Archive for April, 2008

Triple Whammy for Larry

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

This hasn’t been a good day for Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford. First, Jefferson County senators failed to approve either of two proposals to raise the mayor’s pay (one would be immediate, the other would be effective at the beginning of the next term of office). Then Transit Director David Hill found his backbone and refused to implement Larry’s four-month bus fare holiday until the city disburses some promised funds to help pay for it. Langford thinks Hill should be fired for daring to defy him. I think it’s possible Mr. Hill finally got around to reading about Larry’s propensity to spend money he doesn’t have, which led in part to the SEC filing suit against the mayor.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission today filed a federal civil complaint against Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, Montgomery banker Bill Blount and lobbyist Al LaPierre, claiming Langford received benefits in exchange for county bond business.

The SEC, in the action filed in Birmingham federal court, accuses Langford of accepting more than $156,000 in cash and benefits from Blount in exchange for helping Blount’s firm, Blount Parrish and Co., obtain $6.7 million worth of county bond and financial business between July 2002 and August 2004.

The SEC also accuses Langford of obtaining help from Blount and LaPierre to secure and later pay off personal bank loans. LaPierre is accused in the civil action of receiving $219,500 from Blount to help obtain the county’s financial business from Langford.

If you’re up for some light reading, the SEC filing is here.

Homewood Mayor McCulley Apologizes for McCain Discount

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley apologized yesterday for giving the McCain campaign a huge discount on the rent for a fundraiser last week. He was, however, unrepentant about providing free inmate labor to set up the event.

The campaign was charged $250 to rent two rooms, which have a posted rate of $1,200.

“I did exceed my authority by changing the rental rate of Rosewood Hall prior to the John McCain event,” McCulley said in a three-page statement. “At that time, I believed that I had been given that authority.”

…McCulley did not apologize for using jail labor to help in the set up before the event, which attracted national attention, including a New York Times column Sunday.

“I haven’t had second thoughts about it,” McCulley said. “I would make the same decision regardless of the event if our regular set-up people weren’t available. I don’t think that was a mistake at all.”

Apparently the Homewood City Council has discussed giving discounts to “worthy causes, such as nonprofit benefit events”. Perhaps Mayor McCulley, on hearing that McCain applied for public financing last year, believed his campaign to be a nonprofit.

The Mayor has asked the McCain campaign to pay additional rent to make up the difference, although I assume they’ll still be spared the usual $100 setup fee.

Before the Mayor’s sudden revelation, he sent out what looks like a canned response to those who objected to his decision (text after the jump), wherein he offered to give Senators Obama and Clinton the same discount if they want to hold an event in Homewood. I’ve also seen some comments from the right side of the aisle on local blogs making fun of Democrats because they are supposedly too stupid to ask for a reduced rate on facilities rental. Perhaps they don’t understand the implications of making an in-kind contribution to a political campaign. In the comments below, Lisa in Hoover notes:

My experience with political campaigns was that we had to pay full freight on EVERYTHING. You pay the top column-inch rate on newspaper ads – no discounts for volume. You pay the top rate for radio and TV. Plus you have to pay in advance. I certainly have never heard of a public facility giving a discount to a campaign event.

Perhaps the Mayor should have asked an expert first.

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Garden Blogging: Progress Report

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

After my sad post a few weeks ago, my friend Miss Wild Thing gave me some great advice. Give your grief to the earth, she said. Make a garden that will honor the memory of your brother. So — I’ve been working on that, and it has been quite therapeutic.

While cleaning out a long-neglected flower bed in the back yard, I found an iron garden stake/wind chime in the shape of a butterfly buried in the debris and decided to build a butterfly garden. I thinned out the existing irises and daylilies and dug up enough chives for every baked potato in Jefferson County (the chives are a remnant of the herb garden I started probably 13 years ago). On the newly cleared back rows and in an area beside the bed I planted lantana, purple coneflowers, and yarrow that will, I hope, grow up the back fence and draw lots of these creatures.

The tomatoes are doing quite well. We had our first bloom on Saturday; I was a bit surprised to find it on the Celebrity rather than the Early Girl. Pictures after the jump.

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Happy Birthday, Don!

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

happy-75th-birthday.jpgThis is a big one. Don is 75 today, and he puts us young whippersnappers to shame, tirelessly lobbying the Alabama legislature to institute Initiative and Referendum and growing his own tomatoes and peppers and scuppernongs and a whole mess of other produce. Have a great day, Don!

Take Action!

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Want to let Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley know what you think about his giveaway to the McCain campaign? The folks from Bright Blue Dot have a couple of suggestions:

TODAY, contact the city officials responsible and let them know how you feel:

Mayor Barry R. McCulley
City: 332-6103
Cell: 229-7321
Email: barry.mcculley@homewoodal.org

City Council President, J. “Ginger” Busby
Voice Mail (City) 332-6113

FOR THE NEXT 2 WEEKS, every time you shop, eat or fill up in Homewood, let them know you’re spending “Blue Dot Money.” Just write the phrase on your receipt and make sure they get it. It’s easy. Painless. And it makes a point, quietly and powerfully. If enough of us do it, business leaders will let the mayor hear from them. And we think he needs to hear from everybody.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Day of Silence

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Today is the 12th annual Day of Silence, a student-led effort to bring attention to anti-LGBT harassment and to make schools safer for all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. I’m proud to say 14YOD’s high school is participating, and she’s going early to get a sticker. This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of Lawrence King, a 15 year old junior high student who was murdered by a classmate because of his gender expression. Far too many kids have to live in fear that something similar will happen to them:

GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey found that 4 out of 5 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety.

This is not acceptable, and it needs to change. Efforts like the Day of Silence will make that happen. Please stand in solidarity with the students today, and while you’re doing that, sign the petition to support Equality Alabama’s Safe Schools Initiative.

Langford Bringing in Homophobic “Prosperity Theology” Preacher…

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

…to help him with his sackcloth-and-ashes praying-on-the-streetcorner extravaganza. Yep, he’s invited Bishop Eddie Long, “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement”, to participate in tomorrow’s spectacle [edit: scheduled for 6 PM CDT Friday 4/25]. Here’s a taste of what Bishop Long says in the pulpit:

“It is the most unattractive thing I have ever seen, when I see women wearing uniforms that men would wear, and women fighting to get in the military!” Long shouted to his congregation then. “The woman gets perverted to turn towards woman … and everybody knows it’s dangerous to enter an exit! And everybody knows, lady, if you go to the store and buy these devices [marital aids], it’s Memorex! It ain’t real!”

The audience, seated in a congested sanctuary, erupts in laughter. But what Long says next is no joke.

“God says you deserve death!”

Yeah, that’s the way to reduce violence — invite a man who preaches that gays and lesbians deserve death.

Oh, by the way, Bishop Long (more crazy raving here; he’s a bit obsessed with the blood of virgins) is also one of the subjects of a Senate investigation of televangelists who exhort their followers to give till it hurts while they live in mansions and fly on private planes. Sounds like he and Larry will get along great.

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Equality Alabama is urging citizens to contact Langford and ask him to repudiate Bishop Long’s homophobic views and rescind his invitation. It’s short notice, but the mayor needs to hear from us. Click here for more information.

h/t Lisa in Hoover

Happy Blogiversary…

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

…to the good folks at Left in Alabama. I’m one day late, but so are they. :)

Congratulations!

McCain’s Campaign Gets 80% Discount, Free Inmate Labor for Homewood Fundraiser

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley has stepped in it with this one. He’s supposed to bring requests for discounts to the City Council, but for some reason he decided to rent the McCain people a room at Rosewood Hall for $250, substantially less than the going rate of $1,200 for a weeknight event. He also provided free inmate labor to set up the tables and chairs, waiving the usual $100 set-up fee.

Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley said the rental rate was discounted because the event was on Monday, a slow day for business. City Council members say they always vote on such discounts but didn’t get a say in this deal. They’re upset, as are local Democrats.

“I think it’s outrageous,” said Robert Yarbrough, chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Party and a Homewood resident.

“I was charged full book rate. I was never offered any free inmate services to set up for my event. Mayor McCulley owes an apology to every citizen in Homewood as to why he arbitrarily changed the fee for this out-of-state senator from Arizona.”

Yarbrough rented the entire hall, three rooms, on Thursday nights in September 2006 and September 2007 for the Democratic Blue Dot Ball fundraiser. The weekday fee is $1,700 for all three rooms, according to the official rates. Yarbrough said the Democrats paid more than $2,500 for all charges each year.

McCulley claims Council President Ginger Busby agreed to the discount, but she says different.

“The mayor asked me if the hall could be free for the McCain event, and I said absolutely not,” Busby said. “He then asked if it was appropriate to charge a lesser fee for Mondays. I said as long as it didn’t cost the city money, it could be considered.”

That’s right. The Mayor had no problem charging one of his own tax-paying citizens full freight, but he wanted to give away the store for John McCain. Does anyone else think party affiliation might have played a tiny part in his decision?

City Council member David Hooks is also concerned about the legal ramifications of the city making what amounts to an in-kind donation to a political campaign. Perhaps the Mayor just assumed that every taxpayer in Homewood is a McCain supporter. Robbie Yarbrough won’t be the only person telling him he’s wrong.

Sackcloth and Ashes

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Mayor Larry Langford to the city of Birmingham: I will put on a big publicity stunt event where I talk a bunch of people into wearing burlap bags, and that will solve the city’s crime problem.

I only wish I were kidding.