I know why the caged bird sings

Northwoods Flyer

Northwoods Flyer








…a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage…

I attended Huntsville City Councilman Will Culver’s town hall meeting, where Culver presented the City’s plan to improve pedestrian safety while crossing University Drive (40,000 vehicles per day).  Three people have been killed crossing the street, and eighteen injured, over the past ten years.  City Traffic Engineer Richard Kramer says that it is one of the most dangerous pedestrian crossings in Huntsville (West Clinton Avenue and Memorial Parkway downtown round out the top three).

Regular readers know that I like Culver – I think he has grown as a Councilman.  Culver conducted the meeting professionally, asking the audience to hold their comments for the Q&A after the presentation. Culver brought relevant City leaders to the meeting, plus Councilman Dr. Richard Showers and HHA Director Michael Lundy. About 80 or so people attended the meeting – Steve Doyle of The Huntsville Times, Eric Sollman of WAFF 48, and Chase Gallimore of WAAY 31 reported on the meeting. 

Culver’s plan was to close Yukon and Glacier Street at University, improve pedestrian crossings at Arctic and Meadow, and build a nice-looking landscaped fence along University to channel pedestrians to the improved crossings.  Culver worked with the City, State, and Huntsville Housing Authority for months developing this plan – and presented the plan at “3 or 4″ previous town halls.  Culver’s plan would cost ~$70k, much less than the two pedestrian bridges desired by residents (bridges cost ~$800k each).

Culver doesn’t want pedestrian bridges due to the City’s experience with the bridge by UAH – people loitering, sleeping, and defecating on the ramps.

Culver’s plan sounds like a reasonable technocrat-approved solution.  However, the solution gets volatile when you add people.  

Steve Doyle of The Huntsville Times wrote “Northwoods public housing residents reject fence along University Drive to deter jaywalkers”:

It was clear from the outset of Tuesday’s meeting that Culver’s plan was in trouble. One Northwoods resident said a fence gives the appearance that the city is “trying to imprison us.”

Another woman distributed a flyer with a picture of jail bars and the caption, “Do you know what the City of Huntsville has in store for your neighborhood?”

The Rev. Al Garrett with Interfaith Mission Service suggested Huntsville police conduct a safety campaign to educate children in Northwoods about the dangers of jaywalking on University Drive.

The city should also encourage construction of a convenience store on the Northwoods side of University, Garrett said, so residents won’t have to cross the busy road to shop at Chevron or Jet-Pep.

An exasperated Culver replied to the flyer “we are not here to lock folks up” and addressed (with HPD Chief Hudson, Fire Chief Sublett, and HEMSI Chief Webster) each of the claims made on the flyer:

- Do you want to be FENCED in?
- There will ONLY be ONE way in and ONE way out!
- Do you want to be bothered by heavy traffic AND noise?
- Do you want to be DENIED access to University Drive?
- How will POLICE, FIRE, or AMBULANCE get to you?

The audience politely listended to Culver’s presentation, and the Q&A was spirited but at one point out of control.  Imagine a heated Chaffee or Blossomwood meeting and turn up the volume, add some colloquial expressions and some arm-waving, and you get the idea.  People care about schools, roads, and crime.

Many residents want AAA school moved out to reduce traffic, objecting to “people busing in children from other neighborhoods” – Cavalry Hill school should be for “our kids”.

Residents also brought up the revised FEMA Flood maps, noting that several residents are disabled and without transportation.  This is a great point – does the HHA have a plan to evacuate disabled residents?  Does the City have a plan for all residents?

A representative of the Bicycle Advisory Committee cited a Federal Transportation Authority Pedestrian Safety Report (link to PDF), which recommends several “treatments” to improve pedestrian (and bicycle) safety.  She suggested a median similar to Governors Drive (between the Parkway and Triana), which would give pedestrians a safe zone while crossing seven lanes of traffic.

One resident asked HPD to watch for little kids crossing University and “take them home and arrest the parents”. Sgt Mark Roberts said that the HPD does pick up kids, but often there are no parents at home.

The lack of convenient shopping in the neighborhood was mentioned as contributing to the need to cross University Drive, as well as students walking to Butler High School.  Culver and Lundy said that they are looking at ways to bring in shopping.

Reverend Garrett made some good points, saying that it’s “important for the Police and the Council to exhaust all approaches”, suggesting a safety campaign and outreach to the two churches and AAA school.

The residents voted on Culver’s plan, and soundly rejected it (50 to 7).  Culver closed the meeting, saying: “You have spoken, I have heard, there is no fence”

…for the caged bird sings of freedom.
- Maya Angelou

City Council should boot the boot

The Huntsville City Council reportedly will vote on the “Fightfighter Boot” ordinance at the December 2 meeting.  The Firefighter Boot Ordinance would allow firefighters to collect money from motorists at city intersections to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Let me praise Huntsville’s public safety professionals for a minute.  I was in an accident several months ago and the firefighters who responded were compassionate and professional, as were the police and paramedics.  It is disconcerting to regain consciousness as firefighters are assessing your injuries – the firefighters were calm and thorough – I was in good hands.

Keeping that in mind, I agree with Police Chief Mark Hudson that the Firefighter Boot ordinance endangers public safety:  “I’ve been doing this 30 years and have never seen a pedestrian win a pedestrian-vehicle crash”.

I think that the Firefighter Boot ordinance promotes an unnecessary risk for the volunteers panhandling at intersections.  The firefighters proved that they can raise money for charity without the ordinance ($16,500 for breast cancer equipment).  I urge the Council to vote NO to the Boot.


Councilman Mark Russell “says the Rocket City needs a written policy spelling out what incentives it is willing to offer to lure new shopping”:

“It seems that over the past year, many more developers are calling me and asking for the City Council to get involved in their projects,” Russell said recently. “The environment’s changing … and I just want to make sure the city isn’t missing out on any opportunities because we don’t have a (retail incentive) policy.”

His resolution would allow any retailer that spends $30 million-plus building a new store in Huntsville to keep as much as half of the local sales taxes that it generates — up to $2 million a year.

In a rare instance of disagreement with Russell, I don’t like this “retail incentive policy” because it subsidizes only one class of business - major retailers.  I’m not a fan of government interference in the free market.  For example, this policy might reward a WalMart, but not a Star Market or Hibbett’s Sports or Mama Annies.  Note that I like WalMart but I don’t think they need a subsidy.  Also note that if the incentive brings IKEA or Nordstrom to Huntsville, I like it (ack! slippery slope).

Even worse, the policy subsidizes “new construction” while we have numerous empty big box stores.

I am all for City policies (and fairly applied incentives) to encourage and support retail and commercial business – but this doesn’t do it for me (the bike rack requirement didn’t either).


James at Huntsville Development News announced that he started working for the City this week as a retail specialist with responsibilities ranging from “mapping out vacant and underused retail properties throughout the city, to locating potential grocery store sites/chains for under served urban areas (like the NW and SW sides).”

Since part of my job is to come up with ideas to improve areas of the city, you may see more “Ideas” posts for general neighborhoods and corridors. My hope is that I will be able to get valuable input from you, the reader, on as many ideas as possible.

I encourage you to add Huntsville Development News to your favorites.  Thanks to Mayor Tommy Battle for making this happen - gathering data to support decision-making - what a concept!

Molly Teal says party at her house

Molly Teal

Molly Teal










I attended the Huntsville City Council meeting tonight (I’ve been watching them on TV so I thought it might be a short one).  Not all of them are this much fun, but I encourage everyone to attend a meeting now and then.   

Did I say fun?  Absolutely, darling.  Tallulah Bankhead, Molly Teal, Maria Weeden, Russell Erskine, Leroy Pope Walker, and Gov. C.C. Clay were all in attendence.  The personages from the Maple Hill Cemetary Stroll (Huntsville Pilgrimage Association) were there to receive recognition for their work in restoring the Maple Hill Cemetary (they’ve raised about $250,000 for preservation of the cemetary).

BTW Madam Molly Teal ran a house of ill-repute, which later became Huntsville Hospital.  Think of that next time you visit…

Liz Hurley accepted a check for $16,500 from Huntsville Fire and Rescue and the Huntsville Firefighters Association which will be used for breast cancer equipment at Huntsville Hospital.

Councilman Colonel John Olshefski was welcomed to the Council – he said that he was putting together his team to develop a strategic plan – I’d like to be a fly on that wall…

The biggest issue discussed tonight was whether or not the firefighters should be allowed to collect donations for Muscular Dystrophy at street intersections (‘Firefighter Boot Ordinance’).  The con argument (from City Attorney Joffrion):  it may be un-state-constitutional (cities can’t support NGO charities) and un-US-Constitutional (equal protection) and unsafe for volunteers / drivers and liability / worker’s comp issues. The pro argument (from Fire Chief Sublett):  firefighters want to do it and are willing to accept the risk and other cities do it.  HPD Chief Hudson opposed it for public safety reasons, pointing out that while police / fire personnel were trained to direct traffic, they usually have an emergency vehicle with lights flashing nearby.

City Councilmembers seemed to support the concept, but were wary about the legalities, liabilities, and risk.  IMO it is an unnecessary risk to City personnel and it would create traffic delays.  The firefighters proved (tonight!) that they can raise money for charity without this technique.

It was fun to see a high school classmate’s little sister (who is now a well-respected attorney) advocate an ordinance to another fellow high school alumnus (who is now a well-respected city administrator).  When the biggest issue of the day is the ‘Firefighter Boot’ ordinance, you know you live in a cozy town.

The Council voted to authorize the Mayor to hire James from Huntsville Development News to perform a ‘retail inventory’ of the City, in anticipation of retail growth.  I’ve been reading that blog for a couple of years, and James is bright, competent, and creative.  Good move, Mayor Battle.

The next Council meeting will be an economic development work session held on November 18 at 6PM.

The Huntsville Museum of Art will showcase the new addition in a public open house on Sunday, November 21st.  The museum’s construction is on time and on budget.

District 3 Forum at Ditto

From Barry Pendergraft:

On Tuesday, September 28th,Former Huntsville Police Lieutenant Barry Pendergraft and former Redstone Arsenal Garrison Commander John Olshefski will talk about the issues at the Kingston Pavilion on the Tennessee Riverfront at Ditto Landing’s Marina.

The event begins at 6:00 p.m. and will be moderated by Wally Kirkpatrick, the Chairman of the Huntsville-Madison County Marina and Port Authority Chairman.

Huntsville budget work session – Mulch!

“Mulch” was the word of the day at the City Council budget work session.

I mow my leaves and the mulched leaves get mixed in with grass clippings forming a high quality, low NPK (Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium), low cost soil amendment.  I don’t bag grass clippings – but I raid a neighbor’s bagged grass clippings for my compost pile – shh.

Leaves are high in carbon (60:1 Carbon/Nitrogen ratio); grass clippings are high in nitrogen (19:1 C/N ratio).  If high nitrogen grass clippings do not get enough carbon, the microbes in the soil can’t process the nitrogen into a usable form – the leaves provide the carbon (God will provide).  Composting / Mulching increases the organic matter content of the soil, lowering soil bulk density enabling plant roots to spread out more easily.  Over time, the soil improves and your plants love you more for it.

I didn’t like the vacuum leaf service when it was started and good riddance.  It was a bad plan – putting leaves on curbs to be washed into gutters requiring not only leaf picker uppers but also drainage leaf getter outers.


My overall impression of the City Council budget work session is…  Great Job!  Thanks to Mayor Tommy Battle, Deputy Mayor Rex Reynolds, Finance Director Randy Taylor, and all who worked on the budget. I still have some questions about the budget, but that’s due more to my ignorance than their effort.  Jonathan Hitt and I pored over the budget prior to the meeting – nothing jumped out at Hitt (who is a Defense Contract Audit Agency Accountant), but we would like to see more detail (like at the cost account level).  Reynolds said that the City will provide that level of detail online.

Finance Director Taylor explained some of the assumptions made, like the 2% sales tax increase. The 2% reflects recent sales tax growth of 3% while considering last year’s 1% sales tax increase.

My Councilman Mark Russell (D-2) asked some probing questions – for example asking HPD Chief Mark Hudson if the $100k cut to the police budget would impact public safety – Hudson replied that HPD cut some operating expenses but that the number of policeman would stay the same.

Landscape Management Director Joy McKee said that the City will mow on a 3 or 4 week cycle instead of the current 2 week cycle.  The Green Team will examine getting the public involved in park maintenance and getting companies to help out more (e.g., maintaining medians in Research Park).

Public Works Director Terry Hatfield said “mulch or compost” and that the City has 10 leaf trucks that are about 13 years old, plus 4 pull-behinds that can’t be used in the rain.  One of the trucks may be used in the cemetaries.  The leaf vacuums seem to be maintenance pigs.  Councilman Richard Showers asked about services for the elderly – Mayor Battle was prepared and tasked Community Development Director Michelle Jordan to ask church-affiliated World Changers if they could expand their current lawn mowing program to include leaf pick up.

HR Director Byron Thomas? said that the City is going to a 2-tier insurance plan instead of the current 4-tier plan.  The 2-tiers are single and family (singles might pay less for insurance, families might pay more).

Councilmember Sandra Moon was concerned about case management at the 1st Stop program for the homeless in light of their budget cut of about $5k.

Councilman Will Culver advocated for reviewing the hold on employee raises if sales tax collections unexpectedly increase.


Steve Doyle of The Huntsville Times wrote “Garbage rates likely going up, loose leaf pickup down in tight 2011 Huntsville budget” (Doyle was accompanied Editorial Page Editor John Peck):

The Huntsville City Council is poised to pass the first residential garbage rate hike since 1999.

During a work session Thursday, a majority of council members voiced support for Mayor Tommy Battle’s proposal to increase garbage fees from $14.50 to $16.50 a month [The $14.50 monthly fee paid by homeowners is well short of the $18.23 per home the city spends providing the service].

Charging more for trash pickup is one way Battle hopes to erase a $14.8 million deficit in 2011.

His recommended budget for next year also cancels the city’s popular loose leaf pickup service, slashes spending on both city departments and nonprofit agencies such as the library, postpones road projects and reduces operating hours at city recreation centers…

Taylor said the city spent $655,000 on the [loose leaf vaccum] program last year, including more than $500,000 for worker salaries and benefits, $43,000 for overtime pay, $26,000 for gas and $75,000 for equipment use and repair.


I was pleased to see District 3 City Council candidate John Olshefski at the work session.

The municipal election runoff is October 5, 2010.  Races in District 3 are for City Council (Olshefski vs Barry Pendergraft) and City Board of Education (Walker McGinnis vs Jennie Robinson).  District 2 voters choose between David Blair and Emily Elam for Board of Education.  I’m voting for Blair and have one of his yard signs.

Prior to the municipal regular election, Blair attended the School Board budget work session while Elam was attending the Arts Stroll looking for votes.  Blair needed 7 votes to win without a runoff, so one could argue that he too should have been out campaigning, but I prefer officials who show up for the heavy lifting.

Multimodal transportation system – sidewalks



























Sidewalks are the foundational technology of a multimodal transportation system and the most basic form of public transportation.  What we (don’t) see in the pictures above reflects poor planning and execution.  I struck through the planning part because I’ll bet that someone in the planning department has a pretty good plan for sidewalks.

Mayor Tommy Battle mentioned Complete Streets a few months ago, saying he “agrees totally” with the message of Complete Streets.  Personally, I don’t agree with making streets more dangerous in order to slow down cars, but let’s put that aside.  Here’s what Complete Streets has to say about sidewalks:

Nearly every transit trip begins as a walking trip – but the disconnect between transit and road planning means transit riders are often left to wait at bus stops marked by a lone post in the grass – no sidewalk, curb ramp or bench.

OMG!  It’s like they saw my pictures before I even took them.

In the Proposed 2011 Budget, the City is borrowing $200k for “Sidewalk Projects – Engineering” plus annual spending of $100k for “Sidewalk Projects – PWS” for a total of $300k (Capital Improvement Plan, page 30).  The City spent the same amount in 2009 and 2010, funded with the same mix of debt / annual appropriation.  It is encouraging to see the City projections for 2012 through 2020 rely not on debt, but on annual spending albeit at $300k per year.


IMO the City should focus on a coherent plan with additional funding to develop sidewalks that complement the transit system, the greenways, and major roads.


If the City has $50,000 to spend on one football game (with plans to do it again next year), then the City has enough money, period.  How many books can the Library buy with $50k?  How about hiring another police officer?  For those who pay for “Privilege Licenses”, how do you like your license fees increasing by 9.8%?  [oops - the license fee increase is from "estimated growth" of 9.8%.  The only fee increases are "Animal services", "Public safety alarm fees", and $2 / month "Sanitation fees" plus "scheduled increases" to parking and recreation fees]

You know what really bothers me about the football game?  It benefited 5,589 people associated with a university (whose alumni have higher than average income).  It was paid for by Huntsville taxpayers who earn an average of $28,444 (estimated 2008 per capita income).  City leaders should think about the average taxpayer before they write checks. 

The next budget work session is Thursday September 16 at city hall in council chambers at 3PM.  The final budget is to be approved at the next city council meeting September 23 at 6PM (Thanks Lonnie B).

Olshefski Meet and Greet – Report

I attended John Olshefski’s Meet and Greet at Stonemark tonight.  My first impression was great – there was a polite young man of about 10 greeting guests at the door.  My second impression was great – Olshefski was wearing a Land Trust shirt.  My third impression was great – Steve Below (fellow Free the Hops member) picked out the beer.  Turnout was good, more than 80 people attended the event. 

I got to speak with Olshefski, Jonathan Hitt, Kelly Sims, Robert Davis, ‘Vince’, and Ken Arnold.  I used to work with former Councilman Arnold and his early support for Olshefski raised my comfort level with Olshefski. 

Olshefski made a short speech (the best kind) focusing on his campaign themes of Quality of Life, Investment and Revitalization, and Accountability.  Olshefski talked about how the owner of a new restaurant had to jump through hoops at each level of government just to open his business (BTW Straight to Ale brewery had similar issues – why does the City / County / State make it hard on business).

Olshefski spoke flanked by Hitt and Sims (3rd and 4th place candidates who endorsed Olshefski) – saying that Hitt would help review the City budget and Sims would help revitalize the Parkway.  For those wondering what they ‘got’ in return for their endorsement – that’s it.  Hitt gets the enviable task of reviewing the City budget with Olshefski.  Olshefski then thanked his campaign team.  Good speech.

While I’m on the topic of the City budget, I’d like to note that we are blessed to have Randy Taylor working for us as our City’s Finance Director.  Taylor is always prepared for Council meetings, always has his facts and figures straight, and is a great person to boot.

Olshefski and I talked about education (plus I got an earful about the blog).  Olshefski is involved in The Schools Foundation’s Speak Up initiative (which is sponsored by groups like Boeing, Toyota, SAIC, and Dynetics).  I guess if you work for those companies maybe you can speak up at a PTA meeting, but watch out if you’re a soldier like C.J. Grisham ‘speaking up’ against a school policy. 

What I like about Olshefski is that he understands the strategic long term value of great schools – and seems willing to mass resources to achieve that goal.  We cannot allow our good schools to slip and we must improve our failing schools.  I think he values decision-making based on data and evidence.

Disclosure – my step-mother has an Olshefski sign in her yard.


Apologies to the Barry Pendergraft camp, but I’m going rock hunting tomorrow so I can’t make the breakfast – maybe someone can send us a report.

Pendergraft SHCA Meet and Greet

From the SHCA:

South Huntsville Civic Association would like to invite you to attend Meet and Greet sessions with our endorsed candidate for Huntsville City Council District 3 – Barry Pendergraft.  If you would like to discuss issues that impact south Huntsville as well as ways to improve our community – now is your chance!  Join us for breakfast and conversions with Barry Pendergraft.
Meet & Greet – Barry Pendergraft
Candidate for Huntsville City Council District 3
Endorsed by SHCA
Saturday, September 11, 2010
8am to 10am
Edith Anne’s Diner
11243 Memorial Parkway S
After our numerous discussions with Pendergraft we believe that he recognizes the importance of the SHCA and will work closely with our organization. SHCA strongly encourages members and supporters to vote for Barry Pendergraft for Huntsville City Council District 3 on Tuesday, October 5th.
For more information on Barry Pendergraft visit his website at www.pendergraft2010.com.

Huntsville Elections 2010

Vote Tuesday!

City of Huntsville elections for two Council and three Board of Education seats are tomorrow. 

In my District 2, incumbent Councilman Mark Russell got a free pass (no opposition) – I would have voted for him anyway so that’s okay.  In the District 2 school board race,  The Huntsville Times recommends David Blair.  The South Huntsville Civic Association endorsed David Blair.  I think that Blair’s experience as a former school board member will be helpful as the board searches for a new Superintendent and deals with the budget.  I’m voting for David Blair.

The District 3 Council race features eight candidates.  The Huntsville Times recommended John Olshefski and Barry Pendergraft.  The South Huntsville Civic Association endorsed Pendergraft.  The Kingmaker Dale Jackson of WVNN endorsed Jonathan Hitt.    Brian endorsed Jonathan Hitt.  Disclosure – I contributed to the Jonathan Hitt campaign.

For the District 3 School Board seat both The Huntsville Times and the South Huntsville Civic Association recommended / endorsed incumbent Jennie Robinson.

Incumbent  Councilman Bill Kling received The Huntsville Times recommendation for District 4.

Incumbent Board of Education member Topper Birney got The Huntsville Times recommendation for District 4.

It doesn’t seem like the School Board will change much, but I hope that they adopt a better process for evaluating the School Superintendent (after they find a new one).  The school’s budget is a mess, and I hope that the new board provides more oversight than they do now.  Consider “optimistic” revenue projections (even though tax collections are down),  State prorationing,  savings accounts already spent, borrowing $8 million from next year to meet this year’s operating expenses, ‘borrowing’ from this year’s construction account to meet this year’s operating expenses (to be paid back next year) – the budget is a train wreck.  Creating a bow wave of borrowing to meet current expenses is an unsustainable plan – heck, it’s not even a plan – it’s fairy dust and unicorn farts. 

Did you know that while the budget for teachers is being cut, the budget for Administration is being increased?  Challen Stevens wrote “Budget woes in Huntsville City Schools;  could soon borrow $8 million”:

The board plans to spend $143.5 million on instructional salaries next year, down from $153.3 million last school year. Administrative salaries, which account for 3.2 percent of the budget, went up slightly from $5.6 million last year to $5.7 million this year.

Good to know:

Other than incumbents, only two school board candidates, David Blair and Mark Huff, showed up.

Who says there’s nothing to do in Huntsville:

A second public budget hearing, required by state law, will be held Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. at the Merts Center on White Street.

South Huntsville Civic Association Forum

Update #2: Video of the forum has been added below the fold.

Update: Here are the straw poll results:

  • James Lomax – 26%
  • Kelly Sims – 24%
  • Barry Pendergraft – 22%
  • Jonathan Hitt – 17%
  • John Olshefski – 8%
  • Shannon Moore – 2%
  • Deborah Sobczak – 0%
  • James Henley – 0%

Brian and I attended the SHCA City Council District 3 candidate forum last night at Grissom High School.   The event drew a good crowd and plenty of elected officials and candidates.  Eight candidates are vying for the office:  James Henley, Jonathan Hitt, James Lomax, Shannon Moore, John Olshefski, Barry Pendergraft, Kelly Sims, and Deborah Sobczak.

‘The Kingmaker’ Dale Jackson (WVNN 92.5FM / 770AM) emceed the forum.

Candidates gave opening speeches, then sets of three candidates answered eight questions, then they answered a lightning round, and then gave closing statements.  Here are the paraphrased questions and answers:

Question 1 = Huntsville’s financial position, balanced budget, and what to cut?
Lomax = expand economy; small TIFs; develop Ditto Landing.
Pendergraft = we’re hurting and it’s going to get worse; history of wasteful spending (like $500K for downtown parking garage / condo); Big Spring Park construction; recommends buyouts and early retirement.
Sims = unsustainable debt load;  possibly need water treatment plant; basics versus downtown; empty shuttle buses.

Question 2 = South Huntsville revitalization?
Hitt = Chamber of Commerce hasn’t been promoting D3.
Henley = build a Bridge Street-type development.
Olshefski = TIFs.

Question 3 = build an additional High School to serve District 3?  Note that Grissom is in D2.
Sobczak = “not running for school board”; no.
Lomax = “absolutely not”
Moore = says GHS has improved.

Question 4 = HHA and smaller properties?
Pendergraft = “decentralization of poverty does not work” and “crime follows public housing”
Olshefski = transparency; doesn’t support buying apartments; equality between Districts; Federal mandate; suggests Louisville Hope 6 grant program as model [I'll look into that].
Henley = against HHA actions.

Question 5 = downtown?
Moore = need to revitalize South Parkway.
Sims = wants to benefit all Districts equally; will not support private development with public money (like Big Spring Partners).
Hitt = shouldn’t revitalize downtown at the expense of the rest of the City.

Question 6 = examples of fiscal irresponsibility?
Olshefski = art museum expansion; Mary Jane Caylor’s Parkway Billboard; parking garage / lofts.
Sobczak = art museum and HVAC rebalancing (she critiqued the design and estimating process).
Lomax = parking garage / loft;  take care of local needs / finances first as part of a larger national movement.

Question 7 = transparency / public awareness?
Henley = watches Council on TV; improve media coverage; civic groups.
Moore = it’s our duty to hold government accountable.
Pendergraft = end “backdoor politics”; TV; town halls.

Question 8 = TIF (borrow money for projects then pay back from expected property tax gains)?
Sims = TIF for Ditto; emulate Chattanooga;  rail line from downtown to Ditto.
Hitt – hesitant to use TIFs because of borrowing; gain at the expense of others and puts Government in position of picking favorites.
Sobczak = Jones Valley Farm didn’t use a TIF and is successful; no TIFs.

The lightning round didn’t differentiate the candidates much: all no to tax increases; all no to public housing; however, Olshefski and Hitt received most of their contributions from outside the District.

Be on the lookout for an endorsement from the SHCA soon…

What I like:
- the South Huntsville Civic Association for making a difference.
- District 2 City Councilmember Mark Russell for killing the downtown parking garage / young professional lofts.
- preserving Big Spring Park.
- pushing Chamber of Commerce to promote South HSV.
- Barry Pendergraft, as a retired precinct commander, stating that “crime follows public housing” contradicts the position that the HPD has been pushing for a year.
- the basics: roads, schools, public safety…

What I don’t like:
- buyouts (paying experienced people to leave)
- expecting “equality” for each District.  Should schools be allocated by Council District? Garbage Dumps? Water Treatment Plants? Shopping Centers?  That attitude ignores geography (i.e. mountains, rivers) and development patterns (major facilities and employers like RSA or the Hospitals).
- we are not Chattanooga (or in other words, Ditto is not downtown). Should we look for good models to emulate? Absolutely.  Let’s adapt good ideas wherever found, keeping in mind the realities of Huntsville’s development patterns.
- underinformed boosterism.  GHS rankings have slipped and now Bob Jones is the best HS in this area.  Recognizing that and figuring out why it happened so that effective actions can be taken is better than just saying ‘Grissom #1′.
- bashing the Art Museum.  I’ll leave it to the Art Krewe to respond to some of the criticisms.

Elected officials who attended: State Reps Howard Sanderford (R) and Mike Ball (R); County Commissioner and Congressional candidate Mo Brooks;  City Councilmember Mark Russell; and City School Board member Jennie Robinson.  More notables:  State Board of Education candidate Mary Scott Hunter (R); State Senate 9 candidate Clay Scofield (R); School Board candidate Coach Walker McGinnis;  HPD Chief Mark Hudson; and Huntsville Times Editor Kevin Wendt.

From The Huntsville Times “District 3 city council candidates discuss range of issues at forum”.


The race between incumbent School Board member Jennie Robinson and Walker McGinnis will be interesting – Robinson has been THE lone voice against the School Board’s incompetence and stupidity.  However, I’ve known and respected and liked Coach McGinnis for a very long time.  Kudos to James Lomax for turning out his supporters – I enjoyed meeting UAH ATO President Zac Bandy.  Congratulations to Will Pylant for pledging ATO at Alabama.  My comfort level with John Olshefski has increased: he hired Barbara Nash (she was a big Byrne supporter) as a campaign consultant, and he also has the support of Robert Davis (of Right On).

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