Here’s a round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – H. Brandt Ayers: Fool me twice …
To get elected in Alabama and elsewhere, you have to scare the voters with some manufactured Bogeyman from whom the clever candidate promises protection.
That was the theme of a column centered on early Alabama history last week by colleague and professional historian Hardy Jackson. His essay merits a hearty Bravo and A-a-a-a-men!
When the election is over and the Bogeyman has melted away and nothing special happens, the voters are left with that self-critical sinking feeling, “Darn, fooled me again; Shame on me.”
The experience leads to cynicism about the whole process,
In Alabama, where vivid monsters have been created out of thin air, blacks will rule. They’re gonna take our guns away. We’re drowning in immigrants. These fears usually are followed by a do-nothing or do-little government in Montgomery, which inspires a low-level helpless anger among voters.
The political culture in this state could be called: “Angry Resignation; I’m mad as hell but I can’t or won’t do anything about it.”
But this shadow play between candidates and voters is not exclusive to Alabama. It is as old as Rome and Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” the first handbook for crafty politicians.
In America, the threat is persistently seen as coming from the left. From Social Security to Medicare, the opposition has cried in horror, “Creeping Socialism.”
Communism and socialism have been chief Bogeymen of American politics, and neither could be more bogus. American culture is highly resistant to left-wing ideology.
The Birmingham News – Marketing maternity: Are we valuing the message over the medicine?
Imagine you’re a woman who just found out she is going to have a baby. You see a hospital advertisement for maternity care that includes words and phrases like “empowerment,” “personalized birthing plan” and “you decide.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
The advertisements present a menu of appealing services. Most pregnant mothers already want to have a say in the details of delivering their babies, so these advertisements play on that demand.
But what happens when the care provided doesn’t match marketing expectations?
It happened to a friend of mine, Caroline Malatesta, who is now in ongoing litigation with the hospital where she delivered her baby.
She chose the hospital based on their advertised flexibility and customization, discussed her birth plan with her doctor, and arrived at the hospital assuming that the plan would be followed. During the delivery she was told to lie on her back. When she protested that doing so was not part of the plan, the nurse simply told her that her doctor wasn’t on call.
A physical struggle ensued, forcing her to her back. The child was delivered healthy, but instead of a joyful experience, Caroline now suffers permanent injuries.
While she didn’t have a specific birth plan, my wife delivered two of our sons at the same hospital and our experiences were positive.
But that’s the point.
The Decatur Daily – Legislators show their bullying ways
Alabama legislators usually operate with a veneer of civility and expressions of concern for their state, but occasionally some reveal themselves as schoolyard bullies.
So it is with their treatment of the state Board of Education.
The latest of many clashes came last week, when the board declined to confirm appointees for the newly minted Public Charter School Commission. A 4-3 majority preferred not to be a rubber stamp in appointing nominees they had no role in selecting, for a charter-school law into which they had no input.
They tugged on Superman’s cape. It was a courageous move they may come to regret.
The first retaliation came from state Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, with the enthusiastic support of Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. Just back from a trip to D.C. to collect an award from an out-of-state charter school group honoring her for pushing a version of its legislation through the Statehouse, Collins had no patience with the impertinent education board.
“If they don’t want to take advantage of the honor, we’ll go back to the appointee process,” she said, and immediately filed a bill that would entirely exclude them from selecting charter commission members.
It was a sadly amusing legislative slap. In fact, both the board and the department it oversees have been isolated from meaningful input throughout the process of implementing a charter school system.
Taxpayer money to support the charter schools — much of which will enrich private companies that the law authorizes to manage them — comes straight from the state’s public schools. The law gives local-elected school boards nominal control over charter schools, but allows the charters to instead report to the Public Charter School Commission if local boards don’t do what they want.
The state Board of Education likewise has nominal authority over who serves on the charter commission. That authority is a sleight of hand meant for public consumption, however, as the board is limited to nominees selected by the same elected officials who pushed the charter legislation through.
So Collins’ threat to eliminate the board’s authority over the charter commission is merely a threat to make blatant what previously was concealed. The Legislature resents its elected counterparts on the Board of Education, and has never had any intention of including them in the charter school conversation.
Dothan Eagle – Gaming the budget
In the midst of controversy over Alabama’s chronic financial problems, it’s wise to consider what the politicians have to say with a healthy dose of skepticism.
However, it’s mind-boggling that the Ways and Means Committee of the Alabama House would respond to weeks of teeth-gnashing and wailing over the potential harm of a budget shortfall by approving a general fund bill without filling the gaps.
From one perspective, it’s an unconscionable dereliction of duty. There are various options afoot that would go a long way toward increasing the state’s revenue. And there are surely expenditures that could be eliminated long before threatening to decimate public safety or slash programs for special-needs kids.
For instance, who – other than the governor – would miss the state’s airplane? And does the Speaker of the House really need a budget of $750,000 a year to run his office? Surely a reassessment of who gets a state vehicle would allow a reduction of the state’s fleet by, say, 50 percent.
It’s likely that the legislature will gin up some last-minute scheme, a fiscal equivalent of duct tape and baling wire, to see the state through for another 12 months, and expect the people of Alabama to thank them because the doom and gloom that might have been was averted yet again.
On the other hand, ending the session without a proper budget isn’t outside the realm of possibility. The legislature could pass something that the governor vetoes. He’s pledged to bring lawmakers back into special session – at a cost of about $20,000 per day – until he gets a budget he can live with.
With a half-billion-dollar shortfall, it’s outrageous that lawmakers would burn a regular session (about $1.2 million) to be called into special session ($100,000 to $400,000) to get their work done.
One would think it’s just Monopoly money.
The Enterprise Ledger – Clap a little harder for some graduates
I’ve often mentioned that my favorite stories over the years have been World War II veterans recalling some harrowing moments and those that have overcome amazing odds to not only survive, but excel. The latter can be from a variety of situations, whether it be from a should-have-been deadly accident or facing down the devil himself through a meth pipe and in the nick of time kicking the horned fella’s butt from here to Cheyenne.
Among my top three favorites, however, are young kids entering adulthood on the right side of life despite having every chance to become just another statistic on the wrong side. At one newspaper, we used to talk about never wanting to be on Page 3, which was where the weekly sheriff and police reports were listed.
At least those people had another opportunity to redeem themselves. Usually placed in close proximity of the small papers were the obituaries. I would have lunch on a regular basis with some of the locals in one town who would always announce themselves as having a good day since they hadn’t seen their obit in the paper. There was, however, on occasion, one or two that had been listed on Page 3. Needless to say, it made for an uncomfortable lunch.
Each year, I find a couple of graduates, whether it’s high school or college, that make you realize there’s a whole lot of good in a world that seems somewhat more upside down than right side up.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve met a few of those youngsters in a variety of settings.
We see youngsters playing in youth sports leagues who display class and sportsmanship while their parents are the ones acting like complete fools.
Well, it’s even more amazing that some of these kids manage to make it through a day at school, much less manage to stay in long enough to graduate when they are obviously not getting the proper upbringing at home. These kids inspire me and I last flipped my tassle when Jimmy Carter was still our president.
Unfortunately, there are more than just a handful of such kids who were forced to become adults much quicker than perhaps they should. Growing up should be a necessity, but so should enjoying childhood.
Let’s give an ovation to all of the kids managing to receive a diploma, and let’s give an additional applause to those who overcame more odds than your typical teenager faces to succeed.
I remember a great quote I learned as a youngster. It was one that a brother repeated often during his high school days. “If you hoot with the owls at night, you can’t soar with the eagles during the day.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Suess
Local legislative acts are rarely controversial. Members of the local legislative delegation usually discuss it ahead of the session, reach agreement, and move on to other matters.
That didn’t happen this year with the Shoals’ House of Representatives delegation.
Newly elected House member Phillip Pettus, R-Greenhill, wanted to introduce a bill that would remove Florence residents from elections for Lauderdale County superintendent of education. His argument was city voters may unduly influence those elections when few of them have a stake in the county school system.
The two veteran Democratic House members, Marcel Black, of Tuscumbia, and Johnny Mack Morrow, of Red Bay, who now represent portions of Florence and Lauderdale County, disagreed. They argued Florence residents pay a portion of a one-cent sales tax to support county schools and should have a vote in a superintendent’s election.
Lynn Greer, the Republican representative from Rogersville, remained relatively quiet, but he supported the bill. He had proposed similar legislation in a previous session, but it didn’t gain the support of other members of the Shoals delegation, who were all Democrats at the time.
Morrow hosted two public meetings about the proposed change at the Lauderdale County school board office to find out what residents were thinking about the bill. The results were, predictably, mixed. Pettus did not attend either meeting, citing schedule conflicts.
It appears there was little communication between the House members before the Legislature convening in March.
Local acts that don’t have unanimous support from a local delegation seldom come up for a vote. The long-standing tradition is when there is internal division, the Legislature as a whole won’t get involved in the matter.
The Gadsden Times – Legislators’ stubborn stance
There are some immovable objects in Montgomery right now. Whether a General Fund budget deal for 2016 that doesn’t involve massive cuts in services gets done will depend on who shifts first, if at all, and how much.
The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday passed a budget that cuts Medicaid, the prison system and the mental health and human resources departments by 5 percent each, and other state agencies by 9 percent each.
Committee members said they weren’t thrilled with the budget, but saw no alternative after receiving signals from the Senate that the original House package, which called for $150 million in new revenue, mostly from a tobacco tax increase, would be DOA.
Gov. Robert Bentley, who has traveled the state pushing $541 million in new taxes, and warning gathering after gathering about the dire consequences for their particular locales if he doesn’t get it, responded furiously. He called the budget “unworkable” and “irresponsible,” said it delivers the message that its supporters “don’t care about” Alabamians and promised to veto it.
Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said the budget passed by the committee is a work in progress, and talks continue with the Senate on a compromise.
However, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said that compromise won’t include new taxes of any type, that his colleagues simply will not support them. That’s a pretty clear statement of immovability to us.
Meanwhile, representatives of state agencies are echoing Bentley, pointing out the ramifications of massive cuts.
Medicaid officials say they could kill the plan to shift that program to a managed care model, which the state was counting on to get a handle on its growth and cost.
The Huntsville Times – Sorting out Montgomery’s lies, damn lies and political lies
There are three things you can count on in Montgomery: Lies, damn lies and politics.
All at once.
It’s clear – whether you understand or agree with his reasoning or not – that Gov. Robert Bentley‘s sensible slacks are now totally engulfed in flames. It is a five-alarm, liar-liar fire down there. In his pants.
Bentley, of course, ran for re-election on the bold and — as it turns out — bold-faced claim of “More jobs, less government, no new taxes.”
As soon as he was re-elected – days after the vote – he began to talk of how the budget crisis was far worse than anyone (even a governor) could have known. He trotted out a giant $700 million tax package – an audacious effort worth about $200 for every Alabama adult.
The only way it could have been worse for him was if Bentley had campaigned under a “Promises Kept” slogan.
Which — no lie — he did.
If Alabama had a tax on hogwash and hypocrisy, our coffers would be full. And Bentley would pay through the nose.
I’m sure over the past few days and weeks, friends and family have showered you with kudos, congratulations and cards.
Pro tip: Hold on to those cards in skinny envelopes. Those are usually the money holders.
Those well-wishes are well-deserved. I’m sure you overcame personal struggles, conquered what, at times, seemed like insurmountable academic odds and created memories that you’ll dearly cherish.
You won. But it ain’t over.
Because as challenging as those high-level math courses were or as maddening as those unexpected pop quizzes could be, they’re child’s play when it comes to what awaits you outside your school’s campus.
Here are five truths that sometimes go unsaid during graduation ceremonies. They’re harsh, but they’re reality.
Get ready to be disappointed. That dream job you’ve been eyeing since grade school? Well, competitive job markets could make breaking into that industry tougher than you realized. That obscenely expensive sports car you like? They come with obscenely expensive maintenance bills, too.
We were always taught as kids that diplomas were the gateway to the American Dream. Think of them more as keys that open up new worlds, rather than an escalator to fame and fortune. As hard as you worked to gain your diploma, you’ll have to work even harder to reach your career goals — and that road is always filled with unforeseen potholes. But you’re a survivor — your diploma proves that. You can overcome.
The exams are over for now, but you’re still going to get graded. Whether on the job by co-workers and supervisors, or at home with friends and family, you’ll constantly be measured by the expectations of others. Your success always will be compared to someone else’s. No, it’s not fair, and you’ll quickly learn that life isn’t. Here’s the cool part — you set your own rules now. Strive for personal success but don’t be derailed by unfair comparisons. On a related note …
Having mentors is fine, but don’t reside in someone else’s shadow. It’s important to connect with someone who has traveled the same path you hope to tread, but don’t try to mimic their success, nor their mindsets. Learn from them, but don’t become them. No matter how much you respect a person, don’t let them speak for you — not Rev. Al or Rev. Jesse, nor any Twitter celebrity or billion-dollar athlete, and especially not any cable-news blowhard. Find your own voice among theirs and let them lead the way if you must, but don’t be afraid to stray.
You will lose friends. And that’s OK. I know it seems unfathomable that the faces that have been beside you since childhood may disappear but that’s reality. You’re entering the next stage of your life, which often means physically and mentally moving away from your comfort zones as you discover the man or woman you’re meant to be. As this happens, use the opportunity to surround yourself with new faces whose views may challenge your own. It will help you see the world in a different light — either strengthening your core beliefs or perhaps broadening your mind to embrace new ones.
Besides, resting in our comfort zones only make us lazy and unmotivated. Keep moving — it’s the only way to keep pace with this rapidly changing world.
Don’t expect anyone, let alone yourself, to have all of life’s answers. Trust me, we’re all trying to figure this thing out. That’s the beauty of life. It’s constantly evolving.
With an open mind, a willing heart and that diploma in hand, so will you.
Montgomery Advertiser – Sessions wrong about immigration’s impact
Sen. Jeff Sessions wrote a recent op-ed for The Washington Post headlined “America needs to curb immigration flows.” He was not talking about illegal immigration. He was talking about legal immigration.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Immigration subcommittee, our senator’s view is significant. If there are good reasons to curb the flow of immigration to America, though, Sen. Sessions does not provide us with any. As a matter of fact, his main argument against immigration is historically flawed and a non sequitur.
I have voted for Sen. Sessions multiple times and am a supporter of his. But I believe that he is wrong to blame legal immigrants for economic stagnation.
Sen. Sessions tells us that legal immigrants are hurting the American economy, are taking jobs from American workers, and are depressing wages. However, he makes his case using false comparisons.
He says that the restrictions placed on immigration from 1930 until the mid-1960s helped usher in a boom for the American middle class where “real median compensation for U.S. workers surged, increasing more than 90 percent from 1948 to 1973, according to the Economic Policy Institute.” He then goes on to say that after the number of legal immigrants began to rise, wages for the American middle class began to stagnate.
His premise is that the more foreign-born workers we have in America, the more stagnant our economy will be, which will hurt the prospects of American-born workers.
However, something else significant happened in America from 1948 to 1973 that caused the American economy to explode and it had nothing to do with immigration controls. America had just won World War II, and for several decades we were the dominant economic power in the world without compare.
Also, we were experiencing the Baby Boom and cities were being expanded, the Interstate Highway system was linking America, and technological advances were accelerating at an astounding rate. We were experiencing a post-war boom that benefited the entire nation.
Tying our economic expansion during this period to an absence of immigrants is poor history and it is a poor way to make a case. By the early 1970s, the labor market was flooded with a massive generation of Baby Boomers going to work in addition to women entering the workforce en masse. There are just too many other factors going on to draw the conclusions that Sen. Sessions does.
In reality, there is strong evidence that makes the opposite case. Multiple economic studies have refuted Sen. Sessions’ premise point-by-point (Nowrasteh, Cato Institute; McLaren, UVA; Hong, Indiana) and point to a rise in economic growth associated with an increase in immigration. At the very least, we can see that larger foreign-born populations are often an indicator of a healthy economy instead of being a drag on it.
For example, Texas has the 14th lowest unemployment rate in the country at 4.2 percent and a foreign-born population of 16.5 percent, the seventh highest in the U.S. Meanwhile, Alabama is ranked 31st with a 5.7 percent unemployment rate while only 3.4 percent of its population is foreign-born (43rd) and Mississippi is ranked 49th with 6.8 percent unemployment and a meager 2.1 percent of its population is foreign-born (49th).
If Sen. Sessions’ premise were true, then we could expect the economies of Alabama and Mississippi to be better than Texas. But Texas was just ranked the No. 1 state for business development by chiefexecutive.net, while Alabama was ranked 24th and Mississippi was ranked 39th. There are clearly other factors at work.
We are a nation of immigrants. As a Christian, I believe that each immigrant is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), which implies both inherent dignity and remarkable potential. Historically, we have seen immigrants strengthen our great nation, and almost all economists agree that their continued arrival will have a net positive impact on our economy.
America is facing a lot of problems, but the presence of hard-working, skilled, and legal immigrants who contribute to our communities, pay taxes, and join in the American Dream is not one of them.
Alan Cross is pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Montgomery and author of “When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus,” published by NewSouth Books.
Opelika-Auburn News – Opelika ‘Supermarket’ will benefit veterans
On Tuesday, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Bennie Adkins of Opelika was honored at the State House for Military Appreciation Day.
The recent Medal of Honor recipient, in turn, honored the “1 percent” of Americans who have served our nation.
“Keep in mind that small group is protecting this great country,” he said.
There is no better way to support the brave men and women who have served us than by offering resources to help them and their families find jobs, educational support or even mental health services. This Friday, there is a unique opportunity for them to receive such support.
The East Alabama Veterans Coalition, in partnership with the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs and Still Serving Veterans, will host the Veteran Supermarket and Job Fair from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Southern Union State Community College in Opelika. Those three organizations, along with the Southern Union Student Veterans Association, are taking the lead to host this beneficial event.
“The opportunity to work with local organizations focused on veterans issues and their employment in our communities is ideal because the veterans, their families, businesses and communities are benefiting,” said Dr. Joanna Williams Abram, EAVC Veterans Coalition co-chair and Heroes at Home Resources founder.
More than three dozen employers, from large manufacturers and retailers to financial institutions and law enforcement, will take part in the job fair. While it is open to the community, veterans and their families are especially encouraged to participate – and to bring plenty of résumés.
Approximately 15 colleges and universities will be represented. So will 30 to 35 veterans-related agencies, including the state’s mobile career center van and the Veterans Affairs mobile office. Other agencies represented will include the Alabama Department of Labor and Career Centers; VA Medical Center; VA OEF and OIF Outreach; VA Vocational, Rehabilitation and Employment Center; Military TRICARE; Alabama GI Dependents’ Scholarship; United Way; and American Red Cross.
The Tuscaloosa News – PARA’s hiring of Logan was handled poorly
Private companies are free to hire and fire anyone they like, as long as their practices aren’t discriminatory.
Public sector employment should be different. In fact, it is best when filling jobs supported by public tax dollars to avoid not only impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety.
It’s important to follow the law when filling public sector vacancies, but that’s the bare minimum. Those charged with hiring someone paid by tax dollars should go beyond just complying with the law. Their actions should be above reproach.
The Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority might have complied with the law when it hired Northport City Council President Jay Logan. But it’s an act that certainly met little more than the bare minimum standard and raises red flags in even mildly suspicious minds.
Frankly, just hiring Logan into a position at a publicly funded agency, even if the job were publicly posted and exhaustive interviews were conducted, would generate some backlash. Logan is a member of the Northport City Council, which provides some of PARA’s funding. That raises questions about what Logan might have done for PARA in the past and what PARA might hope Logan will do for it in the future.
But Logan didn’t compete for the job because it wasn’t posted. PARA bylaws apparently don’t require that the agency post all jobs. It would be a good idea from now on if PARA did post all jobs.