>A great city council meeting

March 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Here are Principal Hunter and Officer Tate.


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

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

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

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

Then he gave his short answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music for the day.

This song will get you moving.

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

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>Flowers before the storm

February 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s storms will certainly tear these blooms up.

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

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

>A Gay weekend in Montgomery

February 27, 2011

>Last weekend was “Gay Alabama in Montgomery”. Two events took place that should have been better attended, but were meaningful and beneficial for those who did attend.

On Saturday Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out visited the capital of Alabama and spoke. Patrick McAlvey, a survivor of ex-gay therapy also presented his story. Equality Alabama sponsored this event. I got to spend a little time with Wayne on both Friday (in Tuscaloosa) and Saturday, and Patrick on Saturday.

If you haven’t seen Patrick’s video watch it. No one should have to go through this farce of therapy. Those who practice it should be prosecuted.

On February 20, 2011 the 13th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence took place on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery. Alabama needs a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Remember, Billy Jack Gaither and Scotty Joe Weaver were both killed, in gruesome and torturous (thank you Gwen) ways that might have been prevented had the killers thought twice knowing that what they were doing was a hate crime that could result in stiffer sentences for their actions. Of course, many other hate crimes against the LGBT community have been committed, pretty much ignored by the press, and certainly ignored by our elected officials.

The Shouting Stones provided music…


…while the people gathered.


Rev. Paul Britner of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Montgomery gave the opening words and welcomed all of us. UUF also provided the venue for Truth Wins Out the night before.


Dr. Paul Hard gave a short intro that reminded us why we were there.

Equality Alabama Chair Dr. Joe Openshaw (me) also gave a welcome on behalf of Equality Alabama and reminded those in attendance of how important is is that they follow up EA’s letters to the state legislators with their own letters regarding an inclusive hate crimes law. EA sent letters to all the legislators last month outlining the issues important to us and to the state: hate crimes law, anti-bullying legislation and employment non-discrimination.

Mr. Rocky Twilley read a message from Rev. Jo Crisco, pastor at New Hope Metropolitan Community Church.


The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Choir provided True Colors.

Nancy Dobson presented the Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award, presented yearly to a deserving recipient based on their commitment to justice and equality for all people.

The award went to Robert and Jean Graetz. Read about their award here.

Equality Alabama board member Shirley Ann Rawls introduced the keynote speaker…

…Ms. Gwynedd Adelaide Thomas.

Ms. Thomas gave a wonderful presentation, but what struck me the most were her many reminders of hate crimes committed against members of the LGBT community here in Alabama and elsewhere, and her introduction of the label “torture” to those crimes. In reality, those victims actually are tortured, often being beaten, burned, urinated on. Remember Scotty Joe crying Chris, please stop” as his murderer tightened the rope around his neck? It’s torture, all right.

Equality Alabama believes this is not a Democrat v. Republican issue, but a humanitarian issue, a love v. hate issue. All legislators should be interested in adding sexual orientation and gender identity to our hate crimes law in Alabama, as this could help to reduce violence in our state.

My photographer did not get a picture, but Rev. Elizabeth O’Neill, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, gave the closing words.

A reception followed at the Ken Baker Center, which is managed by Equality Alabama.

This picture is from the day the center was dedicated.

I urge you to support the LBGT community in Alabama and the Ken Baker Center by joining Equality Alabama by getting on our email list and with a monetary contribution. A yearly contribution of $35 is suggested, along with a monthly contribution of whatever amount you can afford at this time. Our work is far from complete, and we need your support to continue. Click here to donate to Equality Alabama.

You don’t have to be gay to join or support Equality Alabama. We have many straight supporters, and if you believe in equality you should join too!

Our big weekend would not be complete without sharing our accommodations while in Montgomery.

While in the capital we stayed at The Lattice Inn and enjoyed wonderful accommodations and an enlightened and entertaining host.

I recommend The Lattice Inn when in Montgomery. I look forward to visiting again when the temperature is just a few degrees higher and the pool is open.

>An interesting church

February 25, 2011

>While in Charleston, South Carolina I became interested in St. Michael’s Church, which is the oldest church edifice in the City of Charleston. It stands on the site of the first Anglican Church built south of Virginia.

My interest in the church was generated by a cookbook at an aunt’s house. The book is called Faithfully Charleston and has some interesting recipes but also some bits of information about the church, including this description of an epitaph from the graveyard:

Another tells of the mother of nine children, who died, “age 17 years and 27 days.”

Do the math.

Anyway, we went to the church the next day so I could purchase a cookbook.

Later during the day we returned and walked through the sanctuary.

Look at this pulpit in the middle of the room.

From the church information flyer:

The pulpit is the original one, remarkable for its height and the massive sounding board supported by two Corinthian columns. Its prominence bears out the fact that at the time the church was built, the center of interest in the service was the sermon, conflicting with the central place planned for the altar…Although the present reading desk was given in 1892 as a memorial, it is in the location of the original desk, and together with the pulpit above it makes up what is called a “double-decker.”

Here is the Tiffany chancel decoration. The window was installed in 1893, and shows St. Michael casting out the dragon.

Here is the organ, originally installed in 1768, but altered several times and restored in 1994.

Something didn’t feel right as I walked through the church.

I later learned that the Diocese of South Carolina is in a “battle” (their word, not mine) with the leadership of the Episcopal Church, over the acceptance by the church of homosexuals, and in particular the ordination and consecration of a partnered lesbian as bishop suffragan of the diocese of Los Angeles.

Bishop Mark Lawrence has said that he and Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori “stand looking at one another across a wide, deep and seemingly unbridgeable theological and canonical chasm.”

He has declared the diocese sovereign within the church.

Shades of South Carolina’s secession from the Union. And (as a distraction), now a South Carolina lawmaker wants the state to issue its own currency. What is going on with the people of that state?

The Diocese has not split from the Episcopal Church as of yet. I hope they realize that the conservatives in this situation are the ones causing the divide…they are the ones breaking away.

Anyway, for those Episcopalians who don’t believe that God makes mistakes and want an inclusive and welcoming church in South Carolina, there are several on this list of welcoming churches, including St. Marks in Charleston.

From their web site:

We welcome all Christians to full participation in the St. Mark’s Parish family without regard to gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, race, or cultural heritage.

Back to the cookbook

Onion Pie, John’s Island Tomato Pie, and St. Michael’s Staff Party Chicken are a few of the recipes that caught my eye, and will be among the first to try. And when I feel like baking, I’ll try my hand at The Lady Irene Charleston Cake.

>Backyard Birds

February 18, 2011

>Today is the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Each year thousands of birdwatchers and bird lovers and outdoor lovers and nature lovers sit down for a few minutes each day and look at the birds in their yard or wherever they are.

I have done my count for the day. Glad to see some purple finches at the feeders.

This is not my picture…it’s from Wikipedia.

Go here to get information about the GBBC and to learn how to submit your observations. It is really simple. Really.

On Tuesday February 22 at 6 PM Bessemer Mayor Ken Gulley will give his state of the city address. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend, but maybe some of my City Council buddies or others will send me their impressions of the mayor’s address. Otherwise I will just have to wait until the Western Tribune report comes out.

Of course we pretty much know the state of the city. I have been reporting on that for years.

For Fun

Everybody loves Katy Perry. These University of Arkansas students obviously do.

Silly boys.

And here is a video of Adele singing at the Brit Awards this week

>The ecology of litterbugs: part III

February 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>The trees at Auburn

February 17, 2011

>In or around 1877 some oak trees were planted at the intersection of College Street and Magnolia Avenue in Auburn.

This Auburn University picture of Toomer’s Corner was taken in 1890.

Over time the trees grew and became the welcome to the campus of Alabama Polytechnic Institute.

More time passed and a tradition of rolling the trees with toilet paper after big football wins by Auburn University began.

This is Toomer’s Corner after Auburn won the BCS Championship this year.

The weekend after the Iron Bowl some jerk head poured a strong poison around the trees with the intent to kill them, and then bragged about it on the Paul Finebaum radio show. Listen.

I am so glad that most, and I emphasize most, Alabama fans view this as a cowardly despicable act. But then there are some that are downplaying the incident on Facebook and elsewhere, with comments about them being “just trees” and worse.

Although I realize that this is an act by an individual, and that an individual in any state can do something stupid, this just goes to show you how hatred dominates our state.

When a football fan can brag about something like this, and respond with “Do you think I care,” when asked if it is against the law to poison a tree, what are we to think. His hatred goes beyond the law. And over a game.

Oh I know he claims he is retaliating after something that happened 28 years ago, but still, its about a game.

And even if I were not an Auburn fan I would feel the same way. You don’t go around destroying century old trees that are part of a tradition regardless of how you feel.

And, Mr. tree killer, you just gave the people in the other 49 states another reason to believe that the people of our state are backward uneducated rednecks.

Let me just say this. You can kill the trees at Toomer’s Corner, but you can not kill the Auburn spirit. War Damn Eagle, Mr. tree killer.

THE AUBURN CREED

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.

I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.

I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.”

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.
-George Petrie (1945)

>Bessemer City Council antics

February 15, 2011

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

See Update at end of post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter XIII
*43. BASES FOR DETERMINING A VOTING RESULT

Majority Vote – the Basic Requirement

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

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

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

This candidate received 4 votes, so she also won.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>Creation Museum antics

February 14, 2011

>Not long ago I posted a Facebook status about “science” textbook I had come across that mentioned the earth being about 4000 years old.

There is nothing remotely related to science in that belief.

But I was going to let it pass, with hopes that the Mennonite children that might read it would become better educated later in life. I realize that I have no control and no voice in what a private religious organizations teaches its kids.

In and around that time I was involved in a discussion about the replica of Noah’s ark being built. This is being done at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. This is to be a full scale replica, big enough to carry specimens of every species, including extinct dinosaurs, I presume, since they believe dinosaurs roamed along with Fred Flintstone and every Australopithecus species and other early human examples.

Photo from exhibit in Creation Museum

I’m not really writing about how ludicrous it is to think that one man could (or would) capture every microscopic species on the earth, and every species of disease carrying mosquito and every species of bedbug and keep those living, even though they might require different environments and micro-climates to sustain them. Remember, some parasites require multiple hosts to complete their life cycle, and for Noah to understand this and be able work out the logistics is just not believable.

No, I am writing about an event the Creation Museum sponsored, a “Date Night” where loving couples were supposed to have a $71 a person dinner and a lecture about what makes a relationship work.

But a gay couple was denied admittance.

They explained to us that the Creation Museum Date Night was a “Christian environment”, therefore the presence of two men eating dinner together would not be allowed. The very sight of this would “add an un-Christian element to the event” and “disrupt the evening for everyone”

.

I assume the organizers of the event have never seen the famous picture of Jesus and his 12 disciples eating together, but I digress.

The gay couple’s tickets were actually purchased by a straight couple. Here is the straight guy’s account of the evening.

Let me just comment that my relationship with my partner is as strong as any straight couple’s relationship that I know, and we can do without the ramblings of any prejudiced instructor on how to make it better.

But still, the gay couple should have been allowed to attend with their straight friends, it seems.

Notice in this photo of an exhibit from the museum that Adam was created as a totally (hot) white guy from that time long ago, the 1960’s.

Maybe he was just ahead of his time…a foretelling of a future Republican congressman wanting to post his profile on Craig’s list.

OK, I’m getting off subject and the Grammy’s just came on so I’ll stop there.

>A confused gay republican

February 13, 2011

>I’ve never understood gay Republicans. Actually, I’ve never understood Republicans, but let’s stick to the gays.

GOProud is a group of Gay conservatives that have split the CPAC group wide open, and for that I commend them.

But they seem to be self loathing, or hypocritical, or something, as one of their members revealed at CPAC this weekend.

Matt Hissey, in an interview with Ebone Bell of Metro Weekly (at 1:39 in the video):

“I don’t really like gay people that much. Gay people frustrate me, the stereotypical gay people, it frustrates me…someone who puts on a total act. I understand that some guys are feminine, which is fine. But some guys, at some point, are normal, straight-acting, whatever and the next minute they’re jumping up and down. It just frustrates me. The whole conservative thing is just be yourself, be an individual and just don’t be someone you’re not. If someone does or does not accept you, that’s fine but don’t change who you are to look different to others.”

A quick question, are you being yourself Matt when you highlight your hair like that, are you changing who you are to look different to others?

Now, let’s dig a little deeper.

“Some guys…are normal, straight-acting, whatever and the next minute they’re jumping up and down….

So, he wants people to “be individual and just don’t be someone you’re not,” but he wants them to act straight (whatever that means) while being yourself.

So is it OK for straight guys to jump up and down? He says, speaking of his fellow gays “But some guys, at some point, are normal, straight-acting, whatever and the next minute they’re jumping up and down.”

These are straight Green Bay Packer fans. Acting straight one minute, jumping up and down the next.

I don’t know. Again, I can understand being conservative. I might disagree with their policies, but I understand that some people have conservative beliefs.

But to be gay, and support the party that wants to keep you from joining the military, keep you from legalizing your relationships, and wants you to be subject to discrimination in housing and employment, just does not make sense.