A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers

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A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:

The Anniston StarIn some Alabama counties, you only get one day a month

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s repair of the damage done to the state driver’s license offices begins next week. It’s not much of a fix, by the way.

For a moment, set aside the justified criticism that ALEA’s closing of 31 locations in mostly rural and low-income areas creates ripe soil for voter-ID concerns. Instead, consider the day-to-day details of the ALEA’s plan.

Thirty counties will soon see their driver’s license offices reopen. Most will open one day a month. (Two offices, in Alexander City and Brewton, will be open more frequently.) Better check the schedule. Miss your day and you either have to wait a month, drive to an open office further from your home, or drive without a valid license.

The office schedules listed Friday on the ALEA website show none of the closed offices will be open on Mondays. Six locations, including Centre’s, will be open next Tuesday — the first Tuesday of the month. That’s the only November day available at that Cherokee County location to re-up a license. If Alabamians there can’t get off work, or if they’re sick, or if something comes up, well, too bad. Gotta wait until the first Tuesday in December, or drive to another county, provided its office is open when you go.

The Birmingham News – In 2016 presidential race, low-information voters and the politics of perception

My wife is a remarkably talented political observer in spite of the fact she’s not actually that interested in the minutia of public policy. 

Most of our political conversations occur as we’re getting ready for bed. This week, I asked who she liked most of all the candidates.

“I like Carly Fiorina,” she said. 

“Why?” I responded. 

“She looks and acts presidential. She has calm, thoughtful answers, and she’s not into trading insults.”  

“Does it matter that she’s a woman?” I asked.

“No, that probably makes it harder for her. She’s going to have men second-guessing her all the time. But she seems to take it in stride,” said my wife.

“I really liked when Donald Trump attacked her, and she turned it into an opportunity.”

We didn’t get to policy. We didn’t dive into the specific details of recent debates either.

To be clear, she’s more than capable of understanding nuanced policy issues; they’re simply secondary to the traits she’s looking to see in America’s President.

The Decatur Daily – The Gadsden Times on payday loans

The numbers are astonishing. In the first 10 weeks, payday lenders had to record their transactions on a statewide database, Alabamians took out 462,209 payday loans.

Based on those numbers, Alabamians are on course to take out just over 2.4 million payday loans on an annual basis.

An industry representative tried to defend payday loans, saying there’s little alternative for the 300,000 or so people who use the service in Alabama.

Max Wood, who owns Check Spot stores in a couple of cities, said the database, which is designed to keep people from amassing more than $500 in payday loans at one time, caused many Alabama payday lenders to shut down already.

Wood said more than 200 licensed payday lenders have gone out of business in the last year alone.

He said other states that enacted databases have seen the number of lenders shrink by 50 percent.

While it’s obvious Wood thinks the closures are a bad thing, others disagree. Shay Farley, legal director for Alabama Appleseed, said the state is “above the curve” in payday loan use.

Her organization lobbied for stricter regulation of the industry, saying the loans create a debt trap when borrowers have to roll over the loans because they can’t repay the original amount borrowed. Payday lenders charge up to $17.50 per $100 for 10- to 14-day loans.

A borrowing limit was in place before the database was authorized, but lenders could simply say they didn’t know borrowers had more than $500 in loans and there was no way to check.

Dothan Eagle – Ebb and flow

Many residents give little thought to the workings of municipal government unless something goes wrong or there’s some talk of a tax increase. They may find the minutiae of day-to-day governance boring. For the most part, they’re right.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. A great deal of work goes into arcane procedures and ordinances meant to help keep the electricity on, the water flowing and the wastewater systems in operation.

That may seem like something of little concern to residents. But when there’s a problem – faucets run dry, lights and air-conditioning don’t work or sewer systems back up – those things we take for granted become tremendous inconveniences.

Residents with a little time on their hands today at 10 a.m. should consider attending an informational meeting in the Board Room on the second floor of the Dothan Civic Center. Members of the Dothan Planning and Development department will present a proposed ordinance on the management of fats, oils and grease to the Dothan City Commission. The proposed ordinance was developed in response to the EPA’s Administrative Order on Consent with the City of Dothan concerning its sewer system, and should help to control the introduction of fats, oils and grease into the wastewater collection system.

Fats, oil and grease, or FOG in environmental parlance, can wreak havoc on a wastewater system, and most cities, particularly those with large populations, have gone to great length to minimize the amount of these substances that go down the drain.

The Enterprise Ledger – It’s time to change course of this ship

ESPN’s popularity took a nosedive when it honored Caitlyn (or is it Bruce?) Jenner with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, but apparently Glamour Magazine’s executives don’t care about public relations either as it has now named the guy (or is he a gal?) as its Woman of the Year.

Several public schools have made threats against those bringing Christianity into their systems. First, there is the assistant high school football coach in Washington State who has been warned if he kneels to pray again on the field after a game there will be consequences, possibly even termination. Never mind that his players as well as members of the opposing team join the coach to pray.

A high school player was told if he pointed upward as he does to honor God after he scores he could be dismissed from the team.

Teachers all over the country, OUR country, are forcing some students to learn parts of the Quran while practicing anything to do with Christianity is forbidden on many school grounds. Massachusetts students were even taught an Islamic creed.

What is going on here?

TimesDaily – The Montgomery Advertiser on poverty in the state

Poverty is not a crime. Too often in Alabama, however, the poor are thrown in jail or financially exploited for not being able to pay small fines for minor violations such as traffic tickets.

The shameful practice rightly has been called the modern-day equivalent of debtor’s prison and is clearly illegal. In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled cities can’t jail people simply because they are unable to pay fines, but the dictate has been broadly ignored.

The abuse mostly occurs when cash-strapped municipal courts farm out probation oversight duties to private companies that can tack on exorbitant fees for their services. Judicial Correction Services, the private probation company used by many Alabama cities, has charged as much as $40 in monthly fees to keep as profit, even if probationers can’t afford to pay their regular monthly payment.

The net result of the racket is spiraling debt, jobs lost, families needlessly separated by jail sentences and already hardscrabble lives ruined, all to make profit off the impoverished.

Case in point, Harriet Cleveland, 50, a Montgomery resident who was babysitting her grandchild in 2013 when she was arrested and sentenced to 31 days in jail because she couldn’t pay fines for old tickets or the additional fees piled on by JCS. That case spotlighted efforts by two nonprofit groups — the Southern Poverty Law Center and Equal Justice Under Law — to end the extortionary practice through lawsuits and awareness campaigns.

The Gadsden Times – Apples, sweet potatoes make treats to fall for

I always look forward to fall and to two of my favorite foods, homegrown apples and sweet potatoes.

Sometimes I will combine these two foods for an interesting flavor in my breads, muffins and desserts. This week, I have been experimenting with a new “dump” creation.

Have you noticed how this word, “dump,” seems to have worked its way into the culinary vocabulary? I can’t help wondering if all those years of study were in vain if all I had to do was “dump” some ingredients together. I must admit some of these new creations are really quite tasty, especially those made in the slow cooker.

I started to make a “dump” cake, but the finished product looked and tasted a lot like a cobbler, so maybe I made my first “dump cobbler.” Of course, this is much better if it is made with homemade apple butter, but you can use the commercial type. Almost every fall, someone wants my recipe for apple butter made in the slow cooker.

The Huntsville Times – ‘Reagan-esque’ Marco Rubio mercy kills Jeb Bush campaign

We have seen the future of the GOP and Jeb Bush ain’t it. 

Jeb got his head handed to him by Marco Rubio in the third GOP debate. Bush, the heavily-funded establishment choice for president, is still stumbling around, trying to figure out what happened.

Rubio did it honestly, efficiently and respectfully. It was like a mercy killing. Dare I say it? The boy was in touch with his inner Reagan.

Rubio even finished with a nod to Reagan’s 11th commandment: Speak no evil against another Republican. Rubio says he’s not running against the other candidates, he’s running for president. Like a golfer just playing against the course. 

Rubio took down his mentor like a sick old dog that needed to be put out of its misery.

Rubio is a young ‘un. But he’s got skills, energy and passion. And he took down his mentor, Jeb, like a sick old dog that needed to be put out of its misery.

Truth is, with the exception of awkward Jeb, I was impressed with the collective field of GOP candidates Wednesday night. Every one had at least a moment in which they shined or struck a chord. 

Maybe I’ve been playing too many GOP debate drinking games, but even Donald Trump looked more …  presidential? Scary.

It is Halloween.

Press-Register –Driver’s license office closures were not about race but still give state a black eye

Politicians, news media and activists continue to slam Alabama over the suspension of all new driver’s license services in 27 Alabama counties, alleging voter suppression and the resurrection of Jim Crow. The closures do represent a black eye for the state, but for economic reasons, not racial ones.

Not about race

It’s understandable that people would presume that the closures are about suppressing the black vote given the reasonable link to the misguided voter ID law. The charge just doesn’t hold water, however.

As we have heard, all the counties where African-Americans represent 75% or more of the registered voters lost their only office for issuing new driver’s licenses. But we’re talking only five – Bullock, Greene, Lowndes, Macon and Sumter – of Alabama’s 67 counties that represent just over 5% of the state’s registered African-American voters. In fact, 19 of the 27 counties are majority white, most by large margins. As a group, the 27 counties voted 57% for Mitt Romney in 2012.

A voter suppression campaign wouldn’t bother with small counties where the racial split is nowhere near parity, but that describes these 27 counties precisely. Eighteen of the counties are among the 19 smallest counties in the state; the largest is No. 31 Tallapoosa. Three of the five counties that are at least 75% black voter registration are among the four smallest counties in total population; a fourth is No. 60 out of 67. And these are not racially diverse counties. In all but four of the 27 counties the dominant race represents at least 60% of all registered voters.

Montgomery Advertiser – Hubbard disgraces House, should resign as speaker

Amid all the sniping about who said what and in what overheated language among prosecutors in the attorney general’s office, it is easy to become distracted from the real issue at the heart of this week’s proceedings in Lee County – the conduct of House Speaker Mike Hubbard. The lawyerly sparring makes lively reading, but no one should forget what it’s ultimately all about.

Despite all the back-and-forth about alleged prosecutorial misconduct and inflated rhetoric about going after Hubbard in a political vendetta, one central fact remains: The speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives stands accused of serious wrongdoing, with the accusation coming not from political foes, but in the form of 23 indictments handed down by a grand jury, a group of citizens with no allegiances to any of the parties on either side of the case.

Those Alabamians heard evidence against Hubbard and determined that the evidence was sufficient to warrant his being tried. An indictment is not proof of guilt, and while it is important to bear that in mind, it does not discount the significance of an indictment. As does any defendant in a criminal case, Hubbard enjoys the presumption of innocence; it is the prosecution’s obligation to prove guilt to the satisfaction of a jury.

Regardless of the eventual legal outcome of this case, Hubbard has already suffered an irreversible defeat in the court of public perception. His hypocrisy in decrying the very ethics laws he championed in the Legislature and ceaselessly touted as evidence of Republican-led reform is appalling. What he once hailed as a shining light to defend the public interest suddenly became – when applied to him – impermissibly vague and unconstitutional.

Hubbard has shown himself willing to make any argument that might help him beat the charges, no matter how much it might otherwise discredit him. He has argued that the ethics law shouldn’t apply to the chair of a political party, which he used to be, even though the Legislature expanded the law to cover party chairs 20 years ago – without challenge at the time or since.

Opelika-Auburn News –Helping Hudsons helps the community

Tim Hudson has retired from baseball, but the former pitcher for the Auburn Tigers, Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants hasn’t retired from doing good things. The Hudson Family Foundation, which he started in 2009 with his wife, Kim, continues giving back to the community every year through its annual all-star concert and Super Bowl gala.

Last year’s Hudson Family Foundation Benefit Weekend raised nearly $350,000 through a concert with headliners The Band Perry and Cole Swindell, followed by a gathering of sponsors at the Auburn Arena to view the Super Bowl while an online auction sold a variety of merchandise.

Throughout the year, the foundation uses the proceeds to provide assistance to children and families via various programs and events.

Its mission is to make “a positive and long lasting impact in the lives of children who have a genuine need for assistance with regard to a specific physical, emotional or financial circumstance,” according to its website.

Plans are well under way for the 2016 event, and area nonprofits can raise funds for their own causes while supporting the Hudson event.

The foundation’s benefit weekend will be Feb. 6 and 7, 2016. The concert on Feb. 6 will feature performances from Justin Moore, Montgomery Gentry, Frankie Ballard and two opening acts, and the Super Bowl gala will follow on Feb. 7.

Right now the organization is inviting other area nonprofits to join Huddy’s Huddle, selling tickets for the concert and keeping part of the proceeds from each ticket sold.

“Each participating organization will be given the opportunity to sell 100 tickets to the concert at $40 each,” the Hudsons said in a release from the foundation. “These groups will keep 50% of each ticket sold. This will allow each individual organization to raise $2,000.”

The Tuscaloosa News –Obama must face reality in Afghanistan

It would seem self-evident but apparently not to President Barack Obama. It’s a bad idea to tell your enemies when you plan to pack up and go.

You would think that Obama might have learned this already. It’s pretty simple, announcing a departure date gives your enemies an opportunity to make their battle plans accordingly. But in announcing that U.S. Troop strength in Afghanistan would remain at 9,800 for now, he also announced plans to reduce the force to 5,500 late in 2016 or early in 2017.

Obama can’t resist the urge to set deadlines because he made campaign promises to get the United State out of wars that former President George W. Bush got us into. The problem is that Bush committed troops to Afghanistan — and to Iraq as well — for a reason, not just for funzies. The United States was attacked by terrorists, and Afghanistan’s Taliban harbored their leadership and training facilities.

Back in the heady days of 2008, Democrats liked to talk about the good war on terror and the bad war on terror. Iraq was the bad war cooked up by the Bush neo-cons as part of a grand strategy of regime change and nation building.

The good war, the war that we ought to have made our priority all along, was Afghanistan. Had the Bush administration merely concentrated on it as it should have, the narrative went, the war on terror would have been won, and we’d have our troops home by now.

It was a great narrative for Democrats, allowing them to oppose the war in Iraq but still sound a bit hawkish. The good war got the attention they said it deserved when Obama pulled out of Iraq right on schedule.

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