Riley speaks to Hoover Chamber of Commerce members

At the Hoover Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday, Gov. Bob Riley spoke to a packed house — and a full overflow room — about how far Alabama has come, and yet how far the state has to go.

First, he spoke about his respect for Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos.

“It’s always great to come back to Hoover. This is a great area. It’s great for a couple of reasons. Primarily, you have great leadership,” Riley told the crowd. “I will put your mayor up against any mayor in Alabama, or in the United States.”

He said Alabama has shown incredible improvement in reading and math scores, setting a record for the most improvement for any state in the shortest length of time.

In 2005, Alabama students scored 12 points below the national average on reading scores. Two years later, state students tied for 16th in the nation.

Riley also spoke about the importance of getting Advanced Placement courses into every high school. He said that before this year, more than half of Alabama students didn’t have access to AP courses. That’ll change with the advent of distance learning, which will place at least two AP courses in every state high school.

After hitting the high points, Riley started in on the low points, specifically referring to the Jefferson County financial crisis, in which the county is more than $3 billion in debt.

“We’re going through a very difficult time in Jefferson County right now,” he said.

Riley said he hopes people understand the possible consequences of the crisis, which may end up with the county declaring bankruptcy. However, he urged Hoover business leaders to work hard to help keep the county going during the tough times.

“You have the opportunity to throw up your hands and say, ‘It’s too hard. It’s too much.’” Riley said. “When it gets tough, we need to come up with some kind of solution. Alabama has too much going for it. We have too many great examples of excellence in government to allow anyone to tarnish Alabama.”