A roundup 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 StarA Saturday night affair for Democrats

Saturday night, in the lyrics of Elton John, is “alright (sic) for fighting.” But is it a good time for a presidential debate?

Hillary Clinton’s top Democratic adversaries, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, don’t think so. Their camps are none too pleased that the Democratic National Committee has scheduled the party’s third presidential debate for Saturday night on ABC — opposite a nationally televised NFL game and on the final shopping weekend before the Christmas holiday.

“I guess Christmas Eve was booked,” Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders, told The New York Times.

Sanders and O’Malley aren’t worried about television ratings per se; it’s that they need every opportunity to show Democratic voters that they can compete for the nomination. Front-runners don’t need the air time. As challengers, Sanders and O’Malley can’t waste any chance to take Clinton to task on such a coast-to-coast stage.

But ratings are part of the equation, and thus far the Republican Party debates have become must-see television, even for Americans who are apathetic about politics. They’re Washington’s version of reality TV: a bombastic, unfiltered businessman; a candidate with a legacy last name; a bright up-and-comer; a smart Texas senator; a brash New Jersey politico; and the field’s only female, a former CEO who has seemingly lost the ability to smile. Put them in a room. Turn on the cameras. And watch the sparks fly.

Tuesday night’s GOP debate drew more than 18 million viewers for CNN, making it the third most-watched political debate in U.S. history. The top two: the first two Republican debates this fall, which each drew more than 23 million viewers.

The Birmingham News – Alabama hired Obamacare website developer to ‘fix’ accounting system

Ken Rollins, the vice president of the Alabama Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, has good instincts.

This week he told AL.com reporter Mike Cason that the state’s transition to a new accounting system seemed a lot like the Obamacare rollout of Healthcare.gov.

Like a lot of organizations, Rollins’ group has a specialty car tag, and when the state sells one of those specialty tags, Rollins’ group gets $3.

Or that’s what typically happens.

Since September, they’ve gotten nothing. The Alabama Finance Department is in the middle of updating its accounting software, and the upgrade has been anything but smooth.

Throughout the state, government vendors and contractors have been paid late, if at all.

Tom Layfield, director of the Alabama Road Builders Association, told the Montgomery Advertiser this week that the late payments have been hurting some of their members.

“One of my members said, ‘I’ve begged, borrowed and stolen everything I can. I really have to get paid now,'” Layfield told the Advertiser.

The finance department has brought on extra staff to try to unstick the backlog of accounts payable.

But that’s work the IT contractor should be doing.

The Decatur Daily – Morgan sheriff should consider using 911 Center

An embarrassing dispute between the acting Morgan County attorney and the head of the Morgan County 911 Center may have pointed to an explanation for what appears to be an inefficient decision on emergency dispatching.

At the Morgan County Commission meeting Wednesday, commissioners approved Sheriff Ana Franklin’s $400,000 purchase of radios and other equipment for use by the Sheriff’s Office’s in-house dispatchers.

The Morgan 911 Center would have supplied the Sheriff’s Office with radios if it switched to using the center. Morgan County 911 already handles emergency calls for every agency in the county except for the Sheriff’s Office and Somerville police, which dispatches through the Sheriff’s Office.

The expense of the radios is not the main issue. Emergency 911 calls to the sheriff must first go to Morgan County 911, which must obtain much of the necessary information before handing it off to the sheriff’s dispatchers. Ryan Welty, director of Morgan County 911, said this duplication adds up to 90 seconds to deputy response time.

Moreover, Morgan County 911 has the ability to efficiently pull in other agencies and ambulances to assist deputies if an evolving situation warrants it. Centralized dispatching also creates economies of scale, allowing Morgan County 911 to have the most advanced dispatching equipment and the most qualified dispatchers.

Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said Wednesday the commission can’t force Franklin to use Morgan County 911 dispatchers. While the commission can’t make Franklin use the 911 Center, it does have power to attempt to make her change her mind. The commission has the power of the purse string, as demonstrated by the commission’s approval of the $400,000 radio purchase. 

Dothan Eagle – Back to the drawing board on fees for serving documents

The creation of a framework of government is a work in progress. Laws are passed, amended, rescinded, or rewritten as time goes by, and it’s not unusual to find, once a new law is in effect, that it causes unforeseen consequences.

Such is the case with a measure passed in the state Legislature earlier this year to allow the Houston County Sheriff’s Office to collect fees for serving civil papers.

The measure should have been put in place long ago. There’s an avalanche of paperwork produced by the local court system, and the task of serving those documents falls to the sheriff’s office. Getting the job done requires personnel and vehicles, and all the related expenses from salary and benefits to tires, maintenance and fuel. An established system of fees for document service would go a long way toward offsetting those costs.

However, the wording of the legislation passed in the spring doesn’t specifically include juvenile court and family court, and makes no provision for documents from outside the local judicial district. So it’s back to the drawing board, with Sheriff Donald Valenza and county officials huddling to redraft legislation and clear the necessary hurdles to get the measure in front of the local legislative delegation prior to the next regular session in a few weeks.

The easiest strategy is living with the law as it is, but by doing so, the sheriff’s office is leaving money on the table. Instead, local officials plan to return to Montgomery with a revised bill that, if passed, would alleviate a financial burden now on the backs of taxpayers and shift it to court participants who benefit from the county’s serving of legal documents.

The Enterprise Ledger – This Christmas, you can’t go wrong with anything bacon

I once went to one of those Dirty Santa parties, grabbed an old 8-track of KC & The Sunshine Band and threw it in a Christmas bag. Turns out, the guy that won it was thrilled to death. He drove an old box truck at work with an 8-track player and actually admitted that he missed the disco era. I think I gave away Guess Who and Steppenwolf CD’s the next year. Merry Christmas. That winner was not as enthusiastic.

I never know what to get anyone for Christmas. I once bought a beautiful wine rack for a girl I later discovered did not drink. Don’t know what became of the wine rack… or the girl.

The dog is usually happy if I just bring home a tasty bone. But then again, the dog is just as happy if I toss a cracker her way. Therefore, wrapping it up just means more mess to clean.

I wish it was as easy with people. I looked up this year’s popular and out-of-the-ordinary gifts. Did you know you can buy slippers with USB ports? If you plug them into a computer, the slippers automatically warm up. I’m thinking something terribly wrong is going to happen and these items will be pulled from the shelves by mid-January.

There’s the ugly Christmas sweater fad going on, but thanks to not bringing home enough bones for the dog, I have plenty of ugly regular shirts – and pants – sitting around the house. When having holes in dress shirts and pants comes into style, I am set.

TimesDaily – Anger of candidates is distracting from GOP ideas

The anger that has been part of each of this year’s GOP presidential debates rose to a new pitch Tuesday. Some of the candidates really may have been that angry; others were giving viewers a show. Either way, it was a spectacle that brought to mind a poet’s words: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

They were angry at each other, at President Barack Obama, at Hillary Clinton, at Russia and China, at immigrants.

“Like all of you, I’m angry,” were the first words spoken by Carly Fiorina, and her fellow candidates spent the rest of the debate demonstrating it.

Hardcore Democrats loved it, of course. Not only did the candidates’ anger overwhelm their ideas, it raised questions about their ability to hold a position in which a lack of restraint can lead to disaster.

For those whose partisanship takes a backseat to patriotism, however, the debate was disturbing.

U.S. history, both in success and failure, makes clear a single ideological template is inadequate. We need ideas from the left and right. We need the ability to calmly debate those ideas, without anger blinding us.

Is debate without rancor possible? Absolutely. Thirty-five years ago, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush managed it, and their statesmanship allowed them to propose ideas that varied from the preconceived views of their base. They did not live in a political world where the ultimate fear was that the other candidate could accuse them of agreeing with a Democrat.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, also is modeling this saner version of politics. He is one of the most conservative members of a strikingly conservative House, but he spurns the “identity politics” he sees increasingly defining the presidential race.

“If we try to play our own version of identity politics and try to fuel ourselves based on darker emotions, that’s not productive,” Ryan said last week.

Also from Ryan: “If we want to save the country, then we need a mandate from the people. And if we want a mandate, then we need to offer ideas. And if we want to offer ideas, then we need to actually have ideas.”

Ideas have taken a backseat in the GOP presidential race.

The Gadsden Times – City seeking riverfront answers

There has been talk for years about economic development along the Coosa River. The aquatic analogy is too obvious — pardon us — but various ideas and proposals have been floated and promptly sank before moving beyond that stage.

So this week’s announcement that Cyprus Partners will be evaluating the development potential of riverfront property owned by the city of Gadsden probably was greeted with yawns by younger folks, as the refrain of Harry James’ “I’ve Heard That Song Before” coursed through the heads of old-timers (and big band fans).

We’re going to again take the “glass-half-full” approach and see if this might be the trigger to the city finally taking full advantage of (with apologies to Noccalula Falls) its greatest natural asset.

Mayor Sherman Guyton and the City Council, in an executive session, approved the agreement with Cyprus Partners, a firm that Guyton said has “a really good track record” in development projects.

Cyprus Partners will spend six months looking at the potential for a mixed-use development — analyzing new public facilities (the city is developing some of its eastern riverfront property as a park) and possible private investment. It also will look not just at the viability of riverfront development, but of economic, retail, dining and housing development in the Gadsden market.

If sufficient interest is seen from the public and private sectors, there will be another six-month due diligence period in which detailed drawings of a potential development will be prepared.

Then, if it looks like the project is going to come together — if the numbers are feasible — the city and Cyprus Partners would sign a deal to move forward with the project.

The Huntsville Times – Welcoming foreigners to Alabama is good for everyone

Should we shut foreigners out of the U.S. and shun them in our neighborhoods?

Overseas visitors to Alabama spent an estimated $159 million in total direct spending which increased 8% in 2014, with visitor spending over $11million more than in 2013 while travelling in Alabama. While the number of overseas visitors was up 7% in one year, the leisure segment of international travel to Alabama was up 28%.

Global Ties Alabama (formerly the International Services Council of Alabama), a Huntsville-based nonprofit organization, also contributed to the increased visitor numbers through hospitality and customized programs of study throughout our State for emerging leaders selected by American embassies around the world.   By welcoming international guests to Alabama and by building genuine multicultural connections among them as well as native and foreign-born American citizens, we are actively building a more peaceful world.

This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) in the country and the 50th year that Alabama has participated.

Foreign leaders chosen for the IVLP and other international exchange programs are curious about Alabama, a state whose global reputation is stigmatized by the era of slavery, race segregation and civil rights unrests. Leaders come here to see how this infamous divide is being eroded. They want to see how people from different races and cultures can come to work together for the good of the entire community. They want to learn about how we are living beyond our dark history.

Press-Register –Six Christmas gift ideas you should rethink

One of my favorite aspects of Christmas is actually giving gifts to others. Don’t get me wrong. I always love receiving gifts, but there’s something awesome about watching someone’s face light up as they tear through the paper and box.

Christmas is just around the corner, and some of us are probably in a pinch to find the right stocking stuffer or present. Let me make this easy for you. Just because something is interesting as you pass it in the mall doesn’t make it a great gift idea. I know the smell of cinnamon and spruce in crowded public spaces is overwhelming, but here are a few gift ideas that you should really think through before purchasing:

Whiskey stones – Yes, I know whiskey is extremely popular. Apparently so is putting cold gravel in your glass. It’s a novel concept, but they’re just not capable of cooling your beverage like ice unless you’re able to store them in liquid nitrogen. You’re better off with ice or a cold glass in your freezer instead of a pile of rocks.

Mushroom log – A few years ago, my mother bought me a mushroom log because she apparently likes to see the look on her child’s face when he receives a dead piece of wood impregnated with fungus. The mushrooms grow best in a humid, dark environment…like a bathroom. There’s nothing quite like a gift that pairs nicely with prison toilet wine.

Montgomery Advertiser – America is nervous, edgy

Our bitterly divided country today has a new anxiety that has made us nervous, on edge, and we have no confident, popular king to reassure us that a frightening enemy will soon be decisively defeated.

Barack Obama is not Franklin Roosevelt, who in his first inaugural sought to calm Depression jitters, “First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we has to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning terror that freezes needed action…”

Whenever the country is hurt, angry or afraid, as it is today, it makes us unreasonably suspicious of strangers, take precipitate actions, surfaces hidden prejudices and unearths bizarre organizations.

After jihadist murders in Paris and especially San Bernadino, more than half the nation’s governors banned Syrians — pitiful refugees from a government that bombs its own people — from entering their states.

Our own Gov. Robert Bentley was one of them, which in retrospect seems not only unnecessary but silly; in classic ready-FIRE-aim style, the governor was assured by competent authority that there was no threat to Alabama.

Knowing there was no known threat, he went ahead and announced there would be no Syrians coming to his state; a big-dog guardian of his people’s safety says so.

Opelika-Auburn News – Birmingham’s scuffle at City Hall smirks of playground antics

It’s a sad day for the state of Alabama when its largest city makes the news after the mayor and a city councilman resort to fisticuffs and end up at the hospital.

Such was the case during a Birmingham City Council meeting Tuesday in which, outside the council chamber, Mayor William Bell and Councilman Marcus Lundy came to blows. The mayor later underwent a CT scan and an MRI, and both reported minor injuries.

Birmingham deserves better, and so does the image of the entire state.

Ironically, Bell, who has been mayor since 2010, once mentioned workplace violence while speaking at a law enforcement training session, and Councilman Lundy serves as chairman of the council’s Economic Development, Budget and Finance Committee.

What kind of message does it send to prospective economic partners or potential new industries considering the state if one of the ambassadors sent to recruit them is known for resolving his differences in a fistfight instead of finding more constructive ways to reach a solution?

What does it say when an Alabama city the size of Birmingham has its most senior elected leader in headlines because of a dispute that got out of hand and his colleagues see him as being so divisive?

This kind of story might seem amusing if we see it coming from overseas, but not so much when it comes from home and reflects to some degree on all of us.

It’s a timely reminder for local government representatives throughout Alabama to keep professionalism in the workplace and to be mindful of the far-reaching effects personal actions can have when representing others.

Locally, Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller and Auburn Mayor Bill Ham and their respective councils both certainly have their fair share of heated issues to arise in their many dealings, as with other area mayors and councils. We’re fortunate and appreciative of the professional manner in which their meetings are conducted.

Constituents and colleagues alike can strongly disagree with city policies and make opposing arguments heard, and should. Losing composure and resorting to physical violence, however, is not only counterproductive in the worst of ways, but also a clear sign to others that a serious lack of professionalism exists.

Tuscaloosa News – It’s a good time to be a Tide fan

These are heady days to be a University of Alabama football fan.

The Crimson Tide has won three national championships since 2009 and has an excellent chance to make it four this season.

But more than that, the Tide has been in the mix for the national title late into every season since Nick Saban took the helm, save his first in 2007 — and that one doesn’t count because he got a fairly late start.

Think about that. For eight consecutive seasons – eight! – Alabama fans have been able to revel in the realistic possibility of their beloved Crimson Tide winning it all, even after the calendar has turned to November. Not since the glory years of the 1970s, under Paul “Bear” Bryant, has the Tide enjoyed such a sustained run of excellence.

And now, to Tide fans’ delight, Derrick Henry on Saturday became the second Alabama player in six years to win the Heisman Trophy in the 81-year history of the award. Congratulations to Henry for this well-deserved honor, and for his heartfelt acceptance speech.

Mark Ingram won UA’s first Heisman in 2009, of course. But, just as the team has consistently been in the national championship hunt, the Tide also has sent finalists – Trent Richardson, A.J. McCarron and Amari Cooper — to the Heisman ceremony in New York three times in the five years between Ingram and Henry hoisting the prized sculpture.

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