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Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
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The Political Round-Up

'This is about jobs, mainly mine;'
Tanker battle just a tune-up for city council race?;
As The Tanker Turns; Dot i's, cross t's or smash melons; Tinkering at City Hall; The Big 5-uh-oh;
Lobbyist? Where'd that come from?;
Patience on trial; Jenkins to Montgomery 

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
The ferocity of Boeing supporters' backlash against the possible awarding of a $40 billion contract for replacing the U.S. military's aging fleet of refueling tankers can be traced in large measure to jobs, both those of organized labor and Boeing's high-ranking executives, according to some well-placed observers of the battle.

Aerospace remains one of the final bastions of union control of labor nationally within a single industry. The migration of automobile manufacturing plants from Michigan to the right-to-work states of the South serves as a bitter reminder of labor's battles lost.

Labor has called upon all its resources to salvage the contract for Boeing and prevent history from repeating itself in the nation's aerospace industry.

As for the Boeing executives, can there be any doubt that heads will roll as a result of an unexpected loss of a huge contract, should Boeing falter in its bid?     

Tanker battle presages City Council contest?
The anti-Boeing ad campaign waged briefly in Washington, D.C. recently was spearheaded by, among others, Mobile firefighter Bryan Lee. In the past, Lee has toyed with running for a seat on the Mobile City Council only to back off. However, in municipal elections next August, political observers anticipate that Lee take the plunge and run for the City Council, District 5 seat now held by veteran City Councilman Reggie Copeland
One last installment in As The Tanker Turns:
The EADS-built aerial refueling boom system -- an integral part of the Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-30 tanker design in the Air Force's reopened KC-X tanker contest -- has completed its flight test and validation phase on a surrogate aircraft, Northrop Grumman announced Aug. 5.

Completion of the test program confirmed the capabilities and maturity of the boom system, the company said. During 40 months of flight tests, the all-electric fly-by-wire boom, which was mounted on a EADS A310 test aircraft, accomplished 80 wet and dry contacts with receiver aircraft ranging from F-16 fighters to NATO AWACS platforms, the company reported.

Next up for the boom is final acceptance on the Royal Australian Air Force's first KC-30B tanker, slated for delivery to Australia in 2009.

Dot the i's & cross the t's or smash the melons
Republican Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis' complaint to prevent Democratic school board nominees from appearing on the ballot in November has been assigned to Democratic Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout whose wife, Judy, is the Republican school commissioner representing District 2.

Stout is expected to recuse himself from the case. Cases are assigned randomly.

Davis contends Democratic putative school board nominees Reginald Crenshaw and Lavon Manzie, as well as Democratic constable hopeful Melvin Law, failed to properly file their statements of economic interest as required by the Alabama Code of Ethics and are therefore ineligible for the offices they seek.

Initially, Davis also questioned the legitimacy of the candidacies of County Commission District 3 nominees, Republican incumbent Mike Dean and Democratic challenger Brad Warren, and GOP License Commissioner nominee Kim Hastie. Those three were cleared during a ministerial hearing before Davis in probate court last week.

Prior to the sounding of the very first gavel in the matter, one of the dozen or more participating lawyers promised that the spectacle would ultimately prove the legal/political/civic equivalent of a Gallagher performance in which the comedian wields a huge mallet to smash melons while the knowledgeable members of the audience don garbage bags to protect their clothing.

Or perhaps things will end less messily with both school board nominees cleared for inclusion on the ballot and all future candidates more attentive to directions and deadlines.

Is there an engineer in the house?
Odds are looking good that a newcomer will emerge to become just the third city engineer Mobile has known in about 50 years. With Robert Vogtner finally stepping down this spring after following the long-running stewardship of Tom Peavy, it created an opening with no readily apparent successor.  For various reasons, the candidates most often rumored as possible successors -- assistant city engineer Janic Terry, county engineer Joe Ruffer and assistant county engineer John Murphy -- are reportedly not interested in the post. 

The Big 5-uh-oh
State Sen. Ben Brooks observed his 50th birthday Monday, Aug. 11.     

Lobbyist? Where the heck did that come from?
Lobbyists, lobbyists, lobbyists. They get so much blame/credit. Where did the term come from? Let state political pundit Steve Flowers explain its derivation:

"Many folks have asked me how the term lobbyist came into our vernacular. It was born in the lobby of the famous and luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Willard is located on Pennsylvania Avenue in view of the White House. President Ulysses Grant made the Willard his home away from home.

Grant did not like the White House and he liked to get out in the evening. He would go to the lobby of the Willard Hotel almost every night for a cigar and drink.

People would wait in the lobby until Grant got there and then talk to him informally about what it was they needed. They became known as lobbyists."

Patience on trial
Former Clarke County Judge Stuart Dubose was often verbose on the bench, at the podium, in private encounters and in legal briefs, motions and rulings. Judge Greg Shaw, presiding over the Alabama Court of the Judiciary which earlier this year ousted Dubose for ethical misconduct, continues to give the ex-judge an education in terse communications. Most recently, and in an economical manner similar to previous rulings on Dubose's motions, Shaw ruled on the former jurist's motion for a new trial -- "Denied. All judges concur." One can almost imagine that Shaw and perhaps by extension the state's judicial establishment and the legal community as a whole ran out of patience with Dubose a while back.

Jenkins to Montgomery
Captain Chris Blankenship has taken over as acting chief of the Enforcement section of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division. He is a Mobile native and a graduate of the University of South Alabama. The post came open when John Jenkins accepted a promotion to head up Marine Police for ADCNR. Jenkins will now be based in Montgomery.

"I chided the commissioner (Barnett Lawley) and said you took our franchise player (Jenkins) from us," said Marine Resources Division Director Vernon Minton. "But it's a good opportunity for J.T. and an excellent move for the marine police. Blankenship has a lot of skills that will really help out. You certainly can't replace a J.T., but we've got a guy who will do an excellent job in his own right."

Big downtown meeting slated
The annual meeting of the Downtown Mobile District Management Corporation and the Downtown Mobile Alliance is set for Wednesday, Aug. 27 at noon in the Moonlight Ballroom of the Battle House Hotel, according to Carol Hunter of DMA. 

The keynote speaker is the Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia. Campbell gets credit for turning his province's economy around from one of Canada's worst to one of it's best, and while previously serving as Vancouver's mayor, he led that port city's notable redevelopment.

Tickets for the event are $55 each for members/$60 for non-members. Tables of 10 are available at $550 for members/$600 for non-members. For reservations contact Hunter at or 251-434-8498.

$30 million for USA Engineering & Science Center
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS), announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology has awarded $30 million for the construction of University of South Alabama’s Engineering and Science Center. Shelby was instrumental in securing this funding.

“I believe very strongly in the need for Alabama’s colleges and universities to offer exemplary science and engineering education,” said Shelby. “The Mobile area has seen remarkable growth in its aerospace and medical research sectors. This expanding base of science and technology industries will only demand more skilled workers for high paying jobs in the future. This grant funding will allow USA to construct a state-of-the-art facility in order to prepare students for that workforce.”  

The University of South Alabama Engineering and Science Center will provide laboratory and research facilities for future engineers, scientists and researchers. Additionally, it will provide laboratory and research space to facilitate the University’s support of local and regional industry. The Engineering and Science Center will provide a state-of-the-art facility for this support.
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