Archive for August, 2010

>SDEC – unbelievable

August 31, 2010

>I come in from a week in Nirvana and discover that the world did not stop spinning while I was gone. I had planned to bore you with details of our trip to New Mexico, but then I looked at the newspapers that had collected while I was gone.

Something happened that makes me lose all faith in the state Democratic Party. Maybe the Party can do something to reverse this, but I don’t know what it might be.

The Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee met and handed down an unbelievable, race based decision to replace Kenya Lavender Marshall with Elisabeth French (who did not run in the primary during which Marshall defeated Nicole Still, who came in second both in the primary and in the runoff) as the party nominee for Jefferson County Circuit Judge place 17. Still had gobs of endorsements, including Stonewall Democrats and Bessemer Progressives.

Still also had the support of French during her campaign.

I don’t know Elisabeth French (and neither do a majority of the Jefferson County voters) but I understand she considers herself qualified. But Nicole Still was determined to be the most qualified of the candidates who ran for this office by the Birmingham Bar Association, plus she has a few month’s experience, having been appointed to the position by Bob Riley.

I understand the voting among the committee members did not fall along racial lines, with both white and black members voting for both Still and French, and French winning 90 – 41 – 1 (Peter Johnson Davis got 1 vote). Still is white. French is black.

While French herself did not campaign for this position along racial lines, her supporters sure did. Joe M. Reed (not the Joe Reed you are thinking of) said by voting for French “we (blacks)will have a friend, we will have a loyal friend, we will have a family member … a sister.”

Alvin Holmes said “This is not a race issue.” Then he kept talking and proved that it was. “This seat was won by a black person because a majority of people in Jefferson County chose a black person over a white person.”

Watch the video of the proceedings, recorded and uploaded by Left in Alabama.

But even if it wasn’t a race issue, they also claimed Nikki Still was a Republican, and had supported Republicans, something she denies.

But even if she did, since when does the SDEC regard prior support of Republicans a reason not to support a candidate? Two words. Charlie Grimsley. He was chief of staff for Republican Lt. Governor Steve Windom and contributed at least $25,000 to Republicans and their special interest groups, including the Bush-Cheney campaign and Roy Moore.

When this was brought before the SDEC earlier this year, they rejected a motion to keep him off the ticket, and allowed him to run for treasurer. He is now your nominee for treasurer, having won the primary (over a much more progressive candidate Jeremy Sherer), because the SDEC did not care that he supported Roy Moore and George Bush and Dick Cheney.

And do the Democratic voters of Jefferson County care that Nikki Still was appointed by Bob Riley? Would they rather he appoint a Republican?

Did they not prove they don’t mind a Riley appointment when they elected George Bowman as county commissioner?

And this race for Circuit Court was to be only voted on by Jefferson County voters.

Jefferson county voters made Nikki Still their second choice.

The Jefferson County Democratic Party Executive Committee recommended Still to the SDEC over French. The Jefferson County chapter of the New South Coalition voted to support Still. Grover Dunn, chairman of the Jefferson County ADC, was selected by their executive committee to nominate Still to the SDEC, and he did.

Rep. John Rogers warned the SDEC about what this result in come November. Democrats in Jefferson County will not be as excited about the election. This will greatly reduce Ron Sparks chances of being elected governor, and some are saying Jim Folsom may even lose his bid for Lt. Governor if the race is close, if Jefferson County voters are not inspired.

And there is nothing inspirational about a race based, demonizing campaign within the bowels of the party.

Update: The Jefferson County chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition has called on Elisabeth French to reject her appointment as the nominee. They say that Nikki Still is a victim of racism.

James Laster, their president, made the case in an opinion article in today’s Birmingham News (the column is not posted online yet).

“Now, Democratic leaders Joe Reed, Joe Turnham and John Rogers no longer need to concern themselves with how many people will show up to the polls, but with retaining Democrats thinking of fleeing the Democratic Party after such a blatant show of racism.”

Rejecting her appointment would be a radical thing for French to do. But it might also save the Democratic Party from this self inflicted wound, suicide, if you will. An online poll on al.com currently has 88% of respondants saying the SDEC made the wrong choice.

>Alabama AG office responds

August 27, 2010

>If you remember, in July I attended a Town Hall meeting after being invited by mayor Ed May. And if you remember, he asked me to turn off my video camera, after telling me it wasn’t a “public meeting.” And I thought that may have been been a violation of Alabama’s Open Meetings Act. And I sent an inquiry to the Attorney General’s office.

Well I received a response today and let’s just say the mayor is being put on notice.

Mayor Ed May at another meeting held in a church.

I won’t give details, but the office of the Attorney General tells me the steps necessary to bring action against the mayor.

It included this:

In response to your correspondence regarding Alabama’s Open Meetings Act, as stated by Section 36-25A-6 of The Alabama Code, “A meeting of a governmental body, except while in executive session, may be openly recorded by any person in attendance by means of a tape recorder or any other means of sonic, photographic, or video reproduction provided the recording does not disrupt the conduct of the meeting.

Since May is so close to being voted out of office I think I will hold off on pursing anything.

But I guess all the Bessemer office holders should realize that Open Meeting Laws are to be observed.

Be sure to take part in my new poll to the left, which explores why Ed may did so poorly in the election.

>Election results and the runoffs

August 25, 2010

>Congratulations to all the winners and runoff candidates of yesterday’s Bessemer elections, even to those who had to dupe their constituents in order to win. You know who you are.

And a note to those who were elected (or who may still be elected): you will be held accountable these next 4 years. The council will be more functional, and citizens interest will remain higher.

As for the mayor’s race, Ken Gulley had a good showing with 2,112 votes, or 37%. He will be in a runoff with Ed May, whose 1, 312 represented only 23% of the voters who want Bessemer to continue on the path it is currently on.

Out of 5,637 people who voted in the mayor’s race 4,325 voters did not want Ed May to return to office. That doesn’t mean the runoff will be smooth sailing for Gulley, but optimism for him, and for the city, is inevitable.

Council district 1 – David Vance – winner (a positive change for the city)

Council district 2 – runoff – Chester Porter and Sherrina Rice – this will be positive change for the city if Chester Porter wins. Remember when John McCain was running for president and it his candidacy was labelled Bush’s third term? Think of Rice as a continuation of Louise Alexander.

Council district 3 – Sarah Belcher – winner – this does nothing for our city

Council district 4 – Donna Thigpen – winner – let’s just hope that she comes around on the school board money owed by the city. Other than that issue, I think she will be an upgrade to the council, and will help to return the body to civility.

Council district 5 – runoff – Ron Marshall and Albert Soles – Marshall got 7% more of the votes that the incumbent. I predict he can hold on to win the runoff. Ron Marshall has wanted to put his management skills to work for our city for a long time.

Council district 6 – Jesse Matthews – winner – the only incumbent with a recommendation from the Progressive coalition, and in part because we were frightened of his opponent, Ed May II. The voters must have felt the same way as he only got 18% of the vote. I think Ed May II’s poor showing is a direct result of how the voters feel about his father.

Council district 7 – runoff – Earl Cochran and Cleo King – Cleo has a mountain to climb to reach 50% but the voters who cast their lot for Labrenda for the most part don’t appreciate Earl, the man who beat their favorite 4 years ago. So if they come back out to vote, they may chose Cleo King. Let’s hope they do.

School Board – Hattie Aikerson retains her seat and Earlene Cochran wins the other open seat. I don’t have a lot of insight on how this will affect the board, but we can’t expect too much change with only one new member. However, is much change needed? The board, for the most part, is doing a good job.

I will be writing about the candidates who are still in the running until the runoff in October. But for the next few days, I get to take some time off from politics. For the candidates, they had better be out there today, courting voters.

>On Tuesday

August 23, 2010

>This is a reminder about August 24, 2010.

It is Election Day in Bessemer.


Whether you are reading this on Monday or Tuesday, consider the following.

Do you want to continue to have crime ignored?

Do you want to continue to keep the money we pay for the schools in taxes to be hoarded and mis-spent by the city on lord knows what?

Do you want to continue to have the city finances kept secret?

Do you want to continue to have a mayor and council at odds, who act as though they have taken a vow to act like tom cats all after Miss Kitty?

Do you want Bessemer to pay its first responders so poorly that once they are trained they are tempted to go elsewhere just because the pay is better?

Do you want the business community, which brings dollars, jobs, dollars, tourists, dollars, prestige and more dollars to our coffers, to continue to be ignored?

Do you want outside business entities that are considering a site for business to continue to overlook our city, thus losing potential, no actual, jobs that our citizens could hold?

If these are the things you want for our city, just don’t vote. Let things stay the same.

But if you want the opposite of the above, if you want to see Bessemer improve, vote for change in Bessemer;

vote Ken Gulley for mayor.

While you are at it, vote for:

David Vance – council 1

Chester Porter – council 2

Jessie Burrell – council 3

Ralph Hodge – council 4

Ron Marshall – council 5

Jesse Matthews – council 6

Cleo King – council 7

Janet Ruffin – Education 2

Wanda Thomas – Education 7

Here are some of the reasons for those choices.

>Crime – the Number One Issue

August 21, 2010

>These signs have sprouted up around the city. However, it’s hard to stop and read them. So here. Take your time.


The first item – violence in our city? Crime in Bessemer – there has been at least one more murder in Bessemer since I posted that. Christopher Ward was killed on August 7.

The other night at the candidates forum the candidates were asked what the most important issue to the city Bessemer is. The answers varied: “Perception,” said Darayl Blue (with a positive reaction from the audience); Ed May agreed.

In Ed May’s eyes, that’s all crime is, perception. See this column from the Western Tribune, June 10, 2009.

I know a victim of violent crime in Bessemer. It was not perception that his front door was busted in. It was not perception that he was knocked around. It was not perception that he was forced at gunpoint and told he was going to die.

Crime is a reality in Bessemer.

Ken Gulley was the only candidate to look the citizens in the eye and unabashedly tell them that the number one issue in the city is crime.

Picture credit – Nancy Hartzog

Do away with crime, and perception will improve. Do away with crime, and home sales will increase. Do away with crime, and children will have a better environment in which to learn. Do away with crime, and businesses will want to locate here. Do away with crime, and the citizens will spend time outdoors, will get to know their neighbors, will not be reluctant to work in their yards.

Do away with crime, and our quality of life will improve.

I’m no fool, however, and I don’t think we will ever completely do away with crime.

But it certainly is not going to improve until we have a mayor that recognizes it as a problem.

Just one more reason that Ken Gulley should be our next mayor.

>The changing look of Bessemer

August 19, 2010

>This is picture day. A picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures will show you how the south east corner of downtown Bessemer is changing. We have two new restaurants opening soon, a new DHR building going up, the oldest restored outdoor advertising in the state, the only brick street in the city, an expanded Simmon’s Sporting Goods, and a building just waiting for somebody.

This is the old freight depot, now owned by the Hall of History, and this accurately restored sign is the oldest piece of restored outdoor advertising in the state. It was original in 1904. It has attracted the attention of historians across the state. The restoration was funded by the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association. No, a saloon is not opening nearby, and you can’t really buy alcohol here. (However you could throw a rock and hit a couple of beer stores, so don’t worry.)

The building next door is privately owned, but it may be the next project for the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, which according to its bylaws, is charged with preserving and protecting homes, buildings and sites of historic interest; promoting and encouraging historical research; enhancing the cultural, social, educational and economic well-being of the Bessemer area; among other things that actually relate to the historic homes in the community.

There are more pictures, and an announcement, after the jump, so click “read more.”

Eateries are springing up in the blocks near the new courthouse. Nukes Sports Grille has already been in business for a while and already has a faithful following.

Their burgers, wings and shrimp poboys are favorites of our group, but they may get some competition on the poboy when Boateng’s opens just up the street. Boateng’s Cajun Creations was first announced here on June 10, 2010, and was expected to be open by now. They have been a little bit delayed, but I still see progress on the building every time I drive by, so it shouldn’t be too long.

Also opening soon, and being announced here, will be a bakery and deli in the spot formerly known as Tippi’s in the restored Berney Bank Building.

The restaurant is not named yet, so the sign just says “Coming Soon,” but it’s bound to be good because Van Sykes is the one opening the place and we know he can do barbecue and pies. This will be more deli style food, though. And we need a good bakery in the area. Oh, and they will be serving O’Henry’s coffee.

Also in the area will be the new DHR building. Site work has been underway and now if the weather will cooperate (meaning no rain) the foundation work will begin. The crew from Argo Construction was out there today marking the site for the upcoming work.


That building in the background of the above picture is Simmons Sporting Goods, and their expansion is now complete.


In front of Simmons, and for the length of the block, is Bessemer’s only remaining brick street.


If the vote getting paving spree gets crazy enough to cover these bricks I know plenty of people that will be s***ing bricks. Pardon my middle school language.

And nearby is an old theater, and I have no idea what it is used for now, other than a place for people to gather outside while waiting to get their haircut next door.

But I see it being restored. I see art films and independent films being shown. I see children’s matinees on Saturdays. All we need is a group, or a person that wants to take on the project (assuming the building is available) and the silver screen could light back up with classics and cartoons and Gone With the Wind or Brokeback Mountain (two classics).

>Is today "crazy day?"

August 18, 2010

>

Where do I start?

Dorothy Davidson?

Louise Alexander?

Ed May?

By now, everyone has seen the digitally altered photo of mayoral candidate Dorothy Davidson with Alabama football coach Nick Saban. What can I say about this except…what were you thinking?

This is a picture (from the Birmingham News) of a campaign flier put out by her campaign.

Her campaign manager takes the blame.

Morris said he told Davidson the photo of the coach and his wife, Terry, was actually of Saban and his mother. He said he told Davidson that Saban had OK’d the altering of the photograph.
“I lied,” Morris said. “She (Davidson) didn’t do anything wrong.”

I like Dorothy and she has done a world of good for our city through volunteer work and her service on the city council (although I certainly did not agree with her positions or votes, and she was the one that tabled the subject of dog abuse when the mayor (Ed May) shut me up when I pointed out that it was against the law to abuse animals and his Animal Control department was breaking the law).

Still, this just about does her campaign in, I believe.

Last night at the forum, I immediately noticed that two candidates were not on the program; Dorothy Davidson and Louise Alexander. I had walked in with Dorothy, and there was no to-do, so I figured she had just been late in paying the registration (another no – no in my book, ignoring protocol and procedure). But when Louise came marching toward the door, Chamber personnel (the event was sponsored by the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce) perked up, because she still had not registered or paid to participate.

When the forum began, she was seated at the table with the other candidates, and we heard that someone had coughed up the cash for her to participate.

Now we learn that Ms. Alexander accused the Chamber of being racist because they didn’t include her (and Davidson’s) pictures and information on the brochure. Of course, their pictures were not included because they had not registered before the programs were printed. Somewhere in this equation let me insert that Ed May’s picture was also missing from the program, but his information was in there.

Ms. Alexander called the NAACP and vented on camera to the CBS 42 guy. Of course, other than her and Ms. Davidson, there are three other black candidates and one white one. Those four followed the rules and paid their fee on time.

I think antics like this, plus, oh, former indictments and such, just about do her campaign in.

Then there is Ed May.

Much was said at the forums for city council and school board candidates about the money that the city owes the schools. Some of that money is the result of ad valorem taxes passed in 2000.


An article in the Western Star on March 15, 2000, stated that on the April 25 ballot would be a vote for two renewals of taxes, and new taxes some of which would go to the schools and some to the library.

(the article is below the fold on the front page of the issue pictured)

In that article Ed May, who was an attorney doing some legal work for the city of Bessemer, spoke in favor of the tax.

That’s kind of strange, since both the schools and the library didn’t get their money easily. In fact, the school is still fighting for theirs. But in that same paragraph is this confession:

“When I was laying on my back in a hospital in Vietnam, I was mad at my father because he wasn’t rich enough to get me a Yamaha motorcycle with saddle bags full of 30-06 shells so I could ride around and shoot white men.”

He does continue, thanking God for saving him from that, and making the point, I guess that a good education is worth paying the extra tax for. It’s kind of hard to think about what follows and what message is being broadcast after reading that.

I mean, good Lord, think before you speak, man.

(This paper can be found at the Bessemer Public Library, in the Western Star archives).

You know, this puts a whole new light on the abduction last year of a white man in Bessemer and Ed May’s assertion that the victim must have been an “associate” of the perpetrators, who were black.

Sometimes deep seated hatred that one thinks they have overcome resurfaces.

At any rate, I think the city will be much better off if we send the current mayor to the fishing hole for some R & R.

>Forum 411 and endorsements

August 17, 2010

>Here are some recommendations for the Bessemer City Council and School Board races, courtesy of the Progressive Bessemer Coalition.

A few comments about the candidates follow, but I know you all want your meat before your potatoes. And I know you will be surprised at some of these recommendations, especially since I have said before that all of the council members need to be replaced. But when you compare one incumbent to their challenger, there is no contest.

City Council District 1 – David Vance

City Council District 2 – Chester Porter

City Council District 3 – Jessie Burrell

City Council District 4 – Ralph Hodge

City Council District 5 – Ron Marshall

City Council District 6 – Jesse Matthews

City Council District 7 – Cleo King

School Board District 2 – Janet Ruffin

School Board District 7 – Wanda Faye Thomas

It is very unlikely for a candidate to get an endorsement if they don’t show up for the only forum provided for voters to see and hear them. But it is not impossible, as noted in the above list of top choices.

Here’s a bit about those choices.

David Vance – strong background in law enforcement and youth counseling (YMCA), good ideas on public safety and economic development, and on being a good neighbor. Wants to “fill vacant business buildings” which to me means redevelop downtown.

Chester Porter – wants to revitalize downtown, wants to bring arts to Bessemer, wants to establish a quarterly community clean up day.

Jessie Burrell – Jessie Burrell has been involved in many aspects of improving Bessemer (and the nation) from her advocacy for an elected school board to her community organizing and marching for civil rights. She wants to provide more recreational opportunities for kids and to attract business to District 3, particularly a grocery store. The incumbent Sarah Belcher has been on the council for 16 years. Keep that in mind as you drive though district 3 and look around you.

Ralph Hodge – wants to develop downtown and wants to give the School Board the money that is owed them by the city. His opponent said she would rather “cooperate” and not ask for the money for the school board right now. (Note to Ms. Thigpen – When I voted for the school tax, I did not vote for my tax money to go to the city council. I voted for it to go to the schools. You said the school board didn’t need the money now anyway, since they have a surplus. One of the school board candidates told us how that tax money could be used to improve our education and AYP scores.)

Also, Mr. Hodge has experience running a city department and in being held accountable for the expenditures of that department.

Ron Marshall – Most of the questions asked this group were about economic development, and Marshall was very effective in pointing out his marketing background and how this would be an asset in promoting (or allowing other entities to promote) the city. He also has experience in managing a city department.

Jesse Matthews – wants to improve the infrastructure for downtown and older communities revitalization, and also wants to find funding for a rec center. His opponent, Ed May II, did not provide a photo for the brochure and did not complete the education portion of the questionnaire (neglecting to provide the names of the colleges he attended). During the forum, he left the auditorium while other candidates in other races were still speaking, and was not present for the photo op with all the participants afterward. These little things show a lack of respect for the process and for the people. He also indicated he prefers new development rather than the “buildings from the 1920’s” (paraphrase). That sounds like the same neglectful attitude toward downtown that we have seen for the last 8 years.

Cleo King – When asked what the number one issue facing the city is he responded “lack of communication.” He said we need to change the image of the city and the council needs to set the example. The current council person from District 7, Earl Cochran, has been a disappointment. He answered his first question talking about a failure. the failure of the city to pass his bingo initiative. He answered the second question talking about failure. The failure of the city to be accountable. he sounded too much like Larry Langford when he urged voters to choose him and only then would he reveal his secret revenue generating plan. Ms. Jones was voted out in 2006 because voters had had enough of her. We’ve still had enough.

Janet Ruffin – Ms. Ruffin has a strong background in student support services at Lawson State and wants to look at over the mountain school districts and see what is working for them regarding AYP scores.

Wanda Faye Thomas – has strong background in working with special needs students and residents at Partlow and Bryce plus teaching in Shelby County School System. Wants to embrace the Hispanic community because (1) all the children are our children and need to be educated and (2) helping the Hispanic students to achieve will also help the AYP scores. Also wants to acknowledge and assist bilingual and ESL students. She wants to use the tax money that the city owes the school system to improve the Pre-K opportunities and to hire or train more teachers for AP (Advanced Placement) programs.

The City of Bessemer Mayor Candidate’s forum is tonight at 6:00. I’ve already made an endorsement in that race, but the forum should be interesting nevertheless.

>About the mosque

August 16, 2010

>

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the first amendment to our Constitution. Part of our Bill of Rights.

That is really all that needs to be said, but you know me.

If we were going to let “being offended” keep things from happening, I would not have to shamefully pass this every time I drive to Montgomery.

But that offensive huge flag is on private land so nobody raised hell about it. But I am offended and I am sure many African Americans and fair minded whites are offended by it.

We are not at war with Islam, I need to remind you. And this proposed building is not really a Mosque, it is a community center. And its not “on the site” of the fallen towers, its blocks away.

And the ground around the fallen towers is not “hallowed ground,” as bars, porn shops and liquor stores surround the site. I’ve been there. I know.

Picture credit New York Daily News

Again, playing on fear and ignorance, the Professional Right is trying to scare people into voting for the Teabaggers. To use the words of the Bessemer conservative, “Grow Up.”

Now if I were a Muslim leader in New York City I would choose another site out of compassion for the families of the vicitims of 9-11. But I doubt that the MIC (Muslim in Charge) has much compassion, as their religion is not built upon the life and teachings of a compassionate individual like ours is*. And I’m also pretty sure they love all the fuss and divisiveness they are causing. Teabaggers and Muslims on the same page, dividing this country. Lol, who’d a thunk it?

*Disclaimer: Hard to recognize that Christianity is built on the life and teachings of Jesus when you look at how they act sometimes.

>Today is Monday, August 16

August 16, 2010

>Why is that important?

Because at 6:00 PM, at Bessemer City High School, you have the opportunity to hear the candidates for City Council districts 4, 5, 6 and 7, and for School Board district 7.

City Council District 4 – Ralph Hodge and Donna Thigpen

City Council District 5 – Ron Marshall, Albert Soles, Robert Dale White

City Council District 6 – Jesse Matthews, Edward May II, Dock Scott

City Council District 7 – Earl Cochran, Jr., LaBrenda Marshall Jones, Cleo King

School Board District 7 – Hattie Aikerson, Wanda Faye Thomas, Carolyn Hudson Wilson

We have 2 former candidates for mayor, several former candidates or members of the council and board, the son of the mayor, a few newcomers, and some incumbents running.

Even after all the promises that were made four years ago there are still a lot of problems in Bessemer. Does that means that those who are incumbents are “part of the problem?” Just a thought.

This is Bessemer. We need to make it better. Thanks, Larry, for your photos.

See you tonight!