Archive for the ‘Larry Langford’ Category

>Western Tribune Column November 4, Langford’s conviction

November 13, 2009

>Western Tribune November 4, 2009

No one was really surprised at former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford’s conviction last week on 60 counts of bribery, wire fraud, mail fraud, false tax returns and money laundering. Much was said and written about what a sad day it was for Birmingham, as people realized that once again, a local politician had been found to be corrupt.

What does this say for the city, which lies in a county struggling to stay afloat (I’m being generous, as I don’t think the County Commission is doing a damn thing to help the situation) and teetering on bankruptcy?

I understand that when one emerges from a courtroom with a guilty verdict that emotions are running high. I also recognize that Larry Langford can’t resist a microphone, and in this case, it was a bad situation for both him and his wife, Melva.

He started to stop her from speaking, knowing, it seemed, what she was about to say.
“He is not guilty. Only in Alabama can a black man not get a fair trial.”

The former mayor concurred, arguing that the jury was not made up of his peers. Of course, he is the one that requested the change of venue, and his attorneys had just as much say in the jury selection as did the prosecution. Three of the twelve jurors that decided the case were African-American.

It’s sad that racism was charged, that our entire criminal justice system was questioned, and that blame was shifted to the media.

But the chance for new leadership is certainly nothing to be sad about. Acting Mayor Carole Smitherman is not the answer. She is part of what I call “tired, old leadership,” because I am tired of the old leadership. Patrick Cooper seems like the candidate who, if elected would look beyond race and geography as he tries to bring the region together. Bessemer is part of that region.

What would really have been sad would have been an acquittal.

Had Langford been found not guilty, think of the message it would have sent to future candidates. The temptations are already bad enough for politicians. If Langford’s actions had been justified, office seekers could have practically campaigned on promises of “Slip me a little something and you’ll see your business increase.”

Sadness will soon give way to spirited campaigns as Birmingham elects a new mayor. Let’s hope for a truly, new beginning.

>Weekly wrap

October 30, 2009

>If you’ve missed me…I’ve been at a loss for words since Larry Langford was convicted. It’s not the conviction that has me baffled, its what his wife, Melva said:

Only in Alabama can a black man not get a fair trial.

Then her husband agreed:

They struck as many blacks off that jury as they could.

Oh, well, my response to that will be forthcoming, probably in the form of a Western Tribune column. I’m trying to avoid a letter writer’s bait that has been dangled in front of me. You know…if not, see the notes on my facebook page.

So on to other subjects.

This has to be just about the quickest response to one of my columns I have ever seen. This column was printed on Tuesday and posted on Wednesday, and then the next day the Senate voted to confirm Dr. Regina Benjamin as U. S. Surgeon General.

Glad to know that Senate republicans are reading my column.

Of course their quick action may have also been because they got a tongue lashing from Senate majority leaders Harry Reid.

Late last week, President Obama declared a national emergency because of the flu
outbreak, Mr. Reid noted, adding: “Unfortunately, though, right now we have no
permanent surgeon general in place. And the reason is as simple as it is
mind-boggling: Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm President Obama’s
exceptionally qualified nominee for this job.”

In addition to Dr. Benjamin, Mr. Reid singled out Dr. Tara O’Toole, who would oversee bioterrorism defense at the Department of Homeland Security. “For that position, President Obama nominated an expert in combating both pandemics and bioterror attacks,” Mr. Reid said, adding: “Imagine that: Americans are bracing against a flu epidemic here at home and threats of terrorism from abroad, the President nominated someone highly experienced in both of those areas, and Republicans are saying no.”

Congratulation to Dr. Benjamin.

In Bessemer, the Western Tribune is reporting that city attorney Charlie Waldrep has fired two of its attorneys, Aaron Killings and Denise Blue Poe.

That might throw a wrench into…well, let’s just wait and see.

Update: Aaron Killings and Denise Blue Poe Are back on the job.


October 26, 2009

>There is an effort underway to ban divorce in California, based on the same arguments used to pass Prop 8, which took away the right of couples to marry in that state. Namely, protecting traditional marriage, and protecting the children.

Live blogging from Lala’s trial here , not much going on yet. It’s 9:51 and the attorneys are just now returning to the courtroom from the judge’s chambers. Here we go!

Why in the world would the senate even consider health care reform with a public option where states can opt out. How fair is that? I live in a state where one company has a practical monopoly, and where the public option option is desperately needed. But we are also probably one that would opt out. So where does that leave us? Separate but unequal, that’s where.

We need a public option. Plain and simple.

Did you know that slavery existed long after the Civil War in Alabama? Especially in Bibb, Jefferson and Shelby counties. More on this later.

The Tea Party Express is coming to Birmingham on November 9. At noon, at Linn Park. I hope that good supporters of health care reform and those who support our president will be there to contrast with the crazies.


October 21, 2009

>My Western Tribune column (same-sex marriage) follows this post.

You can waste your day but have fun keeping up with LaLa’s trial, with live continuous updates by Kyle Whitmire (Birmingham Weekly) here.

Terri Sewell, running to replace Artur Davis in AL-07, has recieved the endorsement of the National Organization for Women PAC.

This is her first national endorsement, and it highlights her support from women.

Sewell would be the first woman elected to congress from our state.

“NOW PAC is proud to endorse Terri Sewell in her groundbreaking campaign. We are confident she will be a strong leader in Congress for full equality for women and girls,” said NOW PAC Chair Terry O’Neill.

In the governor’s race, former Birmingham mayor Richard Arrington has endorsed Ron Sparks. This is surprising considering that Arrington, in his own words, “I have spent most of my life making decisons based on race.”

He says his endorsement is not anti-Davis, rather it is pro-Sparks. But he also has questions about the effect Davis at the top of the ticket might have on democrats chances down the ticket and on the control of the House and state Senate.

I giggled a little bit reading that the Davis camp said voters “will also make their own independent judgements” about who to vote for, while promoting the endorsement of their candidate by Judge U. W. Clemon. Should we make up our minds independent of his opinion, too?

Certainly, we all make independent decisions about who to vote for, I hope, after learning about the candidates and seeing if they share values and have a plan for whatever office they are running for.

>The National Cathedral, and a thought about Langford

October 19, 2009

>Just a thought as LaLa’s trial begins in Tuscaloosa. Frank Matthews, a paid employee of the city, and member of Langford’s staff, held a prayer vigil for the “anointed” one yesterday.

From Matthew 6:6:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The Rev. Calvin Woods made it no secret that he wants God to find the mayor of Birmingham not-guilty.

Shouldn’t the leaders and residents be praying for the city (and county) rather than, by prayer, trying to convince God to determine the outcome of a trial?

Just a thought.

The National Cathedral might just be the most beautiful building in all of DC. It took 83 years to build, so has modern elements along with classic Gothic architecture. It is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. There is a ton of imagery and symbolism, too much to post here, but here are some of my favorite images.

The wonderful stained glass windows in the cathedral allow a rainbow of color to tint the vaulting and piers that support the roof.

The Space Window is the most modern looking window and it commemorates the Apollo XI mission, and right in the center of that red spiral is a piece of moon rock brought back by the crew. This window is in some way mentioned in Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol (I haven’t read the book).

Helen Keller is interred here, alongside Anne Sullivan, her teacher, downstairs at the rear of the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea. Their ashes are behind that gated doorway.

In the War Memorial Chapel, this piece, made from WW II artillery shells from Normandy sets the tone. To the right of this alter is a cupboard of books containing the Honor Roll of Americans who fought in World War II.

This arm rest was carved several years before Winston Churchill came to power, but it shows a lion with the face of Churchill clutching a snake with the face of Hitler in its mouth. Sorry the picture is not in good focus, you will just have to visit the Cathedral to see this better. The snake really does have a moustache.

This is the view from the tower. I only post this picture because just to the right of the middle of the horizon, the little stob sticking up is the Washington Monument.

An cropped image taken from that picture.

>Norfolk Southern, bus transit and elections

July 30, 2009

>Be sure to read my Western Tribune column which follows this post.

The former president of the Metropolitan Development Board, Ted vonCannon, is now a paid consultant for Norfolk Southern. He spoke at the 2oth annual Bessemer Business Awards held at Lawson State Community College. story at

He told the group that he believes that the McCalla residents will eventually see he intermodal project as a positive development.

“It’s a project I believe has great merit,” vonCannon said. “Is everybody going to be happy? of course not. but I believe there can be a greater understanding.”

Monday the No Hub 4 McCalla folks had a meeting and one of their speakers told the group “Norfolk Southern doesn’t care about your kids. Norfolk Southern is looking out for Norfolk Southern. It’s up to us to look out for ourselves.”

Just for the record, Norfolk Southern does care about kids. In 1984 they established a foundation to direct their charitable giving.

From their web site:

The Foundation’s intent is to help ensure that:

  • Our region’s children are provided with first-class educational opportunities that make them productive and valued employees in the future;
  • Our communities can offer their citizens access to cultural opportunities that make life more enjoyable; and
  • Our communities can provide residential and work environments that are safe, attractive and desirable.

While most of their charitable giving (which is in the millions) toward education is for post secondary scholarships and such, young children benefit from their giving to United Way and other community and cultural recipients.

Larry Langford and upcoming elections

What can I say. I wrote about Al LaPierre’s plea agreement yesterday on Examiner. Langford’s spin is that this will help him, so it’s business as usual for him.

He says the city needs to fix the bus system, or start over.

Here is the future of the Birmingham bus system, as envisioned by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (h/t to Jay). No mention of this by Langford in the article, by the way. Of course, it wasn’t one of his grandiose ideas.

After watching that I wonder (?) why don’t we have people with an eye on the future in our city government? Why do we elect people who are tied to the past? I love what my friend said the other day, that the past should be a light post, not a hitching post.

I hate that Birmingham is about to get another black eye when the mayor goes on trial. I hate that this is tied to the troubles of Jefferson County, which is sinking faster than the Titanic. What business in their right mind would want to locate in the city or county with what is going on? What family would want to move here?

There is a great opportunity in Birmingham for a new kind of leadership, and city elections are coming up next month. Let’s hope that the voters of Birmingham look for young leaders or at least leaders with young ideas that can change the vision from looking backward to looking forward.

The same holds true for Bessemer. Next year we have city elections and will elect a council and mayor. We need new people on our council and a new mayor to project our city into the future. The people of Bessemer and surrounding communities are so disgruntled that only 8 percent voted in the recent special election. We need candidates that excite us.

Oh, and aren’t County Commission elections next year also. Please, please, voters, replace them all. I don’t care if your favorite commissioner has been on the right side of the bankruptcy argument or the McCalla controversy or what. They are all tainted.

>Western Tribune column, July 22 2009, Bingo!

July 22, 2009

>It seems that some things are coming whether we like them or not. Some call it progress, some call it, well, other things.

Take bingo, for instance. Both Birmingham and Bessemer are on the path to allow electronic bingo in their cities (as if gambling is not already present).

Bessemer’s Mayor Ed May said, “I do believe that having such facilities will erode the morals of the people on the western side of Jefferson County…because they have to deal with this foolishness.”

Undoubtedly his views are based at least somewhat on his biblical interpretations and religious views.

And I think his denial of crime in our city is religion based also, or at least the solution is, as he once said we could just tell the bad folks about Jesus and the problem would be solved.

In Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford can’t wait to hear the bells ringing as he asked for larger bingo halls (rather than many small ones) and is hoping the city can sue itself to determine whether the machines are legal or not. Now that’s a novel idea.

But wait. Langford put his religious views on display when he appeared in sackcloth, ashes and Rolex to champion the plight of the poor. Or the watch-less, I can’t remember which.

And he used religion to deny Central Alabama Pride their rainbow flags before gay pride last year. When faced with a federal lawsuit over the matter he responded “If I had issued such a proclamation, I would in essence be saying that God’s position is wrong and I wouldn’t dare take a position against God. So as opposed to suing me, they need to be suing God, and the last time I checked, he can defend himself.”

“I wouldn’t dare take a position against God.” So which part of Jesus’ teachings does Langford take his position on gambling from?

Well, it doesn’t really matter. What’s going to happen is going to happen and the two mayors will just keep on entertaining us.

So I’ll just go collect my quarters and play some bingo while I wait for the bingo halls to open. Hey, something doesn’t sound right there. Oh well. In these two screwed up cities in this screwed up county, what does it matter?

You will either love or hate this video by MIA. Bingo

>Underwear Police and Spring Is Near

February 17, 2009

>Birmingham mayor Larry Langford has made public statements about the way kids dress, saying he doesn’t like seeing their underwear. He wants to send more officers into the schools. If we start sending underwear police out, though, this might happen.

You know that Spring is just around the corner when the crocus flowers begin to appear.

Lenten Rose (Helleborus) is a favorite (and its not a rose).

Remember I said that after a freeze the camellia buds will open. How about this red one just covered with blooms.

And this white one.

>Langford Crowding the Dockets

December 16, 2008

>Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford is asking for more time to prepare for his conspiracy trial, because his lawyers need to do some reading. I’m sure the judge will grant more time, as Langford’s attorneys claim they have more than a million pages to read.

That’s good because Langford’s other case in Federal court is moving ahead. Judge Karen Bowdre denied Langford’s request that the case filed by Central Alabama Pride be dismissed. Central Alabama Pride will be able to amend its complaints to address the deficiencies alleged by Langford.

Langford is being represented by Liberty Counsel, out of Orlando, Florida (but with offices in Virginia and ties to Liberty University and the Thomas Road Baptist Church crowd).

Why would Langford not use his local attorneys?

Two thoughts.

1. His local attorneys want nothing to do with the case because they understand that Langford was bullheaded in denying the same rights to Central Alabama Pride that he allows other groups, and that Birmingham is an inclusive city as evidenced by the resolution the council passed last year and that Langford was not being “inclusive.”

2. Liberty counsel provides pro bono legal assistance in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family according to their website. Somehow this case falls under that. But “pro bono?” Maybe Langford couldn’t get Bill Blount to pony up for these expenses. I don’t know.

Liberty Counsel is endorsed, on their website, at the bottom of the page I linked to, by dead people. James Kennedy, Bill Bright and Jerry Falwell are all dead, but give glowing endorsements. This is indicative of their dead ideas and backward thinking, I guess.

Hey watch the London Gay Men’s Chorus “Coming Out at Christmas.”

>Jefferson County Line Up

December 2, 2008

>Information in this post comes from these stories in the Birmingham News.

We live in a county that has elected criminals to its County Commission. Well, maybe they weren’t criminals before they ran for office. Maybe. But Jeff Germany, Chris McNair, Mary Buckelew, Gary White and now Larry Langford were all commissioners between 1986 and 2006.
Jeff Germany, convicted in 2006 of using social service programs to get taxpayer money for personal gain.

Chris McNair, convicted in 2006 of bribery and conspiracy tied to the sewer rebuilding program.

Mary Buckelew, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in sewer deal, after receiving Salvatore Ferragamo shoes and a handbag worth $1500, a $1400 spa treatment and $1119 more in items from the Italian designer store.

Gary White, convicted in 2008 of conspiracy and bribery tied to sewer program. His conviction was set aside and he is awaiting new trial.*

Larry Langford, indicted for bribery, conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns in 2008.

* I personally think White’s charges were politically motivated (Why Gary White Was Prosecuted). But still, five former County Commissioners, one of which is now the Mayor of the largest shrinking city in the state.

Why do the people of this county elect so many crooks? Or do they elect good people who can not resist the temptations set before them after they enter public life?

Various city and state officials have commented about what effect this will have on Birmingham’s near and distant future. Can a county teetering on bankruptcy and stacking up felons like cordwood attract entrepreneurs and business investors to locate in its largest city?

Many writers in Jefferson County, including me, find it difficult to avoid cynicism about this because we pay for the Rolexes and Ferragamo shoes every time we flush the toilet. To accept bribes at the expense of the people who elected you shows what you really think of those people.
Langford is such a hypocrite, urging inner city parents not to buy expensive clothes for their kids, and wearing a Rolex watch to his “Sackcloth and Ashes” show. He said he learned a lesson as a child after being beat with an electric cord by his mother and taken to juvy by his stepfather to be shown what happens to boys that steal after he was caught stealing money to buy oatmeal cookies.

Maybe its time for a few more lashes with the electric cord.

And maybe its time we look for different leadership qualities in those we elect to public office.