Poo at Fairhope Public Beach

Poo!

I wrote earlier this summer about poo at the Fairhope Beach;  what I didn’t know is that the City of Fairhope started source tracking testing about the same time (after waiting on the State for seven years).  I like that the City stopped waiting and funded the testing themselves, after all, it is their poo and their park. 

 

Enterococcus faecalis

Enterococcus faecalis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russ Henderson at the Mobile Press-Register wrote “Swimming advisory again issued for Fairhope public beach”:

The Baldwin County Health Department issued a public swimming advisory on Tuesday for the waters of Mobile Bay at the Fairhope Public Beach.

It is the sixth time this year that such an advisory has been issued for the Fairhope beach. Their cause is unclear.

The city has been conducting weekly tests of local waterways this summer in an effort to find out — after many years of speculation — what causes the periodic high bacterial readings found at the municipal park’s beach and duck pond.

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MCGOP – 20 August 2011

After missing the past couple of Madison County Republican breakfasts because of travel, I attended Judgefest yesterday. 

MCGOP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently appointed Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Chuck Malone was the featured speaker.  Attendees included: Court of Criminal Appeals Judges Liles Burke and Mike Joiner; Circuit Court Judges Dennis O’Dell, Alan Mann, and Ruth Ann Hall; District Court Judges Dick Richardson and Alison Austin, Madison County Circuit Court Clerk Jane Smith;  prospective District Court Judge appointees Jonathan Pippin and Robert Rodgers; plus District Judge candidates Chris Messervy and Don Rizzardi

I listed the judges to illustrate how completely the people of Alabama have entrusted the judiciary to Republicans.  Consider that before 1994, no Republican held a statewide judicial seat (since Civil War Reconstruction).  Now every statewide judge is a Republican, furthermore, every State office is held by Republicans except Public Service Commission President Lucy Baxley (D).   The Republican Revolution is transforming the State at the County office level too.  Madison County Republicans won every office on the ballot in 2010.  Their rejection at the polls helps explain why Democrats push for unelected judicial selection instead of election by citizens.

More notes from the meeting…

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The amazing bus race!

Man triumphs over Machine once again…

WVNN Talk Radio Superstar Dale Jackson and I beat the bus!   We walked about 3 miles in 45 minutes, edging out Jason Marks (on the Huntsville Shuttle bus) by seven minutes.  Even though walking was faster, I was a hot mess when we arrived at the VBCC while Jason was air-conditioned and fresh.

Jason had to transfer buses once, but note that he saw a total of 11 people riding both buses (during evening rush hour).  The first bus was about 10 minutes late and Jason had to wait about 10 minutes for the transfer bus (route 9 to route 5).  Overall, Jason seemed to have an okay experience riding the bus, however, no one who has a car would trade the 10 minute drive for an hour on the bus.  Jason loves his Jeep even more now…

The Amazing Dale Jackson Beats the Bus

The Amazing Dale Jackson Beats the Bus

My interest in The Amazing Bus Race was to investigate Huntsville sidewalks.  Sidewalks are the fundamental basis of public transportation and it is silly to spend money on buses (or rail) without first having a good sidewalk system.  The rule of thumb is that people will walk about 1/4 mile to ride a bus or 1/3 mile to ride a train.  I took some pictures of the sidewalks (/light sarcasm) encountered during the race.  This is on Pulaski Pike south of Oakwood:

"Sidewalk" on Pulaski Pike

"Sidewalk" on Pulaski Pike

This is downtown on Holmes:

"Sidewalk" on Holmes Avenue

"Sidewalk" on Holmes Avenue

The City budgets about $300,000 per year for sidewalks (which doesn’t include the Federal stimulus money spent on new bus shelters).   Huntsville is paying $71,000 for a transportation consultant to “to recommend new routes and other improvements”.   If the consultant doesn’t recommend sidewalk improvements I’ll just consider it more money wasted on useless consultants.  The City would’ve been better off hiring someone to walk around the City listing sidewalk improvements.

The highly touted and totally stupid (for Huntsville)  Google Transit  was an epic FAIL.  Dale Jackson has more on that – I’ll just add that the people who ride the bus don’t have iPhones, and that people who have iPhones don’t (and will not) ride the bus.

Giant Belgium wins best tasting tomato

The Huntsville Botanical Garden selected a Giant Belgium tomato as the best tasting tomato entered in the annual contest held this weekend.  (this years taste winner also won biggest weight at 1 pound 5 ounces).  Last year’s winner for best taste was a Cherokee Purple; biggest was a 2 pound 5 ounce ‘Delicious’.

In news from my garden, the Cherokee Purples I planted are starting to ripen – I’ve tried a couple and they are fantastic! 

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In other news, my lawyer friends are interested in Governor Dr. Bentley’s upcoming appointment to replace retired Madison County Circuit Judge Bruce Williams.  Several good counselors have suggested that District Court Judge Ruth Ann Hall will likely be appointed by Governor Dr. Love.  If Judge Hall is raised to the Circuit Court, then the Governor will appoint a new District Court judge:  Robert Rogers, Linda Coates, Bill Starnes, Patty Demos, and Claude Hundley are among those I’ve heard mentioned for the job.

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In more other news, the Birmingham News wrote a great article on the Jefferson County Sewer Bond mess:

Jefferson County officials are asking Wall Street creditors to wipe out nearly $1.3 billion of the $3.14 billion sewer debt as part of a plan presented in secret last week to resolve the lingering financial problems tied to the county’s sewer system bonds…

“The resolve of this commission is to fix the problem,” Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said. “If the fix is afforded through bankruptcy, so be it. If there is a fix available outside of bankruptcy, that would be much better. But, one way or the other this will be fixed.”

“The resolve of this commission is to fix the problem,” Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said. “If the fix is afforded through bankruptcy, so be it. If there is a fix available outside of bankruptcy, that would be much better. But, one way or the other this will be fixed”…

Why should we care?

Alabama officials say bankruptcy would be a stain on the state and have pledged credit enhancements to help the two sides reach an agreement. Credit enhancements could include letters of credit, lines of credit, or credit support for refinancing the debt in the form of a moral obligation agreement…

State involvement is a must for any settlement, county officials say.

The governor could call a special session for legislation that allows the transfer of the sewer system to a separate public corporation, better known as a GUSC, a Government Utility Services Corporation, which would oversee the issuance of new bonds and repayment of bonds…

However, the county and creditors must decide whether the corporation could file a Chapter 9 petition.

The creditors have insisted that the corporation be prohibited from filing for bankruptcy while county officials have said they don’t control the state Legislature and cannot predict in what form the bill might be adopted.

Looks like the legislature may get called to two special sessions: coastal insurance reform and JeffCo debt.

The shot heard round the world

April 19th is Patriot’s Day, which commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord that began the American Revolutionary War.

These days, Patriot’s Day is a Massachusetts State Holiday (celebrated on the third Monday in April) and festivities include reenactments, parades, and the Boston Marathon.  When I lived in Massachusetts, I worked a block away from Lexington’s Battle Green, and I’ve seen the reenactment of Paul Revere’s Ride and the Battle of Lexington.  Paul Revere rides (with Police escort) the dozen miles from Boston up Mass Ave and gives the alarm, arriving at Lexington about 5:30 AM.  As he rides through town, the British get off their buses and assemble.  A few reenactors yell at each other then the shooting starts.  The British get back on their buses and head to Concord, while the people of Lexington start serving pancakes.

In 1775, the Battle was much different.  The British planned to raid Concord (17 miles from Boston) and destroy rebel weapons (including artillery).  Even though the raid on Concord was secret, Patriots knew something was up by the increased activity.  About 800 British Light Infantry and Grenadiers marched from Boston at midnight, crossing the Charles River on naval barges, landing at Cambridge in waist-deep water.  Paul Revere started his “midnight ride” as the British assembled for the crossing.  The British  column was followed six hours later by a relief column of about 1,000 line infantry (good move by the British, even though they started later than planned).  Note that the numbers of soldiers on each side is very fuzzy…

As the British advanced through the towns and countryside, they saw that the region had already been alerted.  At Lexington Green, an advance party found a band of colonial militia – amid the confusion and noise a shot rang out and the British fired a volley into the militia.  The colonial civil unrest had become the Revolutionary War.

While Lexington likes to claim “the shot heard round the world”, none of the American militia are thought to have fired their weapons.  The Battle of Concord is where the Patriots fired on the British at the North Bridge.   The British left Concord after destroying three 24-pound cannon and numerous arms, but were harassed by colonial militia almost immediately.  Independent companies of town militia started firing on the British until the Redcoats broke and ran back to Lexington, under fire the entire way.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (of Concord – his family home of many generations was beside the North Bridge) wrote “Concord Hymn” in 1836:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

Spirit, that made those spirits dare,
To die, and leave their children free…
 

The British relief column had marched to Lexington and deployed on high ground.  The survivors of the rout from Concord were organized, fed, and rested, then the whole force marched back to Boston under withering fire from all sides.  However, they fought while retreating, for example killing eleven militia who tried to ambush the Redcoats at Russell’s Orchard.

4,000 Patriots drove the British back to Boston, and the alarm raised about 20,000 Patriots who started the siege of Boston leading to the Battle of Bunker Hill. But that’s a story for another day…

Aquatic Plant Management Forum

State Representative Wes Long (R-27) is leading an Aquatic Plant Management Forum in Guntersville, focusing on Lake Weeds.  Invasive aquatic weeds can hinder native aquatic weed growth, interfere with navigation / recreation / flood control, and adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat.

Aquatic Plant Management Forum
March 12, 2011
9 am – 12:30 pm

Guntersville City Senior Center
1500 Sunset Drive
Guntersville, Alabama  35976

You are invited and encouraged to attend a free forum open to the public that is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, 2011. This meeting has been organized in order to provide factual and educational information about major aquatic resource issues, and it is also intended to promote and facilitate dialog regarding proposals to return aquatic plant management in Marshall and Jackson Counties to an institutional program. 

Hopefully, these discussions will to lead to near-term and long-term solutions for aquatic resource issues that affect the citizens and property owners of our area. 

Grab a bite at Wintzell’s Oyster House after the forum – the words of wisdom on the walls ensure that it’s always a learning experience:

The most important things in life aren’t things.

Forever Wild Program Aquisitions

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources maintains detailed information about the Forever Wild program.  While this information in itself is not sufficient for an informed vote by a legislator, it does provide insight into the acquisition process and rationale for aquiring certain properties.  Let’s look at a few properties listed by the DCNR:

THE PERIWINKLE SPRING ADDITION TRACT in Madison County consists of 40 acres that serve as an addition to Monte Sano State Park. The tract has one of the only permanent springs in that portion of the mountain, and also supports a small population of federally listed wildflowers. Objectives: habitat conservation, outdoor recreation, scientific research and education Date Acquired: February 20, 2004 Property Value: $100,000

THE BLOWING SPRINGS CAVE TRACT in Lauderdale County has cave habitat that is vital to the threatened gray bat. This 60 acre property will be preserved primarily to protect the existing and future population of this species at this location.  Objectives: Habitat conservation (Contribute to the recovery of the threatened gray bat in the southeastern United States), outdoor recreation, scientific research and education Date Acquired: April 15, 1998  Property Value: approximately $122,000

THE WEHLE TRACT in Bullock County consists of 1,505 acres of rolling pine hills and hardwood branch bottoms that will be used for public recreation and a nature preserve. Approximately 640 acres are included in the adjacent Barbour County Wildlife Management Area. This purchase involved a discounted sale, whereby the landowner voluntarily sold the tract for 50% of the appraised value. Objectives: Habitat conservation, outdoor recreation, scientific research and education  Date Acquired: October 28, 1994  Property Value: approximately $2,000,000

THE COLDWATER MOUNTAIN (Dedicated by Forever Wild Resolution as the Doug Ghee Nature Preserve and Recreation Area) TRACT in Calhoun County consists of 3,924 acres of a high, pine-hardwood covered mountain along Interstate Highway 20 that casts its shadow onto portions of Anniston and Oxford. The tract secures a large portion of the local watershed for Coldwater Spring, a unique ecological environment and source of drinking water for local municipalities. Objectives: Habitat conservation, outdoor recreation, scientific research and education  Date Acquired: October 2, 1998  Property Value: approximately $2,530,000

THE MONSANTO TRACT in Marshall County consists of 209 acres of a mountainous, pine-hardwood covered peninsula on Lake Guntersville that is being managed as both an extension of Guntersville State Park and to provide nesting habitat for the growing local population of Bald Eagles. Objectives: Habitat conservation (Bald Eagle habitat), outdoor recreation, scientific research and education Date Acquired: September 13, 1994 Property Value: approximately $141,000.

Alabama must keep Forever Wild

Alabama State Representative Randy Davis (Republican-96) wrote an editorial for The Huntsville Times “Alabama must keep its Forever Wild law” (no link available yet):

…there is one piece of legislation that all Republicans and Democrats alike should commit to pass early this session.  The Forever Wild program was approved in 1992 with an overwhelming majority of 84 percent of Alabamians voting in support of its creation.  It’s even more popular today, but… the funding will sunset in 2012 unless reauthorized by the Legislature.

…These lands not only provide opportunities for all Alabamians to enjoy our great outdoors, but also create a significant impact on the local economies where these lands are located.

…This program generates significant economic development and tourism in Alabama that results in new jobs and increased revenue…  This makes Forever Wild, by far, a net positive when it comes to our state budget and the creation of new jobs for Alabamians.

Davis is sponsoring the Forever Wild law in its current form (“as is”) in the State House, joined by State Senator Scott Beason (Republican-17) in the Senate.  The “as is” part is important – last year some legislators wanted to raid the fund for road construction.

Protect Forever Wild is an organization working to pass the Forever Wild law:

Created in 1992 by a constitutional referendum that garnered 83 percent of the vote, Forever Wild is a program dedicated to preserving Alabama’s most beautiful and environmentally sensitive land, all while expanding the recreational opportunities available to the public.
 
Forever Wild keeps our water and air clean, protects our wildlife, and helps ensure that our children will have the opportunity to experience the natural wonders of our beautiful state.

I urge every member the Republican caucus to vote to reauthorize the Forever Wild law “as is”.  It’s the right thing to do…

School dilemma no easy fix

Kevin Wendt, editor of The Huntsville Times, wrote today’s editorial “School dilemma no easy fix” (no link available yet). 

Wendt writes about the “conversation” and “community-wide discussion”, then identifies types of “dialogue” that “do not help”.  Wendt uses the example of the NAACP’s “provocative quote” (“violent revolution”) then overreaches to balance it with an example of south Huntsville “passing letters to parents about the inevitability of busing”, in effect blaming south Huntsville parents for responding to NAACP provocation.  Of course, if all you read is The Times, you may not know that the NAACP proposed busing as a solution.

Wendt asks “What is the solution?” to the “enrollment demographics” of a school system divided into “predominately black” and “predominately white” neighborhoods.  Wendt then highlights three points:  “transformative” Lee High School, new construction to replace some north Huntsville schools, and the “spirit of community involvement” at Lincoln Elementary.

I think that Wendt makes some good points, but he overstates the success at Lincoln when he says that “involvement from churches and volunteers helped generate some of the best test scores in the city”.  The 10 to 1 student teacher ratio and hundreds of volunteers and an innovative principal did have a tremendous impact, but Lincoln wasn’t transformed into one of the best schools – it was average – and Wendt should’ve known that from reading his own newspaper. 

Lincoln could have been expected to score in the 20s (like MLK) on 3rd grade SAT tests, but scored in the 40s (like Providence).  The best schools in Huntsville scored in the 80s (and all schools in Madison scored in the 70s and 80s).  Lincoln’s 5th grade performance was better with scores in the 60s (better than Providence), but still, not the best.

As for new construction in north Huntsville – I agree with Bob Harrison – the next new school built in Huntsville should be in north Huntsville (located where the demographic study supports construction).

And as for the new Lee High School – it is an ongoing train wreck.  The new location is terrible – the campus is split by a busy railroad track.  Students must cross the tracks to reach the ball fields.  Then there’s parking… Parking at the new Huntsville High is a problem at times, but at least there is a neighborhood for on-street parking to handle the overflow.  The new LHS has limited parking and no overflow.  Then there are the demographics, and I’m going to agree with Bob Harrison twice in one article – there may not have been a need for a new school in that area.  Expecting the new LHS to be “transformative” when it starts with these self-imflicted limitations may be a bit too much.

Wendt (who I like in real life) ends by asking for ideas:

“But this is just a start.  There are hundreds more ideas that could lead to a better system overall.

The Department of Justice letter highlighted the depth and complexity of the challenge.

So here is a question to you: How would you define success in our school systems?”

BTW CSPAN is airing the National Governors Association meeting - the education panel was worth watching.  Summary:  discipline, high standards, better teachers, better principals.  One of the world-class techniques discussed involved tailoring instruction to individual students – Huntsville’s own Appleton Learning Center has researched and developed assessment tools to do just that.  Appleton is developing cutting-edge education methods that measurably improve student academic performance.  That is success.