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Alabama Scene

By Staff
Bob Ingram
Little things give politicians big fits
MONTGOMERY---James E. (Big Jim) Folsom, who taught me as much about politics as any governor I have ever known, once told me that it was the little things in politics that killed you, not the big things.
His point was that most people pay scant attention to alleged wrong doing involving millions of dollars about questionable contracts, bond deals, favorable tax rulings to benefit friends. They are either not interested or don't understand those issues.
The truth of Big Jim's words are being confirmed anew in all the publicity about the real or alleged wrong doing in the administration of former Gov. Don Siegelman.
While most of the publicity of past months centered on a Medicaid contract in Tuscaloosa, a warehouse construction project in Montgomery, a favorable tax ruling for a waste disposal plant…to mention a few…all involving vast sums of money….most of the street talk is about the "little things", namely the sale of Siegelman's home to a major supporter for twice its assessed value and some gifts (including a motorcycle and a four-wheeler) which inexplicably showed up at the Mansion.
We are not talking about a lot of money, but the average citizen can relate to the selling of a house or nice gifts.
It is a certainty that if Siegelman makes another run for governor he will be asked more about the house sale and those gifts than he will about those other allegations which involved far more money.
The Sahara closed its doors last week after more than 52 years of outstanding food and outstanding service. The Sahara was a frequent eating place and "watering hole" for the movers and shakers of politics and business.
It was appropriate that portraits of Alabama governors from Bibb Graves to Bob Riley lined the walls of the dining room because the Sahara was a favorite of the political crowd for decades.
Sahara fell victim to the dramatic demographic changes in Montgomery in recent years. So much of the commercial activity and so many of the affluent residents of Montgomery have moved east.
There had been speculation that the Sahara might re-open in that area of Montgomery but apparently that is no longer being considered.
And to use an old line, if the walls of the Sahara could talk they would provide enough material for several books. My favorite story:
One Saturday morning at breakfast at the Sahara, a group of local businessmen concluded that with so many young mothers joining the work force a child care center in Montgomery might be a profitable investment. It was. They called their venture KinderCare. You know the rest of the story.
The protesters for 12 hours took turns reading the entire Constitution…all 310,300 words of it. As has been reported countless times, Alabama's outmoded constitution…adopted in 1901 and amended hundreds of times…is the longest such document of any state or nation in the world.
It is not likely that this protest…as well meaning as it was…will create a groundswell for constitutional reform.
Apparently operating under the assumption that "if we build it they will come"---a memorable line from a memorable movie---Birmingham city officials are determined to build the $500-million stadium even though there is no evidence that they can land an NFL team.
What with the city's record in supporting minor league pro football, there is scant reason to believe an NFL franchise will ever be offered to Birmingham.