It seems that no matter how ignorant of the Bible people are, there is one verse that everyone knows. No, it’s not John 3:16. Some people still don’t know that one; however, everyone seems to know Matthew 7:1, wherein Jesus says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (KJV). In fact, the less of the Bible people know, the more they’re prone to know and repeat this verse. If we had a nickel for every time someone accused us of “intolerantly” violating this verse, we could pay our server costs and possibly quit our day jobs. - Kim Olsen
We recently commented on a Killen custody case involving the adoptive parents of a young boy and the child's biological father. Even though both families have ostensibly asked that comments on the CourtHouse and TimesDaily Forums remain civil, both web sites are currently peppered with posts that can hardly be called such.
One novice poster on the TD forum remarked we had not read the son's comments on his father's Facebook creation. No, we had not read the almost 150 comments, and after having done so, we feel that perhaps neither side is mentally, emotionally, or spiritually suited to retain custody of the child.
The biological father had indeed written six of these comments; the August 16 post in which he misspelled the child's name was particularly endearing. One comment concerning the situation was disturbing and alarming.
According to this post, the biological mother had engaged in sex while under the age of 16 with at least one of the three putative fathers who at the time was over the age of 17. This in Alabama, whether you agree with the law or not, is second degree rape. The accusation in this public post was that the adopting family had agreed to drop statutory rape charges against the young man (should he be the father) if the child resulting from the relationship was handed over to them.
Whether the blackmail charges are true or false, the charge of second degree rape should have been handled by the Alabama DHR. If any or all of these three men are guilty of this crime, they should be prosecuted, even now. Such charges should not be greeted with a wink and a nod, but deserve to be adjudicated and the guilty party branded as the sex offender he or she is.
A word on condom usage: Properly worn prophylactics do not break. Anyone who is incapable of donning a condom properly is in all probability incapable of acting as a responsible parent.
Ed Sandlin (pictured) is a businessman. While we hope he enjoys what he does, we're certain that, like the rest of us, he needs to make some money while doing it. The problem with Sandlin's business is two-fold: It involves the highly regulated sale of alcoholic beverages and it involves those who consume these beverages on his premises.
According to a 2008 interview with Sandlin, officials of Florence have often targeted his business on what he calls a "witch hunt," seeking documentation of his compliance with the 51/49 law concerning the ratio of food sales to that of alcohol. Last Friday night, the City of Florence prevented Big Ed's from hosting a concert by the Grown Folks Band, citing fire laws and other concerns. His restaurant and lounge has been the scene of previous minor altercations between black fraternity members from UNA and Florence Police.
Yet, only one year earlier in August 2007, Sandlin offered his appreciation and thanks to the city for easing the usual off-street parking requirement for restaurants and lounges. Apparently as Sandlin's sales decreased, so did his thankfulness for the city's regulations controlling his business.
Florence Planning Director Melissa Bailey has stated the Entertainment District will not blossom overnight. Considering that most buildings in the Sweetwater area are neither larger than Big Ed's nor provide more entrances and exits, it may be that such an area will never blossom.
Photograph by Daniel Giles
What's up with this: The City of Florence is prepared to take a giant step in the battle against second-hand smoke. Kudos to them and props to Truly Cigars for providing smokers with a haven of their own.
Last night the Grown Folks Band was scheduled to play a "UNA Back to School Bash" concert at Big Ed's Club on Huntsville Road in East Florence. It's been reported that sometime during the day Friday, the Florence Fire Department along with other city inspectors shut the club down long before any patrons arrived for the nine o'clock show.
The GFB (pictured) is composed of Tom Putman, Nate Slaughter, Colin Krout, Kinsman McKay, and Issac Simon. They describe their music as a mix of rock, jam, hip-hop, rap, and reggae; their audience is anyone from old hippies to students to an older crowd. In short they are eclectic.
Having released their first album, two.five.sicks, six weeks ago, the band was expecting a large local turnout for their concert, a concert with the extremely reasonable admission fee of just five dollars. According to one member of the band: The Grown Folks Band show at Big Ed's tonight has been cancelled due to the Florence City Council not wanting an "urban crowd" at our show.... It's 2009, people.
An urban crowd? This brings us to Big Ed's itself, a small club located in what is designated as a semi-entertainment district. The small shopping district in East Florence was built in the 1920s and 1930s and, until Big Ed's entered the mix, the closest connection to music in the area was the House of Vacuums founded by the brother of Florence native Buddy Killen, a Nashville record producer. In order to survive during the recession, Big Ed's has taken to opening only on weekends and frequently catering to parties given by black fraternities at the University of North Alabama.
According to owner Ed Sandlin, after his initial opening months in 2005, his business began to wane. He openly blamed the city for not supporting the newly designated entertainment district, known in the earlier part of the last century as Sweetwater. He has also suggested his criticism of the Florence City Council has made them an enemy, but the city has a different story.
Tomorrow: Florence, Big Ed's, and the "Entertainment District"
What's up with this: UNA and Florence Police are targeting the University District for the next two weeks in an attempt to slow traffic around the campus. So, all you Nascar drivers need to slow down on Pine Street and Wood Avenue.
A second account from Judge Jimmy Sandlin's Family Court for which we make no claims as to validity:
I live in an area, Florence Al., that practices "politics and who you know LAW". I have witnessed first hand, such practice, on more than one occasion. My most recent involvement with Lauderdale Co. family court and judge JIMMY SANDLIN began in mid April, following Spring Break of this yr. My 11 yr old son, let be known to my niece, of same age, "My Daddy raped me..." with heart wrenching detail's. My ex-sis-in-law revealed to me, on April 19th, the matter, as her daughter had told. My son, himself, told me, too, "My Daddy raped me...", in graphic details, the following Friday April 24th. I was heart broken and in disbelief.
My son would not let me out of his sight, and made it clear, and in tears, "I don't want to see or talk to my Dad." He, my son, refused to go to school, fearing his Dad could get him from school. I contacted my attorney, on Monday April 27th, she was out of town until the following Monday. On that Monday I met with her for counsel and direction, thinking I had done the right thing and my son would be protected. Two day's later, I tried to file a Protection Order for my and self, (the Dad has a long history of prior abuse) with the court per judge JIMMY SANDLIN,< person literally attacked and threatened me, saying I had coerced my son, and what a terrible mother I was for doing so, and if DHR and the Cramer Center discover such, quote "You will never see your kid again." and "I'll give you one chance to back out of these allegations" and "This order is a Custody Order not a Protection Order." I said, "I can't not do that, my son needs you." My atty responded, "She has nothing to gain in doing this, thing's are going well, between the mother and her son." I was terrified as "THAT person gave me one of the most evil, peircing glares, I have ever seen." And, the protection order did not include my son, just myself, with a clause, no visitation pending investigation per DHR and the Cramer Center and so-called GAL.
The following week, the Cramer Center (Monica Haddock) with DHR (Laura Johnson) did a Forensic Interview, that did not include, (but should have, according to Bud Cramer guidelines) a detective or investigator from the Florence PD. This is referred to as interagency cooperation, therefore children are not subjected to more interviews and trauma. It also came out in THEIR so-called interview that my son had tried to kill himself 2x, by cutting his wrist, and there is scarring from past cutting on his forearm (my son had told me he had gotten in briars) and a small cut on his wrist, that had been recent. He had to sign a paper, that he would not try and kill himself before they would allow him to leave, both myself and 25 yr old daughter were witness to.
Approximately 1 wk later, my son was taken from me and placed in foster care per DHR and Cramer Center, whom told the judge, I had coerced him, "the child parrots the mother and I was uninsightful to my mental instability" thus mentally abusing my son. DHR, Laura Johnson, FAILED to tell the judge, I had been informed of the molestation/rape by my ex-sis-in-law, whom Laura Johnson had spoke to, as well as her sister, whom had heard my niece tell her. Had this not been omitted, I strongly feel my son would not have been put in foster care.
On July 9th, a hearing was held, with full intent to give full custody to the dad, as well as let him move ny son out of state, and note this, MY atty was out of town, that day, and I given a "fill in" atty whom knew nothing of the case. My daughter is in law enforcement and referenced the "Law" related to rights to counsel, so the case became Pendalite, the father was given temporary custody and allowed to move him out of state and a final hearing to be "sometime in Sept." Only of recent have found out the court date to be Sept. 10th. Also, I was given supervised visitation, which as of today still has not been "worked out" per the GAL. I have not seen my son since July 8th, have spoke with him only 3x, the dad told me, he doesn't want to see or talk to me. My atty say's, he's just at that rebellious stage. So this is where I am at...Lost, in desparate need of advice, I have limited funds, and I fear, to be truthful, that thing's could get much worse...I still have faith that, the GOOD LORD, is watching over my child...and, Oh, how I pray and pray and pray...
There is much more to my story, but, for now, I will leave y'all with the short story...and, I ask for your prayers, too.
I do need this question answered, has anyone out there been ordered to pay for any service's by the Cramer Childrens Advocacy Center, in Florence AL., I was ordered Forensic Evaluation at the expense of the mother, ordered by GAL, DHR and signed by judge JIMMY SANDLIN? I have recently found out that the Cramer Center is a non-profit organization, with 501(c)3 status/IRS...
Also, the dad, has been convicted of domestic assault on me, and has other documented history of abuse to me in police reports, hospital reports, nothing physical recent. The GAL has squashed using his past history of abuse and I don't understand.?
And, Yes, WE>any and all of us whom have been victimized by the system(s), must fight with our hearts, beings and souls to protect our children and God given right to be parent's....
Thank You, for your time and any advice and prayers....
Note: The above account originally appeared in The Alabama Family Rights Association website. It has been edited only for spelling and truncation into more easily readable paragraphs.
We have commented before that no one agrees with every ruling by every judge, especially in Family Court. In Lauderdale County, Circuit Judge Jimmy Sandlin presides over what is commonly called family court--that is most of the time. Noted exceptions to this rule would include cases in which there was a conflict of interest necessitating Judge Sandlin recuse himself from a particular case. One would think such recusals would be rare; however, since Judge Sandlin's sister Cindy Schuessler is a practicing Lauderdale County attorney, such cases may not be as rare as one would think.
One such case in Judge Jimmy Sandlin's court involved local optometrist Rory Smith. After many delays in Sandlin's court, the case was transferred to Judge Mike Jones' courtroom, resulting in a second series of delays.
Dr. Smith decided to present his story to the public in the form of a website. How to Ruin Your Husband is a compelling read. We offer no opinion here, but will let our readers judge for themselves. No matter the guilt or innocence of either party in this divorce, the children are the real victims in such endless legal wranglings.
Yesterday, we looked at a specific Lauderdale County adoption case in which the Putative Father Registry Law was used to end any legal rights of a 19 year-old biological father. First, has this law been declared unconstitutional? Appeals courts have overturned specific cases on the grounds that the father had established paternity by DNA testing before the time limit had expired or that the father had led an active role in the child's life for ten years or other similar justifications. Apparently Judge Jimmy Sandlin, does not think those specific cases nullify the entire law. In all probability, an Alabama Appeals Court will decide this case as well.
Second, is 30 days enough time for a putative father to attempt to establish paternity? Obviously there has to be some time limit. For every day a child is in the care of the state, it loses precious time with the adoptive parents. For every day a child is in the care of the state, we the taxpayers support the child. If the State of Alabama should extend this time limit, what would be a fair time limit? If any of you think this law is unfair, please contact your state legislators about changing it; however, we would think 30 days would be sufficient time for any potential father to come forward unless there were extenuating circumstances.
The biological grandfather of the child in question has again contacted us, stating his main thrust in this matter is to have the law changed and not to dredge up specifics in this case. We can understand his reasoning in this matter; however, while we will not further mention any names, we will address some posts that have been made by others on the Courthouse Forum as well as Facebook.
Whenever custody is challenged, the state appoints a Guardian ad Litem who in turn makes a recommendation concerning the case. This GAL is, or should be, totally impartial in his or her findings. The GAL in this case has been called "an old washed up attorney who doesn't believe in God." Another poster wrote, "there is factual knowledge of child swapping/trading in Judge Sandlin's court...GALs are notoriously dirty in this county." Some person with a pathology beyond our ken wrote that an adoptive parent cannot love a child as much as a "real parent." I doubt that the Guardian ad Litem is seriously upset by these remarks, but they do demonstrate the thinking, or non-thinking, of those seeking to overturn Judge Sandlin's decision.
While I'm sure the biological father has many good qualities, it does take a certain amount of maturity and commitment to bring up a child. This young man's Facebook contains an icon advocating "Free Love," as well as listing his membership in Friends of Lil Steve's, Louie Louie's, and College Campus's Need an Open Bar (a UNA group advocating liquor on demand 24/7)--remember this young man has not yet reached the legal age to consume alcohol in Alabama.
Indeed, there are many morals in this sad tale; however, we will leave you with just one:
If you have unsafe and unprotected sex, you either demonstrate that you do not care about yourself or your partner, or you demonstrate that you are not intelligent enough to know how to protect yourself. Either way, it speaks volumes about you.
Foreword: Any real names in this article have been published previously online in Facebook, the Courthouse Forum, or other public sites. Names marked with an asterisk are aliases to protect the identity of those who have not yet been named publicly. Further, this two-part article is based on moral principals and contains a moral conclusion. If you have no use for morals, moral thinking, or ethics based on such, please do not read further.
We were recently contacted by Roger Scott, an employee of the University of North Alabama. Mr. Scott and his ex-wife are the parents of Andrew Scott, a 2007 graduate of Brooks High School and currently a nursing student at UNA.
In July 2007, Andrew, then 17, had unprotected sex with a 16 year-old girl. According to Andrew it was his only encounter with the young woman who was known to be actively engaging in physical relations with at least two other young men during the same period. When Sandra* realized she was pregnant, she assumed a lover other than Andrew was the child's biological father.
Wisely not wishing to be a teenage parent, Sandra made plans to place her unborn child with her brother and sister-in-law, a childless couple in a stable marriage. After Sandra gave birth, Art and Denise Smith* took Rylan Kade home with them and initiated legal adoption proceedings. At this point, the Alabama Putative Father Registry Law comes into play.
The Putative Father Law states: (i) Any person who claims to be the natural father of a child and fails to file his notice of intent to claim paternity pursuant to subsection (a) prior to or within 30 days of the birth of a child born out of wedlock, shall be deemed to have given an irrevocable implied consent in any adoption proceeding. This law is not unique to Alabama; the majority of states have similar laws in order to finalize adoption proceedings and place unwanted infants in permanent homes as soon as possible.
For whatever reason (possibly because such tests in utero can endanger the fetus), DNA testing was not done until the child's birth in March 2008. Both of Sandra's long-time lovers agreed to provide a DNA sample; however, neither lover proved to be the child's biological father.
By now, the Smiths' adoption proceedings had reached Judge Jimmy Sandlin's Family Court. Approximately 45 to 60 days from the birth had passed when Andrew Scott came forward asking to be tested for the paternity of Rylan Kade Smith.
No one will contest the fact that Alabama's Department of Human Resources is overworked and, yes, in all probability, underpaid. In the years since the organization changed its name from the Department of Pensions and Security, DHR has announced improved policies and protocol upgrades on a regular basis. At this point, just what level of service should the citizens of Alabama expect from DHR? We can definitely conclude that the Alabama Department of Human Resources, along with ECM Hospital, horribly failed one young Lauderdale County woman.
On July 13, 2009, Kayla Turpen, an unmarried woman on Medicaid, gave birth to a daughter at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence. On July 14th, a nursery worker entered Miss Turpen's room and informed her the child had tested positive for cocaine. Kayla herself tested negative for any illicit drugs, but this did not deter the DHR from stating their intentions of pressing charges against her, as well as seeking an end to her custody of the infant.
Fortunately for Kayla, her mother has a background in health care and recalled that on July 1, 2009, Kayla had been prescribed Macrobid for a urinary tract infection. Yesterday we published a link to a very extensive list of drugs that could cause false positives in certain drug screens; however, the drug Macrobid was not on the list. Does that mean Macrobid would never cause a false positive?
According to a Harvard Medical School study, the answer to that question is no. The Harvard study tested 13 antibiotics using five common (we may also infer cheap) drug tests; in two out of the five, Macrobid caused a false positive for cocaine.
Upon the insistence of Kayla and the Turpen family, she and her infant were retested, this time using hair samples. After a week of uncertainty, both tests came back negative for cocaine or any other illegal drugs.
On August 15th, Kayla's brother and sister-in-law had a child at ECM. If any drug testing was done in this case, the married mother with private insurance was not informed of it. On the obstetrics floor, the Turpen family encountered the same ECM personnel who one month earlier had falsely accused Kayla of cocaine use. No one offered any of them an apology.
What's up with this: Hundreds of Bank Independent customers across the Tennessee Valley are receiving new debit cards this week. It seems "a major payment processor experienced a security breach." Bank Independent further states these customers will also receive new PIN numbers. New personal identification number numbers? Is that like "Pizza, pizza?"
Drug testing is hardly new. Yet, each year more and more businesses require their employees to take this simple urine test. Or is it that simple?
While large companies may pay a laboratory hundreds of dollars to professionally test urine, or even blood or hair, many smaller businesses buy drug testing kits in bulk for a few dollars each and administer them in less than ideal circumstances. Just how accurate are the latter and what rights do you have if your test results in a false positive?
Many of us remember the Seinfeld episode in which poppy seeds caused a false positive for one of the characters, but do you know what over-the-counter and prescription medications may cause a false positive? The list is long, but we suggest you print it out for future reference:
Richard (Dick) Biddle was owner and Chief Executive Officer of Biddle Broadcasting for almost fifty years. His WOWL radio station is perhaps most noted for introducing Mark Thompson (Mark and Brian) to the world of broadcasting. In 1957, Biddle expanded his operations by opening the first television station in the Quad-Cities. Located on Cypress Mill Road in Florence, the building still houses equipment and offices for WHDF, the successor to WOWL television.
Dick Biddle took great pride in the Shoals area and was noted for his involvement in numerous civic endeavors. In 1982, he was named Alabama Broadcaster of the Year, as well as winning the Shoals Citizen of the Year in 1992. Biddle helped initiate the annual Jaycees' auction, offering the group free air time each year. He also composed and read a daily televised editorial, always signing off with the words, "Be a good American; be an informed American."
After Biddle died in 1995 at the age of 76, his family sold the television station. WOWL radio station continues to operate out of Iuka, Mississippi. Certainly, Dick Biddle's legacy is secure. There is no actual need for any tangible reminder of the good he did for this community. Still, if the OWL sign could be located and restored, it would be fitting to do so in Mr. Biddle's honor.
What's up with this: Alabama has the third highest rate of uninsured drivers in the U.S. Why is this not surprising?
It's fitting while remembering Florence artist Bryon Wilkes that we also remember an element of his most famous creation. Beginning in 1957, WOWL radio station brought television broadcasting to the Shoals area. With the call letters of WOWL, an owl was certainly an obvious and appropriate mascot.
Richard (Dick) Biddle owned the small broadcasting company and was known for his sense of civic responsibility. In an era before seat belts and airbags, traffic fatalities were a huge problem. In order to remind Shoals citizens to drive safely, Biddle created what became a local icon for decades.
WOWL Broadcasting placed a metal Owl at each end of O'Neal Bridge. If there had been no traffic fatalities within the past 24 hours, one eye of the Owl glowed green; a red eye indicated that someone had lost his or her life during the past day. After remodeling to the bridge in the 1980s, the twin Owls were removed, with one being installed on South Court Street adjacent to what was then the Holiday Inn.
Dick Biddle died in 1995, his television station sold, and his broadcasting company moved to Mississippi. There are conflicting accounts as to the disposition of the famous Owl(s). If any of our readers have information, please forward it to us.
Tomorrow: Richard Biddle, a concerned American
What's up with this: Be sure to check out a new local blog: DOGed PURRsuit. A nation is judged by its treatment of animals and the infirm elderly. We would shudder to think how Alabama rates in either category.
Byron Wilkes, a Florence-based artist and poet, has passed away. Sometimes known professionally as Alien Autist, Wilkes is responsible for much of the artwork adorning the music of the Fiddle Worms and Drive-By Truckers.
Some months before we began this blog, we discovered Wilkes' painting Hot-Rod Politique on an eBay auction. After debuting our effort in Blogger, we knew we wanted to use this wonderful work of satire in our theme, but had no idea who had created this iconoclastic masterpiece. After some months, a reader filled us in on Byron, and we became an avid fan, featuring him in our May 9, 2009, column. We understand that Byron was especially pleased that we chose his artwork to epitomize the Shoals area.
Byron was known to feature pyramids prominently in his work. Pictured is perhaps his second best-known work, The Three Great Alabama Icons. You can see more of Byron's art at his MySpace page.
We're sure that many of our readers will want to memorialize Byron in some manner. We will publish any information concerning arrangements as they become available, as well as any information on purchasing his artwork. All our sympathies to his family and friends.
Mail concerning our recent blog on Troy King was evenly divided. It seems Alabamians either love or hate TK the AG. We want to reiterate our statement that King has done many good things while in office. One communication we received perfectly illustrates this. Here is a brief, but telling, extract from the story from one reader:
You appear to have a personal intersection in something Troy King did, well, I do too. My sister was murdered and this man never gave up. I have met with him three times and in every instance he has promised to do something. For three years he wrote our family on the anniversary of her memorial and this past year announced that the cold case was going to be prosecuted and closed. I am happy to know that we are not the only ones. VOCAL gives the victims of crime a network to lean upon each other for support and prayer. I know from others in our victims network that Troy goes out of his way to meet, pray, console, keep in jail and keep alive the desire to find and prosecute the criminals who have harmed so many. However, King has made ethical mistakes that many high school students would be wise enough to avoid. He has also repeatedly attempted to create and modify state law as well as enforce it; his burgeoning list of crimes of moral turpitude has kept many productive Alabama citizens from enjoying their political rights. We can only conclude that power does corrupt many individuals, and King is one who has fallen victim to it.
Our humorous column two days ago on new bridal shop Cherry Tree Lane (Plain) also garnered many responses, all but two of them positive. The two critical e-mails came from the 23 year-old owner Whitney Hill and her mother. We wish Miss Hill the best in her new business endeavor, as well as highly commending her on entrepreneurship at such an early age. We still maintain the shop's remuddling removed a lovely, short-lived icon from the cityscape and, in doing so, robbed us of a thing of beauty. We do hope that any of our readers visiting downtown Florence will drop in and check out Miss Hill's business. All the best to her.
What's up with this: It seems one new local forum has gone private after three months. Considering the forum's content, we're sure it's a move of which the site's retail sponsors approve.
Accusations against former Cherokee librarian Allison Paige Hite McWilliams are scheduled to be presented at the October 26th grand jury session. Colbert County District Attorney Bryce Graham has recused himself stating a conflict, and Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Doug Evans is scheduled to present the state's case.
Interestingly, Cherokee Mayor Chuck Lansdell will only admit at this time that the missing funds amount to over $10,000.00. Previous documented audits showed the amount of fraudulent credit card charges to be just over $16,000.00. Paige McWilliams, 1986 Red Rock Road, Tuscumbia, is married to Barry G. McWilliams who sources say initially offered to settle with the town of Cherokee. The town has filed a civil suit against Paige McWilliams seeking $43,000.00 in damages. If this is the case, one may assume the insurance carrier for the town of Cherokee is demanding a criminal suit before it will reimburse the town for any difference in the amount owed and what Barry McWilliams is offering in settlement.
It's unclear what Bryce Graham's relationship to Barry and Paige McWilliams may actually be. Doug Evans has Colbert County roots and should not be perceived as an outsider to a local jury; nevertheless, recent trials involving such recusals have resulted in acquittals. Indeed, the civil suit may be the best way for Cherokee to recoup any of its losses.
What's up with this: It seems the TimesDaily forums are now devoid of any official moderation. They may have to charge extra for the additional entertainment value.
H. L. Mencken defined Puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy. Over the years, Mencken's quote has been detailed to fit other groups. Today, we will add that there are apparently those in Florence, Alabama, who fear some storefront might just stand out from the others, might develop an upwardly mobile clientele, and then might bring an undesirable element to the city--you know, anyone with flair or fashion sense. Then where would the vice-mayor's cousin be with her girdle business?
Last year, Kennedy's Bridal and Formal Wear opened on North Court Street. Immediately a reactionary few began to criticize the store's robin egg blue and sea foam green accent colors. To many, including those of us here at Shoalanda, the store was a bright spot in the cityscape that signaled new growth and, dare we say it, a modicum of artistic taste in our little area of the state. Alas, Kennedy's glow has been extinguished.
In it's place now stands Cherry Tree Lane Bridal, it's trim painted a non-descript neutral usually reserved for funeral homes, investment institutions, and prisons for the criminally insane. Like Toni Morrison's Not Doctor Street, this retail establishment shall now forever be known as Cherry Tree Plain.
Town & Gown: UNA has just announced a new head of campus security. We hope a new administration will put an end to any animosity the campus police has recently experienced from locals.
"Only two things that money can't buy. That's true love & homegrown tomatoes." Guy Clark
Kids just left for college? Husband left you for a newer model? Wife left you because you're boring? We have the solution to all your problems. You can, for a small adoption fee, buy a best friend. You can purchase true love. You can rescue an innocent victim sitting on death row.
Does this once in a lifetime offer sound too good to be true? Well, it's not only true, it's not just once in a lifetime either--it's five days a week, 52 weeks a year. Still, with all that love available right now, why wait? Here's how to order, er, adopt.
Florence/Lauderdale Animal Shelter: 702 West College Street, 760-6676, M-F (Closed for Lunch), Adoption fee includes neutering and first shots.
Colbert County Animal Control: 5010 Missouri Street, Tuscumbia, 381-4073.
PAWS: Next Adoption Event - August 22 - Petco in Florence - Noon until 4:00 p.m.
Note: If you're not in the Shoals area, Petfinder covers the United States; we're sure there's a bundle of fur out there with your name on it!
It's hard to believe something as innocuous looking as a parking meter can be so controversial, but thanks to Parking Enforcement Officer Ken Dial, the war on the no-arm bandits is heating up. Invented in 1935, parking meters have long provided extra income for larger cities, while ensuring shoppers don't lose out to homesteading retail employees. Florence is currently the only Shoals area municipality to utilize the meters, and many would like to see the change guzzling machines sold for scrap. According to Florence officials, that's not about to happen.
Meter Maids and Curb Cops fell by the wayside over the years; since 1995 the parking enforcement duties have fallen to three part-time city employees rather than a single Florence Police officer. Ken Dial, a State of Alabama retiree with 31 years of service, is one of the original trio. Dial states his work is as much public relations as parking enforcement. Yet the approximately 725 strategically placed meters bring in almost $60,000.00 each year. With the downtown parking garage losing almost $40,000.00 annually, Florence needs the revenue, but is it maximizing the funds parking meters garner?
According to Robert Wilson, a Florence businessman quoted in Friday's TimesDaily, the city's parking enforcement officers play favorites. This accusation is hardly groundless, according to TD staff writer Brian Hughes. The reporter stated Dial overlooked illegal parking, giving a "free pass" to those whom he knew. Obviously, this practice costs the city of Florence several thousand dollars each year.
Public relations for the town of Florence is well and good. Giving friends preferential treatment is quite another matter and should be frowned on by city administrators. Or perhaps those parking perps are such good friends of Mr. Dial that he would be willing to pay the fine himself. Somehow we doubt the latter.
What's up with this: Speaking of preferential treatment, just how did Florence businessman Steven Barnes settle $1,000.00 in parking tickets for only $125.00? The next time you get a $2.00 ticket, try offering the city twenty-five cents.
Is a new trial in the future for convicted child murderer Christie Scott? If so, we can certainly expect defense attorney Robert Barry Tuten of Huntsville to request a change of venue--and in all probability obtain one this go round. Tuten, a slightly portly man with a greying beard, hardly cuts an imposing figure...until he speaks. Tuten is quite easily the savviest attorney Joey Rushing has faced during his stint as Franklin County District Attorney, yet Rushing won the case due to overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Scott deliberately killed her older child for the insurance money. Convicted of the crime, Scott has already been transferred to death row in Wetumpka's Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. Joey Rushing can now breathe easier, or can he?
From an exclusive report by Huntsville's WHNT 19:
On July 23, after Christie Scott's conviction, the state filed a motion to be allowed to enter the burned home on Signore Drive in Russellville to collect evidence, including electrical boxes and outlets and a television console from Mason's bedroom.
The family feels the action shows the state doesn't have a case and is trying to rebuild one. However, Rushing says his office is only being thorough in the event another trial is necessary. Obviously Rushing believes a new trial is a distinct possibility. Such requests by defense attorneys are always perfunctory, but in Scott's case, Tuten may have the appeals court on his side. During the trial it was revealed the prosecution had failed to present the defense with the electrician's report on the wiring in Mason Scott's bedroom, instead sending only the electrician's invoice--"shoddy work" according to Tuten.
More importantly, the state lost two of the electrical outlets that were removed from the victim's room. Rushing could offer no plausible explanation for their disappearance, but maintained that over two thousand photographs of the charred boxes were enough to prove the state's case.
Local legal eagles don't expect a ruling from the appeals court for at least six months. We have to wonder just how much more of the evidence Franklin County authorities can lose during that time.
What's up with this: Christie Scott has made the People You'll See in Hell website. With so much knowledge of the future, you'd think they would be offering stock market tips instead.
With unemployment at almost 11% in the Florence metropolitan area, all forms of tax revenue are destined to decrease in the near future. Logically, Shoals towns will either have to decrease services or find new sources of tax revenue. Could an occupational tax be in our future?
Beleaguered and basically bankrupt Birmingham is proposing a .45% occupational tax for their city, at least until 2012. While such a tax on an annual income of $50,000.00 would amount to only $225.00, most of those taxed would reside outside the city and even Jefferson County itself.
Now State Rep. Randy Hinshaw of Meridianville (pictured) wants to ensure such forms of taxation never reach Madison County. Rep. Hinshaw, who works for a community college in Opelika, states he's determined to get this essential piece of legislation passed before the end of the special session. Obviously, there's little chance of Hinshaw's bill being enacted during this abbreviated session and even less chance of it dealing with an actual threat to Madison County residents. We believe the word is "grandstanding."
We're just surprised members of the Shoals delegation didn't think of it first. Of course, when questioned about it two years down the road, we're sure at least one or two of them will claim they did, ala Mike Curtis and Tammy Irons asserting they voted against their 62% pay raise.
What's up with this: Pizza Marina is moving from its Colbert County location to the former Smack building in Killen. We predict a weight surge for the Eastern Lauderdale town.
We've heard it said, to really gauge the pulse of a community, don't just rely on the local newspaper, check out the area forums and blogs. In the past we've highly recommended Osborne Ink by Matt Osborne and hope that you've added his column to your favorites list. Now, we would like to suggest two other Shoals area efforts for your consideration.
The Robnett Reveiw is a conservative political blog written by Jason W. Robnett (pictured). We find it both witty and informative. Like Osborne Ink, many of the issues tackled are of national import, and we hope Mr. Robnett will turn some of his wit toward state and local issues in the future.
The second site is more than just a blog--it's an extremely well-done website by a Brooks High graduate who refers to himself as Coach T. With football season fast approaching, we're sure CoachT.com will be a must-read for many.
That brings us to the bard, a local poet who is going places, brought to us via YouTube and a tremendous local talent currently residing in Hollywoodland. Both poet and presenter prefer to remain anonymous at this time, but we hope to be able to bring you an interview with both in the near future. For your enjoyment, we present Pyro.
What's up with this: We're glad Florence Councilman Barry Morris is concerned about protecting citizens from local hucksters; we wish he would demonstrate the same concern for our well-being in smoke-filled eateries.
The death last month of Tuscumbia businessman Ed Borden left the Muscle Shoals Airport Authority Board without a chairman. Now Allen Wilson's 90 day sentence for misdemeanor assault may leave a second seat unfilled.
Wilson's attorney Tim Case is appealing his conviction, ostensibly on the grounds of possible bias on the part of Judge Mike Jones. Wilson supported Alice Martin against Jones in his initial bid for the Lauderdale Circuit judgeship. At the time of Wilson's arrest, at least one reader questioned the legality of Wilson remaining on the airport board. The appointment would seemingly involve political rights, but a misdemeanor conviction would in no way negate those rights. Also, since Wilson was appointed by Lauderdale County, it may be only the county commission that has the power to remove him.
Matthew Hea, Muscle Shoals Airport Director, and other board members have stated the ideal new member(s) will have aviation experience. Tuscumibia is a small town, but surely more than one individual will be interested enough in the position to apply. Similarly, if a vacancy is announced in Lauderdale County, we hope there will be at least a modicum of competition for the appointment.
Most leaders in this area seem unclear as to what the potential of our local airport actually is. While we don't expect it ever to rival Atlanta or Chicago, we do wish to see it grow and evolve into more of an asset to the Shoals than it has been in the past.
What's up with this: Many thanks to the Florence firefighters and paramedics who attempted to save Ouija Hudson from a fatal fire this morning. How one treats the lower species speaks volumes, and the Shoals area is fortunate to have such caring responders.
The city of Florence has applied for 13 million dollars of Federal stimulus money, but not without controversy. Much has been said about Fire Chief Charlie Cochran applying for the funding of a new fire station without the consent of the city council, but we've yet to see a comment on the $600,000.00 award for additional police officers.
Mayor Bobby Irons has stated the funds will be used to hire five new police officers for the city. Assuming their average salary is $40,000.00 per year, the grant will fund employment for these officers for three years. Then what?
The current unemployment rate in Florence is 10.7%. Forrest Wright of SEDA has predicted the rate will not decrease, although he did not give a specific time limit for his prognostication. Kerry Sutherland of the Shoals Career Center feels the rate will rise even higher before the end of the recession. With an unemployment rate in the double digits for an indefinite period of time, it's unrealistic not to expect some decline in the population. With such a decline, loss of tax revenue is a given.
Considering these current economic conditions, Florence would do well to plan on how to maintain its current police force rather than how to add an additional five officers who will be terminated at the end of three years. Perhaps Mayor Irons is utilizing "The Horse Could Talk" model of government planning.
What's up with this: Russellville High School has initiated a Junior ROTC program for the upcoming school year. Kudos to the forward thinking administration and props to those who are participating in the program.
Those over the age of 35 who attended the University of North Alabama should remember Nick Winn fondly as a man whose erudition was second only to his humor. One of his favorite discussion starters was, "Who have read?" Mr. Winn, always grammatically perfect, had high hopes that more than one person had read the work in question.
Born on August 25, 1905, Mr. Winn grew up in an era of unheard of change and prosperity brought about by the Great War. Winn was a student, and later a confidant, of Pulitzer Prize winner T. S. Stribling. Certainly when he died at the age of 92 on September 10, 1997, the former UNA associate professor had become a Florence treasure.
Nick Winn edited several books over his career, but has always been most remembered for Muscle Shoals Canal: Life with the Canalers. The book was originally published in a series of Bi-Centennial works in 1978 and enjoyed a second printing in 1981. Since that time, it has been out of print and extremely hard to find, or at least to purchase, in this area.
Now the Friends of the Killen Historical Commission has published 1,000 copies of Winn's work; these will initially be available at Founders' Day celebrations on August 22 & 23. The annual celebration is held in Killen Park adjacent to the Killen Church of Christ building. We hope all of Mr. Winn's former students will make an effort to purchase a copy of Muscle Shoal Canal; we predict the initial Killen printing will be sold out before the event is over.
What's up with this: Retired Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Mike Suttle has decided not to run for the Alabama Senate, citing time and financial constraints. Suttle stated the campaign could cost as much as a half-million dollars. It seems to take quite a bit of money just to be of service to others, doesn't it?
We'll be the first to say that Troy King has many good points; we're just not sure his merits outweigh his faults. Certainly we're thankful to the Alabama Attorney General (pictured with his assistant) for stepping in when local District Attorneys drop the ball, or at least refuse to catch it, as with Chris Connolly in the Keith McGuire rape case. We also had serious doubts that a Federal investigation of King would continue after Republican Alice Martin left office. Apparently the probe is not only continuing, it's heating up.
If Troy King is guilty of all the charges the Federal government seeks to bring against him, we hope he is promptly removed from office. If he is innocent in some trumped-up witch hunt, we hope he will be able to prove both his good intentions and legal basis for any actions that have been questioned. The problem is King is using our money to defend himself against these charges.
It has not been that long ago that Troy King set a cap of $45.00 an hour for court-appointed defense attorneys. Many in the Shoals area, as well as across the state, voiced their shock at the rate, a rate well below that of other states. Now, King has retained the Birmingham firm of Bradley, Arant, Boult, and Cummings to assist in his defense. The high profile firm, formerly known as Bradley, Arant, Rose, & White, has been dubbed by many as "Brashly Arrogant." Indeed, at $300.00 an hour, a certain amount of brashness is to be expected.
In case you missed that amount in the previous paragraph, that was $300.00 an hour of taxpayer's money King will be paying these hotshot lawyers to defend him against ethics violations. If you don't have a calculator handy, that amounts to $255.00 an hour more than King has previously stated defense attorneys are worth.
It's entirely possible Troy King will have left office before the probe is concluded. If King should choose to run again before the probe has ended, we hope everyone will remember his $300.00 an hour legal counsel as they mark their ballots.
What's up with this: Check out TKtheAG on Twitter. We thought it was a well done spoof at first, but several in the know assure us it's real.
Never let it be said that only male educators are predators--just take a look at Rebecca Nichols, a former clerical assistant at East Lawrence High School. While the title "clerical assistant" hardly sounds imposing, it took three tries before the Lawrence County School Board agreed to hire Nichols in October 2007. Even after the board agreed to offer Nichols the job, District 2 member Gary Bradford proclaimed it wanton nepotism, it seems Rebecca was married to East Lawrence principal Ricky Nichols.
Rebecca Nichols immediately became popular with students, either because of her outgoing manner or other assets. Rumors that Nichols had posed for Playboy the same month she was hired at East Lawrence spread like fungus, and the clerk was never short of would-be swains despite her marriage to the principal. We doubt these rumors are true, but if any of our male readers would like to make the time-consuming sacrifice of scanning old editions of the magazine, please give us a report of your findings.
Last May, the Lawrence County Board of Education chose not to renew Nichols' contract, ostensibly due to budget cuts; however, it was well known that Ricky and Rebecca Nichols were separated and about to file for divorce. According to Tina Coleman, a family friend, Rebecca Nichols then took refuge in the friendship she shared with Coleman's 16 year-old son.
Nichols' relationship with the high school student began as early as Thanksgiving 2008 when the young man spent the holiday weekend with Rebecca's children from a previous marriage. According to the youth, the pair had their first sexual encounter on March 7th. When Rebecca Nichols discovered she had lost her position at East Lawrence, she and the student engaged in the use of alcohol and marijuana in an attempt to assuage their mutual sorrow. According to the youth, the relationship ended in June when the boy began to date a girl his own age.
After Tina Coleman's other children informed her of the relationship between her son and Rebecca Nichols, she pressed charges against the former school clerk for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Rebecca Nichols, now residing in Blount County, has not publicly commented on the charges. Ricky Nichols says he has forgiven the youth, stating it was his estranged wife's fault. Obviously, as an adult, Rebecca Nichols must shoulder the lion's share of the blame; we do wonder how East Lawrence principal Ricky Nichols would view the situation if the school worker had been someone other than his soon-to-be-ex-wife.
What's up with this: A 1999 Hartland Institute study reported that 18% of female students admitted a male coach had approached them for sex. We're sure many students would not admit to such harassment; therefore, just what is the actual percentage in 2009? We hope all parents discuss this problem with their children.
John Crowder, Florence City Council watchdog, has awarded local realtor Lyndel K. (Pumpkin) Rhodes the Sign Swine Award for the second quarter of 2009. Crowder stated that Rhodes' for-sale signs are continually in violation of the city's sign ordinance. Rhodes (pictured) is an agent for the Florence based group Renaissance Realty, as well as the owner of a local auction house. Many thanks to Mr. Crowder for his efforts to keep Florence beautiful.
Clarification on Deputy Terry Woods, per our legal consultant on the use of the word "arrest":
"If the defendant is not in custody, if the offense charged is bailable as a matter of right, and if there is no reason to believe that the defendant will not respond to the summons, a summons may be issued, at the sole discretion of the issuing judge or magistrate. If the defendant fails to appear and answer the charges, a warrant for arrest will be issued. It is used for less serious charges where there is a likelihood that the defendant will appear as summoned. At the appearance, he/she will plead guilty or not guilty and be given a trial date. There might never be an arrest as such."
Request: Will our reader from Bevill State Community College please contact us again concerning new charges of sexual harassment against a former Haleyville High School coach.
Louise Harris from Montgomery, Tierra Gobble from Houston, Shonda Johnson from Walker, and Patricia Blackman from Houston--all prisoners at Tutwiler with a "Z" before their Alabama Inmate System Number, all women who expect to die in prison, all females sentenced to death for heinous crimes. Now, Christie Michelle Bray Scott of Franklin County will join them.
In less than 30 days, the State of Alabama will forward paperwork to the Franklin County Jail ordering deputies to transport Scott south to Elmore County, home of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. In all probability, Scott's journey will take place at night. Unannounced, a female jailer will enter her cell, command her to dress, shackle her, and escort her to a waiting transport. Marked police vehicles are allowed to speed down the state's roadways, and Scott should reach Tutwiler shortly after dawn.
Most transfers are shuttled into a holding pen outside the prison, but a prisoner with a death sentence should be given special escort into the building. There Scott will be told to disrobe and shower. Prison workers will delouse Scott, a barber will cut her hair to collar length, and she will be handed a unisex white uniform along with a minimum of toiletries. Now Scott is ready to be taken to her new home--a small cell measuring approximately 10' x 10'.
There are only four death row cells at Tutwiler, currently all full. It's likely Scott will be placed in one of the adjacent segregation cells. It's also likely prison personnel will make it clear to Scott that she is a burden to them, since she is only adding to their time-consuming death row routine.
Now, Christie Scott is alone, alone with four books, a television if any of her family should desire to provide her one, and possibly a small animal. Yes, Scott will have the luxury of a bird or a cat, as long as her family provides its upkeep. She will also get to shower every other day and walk for one hour each day in a small private garden. Even her meals will be delivered to the small cell that will become her home.
For 30 days, Scott will be allowed no visitors. After that period, immediate family may make arrangements to visit during approved hours. Then Christie Scott will be alone again, alone in a cell where all lights are turned off at ten o'clock at night, alone with her thoughts and her guilt.
This is the life for which Christie Michelle Bray Scott traded her son Mason. Let us all pray for her family.
Cheryl Bradford resigned her position as Director of the Russellville Chamber of Commerce in early July after being called to a special Chamber meeting to resolve the ongoing problem of unpaid bills. On July 6th, the Chamber asked Bradford to reconsider her resignation; Bradford agreed to return to her position of Executive Director only if the current Board members resign. Bradford's demand may appear unrealistic on the surface, but according to several Franklin County sources, she has the support of the community.
When Lisa Stockton resigned as Chamber Director in December 2007, Cheryl Bradford was one of 15 applicants who sought the position. Chamber President Ken Askew announced the hiring of Bradford, a retired TVA employee, six weeks later. Askew stated at the time it was a difficult choice, but many close to the selection process privately stated Bradford's husband Jackie, Franklin County District I Commissioner, had used his influence to sway Chamber members.
Now, two short weeks before the annual Watermelon Festival, the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce is left virtually rudderless, refuses to budge in its position, and declines comment on the Chamber's current financial problems. Our sources say watch for the plot to thicken.
Congratulations to Tina Miller Parker on her appointment to the Muscle Shoals Civil Service Board--a great choice for the job!
We hope all our readers support the fight against breast cancer; we also hope they do it wisely. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is a legitimate organization dedicated to eradicating this potentially lethal disease that strikes one in four American women. The Breast Cancer Relief Foundation is a scam.
The latter does have a website, complete with ubiquitous pink graphics and the disclaimer that none of the information listed therein may result in any liability to them. Since June, the BCRF has moved into the world of Alabama telemarketing, sometimes using the name CCDF (Cervical Cancer Defense Foundation). These sister scams both use the number 314-627-5579.
Telemarketers for these groups ask for bank account information, but will offer to send a SASE if you insist upon donating in that manner. They also encourage a minimum donation of $25.00. Those who call the number back are answered with a voice mail box and prompted to leave a message.
Our contact at the Attorney General's office stated this bogus organization is running its scam from Missouri and there is little authorities in Alabama can do. Anyone receiving a call from this number should not pick up the phone--that is unless you are of a mood to tell these dishonest telemarketers what you really think of them.
Note: For those of our readers who wish to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, we suggest checking out the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
It's nice to know so many Alabamians retain old-time values. Where else in the USA are we to find so many individuals, both male and female, who realize sex crimes are always the woman's fault? A recent Florida incident involving a poor, misunderstood man from Sheffield is a prime example.
It seems Reginald Lamont Elliot, who listed his home address as Sheffield, Alabama, when arrested by Marion County, Florida, deputies, has become the latest victim of the siren's song. The July 31st edition of the Ocala Star-Banner reports that while riding a Greyhound Bus the hapless Elliot was so overcome by the charms of a 13 year-old girl and a 67 year-old woman that he could not contain himself; more to the point, he couldn't contain a certain part of himself, and began to masturbate while looking longingly at these two wanton hussies.
These Jezebels had the nerve to report Elliot to the bus driver who then pulled over and called the sheriff's department. We can only hope that Florida authorities will recognize that Reginald Lamont Elliot was in no way to blame for this consensual act and allow him to return to his rightful place in society--in all probability, teaching school.
What's up with this: It seems Norfolk Southern Railroad has announced a dramatic increase in second quarter profits for 2009. Perhaps it's time for them to reconsider their announced layoffs for the Sheffield yard.
Love old books? You're not alone--at least not yet. Unfortunately, another local used book store shuttered its door for the last time Friday. The Book Shoppe, formerly The Book Lion, on East Tuscaloosa Street in Florence has fallen victim to the economy. Owner Charlotte White informs us she will soon be opening an online store; such online emporiums are nice, but certainly cyber vending lacks the ambiance of an actual building where one may feel the richness of leather bindings and sniff the scent of a first edition's former owner.
Fortunately, for those in the Shoals area, all is not yet lost. Most libraries in the area carry at least a few shelves of donated books for sale. One never knows what one may find amid the tattered Harlequins and dog-eared technical manuals.
More importantly, Lauderdale County remains the home to three large used book stores. Ariannna's in the English Village caters to those seeking slightly used paperbacks in excellent condition. The store also carries hardbacks that can't yet be found in mass market paperback editions, plus a small selection of collectible editions. The Book Nook in the Parkway Shopping Center is not as large, but carries a wide range of romances and mysteries.
For those who venture to the Elgin community (and we highly suggest you do), K's Cove Used Books and Treasures stocks the largest selection of used books in the area, including the hard to find Ellora's Cave offerings and local histories. Owner Karen (K) Farmer also stocks a line of handmade soaps and bath salts in an array of exotic fragrances.
So, in the modern world of e-books on demand, does the indie bookseller have a future? I certainly hope so. I hardly think Jane Austin would approve of us reading her works on a Kindle.
What's up with this: Several of our sources report there will be some interesting news originating from the Haleyville/Winston County area. We'll be keeping you informed.
The Kids Count report is in, and Lauderdale County seems to have problems with its high school graduation rate. Admittedly, the rate is calculated in a convoluted way.
Assuming 100 students enter the 9th Grade, if one student dies, two drop out, five move out of the district, and two move into the district during the ensuing four years, the graduation rate for that county is 94%. Therefore, graduation rates based on the current formula are not always the best indicator of a school system's success.
However, during the four year period between 2003 and 2007, Colbert County's graduation rate increased by 3.5% and Franklin County enjoyed an 8.5% increase. Lauderdale, the largest and most economically secure of the three counties, had a graduation rate that decreased by almost 8%. Since Lauderdale enjoyed a small growth in population during this same period, it's doubtful much of this 8% may be attributed to any flight from the area. The Kids Count Data did not break down this student loss by system, but both Florence City and Lauderdale County schools should be greatly concerned by this trend.
Interestingly, it's the educators with whom I speak who seem the least concerned. After all, the best students, they say, are the ones who really wish to learn; forcing a child to attend school does nothing for him and adversely affects those who do. Until parents from all economic strata begin to encourage their children to take advantage of every educational opportunity, Alabama will be lucky to remain at 48th place.
What's up with this: The local Chrysler dealership is taking part in the Federal Government's "Cash for Clunkers" program; in fact they are offering to double the rebate. Is business this bad?