Local roundup: Confederate jacket sparks dispute, Paul Ryan to fundraise in B’ham, Mobile debates Gulf Coast gas tanks

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It wasn’t long ago when Confederate iconography was generating statewide headlines amid a dispute between Gov. Robert Bentley, who supported downplaying the state’s secessionist history, and his critics who said he was “deceptively” revising Alabama’s history.

This week, a rebel soldier’s jacket has stirred controversy of a different kind.

A Huntsville collector, Joe Fitzgerald, who purchased an 1860s-era CSA jacket worn during the Civil War is now fighting for his right to keep the jacket, in the face of charges the relic was stolen from a New Orleans museum.

Fitzgerald says the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum – who claims the jacket was lifted from them during the 1980s – has never proven the antique actually belong to its purported owner, Confederate Army Capt. William Lyman, and so cannot claim for certain the missing jacket is the same as the one he owns.

Fitzgerald bought the coat in 2009 at a civil war history convention. Representatives of the aggrieved museum appraise its value at $75,000.

The two parties are fighting out the dispute in Madison County Circuit Court.

MARATHON MOBILE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SETS UP MOMENTOUS VOTE ON GAS TANK FARMS ALONG COAST

After an hours-long public comment period at a Mobile City Council hearing on whether or not to enshrine petrochemical farming along the ecologically-sensitive Gulf Coast, the real work of regulating the operations is just getting started.

Environmental activists and industry advocates sparred well through what normally would have been a lunchtime recess, trading barbs over economic development and the preservation of the port.

Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper, said she hoped to speak in favor of a compromise, but said a clause to exempt existing operations from the proposed regulations was a non-starter. Speakers like Mobile Chamber VP Troy Wayman said environmental concerns are exaggerated, even ginned up by billionaire environmentalists like George Soros.

A vote could come as soon as this week, bout council members and council Attorney Jim Rossler indicated possible tweaks would push a final vote until at least April or longer.

MONTGOMERY HAPPENINGS

Montgomery cancelled municipal elections planned for May after no one ran to oppose a handful of incumbent officials during a March 8 meeting of the City Council.

The Mayor’s office and Council seats 6 and 7 were all up for election, but no challengers emerged  The cancellation means incumbent Mayor Kirk Jones and Council Members John Champagne Jr. and Rebecca Huss will remain safely on the council until 2018.

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An officer with the Montgomery Police Department resigned on Tuesday after being arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a traffic accident while off-duty, a felony.

22-year-old G.T. Farris reportedly left a two-car accident involving him and another driver at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. Farris was detained in a Montgomery County jail and held under a $15,000 bond. The department received and accepted his resignation after beginning the process of terminating him unilaterally.

PAUL RYAN IN ALABAMA

Speaker Paul Ryan will be in Birmingham on Wednesday to raise money to help grow the Republican majority in the House.

U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt and Mike Rogers will be on hand as Ryan stumps for campaign cash to benefit the National Republican Congressional Committee.

TRUSSVILLE SUPERINTENDENT SAYS ‘NO THANKS’ TO PAY INCREASE

Dr. Pattie Neill signed on for four more years as head of Trussville Schools, but said no to the customary raise that usually entails.

Her reason? Under state law, teachers with more than 28 years of experience are capped on their salaries. Neill, a former teacher, says it wouldn’t be right to take a raise until the state of Alabama acts to lift that restriction.

“I have more than 28 years of experience and I consider myself just like they are,” Neill said. “I think it’s important to honor those people who are still in the work, and the work is every day and it starts over every year and I think the state needs to be appreciative of that.”

Under her just-renewed contract, Neill makes $176,000 annually.

STATE HEALTH OFFICIALS: PARTS OF MOBILE BAY OK’D FOR OYSTER HARVESTING

Officials with the Department of Public Health have given the green light for reopening two areas of the Mobile Bay for oyster harvesting, following possible bacterial contamination stemming from heavy rainfall in late February.

Two parts of the Bay, including Heron Bay, are now deemed safe for oystermen and the public.

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