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Guantanabama?

by D.V. Bowden
06-26-03

I recently called and spoke to Bill Snowden, director of planning for the City of Tuscaloosa, and asked him about the rumoured "federal complex" that has been planned for a huge area of downtown Tuscaloosa. The first I heard about the project was in a short story in the April 24-May 8 edition of Tuscaloosa's alternative weekly, The Strip. Snowden was one of two officials quoted in the article (the other was the mayor), so I called up his office to ask a few questions. I asked Snowden what kind of project it was, what type of federal buildings would be built, and what federal agencies or departments would be housed there.

Snowden said it was premature to discuss any federal buildings, but some type of federal presence is planned. He said he didn't know what kind. The main purpose of the project is to "revitalise" a run-down segment of town. In addition to any federal buildings, a parking garage is also planned (there is already lots of street parking in this area) and he envisioned "a mix of offices and residences."

The boundaries of the project have not yet been finalised, but the preliminary boundaries, as reported by The Strip newspaper, are University Blvd., 23rd Ave., 20th Ave., and 9th St. Snowden confirmed that this was accurate.

Snowden could not give a figure for how much the project would cost. He did say that the funds for the project would come from the federal government (I wonder where the feds get their funds...). The City of Tuscaloosa will begin acquiring land in the near future, and Snowden confirmed that eminent domain would be used to take land from reluctant sellers "as a last resort."

I asked Snowden why the City of Tuscaloosa wanted to redevelop the downtown area, and had the city considered that a federal complex would pay no taxes. He had no answer to those questions. I asked whether the city council had voted on this project, and whether any public hearings had been held to get input from property owners and residents about whether they desired to see their downtown "revitalised." Snowden said "that's a good question." Unfortunately, he did not know the answer. Neither could he shed any light on whose idea this project was, or who initiated it. The sketchy news report in The Strip indicated that Ala. Senator Richard Shelby was pushing an appropriation for the project in Congress. I guess having the new $50 million chemistry building on the University of Alabama campus named after Shelby isn't enough. Want to bet what the name of the new federal building will be?

As a matter of fact, all the details about this project seem very unclear, but according to Snowden, it is definitely going to happen. It seems very strange to me that this project could be a "done deal," and yet Tuscaloosa's Director of Planning knows so little about it.

The new Tuscaloosa City Hall is located within the proposed area, which probably is the reason for this location being selected for "revitalisation." Currently, the area has many auto-related businesses, such as glass and muffler shops, mechanics, etc. Apparently, the city dislikes the blue-collar atmosphere, and wants to displace the currently property owners in favour of white-collar office space for lawyers, doctors, etc. (my interpretation--Snowden didn't say this).

The area outlined in red in the map below shows the proposed location of the "federal complex." This is a HUGE chunk of downtown Tuscaloosa, which is apparently being redeveloped according to the politician's notions of what downtown should look like with no regard to the desires or rights of the property owners or the citizens of Tuscaloosa.

A friend has suggested that perhaps this federal complex may contain a detention centre to house libertarians and other dissidents to be arrested once PATRIOT Act II, PATRIOT Act III, ad nauseum are passed--our own charming little version of Camp X-Ray. We'll call it Guantanabama. However, rather than "historic downtown Tuscaloosa" (if everything is torn down, will it still be "historic"?) I think it more likely that we will be sent here. Of course, in Alabama, you can never have too many prisons (the Drug War must go on!).

If you would like to call Snowden's office yourself and ask a few questions about this project, and I suggest you do, here is his contact info:

Bill Snowden, Tuscaloosa Director of City Planning
Telephone: 205-349-0160
E-mail: wsnowden at ci.tuscaloosa.al.us

If Snowden can't answer your questions, perhaps the Mayor can:

Mayor Al DuPont
Telephone: 205-349-0200
E-mail: mayor at ci.tuscaloosa.al.us

Additionally, the Tuscaloosa City Council meets every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. and every Thursday at 6:00 p.m. Business owners in the proposed redevelopment area would be wise to let the Council know how they feel about the decision to take their property away.

For more information on Eminent Domain abuse, see the following:

The Castle Coalition

The Institute for Justice

Free-Market.Net Spotlight on ED Abuse

The Libertarian Party of Alabama is the only political party in Alabama dedicated to fighting eminent domain abuse.


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