Archive for the ‘Norfolk Southern’ Category

>A big hubbub over the hub

November 10, 2010

>Last night I attended a public hearing mediated by a judge that was part of the process necessary for Norfolk Southern to build their railroad hub in the McCalla area. I had attended the first two public meetings, and thought that since the “McCalla residents” have had over a year to familiarize themselves with the proposed facility they would be more reasoned in their opposition.

Boy was I wrong.

I neglected to take into account that most of them are white Republicans, so they are conditioned to opposing everything, by their Republican leaders in Washington and by their Tea Party leaders, who ignored facts and relied on misinformation to propel like minded folks to office in the recent election.

It worked in the election. It didn’t work last night.

Most of the questions asked by the public have already been answered either at other public forums or in the Environmental Assessment that has been available for several weeks.

But they haven’t read that. And from talking with several of them, they don’t intend to. They act as though reading 500 pages is an impossible task, and maybe for some of them it is.

Incidentally, there are several thousand people in McCalla, and there were less than 100 at this meeting protesting the facility. A noisy minority, like, again, the Tea Party.

Several of the people asking questions made it a point to blame Bessemer for their problems.

“Is the City of Bessemer represented?” asked the first person. Part of the road from the interstate to the proposed entry to the hub is owned and maintained by Bessemer. and apparently that part of the road needs some repair, and widening.

The next person to ask a question actually said, “The problem is Bessemer.”

I do agree that the City of Bessemer should have been represented at the meeting. This is a huge project that promises to bring hundreds or thousands of jobs to the city. Wake up Bessemer, get on board!

One of the men on the panel answering questions did mention that Bessemer has new leadership and the people from Bessemer that frustrated them for the past few years are gone, so they should approach Bessemer again about upgrading the road. (Maybe they should wait a month or two until some of the dust settles at city hall).

But the most ridiculous question award goes to the man who, with kids in tow, asked for a “100% guarantee” that nothing would happen at the facility that could harm his children. Judge Art Hanes, the moderator, didn’t even let the question get to the panel. He said, “No,” that they can’t do that and that nothing is 100%.

“Then why risk it?” the man replied, and the McCalla hub-bubbas applauded.

My questions to that man, and to those who applauded are these.

1. Is the school bus that you put your child on every day 100% safe? Then why risk it?

2. Is the school room that your child sits in every day 100% safe? Then why risk it?

3. Is bringing a child into this world 100% safe? Then why risk it?

I overheard one lady who had concerns about terrorism and security. Norfolk Southern’s security will be state of the art as far as access to the facility. But I would hate to live in such fear as some of these people seem to do. Muslims, terrorists, gays! Oh my!

Here are some things that have been ignored by the anti-progress people.

Norfolk Southern will spend $100 million dollars ($97.5 million actually) on the facility. That’s a lot of money being invested in west Jefferson County.

Hundreds or maybe even a thousand or so jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project. A few hundred jobs will be created at the facility once it opens and thousands of jobs at warehouses and distribution facilities will be created also.

Over the next 10 years the economic impact is estimated to be $4 billion.

As a result of the facility there will be fewer emissions (by trucks) and less wear and tear on our highways and a smaller carbon footprint.

Here is system engineer for facilities for Norfolk Southern Charlie McMillan explaining the security aspects of the facility.

Norfolk Southern public relations head Rudy Husband explained to the group why Norfolk Southern cannot make promises about community enhancements at this point in the process.

Speaking of the process, this was the third public meeting, and now the concerns brought up will (once again) be addressed and by December a final approval by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration should be set.

And here is the project schedule. Site work could begin in May of 2011 and the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility should be complete by October 2012.

Hey McCalla – I hear the train a comin’.

Here’s the best railroad song written.

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

>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.

>Positive things are happening in Bessemer

June 3, 2010

>Let’s catch up on some Bessemer news and announcements.

Farmer’s market

The weekly Farmer’s Market at Watermark Place Center will begin this Saturday from 7 am to 12 noon. Fresh, local produce and things for kids to do and entertainment and cooking demonstrations.

And did I mention, fresh, local produce?

Most of the Farmer’s market vendors will accept senior citizen nutrition coupons.

Join me in welcoming this addition to Bessemer.

DHR Building groundbreaking

The groundbreaking for the new (close to) 6 million dollar DHR building will take place Friday, June 4, 2010 at 11:00 at the site located at 1st Ave N and 20th St in Bessemer.

Today the site is in “pre-groundbreaking” mode.

Join me as we see the beginning of a change in downtown Bessemer.


A developer is wanting to annex a tract of land into Bessemer in the area of the Norfolk Southern railroad hub that is being being developed. The land is between McAdory School Road and McAshan Drive. The proposal was to be presented before the Bessemer City Council this morning in a special called meeting.

The council chamber was packed, with between 35-40 McCalla residents and a couple of dozen others and TV crews. A “comedy of errors” took place as the meeting began. I won’t go into the details, but just let me say that it is further evidence that we need new leadership and a new council, but there will be plenty to say about that in the coming weeks as we approach the city elections.

The developer said this project would create 780 to 1000 jobs. The city would benefit because of the job creation and because of property taxes the city would collect.

Mayor Ed May said there is no downside to annexing land. That is how cities grow.

Council person (and County Commission candidate) Jimmie Stephens questioned the wisdom in development with an industrial use rather than residential development. The land includes two failed subdivisions.

It was pretty obvious that Stephens was acting more like a County Commissioner by looking out for the interests of the county residents than a City Councilor who should be representing the interests of the city and its residents. Clearly the annexation of the land would benefit the city.

The incumbent County Commissioner Bobby Humphryes (who will face Stephens in a runoff)was there, and he also spoke in opposition to the annexation, saying the county had a land use plan for the area that would retain the residential and agricultural zoning it now has and the development of a “village.”

The council will probably vote on the issue at the next regular meeting on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. I say “probably” because you never know when this council will drop or add something to an agenda or call or cancel a special meeting.

In the meantime, go here to see how the Hub itself is a progressive thing, from an environmental standpoint, as it will help reduce traffic and pollution and cause a reduction in greenhouse gases. Other information about the hub and Norfolk Southern’s outreach to the community can be found there as well.

The Bessemer City Council needs to recognize too that there are McCalla residents who support the hub and the associated development. The loudest voice is not always the most popular or the right voice.

And like Louise Alexander said, the council needs to do what is best for the city of Bessemer, not those who are outside the city. She said she would vote for the annexation.

She also asked why the McCalla residents don’t ask to be annexed into Bessemer. Wade Cox, a resident of McCalla and spokesperson for those in attendance, tried to explain how they want an elite community without industry, without offending the Bessemer leaders that they want to avoid living under. Interesting.

There is nothing wrong with living in a city that celebrates diversity, and that includes a diverse array of job opportunities and types of business and industry. The Mayor mentioned that the CSX hub is adjacent to residential areas and practically in downtown Bessemer, and that Bessemer has a history of close ties to industry.

780-1000 jobs. Income for the city. Council members, remember that.

And McCalla residents, come on into the city of Bessemer. We don’t bite.

IPEC and Camp Bessemer

The city is partnering with IPEC (Influencing to Provoke Empowerment for Change) to run Camp Bessemer, the summer program that provides jobs for young people and activities and children. The city will pay $195,000 to IPEC to run the program.

Today at the council meeting the council attempted to determine how to pay the money to the group and what kind of oversight they should have. What could (and should) have been a simple, 5 minute procedure turned into another extended discussion during which many of the audience members who were still there, including myself, had to leave in order to keep our wits about us.

At any rate, Camp Bessemer will begin Monday, June 7. Spanish lessons, reading help, arts and crafts and other activities will take place.

>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.

>Info meeting today in B’mer and the CMA review

November 12, 2009

>In Bessemer today Norfolk Southern makes their case again by teaming up with the Alabama Department of Transportation for a second informational meeting regarding their planned Intermodal Facility in McCalla. The event will be held at the Bessemer Civic Center from 4 – 7 this afternoon.

Nominations for a community group will also be taken. Norfolk Southern will not have a role in selecting the members of the committee, which will be their primary community contact.

Let’s hope the folks from McCalla can be a little more serious in their approach to the informational meeting this time. Remember August?


This was not your daddy’s Country Music Awards.

For one thing, Darius Rucker won new artist of the year.

But even better, two songs that were performed, two(!), included lyrics referring to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Brad Paisley performed “Welcome to the Future,” and Tim McGraw performed “Southern Voice.”

I can’t embed the video for “Future,” but Watch the video for a lift. I really wish I could have embedded this. Paisley won Male Vocalist of the Year.

Here is Tim’s video,

The highlight of the evening had to be 19 year old Taylor Swift winning Entertainer of the Year, after winning Female Vocalist and Album of the Year and Video of the Year. Here are her three acceptance speeches. She gets in a dig at Kanye without mentioning his name.

I think that the country music industry is a little more forward thinking than many of their fans. I don’t think I have to explain that. Now if one or two of those closeted performers would come out and take a stand…

Oh, and you teabagging Republicans, the future that Brad Paisley is singing about is here, and there is nothing you can do about it.

>CSX hub opens in Bessemer

September 16, 2009

>Be sure to read my Western Tribune column that follows this post. It deals with racism and Obama and Joe Wilson.

To those No-Hubbers who got on my case claiming that if the hub were being built in my neighborhood then my story would be different…

CSX has opened their railroad hub in Bessemer, and there is a school next to it and homes all around. Did we hear any whining from these folks? No.

No group has emerged to voice concern about what the facility will mean to students, as has happened in McCalla, where residents have objected to the Norfolk Southern’s site proximity to McAdory Elementary School.

“This one had great political support locally and we certainly appreciate that.” said Gary Sease, a spokesman for Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX.

Instead, the focus of the CSX project is centering on the benefits the facility could have on the 116-acre Interstate Industrial Park and the 750,000 square feet of vacant space among the 1 million square feet of warehouses there.

“It’s going to enable Alabama manufacturers to connect to the ports of Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., on the East Coast,” Sease said. “We’re excited about it and looking forward to building business there as the economy comes back.”

While my house is not next door to the facility, I can point out where it is on this map provided by the Birmingham News. so it’s close.

More than 40 trains a day roll by on the tracks going along Carolina Avenue and you don’t hear complaints…well, an occasional complaint maybe when they block major roads for long periods like this Norfolk Southern train.

What is the story behind this blackberry picture of a train stopped in Bessemer? It demonstrates something that people do not understand.

See the man in the blue shirt crossing the street? He just emerged from Churches Chicken ( I was parked in their lot) with his lunch and walked over to the train and climbed in. So, here are my questions.

Does the operator of this train stop for 15 or 20 minutes so he can get his lunch, blocking several major roads at the time?

If the train is stopped because it is waiting for another train to pass, as they sometimes do, could he not stop 150 feet back and not block 19th street? Could he walk half a block for his lunch?

Just wondering. This happens more frequently than you might think.

Keep reading, the Western Tribune column is next.

>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.

>A changing community

August 25, 2009

>In 1887 Bessemer was founded by Henry F. DeBardeleben. DeBardeleben is being honored today by the Kiwanis club of Birmingham as it inducts him along with three others into the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame. His credits include (for Birmingham) forming the Pratt Coal and Coke Co. and the DeBardeleben Coal and Iron Co., which later merged with TCI.

As for Bessemer, the King of the Southern Iron World, as he was known, Henry DeBardeleben came here around 1887. (History – Bessemer Chamber of Commerce)

At age 30 he came to Birmingham and they soon had acquired a controlling interest in the Red Mountain Iron and Coal Company, which was later renamed the Eureka Mining Company. Debardeleben was the general manger of this company. It was during this time in 1886 that he proposed to buy a site consisting of 4,040 acres of land that was located about 13 miles to the southwest of Birmingham for approximately $100,000. Debardeleben’s plan was to build eight furnaces and to add two additional railroad outlets to the city within two years. He believed that the future of this city and the surrounding areas depended on the success of its iron and steel resources. This became the key part of Debardeleben’s organizational structure for the city. Debardeleben even renamed the city to reflect the resources in the area that it could offer. The original name of the city was Brooklyn; however Debardeleben decided to rename the city Bessemer in honor of Sir Henry Bessemer, the British scientist who was famous for his contribution to the steel making process.

“His descendants have made a mark in the Birmingham area….” the release about today’s award says.

For instance, I guess, his son, Charles DeBardeleben? According to Diane McWhorter, in Carry Me Home, Charles DeBardeleben identified himself as “one of the greatest believers of White Supremacy” and proclaimed his contempt for an organization (labor union) that let whites “mingle and associate with Negroes.” It gets worse.

But this is not about Charles. It’s about the positive changes that Henry brought to our area.

Another positive step toward change is the announcement from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama that the Jefferson County McCalla Industrial Park is being designated as an “AdvantageSite,” the first such site in Jefferson County.

This site is next to the proposed intermodal facility to be built by Norfolk Southern. Being designated an AdvantageSite helps to “take away much of the guess work for a company looking to locate or expand in the state. Industrial sites earn the designation after an extensive process that verifies all types of information, from the ownership to environmental studies and zoning and other essentials.”

In other words, it helps in recruiting development. This should help to bring the type of development that Norfolk Southern is predicting alongside their hub.

By the way, if you were unable to attend their information meeting last week,
has the answers you are looking for. This site provides most of the information that was presented at the Bessemer Civic Center. (Without being under the watchful eye of the Bessemer Police whose presence offended so many of the McCalla residents).

There are other changes coming to Bessemer. There is someone thinking outside the box, with a vision that can help our urban neighborhoods get out of the rut we are in. More about this later.

>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.

>Alabama leaning red and Kings of Leon

August 4, 2009

>Gallup has released a poll that shows how blue the country is becoming.


Alabama is categorized as “leans Republican.” In 2008 Alabama was “competitive,” which means we are a little more red than we were a year ago.

The state certainly leans Republican, but was it really “competitive” in 2008?

Their numbers are based on responses to which party an individual identifies with. In Alabama 46% identified or leaned Republican and 40% identified or leaned Democrat, giving Republicans a 6 point advantage.

I think democrats will continue to make gains in the state. That is based on demographics…younger people are getting involved every day. They lean blue.

Here’s a bit of a surprise from another poll. Overwhelming support for the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Facility, according to a recent poll by the Western Tribune. The numbers will probably be in this week’s paper.

Kings of Leon. Notion. Love these guys. They were on the Today Show the other day. I didn’t see them, but someone said they attracted the largest crowd of any of the morning concerts they do.