Category Archives: Statewide

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.

What is Virtual Alabama?

Virtual Alabama logoEarlier today, Birmingham News reported about the called work session for the Birmingham Board of Education scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. One of the items to be discussed is Virtual Alabama.

So, what is it?

The service has operated internally since 2006 (and publicly since late 2007), a project that’s grown out of the state’s department of homeland security. It’s built on Google Earth’s enterprise solution, meaning it’s pretty powerful. It’s access is limited to local, county, and state government offices and associated agencies.

What is it capable of doing?

Perhaps this video created in 2008 by Google Business as a case study can help shed some light on what it’s done already – and maybe get folks to imagine just what the potential importance to the state will be as it continues to be refined.


A post published on the Google Enterprise blog back in 2009 touts how its gone on to serve as an inspiration to other states. The platform has received increased attention recently, in part due to the tragedy in Newtown, CT, and its ability to help officials craft a school safety systems for districts statewide. It’s something already utilized by the University of Montevallo.

Time to stop thinking about texting while driving in Alabama

No-Texting-While-Driving-Bill-SigningThose of you tempted to send texts to folks while you’re stuck in traffic on Red Mountain Expressway this evening (or even worse, if you’re speeding along on your way home) need to start thinking again. It’s probably time to start breaking yourself of the habit since it’s about to get a little pricey to do so throughout the state.

Early Tuesday afternoon the Alabama legislature passed a bill that bans drivers from using a wireless device to writing, sending, or reading text messages, e-mails, or instant messages, while operating a motor vehicle. Governor Bentley signed it into law shortly thereafter.

Alabama becomes the 38th state to ban texting while driving; the District of Columbia also prohibits it. If you’re caught, you’ll be fined $25 the first time, $50 if they catch you doing it again. If you’re hard-headed enough to be caught doing it a third time, look forward to a $75 fine. Each instance will also result in a two-point violation on your driving record.

Then again, you should have already stopped texting while driving here in Birmingham since the City Council unanimously passed a ban back in July 2010 (just months after UAB hosted a statewide summit on distracted driving the previous December).

Photo: Governor of Alabama’s Press Office.

Saf-T-Net premium service now free for Alabama residents

AlaSAF-T-NetLogo_150x150_WebThis afternoon, Governor Bentley announced that Baron Services of Huntsville will provide its premium SAF-T-Net® service at no cost to all Alabama residents.

The premium version of the service normally offered by the company costs $3.99 per month or $45 for the year and provides National Weather Service polygon based tornado, severe thunderstorm, and flash flood warnings for up to four user-defined locations (including your smartphone) via phone, email, or text messaging. While a free version of the service is available, it only allows you to receive those warnings for one location and the types of warnings available are limited.

The service also provides updates from area media partners as they are available.

Currently residents are being encouraged to sign up for the service via any of the media partners in the state, including locally (all links to sign-up pages):

The Birmingham News/
CBS 42
Fox 6

They may also visit and sign up directly with Baron Services. The company has provided an infographic via PDF explaining just how the service works (or you can watch the video available for viewing on the site’s media page).

Gourmet Bottle Bill goes before AL State Senate Tuesday

Free the Hops logoFree The Hops (FTH) shared earlier in the day Monday that SB294 – the legislation supported by the organization that would change the 16 fluid oz. limit on beer sold in Alabama to 25.4 fluid oz. – might be placed on the special order calendar for the Alabama State Senate on Tuesday, February 21.

A tweet was sent out earlier this evening by FTH stating they’d confirmed it would be up for a vote.

The 25.4 number was chosen by FTH because “it would allow for 22 oz. and 750 mL bottle sizes – the two most common bottle sizes for high-end specialty beers” to be sold in the state.

The “Gourmet Bottle Bill” has also been submitted to the Alabama State House of Representatives as HB264.

Alabama Gives begins at midnight on Thursday

Alabama Gives Day logoFor those who spend a great deal of time online, you’ve no doubt already received a notice from your favorite local or statewide charity about it. Your friends may have changed their profile images on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ (where, incidentally, we have a page) in recent days to what could become a familiar logo.

The Alabama Association for Nonprofits is joining forces with the Alabama Association of Broadcasters and Razoo to present the first ever Alabama Gives Day. As of this posting, there were 1,427 organizations taking part in this 24 hour fundraising event that helps to highlight what nonprofits across the state of Alabama are doing. Some of the local organizations have taken to some rather creative online campaigns, like  the video being used by Vulcan Park featuring their lovable mascot “V”.

Be aware that you’ve got to make your donations on February 2 (read: not this evening or this weekend) in order for it to count towards what could be the largest single day of fundraising in the history of the state. If the numbers included in the event’s press release from December are any indication, it could be a big day for many organizations.

Just in case you’re still wondering what the event’s all about, check out the commercial created to help publicize the event on television and online. The fun starts at midnight.

Alabama craft brewers talk about Brewery Modernization

We’re still waiting to see if Governor Bentley will be signing the Beer Modernization Act passed last week in Montgomery before the end of the legislative session on Thursday. One group tremendously interested in his decision are those currently operating  craft breweries in the state – and we got a chance to talk to a few of them at Magic City Brewfest last weekend.


Free the Hops is continuing to ask people to contact the Governor’s office to voice their wanting him to sign it into law. We’ll let you know what happens.