house work, private contractors, etc." but assured readers in the "Live Chat" forum she "will get the information" from ALDOT. 

We haven't experienced the degree of difficulty she claims to have encountered. In fact, without much effort, the VAC has a memo (displayed below) to ALDOT's Finance and Audits Department, dated June 8, 2010, requesting payment of a Figg Bridge Engineers invoice in the amount of $1,143,915.00.

That's just ONE invoice--from 16 months ago! And it's a much higher figure than Ms. MacDonald has been parroting to the public through the news media forum on a subject she claims to be knowledgeable about.

This one invoice is more information than has been reported in any news agency in the state on what has been charged to ALDOT --and state taxpayers-- by the company that has been working on the elevated toll road for years!

Transparency anyone?
Figg Eng. Invoice to ALDOT

More on this topic in a subsequent post about Governor Bentley recently repeating the Riley era mantra and asking the feds for sooner-than-agreed-to increases in Alabama's share of offshore oil and gas royalties. Road building and O&G royalties--yes, they are connected.
photo credit: David Johnstone
Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 3, 2011

Environmental and Human Rights Organizations In Alabama Form an Alliance On Pollution Issues

For Immediate Release  

October 3, 2011

Birmingham-Metro Chapter NAACP Presents Grand Town Hall Meeting on the Environment

Panelists Will Focus on Local Pollution Threats: Shepherd Bend Mine and “DeadlyDeception”

Birmingham – The Birmingham-Metro Chapter of the NAACP will present a Grand Town Hall Meeting and Public Forum about the Environment on Friday, October 14th from 7:00 to 8:15 PM.   

Panelists will focus on two local pollution threats: the Shepherd Bend Mine proposal across the river from Birmingham’s drinking water intake facility and the recent “Deadly Deception” controversy in the Collegeville area.  The free public event will take place at Glen Iris Elementary School 1115 11th Street South Birmingham, AL 35205. 

Panelists will include representatives from the Alabama Rivers Alliance, Birmingham Faith in Action, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Citizens Opposed to Strip Mining on the Black Warrior River, Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment, Collegeville area residents, GASP, Green Initiative at UAB, University of Alabama Environmental Council, and University of Montevallo Environmental Club.

“We are honored that the Birmingham-Metro Chapter NAACP invited us to join these esteemed panelists,” said Charles Scribner, Executive Director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper.  “The Shepherd Bend Mine poses a unique threat to Birmingham’s drinking water.  This forum presents an exciting opportunity to increase public awareness about the proposed coal mine and the University of Alabama’s potential role in stopping it.”

Click here to view event flyer:

Click here for more information about the Shepherd Bend Mine proposal:


Black Warrior Riverkeeper (www.blackwarriorriver.org) is a citizen-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. A member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper won Alabama Environmental Council’s 2007 Conservation Organization of the Year and American Canoe Association’s 2008 Green Paddle Award. Nelson Brooke, Riverkeeper, won Alabama Rivers Alliance’s 2010 River Hero Award.  In 2011 the Black Warrior became one of America's Most Endangered Rivers. For more information, contact:  Charles Scribner, Executive Director, Black Warrior Riverkeeper: (205) 458-0095 or Rev. Anthony Johnson, Community Relations Director: Birmingham-Metro Chapter NAACP: (205) 541-9719
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader