Salty Nut News

Huntsville is the brewing capital of Alabama with Straight to Ale, Yellowhammer, and Blue Pants making great craft beers in the Rocket City.  Salty Nut Brewery is planning to have their “brews in bars by Mid-to-Late October!”  according to this Aleheads interview with founder Brent Cole:

We love craft beer and have a blast brewing beers that we come up with. It’s really exciting! The best part is brewing and then letting other craft beer lovers try our brews.  It’s rewarding to have someone enjoy drinking what we make!

We are a fully functional LLC now, we are in the process of signing a lease for our brewery location, we have ordered fermenters, and will be ordering the brewing equipment this week, and are also in the process of selecting a distributor.  We are trying to take all of the necessary steps to being set up correctly.  We will apply for our manufacturer’s license in October (yearly cycle renewal)…

Our first brew is our flagship brew; we are huge hop heads and love IPAs, so naturally we wanted to brew an IPA.  This one is called HopNaughty IPA.  We felt the name was fitting; it’s full of hops and…well…beer can make you naughty, so that’s that…

Alabama beer laws have come a long way thanks to the Free the Hops organization and the craft beer lovers in the State.  I think the future looks bright, and lest you think that sounds cheesy, let me explain: Hopefully, in the near future we can have larger container sizes which will allow for Alabamans to have more craft brews available to them.  This will open up the window for more styles and more flavors, which is what the beer lovers want.  Brewpubs will slowly but surely start to pop up and we hope to be in this market in the future. We want a one-stop shop for people to taste/try and take home our brews.

Thanks to all the Alabama legislators who voted for the Gourmet Beer Bill and the Brewery Modernization Act (aka the Jobs Bill).  It’s not often that you actually get to create jobs and expand freedoms through legislation – cheers!

“Mean as a snake” Democratic Party Chairman visits Huntsville

Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Justice Mark Kennedy visited Huntsville today for a reception at Amendment XXI downtown.  WVNN’s ‘cyberbullying coping counselor’ Dale Jackson and I attended the event, along with more than 50 local Democrats.

Self-described “mean as a snake” former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Kennedy gave a good speech highlighting the challenges faced by Alabama Democrats and some of his improvements to the State Party organization.  Personally, I thought Kennedy seemed to be a pretty nice guy, but when someone tells you they’re mean as a snake you ought to listen…

Kidding aside, Kennedy said that the State Party would stop charging candidates for voter lists and that the Democrats would focus on “taking back the courthouses” across Alabama.   The Party is sending training teams throughout the State instructing activists on how to hold meetings, including how much lemonade to serve for how many people.

Kennedy complained that the PAC to PAC transfer ban killed Democratic Party fundraising – I say good riddance to money laundering and shady backroom deals.  As a judge, Kennedy ruled in favor of the White Hall casino – saying that the slot machines were actually bingo machines instead of slot machines.  I’ve seen (and um, ‘investigated’) bingo machines, and IMO if he can’t tell the difference between bingo and a slot machine I’m happy he’s on their side…

Non-partisan Huntsville City Schools Board of Education member Laurie McCauley attended, as well as my former State Representative Randy Hinshaw.  I really do enjoy talking with my friend Randy and I got to meet former candidate for State Representative Jenny Askins: I wrote about her non-approach to political issues in a terribly snarky post  “Whatever YOU want” (however I didn’t write that Askins is the “Democrat version of Sarah Palin”). [Reactionary edit - the link appears to be broken, but this refers to an AL.com commenter who wrote the following on 7/12/2009:  "Askins is hot, but her response to the debate invitation that “people elect legislators, debates dont elect legislators” is insipid. She is the Democratic version of Palin."]   I’m pretty sure from her demeanor toward me that she reads the blog…

I also got to speak with countrycat of Left in Alabama, with whom I share an interest in gardening.  BTW my heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes are almost ready – this is my first year of growing them and I’m eager to know if they really are the “best tasting tomato” and “almost like candy”.

SHCA Legislative and Superintendent Forum

Me and Ben and about 300 of our closest friends attended the South Huntsville Civic Association Superintendent reception and legislative forum this evening at Grissom High School.  This was HCS Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski’s first public meeting in his new job, and the SHCA invited every member of the South Huntsville legislative delegation to help welcome Casey. 

State Senator Arthur Orr (R), Senator Paul Sanford (R), Senator Clay Scofield (R), Representative Mike Ball (R), and Representative Howard Sanderford (R) were on hand to answer questions during the forum.  BTW it feels really good to be writing (R) after all of those seats.  Huntsville City Councilman John Olshefski was also on the panel.  Read on for Casey’s speech and the Q&A…

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Message from McMillan

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan wrote “Voter Interest at an all-time high” for the ALGOP:

We live in extraordinary times when government is running on empty, both in terms of revenue and ideas. No longer are people content to let the Washington crowd raise taxes and grow government.

As this summer’s drama at the White House plays out, people are watching every move to make sure that the big government crowd doesn’t prevail. It’s two against one in this fight, with President Obama and the Senate Democrats versus the Republicans in the House.

People realize as never before that bigger government means fewer jobs for American families. To those of us elected to serve, our responsibility is to keep government small and off the backs of those who create the jobs.

***

John McMillan is one of my favorite politicians.  I still enjoy hearing about his family taking a milk cow to the beach with them way back when.  Fun fact:

Bottle Creek, the largest Mississippian site (AD 1200 to 1450) on the north-central Gulf coast, has eighteen earthen mounds that served as platforms for houses and temples.

…Bottle Creek is one of the few major Mississippian sites not yet developed for tourism. The heavily forested site, in the midst of the Mobile-Tensaw delta, gives visitors a sense of the rich natural environment that supported Native American societies for thousands of years…

The McMillan family protected the Bottle Creek site for most of this century. In the early 1990s the land was purchased by Scott Paper Company, which in turn donated the site to the State of Alabama.

I’m sure this fellow and his kin help scare away most tourists (the photo is from the excellent mobilepaddler blog).

 

District Court competition

The Republican Primary for Madison County District Court Judge got competitive today with Chris Messervy entering the race.  Assistant District Attorney Don Rizzardi announced his candidacy last month.  Incumbent Judge Lynn Sherrod (D) hasn’t announced her plans to run for re-election or retire yet.

From The Times article about Messervy by Brian Lawson:

The District Court has broad responsibility. The court handles civil cases up to $10,000, misdemeanor criminal cases and preliminary hearings, custody disputes, traffic charges and small claims cases.

“The District Court judge is really on the front lines between the community and the court system,” Messervy said. “You make all the decisions from the bench; there are no juries. And often, what the community thinks about the court system most likely derives from their experience with the District Court.

“I think being respectful from the bench goes a long way.”

Messervy has already picked up endorsements from retired Circuit Judge Loyd “Buddy” Little and Circuit Court Clerk Jane Smith.

From The Times article about Rizzardi by Brian Lawson:

“You will never find a more dedicated public servant than Don Rizzardi,” [Madison County District Attorney Rob] Broussard said. “He does have vast trial experience, and like many in our office, a lot of if it is unheralded work in the courtroom. He has ground through his cases and always done his duty. We’ve always been proud of Don in our office.”

The years in the courtroom and managing a heavy caseload have prepared him for the challenges every judge faces, Rizzardi said.

“I’ve seen a lot of different judges, and I’ve seen what works for some and what doesn’t. I will take the best I’ve seen from all of them,” he said.

***

Full disclosure:  I’ve known Don Rizzardi for many years and I will campaign for him and then vote for him in the GOP Primary (March 13, 2012 – only 8 months away!).  I’ve met Chris Messervy a couple of times and like him and would support him except that he’s running against Rizzardi.

Coastal insurance reform

The average cost to insure a home in Mobile and Baldwin Counties is eleventy billion dollars, if you can find an insurer.  Central and North Alabama are facing the same types of issues in the wake of the recent devastating tornadoes, so this is about more than ‘coastal insurance reform’.  Insurance reform may get addressed in a special session of the legislature, if not, it will certainly be a top issue in the next legislative session.

Governor Dr. Robert Bentley just named the members of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission, led by Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell (R).  Huntsville is represented on the commission by Wayne Parker and State Farm agent Joe Demos.  Some interesting appointments include K. Carl Smith (The conservativeMessenger) and Michelle Kurtz (Homeowners’ Hurricane Insurance Initiative).  State Senator Ben Brooks (R – Mobile), State Representative Mike Hill (R – Columbiana), and State Representative Steve McMillan (R – Gulf Shores) are on the commission – presumably to sponsor legislation incorporating the results of the Commission’s efforts.

I spoke with Representative McMillan last week after his fishing trip and he said that insurance reform was his top legislative priority.  The GOP legislature passed a couple of bills this year to ”create a tax deduction for strengthening homes against hurricanes and tornadoes, set up an Insurance Department trust fund for retrofitting homes, and require that insurers publicly disclose information when they ask regulators for rate changes.”

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SHCA Forum with Superintendent Wardynski

From our friends at the South Huntsville Civic Association:

The South Huntsville Civic Association will host a legislative forum with new Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski and other local representatives on Monday, July 11, at 7 PM in the Grissom High School Auditorium.  Our community is most pleased to welcome our new Superintendent.  We anticipate an informative evening, and we look forward to seeing you there!
 
Monday, July 11th
Grissom High School Auditorium
7:00 PM
 
Confirmed forum participants:
 
Huntsville City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Casey Wardynski
City Councilman John Olshefski
State Representative Mike Ball
State Representative Howard Sanderford
State Senator Arthur Orr
State Senator Clay Scofield
State Senator Paul Sanford
 

Pre-Beach Report

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) monitors water quality from 25 sites at Alabama beaches.   According to the ADEM Coastal Alabama Beach Monitoring Program,  -all- of the most recent samples are below the enterococci threshold concentration (104 colonies per 100 ml of water).  Enterococci is an “indicator bacteria” that is not harmful to humans but may indicate the presence of “potential human pathogens”.  To aid in my understanding, I just call it poo.

The Cotton Bayou Beach monitoring site is of immediate interest to me.  The enterococci level is less than 1 colony per 100 ml of water.  No poo!  However, the Fairhope Public Beach has been closed several times over the past few years because of high levels.  I’m digging into that issue…

UPDATE:  I spoke with a nice person from ADEM – the beach monitoring program is funded by the EPA and the funds cover monitoring, not source tracking.  ADEM has applied for EPA microbial source tracking grant funding which might identify the source of the poo, but no luck so far.  Source Molecular offers microbial source tracking for human, cattle, swine, bird, chicken, dog, deer, and horse fecal contamination.  Looking at their price list,  this seems like an affordable option that doesn’t need to wait on a federal grant.  Most beach monitoring sites have no poo issues, so identifying the source (even just human or not) on an as needed basis could give some insight into the problem.  

ADEM said that stormwater runoff sometimes contributed to higher than desired enterococci levels, but Baldwin County is in a drought.  Fairhope has a sewage treatment plant nearby, but the effluent of the plant is monitored so it may not be the source.  It’s a mystery…

Sharks!

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Bentley to keep another promise

Governor Robert Bentley “said he intends to sign” the Brewery Modernization Act (SB192 – sponsored by our own Bill Holtzclaw R-2), according to Michael Tomberlin of The Birmingham News who wrote “Alabama Governor Bentley plans to sign beer bill into law”:

“When I represented my local community, I voted against Sunday alcohol sales and things of that nature,” Bentley said in an interview. “As governor, it’s a little bit different. I don’t feel I should impose my views on everybody in the state. The Legislature has had a chance to look at it and passed it. I’m sure I will sign it.”

The law will allow breweries to have taprooms and relax restrictions on brewpubs.  Our local brewers say:

“A tap room is already in the works,” said Dan Perry, one of the founders and brewers of Straight to Ale. “We haven’t nailed down the rest of our plans yet.”

Mike Spratley, brewer and owner of Huntsville’s Blue Pants Brewery, said the new law creates an avenue for growth for upstart breweries like Blue Pants.

“We’re putting together a scheme for the next phase of our growth,” he said. “Things like tours and a tap room will likely be in the plans going forward. We see that as a great way to grow the business.”

Free the Hops Vice President and political genius Dan Roberts said:

“That’s what it’s all about — enabling Alabama businesses to grow”

Governor Bentley is keeping a promise made during an interview on WVNN (Flashpoint on the radio):

Dr. Bentley opposed Free the Hops in the legislature (he says he consistently opposes alcohol and gambling); but I asked if as Governor he would sign the Gourmet Beer Bill – with some nuance, he said he would (since it would have passed the legislature). 

Thank you Dr. Love.

Casey is OUR Superintendent

Three of the five members of the Huntsville City School Board voted for Casey Wardynski to be OUR school Superintendent,

Retired Army Colonel Wardysnki (who prefers to be called Casey) developed the America’s Army video game for the US Army, taught at West Point for 15 years, improved Army personnel policy, and learned about education at the Broad Academy (which is the premier education policy center in the US).

Casey speaks in terms of “feasibility and efficacy” and also gets glowing comments from those who’ve worked with him.  Several people have told me that you will work your butt off to please him, because he inspires that level of commitment.  Having known leaders like Casey, I’m excited for our schools.

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The school board meeting was held at City Hall in (correct) anticipation of a large crowd.  As a prelude to the selection of our new superintendent, the demographer hired by the city gave his report.  Quick look (with more after I review the full report):

High School:
1.  Close Butler High School
Middle School:
Either 1a)  combine Davis Hills, Ed White, and Westlawn into middle school at Butler, or 1b)  close Davis Hills MS to Ed White and Chapman
Either 2a) close Whitesburg MS to Mountain Gap and Challenger or 2b) close Mountain Gap MS to Whitesburg and Challenger
Elementary School:
1)  close Monte Sano to Blossomwood
Either 2a) close Whitesburg ES to Chaffee, Weatherly, and Jones Valley or 2b)  close Mountain Gap
3) close West Mastin Lake ES
4) close Montview ES

Non-zone:
Move New Century to the new Lee High School

Celebrate Success!  The rate of 9th graders advancing to 10th grade (which is a critical transition) improved from 78% to 91% in the past five years.  That is huge.  Why? How? Who?

Kudos to the City of Huntsville for funding the demographer Dr. Steve Salmon.  The report should be available on the HCS website soon.  Public meetings will be held very soon (like starting next week) for comments.

My first guess is that Salmon didn’t look outside current school zones for consolidation; in fact, one of his recommendations was for the school system to establish a student GIS.  This recommendation complements the databases proposed by all three candidates for superintendent.  Note that one of my concerns is that members of one of the most partisan and hateful (and cheatful) political organizations would have access to any school database developed by the school system.  Privacy should be a fundamental concern for administrators – we’ve already seen Huntsville schools punish parents for speaking out – what could they do with more data?

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Kudos to Topper Birney for running a good selection process.  My only complaint (shared with The Huntsville Times) is that the board went into closed executive session to talk about “the good name and character” of the candidates.  If “good name and character” was still an issue after downselecting to the top three candidates, then the process was flawed (were any of the three candidates bad characters?). 

IMO the board went into special session to try to get a 5-0 vote (which didn’t happen).  Casey was supported by David Blair and Jennie Robinson (and all right-thinking people), while Dr. Dan Brigman was supported by Alta Morrison and Laurie McCauley (and the AEA).  Morrison mis-remembered Casey’s interview to criticize him while McCauley was just plain “unfair” (saying that Casey wouldn’t relate to inarticulate people).   Birney was the swing vote. 

More later.  For now, congratulations to Huntsville.