Quarter one to be proud of

MONTGOMERY &045; When the U.S. Mint announced several years ago it planned to issue commemorative quarters honoring the 50 states, speculation began immediately as to who or what should be featured on the Alabama coin.

There was no shortage of suggestions, most of them as predictable as the sunrise.

Be sure in this football-mad state the idea of the likeness of

Bear or Shug on the quarter was proposed. Others suggested George Wallace or Rosa Parks.

Still others felt a design with an an historical theme would be appropriate &045; the Cradle of the Confederacy or perhaps the Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.

Be sure the major cities got into the act. Huntsville folks liked the idea of a rocket; Birmingham people thought a likeness of Vulcan would be appropriate; Montgomerians leaned toward the State Capitol; Mobilians thought the USS Alabama would be excellent.

Last week, Gov. Don Siegelman announced the decision: The new Alabama quarter will feature a likeness of Helen Keller encircled by the words &uot;Spirit of Courage.&uot;

And in a wonderful twist, the name of this remarkable woman will be engraved on the coin in Braille.

In the aftermath of this announcement, some Alabamians have been made uncomfortable when they were reminded … or learned for the first time … of Miss Keller’s politics. She was an avowed Socialist, and wrote frequent articles in support of the party.

She was a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Her politics were so far from the main-stream that

J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI maintained a file on her.

But her politics takes nothing from her remarkable life, her incredible achievements and her courage.

A prediction: The Alabama quarter will become the most popular collectible of these commemorative coins. At least we will be No. 1 in something.

You have to believe that a lot of Alabama Democrats on the Nov. 5 ballot would prefer that Jesse Jackson stay out of this state until after that election.

His appearance at Alabama State University in Montgomery last week … and his withering attack on President Bush … only served to fire up conservative voters in Alabama.

Needless to say, there wasn’t a Democrat candidate for state office in the same zip code of the ASU campus when Jackson spoke.

The only facecards in the audience were former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley, who after making more money than Daddy Warbucks as a trial lawyer, is not likely to run for office again; and Julian McPhillips, who took a terrible beating this year in the Democratic Primary in a race for the U.S. Senate.

It is so far off in the future that some of you won’t live to see it, but the Department of Transportation has revealed that it has begun prelimary planning to extend Interstate 85 in Montgomery to the Mississippi line.

At the present time, I-85 ends (or begins, if you prefer) in Montgomerey when it intersects with Interstate 65.

The project would cost a staggering $1.5 billion and take years to complete.

One plus for the project, however: It would have no major cities to go through which would not only speed up construction but reduce the cost dramatically.

That the story was released

a few weeks before election day smacked a little of politics. So what else is new?

The headlines read that the education budget ended the 2001-02 fiscal year on Sept. 30 with a surplus of $200,000.

If you believe that, then I have some oceanfront property in Nebraska I would like to sell you.

With the election so near, Gov. Siegelman could not afford for the budget to end up in the red and to avoid that his financial folks did some of the most adroit bookkeeping in history.

You talk about smoke and mirrors, it was that and more.

The Birmingham News hit it on the head editorially: &uot;The Administration did everything but look under the sofa cushions to end up in the black.&uot;