A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Missed opportunities for fairness in Calhoun County
Activists’ efforts urging the Piedmont City Council to formally ban LGBT discrimination have failed. Their brief flurry of political activity in that northern Calhoun County locale is, apparently, over. They presented their case. Residents’ opposition was immense. The council took no vote.
That’s unfortunate. Piedmont, a small city in a mostly rural part of Alabama, missed an opportunity to send a message of equality and fairness.
Anniston may be the activists’ next stop.
There’s no guarantee, but the co-president of the local PFLAG chapter told The Star this week that its members have discussed their options for Calhoun County, which includes seeking a city more receptive to codifying the legal rights of gay, bisexual and transgender residents.
“Anniston, I think, is gonna be our best demographic,” PFLAG’s Sterling Fiering said.
Compared to Piedmont, Anniston is larger and more diverse, though that hardly proves the county’s biggest city wouldn’t have a similar reaction. Anniston’s religious conservatives who share views in line with those voiced in Piedmont might also protest a move to become a more LGBT-friendly community through a discrimination ban.
The wildcard, if you will, would be the reaction of Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart and the Anniston City Council. Regardless of residents’ opinions, the council would be the ultimate test of any effort to import a discrimination ban into the city.
The Birmingham News – ‘Black Like Who?’ panel, exhibit prove hip-hop is part of the American experience
It’s an undeniable fact – hip-hop culture has been permanently woven into America’s tapestry.
What was once considered rebellious fringe music is now simply a piece of the American story.
Need proof? Well, numbers don’t lie: Last week “Straight Outta Compton,” F. Gary Gray’s biopic about rap pioneers NWA, grossed $60.2 million opening weekend, becoming the fifth-highest grossing August opener for any film in history. It’s currently hovering at about $80.2 million worldwide.
With the eyes and ears of the nation tuned into sounds of hip-hop culture, the Birmingham Museum of Art’s latest exhibit provides perfect synergy: Hip-Hop You Don’t Stop, a daylong celebration of hip-hop’s impact and influence, begins Saturday, Aug. 22 at noon. Dance instruction, lectures, a screening of the film “Style Wars,” and of course, lots of music will coincide the museum’s current exhibition, “Black Like Who?: Exploring Race and Representation.”
The exhibit shatters stereotypes that tend t fence hip-hop into one segment of our population. “Black Like Who?” masterfully combines the works of black and white artists, from Gilbert Gaul’s Civil War depictions of the early 20thcentury to Iona Rozeal Brown’s unique blend of hip-hop culture with 19th-century Japanese art.
The exhibit defies conventions and embraces diversity – the stories it tells are integral to both hip-hop and American culture at large.
We got a head start on those stories Friday evening.
The Decatur Daily – Around the state
Montgomery Advertiser on General Fund budget, educational funding:
There’s much to lament about the Legislature’s failure during the special session to produce a workable General Fund budget to pay for critical state services.
But at least the Republican supermajority wasn’t able to raid the state’s separate Education Trust Fund in a maneuver to avoid the hard work of good fiscal governance.
Not that they didn’t try, with a number of faulty proposals to divert education dollars to other areas.
As the Advertiser’s Brian Lyman reported, both chambers looked at moving $225 million in use tax dollars from the ETF to the General Fund. Senate leaders said they’d find a way to replace the money next year.
We’ve heard that one before.
The idea of the transfer is not without merit. Gov. Robert Bentley included it in his proposals for shoring up the General Fund during the regular session. But he paired it with new revenue measures to replace the lost funds for schools.
Good for House Ways and Means Education chairman Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, who helped stall the irresponsible bill by opposing any plan that doesn’t come with a replacement method.
The fight isn’t over yet, however.
You can bet on similar attempts in the second special session. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, doesn’t believe restoring the loss to the ETF is a priority, perhaps because he wants to increase pressure on other lawmakers to support his gambling proposals.
That’s a risky political game he’s playing with Alabama’s students.
State Superintendent Tommy Bice warned taking the money from the ETF without replacing it could force the education department into proration, with harsh across-the-board cuts to schools.
Advocates for education in the Legislature must refuse to pass any transfer of use taxes until a reliable revenue back-fill source is identified.
Dothan Eagle on open government:
One of the basic tenets of our representational government is the concept of inclusion for members of the public. The business conducted by those appointed or elected to governmental bodies is expected to be open for public scrutiny. Deliberations and votes are to be made in public meetings that have been adequately announced and advertised to the public at large.
The product of the work these governmental entities produce is to be available to anyone who wants to examine it.
There are few exceptions, but generally speaking, the Open Meetings and Open Records laws of Alabama ensure the people of our state have access to meetings and documents, and assurance deliberations of matters of public interest are not conducted in private.
The intent is crystal clear, but the execution often is muddied.
Earlier this year, the Alabama Legislature considered legislation that would tighten language in the law, which contained a loophole that could be interpreted to allow secret meetings between two or more members of a board, but less than a quorum.
That’s responsible government. However, in the otherwise fruitless special session that recently ended, the Legislature passed a measure that would allow members of public boards to phone in their votes to public meetings in which a quorum is present.
That would mean a school board member who could not physically attend a meeting could cast a vote via telephone or videoconference in a public meeting. That would make participating in government more convenient for an official who could not attend.
But this knife cuts both ways; it could be abused by officials who simply don’t want to bother to attend, or could lead to situations in which deliberation that should be public takes place over telephone conversations that cannot be heard by anyone except those participating in the call.
It’s a slippery slope, and one best avoided.
Dothan Eagle – Questioning travel requests is sound fiscal policy
With another round of high-dollar travel requests before them this week, three Dothan city commissioners stalled rather than rubber-stamping the measure.
District 4 Commissioner John Ferguson, District 5 Commissioner Beth Kenward and District 6 Commissioner Hamp Baxley all voted against the requests, which range from a Fire Apparatus Conference in Pennsylvania at no cost to the city, to a trip to Orange Beach for the Alabama Municipal Court Clerks and Magistrates Association Annual Conference at a total cost of $4,028 for four travelers, the Eagle reported Wednesday.
The travel was approved by a quorum of ayes from the remaining members of the commission and Mayor Mike Schmitz. The hitch wasn’t about any particular request, as all seemed reasonable and routine.
However, the dissenting commissioners deserve commendation for raising questions about the necessity and value of all the travel requested for city workers. It’s possible that some of the training could be done online through web seminars, one commissioner said.
“Sometimes I don’t think we are getting the information we need to have to be able to make an informed decision,” Kenward said.
It’s refreshing to see such diligence among commissioners with regard to the expenditure of public funds, particularly during a time in which the city is facing large bills for infrastructure improvements and commissioners are considering fee hikes to offset those costs.
It may well be that each travel request is worth every nickel. But by requiring more detail and justification of the expense, the commission would show sound fiscal stewardship.
The Enterprise Ledger – Golf has never been in better hands than right now
Talk about your breath of fresh air. The bad boys (not all, mind you) from our four major team sports (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL), and of course our bad girl goalie from our USA soccer squad, were shown how good people act over the weekend at the final major golf championship of the year.
Australian Jason Day edged Texan Jordan Speith for his first major. Day is 27, Speith 22. If this is how spoiled rich kids act, I hope my daughters meet a fellow just like either one of these guys.
When the “class in sports” videos begin appearing, these two should have starring roles.
Speith is the greatest golfer on the planet now that Tiger Woods has simply disappeared from competition. And Day is one of those rare birds that makes you pull for him even if he’s battling an American. He is that good a guy.
Speith and Day, along with Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Billy Horshel and Paul Casey, will make the 2016 PGA Tour among the greatest ever to watch from a competition standpoint.
I wondered if Tiger had been so good that his demise would hurt the game, but along comes the likes of young guns from Northern Ireland (McIlroy), Texas (Speith), and Australia (Day) to help make as competitive – and likeable – a field as the PGA has ever produced.
I was told of a story over the weekend regarding a friend who had known someone pretty well, only to find out after the fact of the friend’s highly checkered past. His friend’s life of lies and mayhem had finally caught up with him, and his new home was going to be a well-guarded cell with about 30 minutes of exercise each day.
TimesDaily – Strong schools create strong communities
Tax dollars spent on local K-12 education provide enormous returns for taxpayers.
The most important benefit is found in the opportunities a well-funded school system provide to children.
The recent adoption of ACT Aspire testing provides a grim reminder almost all Alabama schools — even the strongest north Alabama schools — are struggling to prepare their students for the competitive world they will face when they are on their own. Proficiency levels in core subjects like reading, writing and math need dramatic improvement in local school systems just to allow our children to enter college or the workforce without being at a disadvantage. And our goal, of course, is to send our children into the world with an advantage.
While citizens with family members in public schools enjoy the most direct benefits from an education system that adequately prepares children for college or career, the entire community benefits. The quality of tomorrow’s labor force is tied directly to the quality of today’s schools. The pool of citizens from which we will choose tomorrow’s community leaders are being educated today in our schools. The success or failure of entrepreneurs we hope will transform our future economy depends in significant part on whether our schools are teaching them fundamental skills today.
So when school officials ask residents to approve a tax increase to improve the quality of education, it’s not a request that should divide parents of school-age children from other taxpayers. Everybody who cares about the community and its future has reason to be an advocate for better schools.
Throwing money at a problem does not solve it, a lesson taxpayers have learned at high cost when funding federal programs. Local schools, however, are intensely accountable to those they serve. Every concerned parent monitors their progress. Elected officials control their expenditures. Standardized tests measure how subject-matter proficiency compares to students across the nation, and how it progresses from year to year.
If improving the education of the children was the sole benefit of funding public schools, it would be a good investment. The incidental benefits of increased funding of education, however, are also compelling.
When seeking to recruit new companies, economic developers focus on schools. When seeking to attract new residents, realtors show their clients the schools. More than any other factor over which residents have control, schools are a selling point for a community.
When it comes to the value of schools as a recruitment tool, modern, innovative schools have an importance that is independent of educational goals. An executive looking at a rundown school assumes, rightly or wrongly, that the community places a low value on education. This makes the community less attractive as a site for expansion because it is less appealing to employees and because it suggests the community is not aggressive in training its future workforce.
The Gadsden Times – FDA needs to regulate e-cigarettes
As we have repeatedly stated in this space, we are no fans of expanding government as a general rule, especially when it comes to federal oversight of issues better left to states.
However, a couple of recent studies have shown that a federal partnership with states is, in some cases, a needed course of action.
Those studies relate to teens, smoking and electronic cigarettes — a combination we find problematic.
There is no federal law banning the use or sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but at least 45 states, including Alabama, regulate their sale.
Use of e-cigarettes commonly is referred to as “vaping” because the battery-operated units turn liquid nicotine into vapor that is inhaled. The devices were created as an alternative to traditional tobacco products and do not contain the chemicals and tars of burning tobacco. In fact, Public Health England, a government agency, published an independent review last week describing e-cigarettes as effective tools to help people quit smoking traditional cigarettes. The U.K. health agency is one of the first governmental organizations to endorse the devices.
American agencies have not followed suit.
The Huntsville Times – Trump is a big deal for Mobile. Reckon he’ll buy us a bridge?
The City of Mobile went from 1 to 35k in about 6.9 minutes for Donald Trump.
Trump’s initial Mobile event was expected to draw about a thousand folks in a downtown hotel. Now, he’ll be rock-starring in front of at least 35,000 in Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The Donald blessed Mobile with his first Southern campaign stop for good reason: He’s a smart businessman.
Trump is kind of a big deal right now. And so is Mobile.
If and when Trump wins the GOP nomination, this Mobile event will be a pivotal moment.
Positioned strategically between Florida, Mississippi and New Orleans, Mobile is the epicenter of the Gulf Coast. The Port City anchors the economy and votes of the Deep South’s reddest state. Lotta bang for your bombastic buck down here.
Trump is hotter than August asphalt on Airport Blvd. Friday night, Mobile will be hosting the country’s biggest political pep rally.
5 things to know about Ladd-Peebles before going to see Donald Trump
Trump didn’t know he needed Mobile, but since Mobile has risen to the occasion … now he does.
If and when Donald Trump wins the GOP nomination, this Mobile event will be a pivotal moment.
Maybe we can convince The Donald to buy us a new bridge.
I’ll be wading through the masses at the Friday Trumpfest with my sketchbook and iPhone, drawing, taking names and live tweeting … or trying to. Look for the #TrumpinMobile hashtag.
There’s a new report out from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that takes aim at the chaplaincy program at 25 universities, including the University of Alabama and Auburn University.
“Chaplains regularly lead the teams in prayer, conduct chapel services, and more,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a new release. “These religious activities are not voluntary, as the universities claim.” The foundation goes on to cite its report, saying “student athletes are uniquely susceptible to coercion from coaches. Players have educational, financial and career reasons to obey their coach, whatever he asks.”
The group, which claims a membership of 22,700, has compiled an exhaustive report detailing why chaplains – even though they are not paid by the university – don’t belong in public institution setting. The foundation isn’t asking for the chaplaincy program to be better defined: it’s asking for it to be eliminated.
The argument doesn’t center on if such programs are effective or if they help many young people who face tremendous pressures. Instead, the foundation’s argument is this simple: Religion – specifically Christianity because that’s about the only religion the group targets – doesn’t belong in any public setting.
Whether participation is optional, whether public money is used or whether it’s school-sponsored, this group doesn’t care. If there is a reference to religion, it has to go.
Oh yeah, the Constitution
There’s a problem with that, of course. It’s called the Constitution. Here’s the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Here’s what that this says to me: We don’t want laws requiring people to be a part of any religion. At the same time, we don’t need regulations that prohibit the free exercise of anyone’s religion. If a particular university wants to allow a chaplain to be part of its sports program, then that’s free exercise of religion. If a player wants to be a part of a chaplain’s programs, that’s fine. Should there be consequences for players that don’t take part? Of course not. But outlawing the program is just as ridiculous as requiring everyone one in a football jersey to join in.
Montgomery Advertiser – Of course Trump’s bigotry plays well in Ala.
Donald Trump is popular in Alabama.
That should not come as a surprise to anyone. Nor should it be worth mentioning that Trump had to move his Friday visit to Mobile from a small arena to a large football stadium.
Of course he is and of course he did.
Trump is a loud-mouthed, egotistical bigot. And we are a state that has always been enamored by the loud-mouthed, egotistical bigot. They rank third on our Most Admired list, just behind Really Good Football Player and Average Football Player.
But Trump is different from those other ordinary, political bigots.
He’s not just a guy who insults an entire nationality with ignorant stereotypes and misinformation. He’s not just a guy who says insulting and degrading things to women. And he’s not just a guy who has based his plans for public office on a simple-minded view of the world that could best be summed up by the phrase, “Hey, other countries, go f*** yourself!”
Trump is all of that and he’s rich.
Filthy rich. Billionaire rich.
He is the manifestation of every attribute that today’s GOP seems to hold dear: boorish, egomaniacal, unashamed, hypocritical, callous and wealthy.
Trump is to today’s conservative voter what a Kardashian is to today’s 20-something.
Opelika-Auburn News –Making Auburn better
On May 5, 1998, the Auburn City Council adopted a long-range plan for the city called Auburn 2020.
“Seven committees consisting of approximately 200 citizen volunteers, elected officials, and city staff spent much time and effort toward creating comprehensive reports that address the areas of education, growth and development, intergovernmental relations, transportation, utilities and technology, family and community, and public safety,” a city resolution signed by then-Mayor Jan Dempsey said. “These seven reports outline detailed strategies and goals to guide the decisions of the City Council aimed at making Auburn a better community through citizen involvement.”
Auburn has accomplished many of the “22 Goals for 2020,” which are listed on the city’s website along with the plan. Some of the goals include:
> Continue strong community financial support of the Auburn City Schools with the goal of retaining the reputation as one of the outstanding public school systems in the Southeast.
> Establish a community network of sidewalks and bicycle trails that will allow all citizens to use alternative modes of transportation.
> Construct a senior citizens center to house expanded programs for Auburn’s seniors and a teen center for afternoon and evening recreation for Auburn teenagers.
Auburn 2020 has served the city well, and CompPlan 2030, adopted by the City Council in October 2011, provides goals, objectives and policies on areas such as future land use, natural systems, transportation, parks and recreation, public safety and historic preservation, through 2030.
That plan is designed to be evaluated and updated every five years.
It may be time for Auburn leaders to update both plans to help address the city’s remarkable growth.
Auburn is one of the most desirable cities in which to live in Alabama, as evidenced by population, commercial and industrial gains. Thousands of residents enjoy “The Loveliest Village” because it is not a big city, yet enjoys many amenities that larger cities do not have.
The Tuscaloosa News – Athletes should get realistic treatment
Given the federal government’s inclination to overreach, it was refreshing to see the National Labor Relations Board block college football players from forming a union.
Unfortunately, the NLRB stopped short of saying that college athletes are not employees, and union organizers took heart from the omission. The federal government’s labor regulators offered a mealy mouthed rationale about the chaos that could result from union and non-union teams sharing the playing field while having different standards for players. Of course, by not settling the issue definitively, the board left open the possibility for the chaos its members feared.
Athletes are no more employees than are students attending college on academic scholarships. They are rewarded with tuition, room and board and a few other trinkets for their athletic talents, just as students on academic scholarships are rewarded for their intellectual prowess. If athletes are receiving further remuneration from their schools (or the schools’ boosters, for that matter) it is in violation of NCAA rules. And unless they are declaring their income and paying taxes on it, they aren’t involved in a standard employment agreement.
While some might snicker at the idea that the free college education offered in return for playing is an athlete’s reward, it is not
inconsequential. Trivializing the privilege of walking out the door with a degree debt-free is an insult to every tuition-paying student and parent. Athletes who choose to waste the opportunity that ordinary students pay so dearly for have only themselves to blame if they don’t make the most of it and wind up poor and uneducated.