A roundup of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
Anniston Star – A vital task for JSU
John Beehler, Jacksonville State University’s president, says setting tuition is “a balancing act,” which is true. But that doesn’t make the financial give-and-take between school and student a balanced relationship.
Universities hold most, if not all, of the power. Their boards of trustees set the tuition rates. Many students have options — a multitude of potential scholarships, federal grants and bank loans. But those who don’t qualify academically for scholarships and don’t want to trade debt for a degree have few options. They can’t raise or lower their costs. They have no vote on the trustee board. Tuition is like buying a new dishwasher: You can either afford it, or you can’t.
It’s through this lens that we’re viewing a new committee — a tuition evaluation task force — at JSU whose job is to recommend the price of tuition for the next academic year. Faculty, staff and students are on the board. A Star reporter tried to interview Ashok Roy, JSU’s vice president for administrative and business affairs who created the task force, about this process. Roy didn’t respond to The Star’s multiple interview requests and sent only a statement through university channels.
Oddly, that statement said the task force was designed for “transparency and campus-wide participation,” though the university official who created the committee wouldn’t talk to the newspaper about it. That’s an unusual display of transparency, to say the least.
Birmingham News – Al Gore’s climate gestapo seeks to punish political dissent
AG’s United for Clean Power should embrace the more appropriate moniker, “Climate Gestapo.”
The coalition assembled by former Vice President Al Gore and 17 state attorneys general appears set to punish companies, think tanks and other climate change “heretics” to the fullest extent of the law.
But that’s just it. Rather than actually enforcing the laws of their respective states, the group is embarking on a political witch-hunt designed to intimidate their opposition.
The global climate is indeed changing. We can measure transformations like sea level rise as they happen, and the general scientific consensus accepts that humans have a meaningful impact on the environment. For those who share the perspective of Gore and AGs United for Clean Power, that consensus requires strong, immediate political action.
Decatur Daily – Boycott punishes wrong people
The Decatur City Council stirred up a hornet’s nest when it implemented a tax on the police jurisdiction, which took effect April 1.
The slogan “taxation without representation” is thrown around a lot, but it is accurate when it comes to police jurisdictions. The police jurisdiction is an area that extends from Decatur’s city limits to a point 3 miles beyond those limits. Because it does not extend into other municipalities and does not go into Lawrence County, the actual area within the police jurisdiction generally is less than 3 miles.
Residents outside Decatur’s borders long have been frustrated with the police jurisdiction. Indeed, its creation in the 1970s sparked protests that led to the incorporation of Priceville. That frustration became more vocal when the City Council in January passed a sales and use tax which will affect businesses and industries in the police jurisdiction.
The city points out, with some validity, the tax merely reimburses it for some of the costs of supplying police and fire services to the police jurisdiction. Opponents complain they never requested Decatur provide such services. Their most poignant complaint, however, is the council’s action amounts to taxation without representation.
The accuracy of this complaint is obvious. It is almost inconceivable the City Council would have raised taxes within the city limits, especially with elections coming in August. It took minimal political courage to raise taxes in the police jurisdiction precisely because those affected by the tax do not vote in city elections.
Dothan Eagle – Alabama’s bingo conundrum
The state’s aggressive campaign against electronic bingo began in late 2009 when former Gov. Bob Riley appointed former Mobile prosecutor John Tyson Jr. to head a special task force to ferret out illegal gambling. It wouldn’t take much ferreting to find the gambling Riley had in his cross-hairs – electronic bingo games were in operation at VictoryLand in Macon County, and in other parts of the state. And here in Houston County, developer Ronnie Gilley was quite vocal about the imminent opening of Country Crossing, a multimillion-dollar music-themed complex crowned by an electronic bingo casino.
The trouble, as would soon become apparent, was that the legality of the games was a matter of opinion. Riley, et al. saw the games as slot machines prohibited by the state constitution. Casino operators saw them as bingo games, allowed in various counties by constitutional amendment.
The matter was further complicated by tribal casinos operating the same games in the state, although tribal gambling is regulated by federal law, not state law.
Fast-forward to today, and the question remains: Are electronic bingo games legal, or illegal? There have been several contradictory court rulings, a blueprint from the Alabama Supreme Court, raids, seizures, and crippling of businesses operating electronic bingo machines.
Enterprise Ledger – So long Daddy Jack, and thanks for the message
Merle Haggard passed away Wednesday on his 79th birthday. On Thursday, Samson’s Jack Jones passed away just a little more than a month after turning 109.
I’ve written often about the man affectionately known by so many as “Daddy Jack,” the last time at how he recalled in better detail events from 80 years ago better than I can tell you which club I hit deep into the pine trees during my last round of golf day before yesterday.
I was obviously saddened by the news I received of his passing. However, I found it odd that I was smiling as I put down the phone and headed to the office. Why was I smiling? A guy I had grown to truly care about since returning to the state in 2013 had just passed. I shouldn’t be smiling.
I believe it was a sixth sense, if you will, taking over, telling me that this was no time to shed tears, yet to be thankful this man was able to show everyone what a wonderful and full life he had led, and even better, how others should lead theirs.
Local law enforcement officials must deal regularly with people suffering from various mental illnesses. More and more of those mentally ill individuals are ending up in our county jails, and that’s a problem that bears discussing.
How bad is the problem? Director Jason Butler said Wednesday that half of the 234 inmates in the Lauderdale County Detention Center were either being treated for mental illness, or had some history of mental illness.
That’s one of every two prisoners now housed in the center.
“We’ve got a problem that is not going away,” said Lauderdale Sheriff Rick Singleton, who convened this week a group of law enforcement and mental health representatives to talk about the issue.
Statistics bear him out.
Gadsden Times – Check into safety of hotel rooms – or check out
As travel season draws near, many safety checklists are available to prepare for various less-than-desirable events that happen on the road.
Some safety equipment and associated checklists, however, are entrusted to others to be encountered on the journey. Fire that swept through part of the Budget Inn in Sardis City on April 2 demonstrates that sometimes that trust is misplaced.
Christopher David Cantrell, 36, Attalla, is charged with one count of first-degree arson, which is a felony, State Fire Marshal Ray Cumby said. Cantrell allegedly started the fire in the room he rented.
The second arrest in the case really gave us pause, however.
Hotel operator Suresh Desai, 55, Boaz, is charged with 26 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of neglecting fire safety requirements for hotel owners and operators, according to Sardis City Police Chief James Harp. All are misdemeanors. The reckless endangerment counts include some of the 50 or so guests occupying 20 rooms when the fire was set.
Huntsville Times – Interested in the state of Alabama journalism? Talk to us here
What’s the state of Alabama journalism in 2016?
The Washington Post put in this way:
“Anyone who has doubts about the importance of journalists in 2016 need be acquainted only with the reporting team at AL.com, the largest statewide news organization in Alabama. The group’s reporters cracked open a scandal involving their governor’s alleged infidelity last week and have been covering the unpredictable fallout aggressively ever since.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center put it this way when they awarded AL.com reporter Ben Raines a Reed award for distinguished environmental writing, noting how he takes readers: “deep into the natural world and, with vivid storytelling, shows what we stand to lose when we damage or destroy it.”
Press-Register –We hear you, Gov. Bentley, but nobody believes you
Alabama voters elected Robert Bentley, at least in part, because he was supposed to be a nice guy — modest, warm, grandfatherly.
And most of all, honest.
He promised not to take a salary until Alabama reached virtual full employment. In 2014, he was still waiting on that first paycheck, but his credibility among voters was enough to get him reelected.
Now all of that is gone. He’s lost it, just like he lost his family, in a sordid affair.
That promise to go without a paycheck has been eclipsed by his flagrant flying on state planes and helicopters, taking frequent trips by air even when cars were faster.
Montgomery Advertiser – Prison plan raises questions
The Alabama Senate on Tuesday approved Gov. Robert Bentley’s plan to close and consolidate the state’s prisons, paying for four new super prisons through an $800 million bond issue.
Previously, we have cautiously endorsed the prison construction bill.
Key Republican leaders in the state House and Senate had also expressed tentative support for the proposal, recognizing that a solution to Alabama’s prison overcrowding crisis must be found and that none will come cheap.
The limited debate that occurred before the Senate’s vote, however, is worrisome, and many questions remain to be answered before the House of Representatives moves on the measure.
The House should particularly scrutinize a controversial aspect of the prison-building proposal – a requirement the new super prisons be designed and built by one company instead of many firms handling smaller parts of the project. That would require a one-time exemption to state bid laws.
Opelika-Auburn News –VictoryLand saga shows state’s gambling divide has only widened
The Alabama Supreme Court said it’s tired of having to repeat itself in ruling that state law prohibits what the VictoryLand casino owners plan to do in its defiant reopening.
VictoryLand owners and supporters say they are tired of the state of Alabama playing favorites, allowing gambling in other venues but picking on VictoryLand with a steady stream of raids, seizures and roadblocks to doing business.
Local officials in Macon County are planting their VictoryLand flag and rallying around it, and that flag is emblazoned with dollar signs.
County voters, many of them hungry for economic opportunity of any kind and desperate enough to gamble on a casino to get it, are sick of serving as pawns in a chess match being played by perceived carpetbaggers more interested in fat wallets than skinny school budgets.
Tuscaloosa News –Finally, Trump says something sensible
With each passing day, it becomes even more remarkable than the day before that Donald Trump remains the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Like a drumbeat that keeps getting closer and louder, the seemingly endless array of stunningly bizarre comments he makes continues to get more and more confounding as the GOP convention draws nearer.
Perhaps that’s why his comments Tuesday caught us so off guard. They were profoundly on point, direct and relevant. Ironically, later that same day, Trump lost a key primary vote to Ted Cruz in Wisconsin.
Many of the products Trump sells in his wide range of business ventures are not made in America. His opponents in the primary have repeatedly jabbed at him about this matter. Each time, Trump has fired back that it is the American government’s fault. Existing conditions have made it a good business decision to manufacture some products overseas. He’s vowed to rewrite the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), tax imports and punish U.S. companies that send American jobs overseas.
Critics have said his plans are not well thought out and could have devastating repercussions that would end up harming the U.S. economy. Trump’s answer to almost any and every challenge facing the U.S. is that he would be uniquely able to negotiate a better deal. His answers often tend to sound trite and dismissive.