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The Political Round-Up

Board of Equalization overhauled;
Beddy bye time; Bedford demurs;
Jetsam & flotsam; Graddick campaign fete;
LWV-Mobile offers course on local politics

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Political tidbits of late.

Out with the old, in with the new. Gov. Robert Bentley has cleaned house at the Mobile County Board of Equalization, installing three new appointees to supplant those of ex-Gov. Bob Riley.

Bentley's penchant for the unorthodox was again on display. One of his appointees is none other than venerable Democratic stalwart William Clark, a former state legislator and retired school administrator whose many rental properties doubtlessly qualify him to sit in review of property values.

Bentley's other appointees are former state Rep. Ken Kvalheim and Tommy Tyrrell, who also recently was appointed to the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners of the city of Mobile.

The part-time position pays about $12,000 a year.

Riley appointees leaving the board include ex-state legislator Jeanette Greene, real estate businessman Ruffin Graham and former county Revenue Commission official Doug Sanders.

Various municipalities throughout Mobile County recommend prospects for the equalization board to the state revenue commissioner, currently Julie Magee of Mobile County. The commissioner in turn sent her picks on to the governor.

The GOP, particularly locally, has been roiled periodically with incidents that have tested party loyalty and ideological purity from Jeff Glidewell's judicial campaign of a few years ago to more recent examples, including Scott Buzbee and David Sessions in south Mobile County legislative races and executive committee members who backed the "more conservative" Constitution Party nominee Bill Atkinson over Sessions in last spring's special House District 105 election.

Although the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee, which considered ousting MCREC members Mike Burdine and Lee James for straying, is not likely to take harsh or punitive action, there have been rumblings that the party will "inform" voters of "RINO-like (Republican in name only)" activity of candidates running in the party primary races.  

MCREC Chairperson Terry Lathan sounded a more conciliatory note over Bentley's selection of Democrat Clark for the local Board of Equalization than in past similar instances.

"I have not heard any information on the decision but I do know the Governor served with Rep. Clark and is probably showing a bipartisanship appointment for our county," she said. "I also know that Ken and Tommy are great conservatives as are Jeanette and Doug. I don't know Ruffin, however a new Governor gets to place people in appointed positions at his choice. It's very common. The Governor is very articulate in explaining his choices on matters so I would assume he will have comments on his decision."       

Campaign tidbits
Mobile attorney Eaton Barnard, a GOP candidate for the circuit judgeship being vacated by Judge Jim Wood, has released his latest campaign video spot. State Sen. Ben Brooks is also in the hunt for the judgeship.

GOP congressional candidate Pete Riehm will hold a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Hampton Inn, 4150 College Avenue, in Jackson. Riehm and Dean Young are challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner in the Republican primary next March.

Dixon calls for county surveillance modifications
On Monday, Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon called for modifications to surveillance equipment at the Baldwin County Courthouse and other county offices.

“I learned last week that certain cameras installed in and around the courthouse are recording audio,” Dixon said in a written statement.

Dixon said upon learning of the audio capabilities of the equipment, she consulted with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which concurred that the audio recordings posed problems.

Dixon called a meeting with county officials on Monday and insisted that steps be taken to eliminate the audio capability of the system and to prevent future audio recordings.

Crab trap thief convicted;
faces up to 10 years in prison
A Foley man could go to prison for up to 10 years for stealing crab traps, Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon said.

Steven Randall Shutt, 35, was convicted this week of stealing the traps from commercial fishermen in late 2009 and early 2010.

“It is important that we take these offenses seriously,” Dixon said. “Commercial fishing is the lifeblood of Baldwin County and our fishermen are hardworking citizens who rely on these traps to earn a living. I am very grateful to Lt. George ‘Trey’ Pose at Alabama Marine Resources Enforcement for his work on the case, and the excellent prosecution by Assistant District Attorney Chandra Paul.”

Paul said that the investigation began when several commercial crab fishermen reported to Alabama Marine Resources Enforcement that numerous traps had been stolen. 

“On February 16, 2010, Steven Shutt was cited for having improperly marked crab traps in Little Lagoon,” Paul said. “His traps were pulled from the water and 45 of them were confiscated by Marine Resources. Three victims were able to positively identify their traps among those confiscated, which had been handmade by them and/or their families.”

Shutt was convicted of Theft of Property 2nd (a felony), Theft of Property 3rd and Receiving Stolen Property 3rd (misdemeanors), and having Improperly Marked Crab Traps (a marine violation). The felony conviction carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and the misdemeanors could result in sentences of up to a year in jail. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12 before Circuit Judge James H. Reid.

Keahey's welcome baby girl
State Sen. Marc Keahey (D-Grove Hill, Dis. 22), Lara Keahey, Marc II and Scarlette welcomed the newest addition to their family, Laren Louise Keahey on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Laren Louise was born at 3:04 p.m. at the Mobile Infirmary in Mobile, Ala. and weighed 8 lbs. 5 oz. Grandparents are Ronnie and Lainie Keahey, from Grove Hill, and Johnny and Linda Bishop, from Roanoke, Ala.

Beddy Bye Time
Starting Tuesday, Nov. 1, Mobile police began enforcing the nighttime version of the city’s new Juvenile Curfew, which targets teens 17-years-old and younger.

Mayor Sam Jones, who recommended the curfew, said, “Everyone must do their part to ensure the safety of our children and the community. This curfew is not about arresting children, but about a parental accountability, a change in behavior and a sincere desire to see youngsters live a long and prosperous life.”

The citywide nighttime curfew hours during weekdays are from 11 p.m. through 6 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. through 6 a.m. on weekends.

In the downtown entertainment district, the curfew hours are 10 p.m. through 5 a.m.

The daytime curfew will go into effect on Jan. 1 from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The mayor said the Curfew Assessment Center, located at the corner of St. Anthony and Broad streets is not intended as a jail for juveniles, but a holding facility until parents or a responsible adult can be reached. If additional services are needed by the juvenile’s family, the center, which will be run by the Police Department Intervention Team, will also be linked to the Mobile County Public School System, Department of Human Resources, Strickland Youth Center and other social services organizations. 

“By working closely with our partners, we can develop a proactive and far-reaching approach to helping our children stay in school and become productive members of the community,” Jones said.

To ensure that youngsters, parents and the community are knowledgeable about the curfew, the city has launched an awareness campaign that includes:

In addition, the city will schedule some open house “informational sessions,” at the Curfew Assessment Center.

For more information, call Barbara Drummond at (251) 208-7807.

GOP chides Dems over Bracy conduct
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead Friday called on his Democrat Party counterpart Mark Kennedy, to "acknowledge the corruption" in the Democrat Party involving an incumbent state representative who used his official House letterhead to solicit leniency from a federal judge for a relative convicted of running an illegal drug distribution ring in south Alabama.

"I'm becoming increasingly bewildered by Chairman Kennedy's inability to recognize corruption in his own Party," Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead stated. "It is inexcusable that State Rep. Napoleon Bracy used official letterhead in order to ask Judge Charles Butler, Jr. to show leniency for his convicted cocaine kingpin brother-in-law, but Mark Kennedy's lack of action on this matter is equally abhorrent."

Rep. Bracy's brother-in-law, Lorenzo Evans, recently plead guilty to overseeing an illicit drug distribution ring in south Alabama, and was sentenced to six years in prison. Bracy sent a letter to the judge asking him to "be as lenient as possible in your sentencing of my relative."

"He'll call for the resignation of Republicans when they are cooperating with authorities in order to expose corruption, but when one of his own uses his authority to defend a convicted drug dealer and menace to society, Kennedy is ready to look the other way," Armistead continued.

"Rep. Bracy owes his constituents an apology for abusing their trust in this way. I am certain they did not vote for him in order for him to use his authority to protect convicted criminals. And if Chairman Kennedy would be half so strict with his own Party office-holders as he is with Republican legislators, he'd ask Bracy to resign immediately," added Armistead.

Meth manufacturer convicted;
could get up to 99 years in prison
A Bay Minette man with a long criminal history was convicted this week of manufacturing methamphetamine, and, as a habitual offender, could face a sentence of up to 99 years in prison, Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon said.

After a two-day trial, Tommy Roscoe Bryars Jr. was convicted in Circuit Judge Bob Wilters’ court of Unlawful Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance 1st, Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance and Unlawful Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. As a habitual offender, the minimum sentence is life or up to 99 years in prison, said Assistant District Attorney Brett Anderson, who prosecuted the case.

Anderson said that officers from the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office went to Bryars’ father’s house to look for him to serve a probation warrant.

“When they found and arrested him,” Anderson said, “deputies pulled meth and a homemade drug pipe from Bryars’ pants pockets, and found an active meth lab in Bryars’ maroon Kia in the yard.”

The arrest came just two weeks after Bryars’ wife Leslie backed over their two-year-old son, Brady, in the driveway of their home at Little's Trailer Park in Bay Minette. The boy died after being taken to North Baldwin Infirmary.

“This is a very sad story that had an unfortunate, yet predictable, end,” Dixon said. “The system gave Bryars many chances to clean up his act, but he continued to manufacture the poison that is methamphetamine and put our citizens at risk. He will no longer be a threat to Baldwin County thanks to the diligence of deputies Matt Morrison, Clarence Herring, and Frankie Stephens, and the prosecution efforts of Anderson, assisted by Assistant District Attorney Megan Webb.”

Sentencing is set for Jan. 5.

New Year's Eve Moonpie Forecast: A 3 Dog Night
The sounds of “Joy to the World” will be flowing through the streets of downtown Mobile on New Year’s Eve. But don’t get your holiday songs confused. Legendary music group Three Dog Night will be headlining the free Mobile celebration leading to the MoonPie Drop at midnight.

In addition to listening to the top hits of Three Dog Night and opening acts, revelers will enjoy a Mardi Gras-style parade, a laser light show and spectacular fireworks. Whether you prefer RC Cola or a glass of champagne, you can ring in the New Year in downtown Mobile.

This year’s free celebration will be located on the corner of Government and Royal Streets. The new stage location will allow for larger crowds, better protection from the weather and great views of the MoonPie and the fireworks shows. A new VIP area on the fourth floor of the Renaissance Riverview Plaza will enable sponsors to get a bird’s eye view of the entertainment and the falling taste treat. The 12-foot-tall electronic MoonPie will descend from the 34-story RSA BankTrust skyrise as the city welcomes 2012 and the beginning of Mardi Gras season.

Obama for America Mobile doings
Democratic phone banks in Mobile County are underway and more than 500 calls were made on a recent Thursday evening, according to Obama worker Ty Burden. She reported that locally the re-elect Obama effort was "on target." Phone banks will continue each Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at local Democratic Headquarters, 918 Government St. next to Compass Bank near Broad St.

League of Women Voters
offers course in local politics
The League of Women Voters will a new course -- Civics 101:  Your Government Today -- A Venture into Local Politics -- beginning Thursday, Sept. 29 from 11 a.m-12 noon at Dauphin Way Methodist Church, Room E205, 1507 Dauphin St. (corner of Catherine St.), according to LWV of Mobile spokeswoman Mary McGinnis.

The public is invited to attend the entire course or come to the classes that fit an individual's schedule. Each class is taught by a different guest speaker knowledgeable about the topic, according to McGinnis.

The remaining lecture topics and schedule are:

The course is open to all. For more information call 251-378-8378 or email
350 Dauphin St.
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