Tuscaloosa’s War Against Bama Fans, Capitalism, AirBnB

City of Tuscaloosa cracking down on residents who use sharing economy tool AirBnb


Matthew Tosh at http://flickr.com/photos/33107978@N02/6271017579

So you’re a fan of the University of Alabama football team living in Springfield, Mo, and you really want to see them play in the 2016 season. Life is short, on your bucket list is to see Alabama play at home, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Now arrangements for any out of town trip can be difficult.

Your trip is Nov 12. Alabama will be playing Mississippi State in Bryant-Denny. The football team is heavy favorites; everyone expects Alabama to win. Stub hub has the average ticket price starts at $70 apiece, and you are taking your ex-wife and your four children who you have indoctrinated into Crimson tide fans. This is a bucket list trip you’re going to pay $170 per ticket so you’re not in the nose bleed section.

First you have to decide how you are going to get to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the location of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Are you going to fly in a plane, or catch a train or bus? You might even rent a car or bring your own. You are going to drive and it’s going to cost about $250. Your running total is $1,270.

Next you have to decided where you are going to stay. Obviously you can’t just drive all the way to Alabama and come right back to Springfield after the game, it’s an eight-and-a-half-hour drive by car. After the game your family will be too exhausted to travel. So you look for nearby hotels and they are completely booked. Sheesh. The ones that are not booked are really far away. Also the hotels are really expensive. A two-star hotel in Tuscaloosa, one bedroom, will go for $159. You have to stay somewhere; your family can’t travel all the way to Tuscaloosa to be homeless. So you decide you can cram everyone in a two-person room for $180 for one-night. Your total is now at $1,450.

Still you need worry about parking, dinner and memorabilia like a jersey, and the experience of Alabama downtown after a win. Remember you are only doing this once.

The ex-wife you never should have left, tells you about a site called AirBnB, where someone will rent out their entire two-bedroom house to you at $350 a night and the house is walking distance of the stadium. If you book one night, it will cost you $580. Two night at S982. “That is a hell of a deal,” you yell back to your ex in response. For one you are going to cut out hotel fees, dining fees because you will have a home and a stove so you can cook frozen cheaper food and it’s in walking distance of the stadiums.

You call the renters on the phone and gossip like middle school girls about your favorite team. And he has an even better deal. He is a season ticket holder and he has got six closer seats for you and your family. Plus, you talk him down 25% on the rental price with the condition that you stay two nights. OH MY GOD!!! New total with free tickets, plus the car drive and the two night stay along with food. $1,036. No hotel parking fees, no transportation to stadium fees, no parking near the stadium fee. All you need to do is get there.

So you’re excited and you make your plans. Then about a week before the game your renter calls you back and says that he can’t rent to you. The city of Tuscaloosa is cracking down on home rentals, especially from site’s like AirBnb. The city has notified your new Snapchat best friend that the will issue a them a fine for renting their home.

That is what is happening in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The city of Tuscaloosa is fining people for using social media to rent out their homes or Alabama football fans. Even though the renters never use Alabama likeness in their ads or say they are affiliated with the school, the city is going to crackdown on this practice.

According to Wtvm.com report,  city officials claim that the temporary rentals are zoning violations. 

There is a logical reason why. Those practices hurt the local economy. Alabama plays seven home games throughout the year. Local business like; hotels, cab companies, parking lot owners, mom and pop shops, restaurants, bed and breakfast, all make the bulk of the year’s income during those seven home games, on those seven weekends. If people are coming to Tuscaloosa making private deals and avoiding all of those places, then it really hurts. It hurts the city that has invested in those businesses, and the taxpayers who dollars were spent on the creation of the hotels and downtown Tuscaloosa traffic.

Yet the fine hurts the Tuscaloosa home owner too. That person has a mortgage, car note, kids to send to school. That person needs the money just as much to keep living.

When Alabama plays football especially since Nick Saban has been the head coach (2007), those homes are worth far more. Nick Saban has coached Alabama to four National Championships.  So now it hurts the everyday man or women, trying to access a higher economic class. Most of the places listed on AirBnb are one bedroom apartments and two bedrooms one level houses.

Calling it a zoning violation is crap.

This fine is a betrayal to capitalism but a positive to the tourism industry. The tourism can behave like a monopoly and raise prices. More money goes to airlines, and cabs and parking lots. However, the average everyday people who live in Tuscaloosa who don’t have jobs in tourism suffer. Tourism won’t compete in the free market, making the industry weaker not stronger.  So it’s good for the city and tourism, but it kills the sharing economy.

What an awful time to be a Alabama fan.

Commentary: Race, Bullets, and Moms texts.


“I don’t care what happens today and in the future….take it all in stride…no fighting no arguing no revenge… keep your mouth shut and your hands to yourself…God has you and is a righteous Judge”

My mom sent me that text message to me about 2 p.m. last Thursday, and all I could think to myself was, “What do this crazy  women talking about now.” You see I was on a field trip for a class in the Ozarks. So it wasn’t until I got to my hotel room that evening, when I learned about Philando Castile on the news. Later that night, Micah Johnson killed five police officers after protest, in downtown Dallas. The people in Dallas were protesting the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, and Castile in Minnesota. That was the source of my mother stressing text message, the thing is I’ve heard that before plenty of times.

I was raise in Walnut Park area of St. Louis, Missouri. Walnut Park was and still is a low poverty, high crime section of north St. Louis. I didn’t have many encounters with police growing up or anyone in my neighborhood. The block was so bad the only time me and my six brothers and sisters could go outside, was to catch the bus to take us to school, or get in the car to go to church.

Windows became the only source of contact to the outside world around me. Out those windows I saw that  my mother had good reason to keep us locked in doors most days of the year.

Across the street from my house was a crack house, and that’s not an exaggeration. Every night for about five or six years, there was some party going on involving loud music, cars parked in the middle of the street with the lights on, and fighting. Every so often an ambulance would show up, to take someone to the hospital who had been flapping on the ground like a fish out of water.

My street was the only block I could see in person, but you could hear the other blocks nearby. You could hear the gunshots, and police sirens, helicopters overhead, and every now and then, there would be a large boom like a bomb going off.

My childhood was like one of a bad kid, like detention in elementary school while everyone else outside. Expect we did nothing wrong, but exist.  By the way , if I was always inside , why did my mom feel the need to constantly warn me about dealing with the police?

She would constantly tell me a my brothers and sisters, ” Its yes ma’am, no sir, because they have the gun and they will shoot you.” She told us this time after time, and even now, I’m hearing it again. I keep hearing it, because the United States keeps reliving the same nightmare over and over. Black men being killed by white police, and never being held accountable.

Graffiti New York City

On Sept 15. 1983, Michael Stewart caught an early morning train from the 14th Street subway station to his home in  Brooklyn, New York. Stewart was a 25 year old graffiti artist, and according to NPR, started tagging the wall on the train with a marker. This war during New York’s ridiculous war on graffiti. He likely didn’t see the transit officer staring at him. About 3:20 am, Stewart arrived at Bellevue Hospital, in police custody hog tied, beaten with no pulse. Stewart would spend the next 13 days in a coma, where he later died.

Witnesses say they saw police beating Stewart, who weighted 140 lbs, as he was screaming for help. The police bounded his arms and legs and beat him with billy-clubs, repeatedly kicked him, and chocked him. When they finally finished, the police according to witnesses through his unconscious body into the back of a police van. A witness said his body was seen flying through the air before it hit  a storage unit in the back.

His death outraged the black community New York city, and when his case went to trial, and the only black person directly involved in the trial was the deceased defendant. The judge, jury, defendants, attorneys, were all  white, and the six cops were acquitted.

More black New Yorker’s became outraged  and following the acquittal and forced Mayor  Ed Koch to appeal for an additional investigation. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority later announced that 10 of the 11 officers deemed to be involved in the Stewart’s death, would not face any department punishment. Only the arresting office would face perjury charges.

I can’t be certain that my mom knew about that news story, knowing her well I would guess she may have only heard about it. I do know she watched the movie “Do The Right Thing”,  a Spike Lee movie that was partly inspired by Stewart’s murder.

Stewart story is one that’s way to familiar to many families in this country, yet time after time it’s relived by the community, and continues to divide.

Dallas, Texas

Bishop T.D. Jakes lead  a prayer in downtown Dallas Friday morning, and like President Barack Obama encourage the nation to come together and love one another. The pleas come after a week of deadly gun violence in the news. Obama has been to the podium countless times to address gun violence, police brutality, and race. Still he and community leaders preach love, why? Because saying we must love each other is a easier than actually doing it. Doing it requires a very important thing, trust.

Obama Addresses Shootings

Stewart’s story is a perfect illustration of why many people, not just black people don’t trust the police or the government process. Two of the  most important issues facing this country right now is police brutality and the availability of guns. Issues that must be solved simultaneously, issues that won’t be solved until trust has been earned.

Some trust was actually being earned in Dallas. During protest in Dallas unlike in Ferguson, police were not dressed in riot gear. No army tanks, no machine guns, no standoffs between police and protesters. These changes came through negotiations between the Black Lives Matter activist group and police. Johnson has likely destroyed the possibility of police interacting with protesters like that in the near future, with his actions Thursday night.

Micah Johnson


As impossible it seems, for the unrest to end, all Americans have to learn to trust the acting authority at large. However, that same constituency  has to stop giving this trust away for free.

Month after month, racial outrage continues to break out across the country, because of the unlawful deaths or treatment by law enforcement. Yet during voting periods, whites and browns continue to falsely protect their own interest by allowing , lifetime incompetent politicians, to further mishandle important matters like police brutality and the availability of guns. American’s continue to elect judges, police chiefs, senators, congressman, they don’t know or don’t care to get to know to be in charge in their own neighborhood. Then we have the nerve to be surprised when chaos continues to happen.

We are all at fault for this problem. Its everyone fault that we don’t have the trust necessary to govern ourselves. It’s our faults that people with no common sense have the ability to get whatever high powered gun available to commit heinous crimes. It’s also our fault that people in this country ignore issues of inequality. It will continue to be our fault that bodies fill the space at morgues at alarming rates, by mass shooting and police violence.

Black Lives Matter Rally: San Francisco

As impossible as it sounds, the only way solve these issues is trust. Not much trust either. Just  enough to end unrest. That amount would compare to the amount of trust a parent would need in their preteen children alone in the house while they go to the store. Enough trust to accomplish the task quickly, return home, and know the house won’t burn down while they are gone.Just enough trust where you can go to work, spend a weekend vacation with your family. Knowing that it wont end because some psychopath with a grudge showed up with a machine gun.

Trust takes time, but that is the biggest challenge facing the United States today, and we will continue to face this same challenge until that small amount of trust is earned.

That is the choice, learn to trust against the obvious reasons not to, or continue to endure the same unrest next month, followed by texts from mom.

Rally at Pioneer Courthouse





Natalie’s Cakes and More in Starbucks

Photo credit C. Vaughn

Do You believe in happy endings, Natalie DuBose sure does. Over a year after teenagers destroyed the windows of the store, DuBose business has been better than ever. Now she is even has her famous cakes in Starbucks.

November of 2014 was a difficult time, for the small business owners of Ferguson, Missouri. 18 buildings had been completely destroyed, and many others had extensive damage. Natalie’s Cakes and More,was one of those stores. Sales had already began to decline because of the turmoil in Ferguson, but when Natalie DuBose store windows had been destroyed by teenagers with a steel chair, that seemed to be a breaking point.

Now over a year later, DuBose cake store is doing better than ever, and it all started with a photo. A photographer, captured her reaction to the site of her store in shambles. Soon after, the picture went viral and DuBose received hundreds donations from around the country.

Many people began helping DuBose by buying her cakes. One of those people in particular just happen to share her treats on a plane with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. DuBose said a lady would just come by checking to see if she was okay.

“A lady that worked in Starbucks came by just checking on me”, DuBose said. “She would check on me every week, and each time she came, she brought one of her colleges she worked with. And somehow she ordered a cake for a friend of hers, and that cake was able to get on a plane with Howard Schultz.”

From that point, Starbuck’s set up a series of meetings with DuBose. She first met with the vice- president of the North American region of Starbucks. After that meeting, DuBose had another meeting with a different Starbucks executive. After a third and fourth meeting, DuBose was asked about selling her cakes in Starbucks.

“It wasn’t like one contact”, DuBose said. “I had many meetings with several people and it kind of came after that fourth meeting. Cause a lot of people think there’s a certain person you call, it was no one that I called, they were just coming in to check like every other person that heard about Ferguson.”

DuBose was already receiving thousands of donations to help repair her store. On November 25, of 2014, DuBose started two Go Fund Me accounts, and in less than 24 hours, she raised $100,000 in donations. Which should be no surprise, when you consider that Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle star Patricia Heaton, personally tweeted out the Go Fund Me account, urging followers to donate.

The Go Fund Me accounts received a total of $280,000 and business is still booming for DeBose. DuBose is a divorced single mother who raised two children, can’t explain her good fortune.

“I get a lot of people asking me now, what is it that you have to do to get a Starbucks?”, DuBose said. “ I don’t know, like all the opportunities that have come my way. Not only are my cakes in Starbuck but my cakes  are in the Washington University campus. I sell my cakes to Schnucks grocery store… it wasn’t like I knew that magic question…these types of opportunities start falling in a domino effect.”

The Ferguson Starbucks is one of five locations that Starbucks is planning to open as part of an initiative, to bring down unemployment among youths in urban areas.

DuBose has seen her staff grow as well, going from a staff of three people to thirteen. She also has become a public speaker, speaking at  entrepreneurship class at Lindenwood University and to children at schools.

“All of these people, I didn’t reach out too”, DuBose said. “Someone from that group, that cooperation, they just knew somebody, and they were genuinely checking. I still get questions, I still get calls, letters, and cards, twitter inboxes.”

DuBose calls are people still checking up on her, making sure she is doing okay.

“I’m so in love with the people of this country”, DuBose said. “In this country, out this country, I don’t even know what to do. Because of their generosity, and genuine concern for people.

Its because of the people that have reached out that she can now live out her lifelong dreams, of baking goods for people. DuBose was baking while she was raising her kids, calling it therapeutic.

“What ever you are passionate about, do that”, DuBose said. “Whatever it is you want to do, no matter what opposition you face. Not only did I find my passion, but I’m able to live out my passion everyday. Whatever it is you want to do, keep doing it. What’s for you is for you, can’t no one else have what’s for you. ”