Beach Pre-Report 2009

It’s the time of year for me to  pay attention to Beach Monitoring and Baldwin County and related news.  Last year I wrote Beach Monitoring and poo, which was a primer for me on beach water quality: enterococcus bacteria and sewerage and runoff and source tracking.  This year I’m interested in the Cotton Bayou Beach area – and the water’s fine – the worst sample was still pretty good.  Here’s a link to the ADEM Coastal Alabama Beach Monitoring Program.

The City of Orange Beach is considering a Dog Park (“Dog ‘mess’ continues in Orange Beach”) , which has stirred up some controversy.  One of the sites under consideration is Waterfront Park:

The original location considered was a small piece of property, adjacent to Water Front Park, but Mayor Tony Kennon expressed issues with that site.

“We have done such a good job with Water Front Park and that whole area, to me a dog park just doesn’t fit in. I think it would be detrimental to the aesthetics of that area,” Kennon said…

“Can you believe that they are going to sit up here and vote to spend money to put a dog park on this property? You know what the dogs are going to do on it?  They are going to crap on it. Ten million dollars for a place for dogs to go crap,” McElroy said.

When asked where he thought the city should put the dog park, McElroy suggested a piece of land just behind City Hall.

If the Orange Beach City Council needs another reason NOT to locate the dog park at Waterfront Park:  the Beach Monitoring reports show that the water quality has been over the safe threshold several times in the past few years and been close to unsafe several more times.  The City Council should consider the impact that dog poo runoff would have on the water quality (dog poo was one of the possible sources of contamination in the swimming advisory I wrote about last year).

BTW, Candidate for Governor Bradley Byrne and candidate for Agricultural Commissioner John McMillan both have ties to Baldwin County.

On a semi-related note – Alabama’s Forever Wild program is up for renewal in 2012 – keep that in mind as you consider candidates for the 2010 elections.  Be sure to ask candidates if they support Forever Wild.

Back Forty Beer Company

Alabama’s newest brewery sent us a link to their website – Back Forty Beer Company.

I tried their Naked Pig Pale Ale at the sold-out Magic City Brewfest in Birmingham and it was good.

From an nice article at by Beverly Taylor:

Jason Wilson, co-owner with Zach Folmar of a new local brewery called Back Forty Beer Company, said that they brought in eight kegs of beer Friday, thinking it would be enough for the weekend.

“We went through seven last night,” he said. “We had to go to the J. Clyde and get back kegs we had given them because the distributor was locked up for the weekend.”

The article also raves about the other Alabama breweries: Olde Towne and Good People, plus interviews Don Alan Hankins of Olde Towne.  Taylor also interviewed Xandy Bustamante who represents Colorado breweries including Great Divide, Durango, and Tommyknocker.  Xandy is a great guy – hopefully he and his father Ed are coming to Huntsville soon to bring Great Divide here.  Read the whole thing.

In other beer news – I heard that The Nook has plans to sell TO GO beer.  They have a license that will allow them to sell ‘warm’ packaged beer to go (during limited hours – like lunchtime).  The Nook already carries the best selection of Gourmet Beer in Huntsville so this will be a  great resource for beer-lovers.  As soon as the distribution systems get set up, Huntsville should start to receive some of beers Free the Hops has been ‘agitating’ to get.

Senate 7 Primary vs General Election Turnout

Brian compared the turnout in the State Senate District 7 Primary Election to the turnout in the General Election.  Here are the results:

Really, the Dems did a better job relative to the primary than the GOP.  117% increase vs. 103% increase for the good guys.  Looking at the percent of votes going to each party at each precinct the Dems increased at 29 and GOP increased at only 17 with no change at the rest.  There was no more than an 8 point party swing at any box with over 100 votes.  The summer break at A&M hurt Hall.  Turnout doubled at most precincts, but only rose by 16% there.  Probably cost her 170 votes.  Wouldn’t have closed the gap, of course.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that one cannot look at the voting data and ascertain any real differences in voting based on race/geography from the primary to the general.  Both the Dems and GOP roughly doubled their turn out.  Hard to claim to see any racial/geographic divide that wasn’t already present.  The good news for GOP is that despite having a wide open primary it looks like all voters coalesced behind the nominee.

Most every poll had double the turn out.  Remarkably consistent.

So, the Democrat’s Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts appear to have been successful.  The “I voted” stickers on tombstones around the County are proof of that  (it’s a joke but what makes it funny is the history / current practice of Democratic Party electoral shenanigans).

In another post we’ll look at cost per vote, also known as Teachers having their AEA dues spent on ‘paid volunteers’ and robocalls for the Democrats. 

FYI the AEA spends about $3,000,000 on political campaigns, almost every bit of it to Democratic Party candidates (AEA’s Paul Hubbert is also vice-chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party).  I say almost every bit of it because last year the AEA appears to have spent about half a million dollars trying to “hijack” the Republican Primary for the State School Board (e.g., Smithwick).

Teachers – is that how you want your AEA dues spent - subverting the political process in Alabama?

Senate 7 Election Results – 2009

Republican Paul Sanford defeated Democrat Laura Hall for the Alabama State Senate District 7 seat Tuesday with 57% of the vote.  20,891 people voted out of the 96,302 registered voters in District 7 for a turn out of 22% (compare that to 72% turn out in Madison County last November, also note that there are 212,574 voters in Madison County).

Top boxes were: Cove United Methodist Church (1847 – 89% Sanford), Covenant Presbyterian Church (944 – 85% Sanford), Blossomwood School (942 – 81% Sanford),  Johnson High School (862 – 89% Hall), and Chapman Middle School (845 – 80% GOP).  One could say that voters at both Cove and Johnson were like lemmings in their support for their respective candidates.

Sanford won seven of the top ten boxes (with 65% to 89%). Hall won three of the top ten boxes (with 88% to 95%).

Top Republican boxes were: Cove, Covenant, Blossomwood, Chapman, and Chaffee (578 – 87% Sanford).

Top Democrat boxes were: Johnson, First Missionary Baptist (666 – 88% Hall), Showers Center (616 – 95% Hall), Ed White (509 – 79% Hall), and New Shiloh Church (463 – 90% Hall).

The Probate Judges Office reported straight party voting – this is the first time I’ve seen them do this.  In this election, ballots only had two lines: straight party or by candidate.  I’m not sure what to make of the numbers this time, but I hope that the Probate Judge continues to report the information.

The Democrat straight party voting was 3,851 out of 8,872 Democrat votes (43%).  The Republican straight party voting was 2,157 out of 11,984 Republican votes (18%).

Brian and I are going to compare the primary and general election turnout next, so be on the lookout for an update…

Lesson Learned – Always Listen

I missed Dale Jackson’s show yesterday morning.  Yes, I know that Roger Richardson was scheduled to be a guest and that it was an important pre-election show, but, I didn’t listen.

Well, I sure learned my lesson.  I missed the biggest event to hit the State of Alabama since WVNN went All Dale All the Time. 

Really, I missed Dale joking that Democrats vote on Wednesday, plus I missed seeing Dale’s satirical Press Release which said the same thing.  Jackson admits that cutting and pasting the State seal into his press release was a mistake.

From now on, I plan to listen to Dale daily – no excuses, no rolling over, no vacations (well, maybe except for going to the beach, and maybe I’ll just sleep through the first hour, and maybe the dog ate my radio).

The Democrats are going to try to take Dale’s scalp for his stunt – but the joke’s on them – Dale shaves his head.  Seriously, Dale may be in trouble a bit and he’s probably got some explaining to do.  Secretary of State Beth Chapman’s office seems to have overreacted to the stunt by issuing their alarmist Press Release.

Good for Dale Jackson for standing up for free speech – satire is speech.

Arsenal Light Rail – Gooch Response

Doug Gooch, proposed developer of the Bridge Street to Redstone Arsenal Light Rail system, responded to my criticism of his proposal here.  I’ve bumped his comments to a post because: a) IMO this is an important issue; b) as a transit user (where appropriate) and fan I like this topic; and c) IMO Gooch deserves the space since he took the time to reply.  Here are his comments:

Thank you for kindly posting our proposal for public review. We actually have an updated more detailed version with additional team members you will be equally impressed with. We would be happy to share it with you. (edit email adress)

For the record I am a life long, moderate, Republican.

After leaving the University of Kansas in 1979 I moved to a small to mid sized Central Florida town, Orlando. My career in Architecture and Construction began in 1980 and spanned the next fifteen years involving hospital, municipal, theme park and corrections design. Three rail proposals came and went during that time. High Speed bullet trains to connect Orlando/Tampa/Miami, low speed commuter rail systems, all failing due to right of way issues = expense.

I watched as Orlando made all the classic mistakes of growth management. Urban sprawl on their scale took up three counties; Orange/Osceola/Seminole.

Buildings and housing development occupied land that should have been set aside for transit needs. It wasn’t and today I-4 and a myriad of toll roads offer residents the only alternatives to move within their road system.

May I take this opportunity to respond to your dismissive remarks and clarify our altruistic approach to a long range need for planning for our community’s future. My family go back several generations in North Alabama. My mom is a Schrimsher and my dad is from Florence. My great grandmother Schrimsher was a chamber maid at the Montesano Hotel. This is home now and my prayer is that we don’t let happen to Huntsville what has happened to so many towns who experience “rapid” growth. (See I didn’t use exponential)

If you will allow me we will follow your comments as an outline.

To suggest if any city in America were to bring online in a very short period of time (ten years)over FOUR MILLION square feet of adjacent office space as an inappropriate use of the term “exponential” then I want to be a contractor in your world.

You are correct my family are the previous owners of the Sister Gooch restaurant in Madison. Since you feel that is important to include in your comments you might like to also know that prior to 9/11 we enjoyed a very successful business, with many of our customers coming from Redstone. Post 9/11 we went from 300 lunch customers a day to less than 100 overnight. Their response: “We can get off post to go to lunch but can’t get back on in time”. I know very personally the cost to business when security changed at Redstone.

Rather’s quote aside, American’s don’t like to wait for anything. Note the arrival of the phrase “Road Rage” to our lexicon. Is that not the virtue of the blog, instant response to an idea or comment?

The chances of powering 100% of this system with solar are almost as good as receiving a well researched and thoughtful response in the world of internet chat. By design this forum provides instantaneous response.

We realize the major role TVA does play and will play in this technology. Our neighbors(literally)at NASA have a lot of smart folks who have led the field in research involving solar. Makes sense we invite them to participate since one of the proposed stops is at Marshall.

The Chamber found 22% of the workforce in Madison County lives outside the county. The bulk of that number enter from west of town. These folks come from Decatur, Athens, Hartselle, Cullman and many from as far as Tennessee. Granted 53 and 72 carry many of those commuters into our system, but a large group use 565 as their point of entry to get to work.

Our suggested means of moving cars off the road is to use proven “speed pass” payment systems(try driving the Florida toll systems without one)to enable drivers to be routed off 565 prior to entering the primary road systems of the Central Business District (CBD)to park and ride into a central station. Upon arrival at the Central Station riding an escalator up to a second story Security Portal, where with the proper badge you may take a secure train car to Marshall, Von Braun 3,2,1 and Sparkman Center while reading the paper, working on your PC or Blackberry, sharing a conversation or just enjoying the fact that you don’t have to drive.

You have the proposal, look at the Google image of cow pastures along the route onto Redstone. The first leg anticipates reusing(read cost savings & Green) a heavy rail track that was created in the 40’s to deliver the materials needed to build the original Redstone.

History repeats itself. The east/west route follows parallel to Martin Road on the north of current and future development. Some reuse of rail may also be possible along this leg as well. An elevated leg would be anticipated over Rideout at the point the train heads east to access Marshall. One of the advantages to the system is crossings can occur within existing road designs.

The Redstone train is operated in a SECURE environment. Unfortunately given the world we live in an event could occur requiring major security restrictions. This is not a question of if but when. How do we get the 46,000 cars going on Restone today to their desks when the gates are all but closed to limited personnel? Buses? That’s alot of buses and from where? Telecommute? To a point but chances are alot of folks are going to be scrambled due to the event and will be mission critical to our response.

Now due to a Pro Rail administration many funding sources are available which previously did not exist or were not a funding priority. Our schedule was very aggressive at best. Were this a purely government run project there is little if any hope of making timely decisions. If we faced multiple property owners as Birmingham and others faced this would be a twenty year plan. We don’t.

Funding priority and access to alternative funding mechanisms may also come as a result of Security and infrastructure needs of BRAC.

Charlotte most closely resembles our community when looking at other cities with Light Rail systems. Their income and educational statistics closely resemble ours. They too have high concentrations of educated, well traveled citizens like that of greater Huntsville.

I would offer you visit to see the Light Rail experience of our lead transportation consultant, Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin. Charlotte is but one of their many projects.

We welcome your comments, ideas and yes,criticism. All of us are alot smarter than any one of us… if I knew who said it I’d give them credit.

I sincerely appreciate and welcome comments and realize this is a major undertaking not to be taken lightly. We see this as an opportunity to countless numbers of firms needing work in tough times and each element represents a project within itself.

I would hope that respondents would keep an open mind and not be to quick to judge.

Thank you for your indulgence.

I stand by my criticisms:  “…the plan – my first impression is what a load of BS”.  Perhaps a better, less dismissive term would be oversold: the plan was unrealistic as written (solar power – Gooch moderates that issue in his response), security cost savings aren’t likely, and the proposed schedule was ridiculously aggressive.  Plus IMO the system would be very costly (my guess is about $250 million to build – who knows how much to operate) - show me how I’m wrong.

I also stand by my opinion that I like the idea of planning for a transit rail system in Huntsville and that the base security aspect of the proposal has merit.  Plus the team that Gooch proposes is “impressive”.

It’s good to see that Gooch plans to elevate the rail system where it crosses Rideout road.  It’s also good to see that the ‘solar’ stuff seems to have been mostly fluff.  I can see using solar where appropriate at stations but as far as I know solar power doesn’t make trains go.

About the restaurant – I included the reference to Sister Gooch in  order to provide some background on Gooch.  I know many people who miss the restaurant. 

Gooch also offered a copy of his revised proposal and we’ll make it available ASAP.

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.

What’s next for FTH

Free the Hops successfully lobbied for the Gourmet Beer Bill raising the alcohol limit of beer sold in Alabama from 6% to 13.9%, allowing for about 98% of the beer brewed in the world to be sold here (in theory).

I say ‘in theory’ because some beer is packaged in containers too large to be sold in Alabama (e.g., fancy Euro-beer in 750 ml wine-sized bottles).

FTH is a truly non-partisan grassroots organization with a track record of getting one bill passed in three years (which is not bad IMO).  Elected officials and candidates across the State were routinely asked to support FTH and the effectiveness of the group has been proven.  Young people who may not have been politically active have been educated (for real, as in real life) about the political process.  I’ve heard strangers talk to each other about which committee or which house passed the bill (as a political junkie I find that fascinating).

So what’s next?

Should FTH fold up the beer tents and declare success?  Or should the group take on another campaign to improve Alabama’s beer laws?  Some people have suggested that FTH take on ‘important’ causes like immigration or focus on improving wine and liquor laws.  But you know what? A group founded to change beer laws should stay true to it’s mission.

Free the Hops can only be expected to lobby for changes to Alabama’s beer laws – and there are many areas that could be improved:  container size (as mentioned earlier, but note that some people think that 40s would make that a hard sell, especially in an election year); brewfest laws (codify existing practices); brew pubs (remove historical location restrictions); breweries (allow tap rooms); and licensing (all kinds of stuff).

The next project will be decided soon at a state-wide FTH meeting – I hope that FTH considers a long term strategy and focuses on enabling legislations (my choice - brewfests – to secure a funding stream) so that we don’t have to do anything twice.

Security Clearances Nowadays

It’s been awhile since I’ve had to deal with Security Clearances.  Once upon a time, I knew secrets and was even a Facility Security Officer a couple of times.  It is a very serious topic, unless you’re a big-name Democrat like Sandy Berger or John Deutch (in which case the rules don’t apply to you).

Just this morning, I was interviewed by a DOD investigator for a clearance for a friend of ours.  They used to do it on the phone, but nowadays they do it in person.  The investigator was a very pleasant young lady who recently moved to Huntsville from Georgia.

I started out saying that I knew this was very serious and that the last question she would ask would be ‘would I trust this person with the security of the United States’ or something like that and that I could just answer yes right now and we could be done (I know it doesn’t work that way).

The interview was pretty fun.  We chatted about her and Huntsville and kid-friendly things to do (e.g., Monte Sano, Botanical Garden), then we talked about the person under investigation: how long and how well do you know the person, financial situation, other income (I spilled the beans about the possible sale of a web application), foreign travel (I said he’d TOLD me he was a Marine, but I didn’t KNOW that), drinking and drug habits (I’ve never seen the person drink more than a couple of beers), and associations with anti-American groups (I’m fairly certain he’s a right-wing extremist, according to the DHS).

What I found interesting was that the investigator had been trained at least a bit in interrogation – she was checking out my responses and even asked me questions about the guy like “what’s his wife’s name?”.

And then… the last question… Would you trust blah blah blah? Absolutely.

I am honored to have been named as a reference for this security clearance.

Whatever YOU want

Remember the great movie ‘Coming to America’ starring Eddie Murphy?  Remember the arranged marriage, and the woman who replied “whatever YOU want” to every question and who ended up standing on one leg and barking like a dog?


That image is what came to mind today as I read the Huntsville Times article on the House 6 race.  “Whatever YOU want” seems to be Jenny Askins answer to any question:

“I feel like I’m more open to hearing what the constituents want versus what I want,” said Askins… “I just want to know what message you want me to take to Montgomery.”

It is very revealing that in response to Williams’ “call for ethics reform”, Askins says “that could be an impediment in Montgomery”.  In other words, she’s willing to go along with the rampant corruption in the Democratic Party.  When will Democrats stop stealing from children (i.e., Sue Schmitz – D – awaiting sentencing for stealing a couple of hundred thousand dollars from schools)? When will Democrats start running candidates who aren’t corrupt or who won’t abide corruption?