The Republicans are putting on a big show Wednesday and Thursday commentating the 10th anniversary of the Toyota plant coming to Huntsville [Alabama]. Speaking at the event are Governor Bentley, Senator Jeff Sessions, Representative Mo Brooks and Mayor Battle, all who will bask in the limelight of fancy ceremonies when, in fact, they had nothing to do with the arrival of Toyota.
Don Siegelman got that plant here: He negotiated the deal. Nobody else.
Siegelman's ability to attract business is unparalleled in the history of the state.
Siegelman brought Honda, Hyundai, Navistar, Fiat and expanded Mercedes, which resulted in over 100,000 auto related jobs and tens of thousands of construction jobs. Because of him, Alabama became known as the Detroit of the South. He was the first to establish a task force to developing the State's first long-term strategic plan for economic growth. Brian Hilson, head of the Chamber of Commerce who worked closely with Siegelman, wondered if the man ever quit working. The answer was no: he worked 24/7.
Gov. Siegelman with Toyota exec., 2001;
photo credit: Jason Harris
His expertise attracted other kinds of plants including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, even department store manufacturing. He started700 bridges and over 1000 school construction projects. SAT scores were above the national average, Alabama SAT test takers scored higher in math than any other Southeastern state. On a shoestring budget, he began the now famous Alabama Reading Initiative program. There wasn't a portable classroom in the whole state when he left.
Because he was a popular, rising- star Democrat who might someday be president of the United States and after a decade of pursuing and hounding his every move, Karl Rove and crooked Alabama Republican operatives moved in for the kill. After a long trial costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, and during which the 2006 gubernatorial election was blatantly stolen from Siegelman and given to Bob Riley,crooked prosecutors, a crooked judge with a personal grudge, a jury that flirted with prosecutors and e-mailed each other at night about the case convicted Don, sentenced him to 8 years in prison, shackled and handcuffed him, didn't allow him to say good-bye to his shocked and disbelieving wife and children, put him on a plane which after going through 5 different states, landed at a federal prison in Louisiana. It was 8 months before crooked judge Mark Fuller let him out on bail to work on his appeal.
They succeeded in ruining his life and that of his family, but what Don Siegelman did for this state, his brilliance, his commitment to education, and his sheer doggedness advanced Alabama to a plateau never seen before or after in the history of the state.