Monthly Archives: April 2005

Shelter from the Storm — The Greater Birmingham Humane Society

Shelter from the Storm

The Greater Birmingham Humane Society has a new state-of-the-art facility, but old problems—such as pet over-population and irresponsible pet owners—remain.


April 21, 2005Photographs by Mark Gooch

Buddy is a lab mixed breed awaiting adoption. (click for larger version)


“I hope somebody loves you as much as you ought to be loved,” the woman cooed sweetly as she and her husband surrendered a box of puppies to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. Like so many others who bring animals to this shelter, they had an explanation: Their male mixed lab had gotten into the fenced area where their female purebred Husky was kept. Pointing to one black pup, the husband said, “He’s going to make somebody a beautiful dog; I’d love to keep them if they stayed this size.”

The litter was the fifth delivered to the shelter in two days. The couple promised the clinic worker who was receiving the puppies that their male dog would be neutered. As a clinic technician named Tonya took the puppies to the isolation room for medical procedures and observation, she gloomily predicted that the onset of spring and summer will drastically increase the number of puppies and kittens brought to the shelter.

The Greater Birmingham Humane Society has existed in one form or another since 1883. Originally known as the Birmingham Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Animals, it was the first such facility in the South and the 12th humane society founded in the United States. In 1926 it relocated near the state fairgrounds on Lomb Avenue. Some 50 years later, it moved to another building in the same vicinity. In November 2004, GBHS’s years of fundraising happily resulted in the construction of a state-of-the-art shelter on Snow Drive in the West Oxmoor area. The new facility is considered one of the finest in the United States.

There were 27,000 animals surrendered to the GBHS in 1977, with 20 percent of those adopted out and the others euthanized. The number of animals turned in during 2004 totaled 10,321. Of those, 8,186 were euthanized, while 2,057 were placed in homes. Adoptions, however, are up nearly 20 percent since the move to the new facility. “That’s the result of educating the public,” says GBHS public relations director Melissa Hull. “It’s all about education. If the pet owners are educated, we don’t have to be here . . . People don’t get it. They show up saying, ‘We’re bringing you a donation,’ but instead of money, it’s a dozen black lab, mixed-breed puppies.”

Dr. Miguel Cruden worked at the GBHS shelter while attending veterinarian school. Currently living in Virginia, he flies to Birmingham twice monthly to perform spay and neutering at GBHS. (click for larger version)


According to Jacque Meyer, a transplanted New Yorker who took over as executive director of GBHS seven years ago, black dogs are the most common at the shelter. A head count indicated 22 black adult canines and 20 others of varying combinations of browns, whites, tans, and grays. “It’s harder to find homes for black dogs. People seem scared of them. It’s a stupid perception,” says Meyer. The reluctance to adopt black dogs means that their color makes them a liability. There is only so much space available, and that has to go to the more adoptable dogs. Dogs weighing less than 20 pounds are the easiest to find homes for. Terrier (usually pit bull) and shepherd mixed breeds are difficult to adopt out because they often end up with prospective owners who are simply interested in transforming their pet into a vicious trophy animal. GBHS adoption counselors try to avoid such scenarios when screening prospective owners. “We don’t strive to be a pet store,” says one adoption counselor. “We’re not looking to send them out the door with just anybody.”

The Greater Birmingham Humane Society receives no government funding. It depends on donations, including funds raised by the annual Do Dah Day festivities each spring. The shelter only takes in animals that have owners; strays go to Birmingham-Jefferson County Animal Control. On any given Saturday, the busiest day of the week, as many as 120 animals may be brought to the shelter. Receiving Supervisor Ann Haden, who has worked at GBHS for seven years, is the first person to see the surrendered animal. She has the toughest job because she has to deal with the public more than anyone else at the facility, but Haden is not shy about being direct with irresponsible pet owners. “It’s never an animal issue. It’s always a human issue,” she says. “An animal is not a lawn ornament. It is not an alarm system.”


Dr. Miguel Cruden worked at the GBHS shelter while attending veterinarian school. Currently living in Virginia, he flies to Birmingham twice monthly to perform spay and neutering at GBHS. (click for larger version)


A dog named Ruby was brought in earlier that day. Her friendly demeanor was replaced by a menacing growl after she was placed in the isolation kennels. After going through medical procedures and observation for 24 hours, Ruby will face a temperament test. “It depends on how well she adjusts and how much space we’ve got,” Haden explained about Ruby’s chances of survival. Space is a valued commodity at GBHS. Not all dogs can adjust to kennel life while waiting for adoption, which means they’re not likely to be adopted.

The new GBHS facility is designed to keep both kennel stress and the spread of disease to a minimum. Only staff members are allowed into the actual kennel areas for direct contact with the dogs and cats. Glass partitions allow the public to see all animals available for adoption without getting the animal overly excited. Spay and neutering surgeries can be observed through glass windows for educational purposes. A washing machine and dryers whir in the clinic area of the facility, keeping stacks of blankets and freshly washed stuffed animals available for new arrivals. Cages are constantly being cleaned. Dogs are walked daily. Two vets currently perform spaying and neutering procedures. Dr. Miguel Cruden, who worked at the Lomb Avenue location while in school, flies down from Virginia twice a month. Dr. Vaughn Walker, a local veterinarian who makes house calls, comes in two days a week.


According to Greater Birmingham Humane Society employees, potential cat owners are less picky than those who adopt dogs. (click for larger version)

Marty Patock, clinic supervisor, is about to begin a series of temperament tests. If an animal reacts with aggression, it is euthanized. Once it is placed on the adoption floor—GBHS tries to put dogs on the floor within three days of surrender—the animal will stay there until it is adopted or shows signs of kennel stress. Ruby is the first dog tested. She quickly tries to bite Patock when he pinches between her toes, one of the primary test procedures. The aggressive behavior leaves Patock with no option other than to mark an “X” on the placard on Ruby’s kennel pen to indicate that she will be put to sleep. (Each dog has a card that gives the name, age, reason for surrender, and various personality characteristics.)

Ruby is led from her kennel to the euthanasia room after several mange-infested puppies have been put down. As many as 100 animals may be euthanized in a week, with up to 60 sometimes put to sleep on Saturdays during the summer when large numbers are surrendered. “It’s hard on the staff. Some days we never leave the euthanasia room,” says Patock. “It’s often because of lack of space, and that’s the worst reason to do it.” Ruby is surprisingly friendly for a dog that growls menacingly at all who come near her cage. “A terrible waste,” says Patock as he injects sodium pentobarbital into a vein in Ruby’s leg. The dog is unconscious within 10 seconds. A minute later, Patock confirms with a stethoscope that her heart has stopped beating. “It enables an animal to leave this word in a responsible way,” he says as he shakes his head. &

The Greater Birmingham Humane Society is located at 300 Snow Drive. The shelter is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. GBHS adoption centers are located at Pet Supplies Plus, (1928 Highway 31 South) Southgate Village, and Pet Supplies Plus (4606 Highway 280, near Super Target). Adoption costs for dogs and cats are $75 for any spayed or neutered pet, and $65 for any unaltered pet, plus a refundable $65 spay/neuter deposit. For more information, call 205-780-7281 or visit

City Hall — Car Wash Controversies


By Ed Reynolds

April 21, 2005

It was the most exciting City Hall drama since former councilor Sandra Little told Mayor Bernard Kincaid that he was “a little man.” In an appallingly self-righteous sermon to the Council, Reverend Steve Green of More Than Conquerors Faith Church alluded to some members of the Council as “wicked rulers.” To hear Green tell it, apparently Satan had arrived at the April 5 Birmingham City Council meeting in the guise of a car wash; the business owner was seeking a permanent address in a commercial area of town where it would purportedly be a threat to services at Reverend Green’s church. Although the majority of the City Council recently approved a $600,000 study to determine if there is a disparity regarding minorities and city contracts, when Jimmie Johnson, a young black entrepreneur, secured a million dollar line of credit to open a Splash-N-Go car wash on Dennison Avenue, the council sided with Reverend Green.

“We believe that a car wash next to a church . . . is as incompatible as gasoline and fuel,” said the obviously confused pastor. Green urged the Council not to revert to the past. “We won’t repeat the things that we have seen in time past in Birmingham, that you won’t take out the hoses, as it were, and begin to put out the fire of the inspiration of this community, as we’re on fire for making West End a better place.” The pastor made a bold prediction: “West End will one day look like Shelby County and (Highway) 280.”

Former County Commissioner Reverend Steve Small spoke out against the car wash as he commended the Council’s record of protecting communities. “(The car wash) will bring an element of criminal activity to our community,” said Small. “We will have all kinds of loud noise and profanity.” Noting that neighborhood residents need to be able to sleep at night, Small added, “They don’t need to hear ‘your mother this’ and ‘F’ that’ all night long! They don’t need to hear it on Sunday mornings either!”

—City Councilor Bert Miller Councilor Valerie Abbott was not so much focused on the church’s congregation as she was on residents in a “very nice residential subdivision” behind the prospective car wash property. “The problem with car washes is they cause a lot of noise pollution,” said Abbott. “People turn their stereos up while they’re working on their cars.” Councilor Montgomery questioned why drive-thru restaurants, where people play boom boxes, are permitted but car washes are not. “I don’t understand how you can create more crime with a car wash than you could with a drive-thru restaurant, a laundromat, (or) a dental office, especially since it probably stores pharmaceutical drugs,” said Montgomery. The car wash would be unmanned but will have 16 cameras operating around the clock. Critics contend that another car wash is not needed since there is presently one on 6th Avenue and another on Green Springs Highway, both within a few miles of the church.Councilor Roderick Royal noted the irony of the Council’s usual insistence on acting business-friendly, but now refusing “a minority who has secured a million dollar loan.” Council President Lee Loder, a reverend himself, is torn. “This is hard because a brother wants to start a business, and that’s good,” said Loder.

“But this is not the best area to try to start in because if we’re gonna try to preserve good neighborhoods, we’re gonna have to be more restrictive.”Councilor Bert Miller was similarly perplexed. “This is a tough decision. Pastor Green is a friend of mine,” admitted Miller. “As a black man in this city, I know the history of our city . . . We’ve been denied the opportunity for so long to enhance ourselves and our city.” Regarding threats of increased criminal activity when car washes are present, Miller, who noted that there are pollen-covered cars all over town, added, “There’s crime in the White House, there’s crime everywhere . . . How can we as a race of people who have been hosed, who have been the victim of churches blown up because of the color of our skin, turn this down?” Miller said that black men die everyday because of lack of opportunity, urging, “Let’s give the brother a chance.” In search of common ground between the embattled factions, Miller asked, “Can we name this More Than Conquerors Splash-N-Go Car Wash?” Pastor Steve Green replied yes, as long as the church gets “40 percent of the proceeds.”Telling the Council that he has been in prayer over the car wash, Pastor Green launched into his sermon. “Pilate had some tough decisions one time, too. And sometimes we can do things that can cause blood to be upon our hands . . . I don’t come before this Council much. I do not abuse spiritual authority, but I’m speaking from a whole other platform. That’s why I say wisdom builds a house. Wisdom builds real insight,” Green preached. “We all know what goes on at car washes. We’ve made movies about car washes. Sometimes it can be an ethnic thing, it can be a racial thing. Let’s not put our heads in the sand. Let’s be for real. We know what the real deal in the community [is] and I’m saying we selected you guys [councilors] to stand in the gap. We appreciate business, we appreciate revenues. But the Bible says when the righteous are in authority—and I believe that we’ve got the right ones in authority—the people rejoice. But when wicked rulers bear rule, then the people mourn. It sounds like to me that the people are mourning. It might be an indication that we’ve got the wrong leaders.” Councilor Roderick Royal was furious. “I don’t think there’s a soul in this world that can claim anything better than any other soul,” said the councilor. “I am a born-again Christian and I resent the remark you just made.” Tossing a final barb, Royal added, “Jesus called the pharisees snakes and vipers.” Councilors Loder, Reynolds, Abbott, Sykes, and Smitherman (a More Than Conquerors member) all voted on the side of the viper. The debate took 90 minutes.

Smoking Ban Approved

The City Council voted unanimously April 5 to enact a smoking ban beginning June 1 in most public places, including restaurants. Exceptions include bars, hotel and motel rooms designated as “smoking,” professional offices, private clubs, retail tobacco shops, and workplaces that are outdoors.Councilor Elias Hendricks agreed with earlier comments by Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid that as the major city in this area, Birmingham should lead the effort. But Hendricks is unhappy that the ban will not be implemented all over Jefferson and Shelby counties, and Councilor Valerie Abbott agreed. Abbott pointed out that war veterans clubs have been deeply concerned. “Since our armed forces have encouraged people to smoke and now they’re addicted, [veterans clubs] have called and said that they want their members to be able to continue to smoke,” Abbott said. She also questioned the unfairness of restaurants not allowing smoking in their bars while bars without restaurants can continue to permit smoking.

Councilor Carol Reynolds remained worried about more government intrusion. “Some things that really disturb me are another layer of government bureaucracy in our lives,” said the councilor. Reynolds complained that Birmingham police have more important things to do than patrol restaurants for smokers. She warned that government bans on fatty foods to combat obesity night be next.”There’s a flip side to everything,” said Councilor Bert Miller, who supports the ban. “We talk about the economic impact. Can we stop for one minute and think about our health? I don’t want my chicken tasting like smoke. I don’t want my fish tasting like smoke.” Miller added that he “just got through with a serious heart condition. I don’t want to smell smoke, no way. I don’t want to look at steam! I’m just that cautious.”Councilor Joel Montgomery balked at the smoking ban because he does not want to place the city at an economic disadvantage. Montgomery said, “Alcohol and tobacco are both tied at the hip. There’s no question about that. I’ve done my own research over the weekend. Alcohol sales in restaurants make up as much as 20, 30, and 40 percent of the gross receipts of restaurants in this city.” He also expressed concerned that Waffle Houses will move out of the city because 80 percent of their clientele smoke, according to the councilor. A remark the previous week by Mayor Kincaid (that a smoker’s freedom ends where Kincaid’s nose begins) continued to bother the councilor. “That’s why we have freedom of choice in this country, folks, so you can check your nose at the front door of that restaurant if you don’t want to walk in there,” said Montgomery.

“I will not be a party to the economic devastation of the retail restaurants in this city. This needs to be a statewide ban.” He finally agreed to the ordinance after an amendment was added to lobby the Jefferson County Commission and to ask Kincaid to lobby the county Mayors Association to get onboard with the ban. Though Montgomery wanted the ordinance to be contingent on the county being included, Council President Lee Loder refused, but did allow Montgomery’s amendment to be included as a “formal request.” At Montgomery’s insistence, Loder also allowed an amendment requesting that the American Cancer Society lobby the County Commission as strongly as the organization lobbied the City Council.

All-American Cheating Game

All-American Cheating Game

By Ed Reynolds

“It ain’t cheating if you don’t get caught” has been the unofficial motto of drivers and mechanics on the NASCAR circuit for more than 50 years. A related phrase, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t racing,” hearkens to the origin of a sport sired by drivers who developed their skills hauling moonshine (and eluding law enforcement) through the backroads of the Appalachian Mountains at 100-plus miles per hour. Cheating in a race car is as All-American as major leaguers hitting home runs with corked bats. Year after year fines are imposed, but cheaters simply say that others are infinitely more guilty of flaunting the rules. After paying slap-on-the-wrist fines, drivers whine all the way to the bank while plotting their next devious move.

At one time stock car racing may have been the sport of rednecks, but it was a bunch of innovative, scientific rednecks who skillfully souped up automobile engines allowing them to achieve the break-neck speeds for which NASCAR is revered. “Being creative is my job. If I’m going to get fined and penalized for being creative, then that’s just part of it,” said driver Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus, just after his first major penalty three years ago. The following year, Knaus was busted for rigging a refrigerant near the fuel line (cooled fuel provides greater combustion— and therefore more speed—than heated fuel). In 1986, NASCAR inspectors found a metal box containing copper coils and dry ice in Sterling Marlin’s car; the device was chilling and shaking the car’s gasoline to create a high-octane martini.

This year, NASCAR suspended Knaus for two races when it was discovered after the March 13 race in Las Vegas that the winning car Jimmie Johnson drove was lower than NASCAR’s minimum height requirement. The suspension was later lifted after the car’s owner, Rick Hendrick, complained that the increased height was a result of mechanical issues during the race, yet not an intentional effort to break the law. However, Hendrick’s questionable tactics may extend beyond the racetrack. In 1997, he was found guilty of mail fraud, after which he was pardoned by Bill Clinton during the president’s forgiveness spree in 2000. This after Hendrick’s pal Hugh McColl, CEO of Bank America, donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation before writing a letter to the president on Hendrick’s behalf. Though the two-race suspension of crew chief Knaus was dropped, the $35,000 fine and loss of points for driver Johnson remain.



Fabled for his years running moonshine, Junior Johnson spent a year in prison in 1956 after he was caught hauling wood to his father’s corn liquor still. President Reagan pardoned him in 1985. (click for larger version)


In 1975, when Richard Petty was in desperate need of a caution flag (in order to lure the other drivers into a pit stop, thus allowing Petty to catch back up to the field), racer Buddy Arrington suddenly stopped his car on the high side of the track. The car was out of the way, so NASCAR kept the green flag out. Arrington then drove his car to a busier section of the racetrack and stopped. The caution flag promptly came out. Petty got his lap back and eventually won the race. Earlier that week, Petty had sold a car transporter (a complete portable mechanic shop that hauls the car from race to race) to Arrington, who was an independent driver operating on a shoestring budget. Speculation was that it was one heck of a sweetheart deal, and somebody still owed someone something.

Petty is reported to have once said that teams must learn to “cheat neat,” although there was nothing neat about Petty’s brother Maurice installing an oversized engine in the blue number 43 at Charlotte in 1983. At the time, the $35,000 fine was the highest ever levied. Petty, NASCAR’s poster boy, was embarrassed and fumed that he was only the driver; his brother Maurice was responsible for the engines.

Though some car owners say that taking away wins following rules violations is necessary to end cheating, NASCAR reportedly feels that this would only confuse and infuriate fans to learn that the winner on Sunday is not the declared victor on Monday. According to Vice President Jim Hunter, NASCAR remains committed to “the integrity of the sport.” The last time NASCAR took a victory away for rules violations was when it stripped Fireball Roberts of his Daytona win in 1955. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. spun out deliberately at a 2004 NASCAR race in Bristol to put the race under caution because he was about to lose a lap. He got busted when he bragged over the two-way radio to his crew that he did it on purpose. NASCAR was eavesdropping and fined him $10,000. Earnhardt later admitted that boasting on the radio was rather stupid. “What I did wasn’t necessarily the best plan. My mom even admitted that,” he said after the race.

During practice for the 1982 Daytona 500, the rear bumper on Bobby Allison’s Buick Regal had been inadvertently functioning as a parachute that trapped air, slowing the Buick considerably. Nothing could be done about the bumper because it was a “stock” piece of equipment, just like those on Regals purchased from showroom floors. Early in the race, Allison got tapped from behind and the rear bumper came off cleanly. Allison was then able to increase his speed and won the race. Afterwards, as rivals cried foul, he admitted that the bumper had been attached with a flimsy wire welder rather than with the usual heavy-duty welding machine.

Gary Nelson, currently the chief cop for NASCAR’s policing of cheating, was often praised for his skillful skirting of the rules when he served as Darrell Waltrip’s crew chief. Nelson used to flaunt the minimum weight requirement by rigging Waltrip’s car to unload 80 pounds of shotgun pellets onto the track as the pace laps were being run before the race. “If you don’t cheat, you look like an idiot. If you do it and you don’t get caught, you look like a hero. If you do it and get caught, you look like a dope,” was Waltrip’s philosophy.

The legendary Junior Johnson (immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s 1960s Esquire piece “The Last American Hero”) attached 100-pound bands of lead inside each wheel. On the first pit stop, he’d replace the wheels with conventional ones and suddenly be 400 pounds lighter. NASCAR soon learned to weigh cars after the race as well as before.

The reason NASCAR has such a thick rulebook is due primarily to the greatest racing mechanic ever, the late Smokey Yunick. Yunick, in turn, gave stock car racing a lot of rules to write. The mechanic claimed that he never really cheated, because anything not specifically in the rulebook was legitimate in his eyes. NASCAR rules stipulated that a gas tank hold no more than 22 gallons, but said nothing about the size of the fuel line. So Yunick installed a gas line that was two inches in diameter (everyone else ran a half-inch diameter line) and was also much longer than those of competitors. The line held an extra five gallons of gas. NASCAR limited the size of fuel lines the next year and began watching Yunick like a hawk.



Richard Petty called his 200th (and final) win on July 4, 1984, at Daytona Speedway his most memorable because President Ronald Reagan was in attendance. In 1996, when Petty was running for North Carolina secretary of state, he was charged with off-track shenanigans in a hit-and-run incident after he bumped another driver (whom Petty decided was driving too slow) from behind several times before passing him on a Carolina two-lane highway. All charges were dropped. (click for larger version)


At the 1967 Daytona 500, Yunick’s Chevy was actually a slightly smaller version of opposing Chevelles, making the car narrower and lower to the ground so it could slice through the air faster. The next year NASCAR mandated body templates so that stock cars remained identical in size to the production models. “As far as cheating goes, they’ll never stop it,” said Yunick. “There will always be some guy that’ll think of something that’s a little smarter than the average cat, but the reason there ain’t any more of it on a big scale is that the only way it can be done successfully is if only one person knows about it.”

In the greatest cheating story ever told (which Yunick always denied), NASCAR confiscated the fuel tank from Yunick’s black and gold number 13 Chevelle one year at Daytona. As he sat in the inspection area, inspectors chided him for nine rules violations. With supposedly no gas in the car, Yunick suddenly cranked it up and drove off, hollering over his shoulder, “Make that ten!” &

Aaron’s Dream weekend will be held at Talladega Superspeedway April 30 through May 1, featuring the Aaron’s 499 Nextel Cup Series race on Sunday. For more information, call 877-462-3342 or visit

City Hall — Highland Park Neighborhood Politics




April 07, 2005They may add up to nothing more than small community squabbling, but Highland Park Neighborhood politics are not for the squeamish. The six-month soap opera known as the Highland Neighborhood election is rich with intrigue. There are allegations of stolen campaign signs, the disappearance of neighborhood meeting sign-in sheets, and the disqualification of a write-in candidate because the city would not accept affidavits confirming his neighborhood meeting attendance.

On October 26, Alison Glascock was the winner of the Highland Park Neighborhood election after winning 411 votes from petition ballots and 99 votes at the poll. [When a candidate for neighborhood office has no opposition, that candidate can circulate (usually by hand) a sheet of paper collecting the signatures of those who support that candidate's election to office.] Her opponent, Doug Blank, owner of Highland Avenue’s high-profile rental venue the Donnelly House, received 100 votes at the poll as a write-in candidate. However, Blank called the results a “sham” and protested the election stating that the city had no representative at the poll (a fact disputed by Jaquelyn Hardy, Birmingham’s principal community resource representative). There were also complaints that Vickie Barnes, outgoing Highland Park Neighborhood secretary, was working the poll.

In a recent interview, Glascock said that petition ballots were employed when she ran unopposed in 2000 and 2002. “I went out and got quite a number of petition votes because I have previous dealings with Mr. Blank, and I didn’t know what he was likely to get up to at the polls,” Glascock explained. She said that she did not know that Blank would be a factor in the race four weeks before the first election when she gathered the petition signatures (Blank and Glascock have reportedly been at odds over the Donnelly House in the past).

There are allegations of stolen campaign signs, the disappearance of neighborhood meeting sign-in sheets, and the disqualification of a write-in candidate . . .

Dewayne Albright, who ran as a write-in candidate for vice-president of the neighborhood, reported Glascock to the police after he said he spotted her taking down Doug Blank’s campaign signs along Highland Avenue. Albright said that only Highland Neighborhood election signs were removed and that others were left intact. The initial police report says that Glascock took 150 campaign signs. Glascock disputes this. “The only thing that (Albright) got right on the police report is my name and tag number,” she said. Glascock readily admitted to removing 15 signs from the right-of-way on Highland Avenue, but she argued that she has always removed signs from right-of-ways until learning after the incident that political, religious, and labor-use signs are allowed. The police report made after Birmingham police went to Glascock’s home indicates the 15 signs that were discovered in her possession.

Much to the shock and dismay of Glascock, the Birmingham City Council heard complaints regarding the October neighborhood election on December 21 and voted to have it conducted again. “I would have strong objection to being inclined to break the rules that everybody else has to go by,” said Glascock of recalling the election. “This whole issue has been, right from the very beginning, that somehow I’m supposed to be governed by a whole different set of rules from anybody else. And if I hadn’t been, none of this re-do would have happened.” To her further surprise, Doug Blank was not to be her opponent. Instead it was Bob McKenna, a local counselor in clinical psychology. “I believe the intent of the Council was really just to let Doug and I go have a chance at it again together,” said Glascock. She insists that Blank’s supporters thought that McKenna had a better chance of beating her than Blank did. Doug Blank said that personal issues made him change his mind about running again.

The City Council delayed the election matter for two months. Then a resolution from Councilor Carol Reynolds was put on the Council’s March 8 meeting agenda “certifying the qualifications of Alison Glascock and Robert McKenna as candidates for the office of neighborhood president for Highland Park Neighborhood.” The resolution rescheduled the second election for April 19 until a terse memo two days before the council meeting from Mayor Bernard Kincaid to Reynolds, which was copied to the entire Council, City Attorney Tamara Johnson, and Jim Fenstermaker of Community Development, persuaded Reynolds to pull the item off the agenda. The Mayor’s memo had “HIGH PRIORITY” in bold letters at the top and read in part: “I read this item with utter disbelief!! Although the text of the “Resolution” was not included in my Council Package, I respectfully request that this item be withdrawn. My reasons for this request are as follows: 1) First, and foremost, the act of “certifying the qualifications” of candidates for neighborhood elections is purely an administrative matter—not a legislative one; hence, it is a matter under the province of the Mayor and Administrative Staff exclusively; 2) What you are suggesting in your proposed Resolution would be counter to the way we have conducted the other 98 elections for neighborhood officers to date for this cycle’s elections . . .” Glascock was appalled that Reynolds didn’t tell Councilor Valerie Abbott, in whose district Highland Park lies, about the resolution. “Interfering with somebody else’s neighborhood,” was Glascock’s assessment of Reynolds’ action.

Kincaid’s objection apparently concerned Bob McKenna’s method of inclusion on the ballot. McKenna, who said he received an e-mail from the Mayor indicating there would be a problem, had been told by Community Development that he had not attended enough neighborhood meetings to be a candidate. Rules require at least four attendances in the past 12 months. McKenna insisted that he had attended five meetings and gathered 15 affidavits within 24 hours affirming his presence after Community Development chief Jim Fenstermaker informed him there was not enough time to get the affidavits before the second election deadline. According to McKenna, Fenstermaker then told the candidate the issue would have to be decided by either the Mayor’s office or the City Council. McKenna met with Robbie Priest of the Mayor’s office, but no action was taken. The issue then went to the Council.



Several Highland residents have expressed concern about petition votes because verification can be difficult. A petition ballot includes the name of the person for whom the signee is casting a vote. In this case, a signature represents a vote for neighborhood president, vice-president, and secretary, all of which were unopposed positions. Regardless, collecting petition signatures is within the rules of the Citizens Participation guidelines for neighborhood elections. Alison Glascock said that 300 of the petition votes she received in the first election were collected by hand (The petition ballot for the October 26 election included president, vice-president, and secretary of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association, since all three ran unopposed). Glascock said that Highland vice-president Terry Gunnell gave a petition ballot to a UAB graduate student who took the petition to her residence and collected approximately 25 signatures. Glascock added that another was placed in the Sheraton Apartments (which is key-access only, according to Glascock) next to the elevator by either a manager or resident. She said that she asked no one to put the petition in that spot, where she received about 30 votes. Regarding the complaint that anyone could sign that petition, Glascock said that the Sheraton manager checked the names and unit numbers to certify that all on the list lived at the Sheraton.

Regarding McKenna’s claim that he signed five meeting sign-in sheets though apparently some were lost, Glascock, who collects the sheets after each meeting, admitted that the July meeting sign-in sheets were misplaced. (McKenna does not maintain that he was at to the July meeting.) McKenna said that there had been three sign-in sheets circulating at the neighborhood meetings he attended where his signatures were not found, but Glascock said there are only two at each meeting. “She lost all of July,” McKenna told Jim Fenstermaker. “Why is it such a stretch that she may have misplaced the other sheets?” McKenna also complained that the sheets were not being turned in monthly. Glascock explained, “I’m supposed to turn in sign-in sheets every month, but I usually turn in several at a time.” As to McKenna’s insistence that he had been at five meetings, Glascock responded, “I will swear on the Bible and take a lie detector test, he was not at the three meetings that he claims he was and that his ‘little buddies’ have signed statements to say that he was at.”

Another complaint was that Glascock’s husband, Charles Glascock, had been a poll watcher. Though his position obviously represents a conflict of interest, it is within neighborhood election guidelines for him to serve in that capacity. As to complaints that her husband helped to count votes, Glascock admitted that her husband did just that. She said a poll worker needed help since another poll worker, the current neighborhood secretary who has worked with Glascock, was forced to leave when voters protested that they felt intimidated by her presence. Glascock said an independent observer was present, so the process was open for the public to observe. Glascock said that if she had been trying to rig the polls, she and her husband didn’t do a very good job, as Blank got one more vote than she did.

The final tally for the second election was 290 votes for Alison Glascock (poll votes) and 92 write-in votes for Doug Blank. The City Council certified the election at the March 22 council meeting. &