Monthly Archives: November 2000

Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell

There’s no place quite as empty as a 17,000 seat coliseum filled with a couple of thousand chicken farmers, but even that couldn’t faze a rejuvenated Glen Campbell as the singer recently revealed the number one reason his was once a household name-an ability to spot hit songs and make them his own.Campbell, quietly slipping into Birmingham as the featured entertainment for the annual state convention of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association at the Birmingham Jefferson County Civic Center, effortlessly showed how religion and what appears to be a facelift or two can resurrect the talents of an aging entertainer who has left his fingerprints on everything from pop music and variety television to country singer Tanya Tucker.

Fresh on the heels of her latest hit, “Little Bird,” Australian country songstress Sherrie Austin, the opening act, was ignored for the most part by the subdued audience, finally eliciting a roar of approval when she announced that her mom thinks that anything other than country and western is “drug music.” Less than an hour later, former drug addict Glen Campbell strolled out with an electric guitar and kicked into the unforgettable guitar intro of his 1969 hit “Galveston.” For the next 90 minutes, Campbell dusted off his repertoire of ’60s and ’70s radio classics, wooing a subdued audience that included this year’s inductees into the Alabama Poultry Hall of Fame and the “Alabama Farm Family of the Year.”

Campbell’s voice was remarkably clear and powerful, smoothly snagging the high note that ends each chorus of “Wichita Lineman” and reflecting with melancholy resignation on “By the Time I Get To Phoenix.” His guitar playing was no less impressive, left leg perpetually keeping time like a Las Vegas version of Chuck Berry. His lightening-fast fingers ripped through the Mason Williams’ hit “Classical Gas” and rode the melody of the “William Tell Overture,” never missing a note as he raised the guitar over his head, effortlessly picking the song’s grand finale.

The hits never stopped: “Gentle On My Mind,” “Try a Little Kindness,” “All I Ever Need Is You.” He even brought out daughter Debby, a talented airline attendant who sings with her father on her days off, for a series of duets that found Campbell impressively impersonating everyone from Sonny Bono to Johnny Cash.

Campbell dug into his pockets countless times, sometimes even in the middle of guitar solos, to toss guitar picks into outstretched hands at the foot of the stage. And he didn’t think twice about abandoning the microphone in the middle of his 1968 hit “The Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” to kneel down at the front of the stage, wrapping his arm around grinning women as he smiled for photos, joking with the ladies, “Is your husband here tonight?” His stage persona was so relaxed it was as if he were entertaining at home in his living room, constantly singing bits and occasional pieces of songs, only to give up as he laughed and said he couldn’t remember the words. He was even tuning his 12-string guitar as he sang the opening verses to the 1977 hit “Southern Nights.”

Checking his watch for about the fifth time, Campbell bemoaned the lack of good tunes in modern music. He took a couple of jabs at the country music establishment, saying he didn’t play any of that “line dancing garbage” before noting that Nashville record executives were a “bunch of schmucks.” With that off his chest, Campbell finally brought the audience to their feet with a rousing “Rhinestone Cowboy,” took one final bow, and caught a midnight jet so he could play a round of golf in a charity tournament early the next morning. &

City Hall — November 21, 2000

City Hall

December 07, 2000November 21, 2000

Mayor Kincaid announces that the 15-member task force formed by his office to study neighborhood problems caused by expansion of the Birmingham International Airport will inspect the affected neighborhood on November 27. The Mayor says that the bus will leave City Hall at 1:30 p.m. if any councilors are interested in joining the group. Council President Bell says that some councilors are “in a bind,” as Kincaid had previously called for a finance committee meeting that very same afternoon. The Mayor suggests moving the finance meeting to a different time, and Bell says he’ll try to comply.

The government class from Shades Valley High School is in attendance at this morning’s meeting. Councilor Little notes that she will be interviewed by the class after the council meeting, and is prepared to take on tough questions.

A group of disgruntled citizens led by Mamie Jordan and collectively known as the Committee for Accountability in City Government protests petitions calling for voters to have a say in who controls the Water Works assets. Jordan says that those signing the petitions “are not recognized as people.” Concerned that “the city is at a standstill, bogged down in bickering, and drifting like a ship without a rudder, or leader,” Jordon condemns “the Mayor’s efforts to hold the assets of the water system hostage at City Hall!” She decries Kincaid’s spending of taxpayer money on attorney fees to stop the assets transfer back to the Water Works Board, which she says is their rightful home. She also demands to know why the Mayor is “spending taxpayer money to look for electronic bugs in his office and to build security fences!”

Today’s featured disagreement between the Mayor and the City Council involves HealthSouth’s donation of used computers to Birmingham schools. A quarrel develops over whether the computer program is an action on behalf of the city or council. The resolution appropriates $200,000 from City Council consulting funds to HealthSouth to begin the program. Council President Bell says no appropriation is needed, and explains that he merely needs to authorize the contract with his signature instead. Mayor Kincaid asks the city’s law department to issue an opinion. City attorneys say they have not seen the contract, so no opinion can be rendered as to whether this is city or council business. Councilor Blake hopes that “this issue won’t get down to one of these spitting contests about who signs the document.” Blake says that the Council must approve the signing of the contract and expenditure of the consulting fees, and that he doesn’t care who signs the contract. Councilor Little sums up the quarrel as a “power grab.”

Mayor Kincaid interjects that “this is not a City Council initiative; it’s a city of Birmingham initiative.” The Mayor explains that the funds for the project were not approved in the budget, and requests that the finance department examine the issue, urging a one week delay. Councilor Blake grows combative, accusing the Mayor of trying to take “total control of the dollars in this city, and that’s inappropriate!” Blake argues that the Council “can put that money in whatever basket it wants and can subsequently allocate it.” The councilor says that right or wrong, the Council put this appropriation in a category called “consulting fees,” and now has the right to spend it, regardless of who signs off on it. Mayor Kincaid wants to know who the consultant is. Blake replies that he doesn’t know “how that [word 'consultant'] would be termed.” Council President Bell maintains that the Council has the right to move funds from category to category in a department, which is what he believes happened in this instance. Bell offers to pull the resolution off the agenda. Councilor Blake asks him why, since he’s got a majority of the Council on his side. Mayor Kincaid jumps back into the discussion, reiterating that computers for schools is a city project. Councilor Blake quickly disagrees, accusing the Mayor of “trying to usurp the power of Council, and it’s inappropriate.” Blake explains that everything the Council does is on behalf of the city, and that the Council has the right to authorize whomever they desire to sign for the city of Birmingham. Blake calls the Mayor’s argument a “digression from any of these notions that the Mayor and Council want to work together.” Blake continues, “I believe the Council has the authority to allow Mickey Mouse to authorize a contract. The power of expenditure comes from this body [City Council].” Blake notes that department heads, as well as external boards and agencies, are authorized to enter into contracts.

Speaking on behalf of his district, Councilor Aldrich Gunn praises the computer program. Gunn takes issue with past references that the Council will be voted out of office in the October 2001 council elections. Gunn promises that he’ll be back in office next October, but others might be gone. “When we’re gonna be rational on this Council, and you have a conviction, don’t worry about what’s down the road,” urges Gunn, alluding to the advantages computers offer to schools. “Be like that ant. If there’s a brick in the way, go over it, around it, or under it.” Councilor Gunn sides with Blake when he notes that the Council gives money to other organizations with Council President Bell’s signature. Councilor Loder suggests amending the resolution to read on behalf of the City Council. Blake remains exasperated, sighing, “We’re splitting hairs over this.” He hopes that the Council will “rise above the pettiness here,” as he agrees to Loder’s word change. Blake doesn’t want “this silliness to stop a program that everybody agrees is a good program.”

Councilor Bill Johnson offers a resolution welcoming a Big Lots department store to his East Lake district. It passes unanimously.

November 28, 2000

Lawson State hosts tonight’s monthly traveling City Council meeting. Reverend Abraham Woods, representing the Birmingham chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is present to express concern regarding the recent shooting of Larry Reddick in Woodlawn by a Birmingham police officer. Woods acknowledges reports that Reddick had been drinking and struck the officer, reportedly with the officer’s own baton. But Woods disputes that the man should have been killed because of his actions, saying, “That was not a justifiable reason for Larry to be gunned down.” The reverend notes the records show that Reddick was shot four times from the front and once from the back, disputing Birmingham Police Chief Mike Coppage’s argument that the route of the bullet that supposedly entered from the rear indicates that it was unlikely to have been fired from behind the victim. Woods explains that the coroner is “a professional in this kind of situation,” and, according to Woods, the coroner reported that the shot fired at Reddick’s back was the deadly shot. Reverend Woods reminds all present that he had backed Coppage during an inquiry by the previous administration when police actions were under fire. But he says that Coppage is “trying to whitewash the situation by taking issue with the coroner. We need a chief who is going to be responsible!” Woods promises that if necessary, Reverend Al Sharpton will be brought in to protest the police department. Noting that he [Woods] is upset with some “of our black officers” over previous police shootings, Woods warns that “trigger-happy policemen, be they black, green, red, white, or polka dot, have no place on this police force!” Woods urges the formation of a civilian police review board. Council President Bell interrupts Woods to tell him that “councilors are asking me if you would summarize your remarks.” Woods wraps up two minutes later.Councilor Blake expresses appreciation to Reverend Woods for his presence this evening. Blake agrees with Woods that points have been raised that “this council and our city should be willing to look at.” Blake expresses support for Coppage, and acknowledges the dangers police officers constantly face. The councilor says that the officer in question was reportedly seriously injured during the incident, and must have been concerned for his life. “Under those circumstances, a police officer does have a right and responsibility to defend himself.” Blake urges that two officers should always be in a police car in high crime areas, which he says is not the situation at present. Blake also pledges support for a civilian review board, as long as the board consists of individuals with “no political agenda.”

Chief Coppage speaks next, and explains that he promised the parents of Reddick that there “would be a fair and impartial investigation.” Coppage stresses that the investigation will proceed in a timely manner, but will not be rushed.

Council President Bell takes issue with Coppage over some of the chief’s recent public comments, accusing Coppage of trying to “shade the facts” about the coroner’s report. Bell says that the police chief’s comments do “not help the atmosphere with what the public believes, and what they perceive.” He urges Coppage to “guard” his future remarks.

Councilor Loder says that a primary question of the incident focuses on why the officer stopped Reddick. Loder is curious about why a confrontation was necessary, and asks Chief Coppage why there are no reports detailing what Reddick did. Coppage replies that the information is not being released in case there are witnesses that still want to come forward. He says that the report will be released once the investigation is complete. Loder then wants to know who is responsible for investigating the police department. Coppage responds that there is a “dual investigation”: one conducted by internal affairs, and the other is a criminal investigation by the department’s homicide unit. The homicide investigation-a criminal investigation-involves a representative from the district attorney’s office.

Councilor Little reads from the Mayor-Council Act, citing the allowance for the Council or Mayor’s office to conduct an investigation. Little refers to the
“investigation team” organized to look into a controversial Center Point land deal a couple of years ago as an example of City Hall’s organizing an investigative committee. [That controversial "investigation team" refused to meet in public, and reportedly was negligible in contacting committee members about participation. No wrong was uncovered by that team.] Little points out that tonight’s Council meeting is being held “right across the street from where a young man’s body was found on Thanksgiving morning.” She goes on, “His body was riddled with bullets!” She then urges the city to take prompt action, which would alleviate the need for “people from outside, and other states, to come in.”

Mayor Kincaid notes that it has been difficult for his office to be silent, but the reason for withholding comment is that all the facts in the case are not in. The Mayor explains that forensic evidence is still being studied, but that the dual investigation of the police department is proceeding as scheduled.

The power to draw redistricting boundaries [council districts are redrawn after the census is conducted each decade, as required by city law] is transferred from the Mayor’s office to the Council by a near-unanimous vote of the Council. The redistricting still must be approved by the Mayor, with a six-vote council majority necessary to override a mayoral veto. Public hearings will be forthcoming. Councilor Blake urges the Council to determine if redistricting can be undertaken by the city without hiring “an outside consultant.” Blake elaborates: “I don’t see any reason why we have to make rocket science out of something that’s not rocket science and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do that.” Bell concurs with Blake that any hiring of outside consultants should be approved by the Council. &

Cahaba River Threatened by Barber Construction

Cahaba River Threatened by Barber Construction

November 09, 2000

The recent summer drought has brought into question compliance by the developers of the new Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum (which will include a racetrack) with previous agreements reached with the city of Birmingham, the Cahaba River Society, and other environmental activist organizations.

On October 6, Birmingham experienced its first steady rainfall in weeks. Samples of water taken from the tributary leading from the construction site of the Barber museum to the Cahaba River revealed an alarmingly high amount of soil particles present.

Dr. Randy Haddock of the Cahaba River Society collected the samples and noted that the tributary was “completely muddy.” Photographs revealed a stark contrast between the clarity of the river upstream from the tributary receiving the construction discharge, and the Cahaba’s cloudy status downstream from the discharge. The Barber construction site is located upstream from the Birmingham Water Works drinking water intakes on the Cahaba River.

Contents of the sample jars containing water filled with soil particles drawn from the Cahaba River, the major source of Birmingham’s drinking water, looked like “chocolate milk” when the collection container was shaken, according to Haddock and several others who attended an October 23 meeting between representatives of the Barber Museum, city officials, the Cahaba River Society, and several other environmental groups. “It’s the worst single event as far as erosion and sediment control failure that I’ve seen in my 10 years associated with the Cahaba River,” noted Dr. Haddock. He also questioned whether proper storm water control measures have been installed by the Barber Museum construction.

Curiosity has also been raised regarding the status of a proposed lake that would catch construction runoff before it could invade the Cahaba tributary. Anonymous sources close to the situation say a dispute has been brewing regarding whether or not the lake was actually included in agreements made between the city and Barber that allowed the building of the museum and racetrack.

When contacted for comment, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) refused to discuss the issue on record, but said that they was aware of the predicament and were currently looking into the situation.

Officials from Barber did not return telephone messages as of press time.