The Year of Moving Forward

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Guest blog...regarding proposed homes on Owen Avenue

In today's Bham News: "City may partner with group that builds low to mid income homes" and it mentions the first site to be used located on Owen Avenue. It also says that these are to be modular homes. I am all in favor of the city using hud funds for housing improvement initiatives, however we need to put some pressure on the City of Bessemer to consider the style of homes that they put in existing neighborhoods on vacant lots. The city should not find it acceptable to put a glorified trailer home on a street that is primarily early century homes with historical and architectural significance. Also what I fear is that these homes will be placed far too close together and/or there will be no consideration for ample parking. I hope the City considers the current residents who have equity in their homes and neighborhoods before they devalue our property with proposed modular homes. I think this housing is great and should be placed in areas that are not being intermixed with existing construction unless the new construction is in keeping with the older homes.

Jennifer PrinceBessemer

A reader (and friend) added this comment, and I am adding it to the origianl blog. Joe

FYI - The proposed development is off of Owen Avenue on McAdory Court. Importantly, the proposed developer has taken great effort to ensure that the style of the homes mirrors the architectural character of the adjoing neighborhhods. What's more, the homes are factory-built, but not cheap, trailer- like junk. They are actually constructed better than most new stick-built homes. For all of the complaining we do about the lack of new home construction in our city and the fact that people are fleeing Bessemer in droves, this is a positive step forward. as with everything else, it is best to ask questions first and not rely upon the Western Star or The Birmingham News for the facts. In either case, they are usually in short supply.

The Birmingham Times: Fair and Balanced (well, almost)

I hope this is the last time I feel compelled to write about Tim Hardaway and John Amaechi. Not that the story is not important, but it’s sort of like Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. I picked up a copy of The Birmingham Times, which bills itself as the Southeast’s Largest Black Weekly, on Monday, February 26, (the issue was dated Thursday, February 22.) While most of the news and opinion was upbeat, two columns on the sports page reflected an intolerance that seems to be accepted in Alabama. The columns are about Tim Hardaway’s admitted homophobia.

Paul Finebaum seems to think it is OK (although stupid) to use the word “hate” in describing your feelings (this same column appeared in The Western Star on Feb 21, 2007). But what if it had been John Amaechi who uttered the word, saying he hated, for instance, Jewish people, said they shouldn’t be in the United States, or in the world. What if a retired white player, like Larry Bird, stated that he hated black people? While we can not control what people feel, we should not just dismiss it when they publicly proclaim their hatred. It’s time, past time, to put hatred aside, and search for common bonds and start to lift people up, not tear them down. Read Finebaum’s article here:

This brings me to the second columnist, DaMarcus Miller. Miller’s column is titled “Tolerance to Alternative Lifestyles Is Not Mandatory.” Read Miller’s article here:

He is critical of John Amaechi for coming out of the closet and proclaiming his “gay lifestyle.” First of all, Amaechi proclaimed his sexual orientation, not his “lifestyle.” Furthermore the lifestyles of gay men are as varied as the lifestyles of heterosexual men. Some are productive, upstanding citizens, some are not. Some are raising children, some are raising hell. Some gay men are so wealthy that they enjoy a lifestyle that I can only dream about, while some heterosexual men enjoy a lifestyle filled with weekends of golf and hunting, while ignoring their children. Lifestyle pertains to one’s opportunities and choices and has nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation.

After stating that he would abandon a friendship with a close buddy if that man came out to him, he states “I should not be deemed homophobic for not being comfortable around gay guys.” Then he goes on to compare homosexuality to drug dealers and pedophiles and says he is not comfortable around them either. This comparison is ludicrous, since drug dealers and pedophiles are lawbreakers by definition. And it perpetuates the misunderstanding that being homosexual is criminal.

Miller goes on to say that he will not hang out with gay men because they might be checking him out. Please, Mr. Miller, is your ego really that big? Do you think women should avoid you because you are a straight man, and you might be checking them out? This tells me that you are not very secure in your own sexuality.

Miller says that heterosexuals do not go around proclaiming their heterosexuality, but in truth they do. Every time we see their wedding announcements and pictures in the paper, every time we see their wedding band, we all know they are (or claim to be) heterosexual. But what we don’t do is then let our imagination take us into their bedroom. Mr. Miller, you are right, what a guy does in his bedroom is his business. So why do you make it your business and think first about sex when a man lets you know he is gay?

Birmingham Times gets it right

To the Birmingham Times’ credit, they have an article, author unknown, on the same page as these columns that supports the NBA’s decision to ban Hardaway from NBA affiliated activities. The article, titled “NBA makes the right call", describes an upcoming event sponsored by the National Black Justice Coalition that is inviting Black churches from across the nation to gather in Philadelphia to discuss how to combat homophobia in the Black community. The event is the 2nd Annual Black Church Summit. Learn more at their web site, I salute the editors of the Birmingham Times for printing this, and hope that pastors from the Birmingham and Bessemer area will make efforts to attend. (I could not find this article in their online edition.)

Miller says that tolerance is not mandatory, but I say that tolerance is not enough. John Amaechi was being interviewed on ESPN and was answering questions about tolerance. I’m paraphrasing, but he said having to be tolerated isn’t enough. He indicated that he should not have to be tolerated for being black, he should be accepted, and he said the same holds true for homosexuality. Tolerance seems to indicate putting up with something you shouldn’t have to. That is not acceptable to John, and it is not acceptable to me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Maybe Bessemer is Making Progress

Those of you who remember my campaign for city council will recall that I wanted to connect the citizens to the city government, and vice versa. "Get Connected" was my campaign theme. One of the issues I was promoting was city wide wi-fi access. Since the election, I have read articles in the Birmingham News about Hoover and Birmingham looking into wi-fi access. Someone with access to our city government told me that a few years ago a plan was devised to bring wi-fi to Bessemer, but at present there is no talk of advancing on this. I still believe it would bring new business to Bessemer, and I know it would increase opportunity for students. Now I am not naive enough to believe that all Bessemer students have computers in their home, but with city wide wi-fi, more students would probably get computers, in fact, I believe we could probably get some corporation to donate computers for our students.

Also during the campaign I gave a speech in which I made reference to the clock on the tower at City Hall being stopped, and our city government being stalled too. Well, both are still at a standstill. Not that the council hasn’t been working, but its hard to get excited about finally passing a budget or debating a lodging tax. Even talk of upgrading street lights doesn’t do a lot for me (it might if they were in residential sections). Well, I take it back…this article in the Birmingham news a couple of weeks ago caught my eye:

Recycling plant looking at Powder Plant Road site

Wednesday, February 07, 2007
News staff writer

The principals who want to build a 200,000-square-foot recycling plant in Bessemer have scrapped plans to build near the Rock Mountain Lakes community and instead are considering a site near Powder Plant Road.
Waste Not Technologies plans to not only build the plant, but also construct what is being called Bessemer Green Park. Plans include the recycling plant and eight mini-mills, which would turn the recycled material into usable products.
The new plan would bring 1,200 new jobs - with an average salary of $27,000 - to Bessemer in addition to eliminating the needs for landfills, company president David Bennett said.
The article goes on to say the project could generate as much as $800,000 a year in property, sales and occupational taxes for the city. I promoted recycling in my campaign also, and I certainly support this project. It is this kind of progressive thinking that we need in Bessemer, and I commend the mayor for pursuing this. I was afraid the project would die when the company at first tried to locate near Rock Mountain Lakes, but they realized that they did not need to be near residential areas and the new site would put them closer to the Northern Beltline (oh yeah, I talked about that in the campaign too!)

So there is hope for progress. I would expect a progressive government to challenge its citizens to improve their selves and their city, and I would expect a newspaper to do the same. Instead of using their limited space to print editorials that express the views on Atlanta’s Sunday liquor sales and the opinion of someone in Michigan regarding Hillary’s presidential bid, try printing editorials that challenge city leaders to improve city services, or promote the Jonesboro Garden project, for example. For those of you who do not know, the Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association is partnering with the Bessemer School Board and Vulcan Materials to build a community garden at the site of the old Jonesboro School. This will be a place that will bring people together, and a place for relaxation, exercise and education. This project is moving forward and site preparation and planting should begin within a few weeks.

Please leave a comment or email me with your ideas for progress in Bessemer. There are lots of issues, what is important to you? And check out the comments others have left on these topics, and add your own.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Western Star and Tim Hardaway

The Western Star in Bessemer, AL has once again published inaccurate information on its opinion page, in a column titled “Hardaway ban a bit extreme,” authored by editor Dale Jones. Most of you know that former NBA star Tim Hardaway recently said “I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people, and I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic (who knew?) I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.” In the column Jones asserts that “I, Dale Jones, DO NOT HATE GAY PEOPLE. (Emphasis his). I have acquaintances who are gay. I don’t hate them. I am in total disagreement with their choice of lifestyle, but I don’t hate them.” He goes on to comment on Hardaway’s apology, in particular Hardaway’s comparison between the bigotry that African-Americans experience because of race, and the prejudice against homosexuals. Jones counters that homosexuality and race can not be compared because no one has a choice about their race or sex.

Homosexuality is a choice.”

That is Jones’s statement on the issue. That is what I take issue with.

It is true that Tim Hardaway has a right to hate whomever he wants to, and to say what he wants to in this country. It is also true that Hardaway was stupid to make those remarks in a public forum, and maybe the NBA was right in not allowing a controversial figure represent them on a weekend that is supposed to be all fun and games. It is also stupid for this paper to defend him, even in the roundabout way that it did.

Many noted professional basketball players (and former players) including Charles Barkley have come out against Hardaway in this debate. Just because one person on ESPN says that the majority of players in the NBA feel as Hardaway does, does not make it so. I don’t doubt that homophobia exists in all professional sports, basketball included, but I doubt the majority feel that way, just as the majority of Americans don’t feel that way.

But my biggest beef is with Jones’s statement that homosexuality is a choice. The sentence, standing alone in his column, not surrounded by other sentences as part of a paragraph, is a gross and glaring example of this writer’s ignorance on the subject of homosexuality. If Jones had any friends who were homosexuals, he might understand. Oh he admits to having "acquaintances" but not any friends. Friends you talk to, you understand, you learn from. Any educated person in 2007 knows that there is a spectrum of sexuality and while various decision making processes may play a role in how humans express their sexuality, it does not play a role in who one is innately attracted to. If it were a choice to be homosexual, then it would also be a choice to be heterosexual. That would mean we all at some point had to make a choice of whether to be attracted to members of the opposite sex, or the same sex. So if you think it is a choice, think back to when you made your decision. Did you think, “Well let’s see, I need to be deciding which I’m gonna be….” I didn’t think so.

Certainly there are homosexuals who choose to behave in heterosexual ways, possibly even getting married and having children. And some heterosexuals find themselves in situations where they choose to have homosexual relations. But in these cases, the person is not choosing their sexual orientation, they are choosing their behavior. There is a big difference.

Jones says that Hardaway’s comparison of sexuality to race in unwarranted, because homosexuality is a choice and race is not. Mr. Jones, homosexuality, just like heterosexuality, is part of one’s innate being, just like race, gender, eye color and left and right handedness. The American Medical Association agrees, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, and the American Psychoanalytic Association. Even most American Christian church denominations now agree that homosexuality is not a choice, while they may argue (wrongly) that the behavior is sinful, most realize that homosexuality is innate and can not be changed (if anyone wants my views on homosexuality and Christianity, I will be glad to share…drop me an email

It seems that Jones has gone out of his way to criticize homosexuality in the last few months. What is that really about? Aren’t there more important issues in Bessemer that The Western Star could be reporting on? I get more information from the Birmingham News Western Section on Wednesdays (thank you Robert Gordon) than I do from the Western Star. In this week’s Birmingham News we learned about Bessemer judges, about the school board’s plans for the new high school, about Eddie Bevelle returning to Downtown to open a new restaurant, about the utility board’s plan to buy out Coventa Energy’s contract, about certain streetlights being replaced and other actions of the city council. I hope The Western Star can return to printing relevant news that concerns our city and it’s citizens, and less inaccurate opinion and syndicated columns (especially when they express the opinions of writers who live 600 miles or so away from here).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr, and the Western Star

A letter in the Feb 14, 2007 issue of the Westen Star, titled M. L. King, No American Hero, does everything it can to degrade Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter claims that King was affiliated with over 60 communist organizations and that his "dream" was to convert the U.S. to a communist nation. The letter writer says that "King's legacy is one of deceit, sexual immorality, dishonor, scandal, untruthfulness, cheating and disloyalty." He goes on to predict that the real King will be exposed in 2027 when King's files, tapes and documents are unsealed. The letter is signed "Travis Baldwin, Bessemer."

Why would the Western star print this letter, that does nothing except to attempt to degrade an American hero? Yet it refuses to print the letter I submitted weeks ago that disagreed with their opinion on president Bush. I think it's obvious...their "agenda" is showing. They just want it to be known that there are conservatives of their ilk out there, and they think its OK to stir up a controversy when the one in question is a respected African American, but not when it focuses on the paper or its editor.

re: Western Star Editorial about Bush Library

This is in response to an editorial regarding the proposed Bush library at Southern Methodist University. The Western Star refused to print this:


The editorial “Bush is a Great American President” struck so many nerves with me that I hardly know where to begin. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when written opinion so grossly misrepresents the truth, I have to speak out.

It does not matter to me whether the Bush Presidential Library is built on the Southern Methodist University campus or not. But as a member of the United Methodist Church, I will take up for those who are questioning it. High ranking Bishops and other officials from the UNC have denounced the war in Iraq since 2003, and continue to oppose the surge in troops proposed by President Bush. The Methodist Church has a long history of fighting for social justice and upholding peace. The leaders of the president’s own faith, as well as those from several other denominations, view this war as unjust and unbiblical and it is right that they question the proposed library.

The editorial also comes very close to linking the homosexual community to terrorist groups, and this is an outrageous attack on many in the Bessemer community and the nation. Just because gays are opposed to and may hate Bush’s policies, and might even think that he is unqualified to lead our country, does not mean they hate the man. Homosexuals contribute a lot to our community and to the nation in general. Whether homosexuality is sinful, as you suggest, is debatable, as new insight in to biblical language and interpretation is revealed, but regardless, the gay community is playing a large role in the revitalization of our city. In practically every city in our country where historic restoration has taken place, gay men have played a big part. For various reasons, gay men are attracted to homes in historic neighborhoods and often restore them in impressive if not fabulous ways. And where gay men come, arts and culture follow. Bessemer is no different. I am not implying that everyone who is promoting restoration is gay by any means, but the gay community is playing a role, and should be appreciated.

Finally, the assertion that every person who has served would “return to Iraq in a second” is a blatant misrepresentation of the feelings of our veterans. I personally know of, and also often read of, soldiers who have returned who are now against the war and do not want to return.

It seems that this paper owes an apology to the United Methodist Church, the local gay community, and the good veterans of the Iraq war.


Joe Openshaw