Archive for July, 2008

What a Relief! Larry Won’t Ask for an Escalade

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Yesterday, Kyle reported that the Birmingham Finance Department was soliciting estimates for a brand new Larrymobile, a 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT with fancy features that regularly sells for more than $65,000.

Today, the mayor said he wouldn’t ask the taxpayers of Birmingham to provide him with an Escalade. How nice of him! And the way he talks, you’d think he’d never mentioned the possibility. So how does he explain this?

Langford, who has his own Escalade, said the city staff made the request for bids to get estimates on how much it would cost to provide the mayor with a city car comparable to his own.

So, if he didn’t ask for an Escalade, then why were city employees getting estimates?

“I didn’t ask for a car. I’ve already got a car that I worked and paid for myself,” Langford told The Birmingham News this morning. “I didn’t ask for anything to begin with, but on the same token I shouldn’t be spending my own money when the city by law is obligated to buy the mayor a car.”

Langford says he wants the city to provide a car allowance rather than purchase a vehicle for him, and at first glance that actually makes sense to me. However, the city can’t legally pay an allowance at this point. No problem for Larry. In a bit of unintended irony, he says the city shouldn’t waste time on something so mundane, and he’ll just go to the Legislature to get the law changed. Because the Legislature has time to waste on mundane things (an obvious opening for yet another rant about our stupid state constitution, but I will spare y’all this time).

“I resent how we focus on the mundane and the stupid when in fact it’s not something I asked for to begin with,” Langford said. “Before this becomes an issue I’ll just keep my car and ask the Legislature to change it (the law) and give a $750 a month car allowance and pay for the gas.”

Wait a minute. $750 a month plus gas to keep driving his own Escalade? As Kyle points out, Escalades get about 12 miles per gallon in the city and 16 on the highway. Those gas bills could get mighty high, especially if Larry’s still driving in from Fairfield every day. And didn’t he just implement a four-day work week for city employees in order to reduce gas consumption?

I say forget the car allowance and buy him a nice new hybrid. The taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for his toys. *

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* “Nobody can buy more cars than I buy. The only difference between men and boys are the size of their toys, and you all sell the toys that I like.” — Larry Langford

John Archibald on Joel Montgomery’s Lawsuit

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

“Montgomery puts the all in gall, the city in audacity, the front in effrontery.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Troy King on the Radio Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Loretta Nall notes that Troy King is scheduled to appear on “The Dale Jackson Show” (WVNN 770AM/92.5FM in Huntsville) tomorrow morning (Thursday) at 8:00. The topic was to be today’s scheduled execution of Thomas Arthur (why am I not surprised that Troy couldn’t resist the opportunity to crow over it?), but the Supreme Court delayed it indefinitely this afternoon. I wonder what they’ll find to talk about instead.

If you’re interested, you can listen live here.

ETA:  Dale Jackson asked King about his promotion practices and then asked him to address the rumors that have been swirling.  Loretta has audio of the questions and his response here.

Larry to Churches: Get on Board the Sackcloth Express

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford castigated a local clergy group today because he doesn’t think enough churches participated in his sackcloth and ashes rally back in April. He also criticized churches for espousing prosperity theology, a valid point IMO, but pretty funny coming from the man who accessorized his sackcloth with a Rolex and designer shoes.

“I really think he’s called the church to repentance,” said the Rev. Mike McLemore, president of the [Metro-Birmingham Evangelical Ministers Association] clergy group and director of the Birmingham Baptist Association, after the mayor’s speech. “He’s serious about prayer.”

Set aside the questionable propriety of an elected official preaching sermons on the taxpayers’ dime, and note the irony of Larry Langford calling others to repent their desire to get rich and accumulate material goods.

In 2002, about the same time he was running for county commission, Langford had accumulated about $70,000 in credit card debts and department store bills. Most of that debt was for clothes, he told the SEC.

“I’m a kind of a clothes person,” Langford said. “I like clothes.”

In other settings, Langford has rhetorically attacked parents who buy their children expensive tennis shoes and designer clothes they can’t afford.

“We pay $120 for a pair of sneakers for a 12-year-old child. Are you crazy?” Langford said in his inaugural speech. “You are paying $60 and $80 for blue jeans with the names of somebody tattooed on your children’s butt you don’t even know. When was the last time Tommy Hilfiger was at your house?”

Indeed, Langford wouldn’t be caught dead wearing Tommy Hilfiger or shopping at the mall. When Langford needed clothes, he went to Shaia’s the upscale clothing store for men in Homewood among other places.

There, according to his testimony, he bought at least $40,000 worth of clothing, all on store credit. By the summer of 2002, his store account was close to going to collections.

He had other debts, too, including two home equity lines, credit cards and car notes.

Last November, Birmingham News metro columnist John Archibald discovered that at least one mortgage Langford had was disproportionate to the value of his Fairfield home. Probate court records showed that in 2000, Langford had received a $300,000 mortgage on his home. In 1999, the same house had been appraised at $96,430. The loan from The Bank — now Superior Bank — was for three years. If he ever paid it, there is no record.

These debts are in addition to his expensive taste in cars, including a Cadillac Escalade and a Chevrolet Corvette. Langford doesn’t hide his spending on cars, and he even bragged about it last year to a group of car dealers angry about his 100 percent increase in business license fees.

“Nobody can buy more cars than I buy,” he told the car dealers in a committee meeting last December. “The only difference between men and boys are the size of their toys, and you all sell the toys that I like.” [emphasis added]

Anyway, Larry wants the city to have three prayer rallies a year, and he wants the churches to take time away from ministering to their communities to set up his grandstanding opportunities. I bet he’s already picked out his next ensemble. A designer hair shirt, anyone?

AL Supreme Court Delays Arthur Execution

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

The state Supreme Court has again delayed the execution of Thomas Arthur, who was convicted of the 1982 contract killing of Troy Wicker Jr. The decision came in the wake of dueling affidavits, one from another inmate confessing to the crime and another from the victim’s wife, who put out the contract, swearing Arthur was the killer.

Initially, Judy Wicker said an intruder raped her and killed her husband. She had injuries consistent with her story, and investigators collected a rape kit along with other evidence. Nonetheless, she was accused of having her husband killed for insurance money, convicted of murder, and given a life sentence. Only later did she accuse Arthur, with whom she was having an affair at the time of the murder. In exchange for her testimony, prosecutors recommended parole, and she was released from prison after 10 years. Arthur, who has admitted to a previous murder, has always denied this one. (For some background on the case, see here and here.)

Arthur’s lawyers have been pushing for some time now to have DNA tests run on the rape kit, contending that the results could indicate that another person was present at the time of the murder. OTOH, if the DNA is a match for Arthur, it would certainly bolster the case against him. Prosecutors have refused to run the tests, and the governor has refused to order them to do so (there’s some dispute as to whether or not he has that authority). Today, we find out that the state has lost the evidence in question, so, unless someone finds it — or perhaps “finds” it — the testing will never happen.

I’m curious. Just how long has the state known the rape kit was missing? Yes, this case is 26 years old. Evidence could have been misplaced or discarded long before the tests were requested. But given the high profile coverage over the past year or so, I’d think someone would have checked on it before now. So was it lost in the sands of time, or did it disappear recently?

And if it does turn up, would the state just run the damn tests already?

The Sun Will Come Out

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I was horrified, as I know all of you were, by the shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Knoxville. There will be time, somewhere down the road, to contemplate the level of hatred that could motivate one human being to attack and murder others over a difference in political philosophy. Right now, I’d like to share with you a first-person account written by Bekitty, a regular at Shakesville.

Bekitty is a member of the TVUUC and was present during the shooting. She lost two fellow congregants, one of whom was a close friend. Her story is powerful, conveying the terror of the moment, the dreadful pain and loss, and the wonder of a community that has and will continue to come together to care for each other and work toward healing.

Read it here.

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ETA:  If you’d like to help, click here.

Playing Favorites

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Following up Sunday’s exposé of skewed salaries in the Attorney General’s office, the Birmingham News editorializes today that Troy King should be concerned about public perception of his favoritism.

Just what kind of law firm is Attorney General Troy King running?

Clearly, one that promotes and generously pays those fortunate enough to be in the inner circle. As a story in Sunday’s Birmingham News points out, King has aggressively rewarded his favored employees with better titles and bigger paychecks.

It’s likely that King will have some unhappy employees in the wake of Sunday’s disclosures — that’s assuming staffers didn’t already know about them.

“It’s certainly not unprecedented,” said E.J. “Mac” McArthur, the head of the Alabama State Employees Association. “There obviously is some flexibility for elected officials and their staffs.”

McArthur said he has received no complaints about King’s hiring practices. But he said he’s seen agencies’ morale plummet when political appointees’ pay is “out of kilter with those salaries paid in the merit system” or when their pay is increased while others go without routine raises.

“That’s like taking a wet mop and slapping everyone in the face with it,” McArthur said.

The editorial writer doesn’t imply that King is doing anything illegal. Rewarding loyalty is an integral part of our political system, and if we tried to outlaw it, politicians and their supporters would continue to find ways to circumvent the rules. (Yes, I’m cynical. Also realistic.)

But when the state’s top law enforcement official makes it clear that political loyalty is substantially more valuable than qualifications, experience, or job performance — well, then we have the US Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not.

He Can’t Be Serious

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

montgomerymugshot.jpgRemember last year when Birmingham City Councilor Joel Montgomery got so drunk that he fell on his face in a Southside parking lot? And then got abusive and sexually inappropriate with the police after he was arrested for public intoxication? And later got the charges dismissed in return for agreeing not to sue the city, despite reneging on his agreement to attend alcohol counseling?

You’d think he’d be grateful that he was able to weasel out of the whole debacle without a recall vote, but it seems he just can’t leave well enough alone. The Birmingham News reports this morning that Montgomery is suing the parking lot owner.

Montgomery’s suit said he was injured on April 7, 2007, when he fell three feet to the pavement while walking across a wall beside the parking lot.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday afternoon, contends the owners of the parking lot at 13th Avenue South and Richard Arrington Boulevard, failed to maintain it in a reasonably safe condition. The owner, J.H. Berry and Co., also should have warned people about the danger from the dropoff, the suit said.

I suppose it’s also the owner’s fault that Joel Montgomery got drunk that night. If there’s any justice in the world, his suit will be laughed out of court.

Troy King and the Amazing Incredible Expanding Paychecks

Monday, July 28th, 2008

The Birmingham News ran an article yesterday (the online version of which is in serious need of an editor’s mouse) detailing the inflated salaries of some of AG Troy King’s aides. King’s chief of staff and spokesman, Chris Bence, apparently managed to keep a straight face while explaining how King had designated Bence a paralegal this spring — despite his complete lack of legal education or experience — in order to increase his salary from $94,000 to $104,400. He says Troy did it to make up for the three years he didn’t get a raise. And, according to him, the AG has the authority to appoint five paralegals without regard to their qualifications.

Okay. Assuming Bence is telling the truth about not getting a raise for three years, it might be reasonable to give him what amounts to around a 3.5% annual increase in pay. (Although, geez, $104,000 to be Troy’s spokesbot? Maybe it includes combat pay.) What’s not reasonable is allowing the AG to confer the title of paralegal on someone who hasn’t earned it. It’s an insult to the actual paralegals who have put in the time and effort to obtain what is, in the real world, a professional designation.

The article’s most explosive account, however, is the meteoric rise of 24-year-old John Godwin, Troy’s executive assistant.

(more…)

News Flash: The Mayor Is a Litterbug

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Not to mention a grandstanding wacko who thinks the answer to Birmingham’s problems is to incur new debt of $154 million. Yeah, I know municipalities sometimes must borrow for big capital expenditures, but with Larry’s record of debt management, the City Council would be crazy to go along with him.

As for the litterbug part, watch closely at the beginning of the video. This is just more Larry hypocrisy, exhorting neighborhoods to clean up after themselves (as they should) while he tosses his cigarette butts in the gutter. Sort of like his sackcloth and Rolex ensemble. Way to lead by example, Larry.

I heard through the grapevine that one of those poor officers made the mistake of locking his knees during the mayor’s presentation of his super-duper top-secret plan. Those of us who remember marching band days know what happens when you lock your knees. He apparently passed out and hit the floor, gun and all.

Or perhaps he was simply overcome by Larry’s awesomeness. Yeah, that must have been it.