Highway 431 Blog

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Music ::

One of my great pleasures each week is sitting on the back porch of the country mansion listening to Mike Flynn's Folk Sampler on the local NPR radio station, WLRH. As an added bonus The Folk Sampler is followed by Microwave Dave's Talking The Blues. I really enjoy listening to good music and one of my greatest regrets in life is that I have virtually no musical talent. You certainly don't want to hear me try to sing and I probably have a hard time humming.

Lo those many years ago when I was in junior high school (I guess we would call this middle school now) anyone who was interested in being in joining the band was given a test of some sort to gauge their musical ability. My remembrance is that whoever judged the results of this test got a hearty laugh from my score. That's ok because I can listen with the best of them and I will occasionally make a recommendation and I have one for tonight.

If you have never heard of Iris Dement then I highly recommend that you listen to her music. Here is a YouTube teaser:

I have never had the good opportunity to see Iris Dement live even though she lives near Nashville. She also does shows with John Prine. Do yourself a favor and go to YouTube and search for Iris Dement and you will find some nice clips of her alone, Iris with John Prine, and Iris with EmmyLou Harris.

Unfortunately Huntsville generally has a pretty lousy music scene. Iris often appears in Asheville, North Carolina and I'm hoping to catch her up there at some point. Asheville happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.

Making A Change Or Three ::

I don't know if anyone ever reads this since I have yet to put up any sort of stat counter, but I'm going to muck around with the stylesheet in the next couple of days hoping to get away from this Blogger cookie cutter look. I don't really mind it, but, to my mind, it just looks like too many other Blogger blogs so there will be changes in the future and I'll try not to screw the site up too badly and hopefully there will be some more new and interesting content!

Big Spring Jam ::

This year's edition began last night with a fairly solid slate of acts. I would like to go, but J. would never be able to physically navigate the venue given the size of the crowd, but I would like to see Joan Jett, Dr. John, and George Clinton.

Clinton has heart and loves what he does! He played here last year and was the closing act on, I believe, Saturday night. He refused to quit playing and the event organizers eventually had to physically kill the power in order to get him and his band off the stage. This year the organizers have given him 2 different time slots, something which I don't recall them ever having done before.

The weather should be good for this year's event and I wish everyone a wonderful time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Metropolitan Planning Organization

Here is some more information regarding the MPO courtesy of the City of Huntsville web site:

The transportation planning process for state and local governments, specified in the United States Code Section 134, Title 23, requires that a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) be designated in urban areas with a population exceeding 50,000 individuals. The local MPO and its requirements set forth by federal legislation, seeks to insure that all transportation plans and programs are continuous, cooperative, and comprehensive and, therefore; coordinated with the planned development of the Huntsville urban area.


The MPO is a coordinated organization comprised of local elected officials representing the areas defined in the Huntsville Area Transportation Study, as well as a representative from the Alabama Department of Transportation. As such, they are legally empowered to implement transportation plans. They consider transportation planning goals and objectives along with financial and social consequences when adopting transportation plans. A Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC) provides the technical and professional guidance for the planning process and is composed of experienced professional people who can determine if developed plans will be feasible for the local area. Public involvement in the transportation planning process is provided through a Citizens' Advisory Committee (CAC).

This is pretty interesting, but I wonder just how high the profile of this municipal organization is. I think I'll keep an eye on this for a while. As it turns out there is a meeting tonight. I wish I had had time to plan to attend. If you're curious about who is on the Metropolitan Planning
Organization here is a listing:

Following is a list of Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) members by the the committees they serve:

MPO Executive Committee

Mayor Loretta Spencer - City of Huntsville, Chairman
Mayor Sandy Kirkindall - City of Madison
Bill Kling - Huntsville City Council
Mike Gillespie - Madison County Commission
Mayor Curtis Craig - Owens Cross Roads
Mayor Marvelene Freeman - Town of Triana
Johnny Harris - Alabama Department of Transportation
Joe D. Wilkerson - Federal Highway Administration (non-voting)
Bob Jilla - ALDOT Bureau of Transportation Planning & Modal Programs (non-voting)
Bob Culver - Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments (non-voting)

MPO Technical Coordinating Committee

Dallas W. Fanning - Transportation Planning Coordinator
Bob Atallo - City of Madison
David Pope - Madison County Engineer
Emmanuel Oranika - Alabama Department of Transportation
Dave Harris - Federal Highway Administration
Tom Cunningham - City of Huntsville Engineer
Dennis Thompson - City of Huntsville Engineering Department
Peter Joffrion - City of Huntsville Legal Department
Jerry Galloway - City of Huntsville Community Development
Daniel Shea - City of Huntsville Natural Resources and Environmental Management
Anne Burkett - Madison County Planning and Economic Development
Dan Sanders - City of Huntsville Engineering Division
Ricky Ennis - Huntsville Housing Authority
Ed Mitchell - Huntsville Marina and Port Authority
Crawford Howard - Huntsville Planning Commission
Rick Tucker - Huntsville/Madison Airort Authority
Curtis Vincent - Alabama Department of Transportation
Bob Culver - Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments
Bobby Noles - Redstone Arsenal
Tommy Brown - City of Huntsville Parking and Public Transit
Gary Chynoweth - City of Madison Engineer
Ron McElroy - Huntsville Utilities
Ralph Allen - Marshall Space Flight Center
Diana Standrindge - US Space and Rocket Center
Connie Graham - City of Huntsville Planning Division

MPO Citizen's Advisory Committee

Michael Holderer - Huntsville, Chairman
Dave Nicolas - Huntsville
John Howell - Huntsville
Tom McCarty - Huntsville
Shirley McCrary - Huntsville
Marcia Elkins - Huntsville
Jamie Miernik - Huntsville
Denver Anderson - Madison County
Mike Potter - Madison
Bill Weaver - Madison
Madge Griffin - Triana
George Malone - Triana
Bill Glover - Owens Cross Roads
Lynn Knott - Owens Cross Roads

I wonder why New Hope is not included?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pushing Toll Roads For Alabama.

Governor Bob Riley is becoming more aggressive about pushing the idea of toll roads as a possible solution to finding funding for new road construction pojects starting with the proposed bypass which would cross Redstone Arsenal connecting I565 with South Memorial Parkway near Hobbs Island Road. Apparently $1 million has been allocated for a study of to determine the feasibility of this proposed project as a toll road. My first thought was that the cost of this study is pretty high, but the company doing the study is expected to propose a projected toll which will cover construction costs.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization last week amended the area's transportation improvement plan to add $1 million to the high-priority and congressional section.

The MPO is a group of area officials who set priorities for transportation projects. Any transportation project that receives federal money must be in the MPO's plans.


Steve Dinges, an assistant director of the Huntsville Planning Department, told the MPO Wednesday that the state DOT has selected URS Corp. to do the study but doesn't have a finished contract that sets a cost for the study.

Dinges said the state would provide $800,000 of federal highway money and $200,000 of state highway money for the study.

I've only recently begun to follow local city and county politics, but I've never heard of the "Metropolitan Planning Organization" until I read this article. So, who are the forward thinkers proposing to charge us for the use of the "Patriot Parkway"? After reading the article I'm still not sure who the members of the MPO are, but here may be a clue, again from Sunday's Huntsville Times:

Madison Mayor Sandy Kirkindall, an MPO member, asked about such a large amount of money for a study.

"It's a real sophisticated study," Dinges said.

MPO member Johnny Harris, the DOT Division 1 engineer, said, "They usually come up with what the toll would have to be to pay for the project."

Harris, Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer, Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling and Owens Cross Roads Mayor Curtis Craig voted to amend the plan to include the $1 million. Kirkindall abstained.

I'm going to do some checking and see if I can't find out the composition of the MPO. There has been some talk of toll roads for some time, but I just now see this really getting some press play. My first thought is that our community leaders will be sorely disappointed if they have to rely on local residents to support such a drastic move as a toll road to move people across Redstone Arsenal. I guess the cost of the toll will become the telling fact, but I have found this area to be notoriously cheap and I will be very surprised at widespread support for this project!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Vivian Davis Figures For Senate?

I keep wondering when she will make some sort of run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Jeff Sessions. Ms. Figures has a web site, of sorts, but all you can do is register for e-mail newsletters. There is absolutely nothing of substance and I'm beginning to think that "nothing of substance" would be the best description of her candidacy. I can not adequately relate my disappointment that Ron Sparks did not run for the Senate. At least he would have made it a race and would have attempted to win!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Alabama Attorney General Troy King: Alabama's Answer To Dracula!

Troy King seem to be much in the mold on CNN's Nancy Grace: he finds no one unworthy of execution and he has no compulsion about removing a county district attorney who proposes a rational solution to a conundrum: what do do with a case where the killer's death sentence has been commuted, but an accomplice who was driving the car still faces the death penalty. The local DA wants the sentence commuted to life, but Troy The Impaler insists on executing someone who, while complicit, was not intimately involved with the murder. Links, we need links to the story:

Huntsville DA says that the move is political

Prosecutors demand apology from Troy King for being incompetent! (that last part was mine!)
Mmmmmm The Mobile Press-Register seems to be strangely silent, but a lot of digital ink is being spilled wondering just how Bob Riley could have been so incompetent as to appoint an Alabama Attorney General with virtually no experience. Rumors are that Riley is also not happy with Troy Dracula whose cheer is Kill, Kill, Kill!

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Siegelman Conviction and Dana Jill Simpson

Jill Simpson was questioned by house staff members today in Washington and I'm interested in seeing just what the outcome of her testimony might be. I had hoped that she would be testifying before the House Judiciary committee today, but apparently that possibility depends on how her sworn testimony is reported back to the actual house members of the judiciary committee. I have not followed the Siegelman case until recently, but it does seem to be nothing less than a travesty of justice.

I have long felt that our justice system has nothing to do with justice, but rather it is a money making venture for the city, county and the state (and I include the federal government as a state institution). I have come to the conclusion that the district attorneys and the attorneys general care only about statistical wins regardless of whether or not the defendant is actually guilty of any crime. They have no desire to determine the actual truth! This is the prime reason why I advocate against the death penalty. I have no doubt that there are probably some people who are deserving this brutal punishment, but far too many people have been exonerated based on DNA evidence in the near past for me to have any confidence that any capital punishment is justified.

I got off on a tangent here, but I am beginning to follow the Siegelman saga more closely and I'm still hoping that it will gain some additional national traction. I really want to know what Karl Rove's involvement might be in this!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

National Versus Local Politics

I consider statewide to be local and I have to admit that it's only in the past few months that I have really begun to follow Alabama state politics and I am suitably appalled at what we have elected. I have recently been following the partisan political exploits of our Repuglicanattorney general, Troy King, and his propensity to try to dredge up anything to use against a political opponent (read Democrat). He also seems to share with Nancy Grace the desire for all persons accused of a crime, not convicted, but accused, to face the death penalty.

We're pretty new here in this corner of cyberspace and I will be adding much more in the next few weeks and months regarding local politics along with links to those who are much more knowledgeable than I.

In closing let me say this about Nancy Grace: I understand that she was devastated by the murder of her fiance lo those many years ago, but I am sorry that she became such a bitter hag at such a young age. I also understand that she is now pregnant with twins. I truly hate to see babies brought into such a world of bitterness and hatred and I would hope that Nancy Grace would find some enlightenment, not to mention some compassion for her fellow man!

I think Blogger lost a couple of posts!

I'm sure I posted at least a couple of things this past weekend, but they're not showing up and I, in my dotage, do not remember what it was I had to say, but I'm sure that it was witty and insightful!

I'll watch more closely from now on!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Huntsville Has A Really Lousy Sign Ordinance

As I do every morning I picked up my copy of the Huntsville Times on my way into work and there, on the front page below the fold, was the news that several local businesses have been in violation of a Huntsville sign ordinance which dates back to 1972. Here is a bit from al.com (truly one of the crappiest newspaper web sites in existence):

Only those aspects that advertise what the business sells or the name of the company have to go from the exterior brick, wood or concrete block walls.

"We had to spray paint over our apples and pumpkins," said Garden Cove health food store Manager Pam Breece. "But the painting of the man can stay. We don't sell men."

..."You can't paint your name or product on your structure," Dodson said. "Plain and simple. It's in the code."

I frequent almost all of the businesses cited and have long taken great pleasure in the paintings on the sides of the businesses. Tim's Cajun Kitchen has been one of my favorites and Don Howard's wall murals were especially nice, but they're gone now, the victim to this inane city ordinance. I would have much preferred the ordinance be changed or at least put to a vote by the city electorate. I would bet anything that the Huntsville public would have overwhelmingly voted to keep these works of art visible to all who patronize these businesses. I still may make my call to city hall tomorrow and register my indignation at this travesty!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Vivian Figures For Senate?

OK, she has tossed her hat into the ring against Jeff Sessions, but I'm still waiting for some sign of life from her campaign. Maybe she has something happening south of Montgomery since she is from Mobile, but this race will be run and won or lost statewide. Is there anyone in north Alabama co-ordinating her race? The silence up here has been deafening!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Shelby and Cramer dodging RPG's over Iraq

The news broke a couple of days ago that as a C130 was leaving Iraq with a cargo of congress critters the plane was fired upon. Bud Cramer and Richard Shelby happened to be in this festive party and, luckily, escaped unscathed (which cannot be said for thousands of our troops over the couse of this occupation). I just e-mailed Cramer asking if his assertion that "the surge" has improved conditions in Baghdad remains the same. This entire fiasco in Iraq is more about pork and corporate pay-offs than it is about spreading democracy!

Read this article from Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi.

Now that that rant is out of the way I'm curious about some details of the story of the rpg fire on the Hercules C130. This plane was supposedly 30 minutes out of Baghdad and flying at 6000 feet at night. This plane could not have been very visible and I have been around C130s a lot having lived very near the Lockheed plant in Marietta, Ga. some years ago and they they are not especially loud. I'm also curious to know just what the vertical range of a rpg would be. I just can't believe that a plane flying at 6000 feet would be vulnerable to such a weapon!

There must be more to this story than what we're being told!