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Dr. Bronner’s train wreck

David Bronner, the CEO and otherwise dictator at the Retirement Systems of Alabama took me to task several years back for opposing his plans to build a multi-story office building over and around the old State Judicial Building just below the capitol on Dexter Avenue. He devoted the entire front page of his 350,000 circulation RSA newsletter making fun of me and my previous work in state government.
He also ignored and made fun of the opposition by many Montgomery citizens and groups who correctly believed the building would obstruct the historical view of the capitol building located at the top of Dexter Avenue.  Of course, Dr. Bronner prevailed.  The building is almost finished and yes, it is an ugly structure that obstructs the historic view of the capitol.
The good Dr. (I believe he uses that form of address from his law degree), aside from criticizing those with whom he disagrees, likes to tout his successes and those of the RSA in his newsletter.  He rarely writes in detail about his failures…such as the ill-advised U. S. Airways investment and now, the great rail disaster in North Alabama.
The rail plant started as a spin-off of a Canadian rail car manufacturer, and was lured to the Muscle Shoals area in 2007 with $140 million in state and local incentives and a $350 million loan from the state pension funds, which now own the building.
It was supposed to bring nearly 2,000 jobs to the state but the facility has never been occupied and the over 2 million square-foot structure now sits idle except for a few workers learning how to build rail cars, a situation which may never come about because the economy has forced the rail lines to stop building rail cars.
“We’re all worried to death about it,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told The Birmingham News.
Concerned should be the operative word. A Japanese rail car manufacturer, Nippon Sharyo, plans to build a 400,000-foot facility in Rochelle, IL and move its US headquarters there. It is the top maker of high-speed rail cars in Japan and already has orders rolling in. Illinois is providing $12-million in incentives for the project and $5-million to build a rail spur from the Burlington Northern Sante Fe tracks to the site of the new facility.
New leadership on horizon for Alabama
By next Tuesday evening Alabamians will know who will direct the executive affairs of our state for the next four years, beginning in January, 2011…State Rep. Dr. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa or Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks of Fort Payne.
In 2002 the editorial board at The Montgomery Independent recommended Bob Riley over Don Siegelman.  In 2006 we suggested the election of then Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley over Gov. Riley.
This week we have recommended Commissioner Sparks over Rep. Bentley in the face of Bentley’s substantial lead in polling by the USA polling group and other surveys.  Even though Bentley holds a nine point advantage in the second wave of USA polling from Oct. 6 to Oct. 21, his numbers decreased by eight points between the two separate polling periods during that time frame… from 53 to 45 percent, while Sparks’ rose, but only from 33 to 36 percent. The bump, however has given the Sparks campaign momentum.
Even though The Independent recommended Commissioner Sparks, I believe Dr. Bentley would also be a fresh face and a definite improvement over the leadership of the state’s executive branch for the past two decades.
I sometimes wonder if newspapers should bother to give opinions on political races or if any readers pay attention to them, but I always come back to the proposition that there is an obligation to do so.
After all, what are opinion pages about?  I hope you pay attention to the opinions of this newspaper, no matter the suggestions it may make.
I found it interesting this past Sunday that The Montgomery Advertiser passed on offering any recommendation in the governor’s race. That, I believe, is simply a cop out, but sad nonetheless.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: