Archive for the ‘Birmingham’ Category

>Railroad Park

September 20, 2010

>Yesterday I visited the new Railroad Park in Birmingham. There were quite a few people there, some with dogs, some with kids, some on bikes, some on roller blades and some with skateboards.

The park is a big expanse of green with a lake and a stream and trails around the perimeter and criss-crossing.

Here is an article from USA Today about the park.

In this picture you can see that there is a perimeter trail but also a meandering trail, and a stream in between. Joggers were making their way primarily on the flatter outer trail, while cyclists seemed to prefer the ups and down of the inner trails.

There were kids wading barefoot in the stream. Later I saw two middle-aged African American women wading gingerly in the water.

“How long since you’ve done that?” I asked them.

“I’ve never done it,” one of them answered, laughing. “This is wonderful. This is the best thing,” she said, indicating the park.

It was really refreshing to see people in Birmingham appreciating the beauty that has always been around them. I mean, sure the park didn’t always look this way, but there are signs in the park that explain the history, and that the site was once natural, then industrial, and now (somewhat) natural again.

From the park you can see that Birmingham is a city on the move. Large cranes indicate construction at nearby Children’s Hospital. Here is a construction webcam where you can see what’s going on. There’s a time-lapse video there where you can watch months of construction in about 30 seconds. Pretty neat.

Students were lounging in the grass, some were reading, some were talking on their phones, others were napping.

The buildings of downtown, including the Wells Fargo building with their new sign atop, provide a backdrop to the new park.

There are walls and barriers within the park made of bricks and stone that were found on the site. I don’t have a picture, but the bricks and such are stacked and encased in wire cloth to hold them in place. Interesting.

Also, informational signs are placed though out the park to inform visitors of some history, or some nature, within and around the park.

And at the west end of the park you can smell the bread baking from the bread factory across the street.

Read more about your park at the Park website.


July 29, 2010

>Main Entry: dis·cor·dant
Pronunciation: \-dənt\
Function: adjective
Date: 14th century
1 a : being at variance : disagreeing b : quarrelsome : relating to a discord
— dis·cor·dant·ly adverb

It sure seems that we are living in discordant times. There are many examples, but certainly highlighted by the example of Joe Wilson’s shout of “You lie,” during the president’s state of the union address, and Republican Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle urging supporters to use “second amendment remedies” if they don’t get their way.

Immigrants are among the targeted. I heard someone on the local radio yesterday telling about watching a soccer game and stating that she “knew” that 95% of the young guys playing were “illegal.”

First, there is this:

Second, where does she come up with the 95% figure?

As of 2008 there were 46,822,476 Hispanics in the United States (out of 304,059,728 people). Of these, it is estimated that 11,000,000 or around 23 %, are undocumented. Saying that 95% of the young men in a soccer game are illegal is not only plainly wrong, but it’s also misleading and contributes to the discordance in our country.

It results from the xenophobia in our community, and across the nation.

In Birmingham yesterday there was a pro-immigrant rally rally that cheered the judge’s ruling on the Arizona law. Isabel Rubio, executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama said that officials in other cities in our state are interested in passing versions of the proclamation issued by Birmingham at the rally declaring the city as one that welcomes all.

But the Republican Tea Party loves the controversy. They want to keep us divided, hoping it will allow them to win a few races.

But I have this America-view that we are better than that. I grew up seeing the worst that America had to offer during the 20th century in the worst city be in during the 1960’s. (Disclaimer – I lived in Vestavia, but I was close enough to Birmingham to know what was going on and to see it with my own eyes.)

And as a result I can recognize hatred when I see it, or hear it. The Republican Tea Party depends on hatred to survive. And what they want to do to the country is deplorable.

Their platform:

1. Repeal health insurance reform
2. Privatize social security or get rid of it.
3. End medicare.
4. Extend the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy and big oil.
5. Repeal Wall Street reform.
6. Protect those responsible for the oil spill.
7. Abolish the Department of Education
8. Abolish the Department of Energy.
9. Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.
10. Repeal the 17th amendment (ending the direct election of U.S. Senators)

The Republican Tea Party Contract on America

A vote for a republican, any republican, is a vote for this agenda. Remember this in November.

Sitting at home is a vote for this agenda as well. Remember to vote in November.

>A big FAT "F"

June 24, 2010

>In a comparison of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, Birmingham ranks near the bottom in an index of healthiness.

This was reported in the Birmingham News, and most of this post comes directly from that article.

We ranked 49th, just ahead of Oklahoma City.

In a year, we’ve dropped from 43rd to 49th. Either other cities are improving and leaving us behind (an Alabama staple in many areas, it seems) or we have just completely abandoned any thought of improving ourselves health wise.

The percentage of our population that is obese is 34.1%. That is more than one out of every three of the people around you. The national average among Metropolitan Statistical Areas is 25.6%, just over one out of every four people.

I think that a large number of people are in denial about their health. Be honest with yourselves, folks.

Your life expectancy, and even more important, your quality of life as you approach the end of it, depend on your attitudes and actions regarding your health.

When it comes to 14 personal health indicators and chronic health conditions, Birmingham ranked dead last.

A couple of statistics give Birmingham a glimmer of hope, though they are nothing to brag about. We are 35th out of 50 when it comes to community recreation, including the number of parks and recreation facilities and the level of state-required physical education programs.

Birmingham has considered closing rec centers, however, and Bessemer has none.

Birmingham ranks above average when it comes to the number of Farmer’s Markets, park playgrounds, recreation centers, swimming pools and requirements for physical education in schools, but below average on the number of tennis courts (Birmingham MSA – 1.3%, MSA average – 2.1%), acres of park land per capita ( Birmingham MSA – 2.6%, Average – 10.3%) and percent of people walking or riding their bicycles to work (Birmingham – 1%, Average – 2.8%).

Birmingham spends $37 per capita on funding parks. The average is $102.

Jerri Haslem has taught exercise classes in Birmingham for 20 years. These are sad statistics, she said, calling it the “mindset” of the people and not a lack of opportunity.

If people would use the facilities we have more, then more would be built, she believes. She says a large fitness club might look at our area and say there aren’t enough fitness minded people to build here. On the other hand she, says, a fast food company might take a look at our statistics and see a big opportunity. I’m not sure what she means by that.

An opportunity to exploit our “mindset” that propels us to fast food restaurants? Or an opportunity to improve their menus and the quality of food that they serve, so that they do not continue to adversely affect the health of our communities?

Because of $13.3 million in Federal Stimulus money given through the CDC and the Jefferson County Department of Health, many of the issues in the report will be addressed.

Included will be a push for smoke-free air policies in Jefferson County’s cities and a requirement that restaurants post nutritional information a the point of purchase. Also included will be working with school nutrition and exercise policies and working with neighborhood development such as requiring sidewalks and building greenways to connect parks .

Other health indicators:

Death rate per 100,000 for cardiovascular disease – Birmingham MSA – 259.3, Average – 212.4

Diabetes – Birmingham MSA – 11%, Average 8.3%.

Here’s a link to the full report.

Here’s a community action guide that you or me or our group or agency can use to develop healthier communities.

Here’s a link to all of Birmingham’s statistics in this report (click on the city you want to view).

Housekeeping. I have changed the Facebook share button that appears on each post. By clicking it, you should be able to easily share this or any post with your friends on Facebook.

Coming soon, Twitter share and others. What Share button would you like to see?

Also, Bessemer Opinions is now available in 9 languages other than English. Use the translator at the top of the left sidebar and click on the flag representing the language you want to view. Maybe you can then send the translated post (by copying the link) to your friends that spea that language. Play around with it. Let me know what you think.

>Election hash

January 20, 2010

>What do yesterday’s election results tell us?

Let’s start with Birmingham. Congratulations, first, to William Bell. While I supported his opponent (even though I don’t vote in that city), Bell will be the new mayor, and it is up to him to lead us out of the funk we are in. Almost as bad an assignment as the one Barack Obama was handed when he assumed the presidency.

Bell can do this, I am confident. It just won’t be in the same manner that Patrick Cooper would have.

As for the gay community, we should support Bell. William Bell has been our friend in the past. He is not responsible for the homophobia that disgraced his campaign. Frank Matthews is. Bell can show us how he feels by ignoring Matthews as he builds his team. Time will tell.

As for Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts, I could write about the failure of the democrats to select a decent candidate, or about the candidate herself and her gaffes, but let’s be honest and look at the big picture.

In 2008 America made a statement when it elected Barack Obama. He campaigned on health care reform among other things, and most who voted for him supported it too.

So what happened? Did Americans since then decide they like having 40 million uninsured countrymen? Do they appreciate that people die every day because they lack health insurance?

I find that hard to believe. But I’m not going to answer the questions here. I don’t have those answers.

Besides, here are my concerns. The teabaggers have the momentum now. Democrats in congress may be afraid to pass anything, health care related or other. Teabaggers will be giddy.

Teabaggers in this state will be energized. Sorry, Artur. Sorry, Ron.

If it were just Republicans I wouldn’t worry. But the teabaggers are a different story. They are the modern KKK. White separatists. Seriously, listen to the radio. Read their blogs. Within the last week I have seen that they have selected a (battle) flag, heard them talk about secession, heard about commandeering the southern auto plants for munitions and weapons manufacture, speak of getting the guillotine ready, and more. Idle talk? Hardly, one of the people being interviewed was an elected official in our state. Sorry I don’t know who, I was in the shower listening to the radio on Sunday when I heard it on 101.1 FM.

That is the concern I was alluding to the past few days on this blog. God help us.

But there are progressive people in this county, and this country, and we will continue to search for and support progressive candidates and promote progressive policies. Gays are already abandoning the Democratic Party (shutting down the GayTM).

The Democratic Party and the president and the state parties really need to pow-wow and get their act together. November comes quickly.

>Drive-by Truckers explore the past, Birmingham votes on the future

January 19, 2010

>This day is very important for the future of Birmingham and the future of our nation.

In Birmingham the voters have the choice of electing Patrick Cooper who has a fresh vision for the city, or William Bell, part of the establishment of the last 30 years.

The difference also is in the attitudes of the supporters of the candidates. Sure, Cooper has the support of many in the LGBT community and progressive whites, and these are some of the people he has surrounded himself with.

Bell, on the other hand, has the support of Frank Matthews, who has put out divisive and homophobic campaign materials in an attempt to promote hatred and fear and divide the people of Birmingham.

The future of the nation may depend on the results of the special election in Massachusetts, where Martha Coakley and Scott Brown are fighting for the senate seat formerly held by Teddy Kennedy. Brown’s campaign is being promoted by teabaggers and it looks like he has a chance to win.

If he should win, teabaggers from the across the nation will feel emboldened and no telling what will happen. But whatever, we will have to deal with it.

That being said, I think Patrick Cooper will be the next mayor of Birmingham, and Martha Coakley will be the new senator from Massachusetts. But the elections will be close.

Check out this video featuring Drive-by Truckers.

It tells of story of the racist past in Alabama from the viewpoint of Patterson Hood, one of the band members. “The Three Great Alabama Icons” and “George Wallace” are from their album, “Southern Rock Opera.” h/t to mooncat. And, h/t to Matt Osborne.

It’s interesting how some people who grew up here had to leave the state to see what was really going on. Read a writeup about the album from Patterson Hood.

“We began writing the Southern Rock Opera some years ago. We wanted to examine people’s misconceptions of the South, and study some modern-day southern mythology.”

>Bits and Pieces for $1000, Alex

January 15, 2010


Yesterday, NBC 13 could not receive the satellite feed for The 700 Club and had to air an older program. A blessing for Birmingham. No Pat Robertson. Well, no current Pat Robertson, anyway.


On Monday Bobby and I will be attending the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast, where the overall theme is “Health Care: A Personal Responsibility and A Human Right.” That is right up my alley. Dr. Ed LaMonte will be the keynote speaker.

Thanks to a generous donation we will be sitting at the Equality Alabama table.


Yesterday I thought I might be going to Haiti to help in the relief effort, but the opportunity didn’t come through. But I am prepared to go. I have all the necessary vaccinations and passport and Caribbean disaster experience (here, here, here and here and ICS and NIMS training.

So if you know of an organization that needs me let me know. I’ve contacted several to let them know I am available.

Birmingham mayor’s race.

Will Birmingham elect a mayor who is having his wages garnished (William Bell) or one who says he will forgo his mayor’s salary (or donate it or whatever) in order to save the city money (Patrick Cooper)?

Here are several videos where Cooper outlines his vision and plan for the city.


You’ve heard this song as background music during a commercial for a new lawyer TV show The Deep End. Brandi Carlile and Dreams. Watch the official video, where she is singing from an Avatar-like tree (well the best we can do on planet earth) and in front of Mardi Gras like props and with great outfits and instruments for the band. Thanks Brandi for allowing us to embed this.

or a live version from Studio Q.

Carlile is a lesbian, by the way.

>Western Tribune column December 9, 2009, Mayor here and there

December 9, 2009

>I wrote this knowing that the paper would come out after the Birmingham mayoral election, so there is a bit of vagueness in the column. But, as expected, Patrick Cooper collected the most votes, it just wasn’t enough to avoid a runoff. Let’s hope he doesn’t go into the runoff with 40% or so of the vote and then lose, like a certain Alabama house district candidate did in a recent special election.

As Cooper said on Fox6 this morning, this is now about the past vs the future. Atlanta’s mayoral race was too, it’s just that both of the candidates in the runoff there were about the future, since that city left the past long ago. Birmingham should be so lucky.

Langford/Bell v. Cooper. That kind of reminds me of Bush/McCain v. Obama. The same old versus the fresh new.

Western Tribune column

Atlanta elected a new mayor this month. We may not know who it is yet, because the results were so close, a mere 715 vote difference, that a recount is inevitable. Former state Senator Kasim Reed, who is black, leads white councilwoman Mary Norwood.

Atlanta billed itself as the “City Too Busy to Hate” during the civil rights struggles, and while cities like Birmingham suffered from hatred and violence that continues to influence our politics and impedes our progress, Atlanta grew and prospered.

Atlanta has a more racially balanced population than Birmingham, with 56 percent of their population being black and 38 percent white. Birmingham has almost 75 percent black and around 23 percent white residents.

Because Atlanta is what one may call a progressive city, their population has actually grown during this decade. More whites than blacks have recently moved into the city.

Political observers of Atlanta politics say that black political power is weakening there in part because blacks are shedding their civil rights-era sentimentality.

In Birmingham and in Bessemer as well, that mindset continues to hold us back. While we should continue to celebrate the advances made in the 1960’s and honor the heroes of the movement, we have to get past the idea that race is a more important characteristic than education or vision or experience when selecting our leaders.

Atlanta’s rejection of hatred is further evidenced by their embracement of the gay community, and in the mayoral runoff the candidates courted the gay vote with each trying to convince the voters that they were the greater friend to the GLBT community. More than 12 percent of Atlanta’s population self identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, according a William’s Institute report.

Think of the talent that is accumulating in Atlanta as educated individuals flock to the city. Remember, their population is growing.

Birmingham’s mayoral hopefuls, at least the frontrunners, were gay friendly, in contrast to the recently convicted former mayor. But we didn’t see them trying to out-gay each other as happened in Atlanta.

In Bessemer, the contributions of the GLBT community have never been acknowledged by city leaders, and race most certainly plays a role in the selection of our leaders. We might say that Bessemer lags behind even Birmingham.

That’s pretty sad, considering the current state of Birmingham politics. The good news is, for both Birmingham and Bessemer, I guess there’s nowhere to go but up.

>Mayoral stuff

November 24, 2009

>Well Birmingham has another new mayor. Roderick Royal was elected City Council President so he is automatically the interim mayor until a new mayor is elected on December 8, or if there is a runoff, in January.

Birmingham is fortunate. They get several new mayors within a period of 3 months. Bessemer is stuck with the one we have. I have some thoughts, but I think they will be in my next Western Tribune column.

In the meantime, a video supporting Patrick Cooper for Birmingham mayor has surfaced, but its not the kind of video he necessarily wants, and definitely approved by the candidate. NSFW

But Cooper is right. He can’t control what people post. Jody Trautwein called it “inexcusable,” and that it (vulgar jokes) are “detrimental to the hearts and minds, and therefore to the future of this generation. You remember Trautwein…in “Bruno.”

Anyway, Trautwein is a believer and supporter of ex-gay ministries, which are all a fraud and in themselves are “detrimental to the hearts and minds” of the vulnerable kids and adults who fall for it. I’m glad he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of being elected.

Recently an Ex-Gay conference was debunked here in Birmingham. Read here here and here.

>Ridiculous notions of homosexuality

November 2, 2009

>This video was made by one of the most confused, in denial, bisexual or gay human beings I have ever seen. via joemygod.

First she has a distorted view of where homosexuality comes from.

“The Lord spoke to me and he said that the enemy has released a giant spirit of homosexuality throughout the world.”

As if that isn’t enough, she encountered a lesbian and became homosexual for 45 minutes because it rubbed off on her!!! Seriously. but once she gets to her truck, she is able to cast the spirit off.

She says the feelings of homosexuality felt “natural”…because they are natural.

Read more about the upcoming protest here.

It was reported in the Birmingham News as well.

>Police Chase Thoughts

May 22, 2009

>I got to thinking about this car chase/police beating thing, and realized that whenever I begin to beat someone with a billy club, I usually know immediately whether they are unconscious or not. I mean, the five officers’ attorney says they didn’t know. I wonder if she would be willing to lie down, pretend to be unconscious, and let somebody take a swing at her with a billy club and see if she doesn’t flinch.

Now I don’t really beat people with billy clubs, I never have, but I’m just saying…

She also said the officers did not know the man had been thrown from the vehicle. Since the police cars stopped either behind or beside the overturned smashed vehicle, I don’t believe that.

She said the officers were doing what they were trained to do. But on the news, a spokesperson from Virginia College said that is not what they are trained to do in the criminal justice program.

From The Birmingham News, in an interview on CNN mayor Larry Langford said, “Neither of us (he and Chief Roper) saw this. It was under the previous administration.”

Of course Langford took office on November 13, 2007 and the incident took place on January 23, 2008.

Former mayor Bernard Kincaid spoke out, “Normally I don’t make public comments involving the activities at City Hall, but this is so egregious that I feel I must. It did not happen on my watch and I wish anyone who made public comments to that effect would correct it publicly.”

Former police chief Annetta Nunn said she too was shocked by the mayor’s comments.

Langford later said it was immaterial who was in charge when the incident occurred.

Well, yeah, if you hadn’t tried to blame someone else, maybe so.

Trying to blame this incident on the prior administration because some supervisors from that administration were still in place is like Republicans trying to blame 9-11 on Clinton even though W was in office when it happened.

We’ve almost gotten to the point where young people and outsiders don’t think of police dogs and fire hoses when Birmingham is mentioned. Now we will have to spend the next 50 years trying to get this image of Birmingham out of people’s minds.