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The Political Round-Up

Alfa endorsements; Graddick shows strength;
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.

Graddick surging in wake of TV blitz, says poll
Polling information released by supporters of GOP chief justice contender Charlie Graddick suggests the Mobile County circuit judge is well positioned to win the party primary i March.

Dresner, Wickers, Barber, Sanders, a political consulting firm working with the Graddick campaign, conducted a survey Nov. 14-15 among 400 Alabamians both registered and considered likely to vote in the March, 2012 Republican primary election for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The margin of error, at .90 confidence level, was four percent, plus or minus.

The key findings:

                                   
July 19-21                     Nov. 14-15        Shift
                                         
   


*At the time of the July survey Lyn Stuart remained a potential candidate for Chief Justice.  She announced in August her intention not run.

The survey reads, "Judge Charlie Graddick has established a strong base of support among Republican primary voters across the entire state. Graddick dominates Malone in all four of Alabama’s major media markets – and enjoys a 61%-7% lead in the Mobile media market, where he serves as Presiding Circuit Court Judge."

According to Graddick's pollsters, the television campaign boosted his name recognition and the voter favorability associated with it.

"Since July, his favorable rating has increased nineteen (19) points statewide, while his unfavorable rating has dropped five (5) points," the report reads. "His total name recognition has increased ten (10) points, and he currently enjoys an impressive 6 to 1 favorable to unfavorable ratio. Chuck Malone, despite incumbency and the press coverage of his high-profile appointment, is virtually unknown to the electorate."

Conclusions

"Judge Charlie Graddick is fast becoming the likely GOP nominee for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court – establishing a commanding lead over Chuck Malone, whose campaign has stood still since his appointment as Chief Justice in August. By every measure, Judge Graddick’s recent statewide television campaign has been a tremendous success: he has increased his vote total by 21 points since July, increased his favorability by 19 points, and reduced his unfavorable rating. Today, Judge Graddick holds commanding double digit leads over Malone in all major media markets. Judge Graddick’s lead has grown substantially due to his strong conservative message and early ad campaign, and he is well-positioned to win next year’s GOP primary for Chief Justice.

Over the past 20 years, Dresner, Wickers, Barber, Sanders has conducted research and polling for Republican candidates nationally, in Alabama, and throughout the South, including Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR), Gov. Robert Bentley (AL), Attorney General Scott Pruitt (OK), among many others. In 2010 Dresner, Wickers, Barber, Sanders provided general consulting, polling and media production and placement for the campaign of Governor Robert Bentley.

If at first ...
Orange Beach developer Peter Gounares 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.

Addressing those labor woes
State Department of Agriculture and Industries officials will meet with south Alabama farmers and agribusiness owners Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m. in the Jon Archer Agricultural Center, 1070 Schillinger Road in west Mobile.

Agribusiness owners and farmers along with federal and state officials will brainstorm for solutions to the labor shortages stemming from Alabama's new immigration law.

Public participants are asked to limit their remarks to 10 minutes. Time will be reserved at the end for questions and answers.

Contact Deputy Commissioner Brett Hall with questions about the meeting: phone, 334-240-7101; email, brett.hall@agi.alabama.gov.

The following is the tentative agenda:

2 p.m. - Pledge of allegiance and invocation;

2:05 p.m. - Welcome - James Harwell, Executive Director, Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association; and Debra Green, President, South Alabama Nursery Association;

2:15 p.m. - Commissioner John McMillan;

2:25 p.m. - U.S. Atty. Kenyen Brown, U.S. Southern District of Alabama;

2:35 p.m. - Director Tom Surtees, Alabama Department of Industrial Relations;

2:45 p.m. - Representative from the U.S. Department of Labor;

2:55 p.m. - Rodolfo Alvarez, CEO, GWS Guest Worker Services;

3:05 p.m. - Mac Higginbotham, Alabama Farmers Federation;

3:15 p.m. - Representative from the Alabama Department of Corrections;

3:25 p.m. - Questions & Answers;

3:45 p.m. - Closing remarks - Commissioner McMillan.

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.

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:


The Man Cave
Judicial candidate Eaton Barnard and his wife Brandon are inviting the public to join them in their home to watch the Alabama/Auburn game on television.

"We would love for any and all of you to come," Barnard said. "Please feel free to bring kids, friends and family that are still hanging around."

Viewing will take place in the Barnard basement, also known as "the man cave," on a big flat screen television with surround sound. There will be several locations throughout the house for viewing, he said, as well as hamburgers, hotdogs, chips and plenty of drinks.

Barnard acknowledged his preference for the Crimson Tide, but said obnoxious fans of either stripe would be sentenced to a room for the unruly.

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

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.