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Chip Drago
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The Political Round-Up

TK taking long view; the residential goose
and the commercial gander; Amendment One: Thumbs down, thumbs up; Barack the vote;
He peed/she peed; Don again?

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
"Absolutely not," said Thyssen Krupp spokesman Scott Posey of any validity to "street talk" that the giant German steelmaker has throttled back its construction schedule to match the $800 million in public commitments toward its $4.2 billion steel plant in north Mobile County.

"Our construction schedule has not changed" regardless of a startling global economic downturn, said Posey.

"We are building with a long term strategy in mind," he said. "Thyssen Krupp is always looking much farther down the road."

TK is already spending a bunch of money here locally and regionally, said Posey.

"To date in non-equipment spending -- only so many companies actually make hot strip mill and cold rolling mill equipment, maybe three in the world and none in the U.S. -- but in discretionary type spending or non-equipment, we've spent over $400 million in the state with all companies and $100 million with Baldwin and Mobile (companies)," said Posey.  

Local companies involved with Thyssen Krupp include G.A. West, Hargrove Engineering, Thompson Engineering and Bayou Concrete.

Posey said TK had probably spent an additional $700-800 million largely in the Southeast.

The goose and the gander
Renee Williams, the Democratic nominee for Mobile County Revenue Commissioner, has called for appraising commercial real estate on a schedule similar to that applied to residential real estate, a change that could lead to increased local public education revenues of $1-2 million annually.  

"If commercial real estate values were increased by the same 10 percent each year that homeowners have experienced, the Mobile County School System would receive approximately $983,594," said Williams. "An increase of 20 percent would generate approximately $1,967,189."

Under the present system, residential property owners are unfairly burdened because their property values are assessed more frequently and sometimes inaccurately, according to Williams.

Williams said she would assign an appraiser to a "market area" to determine factors that would affect value within the appraiser's jurisdiction. 

"This procedure would better ensure equitable property values whether residential or commercial property," said Williams. "It is my position that the fair and equitable valuation of all property, using 'market areas' (rather than subdivisions), will result in additional property tax dollars for our school system."

Pittman says thumbs down on Amendment One
State Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, says "no" is the way to go on Amendment One, a proposal that would allow the state's education budget to tap into a trust fund created almost 30 years ago when the state realized a windfall from natural gas wells drilled in state-owned waters along the Alabama coast.

Under Amendment One, which will be on the ballot statewide Tuesday, state officials could dip into the two rainy day funds to prevent budget cuts when state tax collections fall below expectations, but they would have to pay back the borrowed money in future years.

"I supported the initial bill which allowed the General Fund, which did not have a Rainy Day Account, to access the ($3 billion) Trust Fund up to 10 percent of the General Fund budget," Pittman explained. "The General Fund receives the (interest) revenue off of the Trust Fund. We defeated an attempt in the Senate for the Education Trust Fund to tap the Trust Fund.

"When the General Fund Bill went to the House it was amended to include the Education Trust Fund's ability to access the Trust fund but the limit was set at 6.5 percent of the ETF Budget to be paid back in six years," he continued.

"I am opposed to Amendment One," Pittman stated, "and after further consideration do not think the Trust Fund should be used as a rainy day account for the general fund or the education trust fund."

The Alabama Trust Fund is a $3 billion state savings account started by former Gov. Fob James.

Opposing point of view
Bryan Taylor, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley, offers a pro-Amendment One point of view:

"The Rainy Day Amendment corrects flaws in the existing education rainy day account and creates a new rainy day account for the General Fund (public health, public safety, human services, etc.). Both rainy day accounts would be funded by a share of the state’s oil and gas royalties in the Alabama Trust Fund.

Most people recognize that without access to these rainy day savings, we will most likely have to make devastating cuts this year to the programs that have brought Alabama so many accolades nationally and internationally. With over $3.3 billion in savings already set aside in the Alabama Trust Fund, we don’t have to cut classroom programs and other critical state services, we don’t have to raise taxes, and we don’t have to borrow or ask to be part of some gigantic federal bailout.

As you consider your vote, perhaps it’s helpful to think of this important Amendment simply as a bridge over the ravine, so that when the economy begins to rise again on the other side, Alabama can pick back up right where we left off, without having to start all over again from the bottom. Right now, Alabama is one of only three states in the nation without the 'bridge' of a rainy day account to protect the general fund during unexpected economic downturns. We can change that by voting 'yes.'"

"Barack The Vote"
A "Barack the Vote" motorcade and rally for the Democratic presidential ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be staged here Saturday, Nov. 1. The motorcade will begin at 11 a.m. from 1616 Government Street. The rally, including live music and special guests, will be held from 12 noon-3 p.m. in Lyons Park at Springhill Ave. and Catherine St.

For more information, contact or visit the Obama Grassroots Campaign Office, 1616 Government Street.

He peed/she peed
Confusion over restroom assignments has provided an unexpected wrinkle stemming from the crowd of transvestites attending the murder trial underway in Circuit Judge Rick Stout's courtroom on the 8th floor of the government complex downtown. Reportedly, the level of readiness among security personnel patrolling the hallway has risen to Code Red.

A cross-dresser and female impersonator is charged with murdering a longtime friend last fall with a pair of scissors. A verdict is expected either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.

Don again?
Former U.S. Attorney Don Foster has gained mention as a possible selection, should Democratic nominee Barack Obama win the presidency Tuesday, for a return to the federal prosecutor's office here.

Foster, who served during the administrations of Bill Clinton, allowed that he would be interested in reprising his role if the opportunity arose.

"The experience I gained and the friendships I made all over the country the last time was the highlight of my career," said Foster. "I don't have any expectations at this point. In my judgment whoever is appointed should
be vigilant but always fair, reasonable and non-partisan."

Although the office's first African-American appointee is considered likely should Obama win the presidency, the thought in some political quarters points toward an appointment that best favors the aspirations of U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, for governor in 2010. Under that scenario, an appointee who broadens Davis' appeal beyond his base of support as well as strengthening his fund raising efforts might take precedence.

Davis is widely regarded as the likely point man for patronage in Alabama under an Obama administration.

USA Cancer Center ribbon cutting set
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) will be among the speakers Monday, Nov. 3 at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell Cancer Institute.

The event at 1660 Spring Hill Avenue is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

No wolfin', more than $10k raised for VLP
More than $10,000 was raised for the Mobile Bar Association's Volunteer Lawyer Program Sunday during the Moore & Wolfe Charity Wine Tasting benefit at the Bakery Cafe here, according to Mobile attorney Steve Moore.

More than 600 lawyers here volunteer their expertise and time through VLP to work with low-income clients in certain types of civil cases. 

Richardson sets community meeting
Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson will hold a Beats 33 and 34, Toulminville community meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 at the Toulminville Library, 601 Stanton Road. Topics of discussion will include the the City's new notification system, Three Mile Creek Warning System, home invasion and crime trends, Toulminville Weed and Seed initiatives, paving initiatives, the Gulf Coast Classic and annexation. Key City department heads and Public Safety officials will attend.
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