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Four Candidates Run for Mayor of Leeds

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, the Leeds Chamber of Commerce held a Political Forum at the Leeds First United Methodist Church. Leeds Mayor Eric Patterson is seeking a second term as Mayor in the August 28th municipal election. He is being challenged by Leeds City Councilman Johnny R. Kile, former Homewood Mayor James “Jim” Atkinson, and former Leeds City Councilman David Miller.  ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ was in attendance at the forum.

Leeds Mayoral candidate James “Jim” Atkinson said, “My wife and I moved to Leeds nearly 15 years ago to be with family and my family is here.” “I worked for 25 years with the Homewood Police Department, retired and ran for Mayor.” Atkinson said he was a former DARE officer in Homewood City School System and later became the Chief Deputy for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. “I had 536 deputies under my command.” “I know about finance.” “I know about budgets.” “We have a lot of problems in Leeds that I intend to address as your Mayor.”

Leeds Mayoral candidate and current District 5 City Councilman Johnnie Kile also had a career in law enforcement, “I was happy being a Policeman.” “Four years ago, I was asked to become a Leeds City Councilman.” Kile said he gave up a 36 year career to help the city of Leeds. Kile said that he was helping people (as a policeman) for 36 years. Kile grew up in Leeds. Kile has four children and six grand children. “We need to put the city government back in your hands.” Kile said that on the council these last four years he “was treated like a red headed step child” by the current Mayor and the majority of the Leeds City Council. Kile says he was left out in a lot of negotiations on this council.

Leeds mayoral candidate, David Miller said, “I have a vested interest in seeing Leeds succeed.” Miller has a BS degree in finance, is a Vietnam Veteran where he commanded boats in the Mekong Delta, left the Navy to work at Hayes Aircraft where he climbed up from sales to President. Mr. Miller was also school superintendent for 3 years. “Education is at the top of my priority list.”

Leeds incumbent Mayor Eric Patterson said that when he was elected Mayor four years ago he pledged that he would be a Mayor that was honest, ethical, fair, transparent, and open. He said that he has strived to be a Mayor who does what he says he will do. Mayor Eric Patterson is an attorney and also operates his family’s business, Patterson Pharmacy, in Leeds.

Atkinson said that ten years from now the bonds that Leeds used to fund improvements that were used for the Bass Pro Shoppe will be paid off and the City of Leeds will have more revenue. “We are going to be alright folks.” “I love Leeds and I will be a good Mayor.

Councilman Kile said, “You have got to have somebody who can take this job and run with it.” Kile said that the city of Leeds has ordinances that are strangling businesses. “Four years from now it will be too late.”

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Councilman Johnny Kile is a lifelong resident of Leeds and is the retired Moody Police Chief. Kile is a career police officer and is presently the City Council man for Leeds District 5. Kile said that revenues from Bass Pro and Grand River will pay the school bonds off. Kile said that there is land on Highway 78 that could be annexed and “would be a good place to get a lite industrial park to bring jobs back into our city.” Kile said that the City has lost a lot of jobs over the years.

Miller said, “We have got to change the culture of city government from a culture of arrogance.” Miller said that the City of Leeds had to reach out to neighboring citys, developers, and large land owners and needed to find ways to say yes to their projects rather than killing their projects.

Mayor Patterson said that the city has come a long way in four years: the City has improved its “park and recreation facilities to where they are second to no one”, roads and drainage have been fixed, the city’s debt has been reduced by 70%, tax revenues are up 11%, retail business is up, the city of Leeds has an A+ credit rating from S&P, 60 pieces of blight have been removed, the city is building a new city hall and a new fire station. “Leeds has become a place that people want to make their home.”

Mr. Atkinson said that a mayor has to be friendly. Atkinson said that the current city administration had too many regulations and restrictions and a bad attitude. Atkinson said the Leeds City Inspector, “Walks into businesses like a storm trooper. He wears a badge. He is not a police officer. If I am Mayor I am going to take that badge off of him.”

Johnnie Kile said the first thing he would do as Mayor of Leeds to make the City more business friendly is, “To hire some young lady to answer the telephone.” Kile said that the Mayor needs to “at least act like he is friendly. You can’t go around town like you are angry with everybody.”

Miller said that the zoning and sign ordinances passed by the current administration are big impediments to growth and development. Miller said, “Leeds is probably the only city in American where the Chamber of Commerce has to buy a business licence.” “Our first reaction needs to be negotiate not to litigate.”

Patterson objected to his opponents’ charge that the City of Leeds under his administration has been anti-business. “Leeds is pro business. This rhetoric about Leeds being anti-business comes from people who were allowed to do whatever they wanted to do,” under the previous administration.  Patterson said that he has fought against “food wagons”, has passed strict itinerant vender ordinances, has passed tough regulations against yard sales in commercial districts, and a banner ordinance. Patterson said, “Strong cities do not allow things like that.” Patterson said that retail business in the City of Leeds is up 26% under his administration and it is up 12% not including Grand River. Patterson said that the two things holding Leeds back are the occupation tax which they can’t get rid of and the national economy which they don’t control.

Mr. Atkinson worked for 35 years in law enforcement. Atkinson has been a Homewood police officer, has worked with the U.S. Marshall’s Court Security, was the Chief Deputy for the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department for 7 years, and was the Mayor of Homewood from 1992-1996.

Kile said that the City of Leeds needed more rooftops. Kile said he supported allowing the developers at Grand River to build both new homes and nice new apartments “like Homewood.”  Kile was concerned that if the City was not willing to work with developers then future development would go to the neighboring City of Moody instead.

Miller holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from the University of Alabama, a Master’s Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from Auburn University and an EdS Degree in Educational Leadership and School Administration from Mississippi State University.

Miller said in his press release, “I mention my education because each of those degrees is relevant to accomplishing the tasks I see as needed to put Leeds on track to realize the great potential I visualize for our city. I am pro- business and want to establish a working relationship with the citizens of Leeds and incorporate input from every sector into a plan to get our city moving forward. Degrees are great, but hands on, successful involvement in local business, government, community service, church and numerous leadership roles are the attributes I will bring to the Mayor’s job; these and the most important attribute, that of COMMON SENSE.

Mayor Patterson said that his administration has already addressed the city’s school bonds. “We have already fixed this. The school bond is secure now. It has been fixed for 3 years. I keep hearing that we are spending the school money and that is completely untrue.” Patterson said that a 4 cent sales tax at Grand River goes to service those bonds. Patterson also said that the city can not abolish it’s occupation tax because it has been written into the bond documents. “We are stuck with the occupation tax. It is with us for at least 30 years.”

Mayor Patterson said that the city has tried to talk the Bass Pro Shoppes into renegotiating their agreement so that Pass Pro will give up 1% or 2% of sales taxes from the ancillary district, but, “so far to no avail.” Patterson warned that the city had, “To be careful what we provide resources for,” referring to future development.

The City of Leeds is divided into city council districts. Four of the five city council incumbents are running for reelection. All four incumbents have at least one challenger. The District five councilor Kile is leaving the Council to run for Mayor. Four persons: Gerald Clayton, former Mayor Jack Courson, David Crabb, Devoris Ragland, and Dallas White are seeking that seat. The Leeds Muncipal Election like many local elections throughout Alabama is on Tuesday, August 28, 2012.

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Opinion | What happened in Huntsville Wednesday night was disgraceful

Josh Moon

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Law enforcement officers in Huntsville assaulted dozens of people Wednesday night following a peaceful protest and march. 

This is the accurate description of what took place in Huntsville. 

I don’t care what you heard on “the news” or what you read on Facebook or Twitter. That’s what happened. 

Following a peaceful protest downtown — for which the NAACP obtained a permit, because it planned to block traffic — dozens of protesters, gathered to speak out about police brutality of black citizens in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, began to march around the downtown area. 

This is their right. It is guaranteed by the U.S. constitution. 

Contrary to popular belief, and according to legal guidance posted by the American Civil Liberties Union, you do NOT need a permit to peacefully assemble. In fact, it is against the law for anyone — or any law enforcement agency — to prevent you from peacefully assembling in response to a breaking news event.  

And yet, that’s exactly what happened in Huntsville. 

Huntsville Police, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and — for some reason that no one could immediately explain — the Alabama State Troopers began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at people who were peacefully marching. 

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In attempting to explain why such actions occurred, Lt. Michael Johnson of HPD essentially admitted that officers acted improperly. 

He told TV station WHNT-19 that officers attempted to clear the area by telling the lawfully gathered crowd to disperse. When the crowd instead decided to exercise its right to assemble, Johnson said, officers began using force, including firing the rubber bullets at innocent men, women and children and spraying the crowd with pepper spray and tear gas. 

(Just a quick little FYI: Tear gas has been deemed a chemical agent and the Geneva Convention specifically bans its use in war. But it’s still legal for police departments to toss into peaceful crowds.)

Johnson said officers used force because they weren’t “going to roll the dice” and take a chance that the crowd could become hostile. 

Which — and while I’m no attorney, I feel comfortable going out on this limb — is not how the law works. You can’t impose force because you believe someone might break the law. Particularly when there is no evidence of that. 

And how do we know there is no evidence of it? 

Because Johnson just kept on talking during that interview, an interview led by WHNT’s Jerry Hayes, who was — and I’ll put this kindly — very police-friendly. As Hayes praised the police response and told everyone that the cops really had no choice but to clear the area by gassing children, Johnson explained just how well it had all gone. 

No officers were injured, Johnson said. No property was damaged, he said. They even had single-digit arrests/detainments, he said. 

So, again, law enforcement fired rubber bullets at peacefully assembled men, women and children who didn’t damage property, didn’t assault police officers and had every right to march on and alongside a public street. 

It’s not hard to understand why people are marching against police abuse. 

Democratic state Rep. Anthony Daniels, who represents the Huntsville area and who spoke earlier in the evening at the NAACP-organized event, compared the actions and the optics of the police attacking citizens to “Bloody Sunday” in Selma. On that day in 1965, Alabama State Troopers attacked a group of peaceful marchers because the marchers refused to disperse, and instead continued their march out of Selma towards Montgomery.

“I want someone to explain to me what the state troopers were doing at a peaceful event,” Daniels said. “What happened was a disgrace. That was a peaceful protest. Those people were following the laws and were not out of line.”

The same cannot be said for the officers. 

There are a number of videos of cops from various agencies firing tear gas canisters at people who are posing no threat, and in most cases are backing away from the officers, and randomly spraying down groups of people with pepper spray for no discernable reason. In one video that was viewed several hundred thousand times by late Wednesday evening, an HPD officer exits his patrol car, pepper spray in hand, and just starts strolling along, periodically dousing terrified people with the spray. 

It was disgraceful. It was ignorant. It was, most of all, simply wrong. 

There has been a lot of condemnation over the last few days of violent protests and criminal acts. And rightfully so. While many people understand and can empathize with the anger that lies beneath these protests, the majority doesn’t want to watch cities burn. 

I hope the same people who condemned those acts will also speak out against the violence committed by law enforcement in Huntsville on Wednesday.

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Crime

Marshall says Moody officer’s death was not related to unrest

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall (R) issued a statement on the line-of-duty death of Moody Police Officer Stephen Williams late Tuesday night.

“I was devastated to receive the phone call late last night that another one of our law enforcement heroes had lost his life,” AG Marshall said. “I have been slow to make a public statement today because, after a record-breaking year of law enforcement deaths in our state, words just seem so inadequate.”

“Sergeant Williams was responding to a call for help at local hotel,” Marshall said. “He showed up, ready to assist, and was instantly shot dead. At this point, we have no reason to believe that Sergeant Williams’s shooting is related to the unrest we’re witnessing across the nation. Nevertheless, our state has been plagued in recent months by a lack of respect for law enforcement—most of whom are genuinely good men and women, from all backgrounds, doing an incredibly difficult job.”

“Whether black or white, law enforcement or civilian, we are all Alabamians,” Marshall concluded. “None of us benefit from lawlessness. As I shared with Moody Police Chief Hunt last night, my prayers and deepest sympathies are with the department and Sergeant Williams’s family. My Office stands ready to assist in any way that we can.”

There are two suspects in custody, a man and a woman. As of press time their identities had not been released. A suspect is expected to be charged with capital murder today, their identity will be released then.

“The investigation into the death of Sgt. Stephen Williams of the Moody Police Department is ongoing. The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, JSU Center for Applied Forensics, and ALEA, along with numerous supporting agencies are currently conducting an extensive investigation,” said St. Clair County Sheriff Billy Murray (R). “I would like to thank all of the assisting agencies who are too numerous to name who responded without hesitation to an Officer in need. I also would like to thank the citizens of Moody and all of St. Clair County for their outpouring of support for all Law Enforcement.”

Sources report that there was contraband found at the crime scene. Sergeant Stephen Williams and a police trainee were called to the scene by dispatch to the Super 8 Motel in Moody. They faced a barrage of gunfire almost immediately upon arriving at the scene. Multiple weapons have been recovered. Williams was later pronounced dead at UAB Hospital. An hours long standoff at the motel followed. Investigators were on the scene all day on Tuesday collecting evidence.

Stephen Williams served with the Moody Police Department for three years. During that time he was made a sergeant and led the Department’s night shift. Moody police chief Thomas Hunt said that Stephens won officer of the year. Stephens has 23 years in law enforcement experience with Moody, Bessemer, Alabaster, and Calera. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

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The Moody Chamber of Commerce announced that a Memorial fund has been set up for Sgt Stephen Williams at Metro Bank. You may make a donation at any Metro location.

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Chris Elliott selected for national 2020 Emerging Legislative Leaders Program

Brandon Moseley

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State Senator Chris Elliott (R – Daphne) was recently selected as a member of the 2020 Emerging Legislative Leaders Program.

The Emerging Legislative Leadership Program is a national group sponsored by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF) and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

“I am humbled and honored to have been nominated by Senate Leadership and selected by SLLF to represent Alabama in this prestigious program,” Elliott said.

Chris Elliott is serving in his first term in the Alabama Senate. He is a native of the Alabama Gulf coast. He is a graduate from St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond in Virginia where he studied political science and urban policy.

Elliott worked for the Commonwealth of Virginia in emergency management field and for Virginia Power in nuclear security and emergency preparedness. He returned home to Baldwin County where he is now a small business owner. Sen. Elliott is the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee. Elliott formerly served as the Chairman of the Baldwin County Commission and the Chairman of the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization. Elliott formerly served on the Board of Directors of Baldwin County United Way.

Elliott has worked with numerous statewide and local political campaigns in both Virginia and Alabama. He is a former member of the both the Baldwin County Republican Party Executive Committee and steering committee. He is a member and past Chairman of the Baldwin County Young Republicans.

Senator Elliott and his family are members of St. James Episcopal Church of Fairhope where he served as an usher and served on the Church’s Vestry. Senator Elliott is an avid sailor, white water rafter and upland bird hunter.

The Emerging Legislative Leaders Program is a program for upcoming leaders in state legislatures from across the country. Up to 50 of the best and brightest state legislators come together to take part in a multi-day series of discussions and sessions led by professors at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

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Over 600 legislators have taken part in the program since its start in 2005, with many past members achieving leadership positions within their respective states.

“This leadership program provides an opportunity for collaboration with colleagues from across the country to share ideas and best practices to address complex public policy issues,” Elliott said.

The SLLF is a non-partisan, non-profit independent organization established in 1972 that represents all legislative leadership across the country and seeks to educate and inspire the nation’s current and future state legislative leaders to excellence.

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Congress

Byrne opposes Trump plan to use U.S. military to stop unrest

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump said he would deploy active-duty American armed forces to stop unrest in major American cities if governors fail to use the National Guard.

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced that he opposed the president’s plan. Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, has been a staunch Trump supporter in the House of Representatives, but he also said that he opposed the president on this.

“I agree with Secretary Esper,” Byrne said on Twitter. “At this time there is absolutely no reason to use the Insurrection Act to deploy active duty U.S. forces. This is an option that should only be used as a last resort.”

“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support for civil authorities in these situations in support of local law enforcement,” Esper said at a news conference on Wednesday. “I say that not only as Secretary of Defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard. The option to use active-duty U.S. armed forces in a law enforcement rule should be used only as a last resort and then only in the most urgent and dire of situation. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”

This is directly counter to the policy stated by Trump on Monday.

“Innocent people of have been savagely beaten, like the young man in Dallas, Texas, who was left dying on the street. Or the woman in upstate New York, viciously attacked by dangerous thugs,” Trump said. “Small business owners have seen their dreams utterly destroyed. New York’s Finest have been hit in the face with bricks. Brave nurses, who have battled the virus, are afraid to leave their homes. A police precinct station has been overrun. Here in the nation’s capital, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial have been vandalized. One of our most historic churches was set ablaze. A federal officer in California, an African-American enforcement hero, was shot and killed.”

“These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror,” Trump stated. “Violence against any American will never be tolerated. Tonight, President Trump announced executive actions to stop the rioting and restore safety to our cities.

Trump recommended every governor deploy the National Guard and establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take action, then the U.S. Military will be deployed.

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The president also announced decisive action to protect Washington, D.C., and our cherished national monuments. “As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”

At this time, we do not know if the president’s policy will actually be carried out or not as the Trump Administration official tasked with carrying out the policy, Mark Esper has, announced his public opposition to the plan.

There were riots in Birmingham on Sunday. A number of people, including reporters, were assaulted dozens of businesses were burglarized and looted and much of Birmingham’s downtown was vandalized. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has declared a state of emergency and instituted a citywide curfew between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

That has since been extended to all of Jefferson County and is in place through June 9. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has activated one thousand Alabama National Guard troops to be deployed if requested.

Congressman Bradley Byrne is not running for another term representing Alabama’s First Congressional District.

(Original reporting by the Hill contributed to this report.)

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