A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Sorry, kids, summer’s about over
Summer’s glorious respite for Alabama’s school-age children is short. It’s over before it begins, or so it seems. For those kids, August’s arrival epitomizes a double-decker buzzkill, a sudden end (of summer) and a rude beginning (of the new school year).
With few exceptions, all of the state’s students will have suffered through the first day of the 2015-16 academic year sometime in the next two weeks. The sound you’re hearing this weekend: moanings from oblivious teenagers realizing that if they’re going to end summer with a bang — a party, a beach trip — they’d better do it now, cause time’s ticking away.
Kids don’t get pretzeled up in the concerns constantly surrounding our public schools. Our arguments over Common Core standards, per-pupil funding, school consolidation and the overall health of public education in Alabama aren’t their arguments.
Though make no mistake, the arguments are because of them.
Alabama’s schools remain one of the state’s largest enigmas. Despite having their share of quality educators and administrators, our schools continue to impress few national evaluators. Yes, our pre-K programs are good. Yes, some of the state’s top public schools and systems can compete with the best anywhere. But when mixed in a pot, the quality along with the not-so-hot, Alabama’s schools lag behind, as they have for so long.
Comparisons are a dangerous online byproduct where everything is judged. Top 10 lists are the Internet’s reality TV, ubiquitous and often useless. Nonetheless, here are two to consider:
At Education Week, which releases an annual Quality Counts report, researchers gave Alabama’s schools a grade of 67.7 — a D-plus — in its January 2015 report. That was near the bottom, but not on it. That trophy went to Mississippi, which nearly flunked with a D (64.2).
At U.S. News and World Report, researchers in May published a study on the best high schools in the states. Instead of giving a state ranking, per say, it ranked individual schools (giving them gold, silver and bronze designations) and then counted which states had the most standouts.
Only two states had no schools earn a medal. North Dakota was one. Alabama was the other.
Most of Alabama’s children starting school this month neither care about nor understand these rankings. At the end of the day, they deserve the best we can offer, and more. Improving the state’s offerings is something Alabama’s adults must figure out.
The Birmingham News – Is education or retirement funding in danger? Week in review
If you get your news from your Facebook feed, you might think that the only major story this week involved the shooting of an African lion. Not so, according to this week’s guest columnists. Major developments are in the works, regarding education and retirement funds and, yet another questionable shooting of a black civilian by a police officer.
In Montgomery, lawmakers appear to be gearing up for a second special session, failing to find consensus to pass a budget. Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, the Alabama House Minority Leader, is adamant that the legislature should not rob the Education Trust Fund to patch the gap in the General Fund, saying that “there are very real needs in education where that money needs to be spent.”
Bob Jones High School student Jordan Cozby agrees. Cozby, who was recently elected National Chairman of the High School Democrats of America, writes that “since the recession, state funding has been cut 20 percent per K-12 student.” Lawmakers should be pushing a stronger commitment to education, not raiding its coffers.
Speaking of money, one store owner that profited from selling the Confederate flag during the 1980s says he regrets it. During a fierce debate over a controversial Old South debate at Auburn University, Stan Voit saw demand for the flag spike at his army/navy store. He says that he continues to feel discomfort every time he sees the flag.
Earlier this week, Daniel J. Smith, an associate professor of economics at the Johnson Center at Troy University, criticized the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s for making risky investment decisions, suggesting that the “RSA is a poor steward of our retirement resources.” Smith says state employees should be offered a range of retirement options by competing private companies.
For its part, the RSA counters that Smith and the Johnson Center are a poor steward of facts where RSA concerned. David G. Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, suggests the Johnson Center “is partially funded by an organization that seeks to abolish public pensions,” and offers a defense of the RSA’s investment decisions.
Huntsville has successfully recruited manufacturing jobs to North Alabama in recent years, including Remington Outdoor and Polaris. However, John R. Whitman, co-author of “Understanding the Social Economy of the United States,” thinks it’s time for the Rocket City to develop or recruit a “mega-charity” on par with Goodwill Industries or the Red Cross. Whitman writes that “Alabama has the second lowest proportion of nonprofit employment as a share of private employment among all states in the nation, at 5.2 percent” and a homegrown charity may increase giving.
The Decatur Daily – Voters deserve straight answers from Clinton
We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
That was then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s now infamous remark about the Affordable Care Act. Whether you think the ACA is good legislation or not, Pelosi’s statement summed up much of why Congress has such dismal job approval ratings — 16.2 percent, according to the latest Real Clear Politics polling average.
Rep. Pelosi, a California Democrat, is now the House minority leader, and the ACA is still opposed by more Americans (48.5 percent) than those who support it (42.5 percent), according to Real Clear Politics, although, taken separately, various ACA provisions, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, are popular.
One would think an experienced politician such as Hillary Clinton would avoid similar pitfalls, but perhaps that is not in her nature.
Asked this week whether she supports the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, the Democratic presidential candidate dodged the question, saying she didn’t want to weigh in on an issue that is still before President Barack Obama and her successor as secretary of state, John Kerry.
“If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question,” Clinton told a gathering of voters at a New Hampshire town hall meeting. “This is President Obama’s decision. I’m not going to second-guess him.”
In other words, America has to elect Clinton before we can know where she stands.
If Donald Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop campaign weren’t keeping late night comedians busy, Clinton jokes would be crowding the airwaves. It’s no wonder some people of conspiratorial dispositions think Trump is running at Clinton’s behest, just to disrupt the Republican field and divert attention from any potential Clinton scandals.
Trump, however, is unlikely to be the next president of the United States. Clinton, on the other hand, may well be, and voters deserve to know where she stands on important issues, of which the Keystone pipeline is one.
Dothan Eagle – Call off the National Guard
After an attack on two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, earlier this month by a disgruntled Islamic man who killed several men in uniform, a pervasive reaction among American patriots was to stand sentry at military recruiting centers where armed services recruiters are prohibited from being armed themselves.
While it’s easy to understand the motivation of the patriots – armed civilians who, in some cases, are also military veterans – the presence of regular citizens with weapons on alert for anyone intent on harm is a recipe for disaster. The military has asked the armed citizens to stand down, redoubling that message after a civilian guard accidentally discharged his weapon outside a recruiting center in Ohio.
This week, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley entered the fray, ordering the state’s National Guard personnel to arm themselves while doing state’s business, and making part of that business standing guard at military recruiting centers.
Like that of the civilian patriots, Gov. Bentley’s action is well-intended, but perhaps not the best use of resources. There’s no indication that last month’s attack is anything more than the desperate action of a confused young man upset by the nation’s approach to the war on terror.
In contrast, a more recent tragedy resulting in two deaths was carried out in a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater by an Alabama man whose motives remain unclear. However, an emerging portrait of the shooter reveals another troubled man. It was the second such attack at a movie theater, and yet there’s been no grassroots demand to arm the ushers or station gun-wielding guards in the auditoriums.
The Enterprise Ledger – No grilling out? This means war!
Among my seemingly countless number of moves in the last three and a half decades was one in the early 1990’s to a home when I still had babies – ages two and a half years and six months. It was about a month before the 4th of July, and although the house was very much in town, the neighbor decided he would blatantly ignore the ‘No Fireworks Inside the City Limits’ ordinance and just light the night away.
‘Round about 11 p.m., I decided to kindly ask the man if he could keep the rockets’ red glare and ensuing explosions to a minimum because I had a baby trying to sleep and the booms were scaring the family’s Labrador only slightly more than it was the kids.
Sir Shortfuse-a-Lot bristled at my attempt to quell the boom-booms, confronting me in front of his shirtless kids and toothless better half. I realized as soon as the beer breath on the man hit my nostrils that this had been a mistake. With my family just a few feet away, I certainly wasn’t going to carry on a confrontation with a man who had taken advantage of the “buy one get six cases of rockets for free” sale.
As soon as I was back inside I think the man went for the really big stuff and was literally rattling the house. I wondered why more neighbors hadn’t confronted him, but I remembered all I had seen in my month-plus of living in the area were quite elderly people and they probably were not as bothered since they didn’t have a baby crying non-stop with every snap, crackle and pop. Oh, and the dog was either howling or running through the house as if Armageddon had come and ground zero was on North Peg Lane.
I called the police on about three occasions, and sometime around 1:30 a.m. I peeked as one slowly drove past the house. Despite what must have been a truck bed full of empty beer cans by this point, the man was wise enough to hold off on igniting his next mortar shell and the police never stopped. I awoke on the couch the next morning and found hundreds of “spent” fireworks in my yard and on my roof.
It was a rental, so we were soon looking to relocate… and did.
We’ve all had “that neighbor” that just makes life a little bit more uncomfortable than necessary.
TimesDaily – Around the state
Gadsden Times on protecting military installations:
The July 16 attacks on two military installations in Chattanooga that left four Marines and a sailor dead of course caused outrage across the U.S. That anger was magnified by the belief a supposed ban on the carrying of firearms at military sites by anyone other than military police left those victims defenseless.
We say “supposed” because the directive issued in 1992 by the Department of Defense under President George H.W. Bush does not include the word “ban.” It states the issuing of weapons to other military or civilian personnel should be considered on a case-by-case basis, balancing the need for protection against the consequences from potential accidents.
What happened in Chattanooga established a pretty strong security need, and we’d like to see this case and the directive revisited, although it’s not going to be as easy as signing a sheet of paper or sending an email.
Military recruiting centers often are on private rather than government property, meaning individual state firearms laws take precedence. That won’t create an issue in gun-friendly places such as Alabama or Texas. It might elsewhere.
Some local officials aren’t waiting for federal action. Gov. Robert Bentley ordered armed National Guard members to be stationed at recruiting centers in Alabama.
We hope the guardsmen never have to pull a trigger in anger, but we have no problem with them being used this way, or with Bentley and National Guard commanders keeping mum on the details.
There’s a presupposition these folks know what to do with a firearm. The same is true with law enforcement personnel.
We can’t say as much, however, for the well-meaning, heart-in-the-right-place civilians who have grabbed their guns and been standing guard at military recruiting centers since the Chattanooga shootings.
Some of them are military veterans, but others aren’t. That disparity in training and skills is what makes this a potentially dangerous situation.
The Gadsden Times – Area’s road problems are obvious
Brian Davis, chief of the Alabama Department of Transportation’s engineering division, has been in Etowah County following up on a promise by ALDOT Director John Cooper.
Cooper told local officials last month that Davis would visit as part of a new ALDOT initiative in which current and projected traffic in every county would be analyzed to determine what realistically — emphasis on that adverb — can be done to solve problems.
No one who drives the highways of Etowah County should be surprised about his preliminary findings (his final report is due in September).
The most traffic congestion in the county is at the bridges across the Coosa River, both in Gadsden and Southside.
About 35,400 vehicles cross the Meighan Bridge over the Coosa every day, putting it at 104 percent of capacity.
The one-lane, northbound bridge over the Coosa on Alabama Highway 77 in Southside is at 103 percent of capacity, with 22,640 cars crossing daily.
Traffic is virtually at capacity at three intersections on Rainbow Drive. The worst congestion is from Whorton Bend Road to River Road, a stretch traveled by 33,480 cars daily, just short of capacity.
In 20 years, those close-to-capacity roads will be above capacity. Those above capacity now? It’s a frightening prospect.
Davis will offer specific short-, medium- and long-term suggestions in his final report, but signaled something that could prompt some locals to use a profane, snarky comeback that includes the word “Sherlock.” He said an extension of Interstate 759 to U.S. Highways 278 and 431 might be the best way to ease the traffic congestion in that area.
The Huntsville Times – BP oil spill money should stay on the Coast, in AL.com opinion hotsheet
About $1 billion of the estimated $2.3 billion BP oil spill settlement is set to go to the state to spend as it sees fit.
AL.com cartoonist J.D. Crowe, who lives in Mobile, said that money needs to be spent on the Gulf Coast, not thrown down the General Fund budget black hole.
“The Gulf of Mexico oil spill didn’t flow up I-65 North to Montgomery, and neither should the BP settlement money,” Crowe says.
A professor at the Johnson Center at Troy University wrote a guest opinion piece this week saying that the Retirement Systems of Alabama are a poor steward of state retirement money. RSA CEO Dr. David Bronner responds: Johnson Center a poor steward of the facts where RSA is concerned.
With polls, sometimes it depends on how you ask the question. AL.com’s Kyle Whitemire explores one poll that says Alabamians want to vote on gambling to fix our budget woes, and another one that says Alabamians prefer new taxes to spending cuts.
The Marvel Universe keeps expanding, with Ant Man the latest superhero we’re all flocking to the movies to see. AL.com’s John Hammontree wonders, “Why aren’t there any Southern superheroes?
Press-Register – Why aren’t there any Southern superheroes?
For over a decade, a superhero obsession has gripped the nation.
My wife will confirm that I’ve completely jumped on the Marvel bandwagon. I see most of the new movies at their midnight premieres. I watched the 13 episode-span of the Netflix Daredevil series over the course of two days. I’ve even kept up with two up-and-down seasons of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (regardless of the number of periods necessary to write out that name).
I’ve got theories about Thanos and Marvel’s Civil War. I listen to the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1 while at the gym. I mean, I haven’t actually read many of the comics yet… but still, I’m team Marvel.
The South has a rich, wonderful storytelling tradition but somehow we got left out of the funny pages.
Still, there’s been one question that’s been nagging me for a while now… why aren’t any of the superheroes like me?
No. I don’t mean bald – although, let’s be real most bald guys are villains (see: Luthor, Lex, and Fisk, Wilson).
I mean that there aren’t many Superheroes that are Southern.
In the Marvel canon, we’ve seen the West Coast Avengers, the New Avengers, the Young Avengers and even the Great Lakes Avengers. But we’ve yet to see the Southern Avengers.
The South has a rich, wonderful storytelling tradition but somehow we got left out of the funny pages.
I sat down with my colleague Edward Bowser to ta
Montgomery Advertiser – Bice’s pleas likely fell on deaf ears
Poor Tommy Bice.
There he stood last week, the state superintendent, in front of a row of Montgomery’s buses, basically begging the Alabama Legislature not to take from the state’s public schools in order to pay for services it refuses to pay for through a proper tax structure.
His plea would have been just as effective had he turned and given it to the buses.
This is not to say that lawmakers will definitely rob the Alabama education trust fund in order to pay for general fund services that are on the chopping block due to a massive shortfall, although they’ve already proposed myriad ways to do just that.
It just means that none of Bice’s very valid points will in any way sway lawmakers if the choice comes down to increased taxes or robbing public schools.
Sorry, school kids, Mr. State Senator would like to be Mr. U.S. Senator someday. And you don’t get to the Big Show as a Republican in Alabama by jacking up taxes.
And it doesn’t matter what polls say.
Gov. Robert Bentley’s office released a poll showing the majority of respondents – around 62 percent – reacting favorably to small tax hikes on cigarettes or the state sales tax instead of cuts to certain services or state parks.
But that’s a phone poll, not a voting booth.
Opelika-Auburn News – VCOM students charged with saving the world
“We’re here to save the world. We don’t have a complicated mission—that’s what we’re here for.”
With those words, John Rocovich, JD, LLM, and chairman of the board of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), charged the 162 students who are part of the first VCOM class in Auburn.
Thursday was a historic day for the medical college, as students from throughout the nation joined local officials in celebrating the new campus. One day, students who attend VCOM will help change the world, with many of them providing medical care to underserved areas – especially in rural parts of Alabama and the nation. For now, we look forward to these students bettering our community.
The students attending VCOM-Auburn are among the best and brightest in the nation. The 162 students in the inaugural 2019 class were selected from more than 12,000 applicants. On Thursday, Rocovich told students that they will enjoy top-notch facilities, equipment and faculty.
“ All we can do is give you the best of everything, and that’s our goal,” Rocovich said.
VCOM officials said that Auburn University President Jay Gogue was involved in initial ideas for the VCOM-Auburn branch. Though VCOM is a separate entity from Auburn University, the two institutions are working together. Auburn University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Timothy Boosinger said the partnership will be mutually beneficial. Within the next few years, Auburn University plans to construct new Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing adjacent to VCOM.
“ We’re in the early stages now, but we already have VCOM faculty working in some of our laboratories, partnering with our faculty, focusing on things almost exclusively related to human health, and we’re excited about that,” Boosinger said.
We welcome VCOM students, faculty and staff to Auburn, and expect that our community will continue to support their life-saving mission.
The Tuscaloosa News –Coach Saban still a good fit for Alabama
In the sweltering heat of summer’s dog days, college football is almost as distant a memory as Christmas. And popping a replay of one of last season’s victories into a DVD player is about as satisfying as singing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in August.
The good news for football fans is that their favorite season will be here much sooner than the “most wonderful time of the year.” In fact, the counter atop the sports section is rapidly ticking down to the final month before the season starts.
SEC Media Days are behind us and the pre-season football magazines are on the stands. The chatter that begins the final countdown to the season, complete with its preseason speculation and rankings, is in gear.
Savvy marketers take advantage of the pre-season anticipation to launch products and publications that will be snapped up by a football-starved public. Few are more astute than Monte Burke, the writer for Forbes magazine who specializes in sports business. It was Burke who prophetically labeled Nick Saban the most powerful coach in sports at a time when Saban still hadn’t won any championships on the field at Alabama.
This summer, Burke is turning heads with his unauthorized biography of Saban. In it he reveals that the University of Texas, with its saddlebags loaded with oil money, made serious runs at Saban not once but twice.
Saban doesn’t deny it, saying that his agent, Jimmy Sexton, called about “15 times” to convey overtures from Longhorn boosters. It dovetails with a story that circulated around the time Texas came calling that Saban’s wife, Terry, was looking at lake houses in the Austin, Texas, area.