Gourmet Beer arrives in Huntsville

The Nook sent a truck to Birmingham yesterday to pick up some newly legal Gourmet Beer (necessary until distribution gets set up).  The beers available included:

Duvel, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale style-rated AAA with 8.5% ABV, which sold for $7 each, plus sales tax and tip.

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, from North Coast Brewery in California style-rated AAA with 9% ABV, sold for $6 each, plus sales tax and tip.

Orval Trappist Ale, a Belgian Pale Ale made my Trappist monks style-rated AAA with 6.9% ABV, sold for $8 each (it’s for a good cause) plus sales tax and tip.

Three Philosophers Belgian Blend, a New York made Quadrupel style-rated AA with 9.8% ABV, sold for $7 each plus sales tax and tip.

To elected officials: look at that increased basis for the sales tax.

BTW, Microwave Dave played at the Nook last night (but without the Nukes).  Microwave Dave is a great Huntsville music institution – he’s been playing here as long as I can remember.

SHCA Newsletter 1

The South Huntsville Civic Association sent out their first newsletter – the sleeper has awakened:

Why does a great turnout to a meeting matter? Does having a large membership base really make a difference? Yes! When city leaders see first-hand that so many residents are willing to take their time to show up at meetings, join neighborhood associations, and voice their opinions - it gets their attention. Suddenly, we are a community that has a strong voice, plenty of opinions, and it becomes understood that we are no longer willing to sit idle while decisions get made without our input. The “sleeping giant,” that is South Huntsville, as Sandra Moon, District 3 City Councilwoman stated in an interview, “has been awakened.” With your continued support, this “giant” will have a voice that is heard loud and clear.

Join the SHCA.

Like so last week

I am such a slacker.  Yes, you already knew that, but now you know that I know that you know…

Congratulations to Phil Williams for winning the House 6 race without a runoff.  Twice as many Republicans turned out as Democrats even with multiple candidates in each Primary.  This also means congratulations to Joey Ceci for helping Phil win.  I’d sure like to see Joey come over from the dark side more often…

MS Hunter told me about a Facebook game called Farm Town which has taken up way too much time – at least when you get started – after awhile crops take time to grow, so it’s a slower pace.  I hadn’t really looked at Facebook before that – duh, Facebook is kind of neat (I’m a Luddite AND a slacker).

Congrats to the Right On, Right On, Right On (re-imagining Rush) Huntsville crew for a successful fundraiser for Paul Sanford at Ketchup last week.  I’ll take any excuse I can to go to Bebe.

BREAKING NEWS!!!   There was a Laura Hall sighting this morning at Oakwood and Andrew Jackson around 8AM.  Tell Dale Jackson that she is alive…

Speaking of Laura Hall: Sanford sent out flyers last week noting her ‘falsified timesheets’ and ‘double-dipping’.  I got flyers from Hall the next day saying ‘shame on Sanford’ for pointing that out.  How cynical is it of Hall to have prepared flyers in anticipation of that attack – NOTE TO DEMS – if you don’t want people to point out your candidate’s ethical lapses don’t run ‘em for office.  The Democratic Party in Alabama is a cesspool of corruption – it’s sickening that they steal from children (i.e., Schmitz, McClain, 2-year college scandal, Turnham scandal) and then ask for more taxes to cover the payoffs.

The Huntsville Times new format looks great.  I appreciate their focus on local news and it seems like they are trying to mitigate the liberal bias that stunk up the place.  Kudos to Kevin Wendt for the new direction – I’ve said that Huntsville needs a good paper and deserves a better one – maybe we’re getting it.

Free at Last – Olde Towne is brewing a special Emancipation Double IPA which will probably be available at the Nook, Big Ed’s, Mason’s, and maybe a couple of other places.

Free the Hops is hosting the Magic City Brewfest Friday June 5 and Saturday June 6, which will celebrate the passage of the Gourmet Beer Bill.  Soon the organization will meet to contemplate the future of the group: what’s next?  Container size?  Brewpubs? Home Brewing?  FTH will have to decide which issue is really important (and which has a decent chance of support and passage).  FTH has a track record now and has ‘politicized’ young people who may not have cared about Government – now they’re involved.

Oh yeah, before I forget – remember all that talk of how Obama has a history of ties to Socialists and how he was further Left than Socialist Senator  Bernie Sanders of Vermont and how was probably a Socialist and how he would try to destroy the capitalist system?  Called that one, except for the ease with which he is destroying the country – that’s kinda surprising.

Guv appoints Broussard to DA

Governor Bob Riley appointed Rob Broussard to the office of Madison County District Attorney to complete the term of retiring DA Tim Morgan. Broussard takes office June 1 and will run as a Republican for the office in 2010. Rob is highly respected within the DAs office and is a dedicated prosecutor – today is a good day for Madison County. Congratulations Rob and thank you Governor Riley.

Now about that Bill awaiting the Governor’s signature… John Ehinger of The Huntsville Times wrote a brilliantly thoughtful editorial – “Riley should sign beer bill”:

Such a bill has been pushed for several years by a group called “Free the Hops” – beer connoisseurs who say Alabama is behind the times. The beer they want, they say, is not only stronger but of higher quality, and it can carry a much higher price.

BTW, the State Legislature approved the creation of a additional Madison County Circuit Court Judgeship – to be elected in 2010.  The 23rd Judicial Circuit “consists of District Judges and Circuit Judges” presided over by Billy Bell.  The Circuit Judges are: Bruce Williams, Laura Hamilton, Loyd Little (of Why Judge Little infamy), James Smith, Karen Hall.  The District Judges are: Dennis O’Dell, Lynn Sherrod, Dick Richardson, and Ruth Ann Hall.

Assistant DA Bill Starnes made the appointee short list last time for the seat held by Ruth Ann Hall, IMO he should consider running for the new judgeship.

It’s time to talk transit

I totally stole that headline from James at  Huntsville Development News, a blog that I recommend for uh, Huntsville Development News.

I look at this from the viewpoint of someone who used public transit daily for years in Washington DC.  Plus I used public transit often while living in Boston and New Orleans.  While in DC, I lived three miles from work and my commuting choices were (one-way): driving in traffic and parking 45 minutes, walking and Metro rail 45 minutes, or walking 45 minutes.

In Boston, my driving commute was an hour fifteen for 13 miles – using rail / bus the commute was almost two hours (so I drove).  I did use the subway to get around the City.  In New Orleans, I didn’t commute to work, but would ride the streetcars or buses if convenient (streetcar service was inconsistent, buses were good).

Let’s consider the Bridge Street intermodal transit center light rail line to RSA – IIRC light rail costs about $35 million per mile and can carry about 20,000 riders per hour (a two hour rush hour could get every worker onto the RSA).  The cost would be $245 million for the ~7 miles from Bridge Street to the Sparkman Center – which doesn’t include the buses or parking / intermodal facilities (or maintenance and operating costs).

One benefit of the light rail would be pushing the security perimeter out from the base – running a secure train onto the base would make it much easier to guard the gates against car bombs &c.  Another benefit is that the commuters would be able to shop / eat at Bridge Street after work (I’m pretty sure that’s what the developer who proposed this had in mind).

James notes one of the drawbacks of the plan: “it has the classic problem of Huntsville’s transit system – It doesn’t go where people need to go“.  I’ll add that it doesn’t come from where people come from either.

James outlines steps that can be taken now to get us ready for public transit:

1. Create a Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), an appointed/elected transit board with representatives from cities and counties in Madison, Limestone, and Morgan Counties (eventually expanding to Marshall, Lincoln, and Jackson). Give it a catchy name, something like the “Valley Regional Transit Authority” (VRTA). The RTA would oversee operations like fixed-route bus service, paratransit (Handi-Ride), RideShare/Park-and-rides, etc. within the region. Need an example? Take a look at Chattanooga’s RTA, CARTA. A website like theirs might help too.
2. Make a plan. The key to success for an efficient, well-run transit system in the Huntsville-Decatur region is comprehensive short- and long-range transit plans. Like the Long-Range Transportation Plan is to roads in the area, these would be a “road map,” so to speak, for transit projects over the next 5 and 30 years, created by the RTA with lots of public input from throughout the region. Find out where people go frequently; for example, if a lot of people commute from the Winchester Road corridor to downtown, plan accordingly. The plans would include the feasibility of increased bus service and commuter rail, among other options.
3. Start over. Using the plan, begin a “reboot” of the transit system. Drop all of the old routes, use the money to add new, more efficient ones, and as demand permits, begin looking into rush-hour express bus service between Decatur, Athens, and elsewhere to major employment areas like Research Park.

I like the idea of developing a comprehensive plan so that the City could coordinate greenways and sidewalks with a future system.  This is something that too many people overlook about transit systems – people have to be able to walk – for example Nashville has a bus system but few sidewalks so people end up walking on the curbs or through weeds to use (or not use) the bus.  IMO building sidewalks and greenways (like Pinhook / Huntsvile Spring Branch from Downtown to Brahan Springs  to Airport Road) is a foundational step to public transit.  Take a look down the Parkway – do you see sidewalks?

I also like the idea of starting a streetcar line on the existing track along the Parkway.

Let’s remind our politicians exactly who they work for

“Let’s remind our politicians exactly who they work for”.  Linda Lawrence received a standing ovation for this remark at the South Huntsville Civic Association meeting packed into Grissom’s auditorium Monday night.  Her SECOND standing ovation came after quoting from the Declaration of Independence – IMO the ovations were given out of appreciation for her efforts to hold the City and HHA accountable. 

The applause was also a warning shot to City officials who may find themselves out of office if they continue to pursue the unproven (or failed) policy of deconcentrating poverty. 

The South Huntsville Civic Association’s mission “is to unite residents of South Huntsville so we have one powerful voice that lets our local leaders know we expect them to: address our issues and concerns; operate government in a transparent manner”.  Their primary function “will be to act as a watchdog” for city government.  Their focus is on schools and safety

The Association is also planning to “screen candidates” and establish  a Political Action Committee (PAC) to fund candidates.  The meeting was attended by about 1200 citizens.

The group is headed by Mark Dummer and James Steele (disclosure – I put out yard signs for Steele when he ran for Mayor).  Challen Stephens of The Huntsville Times interviewed Dummer in this excellent article, “South Huntsville sends loud message”.  Stephens is an asset to Huntsville and I wish the Times had more reporters like him (and wrote more about local issues).

The meeting was moderated by a Huntsville Police Department Officer, who I’m certain is a nice guy, but IMO it is inappropriate to have a public meeting moderated by the Police.  Maybe someone with the HPD or City can explain that to us.

City Councilwoman Sandra Moon, Mayor Tommy Battle, and School Board Member Jennie Robinson gave introductory remarks; then Robinson gave a summary of the schools in the area, noting that enrollment at Grissom High School has increased (and it was already over-capacity) and that “some schools have been negatively impacted” by “Section 8 and affordable housing”.  Robinson noted that “historically, South Huntsville schools were not well-maintained” because of political correctness.  She closed by saying “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”.

State Representative Mike Ball (R – 10) said that he ran for public office to ‘make the State Government more open, honest, and accountable’.  He described his proposed legislation to hold HHA accountable by: taking away their power of eminent domain, requiring public notification, and requiring the approval of the ELECTED City Council.  Ball promised to make passage of this bill his “top priority” next year.  Mike received applause after each part of his bill.

Several City Officials made presentations, including HPD South Precinct Captain Kenny Bryant, Terry Hatfield, Shane Davis, and Brenda Martin.  Civic Association leaders Mark Dummer and James Steele spoke about “holding elected officials accountable” and asked people to join the organization.

Then Linda Lawrence spoke…  Lawrence described Huntsville Community Rights, an organization formed to provide “facts about the intentions of the Huntsville Housing Authority”.  Lawrence said about deconcentrating poverty that there is “absolutely no proof that this works” and that “social engineering is socialism”.  Lawrence received two standing ovations from the 1200 people assembled – compare that to light applause mixed with boos for Mayor Battle.

The Police Moderator then announced question time – email questions… WE SHOWED UP and the City doesn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge that by asking questions from the audience.  There was  a general groan from the audience when he said the first question was about sidewalks, as well as some outbursts from the crowd.  The City can’t duck the HHA issue forever, and putting an armed Policeman out front won’t stop people from voting.   If the City had handled the HHA situation correctly (or implemented a policy based on more than a slogan) they wouldn’t have to hide.

Obsessive Housing Disorder – City Journal

Steven Malanga of City Journal wrote a nice little article, “Obsessive Housing Disorder”, about Government housing programs.  I recommend that you read the whole thing, but here is the bottom line:

Ultimately, the goal should be to end subsidies that amount to a government project to direct homeownership to places where Washington believes it should be taking place. That kind of political meddling in this vast marketplace has wreaked havoc time and again, and will continue to do so—if we keep letting it.

MCGOP Breakfast – Tim James

Tim James, GOP candidate for Governor of Alabama, spoke at the Madison County Republican Men’s Club breakfast Saturday morning.  I had never seen him, met him, or heard him speak before, so I was looking forward to hearing from him.

James is a good public speaker – well-organized with a great voice.  He touched on national issues, then state issues, then his campaign – all throughout repeating his theme of “common sense solutions”.

National – companies that are “too big to fail should be allowed to go bankrupt” (to loud applause) and “Wall Street is willing to sell the country down the river”.  He praised Senator Sessions, Senator Shelby, and Congressman Aderholt for opposing the bailouts.

State – Education - ”The foundation is the ball game” - reading programs must be improved to create an educated workforce.  Put strong Principals in weak schools.  Economic Development – 74% of Alabama’s jobs are in existing small businesses, implement programs to provide same economic development benefits to expanding local businesses that we do for companies such as Thyssen Kruppe.  “Make Alabama business-friendly”.

James closed by saying “America is under assault … from Washington.  The economic foundation of America will collapse if we continue to print money”.  He said “It is time for all leaders at all levels to speak clearly – inspiring our countrymen to an economic and moral great awakening”.

He made a good first impression on me.

There was more excitement at the meeting: Rob Broussard attended – he is likely to be appointed as the next Madison County District Attorney to replace the retiring DA Tim Morgan.  Rob and I have some mutual friends, but the first time I saw him (long time ago) he was the prosecutor on a case where I was on the jury – he did a great job on that case – conviction.  If you know Broussard, contact Governor Riley and let him know that Rob would make a fine DA:

Phone:  (334) 242-7100
Email Governor Riley

I also got to meet John McMillan, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner.  I enjoyed talking with him -  he used to be a Baldwin County Commissioner and I almost think of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach as home.  I’d like to live there but then I couldn’t stop to get Chilton County peaches on the way.  Here’s last years Beach Monitoring and Poo post about water quality in Baldwin County.

Sanford Endorsed by Alabama Restaurant Association

From the Alabama Restaurant Association:



HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA—The Alabama Restaurant Association announced today that it has endorsed Republican candidate Paul Sanford for State Senate District 7.

“The Alabama Restaurant Association feels that Paul Sanford is uniquely qualified to serve in this position. He has dedicated himself to serving the people of Alabama. He grew up in the restaurant industry, and is committed to promoting it. He will be a valuable asset to us if elected to this position,” said ARA Executive Director Larry Fidel.


Paul Sanford was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, third of three rambunctious boys. Everyone in the family has an “entrepreneur’s spirit” like Paul his mother, Louise Sanford, is a restaurateur. She is co-owner of and operates two Gipson’s Barbecue locations.


Paul earned an A.O.S. degree in Culinary Arts from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Prior to moving back to Huntsville, Paul lived across the country in Napa Valley, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Nashville. After these experiences, he has realized there is no place like home, sweet home Huntsville.

Paul Sanford advanced to the special general election after winning a Republican run-off on April 21st and will face Democrat Laura Hall on June 9th. He and his wife Danielle own and operate “little Paul’s Barbecue” in Huntsville. They have two children Chase and Ryan.

“I am grateful for the endorsement of the Alabama Restaurant Association in my campaign for Senate District 7. This fine organization is comprised of men and women who provide a service and a product enjoyed by countless people, and their establishments provide jobs for thousands of Alabamians,” Paul Sanford said.”




The Alabama Restaurant Association is the state’s largest trade association representing the foodservice industry. The Association represents all restaurant and foodservice-related segments, offering members lobbying support on legislative issues, money-saving benefits, information-services and training aids. The Association is located in Montgomery, AL. and has over 1,000 members.

Flashpoint on the Radio

Brian and I filled in for Dale Jackson this morning at WVNN.  If anyone was listening please comment.  I don’t think we did terribly badly but I’m sure it wasn’t brilliant radio either.  I was pretty nervous and thinking on my feet isn’t my strong suit – I like to ponder and write and revise.   I got up at four dark thirty this morning to be at WVNN by 5:45AM.

We had GOP Candidate for Governor Dr. Robert Bentley on for two segments: we talked about ethics, health care, economic development, and Free the Hops. 

Dr. Bentley described his plan to create scholarships for Primary Care Physicians who commit to working in underserved areas.  He also talked about Health Savings Accounts and we asked him if the State could implement some sort of ‘Individual Development Account’ for Health Care.  We asked Bentley about his Economic Development ideas – he prefers that the State encourage existing / local industries to grow, as opposed to giving (m/b)illions to foreign companies (id est Thyssen-Kruppe).

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). 

Danny at Doc’s Political Parlor was our guest for two segments.  I don’t think I got a chance to speak to him (time flies and hard breaks) – I wanted him to talk about lawn mower care.  He did talk about Free the Hops as an example of a (nearly) successful grass roots organization impacting the political process.  Danny also talked about the 2010 Big List of Candidates - which really is THE BIG LIST.

Throughout the show, Brian and I covered topics including Free the Hops (contact Governor Riley to support HB373 Gourmet Beer Bill), Huntsville Housing, Ethics and PACs, Right On Huntsville’s Sanford Fundraiser at Ketchup on May21, and socialism in Mexico (how did that happen?).

All in all, it was great fun.  Thanks to Dale Jackson for allowing us to guest host for him; I can hardly wait to hear his big news when he returns.  Thanks to the producer Jason for taking good care of us.  And be sure to buy something from WVNN’s advertisers.


WVNN put up a poll asking Who was your favorite fill-in host for “The Dale Jackson Show”?

Dale Jackson also has the podcast available for all of his guest hosts this week.  If you missed Brian and I this morning this is your chance to hear ALL 3 HOURS!!!