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Alabama in Paris, “La Belle Époque” (The Beautiful Era) for jobs?

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Last week, Governor Robert Bentley and an entourage of nearly 100 prominent Alabamians touched down in Paris, France, days ahead of the 50th Paris Air Show. The economic mission was described as an opportunity for Alabama economic development officials and local elected leaders to meet with aerospace companies in hopes of bringing jobs back home.

Bentley spokesperson Jeremy King said of the trip, “The purpose…is to bring more jobs to Alabama. Governor Bentley, Secretary Canfield and others are meeting with dozens of companies to discuss recruiting them to Alabama or helping them expand the operations they already have in Alabama.”

Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard took to his Facebook account to say he was in Paris with Governor Bentley and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield to “Bring jobs to Alabama.”

But, really…how many public officials, staff members, spouses and other hangers-on are needed for the “economic development mission” that Team Alabama attends every year? And exactly how much will this “mission” set Alabama taxpayers back when all the airline tickets, hotel rooms, champagne lunches, etc. are added up?

Secretary Canfield misled the press on the actual cost of the Paris trip, telling AL.com that, “The delegation includes five people traveling on state dollars, plus security for the governor.”

Canfield declined to provide an estimate the cost of the trip to taxpayers. He promised an accounting of the costs at some time in the future.

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Canfield’s assertion that only five people are traveling on taxpayer dollars leaves out the fact that several municipalities, other state agencies and a gaggle of lobbyists are all part of Team Alabama, present at the Air Show. The size of the Alabama contingent at the Air Show is much closer to 100 than the five people Canfield cited.

King, the governor’s spokesperson, said the “around 100″ number factors in the local economic developers, etc., who are also “working to promote their regions for job growth.”

The total of public taxpayer funds used to finance these individuals is spread throughout various municipalities and agencies, so a true account will be difficult to get from officials.

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King confirmed that Commerce was responsible for expenses for the, “Governor as well as the First Lady, the Commerce Secretary, two additional representatives of the Department of Commerce and security for the Governor.” This includes Stefania Cumuze, Canfield’s Special Assistant.

Regardless of the cost to taxpayers, Team Alabama is making sure we all get to see and hear about how public dollars are being spent. Glowing reports and picturesque photography of the events were provided by Big Communications, a Birmingham-based public relations and advertising firm. The company, founded by John Montgomery, grew from “1 man in a loft to 38 people in 5 Points South in Birmingham, servicing clients all over the Southeast,” according to its website.

Montgomery has been personally on hand to photograph the governor and the members of “Team Alabama.” There is even a picture of one of Big’s executives with First Lady Diane Bentley, and one of Montgomery with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

By the way, just prior to the Paris trip, Big Communications was paid almost $300,000 as part of a multi-million dollar state contract. According to state records, Big Communications was paid over $2 million in FY 2012, and is on target to reap an additional $2 million in taxpayer dollars in 2013.

A Big Communications spokesperson told the Alabama Political Reporter that an official with the company would respond to requests for information. The official never returned our calls.

When the Governor’s office was asked how much Big Communications was being paid to write stories and photograph dignitaries in Paris, King referred the question to Gerrianne Miller, communications manager for commerce. He gave the same response when asked why the state needed a PR firm at the air show.

Miller’s office said she was not at work on Wednesday and that other staff officials were still in France.

According to the daily news provided by Big Communication, the cities of Huntsville and Mobile had an “active presence” at the Air Show as well as Auburn, Opelika, Tuscaloosa, Andalusia, Montgomery and more. Big, also reported that Baldwin County Commission Chairman Tucker Dorsey, Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood and President of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance Lee Lawson were on hand for the receptions paid for by yet unnamed sponsors—as well as Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.

These elected politicians are just a handful of the power elite to travel to the posh Paris Air Show.

Along with the receptions, a champagne brunch was provided for members of Alabama delegation at the famed home of King Louis IV, the Palace of Versailles. Julie Burge Lindsey – the mother of Canfied’s secretary – posted to her Facebook account. “OMG we were treated to a champagne reception before our picnic lunch a Versailles.”

At Château de Versailles, a member of the Alabama delegation wrote on Facebook, “we were allowed entry… into the private chambers and into Marie Antionette’s personal theatre.”

There were also posts about visits to the shops of Louis Vuitton and other famed French luxury Haute couture designers.

Does anyone remember a short few years ago when Freedom Fries replaced French Fries as a sign of Alabamians distaste for all things French? How ironic that a chance to cruise the Seine and stroll the wide sidewalks of the des Champs-Élysées, with its cinemas, cafés, and luxury shops, has given rise to a new group of Alabama Francophiles.

King said that Mrs. Lindsey was a volunteer and was not paid by the state. King did not give an estimate of how many volunteers had accompanied Canfield and the governor.

While the annual pilgrimage to Paris Air show dubbed, “the biggest junket there is,” did not begin with Bentley and Team Alabama, it would seem they have so far been the most successful and exuberant.

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Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Warren to travel to Selma

Brandon Moseley

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Sunday, Presidential candidates former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, and U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesoata, will travel to Alabama on where they will participate in the events commemorating the attempted crossing of the Edmund Pettus bridge by voting rights marchers during the Civil Rights movement;

Bloomberg will participate in the 55th annual Selma bridge crossing to commemorate Bloody Sunday. In the morning, Bloomberg will attend Brown Chapel AME Church for morning worship with congregants and deliver remarks before joining Civil Rights and community leaders to participate in the bridge crossing reenactment.

Elizabeth Warren will participate in the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee Pre-March Rally, the Annual Bloody Sunday March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the Presidential Candidate Forum hosted by the Selma-to-Montgomery March Foundation and The Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

Mayor Buttigieg will participate in the bridge crossing reenactment. This is Buttigieg’s second visit to Alabama. He previously participated in a healthcare round table and visited with volunteers in Montgomery.

This is Mike’s third visit to Alabama since announcing his campaign for president. Mike was in Montgomery earlier this month for an organizing event and to speak at the 60th annual Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) Convention, the Alabama Democratic Party’s largest Black caucus. He received the endorsement of the group.

This will be Elizabeth’s second trip to Alabama. By Sunday, she will have traveled to 30 states and Puerto Rico since launching her presidential campaign.

Mike Bloomberg and Joe Biden will attend Worship and Provide Brief Remarks at Brown Chapel AME Church at 10:00 a.m. CST. The Church is at: 410 Martin Luther King St, Selma, AL 36703.

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Elizabeth Warren will attend the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee Pre-March Rally will be at 1:30 p.m. at Brown Chapel AME Church; 410 Martin Luther King St., Selma, AL 36703.

The annual Bloody Sunday March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge will be at 2:30 p.m. CST beginning at Brown Chapel AME Church. Warren, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg are all committed to attend the bridge crossing reenactment.

Warren has committed to attend the Presidential Candidate Forum is hosted by the Selma-to-Montgomery March Foundation and The Bridge Crossing Jubilee. That event will be at 4:00 p.m. (estimated) and will be held at the George Corley Wallace State Community College; 3000 Earl Goodwin Pkwy, Selma, AL 36703.

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Organizers have confirmed that Amy Klobuchar is committed to attend; but were not sure which events she will participate in.

The crossing of the Edmund Pettus bridge and the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March were key events in the Civil Rights Movement that led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Alabama Democratic Presidential primary will be on Tuesday, March 3. Polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m.

 

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Courts

Doug Jones praises end of state Democratic Party lawsuit

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Thursday applauded the end of a lawsuit over control of the state Democratic party. 

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by former Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley, which means that state Rep. Chris England, who was picked to lead the state Democratic party by a reform group championed by Jones, is the party’s chair. 

“This is a great day for Alabama and her Democratic Party. Throughout much of last year, countless Democrats in our state worked to create a more open and diverse state party, while recognizing and being true to the crucial and historic role held by African-American voters,” Jones said in a statement Thursday.

“The by-laws of the Alabama Democratic Party now reflect the growing diversity in our state — including representation for Hispanic voters, Native American voters, Asian voters, voters with disabilities and voters from the LGBTQ community. And most importantly, the Alabama Democratic Party has dramatically increased leadership opportunities for young voters. Around 70 new caucus members were added to the state party Executive Committee last year—many of them young people from diverse backgrounds throughout the state. I’m proud to continue to work alongside a more unified, diverse and inclusive state party. 

“With the dismissal of this lawsuit, it is time that all who have been involved in this challenge, resolution, and expansion of the Democratic Party come together for a common good. Our state benefits from the ideas and engagement of a competitive two-party system. We have now demonstrated that we have the ability to be inclusive within our own party while working to expand the number and experiences of people who play a role in moving it forward.  

“Chairman Chris England and First Vice Chair Patricia Todd have my complete support and I call on Democrats throughout the state to unite behind them as we move forward in modernizing, re-invigorating, and expanding the Alabama Democratic Party.,” Jones said.

 

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ACLU of Alabama condemns bill banning transgender treatment for minors

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama has condemned a recently approved bill to prevent doctors from providing hormone replacement therapy or puberty suppressing drugs to people younger than 19 who identify as transgender.

House Bill 303, the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, would make it a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doctors to prescribe puberty-blocking medications or opposite gender hormones to minors. The legislation would also ban hysterectomy, mastectomy or castration surgeries from being performed on minors.

The Alabama House Health Committee and the Senate Health Committee approved the bill on Wednesday in separate hearings, both drawing overflow crowds. The committee approval moves the bill in line for consideration by the full House. 

The ACLU of Alabama said in a statement that the bill targets transgender youth and puts their academic success and health in danger. 

“Transgender girls are girls, and transgender boys are boys,” said Dillon Nettles, policy analyst at the ACLU of Alabama. “Alabama lawmakers are considering legislation that runs counter to medical science, prevailing standards for the treatment of transgender youth and basic human dignity.

“The government shouldn’t threaten medical providers with jail for treating transgender kids and schools shouldn’t discriminate against them when it comes to participation in school sports. HB303 and HB35 are dangerous, discriminatory and put kids at risk.”

Multiple women’s sports advocacy organizations, including The National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation and Women Leaders in College Sports, support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports.

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A June 2019 report from the Trevor Project on mental health issues among LGBTQ youth across the United States found that 78 percent of transgender and non-binary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity in the past year. The report also found that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered. 

The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth. 

This is the second bill in the State House this year dealing with transgender youth. 

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Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, is sponsoring House Bill 35, titled the Gender Is Real Legislative Act, or GIRL Act. It would require student athletes in K-12 schools to participate as the gender listed on their birth certificate, preventing transgender athletes from competing as the gender they identify as.

 

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Elections

11th-hour smear campaign against Byrne linked to opponent Tuberville, sources say

Bill Britt

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A story published February 24, on Gateway Pundit alleges, “Bradley Byrne kicked his brother’s widow off her land,” but the land was never owned by Byrne’s sister-in-law.

Whether the reporter at Gateway Pundit didn’t read all the court records or there were other motives, the erroneous accusations on the popular right-wing blog are now being used to smear Byrne in the final hours of a heated U.S. Senate race.

See complete records. 

Political consultants not tied to Byrne’s campaign say that operatives working for his rival, Tommy Tuberville, are promoting the story to damage Byrne. Random text messages are being sent to distribute the story as well as numerous calls to Alabama media outlets to report on the false claims. State political reporters have rejected the story due to its inaccuracies.

Several calls and voice messages to Tuberville’s campaign have gone unanswered.

The land in question was part of the estate of Byrne family matriarch, Elizabeth Patricia Langsdale Byrne.

In her original will signed July 23, 1996, Mrs. Byrne left her property in Baldwin County to her three children, Dale, Bradley and Patricia.

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However, on Feb. 25, 1999, she amended her will, removing her eldest son leaving the property to only Bradley and Patricia.

On Dec. 6, 2000, Mrs. Byrne again amended her will, leaving one-third to Bradley, one-third to Patricia and one-third as a “life estate” to Dale. According to the will, the life estate left to Dale would go back to Bradley and Patrica upon Dale’s death because a life estate means ownership of land is only for the duration of a person’s life.

Mrs. Byrne died in 2008; she was followed in death by her son Dale in 2014,  at which time the life estate bequeathed to him expired.

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Bradley, who his mother selected as executor of her estate, then filed the necessary paperwork with the Baldwin County probate office to address Dale’s death as stipulated in Mrs. Byrne’s will.

The Gateway Pundit story leaves out crucial details and in its interview with Dale’s fourth wife, Gloria, repeats claims she made that are not grounded in facts.

There is also a false claim that Byrne refused to leave the campaign trial when his brother died, but he did in fact cancel a scheduled event in the family’s time of morning.

The same reporter at Gateway Pundit wrote several stories praising Tuberville and trashing his other primary opponent, Jeff Sessions, calling him a skunk and a snake.

Court records clearly show Byrne acted in accordance with his mother’s wishes as they were detailed in her last will and testament.

 

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