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Huntsville’s game of Hungry Hungry Hippos; Powell for District 10; and more in this week’s Off The Record


Off The Record: The latest rumors and rumblings in North Alabama


‘Hungry Hungry Hippos,’ Huntsville version

The big I-65 land grab is on and so far the city of Huntsville is the clear leader. Huntsville took the first bite when they annexed the Haney property in December of last year. That annexation, totaling 1221 acres west of I-65 in Limestone County, was all the signal the city of Athens needed to move more aggressively with their own annexation plans. And, in a special called meeting one week later, the Athens City Council annexed the 183-acre Braly property. While smaller in size, the Braly property has more interstate frontage than they Haney property giving it greater strategic value for commercial development and the tax dollars it brings. And make no mistake, this is all about future tax dollars. Huntsville’s previous Urban Development Director, Dallas Fanning, was infamous for annexing I-565 and U.S. 72 frontage far beyond the traditional Huntsville City limits – extending all the way to I-65. That ensured that future developments would be paying Huntsville sales tax and not Madison, Decatur or Athens. Shane Davis, the director of Urban and Economic Development for Huntsville, is using that same game plan to gobble up property along I-65 that can be used for commercial, industrial and residential development. The next piece in the contest fell to Huntsville last week when they annexed an additional 695-acre Sanderson farm property. Word is that Shane Davis is not done and we can expect to see future annexations on both sides of I-65.

Powell for District 10?

You heard it here last week that State Rep, David Cole was soon to face criminal charges in connection with his false residency claim. That shoe fell this week, and Cole pled guilty to felony charges and resigned his seat in the Legislature. This vacancy will trigger a special election on a date set by Gov. Kay Ivey. The race is sure to draw several candidates, but one early name that has raced to the top is Madison City Councilman Teddy Powell. A Republican, Powell has been known for his independent streak on the council.

More Marshall coming?

Meanwhile, the prosecution of Cole by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has sparked a number of conversations throughout the state. Marshall’s pursuit of charges and subsequent arrest of Cole for voter fraud came after the Legislature declined to take up the issue of Cole’s qualification for office. Already known for his enthusiastic efforts to uphold state law, Marshall’s prosecution of Cole shouldn’t be a surprise. However, many are wondering if this could be a sign of more to come? Marshall has made it clear no one is above the law, including legislators.

A welcome band wagon

After warring through the press with Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth about her lack of action to improve I-65, Gov. Ivey now seems to have jumped on the band wagon. Maybe it was the fact that former President Donald Trump pledged his support to widen the interstate during his speech to the ALGOP Summer Meeting. The former president‘s promise that his first action of his second term would be to widen I-65 from Tennessee to Mobile Bay was one of his biggest applause lines of the evening. Thursday, Ivey seemed to have joined the parade announcing over $300 million to widen a 7-mile stretch of the interstate from Alabaster to Calera.

Battle of the Bloggers

Not so much, at least according to a recently overheard conversation between Erica DeSpain, founder and editor of the wildly popular “All Things Madison,” and a devoted fan. In regards to the numerous niche outlets in the same vein as “All Things Madison” that have been popping up, DeSpain was her usual gracious self. Apparently, she enjoys what she does and believes there is room for all. DeSpain remains characteristically unbothered, even if her many, many fans do not.




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