Vlad

“To the outside, Vladimir Putin says he is in favor of democracy and reform but in his heart he longs for the Soviet Days.”
– KGB Gen. Oleg Kalugin (Ret.) in an 2001 unclassified speech to NSA employees

I was listening intently to General Kalugin’s speech at NSA’s Friendship Annex (FANEX) facility in early 2001. When he uttered those words, there was a noticeable groan from the audience that had assembled to hear the General’s thoughts on modern Russia.

President Bush had only recently been inaugurated and while Putin had been in office since the surprise resignation of Boris Yeltsin on the eve of the millennia, the U.S. was still trying to figure out who Vladimir Putin was, how he would govern Russia, and how he would act on the world stage. The General’s speech was not reassuring and time has shown that Kalugin was right.

More recently, I have noticed a disconcerting level of what I would almost call hero worship around Vladimir Putin on social media. At a recent GOP debate, a few participants seemed to battle over who had had the most meaningful interaction with the thuggish “President” of Russia.

While recent events may have shown that the United States and Russia have a common interest in defeating ISIS, Russia has zero interest in seeing it replaced by a stable, democratically elected government. Nor does Russia want the United States to succeed in any endeavor on the international stage. Putin, quite simply, wants to rebuild the empire of the Soviet Union on the back of a Russian-flavored version of capitalism, capitalism that would look to us like something crossed between crony-capitalism and the mafia.

If we want to look for heroes, let’s not look too far from our own shores. There are plenty of people doing the right thing here at home.

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Wrapping up my meeting with ALDOT

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to meet with ALDOT to discuss improvements to the highway system in the western portions of Dothan. Here is a recap of everything we discussed:

Ross Clark Circle & Highway 84 West Intersection – ALDOT has long known that this is a bottleneck and they are going to look at several scenarios for improving this intersection. These scenarios will include everything from altering the timing of the traffic signals to installing an overpass. Whichever option that is chosen, if any, will be dependent upon funding availability and community support. I shared with them that we would much prefer an overpass. With the hopes of an I-10 Connector fading, it is my opinion that we should make Highway 231 and the Circle as much like an interstate as possible. I believe making these highways “like an interstate” will be much less expensive that actually building an interstate and will do much to speed traffic and promote economic development in our area.

Widening of the Circle between Bauman Dr and 231N – I was disappointed to hear that funds are unlikely to be available soon for further widening of the Circle. With the current congressional ban on earmarks in place, money cannot be freed from the previous I-10 Connector earmark to be used for Circle improvements. The cost of widening this stretch of roadway is estimated to be $40M. As I was told, ALDOT’s annual construction budget is $50M and we cannot expect them to spend 80% of their budget on this one project. Either we will fund much of this project ourselves or we will literally have to wait for an act of Congress to get the ball rolling again.

Brannon Stand and Highway 84 Intersection – ALDOT is continuing to look at improvements to this intersection. One idea being considered, is to create an additional northbound lane on Brannon Stand where traffic would have the option of turning left onto Highway 84 or continuing straight. I think this, along with a lengthened right turn lane, would alleviate most of the current issues. As with everything else, this project is dependent upon funding availability.

Brannon Stand and Fortner Street – The project to add additional turn lanes to this intersection has been pushed back to FY 2017. I impressed upon ALDOT the concern the local citizenry has about this intersection and the need to complete this project as quickly as possible. They agreed the work was needed, but stressed that there is only so much money to go around and reminded doubtful that the project timeline could be accelerated.

Widening of Highway 84 West – I asked ALDOT to consider widening Highway 84 West. They responded that they are beginning to look at improvements along that stretch of highway. While they would not commit to widening the roadway anytime soon, they did say that they were desirous of a plan for access control (think 231N but without the widening). I mentioned that this would be received poorly by the local citizens but they replied that there was no doubt that access control speeds up traffic. Incidentally, a local police officer told me a few days ago that the 231N changes have resulted in a reduction in the number of accidents. In any event, I anticipate it will be a number of years before any changes begin to take shape along this corridor.

Please pass along any questions or comments you have and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve you.

-Brandon

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Independence

This July 4th, we celebrate 239 years of our independence. I’ve always had a fondness for the history of our revolution and in studying it, one learns that it was a miracle it even succeeded.

We like to complain about an inept Congress today but the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, which gave us our first form of government, was without even the power to levy taxes for support of the war effort. As a result, the Patriot armies were underpaid and undersupplied while taking on the British Empire.

After Washington’s disastrous planning and execution of the Battle of Long Island, his army was routed. Hemmed in, he decided to evacuate his forces overnight before the British could advance on his position, destroy his army, and capture or kill Washington, himself. The evacuation went slowly, and only by a lingering morning fog did Washington escape across the East River as the British began to march on his position.

In a latter battle, Washington was so distraught over his men’s performance, that he rode along their ranks trying desperately to rally them, to no effect. Some of his men thought he intended to die that day, rather than suffer another defeat at the hands of the British. Paces from the enemy, he was under constant fire until his officers calmed the wild-eyed General and convinced him to quite the battlefield.

In the battle of Brandywine, a Scottish rifleman fixed his sights on an unassuming rebel commander. Ultimately, the Scott made the gentlemanly decision not to fire because the commander was only walking with fellow officers and not an imminent threat. The unassuming rebel commander, the rifleman later learned, was General George Washington.

At the time when each event occurred, these probably seemed like minor miracles which only revealed their magnificent importance in subsequent years. We might very well not have a country of our own were it not for a fortuitous fog, an enemy column that suddenly couldn’t aim, and a rifleman who decides, for whatever reason, to not shoot a high-ranking officer. How can one look at these events and not see the guiding hand of Providence? As we celebrate this month, let us remember our country’s blessings and how fortunate we are to call ourselves Americans.

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Storm Debris Pickup Announcement

MARK CULVER, CHAIRMAN
HOUSTON COUNTY COMMISSION
PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
April 27, 2015

HOUSTON COUNTY ANNOUNCES DEBRIS PICKUP PLAN

As has been our policy in previous storm situations, Houston County Road and Bridge and Sanitation will be picking up debris created by Saturday night’s storm at no charge to our citizens. The damage is so widespread, the pickup will be county wide but the debris must be a result of Saturday night’s severe thunderstorms that struck the county.

Please be aware of the following guidelines:

Citizens will have until May 15th to get the storm related debris to the right of way for the county to pick it up. It will take the county several weeks or possibly months to get up all the debris so be patient and know that, while you need to get it out to the right of way now, it may be there a while. Separate limbs, building debris and metal into separate piles. They go to different disposal sites. DO NOT stack debris on the road! This is very important!

We appreciate your cooperation and are glad to provide this service to our citizens in this time of need. Also, we are again thankful that there were no significant injuries.

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Public Meeting: Highway 84 and Bay Springs Road Intersection

Alabama State Senator Harri Anne Smith and Houston County Commissioner Brandon Shoupe invites the public to attend an information session regarding the Highway 84/Bay Springs Road intersection. The session will be held at 6:30 pm on Monday, March 16th at the Bay Springs Volunteer Fire Department, which is located at 1500 S Bay Springs Road.

Plans for the proposed improvements will be on display and officials from the Alabama Department of Transportation will be on hand to answer questions and listen to your feedback.

This is the only public session that will be held regarding the intersection. If you have an interest in the outcome of this project, you are strongly encouraged to attend.

Sign up to Attend

Complete this form so that we may have a headcount of how many people plan to attend this meeting. Be sure to leave your email address in case we have to change locations to accommodate the expected crowd.
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Thank you

Just a few days ago, we were worrying about whether or not the community would turn out to support Fort Rucker at the Listening Session. It seems those worries were completely misplaced. By all accounts, the Listening Session seems to have been a big success. I do not know if the local elected leaders and community members could have done a better job fighting to preserve our local post.

Thank you for turning out to support this effort. Now we wait to see if Congress can get its act together.

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Help Shape Our Libraries

The Dothan Houston County Library System wants your input about the role of libraries in Dothan and Houston County. We asked you what you wanted the physical space to be and you told us – that led to the beautiful new facilities in Downtown Dothan and Westgate Park. Now we are asking you to help shape our Strategic Plan for the next 5 years by telling us what you want to see, do, experience, read, watch, listen and download as you connect – learn –discover the world by way of your libraries. Beginning February 1st, please complete the survey at www.dhcls.org to be entered in weekly drawings for prizes ranging from Nook Glowlights to gift cards at local retailers. (Hint – the biggest prizes will be awarded the first week of February, next dollar value down will be awarded the second week of February, etc.) You may also fill out surveys in person at all library locations.

Help us write the next “chapter” in our story.