A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Bentley’s review of 2015
On Thursday, Gov. Robert Bentley took to Twitter to tout the year-end review of Alabama’s 2015 achievements, particularly those in economic development.
By his count, Alabama added more than 52,000 jobs last year.
A who’s-who list of companies — Polaris, Google, Mercedes and GE Aviation — put their money in Alabama-based projects. Result: $2.2 billion in investments, the governor said.
Business Facilities Magazine, impressed by that $2 billion, named Alabama its state of the year.
While he was at it, the governor also mentioned the state’s $10 million funding increase for pre-Kindergarten programs in Alabama and the prison-reform legislation passed last May. The governor is proud of his state, which should be expected. Cheerleading is one of a governor’s duties.
“This was a great year for Alabama, especially in economic development,” Bentley wrote. “We will work even harder for your in 2016.”
A great year? Sounds like hyperbole to us.
Granted, the accomplishments the governor tweeted Thursday are indeed noteworthy. (The Google data center planned for Jackson County, for instance, is a major economic-development get for a Deep South state.) But, cheerleading aside, Alabamians must ask themselves how impressive 2015 really was for Bentley and the state Legislature, which the governor’s Republican Party controls with virtually no legitimate Democratic resistance.
The Birmingham News – After a Bama Cotton Bowl victory, reflections on a year gone by
It’s dark and quiet at my house right now. Alabama just won the Cotton Bowl with a shutout. My wife and I watched the ball drop in New York, and I have less than an hour to put forth any last minute thoughts for 2015.
This one isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. This year has been tough. Period.
Honestly, I’ve had my fill of all the fighting and anger. It’s tiring.
I’m a conservative guy who loves his family, thinks free markets really do work, and believes we need to do a better job at loving each other.
Yes, I know that might seem like a strange combination, but give me a minute to explain.
While I don’t like the liberal solution of promising people more government stuff to improve their lives, I’m not interested in defending the capitalist who doesn’t care about his or her community.
It’s more than opposing cronyism.
I believe that people who profit from free markets in a nation like America ought to take care of their employees, ensure that they’re caring for the environment, and show people that a free marketplace really can produce better outcomes for the average person.
The Decatur Daily – Embracing a new year
New Year’s Day is a time to reflect on wisdom gained from past mistakes and on the joy of being able to start again. We collect here a few of our favorite quotes on the meaning of this day, and how best to embrace the coming year.
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” — Oprah Winfrey
“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” — Benjamin Franklin
“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” — Helen Keller
“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.” — John Burroughs
“Every new year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals?” — Ogden Nash
“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.” — Rainer Maria Rilke
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” — Mother Teresa
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” — Steve Jobs
“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.” — G.K. Chesterton
Dothan Eagle – Gov. Bentley’s beach folly
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is concerned about things that make Alabama look bad. On the action list of the second-term governor, who recently lost two Gulf Shores beach houses in a divorce from his wife of 50 years, is spiffing up the state’s decaying governor’s beach mansion, which has been gutted and boarded up since 1997’s Hurricane Danny.
“The governor doesn’t want this property to be an embarrassment any longer,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis.
Earlier in December, work began on the 7,500 square-foot mansion, a two-story beachfront cinderblock structure in Baldwin County. Estimated cost of the renovation and rehabilitation is $1.5 million to $1.8 million, and will include updated security features.
“It will have to be brought up to the standard of a governor’s residence,” Ardis told the Associated Press.
Surely the state has more pressing economic needs that almost $2 million could address. After all, the beach mansion has been untouched for almost 20 years because no politician had the audacity to put tax money into the luxury home when so much of the state has struggled.
Then again, this bill won’t be footed by taxpayers. It’ll be paid by “left-over” funds from the BP settlement after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
That’s stunningly audacious rationale, particularly considering the devastating impact the oil spill had on many areas of Alabama’s Gulf Coast and up into Mobile Bay, where the seafood industry of Bayou LaBatre and surrounding areas still feels the crippling effects of the disaster.
The settlement money has been burning a hole in the administration’s pocket; the first plan was to use it to build a hotel and conference center on the beach until lawsuits started flying. However, that could have tangentially met the purpose of the settlement by infusing the area with more tourist traffic.
The Enterprise Ledger – Another year in the books; I still miss Lindsey Nelson
Some folks believe back-to-back, four-day holiday weekends prompted Ben Franklin to observe, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”
Whether that applies to your recent, soggy weekends, truth is another year has gone, and we find ourselves in another election year, a leap year, no less, and we’re about to face almost six months without football…except for spring games.
So that means we need to file 2015 and its Memories of Enterprise.
Where to start?
Raise your hand if six months ago you publicly predicted the Enterprise High School Wildcats would beat Prattville and Central High, and would lose to two state championship teams and another team that should’ve won rings.
FYI: Those championship teams are McGill-Toolen, Colquitt County, and (on the night Enterprise faced them), the Opelika Bulldogs, who played the finest first half these eyes have beheld.
By the way, Colquitt finished the season ranked second in the nation.
So there were 40 bowl games this season?
If ESPN continues expanding its coverage, we could have 24 more bowls a decade or so from now, thus allowing all 128 teams in the college sports’ top tier to go a’bowling every year.
That way, 24 more teams could overcome ADVERSITY and enjoy the AWESOME, SURREAL feelings currently involved in today’s CRAZY sports world.
TimesDaily – New year is a good time for a new you
This is the year some of us will start exercise programs. Or stick more closely to our financial budgets. Or do better jobs of keeping up with old friends.
Those are among the goals people typically set in late December and prepare to implement Jan. 1.
Many New Year’s resolutions are forgotten or discarded before nightfall on the first day of the year. Others can last several weeks before losing out to our old desires that originally formed the unwanted habit.
But sometimes we are able to transform a routine or a part of our personality. We quit gossiping. We lose weight. Or we spend more time with family.
There’s no logical reason to target Jan. 1 for making a change in our lives. We are just as free to chart a new path on March 1 or June 23.
But New Year’s resolutions have become a tradition, and Jan. 1 has been established in our minds as the time for starting over. With students and many workers on holiday for Christmas and New Year’s Day, life seems to slow in late December, giving us a chance to reflect on who we are and who we want to become. A new year gives us a clean slate, so why not take advantage of it with resolutions?
Self-improvement always is a worthy ambition, and each of us should strive to better ourselves. So make a significant change in 2016. Learn a new skill. Quit a bad habit. Save more for your retirement.
While you’re taking time on the final day of this year to solidify personal resolutions, here’s a suggestion for a community-based goal. Let’s resolve together to make 2016 the year for educational advancement locally.
That can start on a personal level. Make a resolution to increase your knowledge by reading a book, taking a course, or simply asking somebody to teach you a new concept.
Next, set a goal to help education on a larger scale.
The Gadsden Times – Welcome 2016 with optimism
“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” — the late Bill Vaughn, journalist
On this first day of a new year, some random thoughts about things we’d like to see in 2016:
- Continued commercial development in Etowah County. Several new businesses opened at River Trace Shopping Center in East Gadsden, and Publix finally arrived at The Shoppes at Rainbow Landing in Rainbow City. Toss in Mi Pueblo opening in Alabama City for a little international flavor, and 2015 was a pretty good year.
- A tenant for the Little Canoe Creek Industrial Park megasite. We’d take a casino (unlikely, given that the Legislature would have to approve gambling), but would prefer an actual industry. British auto maker Aston Martin reportedly is considering an Alabama site to build its crossover vehicle. Chances are it would be closer to the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa County (Mercedes parent Daimler owns a small piece of Aston Martin) but you can’t fault us for dreaming, right?
- Civil discourse in politics. Oh, wait, it is a presidential election year. Forgive us if we nap until at least the March 1 primaries. Who’s idea was it to have so many debates, anyway?
- A legislative session that focuses on actual issues — the budgets, health care, infrastructure, prisons, etc., — instead of the usual posturing and pandering. Wake us only if they’re about to do real harm. On second thought, history suggests we should keep both eyes open until the session is in the books.
The Huntsville Times – 2015 laid the groundwork for a healthier Alabama
Alabama took several significant steps toward a healthier, brighter future in 2015. More than 170,000 Alabamians signed up for health coverage through the Marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to the ACA, tens of thousands of families now have the peace of mind of knowing that they can afford to see a doctor and that they’re covered in case of injury or illness. Nearly 90 percent of Alabama’s new enrollees received federal tax credits to help pay for that coverage.
Another promising development was the Legislature’s approval of Medicaid long-term care reforms. The plan, to be implemented by October 2017, will allow more Medicaid patients to receive long-term care in their homes and communities instead of nursing homes. The changes will help more seniors live independently, and they’ll help the state save money.
Our state also can take pride in its continuing hard work to ensure children have the health coverage they need to thrive. Alabama has the Deep South’s lowest rate of uninsured children, thanks to a team approach by Medicaid, ALL Kids, pediatricians and advocates. Healthy children are better equipped to learn – and to enjoy economic success later in life.
Gov. Robert Bentley in April appointed the Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force to recommend ways “to improve the health of Alabamians.” In November, the task force named closing the state’s Medicaid coverage gap as its top priority, issuing the unanimous recommendation ahead of its final report, expected in January.
Press-Register –Who was Alabama’s 2015 Scumbag of the Year?
God bless you, Alabama. You’re never boring.
But this was the kind of year that got us right where Talladega Mayor Larry Barton kicked his assailant in self defense.
“Ain’t no doubt about it,” Barton told AL.com’s John Archibald. “If I hadn’t kicked him twice in the balls I’d be dead.”
In August, Barton, who’s now the formermayor of Talladega — thank you, voters — pulled up to his day job at his Cahaba Heights barbershop. A man was there in a hood and trench coat (not the least bit conspicuous in August) waiting for him with a baseball bat.
The man police identified as Benny Green, 71, had been Barton’s friend. The two had even hosted a radio show together once. But Barton, who was 74, had slept with Green’s wife. Barton tried to deny it, but as surveillance video would later show, Barton and Mrs. Green had indeed done the deed.
In the back of a liquor store.
At some point here it’s worth noting that Barton had himself done some time after once being convicted of stealing city funds, but after his release, his constituents forgave him and put him back into office.
But Green wasn’t in a forgiving mood, and he gave Barton the kind of beating that makes your friends not recognize you in the grocery store.
Or the barbershop.
Montgomery Advertiser – City government affects peoples’ lives
City government is probably the most important unit of local government in present-day America. Local governments in the United States include counties, parishes, towns, townships, villages, boroughs and cities. More Americans live under city government than any other unit of local government.
City government handles a variety of problems. City garbage and trash collections must operate efficiently. City government is also responsible for public safety, street lighting, fire department, water supply, traffic signals, sewage systems, crossing guards and other services.
Locally elected officials and individuals who serve on locally-appointed government boards should have the public’s interest as their primary focus. The city of Selma continues to witness “economic spoilers.” Economics spoilers are persons who use their elected or appointed public offices to supplement their household income. It is inconceivable that some members of the Selma City Council recently voted “yes” to increase the supplement of members of the Selma Water Works and Sewer Board. The city’s police department cries for an increased budget in order to recruit and retain quality police officers. Public safety is of utmost importance.
The city has also been dubbed street “Potholes Capital U. S. A.” The buddy system to raise the supplement for the water board is a slap in the face or blow to the chin to citizens of the city. Obviously, local voters are not taken seriously. However, the citizens of Selma can make a change in city government during the municipal election in August 2016.
Opelika-Auburn News –Moderation is the key to a good life
“Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby, feel a little frisky.”
I’ve sung this song by country music icon Luke Bryan numerous times over the last 40 days and 40 nights. OK, maybe it wasn’t that long, but we sure had enough rain in East Alabama to build an arc. In fact, 40 years ago we could have built it at the Monkey Park in Opelika and filled it with monkeys, because it was flooded, and it had monkeys. Really.
Rain really is a good thing, but it doesn’t lead to my baby being frisky. My baby is a 2 and half year old chocolate lab that hates rain. I actually have to go out in the rain with her when she needs to “water the grass.”
Rain, like most things, is great in moderation. Hear that Bama fans? I know you’re proud of your Crimson Tide, as evident by all the flags, tags and stickers all over your car. We get it. You like Alabama. My brother, mother and step-father love Alabama. My dad did, too. I have but one Auburn sticker on my car, and it says “alumni.” War Eagle!
But I digress — moderation is key to just about everything. When the rain is washing out roads and bridges and impacting people’s lives in a negative manner, it’s too much. The same principle stands whether we’re talking about cheeseburgers, chicken wings or cold beer.
Cold beer is my downfall. I know I’m not an alcoholic, but sometimes, against my better judgment, I over-indulge, and then I hate myself for the next few days. That happened way too often in 2015. I think I’m getting better, though.
I had a wake-up call not too long ago that did the trick. Literally. I was in a hotel after a night of drinking at the hotel bar when a wake-up call startled me at 4 a.m. I had a plane to catch. Flying early in the morning after a night of drinking really makes one question his judgment.
I’d say that 90 percent of the regrets I have in life involve alcohol. That’s a true statement. I’m not proud of that, but it’s a fact. I was arrested for underage drinking when I was 19 years old, but that led to my decision to enlist in the Army, which is the best decision I ever made. We always have the ability to turn a negative situation into something positive.
I don’t have to drink. I’ve gone months without drinking a single swallow, but I do enjoy a cold beer in moderation.
The Tuscaloosa News –Candidates and divine inspiration
It is fairly common these days to hear a political candidate say he or she is running “because God told me to.” I guess the modern phenomenon gained national prominence with Pat Robertson, the televangelist who claimed divine inspiration in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988.
But it can be gleaned to this day in the likes of current presidential hopefuls such as Ben Carson and Rick Santorum.
My first encounter with such a candidate came way back in 1976 when, as a reporter for The Decatur Daily, I covered the campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Bob Jones, who was retiring after representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District since the late 1940s.
The district stretches across north Alabama in the Tennessee Valley from the Georgia state line in the east to the Mississippi border in the west. Congressional seats do not come open often and there was sure to be a spirited contest.
If memory serves, there were more than a dozen viable candidates, with half a dozen coming from the Huntsville area, where most of the votes were, and another three or four from the Florence area, where the second most votes were.
But there was also a hometown candidate from Decatur, who just happened to be the attorney for The Daily, run at the time by the legendary Barrett Shelton, a gnarled newspaperman of the old school.
“Old Man” Shelton was a power broker and a wheeler-dealer who, to be honest, was not above using his considerable influence to manipulate events to his liking. His interference with the objective newsgathering operations of his paper were mostly for good, but we reporters were constantly aware of his agenda.