A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Untruths about Obamacare
“Six million people risk losing their health care subsidies, yet @POTUS continues to deny that Obamacare is bad for the American people.” — a tweet from Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
A single dishonest tweet sent this week by a U.S. senator perfectly illustrates the delicate position Republicans find themselves in regarding the Affordable Care Act. They may not like it, but its benefits are establishing deep roots that over time will be impossible to destroy.
The foundation of Obamacare stretches back 25 years. Back then, it was created by conservative Republicans looking for a counter proposal to more ambitious plans for universal health care by Democrats. In fact, the universal mandate/government-supervised health-insurance marketplace was first attempted by a Republican governor about 10 years ago, Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.
Of course, anything with President Barack Obama’s name attached to it isn’t very popular with Republicans, so fierce opposition to a federal version of Romneycare (aka Obamacare) became a loyalty test for GOP politicians. Once it was passed but before most of the major provisions kicked in, Republicans opposed it on several fronts — judicial, electoral and legislative. This was smart politics by Republicans, who had little to lose during the period before Obamacare’s benefits were widely recognized. If it could have been destroyed back then, the blowback would be less harmful.
It’s a different story now. It survived its largest constitutional challenge. Now, few Americans want to go back to a system where insurers could deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Few Americans want to see the millions of previously uncovered citizens lose health insurance they gained through Obamacare.
Yet, the legal challenges roll on. The Supreme Court will likely rule this month on the most recent one — King vs. Burwell. The plaintiffs claim the law doesn’t allow for the federal government to operate a marketplace for residents of states that opted to not establish one of their own.
If a majority on the court agrees with that argument, 6 million Americans will lose health insurance.
The Birmingham News – Will the SEC choose the next President?
There was a lot of positive news coming out of the state this week — Huntsville and Mobile are each getting strong recognition for their engineering and defense prowess. And Alabama Republicans are poised to have a greater role in choosing their party’s presidential candidate.
If you weren’t aware, NerdWallet (a website for nerds and/or wallets) ranked Huntsville the best place in the country for STEM jobs. Daniel Tait, CEO of the Alabama Center for Sustainable Energy, writes that in order for Huntsville to maintain its leadership in STEM, the city needs to embrace fields beyond aerospace and defense – specifically the renewable energy sector.
Jorge Hernande, founder and President of Bastion Technologies, is concerned about Alabama’s aerospace export business, however. He says that there are some in Congress “trying to scuttle” the Export-Import bank, a small federal agency which helps American manufacturers sell their products overseas by providing loan guarantees and insurance to facilitate exports to foreign customers.” He’s worth listening to because he uses fun words like “scuttle.”
But there’s no denying that Alabama excels in defense spending. Today, people will gather in Mobile to christen the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a Naval ship built by Alabamians. In response, Gabby Giffords has written a “prayer for those who build and serve on the ship that bears my name” and expresses her gratitude to the thousands of hardworking Alabamians that built her.
Darwin Metcalf, President and Chief Operating Officer of Western Supermarkets, is concerned about hardworking Alabamians as well. He writes that Alabama’s small business owners are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card processing fees each year – which he says will drive up the cost of groceries and goods for families. Certainly he’d be willing to pass those savings on to consumers if the government steps in to regulate the market, right?
The Decatur Daily – The maligned EPA helps protect our river
For the third year in a row, beautiful Wheeler Reservoir is under a fish-consumption advisory.
As it did in 2013 and 2014, a fish advisory limiting consumption to one meal of fish per month begins at Decatur Utilities’ Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, next to Ingalls Harbor, and extends seven miles downstream along the south side of the river.
The first advisory began when the Alabama Department of Public Health began testing for PFOS, one of several perfluorinated chemicals once used by several Decatur industries. After the hazards of the chemical became understood, and under pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, most industries switched to less toxic chemicals.
Annual testing of fish tissue since late 2012 has detected high levels of PFOS in largemouth bass caught in the seven-mile stretch of the reservoir, leading to the recommended limits on consumption.
Use of the chemical began in the 1950s, before the EPA existed. Even upon its creation, the EPA was limited in its ability to regulate chemicals already used in industry. It was not until 2002, after the EPA persuaded domestic manufacturers to discontinue use of PFOS, the agency was able to treat it as a new chemical. That classification was important, because it meant industries now would have to provide the EPA with advance notice before manufacturing or importing PFOS.
Unfortunately, producing PFOS is far easier than getting rid of it. Filtering it from water is enormously expensive, and even when successful the problem remains what to do with the filtered sediment.
Dothan Eagle – AAA begs for review
The idea was dubious at the start. Alabama lawmakers set out to pass legislation that would make available tax incentives to parents whose children were in “failing” public schools should they choose to move their children to private schools or non-failing public schools. The Alabama Accountability Act, which was rushed through the legislature last year and signed into law, also provides dollar-for-dollar tax credits to donors contributing to organizations that grant the scholarships.
The whole initiative begs a question – Why not address deficiencies in these “failing” schools instead of providing funds for some youngsters to go to private school?
The findings of a recent report underscore that question and raise even more.
Since its inception, the scholarship initiative has awarded only a fraction of the funds available for the scholarships. Of those that have been awarded, fewer than 30 percent of the scholarships have gone to youngsters who were zoned for “failing” public schools. It’s difficult to determine how many of those were actually attending the schools in question.
Regardless, the state legislature, in one of the few pieces of legislation it passed in its regular session, raised the limit on contributions to the scholarship funds from $25 million to $30 million, even though much of the existing contributions remain unused.
Considering that the controversial AAA is clearly not being applied as the public was led to believe, coupled with the enduring notion that it suggests a sort of abandonment of public education by lawmakers, it’s time to reconsider this measure, its impact and its intent. There are better ways to improve education for Alabama’s public school students.
The Enterprise Ledger – Insights on the Class of ‘65
The plan had been to fill this space today with news from the Enterprise High School class of 1965’s monumental 50th reunion last night at Enterprise Country Club, as seen through the eyes of a member of the 1968 EHS class, your scribe.
But the award-winning editor/columnist whose words and picture are atop this page either can’t stay up late enough to edit these words and get them slapped on the page before The Ledger hit your front yard earlier today, or he’s too busy playing with his new dog, Lucy, he wrote about last Sunday.
So, instead of an eyewitness reunion account, let’s spend a few minutes remembering a few members of the ’65 class whose impact continues on the lone member of the House of Adams.
At least 13 of the 185 or so seniors pictured in the 1965 Encoala are deceased, and of that number, four were EHS juniors in the EHS Wildcat Marching band when 15 of us three years younger than them joined the band.
Cheryl Green, Susan Miller, David Mitchell and Susan Harrison made your then-saxophone-playing scribe feel welcome when summer band practice began in 1963.
That year, any high school junior or senior band member who bothered to learn the name of this lowly eighth-grader was a special person and a friend for life.
Susan Harrison took it upon herself to make sure R. Adams didn’t suffer all the consequences having a big mouth warranted, and she spent time away from band practice creating laughter wherever we were.
TimesDaily – Hubbard waste money on last day
The Alabama House of Representatives completed its 30-day legislative session last Thursday, even though the session ended the previous week when the Senate adjourned on the 29th day with a General Fund budget that was vetoed by Gov. Robert Bentley.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, to show the constituency that the House would do its job, called lawmakers back to Montgomery for a day of … well, nothing.
With the Senate adjourned, anything House members might have done would have been an exercise in futility, and a costly exercise, at that.
The House members are allowed to claim mileage reimbursement for their one-day session, though they could not claim per diem for an overnight stay. So, even House members who live too far from Montgomery to drive home at the end of the day had to spend money.
In a statement Hubbard, R-Auburn, said voters expect lawmakers to work a full 30 days. Maybe they do, but the 30th day of this session was mooted by the Senate. Even if the House managed to pass meaningful legislation in a single day, it would have been for naught.
So, what did Hubbard think would be accomplished with a 30th-day session? That revenue would have been created to fill the multi-million dollar gap in the General Fund? That a referendum allowing a vote on a lottery or casino gambling would have been passed?
No, none of those.
The inescapable conclusion is Hubbard was engaging in some old-fashioned political grandstanding. With the General Fund budget vetoed and the Senate out of session, the speaker apparently wanted to buff his image while he’s being investigated for felony ethics violations.
The Gadsden Times – Worst place to live?
An item popped up on social media this week that listed the top 10 worst places to live in Alabama. No. 1 on the list was Gadsden. This being a family newspaper and all, we’ll refrain from using the one-word response that popped immediately to mind and go with another. As the kids say: Really?
A website called Homesnacks run by two guys in North Carolina put together the list. They do lots of lists, many of them about places: best, worst, luckiest, most dangerous. You get the idea.
We won’t dignify the list by doing a counterpoint for each argument, but offer the following as an example. The authors of the “Worst Places in Alabama” list say they use Bureau of Labor statistics (and other sources) and then show Gadsden’s unemployment rate as being 8.3 percent. The BLS website shows Gadsden’s unemployment rate has not been that high since February 2014. The last time it was officially 8.3 percent was November 2011. You can look it up at bls.gov. There’s no date on the list, so it’s possible the unemployment figure was accurate at the time the list was compiled, but we doubt it. The authors obviously didn’t do a lot of research, despite their claims.
The authors claim to use science in determining their rankings, but you can’t take opinion out of things like this. What one person (or two guys, as is the case in this list) sees as a negative, another sees as a positive. Yes, Gadsden’s median income is relatively low. So, too, is our cost of living.
As you might expect, the list generated quite a few responses — that’s what it was designed to do, by the way, along with drive traffic to the website — and they were fervent. Supporters rose to Gadsden’s defense, pointing out the good things about living here. Detractors piled on, telling their tales of woe. That’s the nature of Internet comments, especially when they concern something so subjective as ranking the worst or best or luckiest place to live. We always read those things, but we keep our salt shaker nearby.
The Huntsville Times – Did proposed UA president Stuart Bell have role in LSU financial woes?
University of Alabama Chancellor Robert Witt has nominated an LSU administrator, Stuart Bell, to be UA’s next president. But AL.com’s John Hammontree has 5 questions for Bell, including what role he may have had in LSU’s current financial woes.
On Monday, officials from Sierra Nevada Corp. and the City of Huntsville will make an announcement regarding Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space plane and Huntsville International Airport.
AL.com’s Shelly Haskins speculates the announcement may be that the Dream Chaser, which is designed to land at regular airports, might one day land in Huntsville.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned from Congress in 2012 after surviving an assassination attempt, writes a touching tribute to the sailors who will serve on the littoral combat ship, U.S.S. Gabrielle Giffords, which is to be christened in Mobile.
Press-Register – The epitome of an Auburn man
Gordon Stone has a rule he never breaks no matter how lopsided the score is at Jordan-Hare Stadium or any other stadium where his Auburn Tigers are playing.
“I never leave a game early. Never!” said Stone, who was a walk-on and mostly played special teams at Auburn during Coach Pat Dye’s first pivotal years at the school in the early 1980’s.
Stone’s refusal to leave any game early no matter how out of hand it might be goes back to his days as a walk on.
“I was one of those guys never good enough to start but who gave all I had in practice I suppose,” said Stone, 51. ”
Those guys on the scout team might never get in a game but they help make the guys who do start a little better, a little tougher, a little more ready to play come Saturday. And, sometimes those guys only get a chance to play toward the end of the game, when it’s all but over. I never leave early because I want to show those guys the same respect I show to the guys who start and play. They deserve that respect.”
Stone today is the mayor of the booming Montgomery suburb of Town of Pike Road and executive director of the Alabama Higher Education Partnership, a non-profit organization formed in 1997 to represent the interest of Alabama colleges and universities, especially in the legislative process
Both are political jobs and Stone got his start in politics at Auburn when he was elected president of the student government association for the AU College of Agriculture.
“It wasn’t the SGA presidency for the entire school so it wasn’t like that but within the college of Ag. I was honored and pretty lucky to get it,” said Stone.
Montgomery Advertiser – It’s time Alabama moved away from its Confederate past
It is one thing to understand and acknowledge history, but quite another to be mired in it, to turn a respect for history into a perpetually backward-looking mindset that impedes progress on many levels. The latter concerns lead us to support the effort to change the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, that landmark of the civil rights movement named for a Confederate general and Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
This is not a position we adopt lightly, for we do understand the historic significance of the bridge and appreciate the rich irony of one of the world’s best known civil rights symbols bearing the name of a Klansman and Confederate. But the fact is Appomattox was 150 years ago, and Alabamians must question our state’s continued clinging to its Confederate and racist histories, particularly their commemorations on pieces of public infrastructure and in official observances.
A century and a half after Appomattox, Alabama still has three Confederate-related state holidays. To a great extent, we continue to indulge in a magnolia-scented fantasy of the good old plantation days and the glories of the Lost Cause.
Alabama was not the only state in the Confederacy, but in 2015 it sometimes feels that way. None of the others, not even tradition-steeped Virginia, has so stubbornly and unhealthily held on to the past.
It is time – indeed, long past time – to move on. That does not mean ignoring the past, but it does mean not allowing the past to hang so heavily over our present and our future. It does not mean wholesale denigration of all figures from those long-gone times, but it does mean acknowledging that major public facilities should not be named for Klansmen.
Removing Pettus’ name from the bridge would be an important step in moving forward. There are official obstacles to overcome. The state Senate passed a resolution to that effect, but the House never took it up. The state Department of Transportation has responsibility for the bridge and so would be involved in any name change. And the bridge is a National Historic Landmark, which could complicate a name change.
Opelika-Auburn News – Going green in Opelika
Ten months ago on this page, we encouraged the city of Opelika to “think green” and consider ways to expand recycling. We published this editorial after the city announced plans to scale back recycling services.
“Good recycling programs are hallmarks of a vibrant and a forward-thinking city,” we opined. “Many Opelika residents would like to see Opelika continue offering and even expanding recycling programs. (Auburn and many other cities even offer curbside recycling.)…”
Fortunately for residents, the city has announced an improved recycling program. We recently learned of the city’s plans to expand recycling – to the delight of many people.
New services planned by the end of this year include single-stream recycling and – yes — curbside collection.
“It is something we’ve been working on for quite a while,” Terry White, the city’s solid waste director, told us.
White explained that single-stream recycling makes it much easier to recycle because residents will no longer be required to separate materials before recycling. One single-stream site has already been placed at the Fire-EMS/Hazmat Office on 8th Avenue. White said items will be taken to a modern single-stream recycling facility in Columbus, Ga.
Curbside recycling should begin by this fall. The city is partnering with Keep Opelika Beautiful to offer curbside collection of single-stream recycling with 95-gallon carts. KOB has agreed to purchase 500 carts to help kick off the effort.
The Tuscaloosa News – University should have been more accommodating
Tuscaloosa is home to champions. The University of Alabama football team claims 15 national championships, depending on who is counting, and women’s gymnastics has six NCAA championships. In recent years, the women’s and men’s golf teams have claimed championships as has the softball team.
It’s a shame that the University of Alabama couldn’t make room for one more champion from Tuscaloosa.
World Boxing Council Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder wanted to hold Alabama’s first boxing world title bout of any classification — a heavyweight title fight at that — right here in Tuscaloosa and UA said, “No.” More specifically, according to Jay Deas, who manages Wilder, UA didn’t say anything.
“We wanted to do the fight initially in Tuscaloosa and Coleman Coliseum was the place to do it,” Deas said. “The city of Tuscaloosa expressed a lot of interest in it and so they reached out to the university and for whatever reason, it died right there.”
The university claims scheduling conflicts are the reason it decided to reject the fight. However, it does not appear that there were insurmountable obstacles preventing it had there been genuine interest on the university’s part. If there were other reasons, such as boxing’s reputation as a sport, the university remained silent about them.
Wilder, of course, has plenty of options. The University of Alabama at Birmingham was more than happy to host the fight at its basketball venue, Bartow Arena. Wilder’s management team said officials from the city of Birmingham and UAB jumped at the chance and quickly worked out an agreement.
We commend them for their flexibility and willingness to work out any problems that might have prevented the bout. At least Wilder can make his first title defense in his home state, if not his hometown.