Tuscaloosa Area Long-Range Transportation Plan, 2040



Tuscaloosa Area Long-Range Transportation Plan, 2040

Public Meeting, 7/24/14
Notes by Laura Reed

David Norris -WARC, Transporation Planning Director
Jill Hannah – WARC, Senior Transportation Planner
Another staff member (Zane Davis?) -WARC
Dan Wolfe -University Planner and Designer
Russell Lawrence -PATA Transit Representative, Executive Director
Anne Wynn – private citizen
Laura Reed – private citizen
Jacqueline Cabbil Maye – private citizen

The meeting consisted of a brief power point slide presentation with an overview of the components of the draft document available at: http://warc.info/transportation-planning/tuscaloosa-area-mpo/documents

There were a few times when additional discussion occurred and these are noted below. Otherwise the content is best communicated through the document itself.

Items that generated additional discussion included:

Alabama DOT does not allow publication of specific traffic safety data (e.g. specific numbers, times, locations, and causes of accidents) for fear of lawsuits. According to the WARC staff this rule conflicts with federal rules and most other states allow this kind of data to be published. Engineers working on specific projects and the WARC staff when prioritizing projects can consult this data but they are not required to. Jacqueline Maye noted that this type of data is needed for federal grants for specific projects (e.g. citizen effort to put a sidewalk near a school) as evidence of need. Apparently, ALDOT would not allow such data to be used in a grant application. There seemed to be uniform agreement by those present that suppressing this information is counter productive.

The Tuscaloosa East Bypass (route that would cross Hurricane Creek) in not on the list of funded projects for the long-range plan. It does remain on the Visionary Plan. There is no funding presently identified to pay for this project that would cost on the order of $300 million. So, unless funding for this project can be found (e.g. congressional earmarks) this project is unlikely to proceeded anytime in the near future.

Many planned projects are listed with the stipulation that “Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities will be Included”. When I asked for clarification on what this meant I learned that this could range from “share the road” signs to actual bike lanes and sidewalks. Pedestrian and bike accommodations will be highly dependent on input from the public, without strong public input accommodations may be limited to “share the road” signs. Also, if adding sidewalks or lanes requires right of way purchases that there is insufficient funds for then they are unlikely to happen. Thus is it important that private citizens stay abreast of the announcements for public comment on specific individual projects to make an impact on alternative transportation considerations.

In a one-on-one conversation with Russell Lawrence -PATA Transit Executive Director, I learned that expansion of public transit system highly dependent on local and federal funding (not surprisingly). To add one route to the current PATA system would require about $200,000-300,000 up front and $80,000 per year minimum. New route would require at least two new buses (including a spare), two ADA on-demand response vehicles, 6 drivers, and additional shop staff. I also learned that he is very keen to transition the fleet to liquid petroleum because to the significant savings in both fuel expenses and in reduced wear on the vehicles extending their lifetime. The cost of converting the fleet (~$125,000) would be recuperated in savings in 1.2 years. The city is running a pilot now with two animal control vehicles that they converted to liquid petroleum.

I should also add that the public comment period on the Long-Range Transportation Plan runs through August 14th.  All written comments will be included in an appendix to the plan and the staff seemed eager to get and incorporate suggestions from the public.  Comments can be mailed or delivered to WARC 4200 Highway 69 North, Suite 1, P.O. Box 509, Northport, AL 35476-0509 or sent by email warc@westal.org.

Some call it cronyism…


A few people who care about historic preservation were surprised by the appointment of Bob Ennis as Anne Gibbons’ replacement on the City of Tuscaloosa’s Historical Preservation Commission. Mayor Walt Maddox’s fingerprints may be on Ennis’ appointment.

Gibbons had favored Ian Crawford as her replacement, who has academic credentials in historic preservation. She had been told by the Planning Department’s Ashley Crites that his name would be be offered to the Council, but somehow Bob Ennis was appointed. Ennis is a former city attorney, who goes back to Tuscaloosa’s Commission system and is reportedly well thought of by Mayor Walt Maddox.

Assistant City Clerk Debra Clements said that Bob Ennis and Ian Crawford’s names brought up for discussion as candidates for the Historical Preservation Commission vacancy at the April 22 Pre-Council meeting. “The decision to recommend was made then. The actual vote occurred at the rescheduled meeting on May 1 when the Ordinance was adopted.”

Ian Crawford was outspoken in opposition to the Hilton extended-stay motel. Its approval by the City Council led to the destruction of many old, historic homes on the 2600 block of University Boulevard. The motel was Bryan Winters’s pet project. ( More recently Winters virtually camped out at City Hall to guarantee that Trinitas’ new student complex The Collegiate, which is located near the LOFT at Midtown Village, would be grandfathered in so that it would have maximum occupancy. ) Apparently Winter has a lot of clout at City Hall. Crawford was probably not rejected because of the desires of Winter and other developers. But developers, who are among the biggest contributors to the campaigns of all of the politicians at City Hall, certainly wouldn’t have approved of Crawford.

Some background on Ennis can be found in Robert DeWitt’s article Ennis was more than just the city’s top lawyer:

There have been complaints over the years that Ennis had too much power at City Hall. He has not been oblivious to the criticism. “No, I did not run City Hall,” Ennis said with a chuckle. “There were times, due to circumstances, that department heads had to assume the ultimate responsibility for decision-making. There were times when (former Police Chief) Ken Swindle, (City Engineer) Joe Robinson and I had to say, ‘OK, what are we going to do?'” That made staying out of political entanglements difficult sometimes. “In order to provide legal advice to all public officials, you have to remain objective,” Ennis said. “To be objective, you have to stay out of the politics they’re involved in. It’s not really a political job, although people think it is.”

Ennis went to work at a City Hall that still functioned in an old school manner. The city was run by a city commission with three members, all elected at-large. City department heads were virtually all World War II veterans who relied as much on tradition as the municipal code to operate the city day-to-day. “There was not the sense of urgency that you have now in City Hall,” Ennis said.

The job put him in touch with interesting people. He particularly remembers Hilliard Fletcher, the water and finance commissioner. The financial practices Fletcher put in place were the foundation for the city’s excellent financial health, Ennis said. “He really taught me what it was like to be a public servant,” Ennis said. “The worst thing you could get was a call to come over to his office,” Ennis said with a smile. “He was over at the old Duckworth Morris building and you had two blocks to walk and think about what you might have done.”

Ennis suffered a serious heart attack while working for the city but recovered and returned to work. He called the last six years under the Maddox administration the best of his career. ‘He had his ideas and he was decisive,” Ennis said. “You never had to worry if he had your back or not.”

He particularly enjoyed working with bond issues and construction, and those were very active parts of his job under Maddox. “I wanted to be part of the team that finished urban renewal, the intermodal facility and the amphitheater,” Ennis said. “I wanted to see those projects finished as a city employee.’”That became difficult. Ennis began suffering from progressively worsening chest pains. It was obvious that he needed to retire for his health, and restoring his health is now his first priority.

Instead of appointing a credentialed historic preservationist to serve on the Historic Preservation Commission, the Tuscaloosa City Council chose a man who hails back for decades at City Hall and who had retired for health problems.

With the exception of David Nelson ( whose term is over in 2015 ) and the newly appointed Bob Ennis and Lindsey Wright, the terms for the remaining Commission members will expire in 2016. They are Dr. Catherine Pagani, Ms. Anne Hornsby, Mr. Jim Johnson, Mr. Chase Adcox, Ms. Rebecca Rothman and Mr. Brett Clark.



University of Alabama Task Force: Listening Session–March 17, 2014


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University of Alabama Task Force Meeting

Moody Music Building, UA Campus



Present (Task Force Members)

Mary Meares, Associate Professor, Communication Studies — Faculty at Large

Meredith Bagley, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies — Faculty Senate

Utz McKnight, Associate Professor, Political Science — Black Faculty Staff Association

Stephanie Robinson, Graduate Student, Biological Sciences

Kirkland Back, UA Student, Honors College Assembly



Henry ??, Filmmaker

* Said he is currently working on a documentary film about racism in Alabama.  The film originally had a broad focus, but has increasingly focused on the University of Alabama in light of events from the past year.  He asked, ‘Why is Alabama so slow to change?’


Robert Metzger, UA Faculty

* The existence of the Machine is not compatible with UA’s desire to transition to status as a university of national stature.


John Vincent, UA Faculty

* Noted the long history of UA Faculty Senate resolutions calling for administrative action against the Machine, all to relatively little consequence or action from the university administration.


Katie Smith, UA undergraduate and SGA Senator

* Spoke about experiences in her sorority house.  Stated that the hesitancy to desegregate their membership in the fall was not only from alumni advisors, but from students themselves.  Because they are not an ‘Old Row’ institution, students were fearful that they could not be the first to desegregate.

* Skeptical of UA’s Greek Affairs office, which she said simply brushed aside her complaints without taking any action.

* Noted that her house was one of those with Cason Kirby signs in their yard at the time of the August 2013 municipal election and that rounded up members to vote for Kirby.


Matt Mecoli, UA undergraduate

* Expressed concern that UA does not even enforce its current rules regarding campus elections.

* Expressed concern that the UA Elections Board don’t hold students accountable in any meaningful way even when election violations are documented.

* Stated that emails to the Elections Board regarding documentation of violations in the recent SGA elections have gone unanswered.

* Questioned why the Elections Board holds no open meetings (including not allowing news media at their meetings) and apparently does not even keep minutes of their meetings—or won’t release them if they do.

* Noted the problematic aspect of the Elections Board policy that only gives a 48 hour window for the reporting of violations regarding campus elections


Stephanie Ray, UA undergraduate

* Noted her difficulty in obtaining copies of financial reports from the SGA.

* Wondered whether Kelli Knox Hall (UA Elections Board) is accountable to anyone or has any oversight.

* Expressed concern that the Machine seems to be getting a live feed of election results in process on election days, something other non-Machine candidates certainly do not have access to.  [Several other students echoed this concern.]


* Someone else [sorry, not sure who] expressed concern regarding the clear conflict of interest of student Madalyn Vaughan simultaneously holding a position as Co-Chair the UA Elections Board while serving as an advisor to the campaign of Machine SGA President candidate, Hamilton Bloom.


Matt Mecoli, UA undergraduate

* Urged the adoption of party identification on student election ballots.  He felt this would allow non-Machine candidates to form broad coalitions with greater clarity and efficiency.


John Vincent, UA Faculty

* Noted the recurring problem with public access to knowledge regarding the nature of violations in UA campus elections, wherein issued raised at closed-door Elections Board meetings might then be forwarded on to Student Judicial Affairs, where proceedings are also closed door.  Vincent said FERPA regulations are usually cited as a reason for such silences, but he found that rationale to be suspect.


Patrick Frantom, UA Faculty

* Inquired about the mechanism(s) for implementation of UA Task Force recommendations.

[John Vincent suggested that, historically, it falls to the Faculty Senate to try to push administration for implementation on these kinds of matters.]


Pamela Foster, UA Faculty

* Suggested two SGA Presidents, one Machine and one non-Machine.

* Suggested the need to eliminate Greek pledging for first-year UA students.  Students need to get to know the larger campus and other students before entering the relatively cloistered social world of the UA Greek system.

* Emphasized the need for the Task Force to utilize the press in publicizing all of its recommendations as a means of placing more pressure for implementation on UA administration.


Robert Metzger, UA Faculty

* Emphasized the need to also address the “graduate Machine”—i.e. the network of local and state politicians with roots in UA’s Machine.


Katie Smith, UA undergraduate

* Noted her own observation of monitored online voting at Greek houses.


Kirkland Back, UA undergraduate & Task Force member

* Said that she had been told by the Office of Student Conduct that one person’s complaint would be sufficient to launch an investigation.

[There seemed to be some student skepticism of this assertion expressed from the floor.]


Matt Mecoli, UA undergraduate

* Said that past evidence of election misconduct has been turned in with no real consequence.

* Mentioned that the recent March 2014 SGA elections at UA were similarly marred by well-documented violations with—so far—no consequences.  Specifically, Machine candidate Steven Oliver was convicted of seven violations, but he was only sentenced to four hours of community service and then took office as SGA President following a hotly contested race with Kendra Key.


Stacy Morgan, UA Faculty

* Expressed frustration that with clear documentation of both election misconduct and homophobic harassment of UA students following the election for their support of non-Machine candidates, UA administration still has not issued any kind of statement condemning election misconduct or harassment of students by fellow students.  Even for the moment leaving out the particular names/instances of the accused, why can’t they at least issue a statement critical of such behavior and emphasizing their willingness to protect students who come forward with such complaints?  To not do so is to tacitly condone such abhorrent behavior.


Billy Field, UA Faculty and Faculty-in-Residence for Mallet Assembly

* Reported that Greek students had expressed to him their anger about having older fraternity brothers stand over their shoulders and monitor their (online) voting, but they were afraid to speak out because they thought it would result in their being kicked out of their fraternities.


Patrick Frantom, UA Faculty

* Emphasized the need to protect students who come forward with complaints regarding election violations or harassment—and to make clear to all students that they will receive such protection.


Matt Mecoli, UA undergraduate

* Are we teaching UA students that election corruption is not only tolerated, but rewarded?

* He emphasized that low student turnout in campus elections is a result, not a cause of the success of corrupt Machine electioneering.


Andrew ??, UA undergraduate

* UA should return to traditional ballot box voting to prevent direct vote monitoring.  Multiple voting sites on campus would help to encourage voter turnout.


John Vincent, UA Faculty

* Noted past instances of the UA Elections Board combining multiple violations into one single violation to prevent the “winning” (Machine) candidate from being disqualified.


Stephanie Robinson, UA graduate student & Task Force

* In response to a student question about the measures for protecting UA student whistleblowers from retribution, Robinson noted that the Student Code of Conduct says that the punishment for retribution is supposed to be expulsion.


Carl Bacon, Director of Ferguson Center & President of the Black Faculty Staff Association

* Noted the existence of the Equal Opportunity Employment Committee (under Community Affairs) as an entity already in place to work on diversity concerns.

* Wanted to know if the Task Force would push for the appointment of a high-ranking Chief Diversity Officer to the UA administration (something the BSFA & others have suggested previously).  [Echoed by Pamela Foster, who suggested that such a position should be on the Vice-Presidential level.  Foster also suggested that models exist for such a position in SEC peer institutions.]

* Wondered about the need for a campus climate survey where the results would be widely disseminated.


Alex Davenport, SafeZone

* Read from transcripts of at least three different examples of verbal and online harassment of students connected with non-Machine SGA election candidates, all collected within the few days after the March 12 SGA elections.  Examples included language such as:

“That shit is as gay as AIDS.”

“Question: How do you turn a fruit  into a vegetable?  Answer: A hate crime.”

“Die, faggot, die.”

* Emphasized the need to expand UA’s current non-discrimination policy to include gender identity.  [Several others echoed the consistently homophobic nature of harassment of students following the recent elections, as well as in the ongoing Machine harassment of Mallet Assembly.]


Billy Field, UA Faculty and Faculty-in-Residence for Mallet Assembly

* Noted his experience as a faculty member who lives in the Mallet residence hall of constant student harassment “five nights out of the week”—including regular instances of verbal slurs, students smashing Mallet bicycles with furniture, and the like.


Henry ??, Filmmaker

* Described his experience of being pelted with oranges while on campus.


Laura Reed, UA Faculty

* Noted the upcoming meeting of the Tuscaloosa Accountability Project on April 3 at 7:30pm in the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation meeting room.

* Ardently disagreed with the continuing UA administration mantra that ‘students must lead’ any reform efforts.  The community needs leadership from UA administration.

* Suggested student tuition (i.e. the threat of losses on this front) as a major motivation for capturing the attention of the university’s administration.


Rona Donahoe, UA Faculty & Faculty Senate Secretary

* Noted the presence of the UA standing committee on Security & Safety that Mallet might consult with regard to the regular harassment they were describing at this meeting.  In particular, suggested Steve Tucker (Director of UA Public Safety) as a resource.


Rashad Hudson (name?), UA undergraduate

* Expressed desire to see the appropriate reporting channels (whether for harassment or elections violations and the like) be made more readily apparent to students, and assurance that those channels would in fact follow up when complaints were reported.


JoAnn Oliver, UA Faculty

* Emphasized the need for a clear message from the top (UA administration) about where students could go for help or to report misconduct/harassment by fellow students.


Alex Davenport, SafeZone

* Clear statement from the top needs to be backed up by capable and willing professional staff in the offices responsible for fielding student complaints regarding harassment and other types of misconduct.


Pamela Foster, UA Faculty

* Protection of UA students from a climate of harassment and retribution clearly needs to be an urgent, high priority issue.


Andrew ??, UA undergraduate

* Remarked on the damage that the past year’s events have done to UA’s reputation in other states, noting examples of comments he receives from friends about UA when back home from school.  Wondered whether UA is only driven by image concerns; even if so, they should be concerned.


Steve Miller, UA Faculty & Faculty Senate President

* Advised that it would be important to couple narratives of harassment with ‘facts and figures’ in order to make an impression on UA administration.


JoAnn Oliver, UA Faculty

* One result of the multiple reporting sites and mechanisms at UA is likely that we have only piecemeal documentation of the full scope of issues like harassment and retributive behavior being experienced by students on campus.


Mary ??, UA Staff

* The problem is not with the Greek system.  They are doing what they are designed to do (i.e. to exclude and to represent their own interests).  The problem is more with the unequal distribution of resources and access from the University.


University of Alabama Task Force: Listening Session–March 4, 2014


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University of Alabama Task Force Meeting

Moody Music Building, UA Campus



Present (Task Force Members)

Norman Baldwin, Professor, Political Science — Faculty at Large

Mary Meares, Associate Professor, Communication Studies — Faculty at Large

Meredith Bagley, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies — Faculty Senate

Osiris Molina, Associate Professor, School of Music — Faculty Senate

Utz McKnight, Associate Professor, Political Science — Black Faculty Staff Association

Stephanie Robinson, Graduate Student, Biological Sciences

Brennan Johnson, UA Student, SGA Chief of Staff

Kirkland Back, UA Student, Honors College Assembly



Stacy Morgan, UA Faculty:

* Raised concerns regarding the lack of UA administration response to August 2013 municipal election misconduct by UA students.  In particular, what has become of UA Student Life’s own investigation headed by Tim Hebson?

[Mark Nelson, UA Vice-President for Student Affairs, responded from the audience that they are waiting for the court precedings to fully play out before making any response]


Paul Horwitz, UA Faculty & Parent:

* The election misconduct and its impact on the city school system are already exerting an impact on UA faculty and dean recruitment for the Law School.

* The election misconduct and its impact on the city school system pose a real obstacle to the retention of current UA faculty and other employees.

* Mentioned the existence of the Tuscaloosa Accountability Project and its mission to monitor and report on the activities of local government.

* Stressed concern that students allowed themselves to be used by local & state political players, with students facing the consequences in terms of subsequent news media coverage.

* Mentioned payment of $200 for an individual to ensure student voter turnout.

* Need more students at future Task Force sessions and related UA public discussion forums.


Kelly Horwitz, UA Parent & School Board candidate from August 2013 election:

* Noted the precedent of Lee Garrison mobilizing “Machine” votes to gain municipal office in 1997—a case which also went to court before a judge affirmed Garrison’s election by a mere handful of votes.

* Machine using tactics from campus elections in municipal elections now an established pattern, not a one-time occurrence.

* Expressed concern that everyone waits for someone else to act.  As a result, her family largely bears the cost of pursuing the election misconduct through a costly legal battle.

* Noted the fracture in town-gown relations resulting from the municipal election misconduct.

* UA needs to lead, not follow or respond after national news media coverage from the New York Times and others.  UA should be proactive by setting a higher bar for ethical student behavior in its Student Code of Conduct.


Madison Rose, UA Student, United Alabama Project

* If UA does nothing regarding student misconduct in municipal or campus elections, it is implicitly condoning such behavior.

* Need for consequences when violations occur in campus elections.  What good are minor fines if the students elected by corrupt means are still allowed to take office in the Student Government Association—as has typically been the case with past UA campus election violations.


John Earl, Local Citizen & District 4 Poll Watcher for the August 2013 election

* Catalogued the kinds of misconduct he observed in the August 2013 municipal election from UA students in district 4, including: students leaving without a ballot & then being brought back to the polls by other students; limousine rides to the polls for Cason Kirby supporters, and instances of students remarking that they did not even know who the candidates were.

* Said he would be angry as a UA student for the way that a particular segment of UA students (not even all UA Greek students, by any means) had damaged the reputation and integrity of the university.

* Noted the considerable resentment on the part of many community members over the student election misconduct and lack of UA administration response.


Scott Bridges, UA Faculty & Director of Creative Campus

* Suggested two models for the Task Force to consider with regard to implementing more systematic campus diversity plans:

1. Texas A&M: website and formalized strategic plan on diversity

2. The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi

* Mentioned the recent incident involving the defacement of a James Meredith statue at the University of Mississippi by fraternity members and the swift response (from both Greek organizations and university administration) with real consequences to the offending students as a model.

* Said what he hears from students is:

1. A loss of monetary support alumni and jeopardizing their futures (Greek students)

2. A desire for more engagement with diversity in the classroom


Paul Horwitz, UA Faculty

* Suggested that UA commission a report examining how other universities have dealt with secret societies and with modern desegregation efforts—identifying ‘best practices’ that UA might then itself implement.

* In the meantime, UA administration should use its own investigative authority.

* UA needs a formalized Diversity officer/office.


Lane McClelland, Director of Crossroads Community Center

* She has been meeting with student leaders from the UA Greek system to help them move forward on desegregation efforts.  She said that Greek Affairs sought out Crossroads to start these conversations. * She recently met with directors of peer institutions at other SEC universities.


Martha Morgan, UA Faculty

* UA diversity efforts need to address faculty and staff, not only students.


Brennan Johnson, Task Force Member & SGA Chief of Staff

* Mentioned the value of a leadership class (‘Emerging Leaders’?) that he took as a freshman, where he met students from many other student groups—not just other Greek organizations like the one he was pledging.  Unfortunately, these classes are no longer offered at present.


Emma Bertolaet, UA Alumni & Instructor for New College/GRS

* Wondered about the possibility of using Bama Bound as a vehicle for reaching a captive audience of incoming first-year students with substantive discussions about ethical civic engagement, civil discourse, and related issues.


Carl Bacon, Director of the Ferguson Center & President of the Black Faculty Staff Association

* Stressed the value of working with and through already existing UA channels and institutions to implement the desired changes in student culture—particularly the programs run through Student Affairs.

* Noted that many of the issues under debate fall more under the purview of Student Affairs (campus life) than of faculty or the classroom per se.


Lynne Adrian, UA Faculty

* Lamented the current emphasis on rush for aspiring Greek students during the first days on campus, before classes even begin.  This places students in separate ‘silos’, socially, almost immediately, before students even have a chance to meet students with other backgrounds and interests.

* Concerned with the extent to which UA administration underwrites the Greek system by subsidizing Greek property holdings and construction projects with low-interest loans and the like.  Given that UA holds this ‘power of the purse’ in relation to Greek institutions, administrators should demand greater civic responsibility from Greek institutions and their members.


Martha ??

* Asked the students on the Task Force: ‘Why aren’t Greek students engaging in dialogues and instituting the necessary changes themselves, as opposed to calling on the university to structure such efforts?

[Kirkland Back (Task Force) described a pattern in which most Greek students, including herself, only gradually become aware of the Machine’s scope—finally getting to be part of conversations of consequence as a junior, perhaps, and then being consumed with the search for a job or graduate school program as a senior.  She suggested the need for an infrastructure to engage students in dialogue about the Machine earlier in their time at UA.]


Paul Horwitz, UA Faculty

* Posed the question of changing the calendar for rush at UA, so that students might have more opportunities to explore campus life more widely before joining a Greek organization.

* Asked what resources are available for students who might find themselves taking what they fear will be an unpopular stance in their campus organizations?

* Public forums (like this one) need participation from stakeholders (not least Greeks themselves) for good faith and substantial progress.


Norm Baldwin, UA Faculty & Task Force

* Asked what term was best to use with regard to diversity concerns.  Considerable discussion over semantics ensued . . .


Osiris Molina, UA Faculty & Task Force

* Raised the concern of UA discussions of diversity consistently being focused solely on white-black dynamics—not seeing other forms of diversity, such as Latino students, faculty, & staff.

[Stephanie Robinson, Task Force:  Added LGBQT concerns to this mix on the diversity front.]


Priscilla Davis, UA Faculty

* Proposed the idea of two SGA Presidents, one Greek and one non-Greek.


Doug Gibler, UA Faculty

* Any public statements or responses from UA Greek organizations?

[Norm Baldwin, Task Force:  Offered short answer—on the desegregation front, yes; on the election misconduct front, no.]


Mary Meares, UA Faculty & Task Force

* Mentioned the prospect of UA classrooms (in her home program in Communications and others) as a site for more discussion of diversity issues with students.


UA undergraduate student [name not identified]

* Mentioned pressure on the Crimson White not to run certain controversial stories.  [no specifics that I could discern]


Norm Baldwin, UA Faculty & Task Force

* Mentioned that the Task Force’s next major step (following their recent set of proposals regarding UA campus elections) will likely deal with campus diversity issues—including desegregation of the UA Greek system.

Draft Proposal From Hardy McCollum and Walt Maddox for School Funding Changes


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A TAP member recently attended a County Commission meeting where Commissioner Murray alluded to a draft proposal from the Mayor and Probate Judge to make the one cent sales tax permanent.  Per the draft proposal, the allocation of the sales tax would be changed.  Currently all funding is allocated to the City and County schools.  Under the proposal, half of the money would be allocated to PARA and the library system with the other half allocated to the schools.  This would represent a new revenue stream for PARA and the library system and a reduction in funding for the City and County schools.  The funds for the schools would no longer be largely earmarked for capital expenditures; they now would be allocated to operational expenses.  A link to the draft proposal is attached.

1 Cent Sales Tax Presentation

Golf course – school parcel land: How the deal was done

Read. Listen. Think.

The Tuscaloosa City Board of Education held a retreat on January 17-18, 2014.  Most of the retreat was videotaped, including the part first thing in the morning on January 18 during which the board attorney, Dave Ryan, made a presentation to the Board about a parcel of property next to Northridge High School which had come to be designated for use as a “public school facility” without the input of the Board of Education.  Mr. Garrison, Board Chairman, introduced Dave Ryan and the topic insinuating a preference for discussing it in closed session.  He explained it would be in open session because “the media already knows about it.”[1]  Dave Ryan very quickly corrected him: this is not a topic eligible for discussion in closed session.[2]

Dave Ryan said there had been word floating around about this deal for 18 months, but he denied being involved in it. …

View original post 7,209 more words

Pre-Council & Public Projects Committee Meeting 3-18-14


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On the Council agenda tonight will be a hearing on a housing development on Rice Mine Road that would be located near the Greystone neighborhood.

As Jason Morton reported in The Tuscaloosa News: “The public hearing will focus on the tentatively named ‘Waterfall’, a subdivision that is a collection of townhouses, duplexes and single-family homes planned for Rice Mine Road. Last month, the City Council annexed a 41.4-acre, L-shaped tract on Lake Tuscaloosa between the Greystone and Crown Pointe neighborhoods to accommodate the development.”

Today at the Pre-Council meeting Planning Services head John McConnell explained that the Planning and Zoning Committee had approved the development with the conditions that a restrictive covenant be submitted and that developers would meet with homeowners in the adjacent area.

The development has one entrance on Rice Mine Road, which is consistent with other subdivisions such as Greystone in the area.

Council member Cynthia Almond asked, “Assuming it passes tonight how are we going to deal with any other residential developments being planned in the area?”

McConnell said that, while the development had a low-density profile, that his “concern was that with increased density in the area that the infrastructure would not be capable of handling the traffic, with the pattern of single entrance developments, particularly with a nearby over-populated school.”

He said that City Engineer David Griffin would answer questions about storm drainage and traffic problems at the hearing tonight. But he said, “There is really no solution for the continued growth in the area.  If property is already zoned R-1 you can’t do much about it. After all it has a lower density than Greystone, although the density is concentrated in smaller lots.”

(Later in a private discussion with Griffin, McConnell expressed concern over the location of housing dedicated to seniors in the development being located at a cul-de-sac. With my tongue-in-cheek I suggested that there be a medevac helliport located there. Going along with my attempt at humor he told Griffin that he might consider it.)

Another project that will be brought before the Council tonight is a six story mixed-use (commercial on the first floor) building at at 2140 Fourth Street. It is a First Paramount project, who are the developers of the eight story The Desoto which is to be built near City Hall.

There will be a private parking lot adjoining the building with 74 spaces. The fact that the project will have 106 bedrooms was a concern of Council member Eddie Pugh.

The new Greater Downtown Plans will limit structures to no more than four stories. McConnell said, “The current overlay ordinance allows unlimited height and unlimited density with anything above the first floor residential. Any off-street parking requirements that the new zoning ordinance may have will need to strike a balance between commercial and residential requirements. Any permits for the proposed development need to be secured before the zoning changes go into effect.”

Council member Kip Tyner, who arrived late to the meeting, said that he had no more problems with the proposed development in Alberta by Lang Ray. Tyner said, “Most of the people are satisfied with what’s going on but one lady is still not happy. Lang went further than I thought he would. He agreed not to have any check cashing outfits, tattoo parlors or sales of tobacco or alcohol. But he also filed papers at the courthouse that would say that that anyone inheriting the property would have to abide with the conditions, the contractual obligation.” City Attorney Glenda Webb said that Lang had agreed to a “restrictive covenant.” Tyner said, “I’m very pleased.”

The $20,000 contract that the city was authorizing with the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse School for the City’s Resource and Incident Management System was the result of the previously used software no longer being supported by its designer. A computer science team at the University will design new software that will be used to cope with responding to natural and man-made disasters.

At the Projects Committee Robin Edgeworth said that the City can apply for the third time for a Tiger Grant to build the vehicular and pedestrian Hilliard Bridge. The bridge would cost $26 million and require matching funding of $5.2 million.

Mayor Maddox said that this would be a local project and possibly partners could be found to help fund it. Druid City Hospital, Tuscaloosa County and the University of Alabama might help fund it but the ultimate responsibility would be the City’s.

Kip Tyner asked that consideration be postposed until April. The deadline for submitting the grant application is April 28th.

UA Student Government Association Senate Votes Down Resolution to Press for Racial Integration of Greek System Today


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The following resolution was put forward today in the University of Alabama Student Government Association Senate to press for the complete racial integration of all University of Alabama Greek letter organizations.  The vote was 26 against the resolution, 6 in favor of the resolution, 1 abstention.




Sponsored by:  Katie Smith, Anthony James, Chisolm Allenlundy, Justin Thompson


Whereas, Greek life plays a significant role in the culture of the University of Alabama; and

Whereas, These organizations benefit the campus and the community as a whole in keeping with the tradition of scholarship, civic responsibility, and philanthropy; and

Whereas, In spite of these positive contributions, there is a distinct and also unique portrayal of a number of Greek organizations at the University of Alabama as having membership defined on the basis of one’s race; and

Whereas, This has attracted unfavorable national attention in articles written in the New York Times, USA Today, Huffington Post, Time and many other media outlets at the expense of the University’s reputation; and

Whereas, Given the history of the University of Alabama in the Civil Rights Movement, it is imperative that the campus takes every necessary action to remove the stigma that currently surrounds this campus regarding its legacy of segregation.

Be it further resolved, The Senate supports the complete integration of all Greek letter fraternities and sororities at the University of Alabama, with respect to social diversity among its membership.

Be it further resolved, That copies of this resolution be sent to President Judy Bonner, University President; Dr. Tim Hebson, Dean of Students; Dr. Mark Nelson, Vice President of Student Affairs; Dr. Lynda Glibert, Vice President of Financial Affairs; the Faculty Senate; and The Crimson White for informational purposes.

Pre-City Council & Projects Committee Meeting, February 25, 2014


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At Tuesday’s Pre-Council meeting Council member Cynthia Almond expressed concern about the effect of approving zoning changes on property owners ion the affected area. She said that “Trick and Blakeny have shown concern.” They had asked if “grandfathering might work” for their properties.

The head of Planning and Development Services John McConnell reassured her by saying, “The prime difference is occupancy limits.” Although the number of unrelated people in the same unit would be restricted, he explained that the new zoning would not affect the numbers of students who could live in a new development. “With a building at the allowable height of 150 feet you could have the same number of students living in three bedroom units as you could in a shorter structure that had more bedrooms per unit.”

McConnell further explained that should a natural disaster destroy student housing that was zoned for the denser occupancy the housing could be “reconfigured.” He said, “If the repairs from the damage don’t exceed fifty percent of the cost of rebuilding the structure can still be rebuilt in the same way.”

Almond asked if any of the existing properties could be “grandfathered.” McConnell replied, “Everything in the area had already been permitted or was under construction.”

At the Projects Committee the same firms that the City frequently employs were mentioned –McGiffert & Associates, TTL and Almon & Associates. Perhaps that is why Council member Sonya McKinstry as the meeting neared adjournment raised the issue of the City’s program to involve more minority contractors. Robin Edgeworth who is working with “Tuscaloosa Builds” said, “I met with quite a few minority contractors and others. I’ve been learning some new things from contractors and consultants.”

Mayor Walt Maddox said that a major advantage of “growing minority businesses” was to ensure that local contractors would work on the projects involving “major institutions” such as the University of Alabama, where currently many firms from out-of-town are used.

John McConnell said that the grant application with the Alabama Historical Commission was for the purpose of updating the Downtown Tuscaloosa Historic District’s National Register Nomination. “We’re updating the existing map in keeping with the Greater Downtown Plan recommendations. This should prevent expansion in areas with historic structures.” He said that it would also allow property owners to apply for restoration tax credit.

Tuscaloosa City Council approves task force’s suggestions on student housing occupancy | TuscaloosaNews.com

By Jason Morton

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 

Two more changes suggested by the mayor’s Student Rental Housing Task Force were approved Tuesday by the Tuscaloosa City Council.

The changes eliminated the R-4S zoning classification from the city of Tuscaloosa’s code regulations, meaning that no longer will four and five unrelated people be allowed to live together in R-4 zones.

In a related move, the City Council also voted to rezone about 228 acres of existing R-4S property to the more restrictive R-4, which allows up to three unrelated people to share a dwelling.

“The major difference between these zoning classifications is occupational restrictions,” said John McConnell, director of the city’s Planning and Development Services.

McConnell told the council that eight individual tracts across the city are affected by the rezoning, and two of these tracts — almost 80 acres — are currently undeveloped. Any apartment complex or housing development to come to these sites will not be allowed to construct under the R-4S rules.

And one of the sites, The Avenue apartment complex at the end of Kauloosa Avenue, is under construction and will not be affected by the rezoning.

The remaining six contain active residential properties and will be allowed to remain non-conforming as long as none of them endure damages consisting of more than 50 percent of the development’s value, McConnell said.

Tuscaloosa attorney Bryan Winter and Joel Brown of Austin, Texas-based American Campus Communities urged the council to exclude Campus Way Apartments on Helen Keller Boulevard from the changes.

Winter said its proximity to the University of Alabama campus allowed its residents to walk to class while the other R-4S developments were too far for foot or bicycle travel to class.

“It’s just something else for you to consider,” Winter said.

The council’s vote excludes no R-4S development from the changes.

Formed in June, the Student Rental Housing Task Force met twice a month from August to November before submitting a list of nine recommendations to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council.

In that time, the task force’s 19 members heard from a number of experts and members of the apartment housing community, most of whom indicated that Tuscaloosa was nearing — or already had crossed — the threshold of supply exceeding the demand for these kinds of apartment complexes.

Among its recommendations was the elimination of the R-4S zoning provision from the Zoning Ordinance of Tuscaloosa. The zoning’s sole purpose, according to the task force’s findings, was to allow the construction of large-scale student housing complexes.

The Tuscaloosa City Council took the following action at its Tuesday meeting:

— Adopted Zoning Amendment No. 1289 to rezone all property in the corporate limits of the city presently zones R-4S to R-4. (Introduced Jan. 30)

— Adopted Zoning Amendment No. 1290 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance pertaining to Chapter 24, amending various Sections 24-21, 24-31, 24-32, 24-33, 24-34, 24-35, 24-36, 24-40, 24-43 and 24-122(a) deleting all references to Moderate Density Residential Districts (R-4S). (Introduced Jan. 30)

— Authorized the mayor to execute a grant application with the Alabama Historical Commission to update the downtown Tuscaloosa Historic District’s National Register nomination.

– Introduced Zoning Amendment No. 1294 to amend the text of the Zoning Ordinance pertaining to Chapter 24, Article XVIII, Riverfront Development District Regulations, Section 24-239, Conditional Uses.

— Set April 1 as the date for public hearing to consider adoption of Zoning Amendment No. 1294.