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Federal, state programs guarantee boating access
Hank Weldon is a native Alabamian, born in the state 36 years ago. He’s also a traveling man; as director of student and junior tournaments for Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, he’s seen a lot of fishing spots.
Few, he said, can rival those found in his home state.
“If you want to go fish deep clear water, you can do it,” said Weldon, who works for a nonprofit organization that promotes angling for America’s most popular freshwater game fish. “If you want to go fish shallow muddy water, you can do it. It’s all within the state and it’s all good fishing, no matter where you go.”
Part of Alabama’s appeal as an angling hot spot can be traced to a federal funding program overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The program is called the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. It is authorized by the Sport Fish Restoration Act. The money is generated from taxes charged on fishing tackle and boat fuel. The funds pay for fisheries projects, building boat ramps, docks and other related needs on public waterways.
The program apportions money to states in a formula that pays 75% of the costs for approved projects. In Alabama, that means the state received $6.5 million from the program this year.
From that sum, 15% – almost $1 million – was set aside specifically for public boating access facilities. From that, 60% will pay for new construction; the remaining amount will fund operations and maintain established access sites.
In real numbers, that means Alabama maintains 114 freshwater access areas across the state. Each is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are also free.
The state access program, created in 1957, has been a template that creates access to waterways while meeting the demands of the boating public – people like Weldon.
“You can be riding in a pontoon boat on a Sunday morning or canoeing down the Coosa River,” he said, “It can be so peaceful and tranquil and can get you away from the business of life.”
Or you can bring business to your boat. Paul Smith, 55, is a seasoned boater, having first stepped on a deck when he was 2. His boat, a 1979 43-foot Viking, is also his office.
During the pandemic, Smith has moved his office to his boat while his wife has set up shop in their house. Both now have plenty of room to telework.
“I can sit in here and work in the boat and step outside and take a 10- to 15-minute break and catch at least one crappie,” Smith said, “It’s relaxing.”
Another bonus: watching birds. Just this year, he’s enjoyed seeing bald and golden eagles and a passing flock of common loons.
Kay Donaldson shares Smith’s appreciation for floating transportation. Another resident of Alabama, she treasures the time she spends on her pontoon boat. She calls it “rejuvenating.”
“A day on the pontoon boat with no cell phone, the wind in your hair, and just enjoying watching everybody else… it’s so good for my soul,” said Donaldson, 48. “You’re away from your cell phone, you’re away from the TV, you’re away from all the things that sometimes clutter our minds and our bodies.”
She also appreciates how boating facilities improve the quality of boating.
“People don’t understand how important a boat dock is,” she said.
For example, a dock is perfect for securing a boat after it has slid off its trailer into the water. A lone boater needs a place to keep the boat until he or she can move the trailer and truck. For that boat owner, no dock means no boating.
“Freshwater access is imperative,” said Donaldson. “Being able to get access to the water in many different places where you’re not just putting in and having to travel 60-something miles on water is significant.”
The state provides services to residents as well as visitors, Donaldson adds.
“They try their very best to provide the best facilities for Alabamians and visitors,” she said. “From the people who enforce the laws out on the water to the people who develop the facilities, I really think that we have the best people in place.”
Chuck Wills, 65, began his love of boating as a teenager enjoying the water with friends on their crafts. Eager to have his own, he worked hard and saved his money. Two years after graduating, Wills purchased his first boat, a runabout.
A resident of Alabama, Wills depended heavily on the Boating Access Program’s sites as a younger boater. “For the average boater, you can’t take advantage if you don’t have easy access to water,” he said. “It’s critical that you have nice launch ramps.”
Wills is now a member of a yacht club where he docks is 19-foot runabout and 40-foot Sea Ray motor yacht, but he keeps tabs on his old boat launch. The Boating Access Program recently upgraded the ramp with more parking and a wider launch area. Wills is excited to see these improvements –a benefit for more boaters.
Retirement has allowed Wills more time to spend on the water. At least once a week he and his wife take a cruise. They also like to anchor out and enjoy a night on the water.
Soon, Wills and his wife, along with 10 other boats, are joining together to travel up the Tennessee River to visit Chattanooga. They’re eager to get going. Life, they know, is as much about the trip as the destination.
“It’s a great way to take in the sunset with friends,” Wills said. “It’s always something magical to be out there on the water, taking in the scenery.”
Lanier Clegg is a Junior Public Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Alabama, Hyundai have huge week in Marvel Cinematic Universe
Last week was a big one for Alabama in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
The fictional Alabama town of Haven Hills was the setting for a key moment in the MCU’s Disney+ series “Loki” in which the title character played by Tom Hiddleston confronts a female variant of himself. Unfortunately for Haven Hills, a massive hurricane is set to destroy the beach town in the year 2050, in which the time-traveling scene is set.
The outcome for another Alabama tie with the MCU is more optimistic.
A series of commercials featuring MCU characters and the Alabama-built Hyundai Tucson SUV was released last week.
MCU Disney+ characters Loki (Hiddleston), the former Falcon and new Captain America (Anthony Mackie) and Wanda Maximoff/The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) make cameos in commercials reminiscent of scenes from their Disney+ series “Loki,” “The Falcon and Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision,” respectively. Later this summer, Hyundai and Marvel Studios will release an additional collaboration inspired by “What If…?,” Marvel Studios’ first animated series coming to Disney+.
In the released spots, each character asks a rhetorical, thought-provoking question, in keeping with Hyundai’s ongoing “Question Everything” advertising campaign promoting the Tucson.
“The Marvel Cinematic Universe has captivated audiences and it’s an incredible opportunity to utilize their characters and storylines with custom creative for the all-new Tucson,” said Angela Zepeda, chief marketing officer for Hyundai Motor America. “This promotional partnership elevates our biggest launch campaign ever, which showcases how we questioned every detail and assumption when developing the 2022 Tucson – resulting in our most innovative and technologically advanced vehicle to date.”
It’s the latest extension of a “creative integration” campaign between Hundai and Disney announced earlier this month in which the 2022 Tucson is being featured in Disney-owned properties like ABC’s “The Bachelorette” and “black-ish” and ESPN’s “SportsCenter” in addition to the Disney+ MCU tie-ins.
“We were dedicated to creating custom content calibrated to the precise needs of Hyundai,” said Mindy Hamilton, senior vice president of partnership marketing at the Walt Disney Co. “We scripted, produced and managed creative for all three spots – a point of differentiation in the marketplace. The result is a sophisticated, compelling creative campaign that we’re incredibly proud of and believe will resonate with Marvel fans.”
The Tucson is produced at the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) plant in Montgomery.
“The marketing campaign for the all-new Tucson is already creating a lot of buzz on our production floor and team members are beaming with pride because the Tucson and the soon-to-be-released Santa Cruz sport adventure vehicle will make a big impression on their respective car buying-segments,” Robert Burns, vice president of Human Resources and Administration at HMMA, told Alabama NewsCenter earlier this month.
HMMA started production of the Santa Cruz June 22.
In addition to the Tucson and the Santa Cruz, HMMA produces the Sonata and Elantra sedans and the Santa Fe SUV.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)
Flowers: Legislative session essentially successful
The 2021 legislative session ended last month with an impressive slate of legislative accomplishments.
A goodly amount of the credit for the success of the session goes to the leadership of the new President Pro Tem, Senator Greg Reed of Jasper, who just completed his first session in this role.
The Senate was deliberate, effective and efficient as it took up a longer than usual list of issues given the legislature’s early departure from Montgomery last year due to the pandemic.
The Senate’s accomplishments include successes that range from economic development incentives, COVID-19 relief, legislation to support military families, election security, broadband expansion and more.
The Senate was also able to pass a constitutional amendment to allow the people of Alabama to vote on whether the state would finally legalize, cap and control gaming and a lottery. Although this bill did not make it through the House, it was an impressive feat to move this hotly debated topic through the Senate.
The legislature dealt successfully with the state’s budgets, which is the legislature’s number one responsibility. While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many states across the country having to cut their budgets, the state of Alabama’s two budgets – the General Fund Budget and the Education Trust Fund Budget – were the largest ever passed in state history.
Senator Reed and the budget chairmen in both chambers were successful due to years of conservative budgeting by the legislature, as well as the resilience of the Alabama economy. Alabama’s conservative budgeting approach has given the state the resources needed to provide funding to support Alabama students, public employees, and to give our government agencies the resources they need as they work to improve our state.
The Education Trust Fund Budget, the state’s largest budget in history, provided a record-breaking $7.67 billion in funding. The budget provides a substantial amount of funding to address critical educational needs across the state, the most noteworthy of these being meeting the high demand for certified math and science teachers.
There are around 7,500 secondary level positions for math and science teachers statewide, and only 4,300 of those are filled with properly certified individuals. Science and math are critically important subjects for the educational success of Alabama students, and to excel in these areas, it requires our state to be able to recruit and retain credentialed teachers.
To address this concern, the budget included the Teacher Excellence and Accountability for Mathematics and Sciences (TEAMS) Act program to raise the salary schedule for math and science teachers so that they will make more money moving forward. Starting in the 2021-2022 school year, well-trained and educated middle and high school math and science teachers could earn up to $15,000 in additional pay each year.
The budget also provides funding for Governor Ivey’s recommended 2% across the board pay raises for all teachers, support workers, and transportation workers. The budget allocates about $80 million for these raises that go into effect on September 30, 2021. The budget also funds the school nurse program to ensure there is a nurse in every school system and sets up a retiree trust fund to present teachers with bonuses.
It is not only educators who will see pay raises as a result of these budgets. In the General Fund Budget, the largest ever passed by the state, the legislature included a 2% pay raise for all state employees. The budget also includes a 7.2% increase for the Department of Mental Health and a 12.5% increase for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
While the regular session has come to a close for the year, there are still several potential special sessions that could be called by the governor. These could include special sessions to deal with issues ranging from gaming, to prison reform, to redistricting.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at: www.steveflowers.us.
Carl warns against ‘false hope’ of I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge in infrastructure package — ‘It is not’
Hope springs eternal for some on financing for the potential construction of a new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge coming out of Washington, D.C., especially as Congress is debating a potential multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill.
However, U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) warns against such notions, calling them “false hope.”
During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Carl said he did not expect that line item to be included in the bill currently being discussed on Capitol Hill, and said he expect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to have other ideas in mind as far as so-called infrastructure goes.
“You’re going to see the Republican House bow up and say, ‘No, we’re not going to do it. We’re not going to support it.’ So, I think that’s where it is going. Everyone up here wants an infrastructure bill, especially me. Now, I don’t want anyone to get false hope and think that our bridge is in that infrastructure package. It is not. So don’t think if we vote it down, we gave away the bridge. That’s not true. We don’t know what that money is going to be spent — particular projects, per se — what it would be spent on. That part we haven’t even gotten to yet. Right now, we’re just arguing on the money. We’re trying to keep money that we’ve already borrowed. We’re trying to utilize money left over from COVID, which there is about $600 billion left over. So, the Republican side is trying to focus on just using that. Nancy Pelosi will not have that. She wants to borrow all new money. And she wants about a $2 trillion package.”
“It’s going to be hard for her to get support, enough support to get it,” Carl added. “I mean, even her own people are rebelling. You got the gang that is fighting her. They want about a $6 trillion package. They want the original package or nothing at all. So, for her to raise enough votes is going to be tough — really tough.”
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.
UAB: COVID’s highly contagious variants pose serious health threat even to those with immunity
As the days grow warmer and sunnier, many Alabamians seem to have pushed away all concerns about COVID-19.
However, the disease still lingers. Indeed, COVID-19’s most highly contagious forms – the Delta, Gamma and Beta variants – are in Alabama, said Dr. Paul Goepfert, professor in UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases. As of June 22, UAB Hospital is treating seven patients for active COVID-19 infections, its smallest number of COVID-19-positive patients since March 22, 2020. Another 19 patients were admitted earlier for COVID-19 and, while not showing active infections, require in-hospital care.
All viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, mutate over time. Goepfert’s latest worry is that the Delta variant could cause an upsurge in infections in the nation’s undervaccinated areas, including the Yellowhammer State. While more than 1.7 million residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, only 31.9% of Alabamians are fully vaccinated. Though the variants are increasing to varying degrees, he said the Delta variant is believed to be more transmissible and to cause more severe disease. Because of Delta’s increased activity, Goepfert expects the variant to dominate during the next few months, intensifying the need for residents to be fully vaccinated.
“Citizens of Alabama cannot rely on just previous infection alone to be a protection against this Delta variant,” said Goepfert, who is board-certified in Medicine and Infectious Diseases. “I think if you’re vaccinated, you should be happy these vaccines are still working. If you’re not vaccinated, that’s another story.”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 90% effective against the Delta variant, which now comprises about 90% of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom.
People who have been infected with COVID-19 have natural immunity, Goepfert said, but that offers less protection against some of the variants than being vaccinated. He said “real-world data” shows that the variants currently pose little reduction, if any, in the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
Goepfert said all strains have some susceptibility to the COVID-19 vaccine. Many of the variants arose outside the U.S., where there was little or no vaccine.
“So now the problem is, I suspect, that this virus, if it’s teaching us anything from before, it’s going to learn to mutate,” said Goepfert, who has worked at UAB since 1997. “Perhaps one of the best examples of that is what we’ve seen in South Africa and Brazil. In South Africa, there are data that people who got infected with the original strain, despite having been infected, have no protection against the Beta variant. In Brazil, there’s similar data that suggests the same thing with the Gamma variant. And for the Delta variant, there’s likely data like that in India.”
UAB researchers and a host of others testing COVID-19’s ever-growing mutated variants continue to learn more about how the disease works. Goepfert said that UAB’s Dr. Sixto Leal, associate scientist in the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and a professor in the Department of Pathology, is at the forefront of variant research in Alabama. The data, which is either peer-review published or has been submitted for publication, suggests that all COVID-19 vaccines offer protection against the variants.
“Dr. Leal and his colleagues have done a fantastic job of testing the variants,” Goepfert said.
All COVID-19 vaccines contain a small amount of the spike protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “The spike protein is very important in entering an infected cell, so there are like mutations that make it able to enter an infected cell more efficiently,” Goepfert said.
UAB doctors are certain the COVID-19 vaccines help fend off disease. With research proving that the disease is becoming more contagious, doctors continue to encourage Alabamians to get vaccinated to help prevent illness, hospitalizations and deaths.
As Goepfert looks ahead to August, with the beginning of a new school year, he is less worried about efforts to push COVID-19 vaccinations for schoolchildren, because they are better equipped to fight the illness. While only 36,000 of the state’s children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been vaccinated, Goepfert noted that residents 65 and older fare much worse against COVID-19.
“Even if the kids are passing COVID along, in all likelihood, they will do better than adults,” he said. “The adults can be protected if they get vaccinated.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)
How Milo’s sweet tea became a phenomenon
Alison Pierce was 11 when she tried her first sips of Milo’s Famous Tea. Now the brand director at the Bessemer-based beverage company, she plans to serve Milo’s tea at her upcoming wedding.
The drink has built a devoted following since the first glasses were sold 75 years ago in Milo and Bea Carlton’s original sandwich shop on Birmingham’s Norwood neighborhood. People even share Milo’s-related photos on social media using the tags @DrinkMilos or #Milosmonents.
The level of fanaticism goes far beyond filling a refrigerator with gallon jugs of tea. Take, for example, the guy who painted his new refrigerator to look like a jug of Milo’s tea. Others have decorated birthday and wedding cakes with replicas of the red-and-white logo.
“There are people with Milo’s tattoos,” Pierce says. “A guy made a boat out of Milo’s boxes, entered it in a race, and won. I love the passion of our fans. We’ve even created a page on our website where consumers can share their stories.”
What’s not to love about Milo’s sweet tea? It’s made only with a proprietary blend of black teas, water, and sugar. Its ingredient list doesn’t read like a chemistry textbook. And most important of all, it tastes like tea, not tannin-tinted water.
“We make it just like somebody does in their kitchen,” Pierce says. “Our kettle’s just a lot bigger.”
In addition to sweet and unsweet versions, the sweet-tea lineup includes zero calorie, decaffeinated, and extra-sweet. Milo’s also makes lemonade, and an Arnold Palmer-style blend of tea and lemonade. The company plans to unveil additional flavors this fall.
All come in gallon and 20-ounce bottles, and the sweet tea also is sold in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles.
When he opened the restaurant in 1946, Milo served his tea unadulterated, leaving sugar bowls on the table for customers who preferred it sweet.
But post-war sugar rationing inspired him to rethink his approach. He figured he could do more with less by adding sugar to hot fresh-steeped tea, and serve it pre-sweetened.
It didn’t take long for his sweet tea to become as famous locally as Milo’s special sauce and the extra hunk of beef he added to his hamburgers.
After taking over the business, Carlton’s son, Ronnie, noticed that some people came just for the tea, like Pierce’s mother, Renee. As an occasional treat, she would stop by Milo’s after work and order large teas—no ice—before driving them 45 minutes to the family’s home in Oneonta.
“We weren’t a rich family so any kind of fast food was exciting, but especially getting Milo’s tea,” Pierce recalls. “It was a treat for us.”
The first gallon jug of Milo’s tea was sold in 1982 at the Piggly Wiggly grocery in Homewood. Twenty years later, the Carlton family spun off Milo’s Tea Company after selling the restaurant portion of the franchise.
Ronnie’s daughter, Tricia Wallmark, now runs the booming company. Milo’s Famous Tea is sold by more than 31,000 retailers in 45 states, as well as via national giants Amazon, Target, and Walmart.
Adding to its allure, Milo’s Tea is a company with a conscience. It’s earned a platinum certification as a “Zero Waste Manufacturer,” meaning it recycles at least 99 percent of the waste it produces. The company donates one percent of its profits to organizations and communities.
“We really try to stay true to the values of Milo Carlton,” Pierce says. “We’re people first. There’s a lot of love put into our product.”
(Courtesy of SoulGrown)
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