This is not an official blog of the City. It is the work of Mark Kapel who is solely responsible for content.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Baldwin Library Staff Recommends Best Books of 2015

For Adults  Fiction

The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer. - This absorbing, beautifully written and poignant family saga spans five decades of the life of a Northern California family complete with a beloved physician father, free spirited mother and four children each harboring their own desires and secrets. –Lisa

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. - Atkinson provides a wild ride of a reading experience in this sweeping post-war follow-up to Life After Life, which follows the Todd family through the first half of the 20th century. –Denise

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by  J. Ryan Stradal. - This book weaves the main character’s life story by pulling narrative strands from other characters - some who have impacted her life directly, others indirectly, into a sweet, sad, sometimes funny story.—Linda

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. - The best and saddest book I’ve read in a decade is profoundly tragic, but the characters are so beautifully drawn that by the end of the novel I felt like they were my family. –Maria

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. - Hoffman always creates a unique plot featuring complicated characters who draw you quickly into their world.—Barby

Station ElevenMy Struggle, Book Four by Karl Ove Knausgaard. - It is difficult to explain the Knausgaard phenomenon to the uninitiated, but Book 4, covering Karl Ove's teenage years, stands out by blending Knausgaard's straightforward yet mesmerizing narrative style with a substantial dose of humor, to create another hard to put down volume in his epic autobiographical series of novels.  –Josh

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. - Haruf's final novel gets right to the heart of what makes us human by exploring a late-in-life love affair that seems so simple to those in the relationship—but not so to the people around them. –Carol

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. - This brilliant novel uses an apocalyptic story line to portray a world of artistic endeavor, violence, humor and most of all, hope. –Karen

Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar. - With journal entries, letters, notes, and various methods of early 20th century correspondence, Parmar plumbs the complicated relationship between the artist Vanessa Bell and her more famous sister, Virginia Woolf, along with their siblings, lovers, and friends, all members of the artsy Bloomsbury Group. –Liz

When the Mood is Low by Nadia Hashimi. - This book made me truly feel immersed in its Middle Eastern setting and culture. –Lauren

Biography & Non-Fiction

Dead Wake by Erik Larson - History comes to life as Larson recreates the events leading up to the German military attack on the Lusitania in 1915. –Rebekah
Furiously Happy: a funny book about horrible things by Jenny Lawson. - I've never laughed as hard as I have at stories in this book (and in the author’s first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened); however, there are also very poignant sections on mental illness that made me re-evaluate and re-interpret my own life experiences. –Kristen
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann. - In her prose, as in her photography, a bold artist catches the heavy shadows of the past and the fleeting light of the moment. –Ethan

NOPI: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully. - This glorious cookbook from the London restaurant, NOPI, is filled with mouthwatering images, unique combinations of flavors, and magnificent presentations. Be warned: these recipes are not for beginners. –Vicki

For Children & Teens Fiction
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. - This book incorporates two of my favorite hobbies: reading and working on puzzles. –Caroline

Illuminae:  Illuminae Files_01 by Amie Kauffman & Jay Kristoff. - A creative collection of emails, instant messages, and interstellar reports tell the engaging story of two teenagers fighting for survival in deep space of a second universe. –Susan

My Cousin Momo by Zachariah OHora. - The retro drawings and sweet details in this picture book illustrate a funny and sweet story about accepting people for who they are and trying things in new ways.  –Stephanie

Somewhere There is Still a Sun:  Memoir of the Holocaust by Michael Gruenbaum. - Gruenbaum's sensitively-written memoir gives the reader a real sense of what the Holocaust was like for those who lived it, and is a standout in the genre of Holocaust literature.  –Donna

The Baldwin Public Library is located in downtown Birmingham at 300 W. Merrill Street. The Library’s hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. The Library’s website has information on how to register for a Library Card and access all of the Library’s services.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Not this year for $10,000+ Citizen Satisfaction Survey. Sidewalk Safety Paths return as City's latest bone of contention.

The rare Monday City Commission Meeting was billed as a work session and called to determine the wording of questions for the  the proposed City wide survey promoted  through out  2015 primarily by City Manager Jay Cravens. At a prior City Commission meeting  Mr. Cravens wondered  aloud if the same set of questions asked in the 2012 survey, might, with minor modifications work again. At least  in terms of a matrix.

 Monday night he most salient question was however asked by Mayor Stuart Sherr who asked, "Do we really need a survey this year ?" A quick consultation  by the commissioner determined that the City did not. One  said the recent election was survey enough. Commissioner  Sarah McClure said in 2012 there were twenty nine points  City Commission wanted the residents opinion on.  In 2015 that number was a mere nineteen.

Eventually in the course of a what would become  a two hour meeting the City Commission  decided a Survey would be better served by waiting till  2017.

For those of you keeping score at home that was a win for  the current  City Commission and a decided departure from the Mr. Cravens and  five dwarfs commissions  of  the last three years.

The timing of the Survey could have been dispatched  and voted on in a fifteen minute meeting but on Monday night  something extraordinary, not seen in the City for five years happened. So extraordinary  it lacked a name and  the new arrivals we called Guest /Visitors until proper introductions  could be made.

Approximately ten to twelve city residents from the Stratford Condominiums   led by retired Commissioner Pat Hardy attended the meeting and wished to speak about  their perceived need of a Safety path on Woodward Avenue. In previous  administrations they would have be given the gate, an old expression which roughly translates as the Bum's Rush. Drop ins were not allowed to discuss Agenda items of the meeting they were attending.  Therefore they were out of order. 
Going back five Mayors, Zambricki (2011) would have listened but only up to a point. McClure (2012) would not have listened at all. Whatever  "be nice to residents pixie dust" floating around  the air duct  system at City Hall (It is built on a slab)  also effected her as well  as  she chatted  amicably with the resident Guests/Visitors, comparing point for point.

Hardy (2013) would have been quite supportive but nothing happened in 2013 because the issues  of the year was the Single waste hauler and the library millage renew. Residents in droves turned out to vote for or against  those two issues. Dull (2014) would also been supportive (for paths on Woodward only) but not sure what protocol was required  for loquacious  Guest/visitors.

Sherr (2015) plunged right in and for the fourth time since his inauguration on October  10th gave a masterful performance as Mayor. He took comments from all in the order they were standing and follow up questions in  the order of who raised their hand first. The likes of which have not been seen since the days of  Mayor McCready  (2010) when public comment  occasionally  took meetings near the midnight hour.

The most telling question of the commission  was asked by the only  man in the Strafford contingent who asked each commissioner for his or her stand on the subject . The vote  was 4 to 1 against with Dull supportive of (Woodward Avenue only).  

That is all the  Visitor Guests are asking for.  City wide plans for Safety Paths were rejected  in 2007 as being prohibitively  expensive.   It was only a study.  No vote was taken on the matter.To read the 30 page report titled Safety Plan Master Plan Click Here

 It was prepared by Hubbel Roth and Clark  Engineering consultants for both the City and The Township

The question posed was
The response was

Commissioners arguing lack of popularity of Safety Paths use the 2012 survey and the  2006 report and  the 2012 Survey to justify that opinion. Advocates for Safety Paths argue the  only the highest cost equations were  used for the 2012 Survey and that 2006  report consider only a City wide plan.

Mayor Sherr has promised that the unless the matter is resolved otherwise Safety Paths will  be on the 2017 Survey. Presumably in a mutually agreeable query. Until there are many points to consider.

New Titles Baldwin Library December 15th


Click to Connect with Baldwin  About Ashley Bell.
Also Available for  purchase at Amazon.
Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz -
Product Details At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea. Searching for Ashley Bell, ricocheting through a southern California landscape that proves strange and malevolent in the extreme, Bibi is plunged into a world of crime and conspiracy, following a trail of mysteries that become more sinister and tangled with every twisting turn.

click to connect with Baldwin  About Secret Sisters
Also Available to Purchase at Wallmart


They knew his name, the man who tried to brutally attack twelve-year-old Madeline in her grandmother's hotel. They thought they knew his fate. He wouldn't be bothering them anymore...ever. Still their lives would never be the same. 

Madeline has returned to Washington after her grandmother's mysterious death. And at the old, abandoned hotel—a place she never wanted to see again—a dying man’s last words convey a warning: the secrets she and Daphne believed buried forever have been discovered.

Now, after almost two decades, Madeline and Daphne will be reunited in friendship and in fear. Unable to trust the local police, Madeline summons Jack Rayner, the hotel chain’s new security expert. Despite the secrets and mysteries that surround him, Jack is the only one she trusts...and wants. 


  • Ant-Man - Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, to plan and pull off a heist that will save the world in Marvel Studios' Ant-Man.

Also available for purchase at Target

Marvel's Ant-Man [Blu-ray]

Product Details

Trainwreck - Amy (Amy Schumer) enjoys a life free from stifling romantic commitment until she accidentally falls for the subject of a new article she's writing. From director Judd Apatow.

Train wreck  is also available for Purchase  from, Amazon.