The Year of Moving Forward

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

State of the City is....Bright!

Bessemer mayor Ken Gulley presented his State of the City address last night to an enthusiastic crowd at Bessemer Civic Center last night.

Council President Ron Marshall introduced the mayor, saying "He has a spirit of cooperation," something I have been pointing out about the current leadership since the mayor and council took office over a year ago. Because of this cooperative spirit, the mayor and council have been able to turn things around in this city.

Finances were the main issue addressed, and this was appropriate since the city's finances were known to be in disarray when Mayor Gulley took office.

During the past year, Bessemer put in place a 1 cent sales tax increase. 12.5% of this increased revenue is being set aside for a new recreation center. A new rec center has been on the agenda as long as I have lived in Bessemer, but this is the first time a mayor has developed a plan that could actually result in one. He said that they will assess the income,which is being collected in its own account, and once they have a clear idea of the income that is being generated they will go to the bond market to secure funding for a center.

The city also opened a new landfill which resulted in savings of over $475,000.


Mr. Gulley spoke of education too. One cloud that has been hanging over Bessemer since before the last election is the money owed by the city to the school system, and the lawsuit regarding that. The mayor reported that there were meetings with the council and the school board, and that an amicable settlement was reached and the city is now meeting its obligations.

He also said that most of the city employees that were let go because of the financial condition of the city last year have been rehired. He admitted that the city had neglected its employees in the past, and hopes to give them a cost of living raise this year.


Crime is always a concern in Bessemer. Unfortunately homicides were a big concern last year, with 11 murders occurring in our city limits. Bessemer Opinions will share more information about these crimes (nothing groundbreaking) in a future post, but the mayor did report that 10 of the homicides have been solved and the suspects are being brought to justice.

He urged citizen participation in reporting suspicious activity and crimes. The most important thing revealed last night might have been the establishment of an anonymous tip line - 428-3541, where residents and others can call and report a crime or suspicious activity without revealing who they are. Keep this number handy, use it!

He also said the Bessemer Police Department has altered their shifts so that more officers are on patrol, and this is a good thing. I will repeat my suggestion for the umpteenth time. Have the officers park their cars in neighborhoods, and walk the streets for a little while each day. Let then meet and talk with the residents, establishing relationships and trust that is sorely needed. Also, much more can be seen when walking rather than driving along our streets.

He spoke of the jobs coming to our city. Dollar General will be opening their $100 million distribution center next month, providing 650 jobs. Bermco Aluminum is bringing a multi million dollar plant to Bessemer and Huntsville Wholesale Furniture (Ashley Furniture) is planning a distribution center here.

Here is an article that describes what this kind of activity means to our city and calls our city the "economic powerhouse" of the metro area.

Bessemer Utilities

The mayor acknowledged that there have been some problems at Bessemer Utilities with personnel. (I am reminded of a facebook status I posted last year about standing in line there while the woman behind the counter talked on her cell phone with a sign in front of her ordering customers to not use their cell phones). The mayor said "I will personally be spending time at Bessemer Utilities," to address these problems.

But the mayor also spoke highly of the utility in responding to outages during the storms in April and September of 2011, and their willingness and ability to help other communities that were in greater need than our own. And he spoke of the infrastructure improvements at the utility that will benefit all of its customers.

The mayor concluded with, "As I said in February 2011, the future of the city of Bessemer is bright."

This prediction was met with reserved enthusiasm last year, but repeating it this year is justified. With the financial situation under control and a recreation center on the horizon, the mayor and council can focus on even more positive steps for our city. Maybe some neighborhood revitalization? And this?

Friday, January 27, 2012


Early this year I revealed my hope for Bessemer for 2012. My wish has already come true.

I thought that the city could show it cares by replacing the Dartmouth Avenue sign that had the street name spelled wrong. Within days there was action, and earlier this month the sign was replaced.

I apologize for the picture; this was taken on a foggy day.

I made city officials aware, but council woman Sherrina Rice-Franklin is the only one who replied and voiced her concern, so I give her credit.

State of the City

On Monday, January 30, 2012, Mayor Ken Gulley will give his State of the City Address.  This will be interesting, because he has been in office over a year now, and has been doing all he can to get the city straightened out. I'm hoping he can reveal something about finances and budgets that will give us some hope.

I'm sure he will mention the new DHR building.

I'm sure he will mention Dollar General and hopefully will mention Norfolk Southern.

I'm hoping he will say something about crime. I've reviewed the increase in homicides from last year, and now we have had an attempted murder and a very disturbing murder downtown this week. I'll have more to say about crime in our city later.

And maybe he'll mention a letter he received this week from me. Or maybe he'll provide a personal response. He has my number.

In any case, I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

The State of the City Address takes place at the Bessemer Civic Center on Monday, January 30, 2012 at 6:00 PM.

Rich Cocoa Crinkle Cookies

The Year of Bessemer Food

I had numerous requests for this recipe. I made these cookies for a couple of events this week and they were gobbled up quickly.

The recipe comes from a Hershey's cookbook.

Rich Cocoa Crinkle Cookies

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chicken Soup (not your grandma's)

The Year of Bessemer Food

The Birmingham News printed some chicken soup recipes today so I thought I would throw mine into the mix. This chicken soup is good for the soul, but even better for the palate. It combines some flavors that you may not be accustomed to using together.

It might appear complicated at first, at least compared to opening a can of that brand name kind, but it's really not. Start the chicken. While it's in the oven, prepare the rice, and after the rice is on, slice the veggies. If you do not want to use wine in the recipe, substitute apple juice or diluted cider vinegar.

This soup will chase away the blues, clear your head, and make you feel all warm inside. Normally it would be cold outside this time of year and we would need something like this. It's described as the ultimate comfort food. But it is good on a warm January night as well, so try it.

Chicken Soup (not your grandma’s)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bessemer's new DHR building opens

The deadly storms that rolled through our communities two nights ago brought quick reminders of the April 2011 storms that devastated large areas and killed so many people.

There is some degree of irony as the Alabama Department of Human Resources in Bessemer began operating out of their new building. Their former assistant director Nancy Wilson was killed during the April storms, and the building she worked so hard to bring to downtown Bessemer opened in the wake of the deadly tornadoes this week.

Soon a plaque will be installed in the building commemorating Nancy Wilson. The Bessemer Public Building Authority is dedicating the building in her name. There will be a grand opening soon.

The building sits on the corner of 1st Avenue and 20th Street, and is expected to bring new life to this area of downtown.

All of the services offered by DHR for the Bessemer Cutoff will now be accessible from this office.
The 20th Street entrance reflects the styles of historic buildings in Bessemer.

Here is a picture of the light fixture overhead as you exit (or enter) through these doors.

Here is a small portion of the electrical conduit in the mechanical area.

There is still some work to be done before all the DHR operations are running smoothly, as there are "birthing pains" that must be experienced when moving operations from three or four areas into one building takes place. One of the parking lots is still under construction, and employees are still adjusting to their new offices and a new phone system and such.

So be patient if you visit the new Department of Human Resources building in Bessemer. Having this building is definitely a plus for the area, and accessing their services will be easier once everything is running smoothly.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sloss Furnaces

On January 12, 2012, Heather Guy presented a program on the history of Sloss Furnaces at the Bessemer Public Library. Heather is the education coordinator at Sloss, and she brought photos and artifacts to complement her slide show.

In April, 1882, the furnaces went into blast and within a year had sold 24,000 tons of iron. read the story of Sloss here.

Sloss produced pig iron. This is pig iron, much smaller than the ones produced by the furnace back in the day.

Here is a picture of a group of workers at Sloss.

Here a lone iron worker is dwarfed by the hot furnace.

Sloss Furnaces is now a National Historic Landmark. A visit to Sloss Furnaces is worth the time. Information on hours, etc, can be found here.

Many community events are held at Sloss, including Stokin' the Fire Barbecue competition in the summer  and Sloss Fright Furnace in October

One annual event at Sloss is sponsored by Central Alabama Pride; Pridefest is during the month of June. Read about Pridefest 2009 here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Obama to win second term

President Obama will win his second term in November.

That should be a sure thing after events of this week.

I'm not talking about the debate last night where the womanizer gained respect or where the front runner continued to fumble with the issue of his taxes and relating to the disappearing middle class.

I'm talking about the economy. Pundits keep telling us that the economy and jobs are the issues that are important to Americans. But we hear little about solutions to these problems from the candidates; in fact we hear lies. Mitt Romney says the president has no plan for jobs. Jobs bill, Mitt, was the president's plan.

The debates and the Republican primaries have turned into entertainment more than politics. We saw Newt Gingrich try to shift the focus from his indiscretions to the media.

 We saw Ron Paul whining about being ignored on questions that should have been directed to him; questions about health care that the doctor feels qualified to answer. We saw Rick Santorum pleading for recognition after being declared the winner in Iowa and endorsed by evangelicals. And we saw Mitt Romney unable to make a connection with regular Americans over the issue of income taxes.

Seeing the potential Republican candidates in these debates is igniting a fire among the Democratic base and independents who care. So they will turn out in November.

Those antics are reported on the lead pages of newspapers. Buried deeper in the news (page B2 in the Birmingham News) is an article about the economy. Here are the highlights.

"The outlook for hiring has brightened."

"Business travel is up."

"Companies are hiring more."

"Consumer confidence is up."

"More people are buying cars."

"Factories are making more goods."

"Bank lending is on the rise."

"Fewer people sought unemployment benfits last week than at any time in nearly four years."

"Union Pacific...transported more cars, oil, industrial parts and chemicals in the final quarter of 2011."

"JPMorgan Chase...said its lending to businesses rose 12% in the October - December quarter."

These are all indicators of an economy taking off. And this growth will continue through the spring and summer, propelling Obama to a win, because the economy will still be perceived as fragile, and the risk of changing leadership will seem too great for voters to choose Romney or Gingrich or whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be.

So for the next few months we will continue to be entertained by the Republican candidates and their ex-wives and their tax returns. In late summer we will enjoy the grandiosity of the Democrat and Republican Conventions, seeing an outdoor acceptance speech which is already generating prayers for rain from conservatives (we've seen this before) and the possibility of a brokered (not broken) convention, with lots of history about such conventions of the past.

Then there will be some debates between Obama and someone, which will be a lot different from these clown shows we are watching now, regardless of who the candidate is.

But in November the voters will choose Obama to serve a second term.

Enjoy President Obama singing a little Al Green last night at the Apollo.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Creole White Beans and Pork

The Year of Bessemer Food

Today I debut The Year of Bessemer Food. The Birmingham News is running weekly columns titled The Year of Alabama Food in "City Scene." I decided that Bessemer Opinions needed to promote cooking, so I will be sharing recipes, some original, some borrowed, that make my family and friends happy. My columns will be random, weekly at times, but not always.

It may seem odd introducing this so soon after Paula Deen has announced her Type 2 diabetes. Let me editorialize here just a bit, and say I support Paula Deen and that people have no right judging her for how she handled her diagnosis and her livelihood. "In moderation," she urges, regarding her casseroles and cakes.

I urge the same, as I begin this series with a type of comfort food; beans and cornbread.

Creole White Beans with Pork

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

All power has been bestowed upon us

All power has been bestowed upon the gay community.

I have written before about the Gay Mafia. The mafia does not equal power, but does have the ability to get things done. The same goes for the Gay Mafia.

No, this is real power, bestowed upon us by the Pope.

Speaking of marriage, and specifically same sex marriage, he said, "This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself."

Even though no one has come up with a reason that the marriage of two men (or two women) harms their (not so traditional) opposite sex marriage, now we all must fear the destruction of our species because across the world marriage equality is progressing. Forget climate change, nukes, and emerging diseases, queers are getting married!

The Pope is not the first to make this declaration. Pat Robertson said that marriage equality in New York will "destroy America." Not quite the demise of humanity, but still pretty severe. Click here to read how several marriage equality opponents reacted to the decision in New York to allow men to marry men and women to marry women.

The gay community needs to take this information seriously. We should wisely use our power to make this a better world. Any time two people fall in love and cement their feelings with the bonds of matrimony, it makes the world a better place. 

Maybe the Pope was speaking of humanity as we know it today; humanity that considers our very being a sin, as proclaimed by University of Alabama history professor Larry Clayton in an editorial printed in the Tuscaloosa News. That type of humanity is certainly threatened as more people come to the realization that gay folk are just like straight folk and that our founding documents afford us "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," including the right to share our lives fully with the person we love.

Religious bigotry is so yesterday. But the Catholic Church has never been on the front line of progress. Let's hope the Catholic masses (of people) in our country disregard this hurtful language and instead embrace their LGBT neighbors and family members with full acceptance.

Enjoy Florence and the Machine, "You Got the Love."