The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Monday, August 30, 2010

SDEC - unbelievable

I come in from a week in Nirvana and discover that the world did not stop spinning while I was gone. I had planned to bore you with details of our trip to New Mexico, but then I looked at the newspapers that had collected while I was gone.

Something happened that makes me lose all faith in the state Democratic Party. Maybe the Party can do something to reverse this, but I don't know what it might be.

The Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee met and handed down an unbelievable, race based decision to replace Kenya Lavender Marshall with Elisabeth French (who did not run in the primary during which Marshall defeated Nicole Still, who came in second both in the primary and in the runoff) as the party nominee for Jefferson County Circuit Judge place 17. Still had gobs of endorsements, including Stonewall Democrats and Bessemer Progressives.

Still also had the support of French during her campaign.

I don't know Elisabeth French (and neither do a majority of the Jefferson County voters) but I understand she considers herself qualified. But Nicole Still was determined to be the most qualified of the candidates who ran for this office by the Birmingham Bar Association, plus she has a few month's experience, having been appointed to the position by Bob Riley.

I understand the voting among the committee members did not fall along racial lines, with both white and black members voting for both Still and French, and French winning 90 - 41 - 1 (Peter Johnson Davis got 1 vote). Still is white. French is black.

While French herself did not campaign for this position along racial lines, her supporters sure did. Joe M. Reed (not the Joe Reed you are thinking of) said by voting for French "we (blacks)will have a friend, we will have a loyal friend, we will have a family member ... a sister."

Alvin Holmes said "This is not a race issue." Then he kept talking and proved that it was. "This seat was won by a black person because a majority of people in Jefferson County chose a black person over a white person."

Watch the video of the proceedings, recorded and uploaded by Left in Alabama.

But even if it wasn't a race issue, they also claimed Nikki Still was a Republican, and had supported Republicans, something she denies.

But even if she did, since when does the SDEC regard prior support of Republicans a reason not to support a candidate? Two words. Charlie Grimsley. He was chief of staff for Republican Lt. Governor Steve Windom and contributed at least $25,000 to Republicans and their special interest groups, including the Bush-Cheney campaign and Roy Moore.

When this was brought before the SDEC earlier this year, they rejected a motion to keep him off the ticket, and allowed him to run for treasurer. He is now your nominee for treasurer, having won the primary (over a much more progressive candidate Jeremy Sherer), because the SDEC did not care that he supported Roy Moore and George Bush and Dick Cheney.

And do the Democratic voters of Jefferson County care that Nikki Still was appointed by Bob Riley? Would they rather he appoint a Republican?

Did they not prove they don't mind a Riley appointment when they elected George Bowman as county commissioner?

And this race for Circuit Court was to be only voted on by Jefferson County voters.

Jefferson county voters made Nikki Still their second choice.

The Jefferson County Democratic Party Executive Committee recommended Still to the SDEC over French. The Jefferson County chapter of the New South Coalition voted to support Still. Grover Dunn, chairman of the Jefferson County ADC, was selected by their executive committee to nominate Still to the SDEC, and he did.

Rep. John Rogers warned the SDEC about what this result in come November. Democrats in Jefferson County will not be as excited about the election. This will greatly reduce Ron Sparks chances of being elected governor, and some are saying Jim Folsom may even lose his bid for Lt. Governor if the race is close, if Jefferson County voters are not inspired.

And there is nothing inspirational about a race based, demonizing campaign within the bowels of the party.

Update: The Jefferson County chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition has called on Elisabeth French to reject her appointment as the nominee. They say that Nikki Still is a victim of racism.

James Laster, their president, made the case in an opinion article in today's Birmingham News (the column is not posted online yet).

"Now, Democratic leaders Joe Reed, Joe Turnham and John Rogers no longer need to concern themselves with how many people will show up to the polls, but with retaining Democrats thinking of fleeing the Democratic Party after such a blatant show of racism."

Rejecting her appointment would be a radical thing for French to do. But it might also save the Democratic Party from this self inflicted wound, suicide, if you will. An online poll on currently has 88% of respondants saying the SDEC made the wrong choice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Alabama AG office responds

If you remember, in July I attended a Town Hall meeting after being invited by mayor Ed May. And if you remember, he asked me to turn off my video camera, after telling me it wasn't a "public meeting." And I thought that may have been been a violation of Alabama's Open Meetings Act. And I sent an inquiry to the Attorney General's office.

Well I received a response today and let's just say the mayor is being put on notice.

Mayor Ed May at another meeting held in a church.

I won't give details, but the office of the Attorney General tells me the steps necessary to bring action against the mayor.

It included this:

In response to your correspondence regarding Alabama's Open Meetings Act, as stated by Section 36-25A-6 of The Alabama Code, "A meeting of a governmental body, except while in executive session, may be openly recorded by any person in attendance by means of a tape recorder or any other means of sonic, photographic, or video reproduction provided the recording does not disrupt the conduct of the meeting.

Since May is so close to being voted out of office I think I will hold off on pursing anything.

But I guess all the Bessemer office holders should realize that Open Meeting Laws are to be observed.

Be sure to take part in my new poll to the left, which explores why Ed may did so poorly in the election.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Election results and the runoffs

Congratulations to all the winners and runoff candidates of yesterday's Bessemer elections, even to those who had to dupe their constituents in order to win. You know who you are.

And a note to those who were elected (or who may still be elected): you will be held accountable these next 4 years. The council will be more functional, and citizens interest will remain higher.

As for the mayor's race, Ken Gulley had a good showing with 2,112 votes, or 37%. He will be in a runoff with Ed May, whose 1, 312 represented only 23% of the voters who want Bessemer to continue on the path it is currently on.

Out of 5,637 people who voted in the mayor's race 4,325 voters did not want Ed May to return to office. That doesn't mean the runoff will be smooth sailing for Gulley, but optimism for him, and for the city, is inevitable.

Council district 1 - David Vance - winner (a positive change for the city)

Council district 2 - runoff - Chester Porter and Sherrina Rice - this will be positive change for the city if Chester Porter wins. Remember when John McCain was running for president and it his candidacy was labelled Bush's third term? Think of Rice as a continuation of Louise Alexander.

Council district 3 - Sarah Belcher - winner - this does nothing for our city

Council district 4 - Donna Thigpen - winner - let's just hope that she comes around on the school board money owed by the city. Other than that issue, I think she will be an upgrade to the council, and will help to return the body to civility.

Council district 5 - runoff - Ron Marshall and Albert Soles - Marshall got 7% more of the votes that the incumbent. I predict he can hold on to win the runoff. Ron Marshall has wanted to put his management skills to work for our city for a long time.

Council district 6 - Jesse Matthews - winner - the only incumbent with a recommendation from the Progressive coalition, and in part because we were frightened of his opponent, Ed May II. The voters must have felt the same way as he only got 18% of the vote. I think Ed May II's poor showing is a direct result of how the voters feel about his father.

Council district 7 - runoff - Earl Cochran and Cleo King - Cleo has a mountain to climb to reach 50% but the voters who cast their lot for Labrenda for the most part don't appreciate Earl, the man who beat their favorite 4 years ago. So if they come back out to vote, they may chose Cleo King. Let's hope they do.

School Board - Hattie Aikerson retains her seat and Earlene Cochran wins the other open seat. I don't have a lot of insight on how this will affect the board, but we can't expect too much change with only one new member. However, is much change needed? The board, for the most part, is doing a good job.

I will be writing about the candidates who are still in the running until the runoff in October. But for the next few days, I get to take some time off from politics. For the candidates, they had better be out there today, courting voters.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Tuesday

This is a reminder about August 24, 2010.

It is Election Day in Bessemer.

Whether you are reading this on Monday or Tuesday, consider the following.

Do you want to continue to have crime ignored?

Do you want to continue to keep the money we pay for the schools in taxes to be hoarded and mis-spent by the city on lord knows what?

Do you want to continue to have the city finances kept secret?

Do you want to continue to have a mayor and council at odds, who act as though they have taken a vow to act like tom cats all after Miss Kitty?

Do you want Bessemer to pay its first responders so poorly that once they are trained they are tempted to go elsewhere just because the pay is better?

Do you want the business community, which brings dollars, jobs, dollars, tourists, dollars, prestige and more dollars to our coffers, to continue to be ignored?

Do you want outside business entities that are considering a site for business to continue to overlook our city, thus losing potential, no actual, jobs that our citizens could hold?

If these are the things you want for our city, just don't vote. Let things stay the same.

But if you want the opposite of the above, if you want to see Bessemer improve, vote for change in Bessemer;

vote Ken Gulley for mayor.

While you are at it, vote for:

David Vance - council 1

Chester Porter - council 2

Jessie Burrell - council 3

Ralph Hodge - council 4

Ron Marshall - council 5

Jesse Matthews - council 6

Cleo King - council 7

Janet Ruffin - Education 2

Wanda Thomas - Education 7

Here are some of the reasons for those choices.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Crime - the Number One Issue

These signs have sprouted up around the city. However, it's hard to stop and read them. So here. Take your time.

The first item - violence in our city? Crime in Bessemer - there has been at least one more murder in Bessemer since I posted that. Christopher Ward was killed on August 7.

The other night at the candidates forum the candidates were asked what the most important issue to the city Bessemer is. The answers varied: "Perception," said Darayl Blue (with a positive reaction from the audience); Ed May agreed.

In Ed May's eyes, that's all crime is, perception. See this column from the Western Tribune, June 10, 2009.

I know a victim of violent crime in Bessemer. It was not perception that his front door was busted in. It was not perception that he was knocked around. It was not perception that he was forced at gunpoint and told he was going to die.

Crime is a reality in Bessemer.

Ken Gulley was the only candidate to look the citizens in the eye and unabashedly tell them that the number one issue in the city is crime.

Picture credit - Nancy Hartzog

Do away with crime, and perception will improve. Do away with crime, and home sales will increase. Do away with crime, and children will have a better environment in which to learn. Do away with crime, and businesses will want to locate here. Do away with crime, and the citizens will spend time outdoors, will get to know their neighbors, will not be reluctant to work in their yards.

Do away with crime, and our quality of life will improve.

I'm no fool, however, and I don't think we will ever completely do away with crime.

But it certainly is not going to improve until we have a mayor that recognizes it as a problem.

Just one more reason that Ken Gulley should be our next mayor.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The changing look of Bessemer

This is picture day. A picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures will show you how the south east corner of downtown Bessemer is changing. We have two new restaurants opening soon, a new DHR building going up, the oldest restored outdoor advertising in the state, the only brick street in the city, an expanded Simmon's Sporting Goods, and a building just waiting for somebody.

This is the old freight depot, now owned by the Hall of History, and this accurately restored sign is the oldest piece of restored outdoor advertising in the state. It was original in 1904. It has attracted the attention of historians across the state. The restoration was funded by the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association. No, a saloon is not opening nearby, and you can't really buy alcohol here. (However you could throw a rock and hit a couple of beer stores, so don't worry.)

The building next door is privately owned, but it may be the next project for the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association, which according to its bylaws, is charged with preserving and protecting homes, buildings and sites of historic interest; promoting and encouraging historical research; enhancing the cultural, social, educational and economic well-being of the Bessemer area; among other things that actually relate to the historic homes in the community.

There are more pictures, and an announcement, after the jump, so click "read more."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is today "crazy day?"

Where do I start?

Dorothy Davidson?

Louise Alexander?

Ed May?

By now, everyone has seen the digitally altered photo of mayoral candidate Dorothy Davidson with Alabama football coach Nick Saban. What can I say about this except...what were you thinking?

This is a picture (from the Birmingham News) of a campaign flier put out by her campaign.

Her campaign manager takes the blame.

Morris said he told Davidson the photo of the coach and his wife, Terry, was actually of Saban and his mother. He said he told Davidson that Saban had OK'd the altering of the photograph.
"I lied," Morris said. "She (Davidson) didn't do anything wrong."

I like Dorothy and she has done a world of good for our city through volunteer work and her service on the city council (although I certainly did not agree with her positions or votes, and she was the one that tabled the subject of dog abuse when the mayor (Ed May) shut me up when I pointed out that it was against the law to abuse animals and his Animal Control department was breaking the law).

Still, this just about does her campaign in, I believe.

Last night at the forum, I immediately noticed that two candidates were not on the program; Dorothy Davidson and Louise Alexander. I had walked in with Dorothy, and there was no to-do, so I figured she had just been late in paying the registration (another no - no in my book, ignoring protocol and procedure). But when Louise came marching toward the door, Chamber personnel (the event was sponsored by the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce) perked up, because she still had not registered or paid to participate.

When the forum began, she was seated at the table with the other candidates, and we heard that someone had coughed up the cash for her to participate.

Now we learn that Ms. Alexander accused the Chamber of being racist because they didn't include her (and Davidson's) pictures and information on the brochure. Of course, their pictures were not included because they had not registered before the programs were printed. Somewhere in this equation let me insert that Ed May's picture was also missing from the program, but his information was in there.

Ms. Alexander called the NAACP and vented on camera to the CBS 42 guy. Of course, other than her and Ms. Davidson, there are three other black candidates and one white one. Those four followed the rules and paid their fee on time.

I think antics like this, plus, oh, former indictments and such, just about do her campaign in.

Then there is Ed May.

Much was said at the forums for city council and school board candidates about the money that the city owes the schools. Some of that money is the result of ad valorem taxes passed in 2000.

An article in the Western Star on March 15, 2000, stated that on the April 25 ballot would be a vote for two renewals of taxes, and new taxes some of which would go to the schools and some to the library.

(the article is below the fold on the front page of the issue pictured)

In that article Ed May, who was an attorney doing some legal work for the city of Bessemer, spoke in favor of the tax.

That's kind of strange, since both the schools and the library didn't get their money easily. In fact, the school is still fighting for theirs. But in that same paragraph is this confession:

"When I was laying on my back in a hospital in Vietnam, I was mad at my father because he wasn't rich enough to get me a Yamaha motorcycle with saddle bags full of 30-06 shells so I could ride around and shoot white men."

He does continue, thanking God for saving him from that, and making the point, I guess that a good education is worth paying the extra tax for. It's kind of hard to think about what follows and what message is being broadcast after reading that.

I mean, good Lord, think before you speak, man.

(This paper can be found at the Bessemer Public Library, in the Western Star archives).

You know, this puts a whole new light on the abduction last year of a white man in Bessemer and Ed May's assertion that the victim must have been an "associate" of the perpetrators, who were black.

Sometimes deep seated hatred that one thinks they have overcome resurfaces.

At any rate, I think the city will be much better off if we send the current mayor to the fishing hole for some R & R.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Forum 411 and endorsements

Here are some recommendations for the Bessemer City Council and School Board races, courtesy of the Progressive Bessemer Coalition.

A few comments about the candidates follow, but I know you all want your meat before your potatoes. And I know you will be surprised at some of these recommendations, especially since I have said before that all of the council members need to be replaced. But when you compare one incumbent to their challenger, there is no contest.

City Council District 1 - David Vance

City Council District 2 - Chester Porter

City Council District 3 - Jessie Burrell

City Council District 4 - Ralph Hodge

City Council District 5 - Ron Marshall

City Council District 6 - Jesse Matthews

City Council District 7 - Cleo King

School Board District 2 - Janet Ruffin

School Board District 7 - Wanda Faye Thomas

It is very unlikely for a candidate to get an endorsement if they don't show up for the only forum provided for voters to see and hear them. But it is not impossible, as noted in the above list of top choices.

Here's a bit about those choices.

David Vance - strong background in law enforcement and youth counseling (YMCA), good ideas on public safety and economic development, and on being a good neighbor. Wants to "fill vacant business buildings" which to me means redevelop downtown.

Chester Porter - wants to revitalize downtown, wants to bring arts to Bessemer, wants to establish a quarterly community clean up day.

Jessie Burrell - Jessie Burrell has been involved in many aspects of improving Bessemer (and the nation) from her advocacy for an elected school board to her community organizing and marching for civil rights. She wants to provide more recreational opportunities for kids and to attract business to District 3, particularly a grocery store. The incumbent Sarah Belcher has been on the council for 16 years. Keep that in mind as you drive though district 3 and look around you.

Ralph Hodge - wants to develop downtown and wants to give the School Board the money that is owed them by the city. His opponent said she would rather "cooperate" and not ask for the money for the school board right now. (Note to Ms. Thigpen - When I voted for the school tax, I did not vote for my tax money to go to the city council. I voted for it to go to the schools. You said the school board didn't need the money now anyway, since they have a surplus. One of the school board candidates told us how that tax money could be used to improve our education and AYP scores.)

Also, Mr. Hodge has experience running a city department and in being held accountable for the expenditures of that department.

Ron Marshall - Most of the questions asked this group were about economic development, and Marshall was very effective in pointing out his marketing background and how this would be an asset in promoting (or allowing other entities to promote) the city. He also has experience in managing a city department.

Jesse Matthews - wants to improve the infrastructure for downtown and older communities revitalization, and also wants to find funding for a rec center. His opponent, Ed May II, did not provide a photo for the brochure and did not complete the education portion of the questionnaire (neglecting to provide the names of the colleges he attended). During the forum, he left the auditorium while other candidates in other races were still speaking, and was not present for the photo op with all the participants afterward. These little things show a lack of respect for the process and for the people. He also indicated he prefers new development rather than the "buildings from the 1920's" (paraphrase). That sounds like the same neglectful attitude toward downtown that we have seen for the last 8 years.

Cleo King - When asked what the number one issue facing the city is he responded "lack of communication." He said we need to change the image of the city and the council needs to set the example. The current council person from District 7, Earl Cochran, has been a disappointment. He answered his first question talking about a failure. the failure of the city to pass his bingo initiative. He answered the second question talking about failure. The failure of the city to be accountable. he sounded too much like Larry Langford when he urged voters to choose him and only then would he reveal his secret revenue generating plan. Ms. Jones was voted out in 2006 because voters had had enough of her. We've still had enough.

Janet Ruffin - Ms. Ruffin has a strong background in student support services at Lawson State and wants to look at over the mountain school districts and see what is working for them regarding AYP scores.

Wanda Faye Thomas - has strong background in working with special needs students and residents at Partlow and Bryce plus teaching in Shelby County School System. Wants to embrace the Hispanic community because (1) all the children are our children and need to be educated and (2) helping the Hispanic students to achieve will also help the AYP scores. Also wants to acknowledge and assist bilingual and ESL students. She wants to use the tax money that the city owes the school system to improve the Pre-K opportunities and to hire or train more teachers for AP (Advanced Placement) programs.

The City of Bessemer Mayor Candidate's forum is tonight at 6:00. I've already made an endorsement in that race, but the forum should be interesting nevertheless.

Monday, August 16, 2010

About the mosque

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the first amendment to our Constitution. Part of our Bill of Rights.

That is really all that needs to be said, but you know me.

If we were going to let "being offended" keep things from happening, I would not have to shamefully pass this every time I drive to Montgomery.

But that offensive huge flag is on private land so nobody raised hell about it. But I am offended and I am sure many African Americans and fair minded whites are offended by it.

We are not at war with Islam, I need to remind you. And this proposed building is not really a Mosque, it is a community center. And its not "on the site" of the fallen towers, its blocks away.

And the ground around the fallen towers is not "hallowed ground," as bars, porn shops and liquor stores surround the site. I've been there. I know.

Picture credit New York Daily News

Again, playing on fear and ignorance, the Professional Right is trying to scare people into voting for the Teabaggers. To use the words of the Bessemer conservative, "Grow Up."

Now if I were a Muslim leader in New York City I would choose another site out of compassion for the families of the vicitims of 9-11. But I doubt that the MIC (Muslim in Charge) has much compassion, as their religion is not built upon the life and teachings of a compassionate individual like ours is*. And I'm also pretty sure they love all the fuss and divisiveness they are causing. Teabaggers and Muslims on the same page, dividing this country. Lol, who'd a thunk it?

*Disclaimer: Hard to recognize that Christianity is built on the life and teachings of Jesus when you look at how they act sometimes.

Today is Monday, August 16

Why is that important?

Because at 6:00 PM, at Bessemer City High School, you have the opportunity to hear the candidates for City Council districts 4, 5, 6 and 7, and for School Board district 7.

City Council District 4 - Ralph Hodge and Donna Thigpen

City Council District 5 - Ron Marshall, Albert Soles, Robert Dale White

City Council District 6 - Jesse Matthews, Edward May II, Dock Scott

City Council District 7 - Earl Cochran, Jr., LaBrenda Marshall Jones, Cleo King

School Board District 7 - Hattie Aikerson, Wanda Faye Thomas, Carolyn Hudson Wilson

We have 2 former candidates for mayor, several former candidates or members of the council and board, the son of the mayor, a few newcomers, and some incumbents running.

Even after all the promises that were made four years ago there are still a lot of problems in Bessemer. Does that means that those who are incumbents are "part of the problem?" Just a thought.

This is Bessemer. We need to make it better. Thanks, Larry, for your photos.

See you tonight!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Asking for advice

I need advice. We want to stick with Verizon, and get droids or androids or one of those types of smart phones. Which phone do you use? Pro's and con's? Answer in the comments section, please.

Last night's first of three political forums took place in Bessemer, giving (not very many) voters a chance to see and hear (some of the) candidates make their case.

Council Candidates from districts 1, 2 and 3 and School Board candidates from district 2 were invited.

I am surprised that so many candidates did not take part in the forum. I hope there is a more complete showing at the forum on Monday which will have candidates from council districts 4,5,6 and 7 plus school board candidates for district 7.

I don't have a lot to say yet and will be withholding comment until all the candidates from all the districts have spoken.

Here's a still from the new Scissor Sisters video Any Which Way.

And here's the video. "Good queer music," a commenter on this video wrote. This should get you ready for the weekend. Dance!!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Local events

Some things going on.

In Bessemer, tonight is the first of three political candidate forums, and candidates for Council in Districts 1, 2 and 3 and School Board candidates for District 2 will take questions (be there before 5:45 to submit questions). The forum will take place at Bessemer City High School at 6:00.

In next door Lipscomb, they are about to celebrate their centennial. Lipscomb was incorporated in 1910. It was first called "Wheeling." The name Lipscomb came from a store name established by the three Lipscomb brothers on the rail line in 1890.

At 5:00 PM Friday there will be a tour of the elementary school, followed by an unveiling of a historical marker at city hall at 6:00, and a banquet at the school at 7:00 PM. Former University of Alabama football player Bobby Humphrey will speak.

On Saturday a parade will take place along 5th Street at 10:00.

Mayor Melanie Bouyer says the city if moving forward and there are proposals to add housing for veterans and a grocery store, possibly with the development of a community cooperative.

For more information call city hall at 428-6374.

I haven't posted any fun videos in a while, so here are two.

Brett Domino is the alter-ego of British musician Rob J Madin that uses unusual instruments such as a keytar and kazoos and this weird deal with an antenna to make music. Here he is with Steven Peavis performing a medley of Justin Timberlake.

And here he is performing Bad Romance. Lady Gaga, watch out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Equality: it belongs to you and me

There are some people in Bessemer and really, everywhere, that need to see this.

My friend Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend has shared this video of Coretta Scott King speaking at the 1996 Atlanta Pride Festival.

Some people do not understand that equality belongs to everyone. She, and her husband, certainly did.

I certainly tried to make that point in my book, Those Others, and a review that came out yesterday recognizes that. Read it here.

Look for my upcoming article on the Prop 8 overturn in Noise Magazine. I'll let you now when it comes out.

I'm not going to post the videos and rants from those who disagree with the Judge's opinion because there are no valid arguments against it. His perceived sexuality has nothing to do with it. The misinterpretation of the Bible has nothing to do with it. The constitution and our founding documents are about equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere do those documents (nor the Bible) say "for straight people."

"Justice is indivisible," Mrs. King said. "The church burners and the gay bashers drink from the same poisonous well of hatred..."

I would add that some of the church leaders drink from that well of poison as well. And some talk radio hosts. And the "professional right."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For Mayor

There are five challengers hoping to unseat the current mayor of Bessemer, and of the six candidates, only one has the qualifications and the vision necessary to lead us into a new era.

Eight years ago, the people of Bessemer decided a change was in order. Our city had been declared "past the point of no return." As we look around we don't see evidence of the change we were promised. Oh we have a shiny new shopping center out Eastern Valley Road and a theater
and some nice restaurants. The same can be said for the Academy Drive area.

But our neighborhoods are crumbling, trash is piled in our alleys, and crime is as bad or worse than it was a decade ago.

The people of Bessemer do not feel good about their city, and they are not inspired to work with each other, or to support the city council, because of the lack of leadership and lack of evidence that the mayor and council are doing anything to help our city progress.

I proposed a list of qualifications that the next mayor of Bessemer should possess. One candidate met these standards and agreed with all these qualifications.

The Progressive Bessemer Coalition has endorsed Ken Gulley for mayor.

Ken Gulley kicked his campaign off in March. Here are Bob Pennington, Gulley, Otis Smith and Hank Tyler at that event.

Image courtesy the Western Tribune

In a conversation with the candidate he said this about the list, "All those things can be summed up; we want good government."

The list included taking control of the budget (in a transparent way), having a vision for the city and a plan to get us there, a person who can get along with the council and share information with the city, be committed to transparency, must be squeaky clean, must be committed to addressing our crime problem, and must live in Bessemer and support Bessemer in everyday living.

The Gulley family

Supporting Bessemer is something Ken Gulley has done all his professional life. Not long after receiving his degree in business management from Alabama A & M University he began working in Bessemer city government, so he has a foundation in how government works, and how the city is organized. After he left city government, he continued to contribute to Bessemer by serving on several community boards and organizations including the Red Cross and the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce.

His vision for the city includes "sound fiscal management, structure and accountability, a state of the art school system, a clean and beautiful city, promoting more tourism and new businesses to our city."

He also says that he will "work to unify the relationship of the mayor and council, so that we can work together to attract more residents, businesses and tourism."

He has promised to treat city employees fairly, and will work to make their salaries comparable to surrounding cities.

He will find funding for youth and senior citizens recreational programs.

He will work to restore the Bessemer Home Rehabilitation Program, which assisted qualified elderly residents who needed renovations to preserve their homes.

He also will examine the status of the First Time Buyers Program. Under this program approximately 50 homes were built, giving those that did not qualify for home ownership under regular conventional methods the opportunity to enjoy the American dream.

These are just a few of real and reachable goals of the Gulley administration.

Vote for Ken Gulley on August 24.

You can find out more about Ken Gulley at Voteken2010 (click on "On the issues") or by attending the Mayoral Candidate Forum on Tuesday, August 17 at 6 pm. the event is free to the public, and all 6 candidates are expected to speak and answer questions. The forum will be at Bessemer city High School.

The City Council and School Board Forums will be on Thursday, August 12 (Districts 1, 2 and 3)and Monday, August 16 (Districts 4, 5, 6 and 7) at 6 pm. More on these later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Boies and Olson continue to persuade

Get used to it.

I mean, I could get used to looking at pictures of people solidifying their commitment.

The right to marry the person you love has always been in our constitution, and we are now moving toward the recognition of that right.

These pictures of loving couples are courtesy of a google search.

David Boies and Ted Olson did a super job in the courtroom in tearing down Prop 8, and they convinced Judge Walker of the validity of their case.

They are now doing the same with the public, on Fox News and on CBS, on the Sunday talk shows.

Chris Wallace, Fox News, "I gotta say after your appearance today I don't understand how you ever lost a case on the Supreme Court sir."

Watch the entire interview, it's just 6:38 long.

Meanwhile, his legal buddy David Boies took on Tony Perkins on CBS and Face the Nation.

So here's the deal. We've said for years that the key to Equality is coming out, talking to our neighbors and co-workers, and that when people know us, and understand the discrimination on a personal level, their attitudes, and their degree of support, changes.

That is true.

But now this case has become a teachable moment, or a lot of teachable moments. Unless you read the ruling (which was pasted on this blog a few days ago) or followed the case as it was developing, you missed out on the personal aspects of it and how the plaintiffs were affected.

But you cannot miss the legal truths that have been revealed, and the explanation of those truths, which can be found in the 138 page ruling, or heard by listening to the successful attorneys. And every time one of these guys is on TV, more people are made aware of the constitutionality of the ruling, and minds are changed, and public opinion moves more in the direction of Equality.

Now, enjoy a few more pictures.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quiz time

Well here's a talking points buster from today's Parade magazine, which comes in our Sunday paper.

There is a quiz regarding government spending, you can take it here.

But here are the highlights.

1. Whose administration oversaw the biggest decrease in defense spending?

Three Republicans and Jimmy Carter are the choices. The truth? Eisenhower, Nixon and the first Bush reduced defense spending more than any of the Dems from 1952 to 2008.

Democrats are not weak on defense.

3. The national debt grew fastest when: Dems controlled both houses? GOP controlled both houses? Control of Congress was mixed? Answer: National Debt as a % of GDP decreased when either party controlled congress and increased when Congress was split.

So we need to maintain Democratic control of both houses to control the debt.

6. This was a question about gross domestic product (GDP) and how today's GDP compares to 1950's GDP. Half? Same? 3X? 10X? Answer: We produced three times as much stuff per person in the US in 2008 as we did in 1950.

So all the jobs are not overseas, it seems.

Those are just a few of the questions and answers and you may be surprised at the others as well.

Now, lets go eat some Dreamland ribs.

Here's Mary Chapin Carpenter's song, Dreamland:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prop 8: the ruling

You gotta love the 14th amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

That clause should mean that my partner and I shall be able to marry, just like all three of my brothers have, to the person I love.

It may take a few years, but that will be the law of the land in Alabama before its over with.

Yesterday, Judge Vaughn Walker wrote:

"...Prop 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation."

And more.

Here is the entire ruling (I'm having a hard time loading the whole thing here. Come back if you can't see it now).

Prop 8 Ruling

I love it when people express their feelings.

Here's Sam Harris.

Remember, I posted a video by Sam after Prop 8 was passed. He expressed his feeling at that time also.

Anyway, the ruling is a huge victory, if you are interested in Equality and Liberty. I will be writing more about this for a magazine!

The confirmation of Elena Kagan today is a great thing, as well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Let's not forget: Crime!

I've not heard the mayor of Bessemer making claims about crime being down lately, but it's probably only because I haven't been listening to him. After what we've heard him say, and then looking at the facts, it's been easy to see that he is either blind to the truth, delusional, or putting the politics of getting elected above the safety of the citizens of Bessemer.

He has said on more than one occasion that crime in Bessemer is just a "perception." In a newspaper column last year I wrote about the "perception" statistics, from which it could be seen that the mayor is full of baloney when he says crime is down.

We have another year of statistics (provided by the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center) to look at.

Remember, when looking at trends, we would like to start with the year 2002, because that is when Ed May was elected mayor. But our city did not report crime statistics to the state that year, for some unknown reason. So we go back to 2000.

Last year I also wrote about clearance rates, and showed how the clearance rates in Bessemer compared unfavorably to other cities our size. Clearance rate, you will recall, is the number of crimes cleared divided by the number of crimes recorded. A crime is considered cleared when enough evidence is gathered to charge a suspect or take one into custody.

In the report last year, for instance we saw that clearance rate for rape dropped from 38% to 15% between 2000 and 2008. In 2009, there were 24 rapes, and 6 were cleared, so the clearance rate showed an improvement - 25.

But don't break out the champagne yet. Compared to both 2000 (when there were 5 homicides) and 2008 (6 homicides), homicide in Bessemer increased in 2009, to 10 (with only 3 cleared). Robbery is up in 2009 (209) compared to both 2000 (174) and 2008 (193). Burglary is up in 2009 (1170) compared to both 2000 (802) and 2008 (1046). Total crimes were up in 2009 (4381) compared to both 2000 (4176) and 2008 (4295).

So far in 2010 there have been at least 6 murders in Bessemer, as seen in this map of murder locations in the Birmingham area.

The clearance rate for all crimes in Bessemer is 15% and this is an improvement. The police are doing a better job of solving crimes, it seems, in the face of more crime.

And as long as we treat crime as a nebulous "perception" rather than a serious problem, it will continue to grow.

It takes more than telling your neighbors about Jesus to solve the crime problem of Bessemer. Maybe some new ideas, some new strategies, police substations that are open on weekends (seriously), police getting out of their cars and walking the neighborhoods, getting to know the folks. A new mayor.

Today's Western Star poses a question.


They want to know why hundreds of Kenneth Gulley signs are disappearing.

I have a theory. We've seen people selectively taking up signs on our block. They even reached in over our fence and took a sign.

But signs, even "Re-elect Ed May" signs, do not equal votes. In my neighborhood, as I was walking to the track today, I noticed that Ed May operatives had been through. Lot's of flyers. But, I also noticed that the people must not be too impressed because the sidewalks and yards were littered with the things where people had thrown them down, probably in disgust.

The flyers have been tossed aside, just as the mayor should be.

A lot will be said before the election on August 24. But no one can deny that crime is still a problem, not a perception, and that crime rates that are either increasing or remaining virtually the same are not acceptable and are not progress. And we want progress!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Town Hall meetings

This is a letter that I sent to the Western Star in Bessemer, that they elected not to publish. But you will still get a chance to read it, because I'll put it on Bessemer Opinions:

Dear Editor:

The more I think about it, the more I consider the inappropriateness of Mayor Ed May’s Town Hall meetings. I have not attended many of them recently, but I used to attend them all when he was first elected eight years ago.

The modern concept of town halls brings to mind large meeting rooms like the auditorium at City Hall, or the auditoriums in the numerous public schools in our city.

The mayor chooses to conduct his Town Hall meetings in the security of a church, and the meetings bear some resemblance to the service one might hear on a Sunday morning.

At a recent Town Hall meeting in a local church we heard how the recent pattern of scattered thunderstorms, for instance, was pre-determined by God. That didn’t bother me too much, as someone’s uneducated belief about the weather doesn’t concern me, unless that person is the one in charge of issuing tornado warnings, for instance, the paths of which I think are determined by natural forces and not the hand of God taking aim at certain ones of us.

But at a meeting three years ago after the tragic death of 14 year old Josh Hughes the mayor offered a solution to the crime problem in Bessemer that does affect me as well as the rest of Bessemer’s citizens.

The solution to violent crime, according to the mayor, rather than increased police protection would be for each one of the audience members, to tell another resident about Jesus and for that resident to do the same, until all of Bessemer had converted.

The recent murder of 23 year old Maurice Thomas at a Bessemer club shows how well that strategy has worked.

Conducting Town Hall meetings in churches is exclusionary because not all citizens feel comfortable in a particular church, or any church, for that matter. Government should be separate from religion, and combining the two, even on this level, is dangerous and inappropriate.

We have plenty of public buildings throughout our city where this type of meeting could be held, and in buildings that are paid for and owned by the citizens, we would all feel welcome.

(PS - Disclosure: I have no control over the ads that appear below the posts. I mean, which ads. I don't necessarily approve or endorse the products or politicians or whatevers that may appear.)