The Year of Moving Forward

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

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Due to a death in the family there has been no blogging this week.

The wit and wisdom of Bessemer Opinions will resume on Monday, October 4, 2010.

In the meantime, Alan Jackson sings "Sissy's Song."

Friday, September 24, 2010

A life taken

The state of Virginia took the life of a human being Thursday night. A mentally challenged woman at that. Their Republican governor refused to intervene. the U. S. Supreme Court refused to intervene. Those officials are complicit in the death.

Yes, I am against the death penalty. I don't believe "Thou shalt not kill," makes an exception for the imperfect laws set by humans.

I am not a supporter of the killing associated with war either, although I understand that sometimes war is unavoidable. Of course, that excludes the war in Iraq. That war was unnecessary and unjust.

But back to the killing of Teresa Lewis.

I've been studying the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church so let me share what they say about the death penalty. The bold print is mine.

We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.

I agree with this position entirely. I am angered whenever the state, whether it be the state of Alabama, Texas, Virginia or any other state, engage in this archaic and unhuman practice.

I pray that we will recognize our folly, and that the death penalty will be outlawed in our state and in our nation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A new day in Health Care

Today is a new day as far as the health of America goes.

As of today:

More children are covered, as they cannot be denied health care due to pre-existing conditions.

And young people can now stay on their parent's insurance plan until age 26.

People with serious disease no longer have to worry about losing benefits because of lifetime limits. In other words, some one's cancer treatment won't stop just because of some limit imposed by the insurance executive. (It's not the government controlling health care, it's the insurance companies). Annual limits on coverage are being phased out on most plans.

You can't be dropped from your insurance after a diagnosis or accident.

Screenings like cholesterol checks and blood pressure and preventive measures like mammograms and colonoscopies are now covered at no cost to the individual. All new health plans will pay for preventive services for pregnant women, so the health of babies being born will improve. And screenings and immunizations for babies and children are now provided with no co-pay and no deductible.

All new health plans allow you to choose your OB/GYN, pediatrician or primary doctor.

Four million seniors are getting $250 checks to help close the donut hole in prescription drug coverage. Next year they will get a 50% discount on their name brand prescriptions.

More rights, more choice, more benefits, and more peace of mind.

Now, let's get real.

Republicans are running on the promise of repealing these benefits. They want the donut hole to remain for seniors. They want children who now have insurance to lose that coverage.

They are offering a plan to "repeal and replace the government takeover of health care." Empty words, empty promises, because there is no plan. And they cannot repeal the act. But rest assured, if given the opportunity, they will work to preserve the insurance industries control of health care. Insurance executives will be determining your benefits and coverage.

Here are the benefits to my congressional district, currently represented by Artur Davis, who voted against Health Care Reform for his constituents, but soon to be represented by Terri Sewell, who will stand by the president and the people she represents.

Benefits for AL-07

In the other District that represents portions of our area, represented by Spencer Bachus, here are the benefits.

Benefits for AL-06

And here are the benefits for every congressional district in the country. Find yours.

Benefits by district

Shame on the GOP and the Tea Party for wanting to take us back to a time when children with pre-existing illness could be denied coverage.

Health care reform will benefit all of us.

Here are people who are benefiting from health care reform with very good reasons.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Who's supporting who?

In two weeks we will wake up knowing who will lead Bessemer into the "teens," the second decade of the 21st century.

The case has been made with certainty for Ken Gulley, (here and here), but a lot will be said and every effort will be made to de-rail his campaign before the runoff election on October 5.

Take for instance that silly lawsuit that was dismissed last week. All that did was make the Bessemer Progressives realize that maybe there is someone worse than Sarah Belcher in District 3. Unfortunately, we supported that person, pretty much only because she was the only person running against Belcher. But I've seen a glimmer of hope that Ms. Belcher will work with Gulley if he is elected. It never hurts to be an optimist.

I have copies of Ken Gulley's and Ed May's campaign finance reports.

There are no big surprises, but it is obvious where the support for each candidate is coming from.

Ken Gulley has the bulk of his money coming from individuals, with over 40 people donating to his campaign. This does not count the numerous people who donated at three fund raising events that raised a total of over $800. His other donors are primarily local small businesses. His total contributions were $21,109.

Ed May, on the other hand, had only one individual contribute and the bulk of his money came from PACS and Corporations. At least 56% ($25,240) of his contributions are from PACS associated with city attorneys, and it's probable ,that another $14,500 did also, as it was funnelled through PACs that one of those attorneys used during the 2006 campaign. His total contributions are $44,540.

I guess what it boils down to is that the people who live in Bessemer and the people who own small businesses want a change in the leadership of our city. And those who are embedded in the city's affairs and their special interest groups like the status quo.

Speaking of the people of Bessemer they were recently asked to voice their opinion on a poll on the mayor's campaign web site. The Mayor asked, "Are you happy with the current growth of Bessemer?" A simple question.

The poll is no longer on the site.

But before it was removed a week ago, here were the results. 76.5% of respondents chose "No," and only 23.5% chose "Yes."

(You can click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Individuals, not PACS, vote in online polls. Individuals are funding and supporting the Gulley campaign, because they are not happy with the growth of Bessemer, according to the mayor's own polling, and do not think he has addressed the issues of importance to the city, according to a poll on Bessemer Opinions that was posted just after the election in August.

While on the mayor's campaign web site I noticed a couple of things that he or his campaign manager or web site manager should have caught. I am not the best speller, or typist, and often I hit the wrong keys and I may misspell words on this blog. But I use spell check and I have readers who alert me if something slips by, and I correct it. But May's campaign site has been up for 6 weeks or so, and this is how the home page appears. I circled a couple of misspelled words.

If you want people to be impressed with you, you can't have little errors and if you do you must correct them when they are found. (I had one in my book and when I found out about it, I corrected it. Some of you have "rare and valuable" imperfect early copies of Those Others.)

There are actually other errors but I don't want to post all of his pages on here.

My annual flowers (and some of my perennials) are just drying up. It's fall, it's unusually hot and dry, so the changes in our gardens are inevitable. Here are a couple of zinnia flowers that were hanging on last week, but even those are gone now. This purple one has a little spider creature on it that I didn't notice when I was taking the photograph.

This orange flower looks as if it has no stem. It just seems to be floating, like something we might see on Pandora.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Railroad Park

Yesterday I visited the new Railroad Park in Birmingham. There were quite a few people there, some with dogs, some with kids, some on bikes, some on roller blades and some with skateboards.

The park is a big expanse of green with a lake and a stream and trails around the perimeter and criss-crossing.

Here is an article from USA Today about the park.

In this picture you can see that there is a perimeter trail but also a meandering trail, and a stream in between. Joggers were making their way primarily on the flatter outer trail, while cyclists seemed to prefer the ups and down of the inner trails.

There were kids wading barefoot in the stream. Later I saw two middle-aged African American women wading gingerly in the water.

"How long since you've done that?" I asked them.

"I've never done it," one of them answered, laughing. "This is wonderful. This is the best thing," she said, indicating the park.

It was really refreshing to see people in Birmingham appreciating the beauty that has always been around them. I mean, sure the park didn't always look this way, but there are signs in the park that explain the history, and that the site was once natural, then industrial, and now (somewhat) natural again.

From the park you can see that Birmingham is a city on the move. Large cranes indicate construction at nearby Children's Hospital. Here is a construction webcam where you can see what's going on. There's a time-lapse video there where you can watch months of construction in about 30 seconds. Pretty neat.

Students were lounging in the grass, some were reading, some were talking on their phones, others were napping.

The buildings of downtown, including the Wells Fargo building with their new sign atop, provide a backdrop to the new park.

There are walls and barriers within the park made of bricks and stone that were found on the site. I don't have a picture, but the bricks and such are stacked and encased in wire cloth to hold them in place. Interesting.

Also, informational signs are placed though out the park to inform visitors of some history, or some nature, within and around the park.

And at the west end of the park you can smell the bread baking from the bread factory across the street.

Read more about your park at the Park website.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dr. Robert Bentley and taxes

Has Robert Bentley read the Alabama constitution? Has he even looked at how money is generated for the state?

When asked if the burden of taxation unfairly targets the poor last night, he said "No."

This is not new. In 2008 when the Alabama legislature was considering removing sales tax from groceries, Bentley defended Alabama's regressive taxes.

"They (the people of Alabama) have a right to pay the taxes they will pay."

That is his explanation?

Alabama boasts the lowest taxes in the nation.

Trouble is, the poor shoulder the burden.

The 1901 Alabama Constitution was written with that in mind, and no one has been willing to do anything about it in the 109 years since. What this means is that people don't care. Or not enough people.

If they cared, something would have been done. But the Robert Bentley's of the state enjoy low taxation, heck I think Ron Sparks pointed out that Bentley himself only paid $4000 in income tax on an income of $200,000 of income. Sparks paid almost $12,000 on an income of $79,000.

Bentley was also trying to scare people into voting for him, claiming that under Health Care Reform there would be no physicians in the state in 10 years. What a crock. Sparks pointed out that Bentley, like so many others, has not read the bill, and its obvious. Here's a challenge. Before voting for Bentley because he says he will fight the federal government, based on the 10th amendment and that tired old state's rights (Jim Crow, Slavery) argument, read the bill. Educate yourselves about it. And quit telling, and believing, lies.

Here's the deal in a broader sense about teabaggers like Bentley. They cannot tell the truth. They make stuff up, like Bentley's comment about healthcare. Take teabggin' darlin' Christine O'Donnell, winner of the Delaware GOP primary, on stem-cell research.

"They are -- they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific
companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with
fully functioning human brains. So they're already into this experiment."

Actually she may have something there.

Summer's about over and that means the dog days are about over.

Florence and the Machine: Dog Days are Over.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Won't you be my gaybor?

It's a beautiful day in the gayborhood...

Wanted: Gay (or gay-friendly progressive) home buyers who are interested in: A. Preservation and Restoration of Historic Homes; B. Working to have South Bessemer designated a historic neighborhood; C. promoting Diversity and Equality in Bessemer.

Here are some of the homes in South Bessemer that are for sale. Some of these homes have been restored, some have been partially updated, and some need a good amount of work. Contact me to obtain the addresses of the homes.

This is the Honeycutt House. It's 100 years old! Built c. 1910, it is a front gabled bungalow with a full-facade recessed front porch.

This is the Leckie House, built c. 1912, altered to become an airplane bungalow. I think it has been divided into apartments, but could be restored to single family.

The Harper House, built c. 1922, is a side-gabled bungalow. There have been some changes to this house, but I don't know much about it.

The Trotter-Sweatman House was built c. 1904. It is a good example of an American Foursquare house. Distinguishing characteristics are the paneled frieze band under the eaves extending around the house and the windows with upper sash border muntins. Two prominent Bessemer families occupied the house until 1972. Legend says the house is still occupied by a ghost of one of the Trotters. Our house harbors a ghost as well.

The T. W. Huey House was built c. 1928. It is a one story buff-brick bungalow with an enclosed projecting porch. The terrace leading to the entry is interesting, as is the decoration of the gables, lined with dentil blocks and containing lunette vents along the peaks.

This is the Harris-Woodrow House, built in 1913. It is a hip-roofed bungalow with interesting windows and a porch with nice columns. I don't know much about this house.

I love this house. The Read House, built c. 1915, is a cross-gabled Craftsman bungalow with a full-facade and wrapping projecting porch. Look at the stylized buttresses supporting the porch roof and the projecting entry bay with the double door and transom and sidelights. I think this house was divided into apartments in 1975. Again, if so, could be converted to single-family.

So, those are the current listed houses for sale. I know there are others but they don't have signs out front and I am hesitant to "advertise" them on this blog.

Now is the time to be looking and buying in Bessemer. You wont get a better deal on a Historic Home, and right now both prices and interest rates are low. After the election we will have a new mayor*, and look for support (in words if not more) for neighborhood development. Home values will rise. Now is the time to buy.

And if you call a realtor, tell them you saw the house on Bessemer Opinions.
* The lawsuit challenging mayoral Candidate Ken Gulley has been dismissed. This is what I would call a lulupalooser of a decision, because it now allows the Gulley canpaign to resume its focus on the issues at hand, rather than having to fend off an effort to keep Bessemer from moving forward.

Self-pleasure and the mayor's race

It's hard to imagine Ed May and masturbation would come up in the same blog post, but it happened. Right now.

Just turn off your imagination right now, though. It's not like that.

No, I wanted to write about the primaries last night, but then this information comes out about the local mayoral candidates and something very strange is going on.

In today's Birmingham News the finance reports of the candidates are disclosed.

The article explains that Ken Gulley outspent his rivals by a huge margin. That is no surprise.

But this is:

"Ed May did not file campaign finance disclosures for the two reporting periods
before the general election. Candidates do not have to file disclosure forms
unless they raise or spend $1,000 or more. Candidates who don't raise or spend
more than $1,000 can instead file a waiver indicating they did not need to file
disclosure forms. May also did not file any waiver."

My understanding is that as a candidate you must file either a form or a waiver. Ed May did neither. What does this tell us? What are the possible reasons?

1. He is hiding something. I can't believe the hundreds of signs he has put out cost less than $1000.

2. He does not respect the process. Somebody doesn't respect it, that's for sure. There's that silly lawsuit challenging Ken Gulley's residence, but I don't think it's tied to the May campaign. Seems there's another fish splashing water out of the bowl in this case.

3. He's lazy. He said after the poor showing in the general election that he had not campaigned. That could indicate laziness, or maybe his lack of campaigning reflects one of these other possibilities.

4. He's unorganized. Have you seen his desk?

5. He has such high regard for himself that he feels he does not have to follow the rules.

In any case, I don't think we want a person who falls under any of the above categories to be our mayor.

Ken Gulley raised over $21,000, and the contributors listed include business leaders, realty groups, law firms, investment firms, insurance firms and numerous individuals; people who love our city, understand our city, and want our city to prosper.

Who is left to contribute to May? No one. I guess maybe that's the reason he has no contributions. But he still needed to file a waiver.

Oh, you are wondering about the masturbation reference.

In Delaware the Republicans chose Teabagger party doll Christine O'Donnell as their candidate, a move that those who rely on statistics and advanced polling say will decrease the GOP's chance of taking the senate from 30% to 15%. It turns a sure Republican win in November in Delaware to a probable Democrat win.

O'Donnell is known for, among other things, speaking out against masturbation.
How can that be? I mean she is a teabagger, without question, and got the Teabagger party endorsement. And teabagging leads to...oh, never mind. But she said:

"The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust."

Hey, I don't make up the news, I only report it. And I'm not going to dwell on this. But do you really think that little kids, male and female, when they are exploring their body and just learning about things are full of lust? No, they are just doing what feels good with no emotional attachment at all.

And monkeys. They masturbate. Are they lusting after furry hunk they just saw swinging through the trees?

And does fantasy always equal lust? Hardly.

OK, enough of that.

I mean, it was bad enough that every candidate had to give an opinion on the proposed mosque in New York. Are we now going to examine every candidate's view on self-pleasure? Let's hope not.

But last night's primaries give new hope to the Democrats for November. Independents and moderate Republicans do not want to elect radical wing nuts to congress. So they will either stay at home or vote for the Democrats in November.

So, Twitter was set to launch a new interface last night, but my twitter page looks the same. But I like what's coming. Watch the video. Then follow me....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Glenn Shadix memorial service

The change of venue for Glenn Shadix's memorial service was probably the most fortunate thing that occurred surrounding his death. As we were planning the service there was no way to estimate the number of people that might show up. The sanctuary at Covenant Community Church was precisely the right size, as it was about full, but not overcrowded. Things happen for a reason.

The people from Covenant jumped in to help make our plans coalesce into a service that was unlike most, but that Glenn's mother said he would have loved. I'm not going to name names out of fear of leaving someone out, but you Covenant people know who you are. The service would not have been the same with anyone else doing the behind the scenes stuff. Again, things happen for a reason.

Here is a review, if you will, for those who were not able to attend. Prior to the service a slide show of photos of Glenn with lots of movie shots displayed on the TV screens in the sanctuary and the lobby. This brought an occasional smile to folks.

A program with this picture of Glenn and a list of the participants and the order of service, and an insert that listed many (but not all) of Glenn's movies, television shows and plays, was handed out. And cards for people to write their wishes or memories on were available and the messages will be printed on Glenn's web site at a later date.

The order of service was as follows: Instrumental music; Welcome and instruction (you know, turn off your cell phones and not video or audio or photos during the service); hymn - I'll Fly Away - Tena Wilson; Scripture reading - 23rd Psalm, and Prayer - Rev. J. R. Finney; music - What a Wonderful World - Ken Talley; Eulogy - Joe Openshaw; music - "Get Happy" - Vanessa Anderson (a Judy Garland favorite of Glenn); Poem - On Death (Kahlil Gibran) - Gigi Talley; Message of Comfort - Rev. J. R. Finney; hymn - Amazing Grace - Tena Wilson; Closing Prayer - Rev. J. R. Finney; music - Banana Boat (Day-O) - Ken, Tena and Vanessa.

Glenn's ashes were on the altar in a beautiful black walnut (I believe) box that had a little painting on the lid (done by one of Glenn's close friends), surrounded by two studio photo portraits of Glenn and two lit candles. Beautiful radiating flower arrangements were placed below the altar. Behind Glenn on the back wall was a beautiful dove and rainbow stained glass piece, recently hung by the church. Palm trees flanked the back wall, giving the scene a California look, in my opinion.

Here is the eulogy that I delivered. Well, here it is as it was written, I have no idea how closely I followed the printed words. I needed a teleprompter. If the eulogy is not visible, click on the link and you can read it.

Eulogy for Glenn Shadix

Rev. Finney and I accompanied the family out during final strains of Day-O. Truthfully, it was all I could do to keep from standing up and dancing (in that Beetlejuice style) when Ken and Tena and Vanessa were singing. If I had, would others have followed? We'll never know.

William Glenn Scott's (Glenn Shadix) memorial service was meant to be a celebration and a remembrance of his life. It is impossible to do that without grieving, and we knew that going in. All those who took part truly feel that it was the greatest honor to do so. Thank you to the family, and most of all, thank you to Glenn.

Glenn's family has suggested donations be made to Alabama School of Fine Arts new theater project. I would suggest, and I think Glenn would approve, making a donation to Covenant Community Church as well, because they went beyond the call of duty (with love) to serve this family.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Glenn Shadix; Rest in Peace, my friend

Glenn arrived at my house in costume earlier this year for a screen test being filmed in Tuscaloosa that I was accompanying him to, and asked me to take a photo.

Glenn Shadix, like all of us, was a product of his environment. Because my novels are about characters from the 1960's, and because Glenn grew up in the 50's and 60's, we had opportunity to talk about his past at length.

It's no secret that Glenn had a disturbing youth. In his first "Bio-Tale he told the story of growing up gay in a Southern Baptist family, and begins with:

"I spent the 1950's at Westside Baptist Church in Bessemer, Alabama and I was
one of the obvious sissies in the congregation. I remember skipping through the
hallways of the church at age six wearing an available choir robe and headscarf
pretending I was Loretta Young."

But his real troubles began at the age of seventeen:

"I knew I was attracted to boys rather than girls from my earliest memory. I
thought I was alone in this predicament and it was my deepest and most well
guarded secret until the fall of 1969 when at seventeen I told my parents the
truth and opened a Pandora's' box of drama and exiled myself from my childhood
religion forever."

You can read the entire story, but in summary, he was forced to undergo "concentrated psychotherapy" which included "electrodes attached to a large car-size battery," and, well, you can imagine the rest.

When I asked Glenn in May of 2008 to ride in the Alabama Stonewall Democrats truck in the Central Alabama Pride parade the following month, he immediately said yes, but then developed some reservations. He had never "come out", had never felt the need to. In Hollywood and in New York, it wasn't necessary and there were no reservations about being who you are, at least among those in the profession (whether one could be "out" to the public and still have a successful career in those days is a different story).

But this was Alabama, his home state. His mother and his siblings live here.

Riding to Birmingham from our homes in Bessemer the day of the parade, he told me that he had never taken part in an event or protest for gay equality, and it meant a lot to him to be doing this. In his tropical shirt and straw hat he met Libertee Belle and Patricia Todd and other high profile gays before adding a rainbow colored lei to his attire and taking his position as bubble machine operator in the truck with friends Jo and Cindy, and off we went.

You can see in that picture that Glenn, always the entertainer, was having a good time. But you can also see what troubled him till the end. On his right foot is a boot. He was recovering from one of many surgeries to repair, or to provide relief from, an old injury from a stunt gone awry during a movie filming. Two years later problems with the foot had him confined to a wheelchair and his mobility problems led to the fall that took his life.

The following year I approached Glenn about joining our effort to protest the Ex-Gay conference that was coming up near Birmingham. We had Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out coming to the city to give a lecture prior to our protest, and I asked Glenn to tell his story at the event. This was another first for Glenn, the telling of his story in front of a live audience, and he became emotional during his presentation.

This did not bother anyone in the audience, however, because we all understood the emotional lows that he had been through and the rejection that he had experienced. In fact, most in the audience gained a new respect for the actor for opening up like he did.

Those of us who had become recent friends of Glenn knew him to be a highly intelligent and informed person who would give you the shirt (or the robe) off his back if you needed it. Stephen, Michael, Dean and I, and others, would spend spend hours on the phone or in person talking to Glenn about anything from Sarah Palin and politics to gender non-conformity and religion. One of my last phone calls with Glenn was after I posted this piece on the mosque in New York. He praised me for taking a stand, for "saying what needed to be said," as he often said about my writings ("and from Bessemer, Alabama," he would say, in mock disbelief).

Stephen, shown here posing in Glenn's robe from Beetlejuice, had planned a dinner for this weekend and Glenn and friends were going to help Stephen celebrate his birthday. Glenn had just had a visit from Rufus Wainwright but was looking forward with as much enthusiasm to palling with his B'ham gay circle as he did to entertaining celebrities from New York. That's just the way he was.

Glenn had plans. His latest film, Finding Gauguin, which I documented here, is set to premiere in September at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on September 23. He was scheduled to go on a tour next year with the USO to entertain troops in Afghanistan. We had laughed about comparisons to Bob Hope and Ann Margaret for his USO trips. And recently he had been offered at part in a stage production playing Ernest Hemingway during the last year of the writer's life.

Glenn exposed many of us Alabama simple folk to a world that we know little about. But he approached his celebrity status with such a matter of factness that we felt like we knew Michelle (Phillips, of the Mamas and Papas) or Tim (Burton) or others who he would speak of in everyday conversation.

One of his most recent trips that he went on and on about was a road trip with his friends Diane and James to Baton Rouge to see Joan Baez, one of his (and mine) long time favorite singers. He got to spend some personal time with her and talk, and it meant so much to him, an Alabama boy who had to hide his Joan Baez records as a child from family members who considered her subversive. But he loved Joan and what she stands for and was so happy to have made the trip.

His memorial will be Sunday at 2:00, at Covenant Community Church in Centerpoint, AL.

His family is requesting that memorials be made to the theater department of the Alabama School of fine Arts .

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Prominent black leaders recognize it.

Some progressive bloggers recognize it. Others do not.

The leaders of the Alabama Democratic Party do not.

Joe Turnham, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party wrote a piece that was published in the Birmingham News on Sunday's Viewpoints page. His purpose was not to acknowledge that the Democratic Party has a problem, or that racism contributed to a poor decision by the state Democratic Executive Committee; rather it was to blame the Birmingham News for "inciting racism within our party from your writings" and "writing racially charged editorials."

I can not say for sure that the following words were printed in the Birmingham News, but I know for a fact that they were spoken by Joe M. Reed at the meeting of the SDEC that nominated Elisabeth French over the "runner up" in the primary, Nikki Still, and I wrote about my disbelief.

"I'm from the brass knuckles wing of the Democratic Party, the 3 guys that
visit you after 12 o'clock at night wing of the Democratic Party."

He followed this intimidation with instruction to vote for "a family member...a sister."

The following words were also heard at the meeting.

"This is not a race issue. This seat was won by a black person because
a majority of people in Jefferson County chose a black person over a white

That was representative Alvin Holmes that joined Joe M. Reed in putting forth the "racially charged" words; not the writers for the Birmingham News.

This is not a media problem, Mr. Turnham. You sound an awful lot like a Republican in making those charges.

The group of committee members cannot be judged as individuals who voted for Still or French for whatever reason they may have had. Turnham defends the committee members, and yes, they did do what was required of them by party and state rules. But as a body, they allowed "racially charged" words to influence them, or to intimidate them (brass knuckles) into voting a certain way.

Would the leaders of the committee allow men in white sheets and pointed hats to make a presentation or to nominate a candidate? Certainly not.

Would they allow the same individuals to appear before the committee without their uniforms and use anti-black rhetoric and 1960's style intimidation to promote a white candidate. Hopefully not.

But either due to political correctness carried too far, or naivety, or fear of losing their own grip on power, they allowed blatant racism to be expressed during the meeting, and the tactic worked.

Judge U. W. Clemon, retired federal judge for the northern district of Alabama, also had a letter in Sunday's Birmingham News. He recognized the racism, in part because he experienced the same thing in 1973 that Nikki Still experienced here. Clemon had run for a seat on the Birmingham City Council. It was an at-large election for three City Council seats, and Clemon placed fourth. One of the three whites who finished ahead of him died before his investiture, and both conventional wisdom and the black community thought (or insisted) that Clemon be named as the replacement.

"Instead, the largely white local unit of the Democratic Party chose one of
its own, one who had not run for the office. Only hypocrisy would permit me
to denounce the 1973 decision while silently acquiescing in the recent Democratic Executive Committee decision."

Clemon says the decision in racist, that the decision is unfair (based on Still's qualifying to run, her campaigning, and her place in the election), and that it is politically unsound (referring to the probability that the decision will result in fewer Democratic successes in the November election).

There have been calls for Elisabeth French to reject the nomination. Whether she does or not will go a long way in revealing how she feels about the issues raised by Judge Clemon and others.

There have also been calls for Nikki Still supporters to ramp up a write-in campaign, but Still herself so far is not enthused about it. However, letter after letter in the paper and voter after voter in person tell me that write-in is exactly what they are going to do. Many feel like a vote for French is a vote for the race based system that has infected the Democratic Party.

So we will write in our vote for Nikki Still.

Some progressives have demonstrated their unwillingness to address the problem as found on Progressive Electorate. (Emphasis mine)

Left in Alabama has video from yesterday's SDEC Meeting in which
Elisabeth French was appointed to replace Kenya Marshall on the Democratic
ballot. A number of folks I've talked to are disappointed that the nomination
did not go to Nikki Still - the 2nd place finish in the July 13th Runoff. I'm
confident Liz French will competent just as I thought Nikki Still would. The issue we should all agree on is the need to rid our State of the parasite called partisan Judicial elections.

Rather than looking inward to solve their own problem, they say focus on the unrelated but also important problem of partisan judicial elections.

What the Alabama Democratic Party should do is form a committee of SDEC members and outside people (such as Judge Clemon, James Laster, and me) to get to the meat of the issue and find out exactly why such attitudes still exist, how prevalent they are in the committee, and develop recommendations to overcome the problem. Just because these people are members of an elite group does not mean they are too good for some personal development, sensitivity training and common sense instruction. To do otherwise just means that the attitudes of the 1960's are alive and well in 2010, and will continue to control the party.

Many of the old folks won't mind if the party does not evolve, but the young voters that the party desperately needs (especially in Jefferson County) will not want to be a part of a "movement" that refuses to budge.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The mayoral election of 2002; part 2

Yesterday I began a two part series on the 2002 Mayoral election.

Here is part one, where I looked at what we were looking for that year as the election approached.

After the election results came in those who were hoping for change were ecstatic. I was at Ed May's campaign headquarters, and spoke with several supporters. I wrote another letter to The Western Star, based one the promises Ed May had made during his campaign, and what I heard that night as he celebrated victory.

Here is that letter. (For some reason the letter is not appearing yet, it will later. In the meantime, click on the title and you can read it.)

Letter ToThe Western Star September 25, 2002 Mayor May

Here are some of the promises outlined in the letter, and the outcomes as I see them.

Mr. May has outlined a plan whereby he, working with the school board and
superintendent, will
improve our schools and offer our children a solid
educational foundation.

Our schools have certainly made some improvements over the last 8 years, but it is not in any way attributable to Ed May, as this administration and council has refused to address the withholding of taxpayer generated funds belonging to the school system that the city refuses to pay them.

This led a city watchdog group, Citizens for Better Schools, to sue the city in January, 2008. The city government responded by considering a repeal of the ordinance that gives a portion of sales tax to the schools. Classy.

That's not just the mayor, but he sure didn't do anything to assure the schools got their money.

He has pledged to revitalize our historic neighborhoods and the downtown area.

I live in a "historic neighborhood" and I visit the "downtown area" almost every day. While I am proud to say there is some revitalization in a portion of downtown, this has all occurred within the last year and a half and much of the city center is still peppered with empty storefronts and abandoned or burned out buildings. And other than the destruction of some abandoned (historic) homes in the neighborhoods, there have been no initiatives toward restoration or improvements in the areas where people live.

He believes in the rule of law, and will enforce our laws fully and fairly, and
will support our police and firefighters.

His efforts to combat crime and reduce the murder rate depend on everyone coming to Jesus and telling their neighbors about him.

And he actually said that increased police presence would not make our area safer.

In reality, his strategy has not worked, as crime in Bessemer was addressed here.

He knows that our parks and recreational facilities are a reflection of our
pride and values, and will seek to restore those facilities to top condition.

We have an improved Roosevelt Park and a new track that a diverse group of citizens enjoy. Ed May and the council may be responsible for this, but did the mayor have to lie about it?

Ed May says on his current campaign literature:

Improved and renovated City Parks - building the only outdoor fitness facility
in Jefferson County.

I remember when I was dating my partner that we would sometimes use the exercise trail at Montclair Hospital (now Trinity) near Crestwood. It was a trail through the wooded area with several fitness stations positioned around the wooded property. I called Trinity to confirm that the trail is still in place, and it is. So this "outdoor fitness facility" or any other that the mayor may be referring to is not the only such facility in the county.

He has promised to end favoritism at Bessemer Utilities and to set up a consumer
advisory board to hear complaints and make recommendations to the

If there is a "consumer advisory board" then it is the worst publicized organization in the city, because I know nothing about it. I called Bessemer Utilities and the person I spoke with had never heard of it either.

I'm sure there are other promises that have not been kept over the last eight years. But the issues addressed in my letter, especially regarding crime, education and revitalization, and the failure of the mayor to follow though, are enough for me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The mayoral election of 2002; part 1

This is the first of two articles about the mayoral election of 2002, when Ed May was first elected.

Eight years ago Bessemer was at a crossroads. Of course, we say that every time an election rolls around, don't we? But during the summer of 2002 the nation was still recovering from 9-11 and the country was more united than we are now. The people of the 7th congressional district had just elected Artur Davis in the primary to represent them. Some of us ended up being disappointed in Artur Davis. I could write about that, but he's already moving toward the history books.

In the summer of 2002 we were entering the election season for our city offices, and Ed May was the main challenger to Mayor Quitman Mitchell. Many of us wanted change, and in a letter to the Western Star I outlined some of the problems and the solutions we were seeking.

Here is the letter I wrote:

Letter ToThe Western Star July 3 2002 Upcoming Election

An excerpt:

Our city is listed as one of the poorest in the nation. Our city core, the
downtown area and older neighborhoods are in disrepair. We need a mayor
who will work to solve these problems and restore the earning potential of our
citizens. This will involve improving our schools, improving safety,
restoring our neighborhoods and downtown. But just as important, we need a
mayor who will restore our faith in our city and in ourselves. Our self
image is dealt a blow each time we hear about how poor we are, or how unsafe we are, or how bad our schools are. We can’t be proud of our city when we
drive through it and see buildings crumbling. And we can’t expect people
to want to return to our city when they don’t feel safe here. We need a
mayor who will do things that will restore our pride and improve our quality of
life so that those who live here will have better lives and that those who don’t
live here will want to move here to enjoy what we know our city can be.

Eight years later, the problems remain.

We elected Ed May that summer. Like Artur Davis, elected that same year, he has turned out to be a disappointment. Seventy two per cent of respondents on a poll on this web site say that Ed May has not addressed the important issues of the city.

In part 2 of this series, I will outline Ed May's promises as reflected in another letter I had published in The Western Star after his election, and how those promises have not been fulfilled.

Part 2.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The end of war

Well the unjust war has ended. The work continues. The problems are not solved. The troops responded to the call honorably.

I wrote a letter to The Western Star in March 2003 before the war began, but President Bush didn't read it. Or if he did, he ignored it.

Here is the letter, which followed an editorial the week before about patriotism.

March 5, 2003

I agree with your editorial comment about dissent being patriotic. It is hard to speak out against war when those who do so are criticized as being pro-terrorist. No one denies that Saddam Hussein is evil, or that he needs to be removed from power. But why is war the answer?

When we see or hear of violence among young people, everyone agrees that people need to be taught, at an early age, about conflict resolution, that violence is not the answer. Yet, what kind of example are our leaders setting for them when they have tunnel vision that can only focus on war? They are saying that violence is the only answer and do not want to give diplomacy and inspections a chance. Either they are blinded by this “ratings grabbing” war and their desire to control more of the world’s oil, or they just don’t have the brain power to think of any other way to resolve this crisis.

We hear over and over that terrorism is the enemy, yet the worst terrorist in the world hunkers down and hides for a year or so, and we forget all about him, while he regroups and makes plans for more acts against us. How many times have you heard President Bush speak of Osama bin Laden in the last year? All he had to do is hide and he is forgotten.

Saddam will probably do the same thing…we tear up his country, he tosses a few chemical weapons at our troops or Israel, killing our troops and our allies, then he can go into hiding for a while so we can forget about him.

How many of those leaders, from the president on down, have a son or daughter in the armed forces that is on the way or already in the Middle East? Probably none. I would be willing to bet that a large majority of citizens whose children or spouses are about to enter this war are not for it. Yet they, and the rest of us, find ourselves in the position of being loyal and supportive to our troops, while not supporting the cause for which they might die.

If we find, through war, that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction, we will have spent billions of dollars and killed thousands to discover what we could have learned through peaceful means. If fact if he does have weapons of mass destruction, no one thinks we will be able to find and destroy all of them before he has used them on someone, somewhere. Iraq is like Pandora’s Box, and by opening it who knows what the consequences will be.

Unfortunately, we will probably soon find out.

Then the war started and two weeks later the Western Star published another of my letters.

March 26, 2003

The war against Iraq has begun and our attention must now focus on supporting our troops and praying that this conflict will end quickly with minimal loss of life.

We do not know how far the effects of this war will reach, so let us remember in our thoughts and prayers not only for our soldiers and their loved ones, but those who are affected throughout the world, including the innocent citizens of Iraq, who have already suffered through two recent wars and years of repression and sanctions.

As we learn of the tragedies and casualties of this war, let us use this as motivation to become adherents of nonviolence, and to study the works of Gandhi and King, who taught us that we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

President Obama was very generous in his speech last night, avoiding placing blame for the unjust invasion or saying "I told you so" about the weapons of mass destruction or the obvious truths about Iraq not being responsible for 9-11 or any of the other made up reasons that the prior administration used do fight "daddy's war."

I'll just be generous too, other than that last paragraph, and wish only the best for the troops returning home, that they will be able to return to normal life, and for those who are being re-deployed to Afghanistan, I wish you safe passage and a quick resolve to the conflict in that country so that you, too, can return home safely, soon.

And let's not forget the 50,000 troops that remain in Iraq. We hope for your safety and await your return home as well.