Archive for the ‘Bessemer’ Category

>Early spring bloomers

March 3, 2011

>The storm did not do the damage that I feared, and Spring is getting closer and closer.

Here are some more blooming things. We have two of these Japanese magnolias. This one is darker than the one I pictured earlier this week.

The flowers are really loaded with color.

These ornamental cabbage or kale really last the entire winter season and even at the end of their days they add a nice touch to the garden.

The pansies are another winter flower here, but this spring they have really put on a show.

Here is a solid yellow one in an old concrete planter Glenn gave me after his house burned. One of the outdoor pieces that thieves didn’t steal.

Lenten Rose is an early bloomer. I was told that Dr. McElroy, the former owner of this house, had Lenten roses, and though I never found any of his, I planted these as a remembrance.

I am very grateful to Dr. McElroy (who lived here from the 1960’s until his death in 2000) and to Col. Huey (who lived in this house from 1895 until his death in the mid 1900’s) for the garden that they created. There are many unusual plants, and one is this leather leaf mahonia. It’s not rare, but there are so many of them here, and some are very tall. They are blooming now, with these yellow flowers that will be replaced with blue berries that the birds love.

Peach trees have beautiful flowers. We haven’t gotten any edible peaches from this tree, which is just 3 years old. Maybe this year.

Quince, on the other hand, produces little apple like fruits. We never use them, but maybe this year I’ll can some quince jelly.

A red quince.

Snowbells. There are little clumps of these scattered around the yard.

One of the many varieties of daffodil or narcissus.

Next up…azaleas…and then roses.

>A great city council meeting

March 2, 2011

>Last night the Bessemer City Council met and had their most productive meeting so far this year.

No, they didn’t pass a budget or a Bingo ordinance or sweeping reforms.

But they did provide a positive example to impressionable young people, and that is one of the most important responsibilities an elected official has.

Students from Bessemer’s New Horizon School were in attendance. New Horizon is the alternative school, where kids that have not been following the rules (or worse) are sent to get back on track.

The school principal, Edith Hunter, and officer Tate, who is at the school on a daily basis, wanted to teach the students about government and how it works.

Here are Principal Hunter and Officer Tate.

There were 8 students who volunteered to come to the meeting, and several of them had questions for the council and mayor.

The first young lady asked if we would ever have a rec center in Bessemer. Zing!

Mayor Ken Gulley took this question. He said it is still a priority for him, that as he visits other cities he notices they have youth rec centers and that the children of our city deserve to have one. He said that we (adults, city officials) have failed them in that regard.

However, he pointed out that finances do not always allow a city to do everything they want to do when they want to do it.

Then he gave his short answer.

“Yes, I will work toward that; I would definitely love to see that in our city.”

Of course we’ve heard that from mayors as long as I’ve lived here, but for some reason I detect a sincerity in Gulley’s words that I don’t recall from past city leaders.

(Off the subject, but the Bessemer Public Building Authority was introduced at the meeting, and during pre-council it was stated that the Authority, which was created to oversee the design and construction of the new DHR building, could also do the same for another public building if the council authorized them too. Maybe a new Youth and Senior Recreation Center will be the next project assigned to the PBA. Hint, hint.)

Another student asked who enforces the law other than police. Council president Jesse Matthews and Mayor Gulley answered that citizens help the police by observing and reporting to the police when they see something going on. The council is the legislative body and makes the laws and the mayor is administrative and makes sure the laws are enforced, they said.

I couldn’t hear the question asked by the third student but I think he asked why curfews only affect teenagers. I’m not 100% sure that is what was asked, but it is a good question, and the answer was that all of the city ordinances were under review and after this review and any changes in the ordinances; they will be enforced!

Bringing the students to the council meeting was officer Tate’s idea. She works with the students every day, and teaches them to “play by the rules.”

But her message to the students is “If you try, someone will help you.” I hope the students receive that message and remember it.

The staff at New Horizon has 45 days to make a difference in the students that come to them from the other schools in the system. With people like principal Hunter and officer Tate, leading the way, they have a good chance of reaching these kids. Also in attendance at the meeting was Ms. White, a teacher at the school, who was chosen as New Horizon Teacher of the Year and Bessemer City Schools Teacher of the Year. Congratulations to Ms. White!

So these kids were exposed to a little piece of government. Who knows, last night’s experience might be what inspires one or more of them to become a public servant. Looking at the kids, I couldn’t tell that any of them had problems different than any other kids I know, including my own, but obviously they do. But they have a great opportunity to get back on track, and (last night at least) they were surrounded by school officials, elected officials and ordinary citizens that want to see them succeed (and graduate).

Music for the day.

This song will get you moving.

Here is Brett Dennen’s new song Sydney (I’ll Come Running). The album, Loverboy, will be released in April.

>Flowers before the storm

February 28, 2011

>Every year the threat of severe weather makes me anxious about the flowers in our yard.

At the beginning of March, there are always camellias still blooming, and I bring a few indoors as fresh flowers always seem to brighten up a room and lift the inhabitants’ spirits.

The yard is full of daffodils. We will see how they look tomorrow.

This one is already a little worn looking, but she is pretty never the less.

This Japanese magnolia is not native to Japan, but that is what everyone calls it. Its name is Magnolia liliiflora, and is native to southwest China, was cultivated in Japan, and introduced to English speaking countries from there, thus the common name.

Today’s storms will certainly tear these blooms up.

Sometime during January the fountain in the back yard quit working. I figured the pump had died, and was waiting until spring to replace it. Yesterday we were outside working and suddenly heard water dripping. the fountain had come back to life!

Obviously this is a part of the yard that we have not gotten to yet. But since this is a rose garden, we have a few weeks until blooms appear. By then this area will be very inviting, both to us garden lovers, but also to the birds that love to drink from the splashing water.

>The ecology of litterbugs: part III

February 17, 2011

>Spring is right around the corner. In fact, the daffodils are already beginning to bloom. This seems early to me, but I say that every year. However, my crocus have not bloomed yet, and they are always first, so something is amiss.

But today was a lovely day for doing another ecology study. If you remember, I have done two previous studies of the Bessemer litterbug. These studies are conducted by gathering the litter distributed by the creatures along the curbs bordering my corner lot and analyzing it to determine their lifestyle.

Here are the results of today’s study. (It is highly recommended that you also review the two previous studies. Study 1 Study 2 [there are also links to these studies in the body of this report])

The population of Bessemer litterbugs seems to be in decline, based on the amount of litter.

On the previous two studies we learned that Bessemer litterbugs do not have a particularly healthy lifestyle, and that has not changed.

Whereas last time I found no evidence of tobacco use, this time there was evidence of Kool and Newport consumption. No cigars, though.

No evidence of breeding was found this time, just like last report. Again, this does not necessarily mean breeding is not taking place, as the last report was in March of 2009, in late winter. The most evidence of breeding was seen in a fall report, so this is just further evidence that fall is the mating season for these creatures.

Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips was once again found, for the third time. But along side this perennial favorite was Lay’s Salt and Vinegar Chips, Lay’s Classic, Doritos Nacho Cheese, Frito’s Honey Barbecue, and Bacon Cheddar Cheetos. Along the same line, a pack of Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries was consumed.

Sweets seemed to be favored over chips, and the variety ranged from Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts, Blueberry muffin, Zingers, Nekot Peanut butter Cookies, Russell Stover Chocolates*, and various individual candies (Sour Power, Blow Pop, Skittles [3x -especially popular], Laffy Taffy, Air Heads, Just Born, Now and Later, Jolly Rancher, Andes Peppermint Crunch).

There is an indication that some substantial food was taken in. A receipt from McDonald’s included a cheeseburger happy meal and a 10 piece nugget meal, with creamy ranch dip, and a strawberry shake and a Dr. Pepper. Most often a Happy Meal indicates an immature litterbug, and this was confirmed by a listing for a doll toy on the receipt.

McDonald’s is apparently a favorite, as another litterbug had consumed a Premium Grilled Sandwich, and fries.

Also consumed were one Burger King whopper, one Captain D’s fish meal, one Krispy Krunchy Chicken meal, and one Taco Bell meal. The Taco Bell eater preferred Hot Sauce with his meal.

Several Ketchup Packets were found, with Hunt’s outnumbering Heinz 3 to 1. One French’s mustard, and one Church’s Chicken Barbecue Sauce were found.

There was an indication that a meal had been consumed at a Chik-Fil-A. I especially hate to see this, as Chik-Fil-A is known to be virulently homophobic, as indicated by this sign seen earlier this year in West Virginia.

As for liquid intake, light beer was by far the preferred drink, as an (empty) case of Bud Light, and a Natural Light can were found. Two brown bags from the liquor store were found, but there was no indication of the former contents. A couple of water bottles indicated that some litterbugs are averse to alcohol consumption. Other drinks included an Ocean Spray Pineapple Peach Mango, a Grape Guzzler, and a KFC drink cup. Two styrofoam cups and one plastic cup indicated that some litterbugs bring drinks from home. One possibility is that the unmarked cups could be used to mix the liquor store purchases in.

Someone ate an orange and threw the peel out. Vitamin C!

As for the non food items found, no condoms, no sex aids, no diapers. But a lug nut and a universal battery terminal package were found. We have no clue.

We plan to do another fall study, so confirm our suspicions about the Bessemer litterbug mating habits.

*The Russell Stover Chocolates are a strong indication that mating could be right around the corner, as the mating ritual of Bessemer litterbugs has been shown to sometimes include a preliminary meal of chocolates, especially if they come from a hear shaped box. Unfortunately we do not know what type of box this chocolate came from.

>Bessemer City Council antics

February 15, 2011

>The members of the Bessemer City Council selected a new municipal judge today.

See Update at end of post.

The method they used was bizarre, or unconventional, to say the least.

Here is what happened. the clerk read the item: Appointment of Municipal Judges. Council vote necessary.

Three or four council members simultaneously shouted, “Mr. President.”

The president then chose one of them and allowed them to make a motion. That person nominated one of the candidates. It was seconded. the council voted 3 – 2, for this candidate, with 2 abstentions.

The council proclaimed that candidate did not win, stating that a majority of the members present needed to vote yes for the candidate to win.

Let me quote from Robert’s Rules of Order (9th edition) right here.

Chapter XIII

Majority Vote – the Basic Requirement

As stated on page 4, the basic requirement for approval of an action or choice by a deliberative assembly…is a majority vote. The word majority means “more than half”; and when the term majority vote is used without qualification – as in the case of the basic requirement – it means more than half of the votes cast by persons legally entitled to vote, excluding blanks or abstentions, at a regular or properly called meeting at which a quorum is present.

So, the first candidate that was voted on did win.

But the council then entertained another nomination, under the assumption that the first nominee had not won the appointment.

This candidate received 4 votes, so she also won.

The council had appointed 2 persons to the Municipal Judge 1 place.

To further complicate the matter the method of voting was wrong.

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, when multiple candidates are being voted on, all the candidates should be put into nomination and the council vote.

Then if no candidate gets a majority of the votes, then they vote again, with all candidates names still on the ballot, to see if the results will be different. The lowest vote getter name is never removed from the ballot unless required by law or unless he or she drops out.

Using the method that the council used, there was no requirement that a council member who voted yes for one candidate could not vote yes on another candidate. So even though the second candidate got 4 votes, who’s to say that the third candidate, whose name was never mentioned, would not also have gotten 4 or maybe more votes? We will never know, will we.

I recommend that the council revisit this matter at the next meeting, and re-vote using proper procedures.

Update: I was told by the city attorney that by Alabama Law, election of municipal judges by city council requires a majority of the council. It does not specify anything about abstentions. Alas, this is Alabama. We have so many faults in our constitution and laws that it is not even funny. Oh well.

The new municipal judge is Lynneice Washington. Scott Roebuck retains the other position.

>2011: A Judicial Odyssey

February 2, 2011

>The Bessemer city council was to choose a new municipal judge last night to fill an empty seat. Judge Scott Roebuck is assuming all the duties for two judges right now, but he didn’t look too drawn down at the council meeting. He was to be re-appointed to his position as well.

Was to.

I used that phrase twice in the lead paragraph. I guess you have figured out by now that no judges were appointed.

The council has been working on this for nine weeks. It’s a no-brainer who the most qualified candidate is.

The council surprised the audience when one member made a motion to table the decision and another quickly seconded. After some brief discussion, which indicated to me that some members were in the know, and others were in the dark, the council voted to table the vote for two weeks.

It seems that there was some question as to the duties of the two judges and some financial issues. It also seems to me that there is now some question as to why this did not come up during the nine weeks that this has been going on?

I’m all for getting things right, and avoiding sausage making during council, but nine weeks is plenty of time.

A dog can become pregnant, and nine weeks later, her puppies will be born.

Isn’t that neat.

But I’m not going to be too critical of the council. They are still doing a good job, have not embarrassed us, are not wasting (too much of) the citizen’s time.

See you on February 15, when a new municipal judge (might) be chosen. That will be a morning meeting.

Here’s the opening of 2001 A Space Odyssey, one of the greatest movies of all time.

>Municipal Judge

January 24, 2011

>Bessemer is still without a second municipal judge. Former municipal judge Anetta Verin retired last year to assume an elected position. The Bessemer city council is charged with choosing a new judge for the city. In the mean time, Judge Scott Roebuck is handling the entire court, in other words, doing the work of two people.

Maybe he seemed a little too eager to do this when he spoke before the council and told them he would handle it until they choose another judge. That was on November 16, 2010. More than 2 months ago!

Anyway, the field has been narrowed to 5 candidates and the municipal judge committee (that may not be the official name of the committee) will narrow the field down to 3 and the final vote is expected to occur on February 1 at the city council meeting.

Of the remaining candidates only one meets all the qualifications as described by Judge Roebuck and former Judge Verin.

Judge Verin suggested that her replacement be someone who has (1) practiced law, (2) has a passion for the job, including domestic violence, (3) have certain qualities, i.e. honesty, integrity, dignity and respect. Judge Roebuck agreed and added that a judge should have a vested interest in the city and in the community. Both Judge Roebuck and Judge Verin live in the city of Bessemer.

(1) Kathryn (Sunny) Lippert currently practices law in Bessemer.

(2) She has a passion for the job, and I know that because I understand how she immerses herself in her work as an attorney, and I know this would carry over into her work as a judge. In addition, I have visited her in her office and she is already exploring ways the financing and administration of the court could be improved. And she’s not even appointed yet.

(3) Sunny is well known in the community and is respected both professionally by other attorneys and court officials, and by her neighbors and fellow citizens of Bessemer as well.

I’m pretty sure that she is the only candidate who actually lives in Bessemer. She has invested in our city by purchasing and restoring a historic office building downtown. While that is not a rigid requirement, it does help satisfy Judge Roebuck’s recommendation that a municipal judge should have vested interest in the community.

Sunny Lippert is currently the president of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, an organization that works to improve the community. Projects Sunny has been recently involved with or supportive of are restoring historical signs in Bessemer and the Jonesboro community garden. In this photo, taken in November 2010, Sunny is participating in our garden workday.

She also works with troubled teens in a program that attempts to steer them back into a productive role.

Sunny is truly an asset to our community. None of the other candidates come close to doing for our city what Sunny Lippert does.

And without a doubt, she is the most qualified, by every standard, for the position of Municipal Judge in Bessemer.

>Moving in a backward direction

January 19, 2011

>Federal? State? Local?


In Washington:

The House is poised to vote to repeal the Health Care Reform the country desperately needed, in spite of growing acceptance of the reforms and the realization by the public that such a vote is only for show and a complete waste of taxpayer money and legislator’s time.

House Republicans want to go back to a time when young people couldn’t be on their parent’s insurance, when pre-existing conditions would exempt you from getting coverage, and when (even more) millions of Americans were without insurance.

In Alabama:

Governor Robert Bentley is taking us back to the days of George Wallace with his inaugural statement,

“I will defend our right to govern ourselves under our own laws and to make our own decisions without federal interference”.

John Archibald reminded us of how “federal interference” has affected us.

Without “federal interference,” blacks and whites in Alabama could not dine together in restaurants, use the same libraries, attend the same schools or live in the same neighborhoods.

It is “federal interference” that returns more than $1.60 to Alabama for every dollar the state sends to Washington. It was “federal interference” that sent the state $650 million last year, allowing Alabama to put off cutting school budgets.

Without “federal interference” we would never have cleaned our air or water.

Without “federal interference” UAB would not be a research giant, NASA would not have brought jobs to Huntsville, and folks in the Tennessee Valley might still burn kerosene lamps at night.

We like our federal interference, it seems.

Governor Bentley also seems to have created controversy has created controversy with his statement that only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior are his brothers and sisters.

With any government, the sheep wonder how they will be treated. Are those who don’t ascribe to Bentley’s beliefs the black sheep of society? Or will all the sheep be treated the same? As a side note, Equality Alabama is wondering the same thing, and has requested a meeting with the governor.

Local (Fairfield):

The Fairfield City Council is considering reversing some its anti-smoking ordinance.

I don’t care what the reason is or who the exemption is for; anti-smoking ordinances save lives. And not just the lives of the smokers.

Local (Bessemer):

Bessemer is moving forward. The City Council is considering raising the city’s lodging tax and the sales tax. I don’t have all the numbers, and I don’t know when certain bond payments and other obligations come due, but here is what I would do.

Some council members want to wait until the financial audit is completed before voting on the tax increases, but that may take several months. And is the audit really going to tell us anything we don’t already know about the fact that we need money? No, it may point some fingers (and they need to be pointed), but it won’t help us with paying these bills we have today.

So, don’t delay. Pass the tax increase. Even if it were passed today, it would be several weeks before any tax money is transferred to the city, that’s just the way it works. But vendors and others who we are obligated to would see that we are making a tough move in order to meet our obligations.

Here’s an idea. I remember a local government passing a sales tax increase for a specific amount of time, and then it would either go away or have to be renewed. The council could pass a sales tax increase for one year, and during that time could review the audit and make adjustments and look for other sources of revenue and all. The people of Bessemer would respect the council (maybe) for not burdening them with a “forever” tax.

The people of Bessemer would have to realize that we must all sacrifice a bit in order to amend the wrongs to which we have been subjected. If at the end of the year it looked as though the tax would have to remain, then the council would have to pass it again. The lodging tax increase would not be a one year increase. That tax is paid by non-residents for the most part, anyway.

I am still impressed with the Bessemer council and the path they are taking trying to solve the current financial crisis.

And speaking of the council, I must recant something I said previously.

Think of Rice as a continuation of Louise Alexander.

I said that during the campaign, but Sherrina Rice has shown herself to be a thoughtful and inquisitive council member, frequently asking questions in order to gain a better understanding, and often bringing insight to issues.

And in Bessemer, that piece of property that is at the corner of Highway 150 and Lakeshore, that I mistakenly thought was where Dollar General distribution center will be located, is apparently some type of “light industrial” development. Will pass on more information when I get it.

>Global warming

January 10, 2011

>Today is a drippy, slushy day in Bessemer Alabama.

It’s a perfect day to look for evidence of global warming.

Let’s go outside.

Here some ice has collected on a pine tree. Much more of this, and the power would have gone out, causing me to miss the BCS Championship Game and Auburn playing tonight.

War Eagle!!! We are still keeping our fingers crossed (both regarding power…and the game).

Here a holly tree and its berries are cased in ice. The cedar waxwings will take care of these berries, at some point.

This crepe myrtle has a layer of ice on it. This reminds me of northern friends in Pennsylvania who tell me that they can grow crepe myrtles without having to protect them in winter like they used to have to.

These wisteria vines, which I will be fighting again this year, are covered in ice.

Here are some chilled, frosted rose hips.

How about the camellias. There are several varieties on the property, and some begin blooming in late fall. This one has been blooming for weeks. These blooms will be damaged by the ice, but more will open later in the week or next week.

Ah ha! Here is my evidence.

This camellia normally blooms before Christmas. I have taken pictures of its flowers in the past in December, and have used the flowers in decorating for our Christmas Party, during the first two weeks of December.

This year, this is the first bloom on the plant, and today is January 10. There are lots of buds, so I will be enjoying this plant throughout the month and in to February, most likely.

But why is it a month late blooming?

I am not a camellia expert. I wish I knew one who could come visit and identify the dozen or so varieties that we have. But I would assume that the winter blooming camellia buds enlarge and finally open in response to low or falling temperatures. The plant may have perceived warmer temperatures in the late fall, and responded by delaying blooming.

That is the, although anecdotal and without proof, evidence for global warming I was looking for.

Winter days like today make me think of Tasha Tudor and her book, Tasha Tudor’s Garden, my favorite garden book. In it she describes her garden in every season, and pictures accompany the descriptions.

If I were to write such a book, I would include this picture. There’s just something about evergreens and ice.

Enjoy this cold, wet, beautiful, winter day in the south.

>A Tale of Two Cities

January 5, 2011

>Actually, the governments operating in two cities.

The biggest problems facing the government are financial. Huge debts are looming. There’s talk of default, and the consequences.

There are new people in government who can rightly say that they didn’t cause this problem.

So how are these problems being handled?

It depends on which government you are referring to.

Both our local Bessemer mayor and city council and the President and Congress are facing similar issues, but their approaches to solving problems are very different.

In Washington today marks the start of a new congress, and Republican leaders in the House are ignoring the economy and the national debt and the deficit and are focusing on repealing the health care plan that, besides allowing millions of previously uninsured people to be covered, will reduce the deficit by $1,300,000,000,000 ($1.3 trillion) over the next 20 years, create 400,000 jobs a year over the next decade, and in general improve the economy.

In other words, kill jobs, increase the deficit and at the same time, deny people health care.

In Bessemer the sins of the previous administration are coming to light. At each council meeting, it seems that additional disturbing information about money the city owes vendors, or revenues that are not coming in, or important budget/financial information that was kept from the council and public, is revealed.

This finally reached a crescendo last night during the citizens participation portion of the council meeting when a member of the audience went to the podium and pretty much castrated the former mayor and council (one of whom is still on the council and was sitting right in front of him*); the former mayor for keeping information to himself and the council for not being aggressive enough. He said he might not have been “lied” to, but he certainly feels he was misled over the past few years. Misled to the point that now he doesn’t know if Bessemer will be a better place for his children.

(*there are actually 2 members of the former council still in office, but one was not present)

Based on what I heard last night from the mayor and from every council member, either in private conversation or during the council meeting, this group is committed to working together, exploring all options, operating in transparency, and solving the huge problems that lie ahead.

And I think that any vendor that is owed money by the city will appreciate their attitude and be more likely to work with the city regarding payment.

The man at the podium and others in the audience (who applauded after he spoke) expressed their approval for this mayor and this council, not because of any results they have produced, but because we recognize their determination to solve the crisis and because we have the confidence that they can do it.

So, if you want to get your blood pressure up, watch Congress this week, where hypocrisy and showmanship will be on display, and the needs of the people will be ignored.

If you want to see how government should work, and how problems can be solved, come to the Bessemer city council meetings, where the livelihoods of the citizens and their quality of life is of great concern to the members. It’s refreshing, and you don’t often hear that about government activities.

Celine Dion – “A New Day Has Come”