The Year of Moving Forward

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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Tonight is a free film screening of the documentary Bullied followed by a panel discussion. The film is being presented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and is sponsored by the UAB Safe Zone and Co sponsored by the UAB Gay/Straight student alliance, the Alliance for LGBT Equality at UAB, UAB Chi Sigma Iota, and Alabama Safe Schools Coalition.

The film will be shown at Hill University Center Auditorium at UAB, 1400 University Blvd, at 7:00 PM November 30 (today).

Here's the trailer to the film.

Don't miss this opportunity to see this important film. It should be shown in every school, and Southern Poverty Law Center will see that you get a copy for your school.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Our One Mile coming to Bessemer

Are you interested in hiking or biking along established trails? Now's your chance, if you live in Western Jefferson County, to let your voice be heard.

I attended their kick off meeting in October. Here's a review of that meeting.

Our One Mile will hold a meeting on Tuesday, November 30, at Lawson State Community College, Bessemer Campus, from 5:30 to 7:00.

They want to know where you live, work and play.

Our One Mile will connect places that matter most throughout Jefferson County through greenways, trails, and sidewalks. You will be able to walk, bike, or roll from your home to desired daily destinations such as parks, schools, libraries, churches, or shopping areas. You, your family, and the rest of your community will have a safe path to travel to these locations in a new way - without a car.

Our One Mile is an initiative of the Freshwater Land Trust, funded through the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership. This Spring, the Partnership received Federal funding to combat obesity and to improve tobacco cessation efforts throughout the county—all part of their mission to make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone. Our One Mile will improve the community’s health by creating a comprehensive and implementable greenway master plan for the county, identifying both shovel ready projects and the funding to make them happen. The master plan is expected to be completed in early 2012.

Here's a short video about Our One Mile.

Our One Mile from jason hamric on Vimeo.

So take a few minutes Tuesday at 5:30 and be there. For your health. For your community.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Response to Western Star bigotry

Bessemer's Western Star is published by Trib Publications, Inc., and their president, Bob Tribble, exhibited his lack of education and his bigotry in a recent editorial. You can read it here.

Three letters appeared in today's Western Star in response. One is from me, the others are from Elisa Macon and Trey Noland. This will make for a long blog post, but I am posting all three letters here. Click "Read more" to view the letters.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The vigil and the editorial

Over the weekend I spoke at the vigil held in memory of Tre' Juan Figures, the 12 year old Anniston boy who killed himself one year ago after being pressured by gang members to join their group, and bullied because he wouldn't join.

The speakers were Jason Childs, founder and director of Center for Progress in Alabama, State Representative Barbara Boyd, Grace Episcopal Church (Anniston) Youth Minister Andy Harris, and myself, Joe Openshaw, Interim Chair for Equality Alabama.

Jason Childs speaking at the vigil

Jason Childs organized the event to honor Tre's memory and to bring attention to the continuing problem of bullying in this state.

State Representative Barbara Boyd told of her own experiences with bullying as a child and encouraged others with her story of success and how she overcame the perils of her childhood.

Andy Harris spoke about the choices we make stressing that we can (and should) choose kindness. He also spoke of his parents, both of whom took their own lives.

Jason Childs shared that when he was asked why he was holding a vigil for a child he didn't even know and was asked what Tre' was to him, he had to answer, "Nothing. That's the problem."

He explained that he will never know the difference this boy could have made as an adult, what he would have become, what the world is missing because of this loss, what the true cost of his untimely passing is.

I spoke about Equality Alabama's efforts in getting Alabama's anti-harassment policies strengthened, and said that this one tragedy was enough, we don't need another tragedy to remind us that something needs to be done.

Here are my remarks.

Tre Juan Figures Vigil

Tre's mother gave an emotional interview to the media. Here is Jason Childs and Veronica McGee, Tre's mom.

Here is a story about the event on ABC 33/40, and here is one from CBS 42, where you can read about or watch video of Ms. McGee.


Also over the weekend my editorial that I wrote for the Mobile Press-Register was printed and posted online, here.

The editorial also covers bullying among teens, but also the bullying that occurs in the military because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Thank you Frances Coleman of the Press Register for asking me to do this.

This editorial has gotten at least 38 facebook posts, by far the most of any Press Register editorial of late, including those concerning the oil spill. To me this means that this is an issue of major importance to the public. The more people that read and understand these issues, the more pressure will be put of our state legislators and school board members, and on congress regarding DADT, to make a change. Please share.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Business as usual

Bessemer Opinions poll responders are pretty smart, it seems.

I asked what would happen in Congress over the next two years.

39% said it would be business as usual. Only 3% predicted the Republicans and Democrats would work together.

Of course, the new congress is not even seated yet, but the lame ducks certainly aren't showing an indication of cooperation. Get the Tea Partiers in there and there won't be a chance of cooperation.

Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits in the house. This is their way of saying "Merry Christmas," to 2 million families that will have no assistance coming to them during the holidays.

I predict the more compassionate Democrats will still be able to get the benefits passed...probably a week after they expire at the end of this month.

Now let's see if the Republicans are willing to compromise on the tax cuts. They can't give a few billion to struggling families, but they are willing to give hundreds of billions to the nation's wealthiest.

There are many studies that show unemployment benefits act as more of a stimulus to the economy than tax breaks because those receiving the benefits spend the money on goods and services thus creating a need for production, while tax breaks to the wealthy obviously don't create jobs. I mean, look around you. Those tax breaks have been in place the entire time our economy was spiraling down, and while we have been in the slow recovery, and they aren't creating jobs now, so why should we think they would if they are extended?

I shudder to think what America will look like after the new congress begins to dismantle the economy. Let's enjoy ourselves while we can.


Twenty two year old Adele is set to release her second album, 21, in January 2011 (February in the U.S.).

This album has heavy influence from the American south and country music. She had never been exposed to country music until her group took a tour through the south.

She's a Grammy winning songwriter and powerful singer whose video's I've featured before.

Here's a song from that album, performed November 16 on Later...with Jools Holland.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In a cave

The Alabama Baptist Convention yesterday passed a resolution calling on President Obama to "abandon his efforts to normalize homosexuality in the United States Military."

I don't know what to say. Me? Speechless?

I mean, it's to be expected from a group that doesn't accept that science and medicine consider us normal and that, as their newly elected leader said yesterday, "are often characterized by what they condemn, such as homosexual behavior."

If the Baptists would only treat homosexuality like Jesus did. Oh, wait. Jesus didn't say anything about it. Not a single word. (Other than his interaction with this gay man). Are you listening, Baptists?

I am about ready to propose a resolution opposing Southern Baptists.

Since they seem to live in cave, metaphorically, I will send them this song.

Mumford and Sons - The Cave

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today's council meeting


At last week's Bessemer City Council meeting a lot of numbers were thrown out. One was that the Library account, which is funded by the 3.5 mil library bond passed by voters years ago, had a balance of $1.4 million.

Upon further investigation (get used to hearing this term), it was discovered that there was only $764,987.19 in the account.


Upon further investigation, it was determined that on September 20, 2010, that $325,000 was transferred from the account, and on October 14, 2010, $450,000 was transferred from the account.

Both of these transfers were made in order for the city to meet payroll and payroll expenses. The transfers were authorized by former mayor Ed May, but were not authorized by or known to the city council. There is some question as to the legality of the transfers, both from the standpoint of granting authority, but also as to whether the money, voted on by the citizens to be used for library purposes, can be used for other purposes.

Council President Jesse Matthews suggested that the mayor look back further to see if such transfers were made during previous years.

Mayor Ken Gulley has asked the council to meet with him in a workday session on fiscal issues. He said some "harsh decisions" will have to be considered but that he will not "sugarcoat" or "exaggerate" the situation as he informs the public.

Judges speak before council

Today is Judge Annetta Verin's last day as a Bessemer municipal judge, and she and Judge Scott Roebuck, Bessemer's other municipal judge, spoke to the council about their duties, their dockets, and what the council should look for in a candidate to replace Judge Verin.

Judge Verin was recently elected to a Circuit Court position.

Judge Roebuck watches as Judge Verin speaks to the mayor and council

Judge Verin suggested that her replacement be someone who has (1) practiced law, (2) has a passion for the job, including domestic violence, (3) have certain qualities, i.e. honesty, integrity, dignity and respect. Judge Roebuck agreed and added that a judge should have a vested interest in the city and in the community. Both Judge Roebuck and Judge Verin live in the city of Bessemer.

I know some who have applied for this position, and I know who I would place in the position if I were in a position to do so. Someone who meets all those qualifications. I'll let the council members know.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bandelier National Monument

Back in September I was planning to post some pictures and a bit about our trip to New Mexico. Boring, I know, but some news story happened that bumped it.

So, instead I will bore you today.

We visited Bandelier National Monument which is a mostly natural area whose cliffs and canyons were formed long long ago by volcanic ash.

We didn't know it, but when we drove up we learned that the park was having their grand reopening and admission was free that day. Dignitaries included several governors of nearby Pueblos and staff members from Senator's offices that were involved in the planning of the upgrade to the Visitor Center and other areas.

Local Native Americans performed. These are the drummers that supplied the rhythm for the dancers.

And these are the dancers.

While hiking along the main loop trail we came across this deer that didn't seem to mind us at all.

The high elevation wildflowers were beautiful.

The Ancestral Pueblo dwellings were carved in the mountainside. This house was accessible by ladder after climbing a trail leading up the cliff. Some of the houses had petroglyphs carved on the inside walls.

There were several artists with their work on display and for sale. This young woman makes these figures from the root wood of cottonwood and other types of trees.

This bird watched us eat lunch.

This was my second trip to Bandelier, but I hope it won't be my last. There is a lot more to see, and there are other seasons of the year to visit. This trip was in the summer. I've gone in the fall, when there was snow in the higher elevations, but I would like to be in Bandelier when snow is falling. And again in the spring when the springtime flowers are blooming.

I like to imagine I'm one of the Ancestral men, oh, about 19 years old, 10,000 years ago, wandering through the woods and climbing the cliffs and ladders. Finding a private place down the stream in the woods or among the cliffs, with my male friend from the Pueblo. No Christian mis-interpretation or hateful politicians, just two early Native persons doing what is natural for them.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Today is Veteran's Day and we honor those who have served our country. In Bessemer a Veteran's Day program will take place at 12:00 noon at Watermark Place at the Discovery Alabama Event Center. Retired Col. Dan Fagan U. S. Air Force will be the speaker. Lunch will be available.

In Birmingham the nation's oldest Veterans Day Parade takes place beginning at 1:30 starting near Linn Park on 19th Street.

This picture is of my father, a World War II Veteran. Thank you dad, for serving our country. The United States exists today because of your generation.

He fought in the Rhineland, in the Central Europe campaign, and then in Luzon in the Pacific Theater. He received the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Here is a video honoring all Veterans, including one from Alabama.

Here is a preview of songwriter Tom Goss's new single Lover which will be released November 18.

The song tells the story of a gay man whose partner is killed in battle.

Thank a Veteran today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A big hubbub over the hub

Last night I attended a public hearing mediated by a judge that was part of the process necessary for Norfolk Southern to build their railroad hub in the McCalla area. I had attended the first two public meetings, and thought that since the "McCalla residents" have had over a year to familiarize themselves with the proposed facility they would be more reasoned in their opposition.

Boy was I wrong.

I neglected to take into account that most of them are white Republicans, so they are conditioned to opposing everything, by their Republican leaders in Washington and by their Tea Party leaders, who ignored facts and relied on misinformation to propel like minded folks to office in the recent election.

It worked in the election. It didn't work last night.

Most of the questions asked by the public have already been answered either at other public forums or in the Environmental Assessment that has been available for several weeks.

But they haven't read that. And from talking with several of them, they don't intend to. They act as though reading 500 pages is an impossible task, and maybe for some of them it is.

Incidentally, there are several thousand people in McCalla, and there were less than 100 at this meeting protesting the facility. A noisy minority, like, again, the Tea Party.

Several of the people asking questions made it a point to blame Bessemer for their problems.

"Is the City of Bessemer represented?" asked the first person. Part of the road from the interstate to the proposed entry to the hub is owned and maintained by Bessemer. and apparently that part of the road needs some repair, and widening.

The next person to ask a question actually said, "The problem is Bessemer."

I do agree that the City of Bessemer should have been represented at the meeting. This is a huge project that promises to bring hundreds or thousands of jobs to the city. Wake up Bessemer, get on board!

One of the men on the panel answering questions did mention that Bessemer has new leadership and the people from Bessemer that frustrated them for the past few years are gone, so they should approach Bessemer again about upgrading the road. (Maybe they should wait a month or two until some of the dust settles at city hall).

But the most ridiculous question award goes to the man who, with kids in tow, asked for a "100% guarantee" that nothing would happen at the facility that could harm his children. Judge Art Hanes, the moderator, didn't even let the question get to the panel. He said, "No," that they can't do that and that nothing is 100%.

"Then why risk it?" the man replied, and the McCalla hub-bubbas applauded.

My questions to that man, and to those who applauded are these.

1. Is the school bus that you put your child on every day 100% safe? Then why risk it?

2. Is the school room that your child sits in every day 100% safe? Then why risk it?

3. Is bringing a child into this world 100% safe? Then why risk it?

I overheard one lady who had concerns about terrorism and security. Norfolk Southern's security will be state of the art as far as access to the facility. But I would hate to live in such fear as some of these people seem to do. Muslims, terrorists, gays! Oh my!

Here are some things that have been ignored by the anti-progress people.

Norfolk Southern will spend $100 million dollars ($97.5 million actually) on the facility. That's a lot of money being invested in west Jefferson County.

Hundreds or maybe even a thousand or so jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project. A few hundred jobs will be created at the facility once it opens and thousands of jobs at warehouses and distribution facilities will be created also.

Over the next 10 years the economic impact is estimated to be $4 billion.

As a result of the facility there will be fewer emissions (by trucks) and less wear and tear on our highways and a smaller carbon footprint.

Here is system engineer for facilities for Norfolk Southern Charlie McMillan explaining the security aspects of the facility.

Norfolk Southern public relations head Rudy Husband explained to the group why Norfolk Southern cannot make promises about community enhancements at this point in the process.

Speaking of the process, this was the third public meeting, and now the concerns brought up will (once again) be addressed and by December a final approval by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration should be set.

And here is the project schedule. Site work could begin in May of 2011 and the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility should be complete by October 2012.

Hey McCalla - I hear the train a comin'.

Here's the best railroad song written.

Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bessemer in "Dire Situation"

We don't let sleeping dogs lie around here, at least not anymore.

There have been rumors about Bessemer's financial situation. The rumors weren't helped any by the former mayor's refusal to release financial information and his refusal to provide an audit to the council.

The council today unanimously passed a motion to allow funds to be transferred from various accounts into the general fund by the mayor, so that payroll can be met.

But payroll is not the only concern, according to mayor Ken Gulley. There are vendors whose bills are coming due and other obligations.

Obligations due on November 10 total $972,711, and there is less than that amount in the general fund account.

And then on Friday payroll taxes are due. Soon after that, Blue Cross Blue Shield will have their hand out. In all $1, 651, 606.00 is needed by November 20.

The mayor said Bessemer is in a "dire situation" and that he believes some of this was "done on purpose" by the former mayor. Ed May should have had some type of grasp on city finances, yet he hired around two dozen employees since the election in August and entered the city into several contracts within the last 2 weeks, all of which are costing the city additional money and all of which will be assessed and adjusted.

The immediate solution to the crisis is to transfer the funds as they are doing, but this is only a stop gap measure. City attorney Shan Paden said that there will have to be a reduction in work force at some point (possibly January).

After the motion to authorize fund transfers was passed, Mayor Gulley said he wanted to speak on why the motion was adopted as a matter of record. He said we will "have some challenging days ahead" and that they "will have to do some reduction in staff."

He put out an appeal to the council to work together and to the citizens to work with the administration and with the business community to work with them to get this city back on track.

Mayor Gulley, you have the citizens behind you and the business community as well.

Fortunately the new council also understand the gravity of the situation. Council president Jesse Matthews said the previous council had a "inkling" of the days to come, and that they had been "left as blind in the dark for so long."

New council member Ron Marshall said he is looking forward to a cooperative relationship with the mayor, and other council members seemed ready to move forward as well.

All that being said, the council and the mayor are optimistic that they can bring us out of this crisis. Sales tax and property taxes should provide a needed boost as the year ends, although some of that money will be needed for other known expenses that arise this time of year as well.

I predict that by mid 2011 Bessemer will have ironed out these misgivings and be back on the track that Gulley is suggesting we need to be on.

I guess the only question remaining will be...well, we don't know if any laws were broken so those things will just have to wait.

If Bessemer is in such dire straits I guess I can play my favorite Dire Straits song, Sultans of Swing, live version.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Curl up by the fire with a good book

Don't forget to cast your vote in the poll to the left which asks your opinion of what Congress will do in the next two years.

Book News

These books have connections to Bessemer, in one way or another. With colder weather just around the corner, it's time to stock up on your reading material. Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, and wrap yourself in your Snuggie and begin turning the pages.

The Sermon on the Mall

John Tarrant has written a nice book that explores the connection between progressive politics and the teachings Christianity. The Sermon on the Mall is based on the inauguration speech of Barack Obama. Here is part of the introduction.

The Messiah has come! Or so one may have thought
upon hearing the passionate, tear-stained declarations of hope
for universal peace, prosperity and goodwill to all men, women,
gays, lesbians, white folks, black folks, sick people, poor people,
and assorted "mutts like me" on the tongues of the multitudes
lining the streets, throwing their cloaks in his path. This was
the Palm Sunday-like scene at the inauguration of the 44th
President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama. Never
before had a president been welcomed with such unattainable
expectations for change in every phase of the national life, from
foreign policy, to heathcare reform, to the rebirth of scientific
inquiry, to the crisis de jour, an economy that was sucking the
life out of the entire planet. Can he pull it off? That was the
question in all our minds. And the other mostly unspoken
question we all still have in a knotted place in our stomachs is,
can he survive, literally, or will he suffer the fate of most every
messiah and fall to the cries of "Crucify him!," egged on by the
doomsday prophets and publicans predicting the end of the
American franchise.

This book is available from

A good read for those who understand that Jesus was a progressive, and that today's Republican party has become a tool of that faction of conservatives that doesn't mind dividing the people and demonizing anything and anyone progressive. Heck, they would even throw Jesus under the bus if he was involved in the current debate about health care, but I digress.

People who should read the book:

1) Anyone who feels that their "conservative" political views are substantiated by Christian principles.

2) Anyone who would like to be able to better articulate the way in which their liberal political views are based in the foundational principles of Christianity.

3) Anyone who enjoys an entertaining read.

The author's son is a friend of mine.

The Teller of Burnham Bank

Troy Post, formerly of Bessemer and the Bessemer Development Board, has written a novel titled The Teller of Burnham Bank.

From the publication page:

In The Teller of Burnham Bank, a small-town newspaper editor struggles to save an historic building from an evil politician who has a different view of historic "renovation." But when the editor stumbles across a mystery (as they often do in these types of books), the suspense will keep the reader turning page after page .... because, of course, that's the only way to read a book.

Mr. Post most likely draws from his experience in Bessemer in writing this novel. It will be available one week from today, from Palmetto Branch Press.

Here's the back cover hook.

“Hey, look at this one,” said James, holding up one of the photographs. “I wonder what’s up with her?”

The photo he held was a picture of the Burnham Bank Building from 1939, as evidenced by the tax assessment sign in the still documenting the year. No longer a bank but the location for a five-and-dime store, the building itself appeared to be in good repair, with an ornate, wooden door at the building’s corner and perhaps fifteen arched windows, each topped with a marble lintel. An elegant spire, a feature missing in the present structure, covered the roof. But what instantly drew our attention was not the building – it was, rather a woman who stood in the foreground.

With arms drawn high to shield her face, one thing was apparent: she did not want to be photographed.

An interesting read, no doubt, and with the tie to local politics and historical preservation (although the book is fiction) I'm looking forward to reading it.

Those Others

My book, Those Others, is in the mix for a Lambda Literary Award, in the Gay Debut Fiction category.

Check that out here, and also you can watch a video trailer and order a book from that site.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Suicide prevention events

On Sunday the Alabama chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will hold their fifth annual "Out of the Darkness Community Walk" at Heardmont Park in Shelby County.

Last year the walk raised $90,000 and was the fifth best in the nation, with 690 participants.

This year they hope to raise $100,000 with 800 - 1,000 participants.

Registration begins at 1:30 and the walk begins at 3:00.

With the recent interest in teen suicide including LGBT suicides Equality Alabama is supporting the event and asking their members to wear the purple Spirit Day t-shirt or their Equality Alabama t-shirt. Equality Alabama believes this is an opportunity to educate others about the specifics of anti-gay bullying and its relation to teen suicide.

More information about Equality Alabama's support can be found on their event page.

More information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this particular event and their LGBT initiative can be found at AFSP.

Here you can watch a panel discussion on bullying and suicide with emphasis on LGBT "bullycides".

Of course suicide is not limited to teens or to LGBT persons. Suicides occur among people with untreated or under treated clinical depression. Suicide among the elderly is another problem which occurs more often than you may think.

This event is important to everyone, because a suicide can occur in any family without advance notice. This event raises money for research, prevention and educational programs.

Please join this effort, either with Equality Alabama or not, and help with the efforts to prevent the taking of lives.

Tre'Juan Figures

Tre'Juan Figures was a 12 year old boy from Anniston, AL who took his own life in October 2009 after being bullied because he would not join a gang.

There will be a vigil on November 20 at 2:00 pm at Zinn Park in Anniston to remember Trey and to raise awareness for anti-bullying.

Here is an article
about Tre'Juan's death.

Here is a more recent article from the Anniston Star about bullying and anti-bullying efforts and Jason Childs, whose organization Center for Progress in Alabama is sponsoring the vigil.

Equality Alabama will also be present at this event. Please join us at this event also.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bessemer: moving on

Coming up in Bessemer

City council

The new city council will hold their first meeting on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 9 a. m. They have elected Jesse Matthews as Council President and Sherrina Rice as president pro tem.

Matthews has served as council president before, and it is good that they have elected someone with experience to lead the meetings.

Railroad hub

Also on November 9 a public hearing will be held for the Norfolk Southern rail hub in McCalla. The hearing will focus on the environmental study of the proposed hub area. It will take place at the Discovery Alabama Event Center at Watermark Place, from 4 to 7 pm.

The Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration have signed off on the report, and the public hearing is required by law under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Rudy Husband, spokesperson for Norfolk Southern said they hope to start construction in early 2011 and open the facility in mid to late 2012.

Norfolk Southern says the facility will create or preserve 8600 jobs and have a $4 billion economic impact over the next 10 years.

The hearing will include stations with displays that address concerns about the project, but also there will be a short presentation about the project followed by a moderated question and answer session.

Here is a link to where you can read the environmental assessment. No, I haven't read all of the >500 page document, but I can tell you that environmental concerns are addressed, and the concerns that were submitted by residents were addressed as well. This document is also available at the Bessemer Public Library and the Hueytown Public Library.

Bessemer DHR building

The construction of the Bessemer DHR building is on schedule.

The weather cooperated and allowed the slab to be poured before the rains came.

This pile of steel will soon provide the framework for the building.

Before the end of the year look for the second floor slab pour.

The building is scheduled for completion in July 2011.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Bessemer No Spin Zone

People (who remain anonymous) are already poking fun at me after the Democrats in Alabama suffered defeat last night.

As if I expected every Democrat to win.

No, but when you 'work' for a party you support your candidates and you promote them and hope for the best.

I don't apologize for that. I don't duck and run.

So, here are some positive things from my perspective on the election.

Everyone in this state knows it is a red state. That is why the Blue Dot was developed here.

The Seventh

My candidate for the 7th congressional district, Terri Sewell, won handily. Of course that was expected and almost assured. But I supported Terri from when it first rumored that she would run. We needed a woman in congress and now we have one. Here she is in Selma last night at the historic St. James Hotel, thanking her supporters.

Here Terri and her mother are being interviewed by a Montgomery television reporter.

I personally thanked Terri's mother for giving birth to her, and for raising her as she did.

The County

Another bright spot is that Jefferson County's vote returned to Democratic in the governor's race.

Ron Sparks received 104,098 votes to Robert Bentley's 100,934. Not a huge margin, but a 51% to 49%.

Compare that to 2006 when Bob Riley took 53% of the vote in Jefferson County, compared to Lucy Baxley's 47%, and 2002 race when Don Siegelman had 56% and Bob Riley had 43%.

I'm leaving out 2008's Jefferson county vote for Obama, because I am comparing apples to apples with the governor's race.

The pendulum swings.

The Constitution

Here's a bright spot. All of the statewide amendments lost. For those of us that advocate constitutional reform, it indicates that the Alabama voters don't like the process either. Trouble is, most elected Republicans don't support true reform, so I don't expect anything from the Alabama legislature, or at least not a convention to write an new constitution anytime soon.

The Gays

For the ever increasing majority that believe in LGBT equality, a record 106 openly gay candidates were elected across the country. Here are some highlights.

Lexington Kentucky elected a gay man as mayor, construction executive Jim Gray.

North Carolina elected their first openly gay state legislator, Marcus Brandon.

Rhode Island will send an openly gay man to congress, as Providence mayor David Cicilline will represent his district in Washington, and will be the fourth openly gay member of congress.

Click on the link to read more.

The Nation

Across the nation, we avoided having two of the most unqualified and unprepared candidates elected to the senate, and one of those defeats means the Senate majority Harry Reid will remain in office. May we never have to hear from Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell again.

As for the future along the national scene, I have my doubts that the Republican gains will translate into Republican love over the next two years. They were the Party of No for the previous two years. Before that they were the Party of Yes to both tyranny and wasteful spending. A few new shrill voices will have a difficult time transforming the established Republicans into Teabaggers that want to cut, oh, say, farm subsidies and Medicare benefits and unemployment benefits and the things Americans hold dear.

And their leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell (if in fact they remain the leaders) have said (collectively) that their primary goal is to make sure Obama is a one term president and that they would not compromise. Obama reached out to them during the first two years and they refused to work with the Democrats, who thinks they will now?

And Boehner, whose emotional swings range from screaming, "Hell, no," in the House to crying after victory (it's not like it was his first win, remember), will not have the steadfastness nor the demeanor to be an effective leader in Congress. Just a prediction.

All this could easily result in two years of ineffective government, the Republicans in congress getting the blame, and a second term for Obama and another swing in the house with democratic gains in 2012.

The Hotel

Ms. Sewell's reception was held at the St. James Hotel in Selma, and Bobby and I spent the night there after the event. One word of advice. In a one hundred sixty year old building, when the elevator is stuck, and a while later they say it is working, don't believe them. We got stuck in the elevator, but there was no panic. They "reset" it, whatever that means, from the outside, and we were able to ride up to our third floor room, after just a few minutes.

Here is a view of the courtyard that is surrounded by rooms.

A ground level view of the fountain in the courtyard.

The St. James was built in 1837, and during the Civil War it was occupied by union troops who burned most of the city. The hotel was managed by Benjamin Sterling Turner during the war, and he later became the first African-American to serve in the U. S. Congress.

Now the first African-American woman to go to congress from Alabama celebrates in the same hotel. Neat, huh?

Here is the view of the Alabama river and the Edmund Pettus Bridge from our balcony, as the sun was rising.

Imagine the history seen from that balcony (and the balconies on the other sides). Riverboats and barges with cotton on the river. Northern aggressors coming into the city. The city burning. The city being rebuilt. Martin Luther King, Jr, speaking at Brown Chapel on Jan 2, 1965. Bloody Sunday a couple of months later. The successful march to Montgomery that began in Selma later that year. The election of the first black mayor. Annual re-enactments of the March. Terri Sewell being elected to congress.

Selma, like Terri, is an Alabama jewel.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two polls (that don't have anything to do with politics)

The Election

If you are like many Americans and many in Alabama and even in Bessemer, in spite of all the hype and crazy people running for office you don't know much about this (here) election they are putting on today.

All you know is what you see on the political ads that run during the news, during the World Series (congrats to San Francisco!!! and (hot) bearded Brian Wilson), and during every television show it seems.

So you may or may not vote. I mean, OFA and other groups are doing all they can to Get Out The Vote. Democrats are trying to remind voters who first voted in 2008 that it is still important to vote. Republicans are screaming, "Fire!," in an effort to motivate their voters.

Some of you might even respond to this: here is your voter guide... or here.

And still, only 55% of voters are expected to turn out in Alabama, according to Beth Chapman, Alabama's Secretary of State.

Almost half of the people in this state don't care. So if somebody wins, say, the governorship, with just a little over half the vote, what it really means is that only a quarter of the people (or a little more) in the state want that person to be governor.

One person who doesn't want Robert Bentley to be governor is Jimmy Blake, who says he will contest the election if Bentley wins the election today, based on Bentley's reporting of campaign fund raising.


We've seen polls and polls and polls and polls and surveys. We even had a poller call at 7:10 yesterday evening. What good is that going to do?

Poll 1

Here are some of the results of the reader's survey I posted on Bessemer Opinions a few weeks ago.

23% of the respondents are straight and 19% are LGBT. That means that 52% of you are either unsure of your sexuality or so deep in the closet and so paranoid about being discovered that you were afraid to answer even on an anonymous poll.

61% of you are white, and only 6% are black. That leaves a lot of people of other colors. Or not.

See that's the problems with surveys where you can choose multiple answers. Some people didn't know that, so they didn't answer the race or sexual orientation questions. Or they are paranoid and they probably didn't complete their census form either.

The highest number of you, 31%, like the mix of subjects and the unexpected that you find on Bessemer Opinions. 16% want more Bessemer news and less gay news, 7% wanted more gay news and less Bessemer. You are still going to get the mix.

What this tells me is that Bessemer Opinions is popular among a wide variety of people with a variety of interests, and that I should keep reporting as I do on a number of subjects.

Poll 2

Yesterday I wrote this column for Daily Kos that compares the two Georgia megachurch pastors and the churches that have been in the news recently regarding gay issues. At the end of that column there was a poll asking "Which church offers the truer message of Christianity regarding gay issues?" The choices are New Birth Missionary Baptist Church led by Pastor Eddie Long or Church in the Now led by Pastor Jim Swilley, or neither.

Of the 42 people who have responded, 78% think Church in the Now, with the pastor who has been inclusive and accepting and recently came out as gay, is offering the truer message, and only 2% believe New Birth led by the pastor who was accused of having sexual relations with some of his male followers while preaching an anti-gay message is offering the truer Christian message. 19% say neither, and I assume those are people without faith, or people who have been driven away from the church.

Swilley and his supporters are hoping they can change the world. I think all, or most, Christian churches believe that, but let's hope he is right.

The Challenger

Some of you know that there is now a blog that has been created to stand up against my militancy.

From their "Welcome" page:

This blog exists to spend a little time answering the radical homosexual propaganda of Joe Openshaw, a gay organizer in Bessemer, Alabama. It is also a place for conservative Christians to have their say regarding the militant homosexual agenda in Bessemer.

Radical? One of my straight friends responded to that saying she thinks I am pretty moderate.

Militant? Militant? I can't even respond to that. Militant?

Anyway, for those of you who are keeping score.

1. There was a newspaper editor in town that threatened to file a lawsuit against me to force me to quit revealing the truth. He's gone. Fired.

2. There was another blogger, the "Bessemer conservative" I called him in a newspaper column. He's pretty much given up, but was real good at copying and pasting from those anti-Obama emails that used to circulate with so much mis-information.

3. And then there was Snuffy, who in a letter to the newspaper called me a communist and worse, and compared my loving relationship with my partner to screwing a horse. Anyone heard from him lately?

So I don't feel threatened by this newcomer, who so far has chosen not to reveal his whole identity. I know this is just a tease, but I am not going to post a link to his blog, yet, because he has already posted some statements which could be damaging to young gay kids. Here I am trying to prevent kids from killing themselves and this "conservative Christian" is destroying their self esteem and possibly contributing to their harmful actions.

If you want a link to the page, email me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bessemer - Day 1

This morning the new school board, city council and mayor were sworn in.

I sat with Judge Helen Shores Lee who is on the ballot tomorrow (one of my recommendations) and we had a good conversation about tomorrow's election in Jefferson County and the country, and about the supposed lack of enthusiasm among Democratic voters. She's not sure that lack of enthusiasm is real.

I spoke with Senator Priscilla Dunn who confirmed that she received an envelope full of letters regarding anti-bullying policy. Our efforts paid off.

I spoke with Judge Annetta Verin, and wished her well tomorrow. She administered the oath to all of the School board member (and twice to one of them) as well as to one of the council members.

School Board member Renna Scott neglected to say the word "solemnly" during the part of the oath where you "swear" or "affirm." Judge Verin was not going to let a simple omission turn into a future problem, and remembering the inauguration of President Obama, she suggested a re-do.

Here is Councilman David Vance being sworn in.

Here is Councilwoman Sherrina Rice being sworn in.

Here is Councilwoman Sarah Belcher being sworn in.

Here is Councilwoman Donna Thigpen being sworn in.

Here is Councilman Ron Marshall being sworn in.

Here is Councilman Jesse Matthews being sworn in.

Here is Councilman Cleo King being sworn in.

Here is Mayor Ken Gulley being sworn in. That is his mother and his wife Yvonne standing with him as Judge Eric Fancher administers the oath of office.

Mayor Gulley gave a positive and inspiring address.

In his address he said, "I pledge to do all that I can" to move the city forward and asked the citizens of Bessemer to partner with him.

"A government that works," is one of his objectives, and he wants to "tear down walls that divide us and build bridges to unite us."

The crowd stood and applauded several times during the ceremony, but the biggest applause was when it was official.

No one was happier, it seemed, than Cleo King, council member from my district.

Well, other than a throng of city workers, who were the first to stand and applaud when the new mayor was sworn in.

And business owners.

And developers.

And ordinary citizens.

Over the last few weeks it seems that former mayor Ed May (that feels write that) has tried to solidify his imprint on the city with some appointments and such. We will see how those things hold out.

But for now, Gulley has said (after his election) that getting the city finances in order are a priority. Let's hope the council agrees. And let's watch for some early signs of new Bessemer businesses.

Hold on, folks. Bessemer is on the move.