Category Archives: politics

The UAB bills are filed in Montgomery as men’s basketball keeps dancing in Louisville

UAB Blaze at Bartow ArenaAs the UAB men’s basketball team prepared to tip-off against Iowa State on March 19 (in a game they ultimately won, 60-59), Alabama State Representative Jack Williams filed three bills aimed at dealing with concerns following the discontinuation of the university’s bowling, football, and rifle teams late last year. All three bills are currently awaiting action from the state house’s committee on education policy.

HB 339 would require those serving on university boards of trustees to complete mandatory training on the state’s ethics law, board governance, and accreditation standards including those of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. This bill has 63 co-sponsors.

The one likely to be watched closely will be HB 340, a modified version of the proposed changes first suggested by Williams in late November shortly before the announcement about the affected teams was first made. The bill as first described would have made Alabama the only public university board in the country with elected officials (as many as six) serving with full voting privileges. The proposal as submitted:

  • reduces the number of terms a trustee can serve from three to two;
  • calls for two seats to be filled from each congressional district while adding an additional seat from the congressional districts in which UAB and UAH exist to the extra one already in existence for the Tuscaloosa campus;
  • one seat each filled by appointment of the governing bodies of Birmingham, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa (it was originally suggested these be filled by the mayors of each of these cities);
  • one seat each filled by appointment of the governing bodies (i.e., county commissions) in Jefferson, Madison, and Tuscaloosa counties (It was originally suggested for these to be the presidents of said commissions or their county manager);
  • one seat for each campus filled by an alum of the respective campuses to be appointed by the Governor to be chosen from a list of five names submitted by each campus’s alumni association;
  • one seat at-large filled by the lieutenant governor (with similar appointments made by the speaker of the house and the president pro tempore of the state senate;
  • Keeps the state superintendent and the Governor as ex officio members.

The board would no longer be self-appointing, with the task being handled by a committee consisting of the president pro temp of the board; one member of each alumni association (selected by each association’s board);  and the governor (or a designate that is not currently an employee of the system or any of its associated entities) serving as chair.

The bill has 41 co-sponsors.

HB 341 would require UAB field a football team with adequate funding to allow for competition at the Football Bowl Subdivision of NCAA Division I so long as the Tuscaloosa campus’s Crimson Tide remained active. This bill if passed would make Alabama the only state in the country to require that a football team be fielded for collegiate competition by its legislative body. This bill has 38 co-sponsors.

The bills await their debate while the men’s basketball team prepares to play UCLA on Saturday morning (11 a.m. CDT on CBS) or available via live streaming thanks to the NCAA.

Birmingham hosts third meeting of Alabama’s Group of 5 mayors

Alabama five mayors January 2015The mayors of Huntsville (Tommy Battle); Mobile (Sandy Stimpson); Montgomery (Todd Strange); and Tuscaloosa (Walt Maddox) joined Birmingham mayor William Bell on Monday morning for a press conference to mark the third time the five men — chief executives of the state’s five largest cities — had met as part of a one-year old initiative. The men gathered along with their chiefs of staff and police chiefs to talk about common issues related to public safety.  Their remarks followed those made by Governor Bentley related to last week’s announcement about Birmingham’s successful bid for the 2021 World Games. The governor had just finished a meeting with the mayors related to his comments about a proposed re-tooling of the state’s financial incentives packages — changes he hopes will be taken up during the 2015 legislative session. The Birmingham City Council hosted the Jefferson County legislative delegation Tuesday for lunch at the Birmingham Crossplex to discuss it and the issue of board governance at UAB in light of current beliefs related to the December 2 announcement discontinuing three athletic programs.

The remarks made by the mayors related to public safety centered on proposed initiatives, including each city’s investigation into the use of body cameras by police officers. Mayor Stimpson said, “If you don’t have a safe city, you’ve lost the foundation for having a city.” Mayor Bell shared how their conversation had all of them considering things like “storage of data, the size of the camera,” and the idea of leasing versus purchasing the devices in order to keep up with the latest technology.

Mayor Maddox pointed out his belief that “innovation begins at the local level,” while also highlighting what he said was each man’s “uncompromising commitment to their citizens.” Mayor Battle, an individual some wanted to see run for governor in 2014 before announcing he would not seek a nomination shortly after the group’s first meeting concluded, said, “we [the cities] all sink or swim together,” pointing to the potential benefits all five cities could see as a result of Birmingham’s successful big process.

The five men have previously met in Clarke County near Jackson, Alabama at Stimpson’s family lodge last January and, most recently, in Montgomery in September. The idea for the collaborative sessions, however, were “hatched” here in Birmingham last January according to comments made by Mayors Bell and Stimpson; the result of Stimpson, then newly-elected, seeking advice and pointers as he began his term in office. The mayors directly represent more than 20% of Alabama’s residents. Their cities serve as the economic centers of the state’s five largest metropolitan areas, representing approximately 56% of Alabama’s total population. Previous topics covered include infrastructure and education.

Only one of them is up for re-election before 2017; Mayor Strange recently announced he would seek re-election. One of the individuals preparing to run against the incumbent is former United States representative for District 7, Artur Davis, The former gubernatorial candidate announced his plans via YouTube video on Thursday, January 22.

Photo: L to R – Mayors Stimpson, Strange, Bell, Maddox, and Battle taking questions during a press conference at the Westin Birmingham on January 26, 2015. File photo.

UPDATED: Fight for Cooper Green goes national with Reverend Al

UPDATE, 10/6: reported on October 5 that Rev. Sharpton will be in town on October 26. The audience will indeed be larger, not just because of the national attention the civil rights leader will draw, but because it will be the day before the 2012 Magic City Classic at Legion Field.

One of the bigger conversations taking place in metro Birmingham involves the Jefferson County Commission’s plans to change Cooper Green Mercy Hospital from what is primarily an inpatient facility to one that acts more as a hub and spoke outpatient service.

Monday afternoon saw U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Gen. George Bowman, the Democratic Jefferson County Commissioner for health and general services in the county, bring the national spotlight to the case via an appearance on Keeping It Real with the Rev. Al. Sharpton.

Rep. Sewell publicized the segment in advance via Twitter and posted the interview to her YouTube account on October 3.

During the interview, Sharpton promises Sewell and Bowman that he’ll be making an effort to visit Birmingham and help rally behind efforts to save Cooper Green. He promised his radio audience he would be announcing a date in the near future in addition to bringing up the issue on his television show on MSNBC (which celebrated a year on the air back in August).

Based on the events calendar maintained on the National Action Network website, the date for that appearance in central Alabama has not been determined as of yet. See update above.

A new website was also mentioned during the interview, Save Cooper Green, aimed at providing additional information about efforts to preserve the inpatient unit and reports via indicate there is talk of the December 1 deadline possibly being shifted.

Pics or Artur’s party change didn’t happen? How about video?

Artur DavisThere are some that might point to the July 10 appearance by former U.S. congressman and Alabama Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Artur Davis as the first major one since formally stating on his website that if he reentered political life it would be as a Republican (something that garnered a great deal of attention locally – like this account on Weld for Birmingham – and nationally – as in the L.A. Times and NPR – when it happened at the end of May) and endorsing the presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The Birmingham News‘ Mary Orndorff Troyon provided a detailed written account of his remarks to the Northern Virginia Tea Party at Grevey’s Restaurant and Bar (just outside the Beltway) earlier this week. The reason for the first sentence of this post ringing true is because of a recent tweet that made followers of The News’ Washington bureau reporter’s account aware of an opportunity to hear the words come directly from the mouth of the former rising star of the Democratic Party.

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The speech was split up into five separate YouTube videos (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) on an account maintained by smitty1e. The description says the videos feature voice-over work from “the World’s Youngest Blogger.”

UPDATE: Free The Hops calls for statewide boycott of Anheuser-Busch, distributors

UPDATE: FTH has posted the list of beers affected by the distributor boycott on their website.

Free The Hops tulip glassLeaders for Free The Hops | Alabamians For Specialty Beer (FTH) announced their to call for a consumer boycott of Anheuser-Busch products and their distributors statewide this morning. This is first time that they’ve made such a request since January 2008 when they called specifically called for a boycott of products distributed by Birmingham Budweiser.

According to a post on the non-profit organization’s website, the vote by the board was unanimous, with one member choosing to recuse themselves due to a conflict of interest.

While the Free the Hops Bill (HB 373) passed in May 2009 (raising the level of alcohol allowed by volume in beer available statewide), there are two bills currently attempting to make their way through the state legislature – the Brewery Modernization Act and the Gourmet Bottle Bill; both measures were recently held over in Montgomery.

FTH’s official press release contends that Anheuser-Busch has been working against legislation currently under consideration in the State legislature. We have sent an email to Birmingham Budweiser requesting comment and will share that statement as soon as possible.

FTH also they would take the initial step of banning all beers distributed by Anheuser Busch distributors in Alabama from not only this year’s Rocket City Brewfest in May but Birmingham’s Magic City Brewfest in early June.

Three years ago, then FTH president Stuart Carter shared this piece with us about why bills then before the State legislature needed to pass.

Jefferson County… on the BBC

Official seal of Jefferson County, ALThe BBC World Service’s Business Daily decided to take a look at Jefferson County’s sewer debt situation as an example of the issue of potential municipal and county level bankruptcy.

One statement of note during yesterday’s interview with Jefferson County Commission president David Carrington when asked if the county has come close to bankruptcy(at 5:23 in):

I guess, if you look at $3.2 billion – or $4.2 billion with the debt that we can’t afford to pay, I have to be in all sincerity that we are  bankrupt, right now. We can’t pay our bills. We’re just not in bankruptcy. We’re going to have to restructure our debt or we will be in bankruptcy.”

Times are already tight at the County Commission as Carrington’s chief of staff, Pascal Caputo, made his first drive to Montgomery to essentially serve as the county’s lobbyist during the legislative session. ABC 33/40 reported that the daily trips are a result of the $129,000 contract for a county lobbyist being eliminated.

JeffCo Commission District 1 election tomorrow (& July 13)

election signTomorrow’s runoff election is specifically for residents of Jefferson County living in District 1 and pertains to the commission seat vacated when William Bell became mayor of Birmingham, AL earlier this year. The winner serves the remainder of Bell’s term, set to expire at the end of the year.

The crazy thing is that you’ll be given a choice between Birmingham City Councilman Johnathan Austin and retired General George Bowman tomorrow – and on July 13. The second election will determine the Democratic nominee for November’s general election.

Confused yet?

The Birmingham News‘ editorial board explains the situation as clearly as it can be, but it can still be a little disturbing if you think about it. One scenario, for example, could lead us to have to hold another special election to fill Austin’s unexpired term at City Hall if he’s successful tomorrow.

If you’re a resident of District 1 and you want some help figuring out just who to vote for, the Birmingham Young Democrats are teaming up with Women of Will (WOW) to host a candidates runoff forum this evening at 5:30 p.m. at Cosmos Sports Bar and Grill in Norwood.

Candidates for Alabama’s 7th Congressional District seat in Congress – Terri Sewell and Shelia Smoot – will be there too. You’ll only have to vote for them once (& won’t have to do that until July 13).