Tag Archives: Alabama

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.

UPDATE: Birmingham will host the 2021 World Games

UPDATE – 4:45 a.m., 1/22/2015: The City of Birmingham will be hosting the 2021 World Games, important as its both its 11th edition and its 40th anniversary. It will also be the city’s 150th birthday.

The city is the first in the United States to host the Games since they were founded in 1981 when they took place in Santa Clara, California.

The International World Games Association (IGWA) announced the winning city of the 2021 World Games from Hotel Mövenpick in Lausanne, Switzerland beginning at 4 a.m. CST on Thursday, January 22. The decision, made via secret ballot by the association’s executive committee, was announced shortly after 4:45 a.m. CST.  Following the announcement, Birmingham City Council president Johnathan Austin upon taking the podium said, “I think I need to pinch myself… to make sure I’m not dreaming.” Austin continued by recounting part of a conversation from Wednesday evening: “…regardless of who wins, we’re all winners, because now we have relationships, we’re friends with all of the [competing] countries.”

He promised those in attendance at the press conference that “The City of Birmingham will make the World Games 2021 the best World Games that you all have ever seen.”

The following live stream was made available via YouTube  for those following from home.  There was particular interest in Birmingham, AL; Lima, Peru; and Ufa, Russia — the three finalists for selection.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI3RmXfz9iM&w=625]

The announcement was made in the city that will now serve as the headquarters for the international, International Olympic Committee (IOC)-recognized association beginning in February. It had been previously based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The IGWA’s relationship with the IOC was further strengthened in November 2014 when recommendation No. 6 (PDF, page 9) was adopted during an Extraordinary Session of the IOC. It was one of 40 recommendations adopted to “shape the future of the Olympic Movement.”

The Birmingham delegation has been in Lausanne for the last few days and used the following video as part of their final presentation on Wednesday.

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/117396024 w=623]

The announcement is only the first step in the process for the city. Now that the games have been awarded, contract negotiations begin next week. The member federations of the IGWA will meet in Sochi this April to confirm the decision of the executive committee. Birmingham is currently set to take over the World Games flag on July 30, 2017 — at the end of the upcoming edition in Wroclaw, Poland.

By the way, this is where we point out that American football was added as an invitational sport in 2017 (and that it’s still possible to add baseball for 2021).

Photo: via Johnathan Austin’s Instagram account.

Digging into the UAB athletics announcement: the historical role of the Southeastern Conference in all of this

bryant-denny-2011Student-athlete representatives from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) were among those arguing the case to not make financial aid to them guaranteed for all four years during last week’s NCAA Convention according to a USA Today. Their voices swayed some, but the new measure was approved by the autonomy schools (better known as the Power 5). It has been argued its approval, and that of the “cost of living stipend,” will make fielding teams much more expensive. Kent State University is saying in order to remain competitive as an FBS school it would be spending as much as $1.1 million based on its current athletics lineup. It is one of the reasons the school announced a $35,000 assessment of its athletics program on Monday, as first reported by the Akron Beach Journal. It is also the reason given by UAB when it discontinued football, bowling, and rifle in early December 2014.

How the Southeastern Conference plays a role

The position taken by the SEC student-athlete representatives (one also voiced by those representing the Big 12 during the convention) is of note because of its place in the history of athletic scholarships in collegiate sports. The SEC was the first collegiate conference to officially sanction athletic scholarships in 1935 – three years after it was created here in Birmingham because of a split from the Southern Conference due to its increasing size. (NOTE: The folks over at Saturday Down South have an excellent write-up on the early history and make-up of the conference that you should check out.) An account by former Birmingham News sports editor Zipp Newman in his 1969 book, “The Impact of Southern Footballpoints out another innovation introduced to college football by the SEC. It describes an “arms race” in the late 1920s resulting from 3 out of 4 victories by Southern schools at the Rose Bowl (between 1926-1929):

There was a lot of hypocrisy in the recruiting of players. Charges and counter charges were filed in the 1920’s and early 1940’s, The large schools of the East, Mid-West, and Far West could depend on wealthy alumni to take care of their players. I do not think there was anything wrong. The Deep South simply did not have the wealthy alumni.

Never has the football world been more shocked than when the Southeastern Conference in 1944 announced a grant-in-aid. An athletic scholarship that provided room, board, books, and $15 a month for laundry. These benefits to football players were openly handled and books kept by the individual universities and colleges.

The rest of the NCAA eventually moved to adopt grant-in-aid in addition to the letter of intent. Many, including Newman, argue their adoption was at least partially made possible by the election of A.B. Moore, a dean from Alabama, as NCAA president fifty years ago this month (see page 2 of this PDF of the 1985 NCAA convention newsletter along the right hand side, though the lower right hand corner of page 1 has an interesting story as well). The reasons why such a move was made has been hypothesized often in recent years, as evidenced by this commentary penned by the Orlando Sentinel in 2013. There have also been several published theorizing the potential ramifications of the approval of the new governance rules for the autonomy schools, including this piece from 2014.

What happens next?

The expansion of the financial aid to include a stipend follows in conference tradition; whether or not the implementation of guaranteed four-year aid will be beneficial in the long term with need to be determined later. The autonomy schools are prepared for the changes for now though, with Missouri already announcing their placing an additional $1 million aside in their budget to accommodate the increased costs (as told to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier today). It’s worth noting that according to the data we compiled for our January 19 piece, they were only providing a 1.99% subsidy to their athletics budget in 2013; the Alabama Crimson Tide was receiving just over 4% despite being one of the 20+ teams in the FBS to actually turn a profit. Missouri and Alabama have seen 19% and 29% decreases respectively in the percentage their overall budgets coming from state appropriations due to significant reductions in funding.

Photo: Bryant-Denny Stadium pre-game Alabama vs. Tennessee, 2011. File photo.

Which university reigns supreme? TIME decides to build a web app for that

UAvsAUToday a screenshot has been making the rounds (via TIME’s Twitter account and this AL.com story) showing the results of a digital comparison between the University of Alabama and Auburn University. The web app that’s come to this conclusion is thanks to the intrepid folks at TIME Magazine. The publication recently redesigned their website using the WordPress.com VIP platform, adding more interactive features.

With all the talk about Alabama vs. Auburn, especially after the buzz surrounding yesterday’s announcement of the hiring of Bruce Pearl down on the Plains, we were wondering how the local state institution, UAB, would do. So, we checked to see if they were included in the list of alma maters being used, and they were.

The good news is the Blazers are closer in influence to Auburn than we are to the folks in Tuscaloosa. We’ll let the pictures speak for themselves though. First, UAB vs. Alabama:


Now, UAB vs. Auburn:


Granted, the algorithm being used to determine this is based on the length of entries associated with those of the “107,408 living people whose Wikipedia profiles list at least one alma mater in the U.S.” who actually attended the schools in question. That said, they’re encouraging your help in making sure the listings provide the most accurate results possible (see the bottom of this post for details).

Trim Tab Brewing Company hires Alabama’s first woman brewer

Wiersma up closeLauren Wiersma started this week as the newest member of the Trim Tab Brewing Company family. In the process, she also became the first female known to be working as a brewer at a brewery in Alabama. The brewery checked with the Pink Boots Society, an organization created to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the industry through education, and there’s no record of any others here, yet.

She’s not a stranger to metro Birmingham either, having spent most of her childhood here. She attended both Vestavia Hills High School and Birmingham Southern College.

Her path started simply enough. “I was in the wine business for a few years, and then I decided that I had some interest in brewing,” said Wiersma. She volunteered a couple of times at Avondale Brewing Company before heading out to Longmont, Colorado and an internship at Pumphouse Brewery. Once it was over She was offered a job in Longomont as she finished her three-weeks there by another brewery you may have heard of, Left Hand Brewing Company.

Wiersma said, “I basically asked my mom and sister if they’d pack up my things and send them to me ,and get rid of my apartment for me.”

She ended up spending two years out west. She was at Left Hand for just under a year doing packaging, spending the rest of that time at Oskar Blues as a cellar operator. According to her profile on their website, the position “handled everything from yeast care to dry hopping to filtering to cleaning tanks.”

Her journey back to Birmingham began due to some winter weather and a Facebook status update. Wiersma said, “One day I was having a very frustrating day with snow and ice up there. I got stuck in traffic for about two hours and made it fifteen miles and I finally turned around and put a rant up on Facebook about it and how I hated the snow and the cold.” Trim Tab’s brewmaster Will Crenshaw saw that status update and sent her a message saying that if she wanted to come back South, send him a resume. After talking to her fiancé, she decided to see where it led.

“That was on a Monday. Thursday, Harris emailed me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing an interview, Wiersma continues. “I told him I’d be in New Orleans that weekend, and he happened to be in New Orleans that weekend.” They met up, had a beer, and talked.

The following Tuesday morning, Wiersma said, “he and Will Facetimed with me. We chatted and they asked me some more questions. They called me back an hour later and offered me the job.”

wiersma portraitShe enjoyed her time in Colorado, but Wiersma missed her friends and family. “This is home to me,” she said. “I love Colorado. I loved being able to go hiking Rocky Mountain National Park whenever I wanted and all the outdoors stuff, I absolutely loved it. But this is home, and this is where my friends and family are.”

Wiersma is looking forward to helping to continue to shatter some perceptions of the industry. “It’s definitely one of those things depending on who you talk to. Some guys won’t take you seriously if you’re a female in the industry. Most of them are so accepting and wonderful and once they know you pull your weight and you know what you’re talking about, they’re like brothers. They’re great and you just kind of fit in and become one of the guys. I don’t think a lot of women see that aspect of it. Once you’re in there it’s awesome and it’s the most fun industry to be in.”

“I hope that I’m able to influence some women who are interested and hesitant of getting into the industry and it’s not as scary as it seems to be from the outside. I really would like to talk to any women who are interested and help them find ways to get in, find ways to encourage them.”

She’s also looking forward to the challenges ahead. “It’s neat to be able to come down into such a new brewing scene that I hope I can help guide.”

Oskar Blues comes “home” to Alabama next month

Last night, one simple tweet stopped the local craft beer scene in its track, but  in a good way:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/OskarBluesBama/status/214742671938424832″]

That’s right; Oskar Blues and their cans of craft beer will be making its Alabama debut later this summer – perhaps as early as July based on this other tweet sent out by the account dedicated to the state earlier today:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/OskarBluesBama/status/215486689215385601″]

This development is big news for fans of the Lyons, CO-based craft beer maker, especially those aware of the fact that the company’s owned by Florence, AL natives Dale and Chris Katechis will turn to Birmingham Beverage to begin distributing their cans in Birmingham and elsewhere in the northern 2/3 of the state. They’re scheduled to be in holding release events between July 2-4 according to their press release.

We got a chance to catch up with Ben Lewellyn of Good People Brewing Company to hear what someone from the only brewer in the state currently making craft beers delivered in cans had to say.

Keeping up with plans as they unfold should be easy if you’re a fan of social networks. They’ve got a brand page on Facebook in addition to the Twitter account.

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/al.com
CBS 42
Fox 6

They may also visit www.alabamasaftnet.com 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).