Friday, October 26, 2012

What Moderation Means - David Brooks - NYTimes.com

What Moderation Means - NYTimes.com: Moderates start with a political vision, but they get it from history books, not philosophy books. That is, a moderate isn’t ultimately committed to an abstract idea. Instead, she has a deep reverence for the way people live in her country and the animating principle behind that way of life. In America, moderates revere the fact that we are a nation of immigrants dedicated to the American dream — committed to the idea that each person should be able to work hard and rise.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The turtle rider: A Dauphin Island girl remembers a childhood spent in a different world | al.com

The turtle rider: A Dauphin Island girl remembers a childhood spent in a different world | by Ben Raines of al.com: Collins was born on Dauphin Island in 1932, decades before a bridge connected the island to the mainland. Island life meant no electricity, no running water, and no cars.

From Ben Raines:30 years of bird banding by Alabama couple has changed our understanding of migration | al.com

Nice piece and photos about great Alabamians:

30 years of bird banding by Alabama couple has changed our understanding of migration | al.com: For more than 20 years, Sargent, his wife Martha, and a gypsy caravan’s worth of volunteer bird lovers have gathered in this place to band as many migrating birds as possible each spring and fall. The couple created non-profit Hummer/Bird Study Group to finance their efforts.

The data they’ve collected from the hundreds of thousands of birds they’ve banded has changed the scientific understanding of annual migrations. They’ve proven that Alabama was home to seven hummingbird species instead of one, and shown that species once believed to be restricted to the coldest parts of the nation are regular visitors to the south. All in all, it makes for an impressive body of scientific work for a pair of retired electricians like the Sargents.

USA Today on Homewood: More small towns thinking big


From USA Today: More small towns thinking big: Homewood, Ala., pop. 25,000, borders the southern edge of Birmingham and has turned from an aging suburb of small single-family homes into a destination popular for its urban shops and restaurants.

The city tore down its old city hall and built one to anchor a new downtown, Mayor Scott McBrayer says. Parking is underneath. Upscale condos top shops and restaurants. A hotel is across the street.

"You can walk to grocery stores and shop downtown," he says.

Homewood's average age dropped from 60 to under 40 in about 10 years as a result.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Comparing Alabama in terms of conserved land

One of my first assignments at The Public Affairs Research Council was to write about the upcoming vote on the state's land preservation program, Forever Wild. Approval of the measure labeled Amendment 1 on the November ballot would extend Forever Wild for another 20 years.
A more extensive discussion of that amendment and others can be found in PARCA's Analysis of Proposed Statewide Amendments for the November 6th General Election.

To put Forever Wild in a regional context I produced a few maps and charts that might be of interest.
Here's a map comparing conservation land among Southeastern states. The information is drawn from the Conservation Almanac published by the Trust for Public Land. Their most current survey data is for 2005.
Alabama ranks last in the Southeast on all measures: acres preserved, acres preserved per capita, and percentage of total area preserved.




There are significant differences in land conservation among the various regions of the U.S. with a lot more public land having been preserved out west and a much smaller amount in the more densely populated Mid-Atlantic states.

So sticking with the Southeast region, here are a few ways of looking at the amount of land preserved in the Southeastern states in comparison with each other. You'll notice that state's like Florida and Arkansas with large national forests or national parks rank higher. But several states have been aggressive in recent years in land conservation, particularly Florida.




Forever Wild funding for the first 20 years


In November, voters will decide whether to extend the state's land preservation program, Forever Wild, for another 20 years. The program, which will expire this year if the Amendment 1 fails, receives 10 percent of the earnings on the state's oil and gas trust fund. 
Here's a look at how much it has received over the past 20 years. 
That money has paid for the preservation and management of 231,000 acres across the state: from waterfalls at the Walls of Jericho in North Alabama, to Black Belt prairie land, to swamps of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta to the estuary marshes of the Grand Bay Savanna on Mobile Bay.  

New job at The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama

I've now officially started at The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
Last week, we published a guide to the constitutional amendments that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. 
That guide was contained in our monthly newsletter, The PARCA Perspective. Also included is a discussion of why we have so many constitutional amendments to vote on. This November we could potentially add 28 amendments to Alabama's 1901 Constitution, which is already by far the nation's longest.
That would be more in a single year than have been added to the U.S. Constitution in more than 200 years. Alabama's Constitution currently has 857 amendments. 
Also included is a link to a PARCA analysis of the latest test scores for schools. You can find results for every school and system in Alabama.    
If you are interested, you can sign up to receive PARCA publications by email. There are instructions for signing up on the home page.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chef Collin Donnelly: The Small Town Chef 2012 - Cooking Light

If you ever happen to be in Lexington, Va., check out The Red Hen, a small and fine restaurant owned by my college chum, John Blackburn. His chef is an Alabama native, Collin Donnelly who was just named Cooking Light's Small Town Chef for 2012.
Donnelly can do things with things with obscure cuts of pork that will make you squeal.


Chuck Dean: Roy Moore talks of power, money, the Constitution and hemorrhoids



Roy Moore talks of power, money, the Constitution and hemorrhoids | al.com: "When I first ran for circuit judge I was informed that the qualities of a judge should be honesty, dedication and experience and I put that on my signs," said Moore. "After I was elected, an older judge called me in and said, 'Roy, that's not exactly what the best qualifications are. First, you must have thinning hair to show your age. Second, you must have glasses to show you study the law. Then you have to have hemorrhoids.' "
Moore said he asked why he needed hemorrhoids. "The judge then said, 'Hemorrhoids give you a concerned look.' "

Read more ...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Alabama again ranks second to last in the nation in environmental spending | al.com

Alabama again ranks second to last in the nation in environmental spending | al.com: Only Colorado spends less than Alabama on a per capita basis, said Scott Hughes, an ADEM spokesman. The data is compiled by the Environmental Council of States.

Alabama ranked 49th out of the 50 states in fiscal year 2012, LeFleur said, and will remain second to last for fiscal year 2013.

LeFleur has previously said that the state had chosen to have a barebones environmental agency. In his comments Friday, he said that the state might fail even that low bar in the near future.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bill Finch: What we often fail to love about Alabama the beautiful (Opinion)

What we often fail to love about Alabama the beautiful (Opinion) | al.com: wouldn't it surprise you, and most of the rest of the world, if it were known that the center of eastern North America's natural diversity isn't North Carolina (where we all go piled into the car when we want to see nature) or Florida or New England. The center of eastern North America's natural diversity is, amazingly enough, little ol' Alabama. There are a tiny handful of states that have significantly more natural diversity. But California is nearly three times larger than Alabama, and Texas, good heavens, is six times larger. Of course they have more species. On the world's stage, Alabama walks with the giants of biological diversity.
Read more . . .

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cotton's in Ensley to close


Nice story by Stan Diel on the closing of landmark store in Ensley. If you ever wanted a Sunday nice hat, this was the place to go. Hurry while supplies last.

Ensley's iconic Cotton's department store to close (photo gallery) | al.com: ENSLEY - Cotton's department store, an Ensley icon that survived the Great Depression, several wars and 90 years of changing fashions, will close its doors for the last time before the end of the year, its owners said today.
A combination of a deep, lingering recession and a deteriorating neighborhood has become too much to overcome, said Harry Weinberg, who married into the Cotton family and runs the store with his wife Rhonda, a granddaughter of the founders.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An ancient geologic connection to current day politics

Obama's Secret Weapon In The South: Small, Dead, But Still Kickin' : Krulwich Wonders... : NPR: These same counties went mostly blue in 2004 and 2000. Why? Well, the best answer, says marine biologist Craig McClain, may be an old one, going back before the Civil War, before 1776, before Columbus, back more than 100 million years to the days when the Deep South was under water. Those counties, as he writes here, went for Obama because trillions and trillions and trillions of teeny sun-loving creatures died there. He's talking about plankton. That's why the Republicans can't carry those counties. Blame plankton.

Wreck found in Delta not the Clotilda, the last American slave ship | AL.com

It was a good story and a worthy quest. Which will continue. Wreck found in Delta not the Clotilda, the last American slave ship | AL.com ...