Monthly Archives: October 2001

Former President Bush Addresses Business Leaders

Former President Bush Addresses Business Leaders

By Ed Reynolds

Flanked by a pair of giant video screens and an enormous American flag, former President George Bush addressed the Business Council of Alabama’s annual Chairman’s Dinner October 18 at the Richard M. Scrushy Conference Center. Security was tight but not suffocating. At 6:55 p.m., a voice requested that everyone in the corridor enter the conference room because “the doors will be secured in five minutes.”

As Foxxy Fatts and his four-piece jazz combo effortlessly lounged through a breezy version of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” an audience of approximately 1,600, including politicians, lobbyists, and corporate executives, clutched cocktail glasses and bottles of beer as they meandered into the huge banquet area. The sudden entrance of Bush diverted conversation to the front of the room as the band smoothly shifted to a saxophone-heavy version of “Hail to the Chief.”

Attendees ($100 a head, $5,000 per corporate table) sipped wine and poked at tangerine salads. Suddenly, all conversation stopped and the room grew dark as the video screens flashed identical images of airliners flying into the World Trade Center towers. Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to be an American” provided the soundtrack as images of firefighters picking through rubble drew tears from many in attendance.

Governor Don Seigleman and two of his top challengers for the state’s number one elected position, Representative Bob Riley and Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom, were introduced, along with other Alabama congressmen. Riley easily got the biggest round of applause. Senator Jeff Sessions then introduced Bush, recounting the ex-president’s heroic World War II exploits and praising him for “fixing the CIA.”

Lauding Alabama as a “Bush-friendly state,” the 77-year-old former president was surprisingly adept at humor, delivering one-liners effortlessly as he impersonated comedian Dana Carvey, whom he noted was the “one guy that misses me in Washington.” Admitting that he doesn’t yearn for presidential press conferences, Bush bragged that the Florida recount drove him to join “press-haters anonymous.”

Bush addressed the World Trade Center attack, comparing the current war on terrorism with the military effort that removed Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. He acknowledged that the enemy was obvious during his term, and that public opinion regarding our involvement was more divided at the time. Joking that it was “unfair” that Hussein still had a job and he didn’t, Bush defended his controversial decision not to kill the Iraqi president because it would have made Hussein a martyr. He added that if American forces had killed retreating Iraqi troops as some had urged, it would have been immoral. Bush praised America’s intelligence network as “the best in the world,” emphasizing that they must not be forced to fight “with one hand tied behind their back.”

Recounting a visit to San Francisco as a “real character-builder,” the former president told of a woman that he described as in need of a bath jumping in his face and screaming, “Stay out of my womb!” With perfect timing, Bush replied, “No problem, no problem,” as the audience erupted in laughter. He then acknowledged that his two biggest regrets while president were “throwing up on the prime minister of Japan and saying, ‘Read my lips.’”

Bush concluded on a sentimental note as he acknowledged how proud he and Barbara are to have sons in positions of great power and influence. His voice shaking with emotion, the former president choked back tears, softly concluding, “We’re the luckiest parents in the whole world. Thank you very much.”

City Hall — Proper polling protocol

City Hall

October 23, 2001

Proper polling protocol

Councilor Sandra Little, noting that a representative of the Justice Department had called to ask her opinion about “some of the things that went on” at polling places during the October 9 council election, asks if the Justice Department has given preclearance for the election. Mayor Bernard Kincaid replies that redistricting was controlled by the council, which hired Reapportionment Group 2000 to perform the work. Jerry Wilson of Reapportionment Group 2000, which was hired by the council at a cost of $250,000 to draw new council district lines, sent a fax dated August 11, 2001, to the city attorney telling the city to proceed with the October 9 election as if clearance had been received from the Justice Department. Wilson in turn would work to facilitate preclearance, says Kincaid, who says that he has not heard from the Justice Department.

An unhappy Council President William Bell says with disgust, “Somebody’s lying,” alluding that it might be Wilson. Bell insists that Wilson’s contract did not include polling place designations. However, Kincaid tells Bell to read the “quarter of a million dollar contract you [the council] signed with Jerry Wilson.” Kincaid notes that Wilson has drawn $249,976 of the $250,000 contract, suggesting that Wilson might feel absolved of further action since he’s gotten most of his money. The Mayor says that Wilson’s contract calls for him to work through completion of the redistricting process, including Justice Department clearance of polling locations. Noting that identification of polling places is the province of the Election Commission, Kincaid reminds the council that the Election Commission asked councilors for polling place recommendations. Former Aldrich Gunn council aid Hezekiah Jackson chaired an Election Commission committee that also spoke with the Justice Department representative. According to Kincaid, Jackson stated on a local talk radio show that he told the representative that each councilor was allowed to recommend polling place choices. Labeling suggestions of impropriety in election proceedings as nothing more than “electioneering,” Kincaid notes that public reaction has reported the October 9 election as “one of the fairest elections in decades.”

After Kincaid explains that some poll workers were removed for not participating in the February Water Works referendum, Councilor Sandra Little disagrees with Kincaid’s assessment of fairness. Little complains that long-time poll workers were replaced, noting that one displaced worker in her district did participate in the February referendum. The councilor calls Kincaid’s explanation “a set-up.” As Kincaid responds to Little, Bell interjects, “Mr, Mayor, let’s move on.” A flabbergasted Kincaid replies, “Oh, I wish we could! But I’m gonna correct the statement that she made.” Irritated, Bell replies, “Just go ahead and take over the meeting, Mr. Mayor!” Kincaid wins the battle of wills and says that one poll worker that did participate in the February referendum was replaced at Brown School polling place by the Election Commission. The Mayor says he hopes that the worker’s termination will be corrected.

Little and Blake cross swords

“This has been a fascinating chat we’ve had,” observes Councilor Jimmy Blake as he points out that Jerry Wilson’s contract had been negotiated down from $500,000 to $250,000. Blake asks, “What is [Ms. Little's] goal, aside from throwing grenades and pretending that things were unfair?” He asks Little if it is her intent to nullify the decision of the voters in the council election. “Clearly, the council nullified the voters in the Water Works referendum,” Blake notes. “The Grand Imperial Wizard [presumably former mayor Richard Arrington] of the [Jefferson County Citizens] Coalition told people not to show up for the [Water Works referendum] election. How outrageous is that in violation of the law and proper procedure?”

Little responds that Blake’s admitted purpose in joining the council eight years ago “was to crush a particular organization [Jefferson County Citizens Coalition]” instead of working for his district. Blake replies, “Yes ma’am, and you know what, Ms. Little? My purpose eight years ago was to bring some honesty and some integrity to city government in Birmingham. And last Tuesday was a huge step forward, and we’ll finish the job on the 30th [runoff election], I expect.”

Blake questions Gunn’s sincerity

Councilor Lee Loder salutes the Mayor and his staff for moving swiftly on an initiative to expand the enterprise community (including tax incentives attracting business to economically deprived areas). Upset that housing development is not included with the economic improvement in his district, Councilor Gunn complains, “I get tired of us tearing up black communities!” Mayor Kincaid explains that previous enterprise community plans encompassed smaller areas, including only five neighborhoods that did not involve Kingston and other portions of Gunn’s district in the past. Councilor Blake interjects. “Mr. Gunn, I hear you start talking about protecting neighborhoods and protecting them from encroachment by economic development and stuff. And I sit over here and I say, ‘Right on, Mr. Gunn, you seem like you’re really speaking from the heart.’ But yet when it comes time to vote, you voted with the airport in a plan that was devastating to your district.” Blake admonishes, “And then you turn around and back up and support the scoundrels on the Airport Authority who are destroying their property values, who are ripping those communities in your district apart!”

Gunn responds, thanking God for not allowing him to become “distressed,” as was the case in the past when Blake made such comments. Noting that he supports airport expansion only if it does not destroy East Lake and surrounding homes, Gunn says that Blake’s district is “well done,” noting that alleys there are better than streets in Gunn’s area of town.

October 30, 2001

Eminent domain: The American way?

Discussion concerning redevelopment of land in Roebuck to accommodate a new WalMart store takes up the bulk of today’s council meeting. The Roebuck Parkway East Urban Renewal and Urban Redevelopment Plan targets land on Parkway East that includes buildings once occupied by K-Mart and the Old American Store, which have been vacant for about 18 months. Eminent domain and condemnation are tools available for the renewal plan should the city need them. The property is an example of the decline that some say has crept over the Roebuck area. Implementation of the urban renewal project is designed to eliminate blight and “serve as a catalyst to further revitalize the district,” according to representatives of the Planning and Engineering Department. The Mayor’s office is in support of the plan.

Sam Frazier, an attorney representing the city’s interest, defends the use of urban renewal projects to accomplish public purposes such as economic development and infrastructure improvements, all in the name of eliminating blight. There are 39 parcels of land affected by the proposed WalMart construction. Twenty of the 25 property owners have reached agreement with the developer, Concordia Southeast, while the five holdouts argue that they are not receiving fair compensation. The five in resistance own the larger buildings and prime locations in the area. Mary Hooker and her husband, who have owned a medical clinic there for 35 years, explain that their buildings cannot be replaced with what she and her husband are being offered, because the costs of re-location are possibly higher than what their building is worth. Fear of eminent domain has also forced some that rent office space from Hooker in the same area not to renew leases. She reminds councilors that WalMart is located in Arkansas, and is not a homegrown business. “We all go to WalMart, which is good. It’s an American thing, it’s the American way, except for their acquisition policies.” She quotes excerpts from the Pledge of Allegiance as she explains that the American way is “not to sacrifice a few for the good of many.” Hooker also contests attorney Sam Frazier’s reference to the area as blighted.

Christopher Jones, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church, which owns three acres sought after by Concordia for the WalMart construction, defends the developer for “negotiating in good faith.” Jones says the area is indeed blighted, and emphasizes that another tax base will help pay for schools. “Don’t mess this up,” the reverend implores as he defends the development as a boost for the Roebuck area.

Councilor Jimmy Blake is appalled that city government would help a financially powerful corporation against Birmingham citizens. Calling the city’s actions “contrary to everything that government ought to be about,” Blake refuses to go along with the condemnation process sought by the city. He notes that the “American way” is to negotiate so that citizens can get fair deals. Accusing the city of “acting like gangsters,” Blake asks what the public purpose is in the recent closing of a WalMart in Huffman to open another in Roebuck. “Moving a WalMart four blocks is not my idea of overwhelming public purpose,” says Blake.

Council President William Bell offers a compromise. Bell is disturbed that WalMart closed the Huffman store to move out of Birmingham but now wants to move to Roebuck. But he admits that it is a golden opportunity to change the perception that Birmingham has let Roebuck “go to hell.” Stressing that eminent domain is a viable option in the future only if a property owner attempts to “jack up the price” after proper appraisals have been made, Bell suggests deletion of language in the resolution pertaining to “eminent domain and condemnation” for the time being. The council approves the resolution with Bell’s amendments to adopt the urban renewal plan. Blake votes against it. &

Alabama Getaway

Alabama Getaway


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The Alabama 500 will be raced at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, October 21.

A blur of colors roars past at 200 mph with the deafening noise from 43 dueling race cars that are separated by mere inches. Suddenly, two of the cars touch, and spectators leap from their seats more in fear of flying debris than for a better vantage point. The squeal of skidding tires and odor of burnt rubber accompany an abrupt crash that leaves wreckage scattered across the asphalt.

No sport is more breathtaking than automobile racing, and with 2.6 miles of raceway action and steep 33-degree banked turn, no track is faster than the Talladega Superspeedway. The Alabama 500, held each October in Talladega is one of NASCAR’s premier events.

It’s been a sad, though no less exciting, year for Winston Cup stock car racing. The sport’s most colorful champion, Dale Earnhardt, was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500, the first race of the year. In search of victory at any cost, Earnhardt became legendary for his controversial driving maneuvers.

In recent weeks, renegade driving tactics have ignited a weekly feud between veterans Ricky Rudd (who drives the late Davey Allison’s black and orange Number 28 Texaco Ford) and Rusty Wallace. Each weekend, one driver pays the other back for destruction inflicted the week before. The conflict escalated two weeks ago in Dover, Delaware, at the track known as the Monster Mile. Rudd clipped Wallace while putting him a lap down. Several laps later, Wallace blatantly smashed the rear of Rudd’s car, spinning Rudd out and costing him the race. After the race, Rudd confronted Wallace, grabbing him by the collar as the two exchanged threats in the garage. All eyes will be on the quarreling pair when the green flag drops at Talladega on Sunday, October 21.

Alabama 500 racing action begins Thursday, October 18, and Friday, October 19, with qualifying for the weekend’s races. Saturday will feature the ARCA Food World 300, and Sunday, October 21, features the big one, the Alabama 500. Call 256-362-RACE for details.

12-String King

12-String King


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The Byrds in 1965: (left to right) Michael Clarke, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, and Gene Clarke.

Through his widely influential band the Byrds, Roger McGuinn inspired a generation of rockers with his often-imitated 12-string electric guitar. A dedicated folk music addict, McGuinn turned up the volume and added an irrepressible backbeat to the storytelling genre perpetuated by folk pioneers Pete Seeger and Bob Gibson, among many others.

After seeing the Beatles’ A Hard Days Night, the Byrds ditched their acoustic act and borrowed $5,000 to purchase electric guitars, amplifiers, a drum kit, and matching black suits with velvet collars. John Lennon prompted McGuinn to adopt the Rickenbacker guitar, but it was McGuinn who got Lennon hooked on sporting tiny sunglasses. The rest is rock ’n’ roll history.

Black & White: Tell me what started the Folk Den you offer on your web site.

Roger McGuinn: There were a lot of folk music songs getting lost in the shuffle. And in the commercial music scene there wasn’t a lot of interest in traditional folk music anymore. The old folk singers are gettin’ kinda old, and I wondered what would happen in a few years when they’re not around anymore. So I thought I’d do my bit to keep those songs alive by recording them and putting them on the site (www.rogermcguinn.com) — one a month. And I’ve been doing that every month for six years. Folk had experienced tremendous popularity in the middle ’60s, and I think that it had become overly commercialized at that point. Rock ’n’ roll came along, the Beatles. We didn’t help folk much by mixing it up with rock ’n’ roll in the Byrds. Gradually people kinda forgot about it to the point where now they don’t even know what it is. If you say “folk,” they immediately think of some kid with an acoustic guitar who’s playing their own songs that they just wrote last night. They don’t know what you’re talking about when you say “traditional songs.”

B&W: Was being a fan of [early folk pioneer] Bob Gibson what got you interested in folk music as a kid?

McGuinn: That’s right. I was in high school, and I was into rock ’n’ roll at the time. Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, that whole rockabilly sound out of Memphis. I hadn’t listened to folk music at all. Maybe I’d heard a little bit of Burl Ives when I was a kid but I didn’t pay much attention to it. Bob Gibson came to our high school and did a 45-minute set on a five-string banjo. Blew me away. I just loved it. I couldn’t believe it. It was so energetic and he’s doing all these fancy picking things on the banjo. These great melodies and stories and songs. I went, “What’s that?” I asked my music teacher, and she says, “That’s folk music. There’s a school that just opened up in Chicago. You ought to check it out. It’s a folk music school.” So I went over there to Old Town School of Folk Music and enrolled. I studied there for three years before I got my first job as accompanist for the Limelighters.

B&W: How did you and Tom Petty get to be pals?

McGuinn: When I first heard Tom Petty I was looking for songs for an album I was gonna be doing. And Tom was just coming out with his first album. I didn’t know who he was. My manager was playing me songs from different writers. One of them was [Petty’s] “American Girl.” And it sounded so much like me, I kidded my manager and asked, “When did I record that?” And he said, “It isn’t you. It’s this new kid Tom Petty.” So I said I wanted to meet him, because I loved what he was doing. And he came over the next day to the house. We got to be friends, and we’ve been friends all these years.

B&W: Tell me about your years working with Bobby Darin.

McGuinn: That was cool. Bobby was a very talented guy. He was very multi-dimensional. He could play the vibes and dance and play piano and guitar and sing and tell jokes. He was an old school kind of showbiz guy. Almost a Vaudevillian. One of the things he did was incorporate a folk music segment into his act. He was scouting around looking for somebody to back him up on that. He was in California at the Crescendo Club to see Lenny Bruce. I was with the Chad Mitchell Trio at the time, and we were opening up for Lenny Bruce. So he saw me and offered me a job and I took it, ’cause it was better money.

B&W: That must have been an experience, opening for Lenny Bruce.

McGuinn: Yes it was. Lenny was so amazing. I’d say the guy was a genius. He was very bright. You never knew what he was gonna do. He was kind of coming off the top of his head all the time. And there was always this mystique that he was kind of stoned or something (laughs). He was really amazing. We looked upon him with a great deal of amusement. It’s funny, he was actually put in jail for some of the stuff he said on stage.

B&W: I didn’t realize that you wrote songs with the Brill Building crowd (legendary New York songwriting group that included Carole King, Neil Sedaka, and Neil Diamond, among others).

McGuinn: Yes. Bobby (Darin) had rheumatic fever when he was a kid, and his heart wasn’t very good. At one point, performing became difficult for him, so he decided to concentrate on his other business, which was a publishing company he’d bought into. We all moved to New York, and he hired me as a songwriter at the Brill Building. My job was to go to work everyday, like a nine to five thing, and write songs.

B&W: Are the descriptions of life in the Brill Building pretty accurate — the cubicles with a piano in each?

McGuinn: Absolutely. That’s what it was. A cubicle about 12 feet by six feet. Almost a jail cell with a piano in it (laughs). Barely enough room for an upright piano and a couple of chairs. You’d sit in there with another guy, he’d work on piano, I’d play guitar, and knock out songs all day.

B&W: From reading your statements on your web site, you seem to always be up on the latest technology. Were you ever involved with developing guitar gadgets?

McGuinn: Not really. The only thing I ever did with that was use after-market stuff and kind of build it into my guitar. I would take the VOX treble booster — it came in a chrome package — and I took the electronics out of that and installed it into my Rickenbacker. I did kind of develop what later became the pig-nose amplifier [a small practice guitar amp]. I had one of those back in ’65; I’d just make them for my friends and give away.

B&W: Tell me about the Rock Bottom Remainders.

McGuinn: I met Carl Hiason. He wrote a book called Sick Puppy, and named the dog McGuinn — after me! I went to a book-signing of his because I wanted to meet him. We got to know each other a little bit. He mentioned that he sometimes played with this band with [columnist] Dave Barry and Stephen King, and asked would I like to do that sometime. And I said, “Yeah, that sounds like a ball.” So he lined it up and then we all did it. I was going to do it this year, but I got too busy with Judy Collins going on the road.

B&W: How did you come to testify at the Senate hearings regarding MP3.com?

McGuinn: MP3.com was an outfit that I hooked up with a couple of years ago. They saw my Folk Den and said, “Why don’t you bring some of this stuff over here, make some CDs, and we’ll pay you 50 percent on ‘em.” So I said, “Good deal,” because record companies never pay more than 10 percent or something like that. When all this lawsuit stuff came out and the hearings and everything, like Napster and that whole furor about that, the record companies got a vigilante mentality, and they were going after everybody that had the word MP3 in it. So I went to the Senate to defend MP3.com because I thought they were the good guys ’cause they were paying royalties to the artists.

B&W: How long have you been doing solo shows?

McGuinn: Oh, since ’81. Ramblin’ Jack Elliot got me into it. I was on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour with Bob Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack, and Joan Baez. One time Ramblin’ and I were hanging out, and he said, “You know Roger, the best fun I ever had was when I’d just throw the guitar in the back of the Land Rover and hit the road and play all these little places, and it’s so much fun.” And I was in a band situation where you got trucks and all these logistics of people and you got to worry about the drummer being drunk and stuff like that. So I was looking to get out of that. It was too much trouble and it wasn’t as much fun as I wanted to have on the road. I wanted to take my wife with me and do it like Ramblin’ Jack said. It’s my favorite way to tour.

Roger McGuinn will perform on Saturday, October 20, at the Kentuck Festival in Northport (Tuscaloosa) Alabama. Call 205-758-1257 for details.

City Hall — Blake huffs and puffs over smoke detectors

City Hall

October 9, 2001Blake huffs and puffs over smoke detectors

There are less than two dozen people in the council chamber audience this morning, the smallest turnout in months — perhaps due to the City Council election held today.

“Moving right along,” comments a beaming William Bell at the rapid pace of today’s amenable meeting. The only hint of controversy arises when Councilor Blake protests the transfer of $96,858 from various departments to the Birmingham Fire Department to fund a fire prevention program that will provide 16,143 smoke detectors to needy city residents. Though acknowledging the motivation behind the proposal as commendable, Blake asks how the detectors will be distributed. A fire department representative says details have not been worked out, but that the focus will be on elderly and the low-income residents, those most frequently affected by fire. Praising the department for educating the public about fire hazards as he defends himself as a supporter of the fire department, Blake questions buying “goodies” for the public. The councilor acknowledges differences in philosophies of government, explaining, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for city government to be involved in buying gadgets or real property, and then handing it to certain people under any particular circumstance.”

Council President Bell disagrees, “This saves people’s lives, and I think that the fire department has the obligation to save as many lives as possible.” Bell points out that the smoke detectors will be installed in the homes by the department as opposed to merely handing them to citizens. Councilor Blake contends that it would be different if the detectors were being distributed to each household in Birmingham. “We’re saying that some lives are more important, in terms of city government’s impression, than others,” says Blake. “And I don’t think that’s appropriate. We wouldn’t go out and buy a new door handle or a new phone or anything else for a particular family. A phone is as much a life-saving instrument as is a smoke detector.”

Mayor Kincaid notes that there is a threshold of eligibility that will determine who receives the detectors. “It’s not just a wholesale willy-nilly giving away,” explains Kincaid, saying that individuals should not have to decide between safety and paying rent or eating. “We’re able to provide for those citizens who need it, this life-saving device. It is my philosophy of government, at least, that we do this for our citizens because we look after the least of these!” The council approves the expenditure, with Blake abstaining from the vote.

 

October 16, 2001 The current pattern of short, uneventful council meetings continues as City Hall braces for a possible defeat of incumbent councilors who frequently side against Mayor Bernard Kincaid. Council President William Bell, and Councilors Pat Alexander, Sandra Little, and Aldrich Gunn each face a runoff opponent that garnered more votes in the general election. Councilor Leroy Bandy was defeated outright. The morning tedium is finally interrupted by a flurry of fire and brimstone from a pair of long-time critics of City Hall — citizens Daniel Felder and Terry Boyd, who frequently address the council in tandem at meeting’s end. Felder, who identifies himself “a religion man,” warns that God’s retribution is imminent if councilors don’t turn from their sins. “Brother Hezekiah [Jackson, long-time Councilor Aldrich Gunn administrative assistant who recently resigned after admitting his professional role as a burr in the side of the Kincaid administration, as well as charging Gunn with financial impropriety] surrendered his sins to God. Now it’s time for y’all to surrender y’all’s sins. I know y’all have sins up there, and you have bad sins,” admonishes Felder. Boyd compares the recent attack on the World Trade Center Towers to God’s judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, and warns that councilors will suffer “damnation in hell” for their transgressions.

Deplorable roadways paved with years of neglect

Council President William Bell requests that Mayor Kincaid not leave the council chambers as the meeting comes to a conclusion so that the Mayor can answer questions regarding street repaving. Bell notes that $1.147 million for street resurfacing was included in the Fiscal Year 2000-2001 budget, with $1.4 million appropriated this year. Bell is puzzled why the funds have not been spent, complaining that some are blaming the council for failure to address poor street conditions. Bill Gilchrist of the Department of Planning, Engineering, and Permits explains that the department performs an analysis of street complaints based on the severity of poor street conditions. Last year’s street repavement priorities are currently being evaluated by the Mayor’s office, according to Gilchrist. He confirms Bell’s statement that the city council only takes charge of resurfacing issues when approving bids for work to be performed. Bell says he has been told that there is no money for some streets in question but Gilchrist explains that there are “many more streets that need resurfacing than we [Planning and Engineering Department] have funds to perform.” Noting that some streets in Birmingham had not been resurfaced in over 50 years, Kincaid laments that Birmingham “has not paid particular attention as a city government to our inner city infrastructure.”

Kincaid further stresses that past projects have never been completed in the same fiscal year, instead being completed in a “rolling three-year process.” More than $800,000 was sliced from the 2000-2001 fiscal year budget for consultants, architects, and engineers employed by the city on a freelance basis. $600,000 was cut from this year’s fund for such outside fees. Kincaid says that cutting fees spent on outside services is a positive economic move because money is saved, and points out that recent and ongoing county roadwork upgrading sanitary sewers in the city has rendered street resurfacing “foolhardy,” as the county would simply tear up city improvements.

Councilor Sandra Little, facing Bert Miller in a runoff in two weeks, asks what the council can do to spur street improvement, irate that the council does not control the money for street projects. Councilor Jimmy Blake, who is not seeking re-election, disgustedly notes that “the most interesting thing about this current chat is its timing.” Blake notes that Little has been on the council for four years, and is just now asking about the street resurfacing process. Blake adds that Bell has been on the council for 22 years, and that during that time the city neglected the basic infrastructure — the basic purpose of city government, according to Blake. He’s amazed that Bell is suddenly concerned, with the runoff only two weeks away. Blake says that the city has spent more for “lawyers, consultants, and assorted other bottom-feeders than we do for basic city services.” He concedes that Kincaid has spent more for city infrastructure than past mayors have, but still not enough. In light of the possible sweeping change on the council, Blake says the lesson to be learned is that “at some point the public notices when you’re not doing your job!” Councilor Little asks Blake to stay so that she might defend her record on street resurfacing issues for her district while refuting his casting of her as an election opportunist, but he ignores her and walks out. &