Let’s clean out the notebook …
• Recently I downloaded Walker County's sample ballot from the Secretary of State's website. (Before I say anything, I want to say this office has created a great website at sos.alabama.gov, also available at alabamavotes.gov, for election resources of all kinds, and you should really look through it. In this case, you can actually download a sample ballot from every county in the state.)
What got me this time was that there was a "front" and a "back" to download with each sample ballot. The "back" was a long description of the amendments that will be on the ballot. Like the front side, big letters over the amendment explanation said, "SAMPLE BALLOT." I picked up a printed sample ballot, showing the same, from Circuit Clerk Susan Odom, who also showed me the ballots only have the usual brief amendment summaries, with no long explanation attached. If you thought by looking at a sample ballot you were going to get extra help on the amendments when you view the ballot on Election Day, you are quite mistaken; you have to see the long explanations in advance.
I assumed the wording came from that state commission designed to tell what the amendments are in plain English, but it didn't say where it came from. I later found it on the back of a printed sample ballot downtown. I also found out the wording was indeed from the Fair Ballot Commission created by a 2014 act and revised in 2016 to give clear, detailed explanation of amendment proposals. It is made up of many of the top state officials or their representatives. The updated law said statements agreed upon by the commission are to be posted on the Secretary of State's website.
It is not a bad idea for the back of the sample ballot, although "SAMPLE BALLOT" over it gives the wrong impression that will be on the actual ballot; a new header is needed. I also would like to identify who is writing the description, as you don't know it is actually that commission. Keep in mind they could be written in a way to sway someone in how to vote. On the other hand, many people go to the polls blind to the process, having done no research and having no clue.
At any rate, sample ballots are available online and at the Circuit Clerk's Office. We will be reporting more about the amendments and what is on the ballot soon.
• I can’t help but notice Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, who has no opposition but write-ins, actually sent out bailouts to promote the Ten Commandments and anti-abortion amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot, which seemed to also serve as campaign fodder for himself as insurance. These will be easy wins, and it has some speculating if it doesn’t prove he is wanting to aspire to higher office one day.
• I hear so many different tales on how Nov. 6 will go for Congress that I am almost giving up on how to predict it; even some Republicans are beginning to take a rosier view on the House, and they have had some major fundraisers to get out ahead in money. But some polling suggests that Democrats still come out ahead in the House. NBC-Wall St. Journal polling suggests that people who don’t trust either party, who broke out for Trump two years ago, are breaking for the Democrats. But really it is about individual races, particularly in the House, and you really can’t tell for sure, especially in the post-Kavanaugh turmoil, although I suspect that will energize women.
• I have heard of no local events for Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, by the way. Democratic challenger Lee Auman is having another event in Jasper on Nov. 1 at Memorial Park from 5-6:30 p.m. with a free cookout to explain his platform and answer questions.
• I enjoyed a quick three-day trip to the Smokies last weekend with my father. (No, we did not buy a lottery ticket, thank you.) We hit most of the highlights in a hurry on Friday afternoon and night, and then Saturday morning. Then it was time for Alabama-Tennessee, and we stopped to watch that in the hotel room.
However, the big kick for me was that despite rain Saturday morning and some clouds, we went on the drive through Cades Cove Saturday morning. The rain ensured the clouds gave that Smokey flavor to the mountains, and the animals were thrilled enough with wet vegetation that they came out in droves, particularly turkey and deer. (We had four deer on the side of the road who crossed in front of the car ahead, and then turkey were strutting and jumping in front of each other on the roadside. Never had a better view, and the scenery was still gorgeous. (There were collection boxes along the route for the group Friends of the Smokies, but I will pass along their website here, friendsofthesmokies.org.)
• On the same trip, I can tell you the fire a while back in Gatlinburg has not slowed anyone down; all the attractions are fine and working. People were flocking up there; one vehicle in front of us even had a Carl Cannon label and an Alabama tag. But I do regret that those who used to come to Pigeon Forge to escape the bustle in Gatlinburg have no luck now, as the roads are so clogged in Pigeon Forge that one barely moves at times. Dad said he has noticed in the past decade how bad it has become; one can’t wait to the last minute to see a show because they will be forever snaking down the road. Frankly, I am glad for tourism and growth, but they have really maxed out, making it become someone unpleasant in a way. (The only relief we discovered, somewhat belatedly, is the bypass around Gatlinburg that takes you to overlooks above the city. It is not exactly short, either, but it is scenic and the traffic moves.) At this point, I would say I would take my chances in a cabin near the bears than to wrestle with the traffic.
• By the way, the fall attracts many people to the national park and the surrounding campgrounds, and they seemed to do big business as well. Ironically, the leaves have not turned yet due to the late summer. I would say this week or next might finally hit the peak if you want to see them.
• Dad and I did go to one 1950s-themed show, which was OK. The woman behind the counter looked at us and quite honestly said, "Are you two brothers?" Dad looks good for age 80, but I must look awful for 55.
• On the way up, we also had the experience of having eight Alabama buses, including one for the band, riding on the passing lane exclusively, sandwiched between trooper cars. It made Dad nervous as they crowded the way for miles, around the Steele area to the state Tennessee border. When they got to the Tennessee Welcome Center, we were already ahead (Dad was determined) and fans there cheered like the president was arriving. Later people on Facebook had the theory that was probably all intended for the band (it turns out they have about 400 members) or to take players from the airport to the hotels; Jeff Burrough thought the team had probably flown ahead. Frankly, considering the cost of the buses and fuel, and maybe air transportation, it might make a good business story for someone to figure how much it costs a state institution to transport these athletes all season. But it was pointed out to me that that university is also making a killing off of athletics, even down to students who come because of the sports. And the money flows like honey…
• Another item closer to home: Last week in this space I said that Carbon Hill City Council met that night. I goofed; it is tonight. My internal clock has always been used to most city councils and county commissions meeting on the first and third day of a month. Carbon Hill meets on the second and the fourth Thursday, and I never completely got used to that. Anyway, as I said, this will be my last regular meeting to cover; W. Brian Hale will take over next month.