On Goat Hill: Sparks fly, Passed gas, Constipated internet…
May 1, 2017 | View PDF
Putting ‘Dr. Gov. StrangeLuv’ embarrassment in our rear view mirror, WSFA (4/12/17) reported replacement Gov. Kay Ivey’s second day in office jettisoned more of the former corrupt governor's ‘work.’ Ivey abolished Bentley’s Office of Rural Development created in 2011 under the umbrella of ADECA (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs) ostensibly to improve and advance education, healthcare, and economic development in rural parts of the State. "Rural Alabama is near and dear to my heart," Ivey said; WSFA further quoted her with, "Don't forget I'm from rural Wilcox County. My decision to shutter the Office of Rural Development will refocus rural development efforts into existing agencies." Her decision terminated State employment for Ron Sparks, a former Ag Commissioner who ran against Bentley in the 2010 gubernatorial race. In the spirit of our rigged duopoly spoils system of ‘bi-partisanship’ Sparks was hired to run this redundant bureaucratic position.
Perhaps, Ms. Ivey will also rescind the ‘trumped up’ Dr. StrangeLuvGuv pay increases for staff many saw as hush money for Bentley’s cover-up and tampering in the Felon Hubbard trial. Another noteworthy member of the “ex-Dr. Governor” staff put out of our employ is Stan Stabler, Bentley's replacement for Secretary of ALEA (Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) after the suspiciously timed termination of Spencer Collier not aiding and abetting the desired cover-up(s). Ivey accepted Stabler's resignation prompting retirement, so it seems yet another ‘public servant’ drove up their pay to further burden RSA payouts. Jon Mason (well paid husband of the Dr. Governor’s former top aide/girl toy Rebekah Mason) was also fired. It seems Ms. Ivey was unwilling to continue to pay for Mr. Mason’s public services - maybe he was confused with the protection afforded in tenured academia where sexual affairs (or football scandal, etc.) locks into higher/longer payouts instead of just deserts like termination.
I certainly applaud Ms. Ivey’s efforts to remove waste from the State budget and pray she goes after more egregious wasteful redundancies under her stewardship. I want my legislators to shepherd our State to improving the general welfare of our State - i.e., make sure our Ag Community is not abused by disuniform taxation, eminent domain abuse, spread of unsustainable urban growth, etc. It takes a certain level of understanding of how the real world works (hard to imagine my State Senator has a current CDL and really understands what makes a farm, light switch, vehicle, etc. function) to be effective toward this end. I’m glad Sen. Whatley is taking the “right to repair” seriously to protect our farmers from Apple, John Deere, et al types trying to extract as much as they can from this socially productive segment of our economy.
Ms. Ivey showing similar rigor ending the corporate welfare side of ADECA championing wealth redistributions to specific business interests (which has been even more deleterious to the general welfare of our State) would be worthy of greater applause. As one of the first to sound the alarm on how despicable Dr. Gov. Bentley had become (May 2011 Gazette column) it was easy to forecast where he was headed getting cozy with BCA thugs. Thankfully the AEA self destructed enough, unable to bail out yet another corrupt politician to leverage extracting more out of our State. Sad to witness this once good man allowing a little BCA corruption into his life to see it permeate toward an end of this sort, perhaps others are Goat Hill are learning. I thank Mr. Bentley for leaving (even if not coming clean about AG deals and avoiding criminal consequences) so we would not endure yet another Siegleman, Hubbard ordeal to discipline him in the courts.
Gov. Ivey also announced an election for the Senate seat currently held by ‘Big Luther StrangeLuvGuv.’ Hard to dodge the “Gerald Ford” stigma of brokering a deal for the Senate seat... thoughts of Blagojevich also come to mind like a belch from a bad onion. Some forecast Luther will be able to easily overcome this ‘Visual Art of the Deal’ made with Bentley. Big ‘Cash Register’ Shelby mentoring the Bentley installed senator (think how well Lowder mentored Felon Hubbard) on ways to effectively milk the office for cash will go a long way toward influencing the low voter turnout results as desired. It appears Secretary John ‘One Day at Time’ Merrill will make sure this special election runs the full duration possible to finance making the Dr. StrangeLuvGuv deal more permanent. A non-duopoly Party candidate won’t be able to collect the 33,000 signatures the Secretary of State would actually verify to be allowed on the ballot in one of the most anti-competitive States in the nation. Taxpayers continue to finance Party primaries Democrats and Republicans use as fundraisers. The general election ballot, taxpayers ARE obliged to provide, is restricted for duopoly candidates. It is foolish to expect improved results to choose from proffered by such a corrupt, rigged system. Fascinating to observe so many screaming like scorched cats about the expenses for an activity (the election, NOT the primaries) the State has a constitutional obligation to provide while remaining hypocritically silent about much greater wastes on endeavours the State has no business addressing.
As Ivey’s initial sparks fly, thankfully legislators have not ‘passed the gas’ tax. As Trump further champions his big govt. bent and displays poor business acumen w.r.t. understanding debt, an attempt for another FDR type wasteful explosion of spending is in the works. The 9 cent/gal. tax is in play on Goat Hill to fuel a more over-built/unsustainable road system in Alabama. The parasites don’t want any flatulence impeding a smooth move to their transfers if/when Trump gets his way - i.e., don’t want legislators struggling to find matching money for their largess. This IS one of those of those times to contact your Congressperson (Mo Brooks is the only one in our delegation with the intelligence and integrity to possibly do something about it) to try and block ‘Moscow on the Potomac’ from doing more harm here at home.
My county administrator and highway engineer have also been shilling for an additional 3 cent/gal. gas tax threatening to rip up roads they currently fail to properly maintain nor followed the law when initially built as they’re more interested in transferring wealth to crony contractors, developers and suppliers than for the safety of the traveling public. Why send another $29 million in ATRIP II dollars to a county which holds a special election to pass a tax for parks & recreation (clearly not wanted by the more representative general election voters) instead of improving their roads? Worse still, County Access Management Policies and Subdivision Regulations prescribe one thing, but County officials spend my tax dollars to circumvent the law/policies. Little surprise soon thereafter these corrupt public servants then complain for more money after NOT following the law to use monies provided.
When the County obtains a developer’s performance bond to guarantee improvements on a road, the policy triggers a listing of the improvements and estimate; neither were required by my County officials. The Engineer is required to certify compliance with this County policy - he did not. Before connecting, it is required to comply with ALDOT’s “County Road Design” -- it was not. When exceeding 100 VPD (Vehicles Per Day) improvements are required; no improvements were made. The unlawful Engineer (not bonded as required) used his ‘discretion’ to redirect my tax dollars to impose his own flawed traffic study. The Engineer’s discretion (which the commission very publicly stands behind) conveniently forecasts just below VPD requirements to release bonds so developers do not pay for the increased demand they put on county infrastructure where every actual VPD count reveals how poor this public servant’s discretion has been. Now, this corrupt County commission claims they don’t have the money and must address higher priorities. Well, they HAD money. They instead subsidize developers spreading this unsustainable cancer in my county to now beggar money from Goat Hill to further cover-up their incompetence and systematically harming those (mostly poor rural motorists and black churches in the County) least able fight this cancer.
I’ll leave related issues of wrongful railroad crossing closures, using County resources to clear and grub for corrupt mayors, interesting “windfalls” from Highway Department auctions, etc. to another column. After fighting this corrupt/incompetent (does it matter which?) public servant and County Commission for years, we’ve FINALLY got them to follow the law and bond their engineer. This doesn’t resolve all that’s been unlawful done placing my County in unnecessary jeopardy. Perhaps Goat Hill would be better served to ensure their laws are followed and incompetent/unlawful ‘public servants’ of this sort indeed vacate their office as prescribed, fines paid, etc. instead of throwing more money to subsidize even more harm.
Enough on unpassed gas taxes to address our constipated internet. Seems those with IQs hard pressed to rival temperature readings on a warm Summer day in Alabama are mesmerized by the finding most new businesses and the lion’s share of economic growth for the entire nation has been generated by only twenty counties since the Great Bush/Obama Bailout debacle began. Seems our newly installed House member (after Sec. Merrill eliminated an election) is intrigued that most of these counties have tech-intensive industries like those associated with Silicon Valley, CA. You know the foolish saying, “If you build it, they will come.” Sports fanatics and others easily duped are affable prey for this; those who ask for some justification in the numbers are vilified. Little surprise Rep. Lovvorn has shown himself to be so dim in understanding how the real world works, other House members are starting to notice. Even I thought it would take a little more time for Lovvorn to out himself in this regard.
A few foolish cities (for example Chattanooga, TN) have attempted to attract hi-tech industries by providing municipal broadband network, prompting our newly installed House member from Lee County to shill for this same sort of failed BCA mentality in the Heart of Dixie. No doubt Felon Hubbard’s level of intelligence and integrity carries on in his replacement. The City of Opelika (pop. < 30,000) has already contributed an unjustifiable financial commitment of over $40 mil. to become Alabama’s first “Gig City” as a municipal provider of high-speed Internet, yet the network provided through Opelika Power Services [OPS] has few customers signed up for gigabit service. The State legislature is considering Lovvorn’s bill to extend the OPS network to all of Lee County. Little surprise the BCA would use their newly installed Hubbard replacement for more failed economic development of this sort. It is clear Lovvorn is ill-equipped to evaluate results of other municipal systems and provide a competent cost-benefit analysis for his constituents. Those who live on public paychecks seem to have a bigger ‘blind spot’ understanding why private firms are reluctant to serve high-cost areas with low demand. The short-term concomitant benefits of higher paying jobs for a few recipients of the wealth transfer and accompanying unsustainable economic growth are the usual ‘siren song’ for municipal broadband services to clumsily step in where private industry cannot justify the costs. Many of these municipal systems serve areas already covered by the private sector slowing their revenue streams which impedes their ability to grow.
The so-called “success story” of Chattanooga rarely includes the huge federal subsidy ($111 million in grants; approx. $2,000 per subscriber) required for the system to exist in the tale of this City’s Gig debacle. Other horrific tales rarely spoke of… the city council of Provo, UT sold their $39 million fiber network to Google for $1; Groton, CN city residents are STILL paying for a $38 million network sold for $550,000; Four city officials in Bristol, VA (a more recent example of Felon Hubbard type business acumen in an Internet system) are in prison. I applaud when a PRIVATE provider takes on the risk/reward of installing and managing a fiber network. Kansas City  was the first US city to deploy Google’s fiber network and this city’s GDP growth still lagged behind the national average. Google wisely stopped their fiber deployment as economic growth didn’t meet expectations. Chattanooga’s subsidized result also has not outgrown its peers.
Easy to dupe someone like Lovvorn into thinking a ‘magic bullet’ like super high-speed Internet is the only ingredient needed to energize an economy. Defining, enforcing and maintaining an uncorrupted environment to facilitate the peaceful, voluntary exchange of property to promote the general welfare of our State is difficult. Shillin’ for the BCA and other feel good moments are easy. OPS currently reports a large loss on its publicly available financial statements. Lack of financial detail concerning the telecom side of Opelika Power’s business and redistributing costs (already $28 million of debt) to electric ratepayers makes forecasting future gain/loss difficult. If/when the existing municipal system is unable to sustain itself going forward (a likely result if the history of all the other subsidized municipal systems is any guide) proposals to further increase coverage will exacerbate the failed result.
Additional cost for fiber lines to rural areas of Lee County with lower population density than Opelika? Will rural customers absorb these costs through some extra-jurisdictional transfer? Is such a thing legal? I’m guessing this is of little concern for a Mayor who shills for Felon Hubbard before sentencing and it appears consequences never come to bear when you have others paying legal bills. As the swirling mix of cross-subsidies vortex into the usual regress of loss and bankruptcy, will captive electric and sewer ratepayers in Opelika (currently subsidizing this telecommunications division debacle) further shoulder this added burden to temporarily or perpetually subsidize the rural residents of the county, the city of Auburn, and perhaps beyond? Until these questions are answered, any changes to State laws allowing city officials to further saddle constituents in debt to ‘compete' with private companies in the telecommunications (or any other) business must be tabled.
In closing, I found it odd how strongly Sen. Whatley championed this subsidy to rural folks. If my complaints to him these past years about how despicable city and county governments treat rural citizens in any way drove the Senator’s resolve in this matter, I publicly ask forgiveness. It is tyranny how much has been extracted from me and my bride in occupational taxes these past decades, yet I can not vote on those extracting from me. We subsidize the cancerous, unsustainable growth harming our quality of life and proffer increasingly unsafe travels into work to pay this wrongful tax. I indeed pay a lot to have the high speed internet (I’m using as I type) in rural Lee County; doesn’t mean I want to ‘progress’ into another iteration of more cross-subsidy to make amends for current wrongful result. Time for Goat Hill to promote détente… I’m again asking folks to support Sen. Whatley’s efforts allow residents OUTSIDE the local occupational tax jurisdictions in Alabama to deduct this tax from their State income tax returns. I can use those savings to increase how willing and able I am to buy higher speed internet (or put up an antenna, buy cable or satellite, etc. to reduce my specific band use) in rural Lee County to alleviate the constipation and keep internet flow more regular.
Postscript: many have asked my thoughts on the federal ruling to force Auburn to allow Richard Spencer’s 1st Amendment right to speak. There’s no authorization in US Constitution for the federal government to be involved in education, but since AU accepts federal dollars (I’m not going to devote type to absurd incorporation doctrine’s flawed logic) it IS within the federal court’s jurisdiction to compel AU as they did. If Auburn were a private entity they could discriminate against Mr. Spencer. As a State entity I hope our State courts would similarly compel AU given Alabama Constitution provisions on freedom of speech. It is educational for college students to be exposed to the Richard Spencer and Maxine Waters types of this world. Students are well served to see extremists of this sort in fact exist and perhaps they will listen more carefully to decide for themselves on the positions they espouse and defend. When exposed to these extremists perhaps they’ll acquire a healthy distain for the big govt. moderates who broker the deals between these extremists ‘progressing’ us into the ‘worse of both worlds’ result decaying the general welfare of our nation. The most notable and quotable from the entire episode came from Sheriff Jay Jones when pressed on how Spencer would endanger the public. His response, “We handle the Iron Bowl every year, I think we can handle this,” was perfect. It is possible many who came for the Spencer show learned a lot more about others, as well as themselves, than the similarly mindless cheerleading and trash talk associated with the Iron Bowl. Although AU administrators lost the moral high ground having to be compelled, I couldn’t be more proud of how Auburn students and our law enforcement handled themselves… ‘Enlightened’ Berkley academics, administrators and students - eat your heart out!