The Political Round-Up
Judicial vacancy; Elephant envy;
By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
This and that collected along the political trail of late ...
... veteran Mobile County District Judge Mike McMaken will retire Oct. 1. Who will succeed him? Among the possible contenders drawing mention are Walter Honeycutt, Jean Powers, Matt Green, Jay Ross, Jill Phillips, Jay York, Stuart Luckie, Grady Edmondson, Randy Crane, Barney March, Vaughn Drinkard, Cindy Powell, Jennifer Wright, Barbara Brown, Ed Blount and Ken Nixon.
... Matt Simpson, Chairman of the Baldwin County Republican Party, called on Daphne City Councilman Gus Palumbo to remove the GOP elephant logo from his campaign material. Palumbo has declined.
According to Simpson, it is "disingenous and misleading" for Palumbo to use the logo because he isn't and never has been a dues-paying member of the Republican Party. Palumbo called the request "desperate politics" in an attempt to breathe life into the campaign of his council opponent, Dane Haygood, a member of the Baldwin County Republican Executive Committee.
Municipal elections in Daphne are set for Tuesday, Aug. 28. The elections are non-partisan. A candidates forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 at Timber Creek.
... the Baldwin County Republican Executive Committee recently reappointed Sheriff Hoss Mack and picked Kathy Cowan Morelock to replace the ailing Don McGriff as its representatives on the state party's executive committee.
An Alabama native, Morelock grew up in Madison County in north Alabama, but she and her family have been Baldwin County residents after retiring to Orange Beach from West Palm Beach, Fla. 14 years ago. For the past 7 years, the Morelocks have lived in Gulf Shores. She is retired after working as a sales and marketing manager with Motorola for 15 years. She and her husband have one son and two grandsons. Besides serving on the Baldwin County Republican Party Executive Committee, she also serves as 1st Vice President of the South Baldwin Republican Women and as 2nd vice president of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women.
Asked to name her political hero, she said, "What good Republican didn't love Ronald Reagan? His quote quote pretty much sums up my political philosophy:
"We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefitting from their success -- only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development."
... according to city officials in Spanish Fort, the razing of Causeway eyesores, including the old Ramada Inn and Woody's Motel, will begin soon and continue through the spring of 2013.
... Michael Lee, convicted for the shocking Macy Place home invasion and murder of Kyser Miree, was criticized for remaining silent at his sentencing and not expressing contrition. His attorney, Art Powell, pointed out that Lee did not speak on the advice of counsel because he will appeal the conviction and also not to taint the pending defense of his mother who is accused of threatening a witness in the case.
Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson's 2012 "Pay As You Go" road paving program totals $7 million including almost $3 million inside the city of Mobile.
Big winners were Mobile City Council Districts 6 and 7. District 6 Council got $872,750 for 33 different projects. District 7 was awarded more than 1.4 million, almost half of which will be spent installing a "roundabout" at the intersection of Museum Drive and McGregor Avenue. District 5 got $160,000 and District 4 received $125,000.
Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis has filed suit in Montgomery naming Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman and Mobile County officials in a complaint that their actions allow some voters to cast regular ballots in precincts where they no longer reside.
The problem came to light, according to the judge, when the Press Register, which won the contract, mistakenly used the Postal Service's database rather than the state's voter registration database in printing courtesy postcards reminding voters of important voting information. According to the suit, election officials used cards that were returned as undeliverable to clean up voter rolls. Because of the snafu, about 20,000 individuals received cards that didn't correspond to the state's voter list.
Davis asks the court to find that voters may not cast a regular ballot in a precinct in which they don't reside. Rather voters who move from one precinct to another without updating their voter registration should be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, the suit requests.
Also named as defendants in the complaint were the members of the Mobile County Board of Registrars -- Virginia Delchamps, Shirley Short and Pat Tyrrell.
Both Davis and the Mobile Board of Registrars sought an opinion on the matter from the office of Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
"... when a voters name does not appear on the precinct voter registeration list, a voter may use the fail-safe voting provision to cast a regular ballot at his or her former ("old") polling place or a voter may use the provisional ballot process to vote at his or her current ("new") polling place," advised Brenda F. Smith, chief of the AGO's opinion division.
GOP HQ opening
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley will be the special guest when the Mobile County Republican Party stages the grand opening of its campaign headquarters at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 in the Yester Oaks Shopping Center on Airport Blvd. A light dinner will be available. The event is open to the public.
Rooting for Ryan
Although she ran as a Gingrich delegate, Mobile County Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan is solidly in the Romney camp and enthusiastic about the addition of Congressman Paul Ryan to the GOP presidential ticket, calling him the "perfect complementary pick."
"His knowledge of the budget situation will be an excellent conversation with America," she said. "Young, energetic, smart, conservative, policy wonk, listens to Zeppelin, and sleeps on his couch in his D.C. office. Powerful team with a powerful message. Leadership is back."
Her Baldwin County counterpart, Matt Simpson, was pleased as well.
"I like him," said Simpson. "He is a serious candidate that will honestly and knowledgeably talk about the issues. He won't paint a picture of lollipops and rainbows. Everyone knows the entitlement programs have to be addressed. Simply passing the headaches down the road to someone else is not Ryan's style. He will fire up the base."
Rail service summit
Restoring passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast will be the topic of a regional summit of mayors, federal officials and rail advocacy groups at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 16 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Mobile.
Hosted by Mayor Sam Jones, the summit will feature Karen Hedlund with the Federal Railroad Administration; Todd Stennis with Amtrak; John Robert Smith with ReConnecting America and others who would like to see passenger rail service restored back to the Gulf Coast.
Mayors from Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana are scheduled to attend the one-day summit.
Damage to the rail lines between New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida after Hurricane Katrina caused Amtrak to discontinue service for Gulf Coast residents and visitors.
"Restoring passenger rail service is vital for the growth in our area," said Mayor Jones. "Potential employers and people looking to relocate their families expect to have rail service as an option. I am looking forward to working with leaders from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida on the best way to make that a reality."
The keynote speaker is Hedlund, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Before taking her current position in December 2011, she served as FRA Chief Counsel, providing legal oversight and advice for the agency's safety and passenger rail programs. She has led successful negotiations with several Class I host railroads to secure Service Outcome Agreements, supporting the timely obligation of nearly $8 billion in high-speed rail grants to thirty two states and the District of Columbia.
Bienville Square facelift unveiled
Bienville Square - the center of recreational and civic activities in the heart of downtown Mobile, will be getting a facelift.
Mayor Sam Jones unveiled several changes to the historic Square, which dates back to 1824.
"First impressions are important. Bienville Square is the first public venue that most folks see when they come into downtown Mobile. We want it to friendly and inviting," the mayor said. "Another great thing about the changes we are announcing today is that the work was done solely by city departments."
The changes include:
- The installation of four security cameras which will be networked to the Police Department's Special Events precinct on Dauphin Street. The cameras, though positioned to view activities along St. Joseph and St. Francis streets, will also capture any irregularities in the newly renovated restrooms in the Square;
- For the first time in more than a decade, the complete renovation of the restrooms in Bienville Square, with state-of-the-art cooling/heating systems; new flooring, tiles, lighting and updated sanitary toilets;
- The repainting of the exterior of restrooms and the bandstand;
- The recoating of bandstand floors;
- The area around and near the bandstand landscaped and re-sodded;
- The repainting of all the benches in the Square.
Bright Lights On Bienville
Instead of the normal yellowish halo of lights, city crews have installed bright white lights on poles throughout the Square and lining the walkway to the restrooms.
"It is our goal to restore the Square back to a point where citizens and tourists will feel safe, be comfortable and enjoy the beauty of one of Mobile's historic jewels," the mayor said.
The Square's Focal Point: The Fountain
The iconic fountain in Bienville was cleaned, repainted and city crews installed new bubblers in the structure - which allows the fountain's beautiful water display. The fountain has not been fully operational for nearly a year.
City Departments That Performed The Work:
Architectural/Engineering, Public Buildings, Mechanical Systems,Electrical, Parks/Recreational, Municipal Information Technology.
Dems taking charges seriously, GOP smells rat
Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy, responded this afternoon to allegations concerning Harry Lyon, the Democratic Party’s nominee for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice.
“The allegations made against Mr. Lyon are serious. We assure Alabama Democrats and voters across the state that we are taking the allegations seriously and have already begun the process of ensuring they are reviewed in a thorough, proper, and timely manner,” said Kennedy. “The law is the law and it is important, in our judicial races above all others, that our candidates respect and follow it.”
The complaint argues that Lyon should be disqualified as the Alabama Democratic Party’s (ADP) nominee because he is in violation of Alabama campaign finance laws, specifically the Fair Campaign Practices Act. A similar complaint was lodged with the state Republican Party that outlines how several GOP judicial nominees have also failed to comply with the same state law. GOP Chairman Bill Armistead dismissed the complaints as insignificant.
The GOP counters that Lyon's ouster would represent more cynical political machinations by the state Democratic Party, reminiscent of the Baxley/Graddick imbroglio of 25 years ago.
Armistead charged that Kennedy is incredibly ignorant of state law.
“On Aug. 7, a complaint was filed with Democratic Party Chairman, Judge Mark Kennedy, asking that Harry Lyon, the Democratic nominee for Chief Justice, be removed from the ballot. The complaint was filed by a Huntsville woman, Sherry Broyles, saying that Lyon is not in compliance with Fair Campaign Practice Act regulations and therefore is ineligible to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for Chief Justice because he had not filed a financial disclosure report with the Secretary of State.
“Within hours of the complaint being made public, Judge Kennedy issued a statement saying he was looking into these serious allegations. To quote Judge Kennedy ‘The law is the law and it is important, in our judicial races above all others, that our candidates respect and follow it.’ Well Judge Kennedy, I agree, the law is the law. And I find it hard to believe that a former Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is unaware of several Attorney General Opinions, with the most recent being issued earlier this year that states, “A candidate is not required to file pre-election financial disclosure reports until he or she has reached the threshold amount for campaign contributions or expenditures with a view toward influencing the outcome of an election”. This rule has also clearly been confirmed by the Alabama Bar in its training sessions for candidates. (See http://www.alabar.org/sections/elections_ethics_government/Al-CampaignFinanceLawUpdate.pdf) The threshold in this case of a statewide race was $25,000. Harry Lyon has publicly stated that he has not reached the threshold, having only raised $500 and $250 of that was a loan from himself; therefore he is not required to file disclosure reports.
“If the Alabama Democratic Party is considering removing Harry Lyon from the ballot when they know full well that Mr. Lyon is not in violation of the FCPA regulations, they would be wise to remember what happened in 1986, the last time the Alabama Democratic Party tried to overstep their authority and had to sit back and watch as Alabama voters voiced their disgust with backroom shenanigans. During that election former Attorney General Charlie Graddick received the most votes in the Democrat run off for Governor, but the Democrat State Committee removed Graddick from the ballot and replaced him with former Lt. Governor Bill Baxley. That resulted in the election of the first Republican Governor in Alabama in over 100 years.
“I hope Judge Kennedy is prepared to explain to the Alabama press and more importantly Alabama voters why he is willing to toss out a legitimate candidate on bogus charges when the facts and evidence are against him."
Armistead Mobile bound
State GOP Chairman Bill Armistead will be the special guest at the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee's fall meeting Monday, Oct. 1. A 6:30 p.m. reception will precede a 7 p.m. meeting. The place is to be determined.
Romney reception set
The Club in Birmingham will be the site Wednesday, Aug. 15 of an evening reception for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The time is to be determined.
Various levels of participation in the fundraiser range from $1,000 to $25,000.
Mobile Democrats to meet
The Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee will meet Thursday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. at the party headquarters, 918 Government Street in Mobile. Party officials are recruiting volunteers to work in the campaigns of local Democratic nominees Christian Smith who is running for Mobile County Treasurer, and Herndon Inge who is running for State Board of Education.
Work on Water Tower scheduled in fall
Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS) plans to paint the raised water storage tank on McGregor Ave. this fall.
According to MAWSS officials, the aesthetics of a new paint job, while significant, are only a side benefit. The process will involve several steps that help ensure a safe and adequate water supply.
First, the two million gallon tower will be taken out of service and emptied so it can be inspected. During this time, the other water storage facilities in the MAWSS system will substitute for the Spring Hill Tank so residents will see no change in water pressure or supply.
An enclosure will drape the tank during the process to contain materials used in the repainting effort. The tank will be blasted both inside and out to remove the old paint as well as any rust or corrosion. All the blasting material is captured on site. Painting will involve multiple coats applied during ideal conditions to provide the longest possible lifespan.
During an Aug. 14 District 7 Community meeting, MAWSS will also discuss these plans and the future of the Spring Hill Reservoir and make residents aware of recent activity around the 10 million gallon in ground storage facility.
District 7 community meeting
Mobile City Councilwoman Gina Gregory at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 in the Museum of Art will host a community meeting as a follow-up to a similar meetings earlier in the year in which the "revolving door" at Metro Jail was the discussion topic. Mobile Police Chief Micheal T. Williams, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran and District Attorney Ashley Rich have been invited to address the assembly. The Museum of Art is at 4850 Museum Drive.
For more information contact the City of Mobile Council office at 208-7441.
Vigor students to host
Prichard mayoral candidate forum
A group of teens from C.F. Vigor High School (VHS) will host a mayoral candidate forum Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Vigor High School Auditorium, 913 Wilson Ave N, Prichard, AL.
About 15 students have been studying local government and preparing for the forum under the direction of the League of Women Voters of Mobile (LWVM), which has partnered with Jessica Norwood of Emerging ChangeMakers Network, an organization she founded that "pairs emerging leaders with allied supporters committed to making change happen in communities that have been historically disenfranchised."
This group’s aspirations go far beyond the election event. Troubled by the common perception that in order to survive Prichard, one must get out of Prichard, these high school seniors, juniors and sophomores endeavor to improve their city so that residents will want to stay and raise their families there.
“We can't blame the politicians for all of Prichard’s problems. Sooner or later the community has to take responsibility for its part,” said Shamaica Lewis, who is entering her junior year at Vigor.
The event is open to the public.
The VHS Civic Engagement Project aims to:
- inform the community about issues impacting Prichard;
- provide an opportunity for citizens to engage in an open forum with mayoral candidates; and
- bring teens and adults together to work collectively to build a better Prichard.
Issues of particular interest to the students include crime rates and police response time, blighted property, bad roads, and a lack of parks and recreational areas. The group dreams of making Prichard a desirable community where people want to live again.
“I feel excited because these young adults are connecting to their community, to what matters to them, and they are discovering that they can make a difference. They recognize that voting is one way to have an impact, even though most of them are still too young to vote,” said Mary McGinnis, special projects director for the LWVM. Training and funding for this project was provided in part by NeighborWorks America.