Rumors – July 2013

Alienation has been one of the ongoing themes of Lost in Montgomery since it was launched in September of 2008. This was not because we were particularly anti-social folks or especially misanthropic, but simply a product of our efforts to figure out life in a new city. Montgomery was unique and mysterious, both of which are conditions that are bound to deteriorate inevitably with natural social and cultural adaptation. 215 posts later, we are much more plugged into our new city than we once were — although we often still find our home to be somewhat bewildering.

So instead of posts like “What’s the deal with this park?” we are now much more often to say, “Here’s what we are hearing…”

And since it’s the Internet, there’s got to be a time and place for scraps of information to be assembled into a larger speculative narrative. Here, in that vein, are some things that we (being only mildly “connected” to people who know things) have been hearing lately about things that matter:

Oak Park — We love Oak Park. It’s weird, but great. It’s obviously the crown jewel of the city park system, yet has been allowed to fall into a (somewhat exaggerated) state of disrepair. Back in 2011, there was a shooting there, which freaked people out, but could have happened anywhere crowds gather (it was at a family reunion). The park is not (as far as we can tell) and more unsafe than any other public space in Montgomery.

But the beloved park has been the source of some wagging tongues lately. First, the city has been talking about moving the park’s planetarium (which is owned by Troy State) downtown, likely to the Questplex at Court Square. That would take a big attraction out of the park, although we agree that the planetarium does need some upgrading to remain current and fun.

We also heard that two other entities were wanting to buy (or take?) large chunks of the park from the city. The rumor we heard was that Alabama State wanted part of it and Jackson Hospital had their eye on the land for expansion.

Obviously, the city would be foolish to give away or sell any part of its best park. They have been ringing the bell lately for us to all give our personal information to the Coca-Cola company in exchange for a chance to “vote” on winning some money for the park. Click click click to vote for corporate money, sure, but how about we don’t do that and just spend tax money to improve the park and make it an enjoyable resource … since that is what tax money is for. Parks are a community good. They should be protected, whether or not the corn syrup barons from Atlanta give Montgomery free money or not. Also: hands off, ASU and Jackson. Oak Park will rise again.

Anita Archie — So we wrote before about how major city leaders (Chad Emerson and Jeff Downes) were leaving for cities that (we guess) they like more than Montgomery. That’s cool. Good jobs for them or whatever.

Well, Mayor Strange has replaced those two with Anita Archie (who’ll become Strange’s “executive assistant,” which sounds too much like “secretary” for someone of her caliber) and Mac McLeod (who’ll be “director of retail and commercial development”).

Archie comes over from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), where she was a top lobbyist for one of the most feared entities at the statehouse. Think Alabama enacts laws to cater to corporations? BCA is part of the reason why. You name it, and they have been involved in it — environmental stuff, labor stuff, tax policy, whatever. They are a main reason why Alabama is the way it is. And Archie was their “senior VP for intergovernmental affairs, advocacy and communications and legal advisor” and any other collection of titles that means “fixer” and “do not mess with.” She isn’t new to Montgomery politics because she was also ED of the Montgomery Public Housing Authority and the Riverfront Development Foundation. So she probably knows where some bodies are buried and how to get things done, even though we don’t have a ton of information about her vision for the city just yet.

McLeod solidifies the city government’s “intimate” relationship with Colonial, which is the real estate end of the company that once was akin to a sister company, Colonial Bank — which was the 6th largest bank failure in American history. I wrote a million billion words about Colonial Bank, its abandoned headquarters, its relationship to McLeod’s company, and the ties to the Hampstead Institute EAT South here. Really, it’s worth reading. It’s one of the better things I have put up on Lost in Montgomery. But if you don’t wanna, it will help you understand McLeod and the Lowders to read this article (which I link to in my post). A crooked bank! Auburn football boosters! A $1.95 million deal to buy land for a school!

Obviously none of this has been reported by the teenagers that cover local politics for The Montgomery Advertiser. They’re doing good to spell the press releases correctly. But they’re having a contest where you can send them photos of yourselves in 1980s clothes! Journalism!

the road construction on the way to Auburn – This is one where we don’t have any information. We really just want to know more. Have you seen the giant towering ramps that are being now fully constructed out on I-85 on the way to Auburn? They look like exits to take you to … what exactly? Mt. Meigs? Pike Road? Why are they building these huge loops of road? Is this what we need? More east-side sprawl? Who is paying for that? Why? I get that our fiscally conservative leaders are borrowing highway money hand-over-fist, but is this what it is building?

ASU bowl game vs. All-Star Game – Our brand new college football all-star game was really fun. We went. It was great. We hope it succeeds. But now ASU is talking about hosting some kind of bowl game in their new stadium? You know, the new stadium they inaugurated by failing to maintain one of their most important rivalries in the Turkey Day Classic? Ah, that’s some good athletic directing. Couldn’t move the game so Tuskegee could play in the playoffs. Had to just kill it.

So, the Legends Bowl? Maybe a low-rent Mountain West team versus some Sun Belt also rans? Can we support this plus our All-Star game? Who knows? The bet is that there is absolutely no limit to the appetite of people in Alabama for college football, no matter what it is. We can always look to the Papa John’s Bowl BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham for an indicator of how that might go. BBVA is pulling its sponsorship after next year? Oh. Maybe don’t look there.

New stadium ya’ll! And if the bowl game brings a parade, don’t expect to have a car waiting for you.

skate park – We have always thought that it was super cool that our city had a skate park downtown. But there is always talk in the media that it is going to be shut down. Not because the kids on skateboards are trouble-making bandits. That would be cool. No, they are always talking about shutting it down (or moving it) because it occupies some primo real estate.

To me, that’s part of what makes it great. It’s downtown and urban and a great location for people that like to skate. But first they wanted to put an apartment complex there. Rumor was, the developer pulled out because of the toxic underground pollution plume (known affectionately as “the downtown plume” or “Plumie, the shifting poison vapor trail you also mustn’t drink”). Yeah, it’s on the EPA’s radar. No, the development people don’t like you talking about it.

But what will happen to the skate park? Will the teens turn into Toxic Avengers? What about C.H.U.Ds?

Well, that’s enough for now. Leave all of your hottest new tips down in the comments section. We will either respond to them, ignore them or delete them. Love always,

Lost in Montgomery

Advertisements

9 responses to “Rumors – July 2013

  1. I thought that this was going to be about you guys going to see Fleetwood Mac in Atlanta this summer.

    • I was centimeters away from embedding a Fleetwood Mac song at the top of the post. Glad we were thinking alike. Mostly, I do not dig that band’s music though.

  2. The construction east of Montgomery is the beginnings of the so-called “Montgomery Outer Loop” aka I-685.
    http://aldotapps.dot.state.al.us/MOL/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_685

    • Publius, thank you. That’s interesting. And disheartening. Decades after major cities across the country are deciding that it was a mistake to ring their cities in loops of Interstate, Montgomery remains an entire generation behind the latest planning and development trends. Each city has their out horror stories about the sprawl and gridlock encouraged by this kind of design, but you’d think that we would have personal experience from the blight on our existing “bypasses” in the forms of the Boulevard. Perhaps it is exactly that blight that drives the white flight (and capital flight) out to the east, creating the incentives for the loop-building cycle.

    • And another question I have is about the democratic nature of deciding to do this crap. The planning process is so insular. Who decided that this would be how the city grows? Road builders? East-side development builders? These folks? http://carpdc.com/ These folks? http://www.montgomerympo.org/

      • Another interesting question is how the land owners shaped the decision process on where to locate the MOL. The land south of the current construction had been extensively prepared (massive land moving, pre-building very large earthen on- and off-ramp structures for the future MOL many, many years before public announcement of the exact location and route of the expansion. Most of that construction was completed something like 8-10 years ago (perhaps someone living in Pike Road can give a better estimate.)

        Also worth skimming if this topic interests you further:
        http://www.dot.state.al.us/Stimulus2009/TIGER%20Grant/Hold%20File%20Montgomery%20Outer%20Loop/Montgomery%20Outer%20Loop%20Project%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf

        I’ll rarely use this expanded infrastructure because my travel patterns don’t frequently take me to the SE Montgomery/Pike Road area. I have learned a lot more about this expansion this morning, however.

        Don’t be surprised when it’s revealed later the MOL is going to be a toll road.

      • Publius, I don’t know who you are, but you are full of useful information and awesome. Please comment here more often.

  3. The planetarium just needs to be re-built with new technology, their aging facility, projectors, severely-dated laser projection capabilities, and sound system featuring blown-out speakers (worst Pink Floyd laser light show experience ever) are beyond their prime. I love the idea of having a planetarium, but having a “it was great in the 70’s and 80’s” planetarium does not make this a showcase facility for cultural and scientific edification. It’s is functional as a basic, old-school planetarium. It seems to have been underfunded and definitely not significantly upgraded for 20+ years.

    A location change wouldn’t hurt either. It’s right by the Interstate, but difficult to access when coming in from the east.

  4. Iv heard rumors since moving here in 2011 of them getting rid of the skatepark. I think that would be a real travesty for the people (mainly kids) who do use it. Coming from California I skated a lot as a kid and fought hard for my town to get a skate park so that kids wouldn’t get in trouble with cops from skating all over the place. Thats exactly what will happen if they shut it down.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s