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.

Think global. Drink local.

Good People Brewing Company of Birmingham is gearing up to hit the Huntsville market, with the help of our friends at Birmingham Beverage Company (distributor for Olde Towne, Sweetwater, and Orval among many other great beers).

The Nook had a keg of Good People Coffee Oatmeal Stout recently, and the Good People printed up a flyer describing how that beer affected the local economy.  Here is a summary of the flyer:

Ever thought of the many persons / organizations affected by the simple act of ordering a GPBC Coffee Oatmeal Stout and the exponential power of supporting your local economy?  While you are enjoying your pint, you are supporting the following organizations:

Good People Brewing Company and…
.  their accounting, legal, advertising, etc. services
.  local transportation companies
.  utility companies providing energy / water used at brewery
.  local / county / State taxes

Primavera Coffee Roasters located in Cahaba Heights.

J3 Organics uses spent grains (brewing by-product) donated by Good People as composting medium.

Continental Bakery uses donated spent grains in some of their products.

Birmingham Beverage distributes the beer: employing people, paying taxes, etc.

Free the Hops gets support from Good People to raise awareness of craft beer and lobby for better Alabama beer laws.

Pubs and restaurants sell the beer:  employing people, paying taxes, etc.

… the power of supporting your local economy is pretty incredible, not to mention you get a pretty good beer out of the deal.

BTW the Nook has a keg of Good People’s Snake Handler American Double India Pale Ale set aside for a special occasion – I’m looking forward to getting snake bit.

The Nook Christmas Party is Monday, 14 December 2009, starting at 5PM.  The featured beer is Left Hand Brewing Company’s Fade to Black Export Stout (from Colorado).  One of the great things about The Nook is that it’s got a nice crowd, for example I got to say hi to State Representative Laura Hall (D – 19) last time I was there.  She was enjoying a tasty Belgian Lambic, if you must know…

This guy has a bright future as a Birmingham Democrat

“My campaign is not based on a foundation of lies… It’s just the information I provided to the people is false.”

That’s how Antwon Womack defended his decision to continue running for the Birmingham Board of Education after the Birmingham News reported “that he lied about his age, education and residence while campaigning”.

The Birmingham News wrote “Candidate Antwon Womack says he will stay in race despite falsified biography”, which describes Womack’s campaign of deceit.  The comments are fascinating, and provide even more context to his story.

Womack applied for a “scholarship” to the Democracy for America (formerly Dean for America) ‘Nutroots Nation’ National Convention, claiming to be “Dr. Antwon B. Womack” in his application (excerpts below):

I have been apart of the Alabama Governemt for more then 8yrs. I have have the opporunity to be Chair of many organization throught out the State of Alabama, I have also been Campaign Chair for more then 3 campaigns in the last 2yrs. I am currenlty the State Director of Youth Affairs for the Alabama Young Democrats, Fmr.Youth City Council President of the City of Birmingham

And this is what Womack envisions as his future:

I see my self if not elected as a School Board member, I see myself running for State Senate of Alabama and finishing up my carrer for life

Lying Democrat in training…

MORE:

Here’s a post from The Caputo Report, “Birmingham School Board Candidate Lies about Bio, Vows to Continue Campaign”:

…the reputation of our city and our region have been severely tarnished because of the ethical lapses of a long (and regrettably growing) line of  local elected officials.  Simply put, if Birmingham is to succeed, Birmingham cannot tolerate any more ethically challenged politicians.

Pascal Caputo is a good source of information from Birmingham and Jefferson County – I should add that his Facebook post alerted me to this story.

MORE:

James Butts of the Alabama Young Democrats commented that “Antwon Womack is not now, nor has he ever been, associated with the Alabama Young Democrats”.  So Womack fabricated that part of his biography too.

For those Democrats who get upset that I harsh on your party for public corruption – how many Democrats pleaded guilty just this week?  Within the last month?  This year?  How much have Democrats stolen from education or public works?  How many were leading Democratic Party officials (Bill Blount was former Party Chairman, Roy Johnson was former Speaker Pro Tem of the State House, and Governor Don Siegelman)?

And then we’ve got those who are just a little bit unethical – voting other legislator’s machines, double-dipping, and goodness knows what else.

Instead of complaining about my comments, how about voting for honest and ethical candidates for a change.

Good job Randy

State Representative Randy Hinshaw (D – 21) plans to introduce a Constitutional Amendment “to prohibit the imposition of an occupational tax in Madison County”.  WVNN’s Dale Jackson wrote about this saying “Kudos to Randy Hinshaw”.  WAAY-TV has the story “Hinshaw Wants to Prevent Jefferson County Problem in North Al”:

Hinshaw says he has the support of the entire Madison County House delegation. If passed by the legislature, the proposal would be put on the ballot as a special amendment in an upcoming election in Madison County.

Once again, Randy is on the right side of an issue, and he’s not only right – he’s a leader.  Disclosure – I like Randy and we went to high school together.

It will be interesting to see how he and the Madison County delegation votes during the special session on the occupational tax for Jefferson County.  It can’t be a good omen for the special session if the Madison County delegation opposes the occupational tax in principle (unless I’m giving them too much credit).  Will Laura Hall vote against the tax?

Sales tax holiday – JeffCo

The Alabama sales tax holiday cuts the 4% State sales tax on back-to-school items, and many counties choose to cut their sales taxes for the same period.  This program has been a great success, and has resulted in overall sales tax collection INCREASES each year the program has been in place.  This needs repeating – cutting the sales taxes on certain items has resulted in MORE money for the State – because people buy more than just the tax-free items.  The tax-free holiday weekend is now a retailer bonanza, ranking up there with the day after Thanksgiving.

Predictably, this is what happens when Jefferson County decides NOT to offer the tax holiday:  Sales a bit slack at Birmingham-area stores during sales tax holiday.

 Two days into the sales tax holiday, Birmingham area retailers said shopping Saturday was heavy and sales were brisk, though many said the activity was lower than what they saw last year.

The big difference from a year ago was Jefferson County’s decision not to participate. The county’s 2 percent tax is still being collected on all items this weekend because of its financial woes.

How did neighboring counties who cut taxes do?

In Hoover, stores at the Riverchase Galleria in Jefferson County had light traffic early in the day Saturday. But in Hoover’s Inverness area, which is in Shelby County, the Kohl’s store was packed with shoppers… Shoppers at the Target in Bessemer and the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Gardendale said there were noticeably more shoppers there on Saturday than there had been all summer.  

It’s too early to calculate the impact of the sales tax holiday, but just a few weeks ago the Birmingham News reported that the Sales tax holiday is ‘make or break’ time:

“It’s absolutely our biggest weekend,” said Michael Gee, owner of the Pants Store on Third Avenue West, which sells school uniforms. “It’s make or break for us”.

Gee worries about how the recession, plus possible unpaid leave for about 900 Jefferson County employees, could affect sales. He also wants to make sure Jefferson County’s decision not to participate in this year’s tax holiday does not drive shoppers away. So the store will offer a 2 percent discount to offset the county tax.

 That seems like a good plan (and I applaud the store for their creativity – I hope they made lots of money), but it’s too bad that the County government didn’t read the article:

In business volume, the tax-free holiday ranks second only to “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving when retailers traditionally get their biggest boost of the year, according to the Alabama Retail Association.

“It is the Black Friday of summer,” said Brett Berman, manager of the Old Navy store in the Colonial Promenade in Alabaster.

This is my favorite part:

…statewide sales tax collections have increased in the month of August each year since the holiday was enacted.

Collections increased 10.4 percent in 2006, 4.6 percent in 2007 and 7.3 percent in 2008 over the previous Augusts. Comparing sales from August 2005 to August 2008 ($145.5 million in August 2005 and $180.2 million in August 2008) sales went up nearly 24 percent.

“But how much of that we can attribute to the sales tax holiday and how much is general growth, we’re not sure,” said Carla Snellgrove, spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Revenue. “Looking at collections, it appears that as shoppers are out purchasing tax-exempt items, they are also purchasing taxable items.”

In my opinion the State should be able to differentiate between growth and the sales tax holiday.  And here’s why they should try:  I think the sales tax holiday shows that the State may be able to cut food taxes without losing money overall (the GOP plan).   There is no need to ‘offset’ or pay for the food tax with other taxes (the Dem plan) – it pays for itself with more sales.

Cut the sales tax on food.

Free the Hops Oktoberfest Birmingham

Free the Hops is hosting Oktoberfest in Birmingham on September 19 and 20 (Saturday 12pm to 4pm, Sunday 6pm to 10pm):

fth-oktoberfestLocated in downtown Birmingham on historic Morris Avenue between 21st and 22nd Street, Free the Hops Oktoberfest features German cuisine, live music, and more than 25 German and German-style American-made beers.

Tickets are available for $15, which includes admission to the event and a limited edition “Free the Hops Oktoberfest” 12.5 ounce beer glass. Advance ticket holders will receive 2 beer tasting samples during the event.

Once inside the event, premium beer will be sold for $3 a glass and a limited amount of high gravity beer will be available at $5 per glass…

Die Mitternaechters, a German polka and waltz band, will provide live music while establishments such as The J Clyde will be selling authentic German cuisine. The “Rojo Designated Drivers Cafe” will provide free food and non-alcoholic drinks for all designated drivers.

BTWThe Nook Tavern and the Huntsville Botanical Garden are teaming up to host the Southern Bier Garden Festival here in Huntsville on September 12…  I’ll post more as details become available.

Magic City Brewfest 2009

Free the Hops hosted the Magic City Brewfest in Birmingham this weekend (June 5 and 6) – it was a tremendous success: sold out both days, celebration of the new brews available in Alabama, perfect weather, nice venue (Sloss Furnaces), and a beautiful crowd.  I didn’t post anything earlier about it because it was sold out last week and there were no volunteer slots available (they’ve been filled for weeks).

About 3,000 politically active people attended the Friday night session (along with more than a hundred volunteers).  I volunteered for the Saturday afternoon session, which also drew about 3,000 politically active people (and over a hundred volunteers).

Several people from Raise Your Pints Mississippi attended - they are a grassroots political organization similar to Free the Hops – and they are trying to change Mississippi’s beer laws.  Mississippi’s Lazy Magnolia Brewery is supportive of their organization.

Alabama Breweries were well-represented by Olde Towne Brewery (which made Saturday’s Huntsville Times Front Page in a very positive article ‘Brewmasters can show off big beers’ by Challen Stephens), Good People Brewing of Birmingham, and newcomer Back Forty Brewing of Birmingham.

These businesses show that beer culture is growing in Alabama – and that jobs are being created.  As Stephens says in his article “some bars already sold out of new high-end drinks” (many cost $6 to $8 each or more).  This is true across the State – distributors cannot keep up with the demand.  However, they are catching up.  I spoke with some great guys from Colorado who are bringing one of my favorites, Great Divide of Denver, to Alabama (they just hit Birmingham and Tuscaloosa – coming soon to Huntsville).

Yazoo Brewery from Nashville (which made a t-shirt immortalizing Alvin Holmes statement “It drink pretty good, don’t it?” – taking it totally out of context), Terrapin Brewery from Athens Georgia, Sweetwater Brewery from Atlanta, and Highland Brewery from Asheville, North Carolina were the other regional breweries represented at Magic City BrewFest.  There were hundreds of beers from which to sample.