HHA meeting tonight – 29 Oct

The Huntsville Housing Authority is holding a public hearing tonight:
Thursday, October 29
5:00 p.m.
Oscar Mason Center
149 Mason Court
The HHA will try to make the case that ‘public housing is good for your property values’.  The South Huntsville Civic Association will be there, and I’d guess that there will be several interested politicians attending as well.
One of the real problems people face when fighting City Hall or Federal agencies is that you’ve got a life and you’re making sacrifices to even show up at a meeting, while the bureaucrat can fight you full-time (paid by your taxes) – or worse, hire someone to fight you (also paid by your taxes).

Tim James to sign highway tax pledge

GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim James announced that he will sign the Madison County highway tax pledge.  He joins fellow Republicans Bill Johnson and Bradley Byrne in pledging to increase road funding for Madison County.  From James’ blog:

If elected Governor of Alabama, I will create a special statewide BRAC initiative to coordinate all communities to be prepared for the 2015 review. This will help give us the competitive edge for not only Huntsville but also Montgomery with Maxwell Air Force Base, the Wiregrass with Fort Rucker, Anniston with the Army Depot, and Lee and Russell Counties with nearby Fort Benning, Georgia.

Let’s take the approach that everyone in Alabama benefits from a BRAC transfer to an Alabama military base. As a result, we need to focus our state resources to invest in highways, bridges, sewer systems and schools for communities that will need to meet BRAC requirements.

To this end, I am signing the pledge to commit at least 80 percent of Madison County highway tax revenues back to Madison County. 

I’m pleased that James reconsidered his position on the pledge.   Road funding for Madison County has been out of whack – our taxes will still fund projects in the rest of the State, but we need more than the $0.53 for each dollar we send to Montgomery.

Brian wrote about this as a ‘campaign gimmick’, but since it is the Madison County Commission, City of Huntsville, and City of Madison who are pushing the pledge, and not the candidates, I don’t see it as much of a gimmick.  I see it more as our local politicans addressing the issue.

What about the other candidates?

Project phaseout

City Journal published “Project Phaseout” by Howard Husock, which contains some interesting observations about public housing.  City Journal is on my favorites list because they write great articles, usually with a New York flavor, but still applicable to us.  Here’s a taste:

Reformers once believed that publicly built apartments would be an improvement over the slums they replaced. Today we know how wrong those reformers were. Public housing has bred long-term dependency; in New York City, public-housing tenants remain in the system, on average, for 20.1 years, free from the time limits that apply to other forms of welfare. A perverse federal requirement that rent be set as a percentage of income discourages families from striving to earn more and better their circumstances, since that would just hike their rent. From a social-policy standpoint, public housing is rightly considered a disaster.

I don’t know that Huntsville Housing Authority can (or would want to) implement Husock’s idea for shrinking public housing.  I’m guessing that the HUD rules under which they operate actually encourage growth in public housing.

Mark your calendar – March 2

In what may be the biggest political event in Huntsville since the 1819 Constitutional Convention, Right On Huntsville and the Madison County Young Republicans will host a Republican Gubernatorial Forum on Tuesday March 2, 2010. 

Robert Bentley, Bradley Byrne, Kay Ivey, Tim James, Bill Johnson, Roy Moore, and James Potts are all expected to face off before a packed house in what will probably be (no kidding this time) the biggest GOP debate in the State.  Details are still TBD, but expect to see it on TV or show up in person to meet the candidates.  If the event comes off as planned (so far so good), it should be very successful and a credit to Huntsville.  Maybe we’ll even get a few roads out of it…

Yes, I know that NCIS airs on Tuesdays at 7PM, and that it’s the #1 show on TV (as of Sept 2009), so we’ll try to keep the candidates on schedule.

We must protect our watershed

Sam Sandlin, coordinator of the Flint River Watershed,  wrote the commentary “We must protect our watershed” for The Huntsville Times (published Saturday 24 Oct).  Sandlin wrote an informative, factual article containing useful tips with which IMO we can all agree.  I couldn’t find the article online, so I’ll try to give you a fair use summary.   It’s worth buying a copy of the Times if only to thank them for running the article.

Locally, we are blessed to have abundant water sources… we should recognize this blessing and apply conservation techniques to our water use and land management whenever possible to protect our assets, so to speak.
As the rain drains off the landscape to the river, it accumulates sediment from sites where soil has been disturbed, mixes with residues of gasoline, oil and other substances from concrete and asphalt surfaces, or picks up other pollutants like excess fertilizers, litter, household chemicals, and occasionally biological waste from animals or failing septic systems.
Healthy watersheds will filter and slow down this runoff of storm water before it can contaminate our streams and rivers.
- Minimize erosion with some sort of ground cover like trees, grass, or mulch on your property.
- Prevent soil erosion by minimizing disturbed areas on construction sites.
- Limit the use of chemical fertilizers and soil test for maximum efficiency.
- Dispose of household hazardous wastes wisely and never pour them on the ground or into a storm drain.  Use the first Saturday drop-off at the Huntsville landfill
- …Keep livestock away from streams, provide an alternative water source and keep vegetation along waterways.
- …Treat water as a precious resource and conserve it whenever possible. For example, we have all heard that by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, you save about three gallons of water.  It’s true.
- …Learn about the local watershed, find out what land use plans are for your area and be involved in the future of your environment.

Water is a public resource which according to our legal tradition, derived from Roman Law and English Common Law, is therefore managed by the Government.  As conservatives dedicated to limited and efficient government, we should be as supportive of protecting our water as we are about protecting life and liberty.

Fertilizing when needed and minimizing erosion just make good sense.  It’s cheaper to use the right amount of fertilizer (soil analysis kits are available at the Extension Office on Cook Ave – IIRC $7) plus I think it’s interesting and educational to know what’s in the soil.  As for erosion, you don’t want the land you paid for ending up in the River.

Sandlin mentions that slowing down storm water runoff helps filter contaminants and promotes a healthy watershed.  One way we can accomplish this locally is to develop greenways instead of the concrete creeks we’ve got.  I know that the concrete creeks are good for flood control (by speeding the water out of neighborhoods), but slowing down the water with (more) natural courses and vegetation is better for the environment.  The City has a tough balancing act and should be credited with implementing pretty good flood mitigation measures.  However, I think that we need to move faster on the greenways, not only for the protection of our water, but also for the sidewalks (the original mass transit) and recreation that greenways can provide.

Disclosure – I’m a Pisces ;)

John Fisher announces candidacy

Republican John Fisher of Tuscaloosa kicked off his campaign for Alabama House District 63, to replace Republican Dr. Robert Bentley, who is retiring from the State House to run for Governor.  From Fisher’s website:

I will focus my efforts on creating jobs, assisting small businesses, educating our children, protecting our families, balancing our budget, and mandating Christian-based ethics in state government.

From the Tuscaloosa News, “Newcomer John Fisher running for House seat”:

Fisher is the first Republican to formally enter the race for the District 63 seat. Susan Pace Hamill, a University of Alabama law professor, has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

The primary election for the seat will be June 1, 2010, with the runoff, if needed, slated for July 13, 2010. The general election will be Nov. 2, 2010.

Democrat Susan Pace Hamill is a Tax Law Professor known  for advocating shifting taxes from the poor onto large landowners and corporations (invoking her Christian vision – according to her, Jesus likes redistribution of wealth).  Her article, “A Fair Tax” (not to be confused with “THE” Fair Tax), explains What Would Jesus Tax:

A careful look at Bush’s tax policy reveals values reflecting objectivist ethics — a form of atheism that worships the free market and the right of individuals to personally benefit from their efforts above all other concerns. For a Christian this is disgraceful conduct.

The absence of Judeo-Christian values in tax-policy discussions is a sign that genuine faith is in deep trouble. Christianity in particular has become a low-sacrifice operation. Jesus Christ did not preach a low-sacrifice gospel.

Strangeways here we come

Both of Alabama’s Senators, Republicans Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, today endorsed Luther Strange for Attorney General

When asked for comment about the announcement, Luther Strange said “Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me”. 

Remember that after the 2006 election for Lieutenant Governor, Big Luther said “I started something I couldn’t finish”.  Now, with Sessions and Shelby on board this early in the GOP Primary race for Attorney General, the Strange campaign may believe that it’s just “A rush and a push and the land is ours”.

Senator Shelby’s announcement that ”I won’t share you” comes as a blow to Attorney General Troy King, who received $25,000 from Shelby in the 2006 campaign.

Both the Sessions and King camps focused on the voters of Alabama, saying “Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before”:

“The people of Alabama will have to make up their own minds, but I have a high opinion of Luther and I think he would make a fine attorney general,” said Sessions, through a spokesman.

Chris Brown, a spokesman for King’s campaign, said King respects Shelby and Sessions but, “He’d rather get his votes from the voters instead of some people in Washington.”

While this isn’t the “Death of a disco dancer”, it is certainly an “Unhappy Birthday” present for Troy King (his birthday was a few weeks ago).

Some Republicans have been trying to “Paint a vulgar picture” of King:

King also is in a public dispute with Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, over the spread of electronic bingo in the state.

On the Democrat side, candidates may include Michel Necrosi (“Girlfriend in a coma” – I don’t know her, just fitting the theme)  and  Giles Perkins (“Death at one’s elbow” – all I should need to say about Perkins’ lack of judgment is that he was active in John Edwards campaign).

BTW - Strangeways Here We Come was the fourth and final album from The Smith’s, an influential 80s band many of you have probably never heard (but you should, it was a great band and IMO this was their best album).  Please forgive me for the silly commentary surrounding the song titles, but I couldn’t help myself.  UPDATE:  if you’ve got to explain something too much, then it didn’t go over very well and probably wasn’t funny.  Note that the phrases in quotation marks are the song tracks from the album ‘Strangeways’ – i.e., as far as I know, Michele Necrosi is not the ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ from the song. 

Okay, now for real, this is an “extraordinary” development.  Getting the endorsements of both Republican Senators in the GOP Primary for Attorney General is just… that little extra.

“This is a sign of just how alienated Troy King has become from the Republican establishment,” said David Lanoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama. “This is pretty extraordinary.”

I think that Troy King has established a good rapport over the years with ‘rank and file’ Republicans by attending meetings and giving tough on crime speeches.  But this can’t help King – especially since the endorsements were announced so early (and during the Primary).  It will be interesting to see how this affects his fundraising.   However, I’m just really “intrigued” by what might have motivated Shelby and Sessions to endorse Strange over King. 

It is an intriguing development inside the Alabama Republican Party to have the GOP’s two highest-ranking federal officials actively working against an incumbent they helped elect three years ago.

Disclosure: I’ve voted for both Troy King and Luther Strange.

MCGOP – 17 Oct 2009

Dr. Robert Bentley, State Representative from Tuscaloosa and gubernatorial candidate, gave a great speech at the Madison County Republican breakfast this morning.   Bentley’s speech focused on four areas: 1) Economic Development, 2) Education, 3) Health Care, and 4) Ethics.  Bentley seems to like lists but he didn’t use notes, saying his speech came from “his head and his heart”.

Economic Development – Alabama’s “primary problem is unemployment” and the only proven way to stimulate the economy is through tax cuts and incentives, and by creating and sustaining an environment that is attractive to industry.  The #1 reason companies locate in Alabama is that we are a ‘right to work’ State.  Alabama needs to continue to improve the 2 year college system and technical schools to develop well-trained workers.  Alabama needs to keep the cost of doing business low – by keeping taxes and especially property taxes low.  We also need to keep energy costs low – Bentley opposes cap and trade and says it “punishes the South”.  We need to improve the quality of life and infrastructure.

Education – K-12 ideas include performance pay for teachers, vouchers, and redo tenure laws (i.e., so that teachers in prison for molesting students aren’t getting a State paycheck).  Bentley describes the 2 Year College System as a “gem”and suggests that both 2 and 4 year colleegs should offer more job-specific degrees.

Health Care – since Bentley is a Physician, this is an issue he knows very well.  Bentley opposes single payer health care or socialized medicine and the rationing which will result from that system.  He proposes ‘medical workforce development’ and subsidizing State school tuition in exchange for a commitment to practice in Alabama.

Ethics – on crooked politicians: “going to Montgomery doesn’t make you a crook, you’re a crook before you get to Montgomery”.  Voters need to consider a candidate’s morals when voting.  Bentley says “let the light shine on Government” as a way of promoting openness and transparency.

Bentley admits that he’s not the best known candidate, but he notes that he is the most experienced candidate in the race, plus he’s the best qualified to negotiate difficult budgets.  He also noted that he’s “always been a Republican” and that he’s never supported a Dukakis or a Clinton.

My opinion – Bentley’s speech improved my estimation of his candidacy.  I agree with him that he doesn’t have the name recognition, but he does have a good platform and he is a clear and effective speaker.  I met him at his Huntsville kickoff and Brian and I interviewed him when we filled in for Dale Jackson on WVNN.  Bentley’s health care proposal is a good idea that should be picked up by all the candidates.  I liked him personally and enjoyed chatting with his wife (we share an interest in gardens).  I didn’t like that he wasn’t a Free the Hops supporter, but he did say he would’ve signed the bill as Governor.

Several other politicans and candidates attended the breakfast, including Mo Brooks and Les Phillip (candidates for AL05 Congress); John Wilson and Don Spurlin (candidates for State Senate 9); John McMillan and Dale Peterson (candidates for Agriculture Commissioner); and Stephen Evans (candidate for Public Service Commission).

BTW, Stephen Evans and I were Facebook friends before I met him today.  I don’t know how much Facebook helps a candidate – but it’s cheap and gets a candidate’s message out to supporters. 

As an example, I know that Attorney General Troy King is using his Facebook page often and he gets good comments from supporters (2,636 ‘supporters’).  IMO he has established rapport with supporters using this new communications channel and I enjoy reading his posts.  But then again, so has my ‘friend’ Luther Strange (1,499 ‘friends’).

Elected officials in attendance included State Representatives Howard Sanderford, Mike Ball, and Mac McCutcheon; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; Judge Dick Richardson; and Gurley Councilman Lee Sentell.

USS New York underway

The USS New York (LPD-21) left New Orleans this morning headed to New York City for commissioning.  The ship is a San Antonio (LPD-17) class ship which was built incorporating steel recovered from the World Trade Center.  Huntsville’s own Intergraph played a role in the development of the ship class, providing design and data management tools and services to the Northrop Grumman Avondale Shipyard.  The LPD-17 program was one of the first shipbuilding projects to use an integrated data environment in the design and construction of the ships (think CAD / CAM).

The ships are pretty cool (I guess I think that all ships are pretty cool) and have as much new technology stuffed into them as possible.  The LPD-17s were built using stealth design and materials (like the enclosed mast).  They were also made to be as comfortable as possible for the crew and embarked Marines – with sit up bunks and an updated kitchen and dining rooms (er, galley and mess decks).  The ships have a fitness center and classrooms for briefings and training.   

An LPD (or Landing Platform Dock) is an amphibious warfare ship with a well deck for landing craft and amphibious vehicles plus a flight deck for helicopters.  LPDs carry about 700 Marines, and usually operate as part of an Amphibious Ready Group (which is made up of an an Amphibious Task Force of three ships and a Marine Expeditionary Unit of about 2,200 Marines plus lots of helicopters).  Add a cruiser and some destroyers and a submarine, and you’ve got an Expeditionary Strike Force.  BTW, the USA has seven MEUs either deployed or getting ready to go.

The USS New York’s motto:

“Never Forget”

GOP Wins TN 62

Our next door neighbors in Tennessee elected Republican Pat Marsh in a special election todayPat Marsh got 56% of the vote, defeating Democrat Ty Cobb who got 41%.  Constitution Party candidate Chris Brown also ran (as an Independent).  All of the candidates are from Shelbyville. 

Tennessee’s 62d District covers much of Lincoln County (Fayetteville), all of Bedford County (Shelbyville), and a little bit of south Rutherford County.  Marsh won in all three Counties.  The District has been represented by a Democrat since forever, and ironically, the special election was called to replace Curt Cobb (Ty’s brother), who resigned the office to work for Bedford County.

The race was a priority for both parties, the mud got slung pretty hard, and I think I read somewhere that the race cost around a total of $200,000 (for a part-time job that pays $20,000).  Governor Bredesen (D) campaigned for Cobb; State Senator Jim Tracy (R – Shelbyville) campaigned for Marsh.  I was wondering if the Constitution Party candidate would hurt Marsh in the election, but that didn’t happen. 

BTW – Democrat Cobb declined invitations to debate his opponents. 

The election expands the GOP majority in the Tennessee House to 50 representatives (vs 48 Democrats).