By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The latest faux outrage coming from Montgomery revolves around Governor Robert Bentley’s decision to use around $1.5 million in BP settlement money to refurbish the Governor’s Beach Mansion, which is actually the Governor’s second official residence.
Built in 1960 by supporters of then-Governor George Wallace, it has served as a retreat and executive meeting place for decades. According to a 1993 report, The Tuscaloosa News called it Alabama’s Camp David, in reference to the US Presidential retreat. According to the report, “Cornelia Wallace used a Boston Whaler to water ski right off the beach. Guy Hunt played horseshoes on a tiny patch of grass there and Albert Brewer was remembered as a “mainstream American” who swam in shorts with a can of beer.”
This is a place of historical significance and should not be allowed to deteriorate.
Bentley’s Communications Director, Jennifer Ardis, said of the Beach property, “The Governor doesn’t want this property to be an embarrassment any longer,” and an embarrassment it has been.
State Auditor, Jim Zeigler, a frequent critic of the Governor wrote, “The governor’s mansion at the Gulf has been a derelict eyesore for years. Now, Gov. Robert Bentley is spending $1.5 million to restore it. The reason? He lost his own personal house at the Gulf in his divorce from 50-year-wife Dianne Bentley.”
The self-proclaimed waste cutter has never uttered a word against Speaker Mike Hubbard, who has been charged by the State with 23 felony counts of public corruption. No, he only goes after Governor Bentley. Wonder why that is? While I appreciate Zeigler’s zeal, his consistency seems apparently lacking.
Governor Bentley is not renovating the Beach Mansion to have a private oceanfront playground. He is doing what any responsible neighbor should do. The State, like any homeowner, should keep its property in good repair.
As a reminded to those who talk about the gospel, but fail to apply it regularly, being a good steward is a hallmark of those who adhere to its teachings.
Shamefully, many of those who routinely critique the Governor are loathe to speak a word against Hubbard or other corrupt politico.
Little was said when, during the 2013 legislative session, Speaker Mike Hubbard authorized tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to paint and furnish a “cloakroom” for legislators to “relax in” on the fourth floor of the State House.
Or, when Hubbard paid almost $2,600 for some silk plants to adorn the Speaker’s office using State money.
And not a peep was heard when Hubbard spent over a million dollars for new vote counting software for the House, or spent $200,000 to renovate a committee room on the second floor of the State House.
Again, not a critical word was uttered when Hubbard, a man who has claimed that he is a real Republican, increased spending in the Speaker’s office over his democratic predecessor by 82.6 percent.
The shame here is not in spending BP oil spill settlement to repair a State facility, the shame belongs to those who use this as an opportunity for self aggrandizement.
The real shock is that other Chief Executives have so long neglected restoring the Gulf Mansion.
The Tuscaloosa News also reported, “It was at the 1965 dedication of the home that First Lady Lurleen B. Wallace learned she would be running for governor as her husband’s surrogate…It was a ‘special place’ for Lurleen B. Wallace who spent time there before and during the time she was ill with cancer that claimed her life in 1968.”
The Critics are wrong, and the Governor is right. We should preserve this landmark.