Archive for the ‘McCalla’ Category

>McCalla leaders call for boycott

June 9, 2010


In protest over Bessemer’s annexation of 350 acres in the vicinity of the Norfolk Southern Intermodal hub facility a boycott of Bessemer has been called.

McCalla organizers are urging their supporters to shop in Hoover instead of Bessemer.

The nearest Hoover stores that compare to Target and Publix and Piggly Wiggly in Bessemer (near McCalla) are the Target at the Grove and the Publix nearby.

That means shoppers would be driving an additional 9.48 miles one way to buy milk and bread, or school supplies and lawn umbrellas and Ipods, even further if they go to the Galleria area. Twenty miles round trip.

Now let’s go back a bit to when the issue of the railroad hub first came up. Concerned McCalla residents tried to use the impact of the hub on the environment to stop the project.

Yet here they are, willing to waste a gallon or more of gasoline per trip to the grocery store in order to make a point. Does this mean that they really don’t care about the environment?

I mean, what’s a gallon of gas when we’re trying to save the planet and watching the Gulf fill with petroleum?

What’s a thousand gallons of gas when 1000 people make the trip to Hoover each day?

Hey McCalla people, there’s a BP station at the same exit in Hoover where Target and Publix are located. Be sure to give them your support as well.

And at the same time, if successful, their actions could cause some of their own residents to lose their jobs at the Bessemer businesses they are boycotting.

Boycotts are almost never well thought out, and are often knee-jerk reactions when things aren’t going your way.


Last night on Glee, one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite movies was performed.

“To Sir With Love,” if you’ve never seen the movie, Netflix it today. Here’s Lulu, singing the song in the movie from 1967. I was 13 years old and impressionable.

The Glee version was good as well. Maybe I’ll post that clip tomorrow (it’s not available yet on Hulu).

>Pride Week in Birmingham

June 8, 2010

>While awaiting the results of today’s elections in other states, I’ll fill you in some area “goings on.”

Quick update. the Bessemer City Council voted today to annex the 350 acres I wrote about here. The vote was 6-1. As expected, Jeffco Comm candidate Jimmie Stephens, looking for votes, voted against the annexation rather than voting in the interests of the citizens of Bessemer.

But this is a Big Plus for Bessemer as it will allow a developer to build warehouses and such near the Norfolk Southern Hub. Things are rockin’ in the Bessemer area.

This is Pride week in Birmingham. That includes Bessemer, as we don’t have our own Pride celebrations here. Yet. Someday. Here are some pictures from the last Pride or two.

On Wednesday the film, Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride, will be showing, and a short panel discussion will follow. What is the local importance of Pride? What should the message be? I will be on the Panel, representing Equality Alabama.

On Saturday the Pride Parade takes place, and once again I will be driving the Alabama Stonewall Chevy pickup. Our guys will be blowing bubbles and tossing out candy and maybe some beads. Step-off is at 8:30 at Five Points South.

Bubbles and jewels help make the night beautiful.

Last minute adjustments before the parade.

Patricia Todd and Jennifer rode on our truck last year!

The mis-informed haters are sure to be there.

Sunday is Pridefest at Sloss Furnace, beginning at noon. I’ll be there as well, promoting and signing my book, Those Others: Navigating the “Riddle of Homosexuality” in 1965 , promoting Terri Sewell for congress and helping with the Equality Alabama table.

Lamar was one of the performers at last year’s Pridefest.

Libertee Belle and Z at Pridefest last year.

Come and join in the fun. More information on these and other events can be found here.

>Election news and McCalla news

January 29, 2010

>Election News

Hueytown council person Carole Marks has announced she will seek the seat currently held by Merika Coleman, District 57 in the state house of representatives.
The primary for this election will be held June1.

Marks heads donor relations at Children’s Hospital and serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Alabama.

She is also a member and past president of the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association.


446 acres of farmland near the planned Norfolk Southern intermodal facility are up for sale. The property borders the JeffMet McCalla industrial park and is right there by the hub site, spanning the area from the railroad tracks to Old Tuscaloosa Highway and from Old Tuscaloosa Highway to Interstate 20/59.

Does this indicate that more spin-off development from the hub could be in the future?
Well, only if someone buys it, I guess. The asking price is $20 million, or $45,000 an acre.

Already, nine projects are underway in JeffMet, creating 1,556 jobs, including Posco, a Korean steelmaker. Posco broke ground Thursday on a $19 million facility.

>Western Tribune column August 26, 2009 NS Hub meeting

August 26, 2009

>My column from this weeks Western Tribune.

I learned a good bit at the Norfolk Southern informational meeting last week, even though the format was not what many of the McCalla residents who came expected. I believe they expected a “town hall” style meeting where they could have used a more accusatory and confrontational approach, since they were not interested in finding common ground.

“They don’t want to hear what we’ve got to say. They know we are right and they are wrong.”

It sounded similar to the discourse at some of the town hall meetings dealing with health care.
When people are seeking a solution to a problem, whether it’s health care or land use and quality of life concerns, both sides should come with a calm approach to dialogue. If one or both sides are unwilling to do so, a satisfactory outcome will never be reached.

Norfolk Southern offered the most elaborate community information event in their history to inform us about the proposed intermodal hub and what its effects might be. In addition, information about their facility in Austell, GA, built a decade ago, was available.

In Austell, similar concerns were voiced before the facility was built but the mayor of the town realized that it was better to talk to company officials than to try to fight the railroad giant. Some compromises were worked out, and in the years since the facility was completed, the resident’s fears have not been realized and no complaints have been heard, according to the mayor.

One of the disadvantages of being unincorporated is that there is no official community leader such as a mayor to deal with such issues. There seems to be some distrust with the county commissioner (around this as well as other issues). The Jefferson County School Board may be the best agency to deal with the situation, and they have approved a resolution to do a study of traffic, environmental and other issues related to the project. Norfolk Southern has done those types of studies, but an independent study might reinforce their claims on a number of issues.

In Austell, the city received some money but again, McCalla is not a city, so it’s hard to anticipate what kinds of deals might be reached. Community ball fields, improvements to the school, firefighting equipment; those are just some of the things we might see if McCalla residents are willing to negotiate rather than argue.


Watch this Norfolk Southern intermodal climb a hill. Actually, its in someone’s basement, but this is a long train for a model, and how he keeps it from derailing I don’t know. And the music is good.

>Freepers and Hubbers are much the same

August 19, 2009

>Conservatives incapable of learning? Or unwilling?

“Trying to have a conversation with you is like trying to argue with a dining room table.”

Who does this describe? Town Hall meeting protesters? No Hub 4 McCalla protesters? I believe they are pretty much the same.

First the Town Hall. Barney Frank let’s this woman have it.

The woman obviously resists all attempts to educate herself, she just has a hateful attitude and refused to find out what health care reform is all about. Like all of the freepers.

It’s the same with the No Hub 4 McCalla crowd, who showed up wearing surgical masks (who’s going under the knife?) at an informational meeting yesterday sponsored by Norfolk Southern.

Here are comments I heard from people wearing the group’s shirt.

“Referring to the Norfolk Southern people: “I wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire.” Now I believe that most of the people in McCalla are Christian, and I know some of the leaders of this group are church leaders. Good job, fine Christians. You’ve taught this woman well.

“They(Norfolk Southern) don’t want to hear what we’ve got to say because they know that we are right and they are wrong.” That may be her opinion, but there was a lot of information made available, and if she had actually absorbed some of it, she would have a different opinion.

“To have police here is an insult (to the No Hub people). I don’t trust them (the police) either.” Why not? Because they are “Bessemer”? Because they are black?

The idiocy continued with questions they had in today’s Birmingham News.

“How can you guarantee me a truck driver won’t come to the school, snatch my kid and carry him away?”

Oh my god. I am about to go crazy? Listen, show me some reports of truck drivers snatching kids. While you are looking, consider this. A blogger friend of mine documents “This week in holy crimes” each week. Last week’s account included 10 cases involving at least 54 victims. Here you can look at several weeks worth of holy crimes.

So maybe you should be more concerned about allowing your child in church, where it seems abuse of children (and adults) is common.

“My son is 14. what will you say to him when one of these trucks hits him and kills him?

Why would your son be on private railroad property? Your son is not old enough to drive, so he must be walking. Tell your son not to play in the road!!!

“Will you buy my house when it gets foreclosed on?” (referring to her errant belief that property values will go down).

Foreclosure occurs when you don’t pay your mortgage. There is such a disconnect there, I can’t even draw enough lines to try to make sense of that. Is the presence of Norfolk Southern going to keep you from paying your mortgage? You are more likely to lose your home because of the current health care system (which you are probably against reforming) than because an intermodal facility has been built nearby.

If the McCalla residents had come to learn, they would have discovered this.

Norfolk Southern produced a virtual three dimensional model of the area using LiDAR data which produced very accurate detail. With this technology, you could view the proposed facility from above, from any angle, from ground level on the school playground, from a nearby barn, from anywhere! What you saw was a landscaped berm protecting the school from noise, truck activity and pollution, or a 17 foot (I think) sound wall near the entrance to the facility at the other end of the property.

You could also learn that Air Quality studies have been done. The facility meets EPA’s definition of a “minor source” of pollution. EPA models were used to predict the “worst case” impact on air quality, and those impacts are well below the EPA air standards. Enlarge this picture and you can read about particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

“Facility emissions are not expected to be noticeable at any off site location, at any time.”

You could have learned from a real time virtual model of existing traffic with anticipated truck traffic added that a truck only entered or left the facility every couple of minutes or so, depending on the time of day and other factors. The trucks would only be allowed to leave the facility at designated intervals, so there would be no line of trucks leaving at one time. If you stop by an interstate, and watch traffic for a few minutes with a watch (that’s a timepiece with a second hand), you may see trucks pass by at 2, 3, 4 or more per minute. And you don’t think anything of it. In other words, 400 trucks in and 400 trucks out in a day is not that much.

You also could have looked at a chart with current traffic counts and with the trucks added, and learned that the increase is barely noticeable, and does not surpass the maximum capacities for the roads.

You might have learned that natural resource surveys have been done.

You could have learned that total tax benefits of this economic development through 2020 could be over $153,000,000 with $24,000,000 going to schools and $21,000,000 going to the counties in the area.

It’s a lot easier to respect the opinions of others when they are educated opinions, even if you disagree. I have little respect for people who refuse to educate themselves.

You should appreciate Norfolk Southern’s attempt to educate you. This was the most elaborate community information event the company has ever done for this type of facility, and experts in several fields were there to answer questions. I spoke with Norfolk Southern spokeperson Rudy Husband before the public was allowed in and during the event. We noticed that the people were crowded around the displays, but Husband was concerned if they were actually absorbing the information, and knew that some people there had minds that could not be changed.

My informal exit poll showed that among some, the information was appreciated and their minds were not yet made up. And several had come in support of the facility, but to gain more information.

You (No Hubbers andTown Hall freepers) could learn a lot if you would only allow your brains to receive information and process it. A well informed citizen is a more productive and responsible citizen.

>Western Tribune column July 15, 2009 Intermodal

July 15, 2009


Picture Credit Bham News

“Not in my backyard,” McCalla residents proclaimed on Thursday, referring to the Norfolk Southern intermodal facility that is coming to their area. Thankfully, on Friday, Norfolk Southern assured us that the facility will not be in anyone’s backyard.

Much of what has been promoted by those who oppose the facility is false information, beginning with a photograph of a rail yard and ending with fears of toxic chemical spills.

Much will be written and said before the facility is constructed, but let me replace what has been said with some facts.

The facility will be built on land that is at least 800 to 1000 feet from Eastern Valley Road, and will be separated from residential and public facilities by natural topography and an earthen berm with trees planted on it. In fact, the facility will not be visible from the areas that surround it.

This buffering will also help to mitigate noise, which is not actually an issue, since the operations will not include switching and coupling or train whistles blowing.

Photo credit Norfolk Southern

Toxic chemical spills are not a concern because intermodal shipping does not include inhalant hazards such as chorine.

Fears of light pollution are lessened as well because Norfolk southern will use hooded lights that are focused and directed on the areas where work is taking place.

Four intermodal trains currently operate in the area, and this will increase to six trains, so increased train traffic is not a concern either.

The only problem I see is the increased truck traffic at Exit 104 and McAshan Drive, and the road in question may need to be upgraded or widened.

Residents will have the opportunity to hear for themselves in August that this will be a modern, environmentally friendly facility that will not affect their way of life, as has been suggested.

I personally would not consider moving away if I lived in the area and would not hesitate to buy property nearby if I were looking.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Tannehill Ironworks was an industrial site in the area. I assume that the ordinance and other products made for the Southern Army were distributed by trains. While not intermodal shipping in the current sense, it was early precedent for what is to come.

This is an important facility for Western Jefferson County, and the McCalla “way of life” will not be affected when it is in place.

>McCalla: NIMBY

July 8, 2009

>I will be objective.

McCalla residents are upset that Norfolk Southern might be planning to build an intermodal facility in their area. nohub4mccalla

Estimates are that the facility could spur job growth to the tune of 8,000 jobs, which are sorely needed in Western Jefferson County where the unemployment rate is approaching 30%.

While no one wants industrial facilities in their backyards, let’s look at this objectively.

The facility would be on land near the Jefferson Metropolitan McCalla Park, where there is lots of warehouse space and other sites for development. One might expect an intermodal facility to locate there. And it is close to I-20 with an exit already in place. Here’s a GoogleEarth shot. The yellow outline roughly shows the area of interest, between McAshan Drive and McAdory Elementary School, and between the railroad and Eastern Valley Road. Of course the facility would not take all of that space. Between the yellow line and 4th Avenue (Old Tuscaloosa Highway) is mostly land belonging to the Jefferson Metropolitan McCalla Park. I-20 is just northwest of the area. The elementary school is down at the lower southwest part of the area.

What is an intermodal facility anyway? Well, it’s not a rail yard, in the traditional sense. Intermodal shipping is generally recognized as the future of shipping, because of its efficiency. Cargo is not handled directly, and security is improved, damages and losses are reduced, freight is transported faster, and pollution is reduced. The facility will move cargo from truck to train and vice versa, and long distance shipping will be done via train rather than truck.

This facility could remove as many as 300,000 trucks (and their fumes) from Alabama’s interstates.

Details of Norfolk Southern’s plans have not been released, so there is a lot of speculation about what the facility might be. And speculation often uses fear to make its point. The information I have seen contains misleading assertions. But I am sure the railroad people will address those concerns when they meet with the neighborhood. Their spokesperson (Rudy Husband) has said that they reach out to neighborhoods close to their sites. But when, because apparently they haven’t yet.

“At the appropriate time, we will meet with concerned residents about the terminal and try to answer all of their questions,” he said Tuesday.

“We have participated in public meetings to respond to concerns residents may have about the construction and operation of our intermodal facilities.” (at other sites)

Bessemer is desperate for jobs, and things are about to get so bad in the county (when the Jefferson County Commission runs out of money at the end of this month), so its going to be hard to convince the powers that be that this facility should not be built. In fact, some of the people fighting it are already conceding defeat, it seems, citing the power of the railroad and a scheduled announcement, they say, by Governor Riley on July 16 about the project (from their web site).

There are a lot of new businesses in the area that I am sure would like to see 8,000 additional people eating at their fast food restaurants, buying groceries on the way home, purchasing gasoline. And most of those businesses are in Bessemer, so that’s tax money for our city.

Throughout history, industrial facilities have been located in poor areas and adjacent to black communities. One only has to look at North Birmingham to realize this. But those residents did not have voices that were heard by decision makers.

The McCalla residents are making their voice heard. There is a Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting tomorrow, Thursday, July 9 at 1:00 PM at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham (you would think they might meet out here, but no) where this issue will be addressed.

It seems the business community and the leaders of the community are all for this. Economic development and all. Let’s see what happens.