Let's clean out the notebook...
• I decided at the last minute to take a week's vacation last week, as I needed a break. (I have a feature coming about my short trip to Nashville, where downtown is having quite a makeover.) But in the process, we dropped the ball and no one covered Carbon Hill City Council that Monday.
I won't see the minutes until later, but I'm told the meeting was short, maybe 15 minutes, and one of the highlights was, as hinted at during the previous meeting, switching over Fire Chief Buddy Smith to the position of safety manager. What that does is allow him not to be bogged down with dispatching when a fire occurs, as he can now respond to a fire more quickly. Dispatchers were moved up in shifts and everything is covered, and Smith can fill in when someone can't make it. Smith will apparently be able to make recommendations for other safety needs in the city, which is appropriate with his years of experience.
I think overall this is an excellent idea, as Smith has earned the break and it makes fire response much easier for him. When the fire chief also has to be the main dispatcher, it doesn't seem to work that well; this only makes common sense for improved service for local residents.
At the same time, when I texted District 3 Councilwoman April Kennedy Herron about it to double check, she wrote (and volunteered it could be printed), "I was very sick and unable to attend the last meeting. I will say I'm not happy that this was voted on without the entire council being able to go over the details before it came to a vote. Neither I, Buddy or (Mayor Mark Chambers) was there to go over the details. I'm extremely disappointed that the councilors present did not take very much time to think it over or discuss it. The chief (I assume she means Police Chief Eric House, since Smith wasn't there) showed up with his plan and it was voted on. So I'm really upset with it."
House said by text that Monday was the first day of the changeover and it had gone smoothly, with two calls responded to promptly. "It's a good thing for the city," he said, noting the city has been short handed in the past but things are turning around. "The mayor and city council have the best wishes for the city," he said.
• I also had a nice brief visit to HillFest Saturday morning, although it was terribly hot to yet. I thought it was really nice that day. I ran into Melicia Allen, the sports editor of the Northwest Alabamian, where I swapped war stories and got some nice fresh lemonaid from her stand.
• While in Nashville, I sort of hoped to go to Shoney's, as that is rare for me. Coming back from downtown the first night I came across one in an average neighborhood, with only a couple of customers on a Monday night. I thought this might be inexpensive compared to all those upscale restaurants. I got the Half-O-Pound hamburger steak meal, sweet tea and a slice of the Hot Fudge Cake. It set me back $24.71, to my shock. I went to Cracker Barrel the next night for meatloaf and an apple pie slice, and I think it was $15.84.
The funny part was the hotel only had granola bars for breakfast, so I went back to Cracker Barrel. That morning I was leaving to go home and stopped in Columbia, Tenn. Leaving my stop at lunch, I looked around for a place to eat a larger meal and guess what my only option was? Three meals in a row at Cracker Barrel. At least they have a good variety. (Although it was soooooo odd to walk in and see orange Tennessee merchandise at the front instead of Alabama and Auburn. At the same time, I ran into a bunch of tourists from the state of Alabama on that trip.)
• Politico Playbook has an interview focus on a Birthday of the Day, and recently they picked out José Morales, national constituency director for Pete Buttigieg's campaign. The campaign was put aside at that moment, as Morales pointed out something hopeful that Playbook said was a trend that he thinks doesn't get enough attention.
"Libraries! For real, the use of libraries is actually kind of revolutionary right now," Morales said. "There's no other public utility like it, and I don't think we're able to conceive of inventing something like it today. Millennials use it more than any other generation, and the usage is actually going up. It's in the same school of things unironically making a comeback like vinyl or jean jackets." I hope that he is right about that, as I always thought libraries could be of great value. And I wouldn't mind if printed newspapers and books take on that same retro feeling one day.
• The Ramp in Hamilton has a record enrollment at its School of Ministry with 224 students, including 131 first-year students, according to the Journal Record. That is up from 190 last year, leading them to buy the Holiday Motel for dorm space. They will now offer college credit for Oral Roberts University and South Eastern University. They also attracted 3,000 visitors to Hamilton over three summer conferences, baptizing nearly 1,700. (Meanwhile, Hamilton's Maywood Christian Camp, associated with the Church of Christ, was close to capacity, seeing 1,940 camper and 600 volunteers in the summer months this year. )
• I wondered about the three-hour window for Saturday's book signing at Lavish for meteorologist James Spann from ABC 33/40. I shouldn't have been concerned; from what I could tell, the line stayed long for the entire time. He took time to speak with everyone who came in and had his photo made with all. I got good photos, but I never did have a chance to ask any questions, even after going to HillFest and back.
However, I have to note that one person (I won't say who; not me) brought in a James Spann bobble head for him to autograph. Of course, after all these years, the person got to the table and dropped the darn thing, putting a hole in the back of the head of the Spann bobble head. I think Spann enjoyed that more than if it came up perfect, although the person who dropped it asked others if he had turned red from embarrassment. And Spann did sign the back of it.
• It still looks like Republican qualifying will start on Oct. 8 (with the end set for Nov. 8; no word at all on the Democrats.) Ironically, Oct. 8 is the night GOP U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tubberville will speak to the East Walker Chamber of Commerce at 7 p.m. at Bevill State Community College in Sumiton. Another GOP candidate, John Merrill, was in town the other day at an Alfa reception. I hope to get interviews soon for both. Bradley Byrne, who we have already interviewed from that race, also is planning a meet-and-greet at Warehouse 319 Sunday from 2-4 p.m.
I also expect candidates at Mule Day in Winfield Sept. 27 and at Days Gap in Oakman on Oct. 11-12. (P.S.: J.D. Snoddy also tells me Gov. Kay Ivey will come to Double Springs on Oct. 2 to recognized Meek High School - which is in Arley - as a bicentennial school.)
• Do not forget Arley's homecoming parade is at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Jasper's homecoming parade will be on Friday.
• You can imagine in Tennessee how excited they were over the Ken Burns' "Country Music" documentary. Posters were in the state welcome center, and a watch party was set for the Grand Ole Opry House to watch the first episode. I noticed they got several sponsorships from Tennessee for the series.
Meanwhile, I saw the first episode as a broadcast Sunday night, as well as the second episode by way of streaming from PBS Roku channel. (The first four of the total eight episodes were ready to download Sunday night on Roku and the PBS website; I'm sure other streaming services will soon follow.) This is right up there with the best of Burns' documentaries, and it moves faster than his “Jazz” series, diving in quickly with the stories and sampling great music. The first episode alone, focusing particularly on Jimmy Rogers, the Carter Family and the story of the Bistol sessions, finally flushes out a story whose details and twists we've rarely heard. And along the way is a treasure trove of historic music, which continued the next night as we heard more about Bill Monroe, Gene Autry and Bob Wills. Based on what I've seen already, I can't recommend this strong enough, whether you are a passionate country fan or just someone who can appreciate the stories and the history.