Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Birmingham Mayor's race

The special election for the Birmingham Mayor's seat is now two weeks away. The frontrunners appear to be the runner up in the 2007 Mayor's race Patrick Cooper, Jefferson County Commissioner William Bell and former interim Mayor/city councilor Carole Smitherman. If no one gets to the fifty percent mark in two weeks then there will be a run off in January. As of yesterday the only candidate up on TV was Mr Cooper and its my understanding from asking around that Mr Cooper is leading in the internal polls but he's only polling in the mid to upper 30's so far. He's hoping his ads will push him up into the mid 40's over the next week and enough of the undecided voters on election day will break for him to push him over the fifty percent mark without a runoff. My guess is even if he is forced into a run off he will still win. Mr. Bell has been around for a while. He lost the run off in 1999 to Bernard Kincaid and he only pulled down five percent of the vote two years ago when he ran for Mayor. City Councilor Carole Smitherman was the interim Birmingham Mayor up until noon today when she was abruptly removed by the new City Council and replaced by city councilman Roderick Royal. So that will without doubt hurt Mrs Smitherman's mayoral campaign. One other candidate worth watching is attorney Emory Anthony. Mr Anthony is a credible candidate but its probably too late for him to get into the run off. He doesnt have the name id that Cooper,Smitherman and Bell have and given what a short campaign this has been. His only realistic hope is to use this race to build name id for a race later on.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Doctors & Hospitals shoulder part of the blame for healthcare reform

A lot of people from the conservative persuasion like myself have been warning against turning to the government to solve the healthcare problems in this country. However a lot of doctors and hospitals have made more government intervention in this field appealing to low and middle income folks because of their shameful and erratic billing practices. My late mother for example was sued twice by a doctor in Birmingham in 2007 because his office claimed her insurance was refusing payment but after a call was placed to her insurance it was discovered the doctor wasn't sending in the proper forms to receive payment. The judge dismissed the lawsuits against mom but it sure caused me and my sister and not to mention mom a lot of stress. Another example involves my brother in law who had to go to the emergency room late at night late last year complaining of chest pains. Him and my sister were making payments on this bill every month but without warning the hospital turned the account over to a collection agency and that agency almost immediately sued them in civil court. Then the situation turned strange because when they went to court the attorney for the collection agency ended up settling the account with them for twenty five percent of the balance owed on the account. So the hospital in this case not only caused my brother in law and sister a lot of stress but they ended up cheating themselves out of money they wouldve otherwise received. Most low and middle income people don't expect to receive medical care for free. But they do expect and deserve to be treated with respect when it comes to working out arrangements to pay their medical bills. All to often though hospitals and doctors haven't done that and thats one of the reasons why we find ourselves on the verge of the government taking control of the healthcare industry in this country.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tidbits from Alabama

The Jefferson County, Al. government did as I suspected they would after the SEC judgement two weeks ago. They filed a lawsuit today against former Birmingham Mayor/current convicted felon Larry Langford and JPMorgan and Chase and two of its loan managers. This will probably be settled out of court for more money than you'll ever dream of. This case is a great example of what happens when crooks in mega corporations hook up with crooks in government. The list of gifts that JPMorgan lavished on government officials in Birmingham is just amazing. All of this kind of makes you wonder though. What Obama's pay and car czars are up too this weekend? One final tidbit from Alabama concerns the filing deadline for the seat left vacant by Lea Fite's unfortunate death in the Alabama State House. Today's the deadline but it appears that Ricky Whaley is the choice of the democrat establishment in Montgomery. It will be a tough race for Mr Whaley and the democrats to hold given the makeup of that district.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hardin County school tax issue

There's a huge debate going on in Hardin County, Tn. right now over the upcoming countywide vote on whether to remove a one cent sales tax that was implemented in the mid 90's to pay for the renovation of the Hardin County High School. The issue at hand involves the decision to close down most of the elementary schools on the eastern side of the Tennessee river in the county. This move by the county leaders enraged a lot of people in these communities where the schools are located at. So they went out and gathered enough signatures to have the sales tax removal put to a vote in a special election here in a few weeks. The county is planning to use this sales tax to help pay for these two mega elementary schools they want to build. So if the county does vote to remove the one cent sales tax. Its believed the county leaders at that point would be more willing to help renovate or build new schools in these communities that are currently slated to lose their schools. In the interest of full disclosure I don't live in the county so I really don't have a dog in this hunt. But if I was still living in Hardin County I would vote to keep the tax and here's why. I understand where the parents and locals are coming from in these small communities. I still remember when the elementary school I attended in Saltillo was closed twenty two years ago. I also understand their point about how this one cent sales tax was only meant to pay for the high school renovations and then it was suppose to sunset. Im also very sympathetic to their argument that we shouldn't trust government leaders. They claim they lied about this one cent sales tax in the 90's and their lieing again today about it and will continue to lie as long as the voters in the county allow it. Here's the reason though why I would keep the tax and it has to do with the economy. Where is the economic growth in the Walnut Grove, Walker and Nixon communities that would justify spending millions of taxpayer dollars to renovate the existing schools or build new schools? There isn't any and to my knowledge there never has been any economic growth in these rural areas. North Elementary is also slated to close under the arrangement and even though it is in the Savannah city limits where most of the county's economic base exists. Its my understanding that this school is in pretty bad structural shape and renovating it wouldn't be economically feasible. You also have to take into account that its better to acquant children with each other at an early age instead of the current arrangement of ninth grade. It would help them get used to being around each other and stop the culture shock that they currently experience of trying to establish friendships with fellow students they've never met before going into their freshman year of high school in Savannah. So in my opinion that factor and the lack of economic growth in these rural area's should override the other factors in this debate.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Coming sometime this week.....

There's a huge debate over the tax issue and building new schools in Hardin County, Tn right now. If I get time tomorrow Ill share some thoughts on something I havent heard mentioned much in this debate yet even though I think it should be the over riding issue considering the money involved.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

7 Mississippi democrats jump ship to the GOP

Seven officials in Simpson County, Ms. switched to the GOP today. It ranged from a small town alderman to the district attorney and sheriff in that county. There's been constant rumors of possible democrat defectors in the legislature over the past year. But so far the Mississippi GOP has come up empty on that front.


Has Birmingham avoided bankruptcy?

Yesterday afternoon the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that JPMorgan Chase & Co has agreed to pay Birmingham, Al $700 million over the sewer bond deal scandal that's nearly caused Birmingham to file for bankruptcy numerous times over the past eighteen months. Just to give you a hint of what a financial mess Birmingham is in because of these bond deals. The $700 million settlement with the SEC only reduces Birmingham's debt from 3.9 BILLION to 3.2 BILLION. There's more good news for Birmingham and Alabama's taxpayers in this settlement though. The way I understand it is that there's nothing in this settlement agreement preventing local prosecutors from going after JPMorgan. You would have to assume their already doing this behind the scenes in terms of settlement talks given all thats gone on in Birmingham the past few weeks. So at the end of the day I would suspect Birmingham will have their debt reduced even further down than where its at today. If these settlements bring in the type of money I suspect they will then Birmingham will avoid becoming the largest city in the country to ever file for bankruptcy. There are also rumors floating that a settlement is near between the SEC and former Birmingham Mayor and now convicted felon Larry Langford(D). Not much will come from this settlement though in terms of monetary damages. Mr Langford had to use a public defender in his criminal trial last month and he's facing over 800 years in prison after being convicted on all 60 counts last week. The real juicy stuff came at the end of the documents the SEC released yesterday where they allege that two directors at JPMorgan gave close friends of certain former and current Jefferson County, Al. Commissioners eight million dollars. These "close friends" worked at financial firms in the Birmingham area and the SEC alleges these "close friends" performed no known services to receive that kind of payment. One of these commissioners whose "close friends" were suddenly flush with cash is none other than former TV reporter Sheila Smoot who just happens to be one of the frontrunners in the race to replace Congressman Artur Davis in Congress next year. I'm sure Nancy Pelosi can't wait to see her.