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The Political Round-Up

Alfa endorsements; GOP trims Beason sails;
Paying top dollar in Montgomery;
This & that; Bay cruises begin here;
MAWSS service policy unchanged;
LWV-Mobile offers course on local politics

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
GOP incumbent Chief Justice Chuck Malone and Republican Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh have picked up the endorsements of the Alabama Farmers Federation/ALFA.

The federation's political action committee also backs Republicans Tommy Bryan, Lyn Stuart, Glenn Murdock and Jim Main for the Supreme Court. It is supporting three Republican incumbents on the Court of Criminal Appeals - Sam Welch, Liles Burke and Michael Joiner - and the three Republican incumbents on the Court of Civil Appeals - Craig Pittman, Terri Thomas and Terry Moore.

ALFA also endorsed Republican incumbents Stephanie Bell and Gary Warren for the State Board of Education, as well as Republican newcomer Tracy Roberts of Spanish Fort.

If at first ...
Orange Beach developer Peter Gounares announced that he will again challenge in the Republican primary for Alabama's first congressional district.

In announcing his campaign, Gounares said, "Every two years, each and every seat in the House of Representatives is an open seat regardless of how long it has been held by one person. Our Founding Fathers were smart in designing our nation in this way so that every two years, American citizens can take a look at the state of the nation and decide if they like where it is headed or not. Every two years, Americans decide their own fate. They make the decision to continue down the same road, or take a new path. It is not enough for a candidate to simply recite party talking points. A leader offers something more. Today I am offering a new path. A path
that focuses on bringing jobs to our district. A path that focuses on once and for all resolving the damage done to our district by the oil spill. A path which ensures no
elected official will ever again profit from those who have harmed our district while they are supposed to be protecting the citizens they represent. I humbly announce my candidacy for the House of Representatives in the First Congressional District of Alabama. I ask that you visit our website at www.gounares2012.com and learn more
about my vision for our district and our great nation."

Happy birthday, Mobile County
A Mobile County Bicentennial Celebration will commemorate the county's creation on December 18, 1812. By proclamation of the governor of what was then the Mississippi Territory, Mobile County was established 200 years ago, bringing together a rich history of many cultures that defines the present day's colorful and exciting community.

A volunteer group of civic-minded citizens formed the Mobile County Bicentennial Commission to plan the celebration. The commission will host educational and entertaining events throughout the County in 2012 with emphasis on its history, the arts, sports, and leadership as well as highlighting annual events located in Mobile County municipalities. A huge birthday extravaganza will cap the celebration at year's end.

The Mobile County Bicentennial Commission will announce details of the celebration and kick-off events during a news conference at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 in Bienville Square in downtown Mobile. The press conference will follow the Mobile Christmas & Holiday Parade.

The kick-off event will feature volunteers dressed in historic attire, a proclamation from Governor Robert Bentley and a display of pictures from various areas of the County. Each municipality will be represented during the press conference and they will be given a commemorative bicentennial flag to display during the bicentennial year. There will be giveaways and unique items for purchase.

Citizens who would like to be a part of the Bicentennial celebration, or those interested in sponsoring activities, should contact the Mobile County Bicentennial Commission at 574-9064.

Beason out
State Democratic leaders moved quickly to congratulate the GOP Senate leadership for at last removing controversial state Sen. Scott Beason from the chairmanship of the Senate Rules Committee.

The Senate assignments committee installed state Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham, as the new Rules chairman. Waggoner will have dual leadership posts as he retains his duties as Senate Majority leader.

Beason nearly held on as a leader, but ultimately the pressure grew too great for GOP officials to risk its agenda in favor of standing by the Gardendale lawmaker. Beason became a flashpoint in connection with his undercover role for the FBI in its investigation of alleged corruption in the state house tied to bills to expand gambling in Alabama. Beason wore a wire to surreptitiously tape fellow lawmakers, lobbyists and gambling figures. The conversations provoked outrage when it developed that Beason made remarks that were construed as derogatory about Hispanics and African Americans.       

Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy issued the following statement:

“After almost six months of watching them kick the can down the road, it’s a relief to finally be able to congratulate the Republican Senate Leadership on doing the right thing by stripping Scott Beason of his Rules Committee Chairmanship. This is a powerful post, and whether he’s telling folks to empty the clip on Hispanics or calling black voters ‘Aborigines’ on a federal wire tap, Beason has proven time and time again that he does not have the stature to be a true leader in the State Legislature. We have more important things to do in the upcoming session than hold our breath to see how Scott Beason will embarrass us next, and we are grateful to see the Republicans finally making protecting Alabama a priority over protecting one of their own.”

Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford also weighed in: "I appreciate the Senate Republican leadership’s acting to remove Senator Beason as Chair of the Senate Rules Committee. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh had promised to step down as Pro Tem if Beason did not step down or be removed as Rules Chair, and we thank him for keeping his word.

The Alabama Senate Democratic Caucus and many other concerned citizens called on Senator Beason to step down as Rules Chair after some of Beason’s own secret recordings and his racist comments were made public in the first bingo trial.  When he refused to relinquish his chairmanship, we called on the Senate leadership to remove him in September.

Today we are glad to learn that the Senate Republican leadership has finally decided to condemn Senator Beason’s racist behavior rather than continuing to condone it. Our state has made great strides, and there is no place for such words and actions in Alabama in the 21st Century.  

It is in the best interest of all Alabamians that Beason was removed from the Senate leadership.  It is my hope that Senator Waggoner’s decades of experience in the Alabama Senate will help him lead as Rules Chair in the fair, objective way that Alabamians need and deserve."

Waggoner himself has endured a politically bumpy road in recent months, committing a couple of gaffes in the previous legislative session when, one, he contracted with Paul Hamrick, veteran Democratic spokesman and close ally of ultra-partisan former Gov. Don Siegelman, to serve as spokesman for the Senate GOP caucus, though his GOP colleagues ultimately shot down the hiring; and, two, brought his long-time aide Monica Cooper in as hub of Republican Caucus activities in the Alabama Senate. Cooper was on the payroll of flamboyant state gambling magnate Milton McGregor who remains under federal indictment over legislative efforts to expand his gambling empire in Alabama. A former Democrat, Waggoner caught criticism when Cooper's financial ties to McGregor came to light. Also, Cooper was paid $43,000 a year as an aide to Waggoner and the GOP Senate Caucus until she resigned in the middle of this year's legislative session.

Some GOP leaders have suggested the last hasn't been heard of the Cooper matter.

According to legislative sources close to the Beason debacle, he was presented a compromise in which he would step down as Rules chairman for a year to deal with his role in the upcoming retrial of McGregor and others in the federal gambling corruption case. Reportedly, he rejected all suggestions requiring him to give any ground at all. 

In his own press release, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh was vague about the reasons for Beason's ouster.

"There are many realities that led to leadership's decision, and I believe this decision is in the best interest of the Senate body as a whole," Marsh said in the press release, without elaborating on any of the "many realities."

Others however saw Beason's notoriety as a distraction that would only grow with the approach of a retrial and that Beason's personal political interests should not be allowed to jeopardize the new Republican majority's ambitious agenda.

Historic renovations ain't cheap
The Retirement Systems of Alabama paid about double the going rate for renovations and additions to the former Judicial Building in Montgomery, according to research by the Legislative Fiscal Office.

At $311.04 per square foot, the Judicial Building project far exceeded the average commercial construction costs for office buildings of similar size in various cities throughout the U.S., LFO findings showed.

RSA CEO Dr. David Bronner wasn't surprised. The project could've been less costly, more in line with national averages, had RSA chosen to raze the old courthouse rather than renovate it.

"As we all said at the start, the old court would have been cheaper to tear down, but that is the cost of doing historical projects — 50-100 percent greater than new projects," Bronner noted.

Compiled by fiscal analyst Kirk Fulford at the request of state Rep. Lynn Greer, the study used RSMeans construction cost data for 11-20 story, high-rise buildings in major U.S. cities.

The results included:


"The chart, regarding at least New York City, is not realistic," Bronner observed. "It is closer to $300-400 per foot."

RSA has been active in the New York City real estate market for many years.

According to the commercial cost calculator from BuildingJournal.com, the average cost to construct an eleven to twenty story office building in Montgomery would be $114.75 per square foot, Fulford reported.
 
The Judicial Building project has 12 stories above ground, plus underground parking. The gross building square footage including all floor areas, parking deck and terraces is about 610,853 with a total cost of about $190 million, thus a per square foot cost of about $311.04.
This project included a substantial renovation of the old Supreme Court building.

RSA did a somewhat similar project with the Battle House in downtown Mobile. However, said Bronner, the Montgomery renovation was even more daunting than the Battle House.

"... this one was ugly from the get-go, but today looks great," he added.

Open arms or cold shoulder?
Does Alabama's much ballyhooed new immigration law violate the state's own constitution? The buzz among some in the legal community suggests that it does, to wit:

1. The Alabama Constitution of 1901 provides in Article I:



Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead on the passing of former Montgomery Mayor and prominent GOP figure Emory Folmar: "Occasionally, someone will live their life in such a way that leaves a larger-than-life impact on those in their realm of influence, and Emory Folmar certainly was one of those men. His actions over the years have helped shape the Alabama Republican Party as we know it today, thereby affecting the future of the entire state. Emory was a man of integrity and honor, dedicated to his family and to his country, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to call him my friend. On behalf of the Republican Party, I extend my condolences to his wife, Anita, and their family."

A federal judge has upheld the right of California public school officials to ban the wearing of American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. The judge found that the decree did not violate anyone's right to free speech and further that the potential for violence incited by Old Glory on the Mexican holiday justified the ban.

The Annual Football Frenzy Fund Raiser for the benefit of The Roger Williams Unit of The Boys & Girls Club of South Alabama is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at Baumhowers Wings Restaurant on Airport Boulevard. Grand prizes include Iron Bowl tickets and a flat screen TV. Tickets cost $20. Moore Law Firm is the event sponsor. For more information call Mervin Thomas at 331-8670.

No changes at MAWSS
Unlike its upstate counterparts, the Board of Commissioners of the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System has no plans to review its service policy in light of the state's new immigration law which is designed to flush out illegal aliens. Alabama law now criminalizes business transactions involving illegal immigrants.

"We do not request proof of citizenship to establish service but we require a photo ID and Social Security number," said MAWSS spokeswoman Barbara Shaw. "The ID is a Driver’s License, Military Card or passport."

Utility boards in Decatur and Huntsville have revised their service policies in recent days in order to comply with the new law.

Campaign tidbits
GOP county commission candidate John Williams will hold a Campaign Cookout at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21 at the Tillmans Corner Community Center. The menu features Boston Butts and fried fish prepared by Stephen Ross of Cypress Shores. For more information visit the campaign website. Williams presently represents District 4 on the Mobile City Council.

The Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee will conduct a brief business meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15 at party headquarters, 918 Government Street, followed by a holiday social.

Party officials are:


Across the bay
Terry Lathan, chairperson of the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee, will be the guest speaker Saturday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. when the Baldwin County Republican Executive Committee holds its bi-monthly meeting at Robertsdale City Hall. For more information contact Matt Simpson at matthewpaulsimpson@yahoo.com or visit www.baldwingop.com

Neighborhood revitalization revolving loan fund
The City of Mobile is seeking applicants for funding under the Neighborhood Revitalization Loan Fund. The Loan Fund will be administered by the City in partnership with selected financial institutions to provide construction loan to developers and/or potential homebuyers seeking to
acquire and renovate blighted residential properties for
homeownership-sale or occupation in Target Neighborhoods - District 2.

Completed properties will be affordable to low- moderate  individuals and households with income at or below 80 percent of Mobile's Area Median Income based on HUD Income Limits.

The 2009 Action Plan allocated $586,000 in Community Development Block Grant for revolving loan fund
from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The loan fund may not exceed $50,000 per residential unit. The City anticipates allocating funding for 12 projects. Applicants are encouraged to use
CDBG funds to leverage financing from other sources.

The City intends to attract proposals that will create impact, be cost effective, be project ready (completed within 24 months) of fund commitment, and leverage additional funding from public and private sources.

The Loan Program Policies, Procedures and Application materials are available on the City's website at www.cityofmobile.org. You can also call (251) 208-6290 or visit the City's Community Planning and Development Department at 205 Government Street, South Tower, 5th Floor, Room 508. Email Jelili@cityofmobile.org or call (251) 208-7631 with questions regarding the application.

Completed applications will be accepted until Friday Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. Applications must be submitted in accordance with the Loan Program Policies and Procedures. An Application Workshop will be held Thursday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. in the Thomas Sullivan Community Center 351 Catherine Street, Mobile,
AL 36603. The application will be discussed in detail, and potential applicants will have the opportunity to ask specific questions about a proposed project, application, project selection process and funding requirements.

For more information contact Karen Hansberry at (251) 208-6290 or at Karen.Hansberry@cityofmobile.org.
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Need help with legal research or, for that matter, any type of research? Public records and other research? Witness interviews? Consider contacting former Press-Register investigative reporter Eddie Curran. For more information, call Eddie at 251-454-1911, or visit Curran Research Services.