A roundup of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
Anniston Star – A true need for Alabama’s schools
Schools operated on the cheap fail their first obligation: to properly educate the students sitting in their classrooms.
In previous generations, “cheap” meant using old textbooks and outdated equipment and refusing to update antiquated facilities. Today, it often revolves around technology, which has changed so fast in the last decade that schools once on the cutting edge can be outdated overnight.
Montgomery lawmakers heard just that this week from Kathy Johnson, the director of the state’s Office of Broadband Development. Her pitch: Alabama’s schools must have broadband Internet access. Without it, students won’t get what they deserve out of the state’s public schools.
Susan Poling, technology coordinator for Shelby County Schools, put it this way: “This is not a technology need, this is an instructional need.”
Birmingham News – Bentley’s moonshot will require bold leadership in Montgomery
Governor Bentley on Tuesday called on Alabamians to shoot for the moon.
In a surprisingly progressive speech, the governor outlined his ambitious “Great State 2019 Plan” which would transform Alabama’s schools, prisons, workforce, technology and infrastructure. The ideas were bold and we were especially encouraged to see his leadership in the criminal justice arena; but these bold ideas require more than words, they will require a coalition of bold leadership.
Since his reelection, Gov. Bentley has consistently surprised us. Last year, he decisively removed the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds he tried, in vain, to persuade the state to buy into a huge tax reform proposal of as much as $700 million; and he welcomed corporate leaders such as Google to our state.
And he isn’t alone in his bold pursuits, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh has pushed several proposals that had been previously unpopular with his party, including a massive casino and lottery bill late last year.
Decatur Daily – Shooting of north Alabama deputy reminder of risk
Law enforcement is a hazardous profession. Every day the men and women of our police and sheriff’s departments pin on their badges, they know there’s a chance they could encounter a potentially dangerous situation.
As they protect and serve the communities where they live, these officers face risks that range from volatile domestic disturbances, to undercover drug stings, to unsuspected attacks by those who find themselves on the opposite side of the law.
Such was the case Wednesday night when Lauderdale County Deputy Randall McCrary attempted to serve a mental commitment paper at a residence in north Florence. Details of what unfolded remain sketchy, but McCrary and the man being served were both injured during an exchange of gunfire.
“This is absolutely the worst fear anyone in law enforcement can have,” Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler said of the shooting. “Someone out here, serving our county, our citizens, trying to keep them safe, and this happens. Unfortunate is not a strong enough word for this. It’s senseless.”
Senseless, yes. Uncommon, no.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s latest statistics on law enforcement officers killed and assaulted reveal that 48,315 officers were assaulted in 2014 while performing their duties. The rate of officer assaults was 9 assaults for every 100 sworn officers in the 11,151 agencies participating in the survey.
This week, a group of residents asked the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’ approval of the City of Dothan’s request for a permit to expand its existing landfill. Their strategy is a civil rights complaint, citing an EPA regulation that prohibit any entities it financially assists from administering programs which “have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination …”.
It’s just the latest chapter in the city’s beleaguered attempt to create a place to put the trash and garbage generated by Dothan’s more than 60,000 residents. However, it’s disappointing that the saga has taken such a turn.
It’s reasonable to assume that anyone would take the NIMBY approach – “Not In My Back Yard.” No one relishes the idea of having a landfill nearby. They can be noisy and smelly, they attract flies, rodents, buzzards and other nuisance animals, and there’s always a fear that something vile may be leaching into the ground, regardless of regulatory requirements meant to ensure that doesn’t happen.
However, trash and garbage has to go somewhere, and the proposed expansion would take place adjacent to the existing landfill, which has been in operation in the same area for many years. In other words, an expansion wouldn’t be expected to generate anything objectionable that isn’t already there.
The Enterprise Ledger – State well represented at Super Bowl
There will be 24 former SEC players on the rosters of the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos for Super Bowl 50, most notably quarterbacks Cam Newton (Auburn and Florida) and Peyton Manning (Tennessee). Guess that ‘SEC doesn’t have quality quarterbacks’ talk gets debunked, yet again.
The Big Ten is second with six fewer players. Guess that ‘SEC is overrated’ talk gets debunked, yet again.
Incidentally, the NFL broke with tradition and chose not to use Roman numerals this year, so it is Super Bowl 50 and not Super Bowl L.
There will be three former members of the Alabama Crimson Tide and an equal number of former Auburn Tigers, as well as two former Troy Trojans. No bad considering there is only one from LSU, the same amount of players from Morningside College and Assumption College. (Without the help of Google, can you name where those two football powerhouses are located?)
Auburn’s Super Bowl representatives are all with Carolina, beginning with Newton, former running back Cameron Artis-Payne, and injured guard Tyronne Green. Also, former Tiger Reese Dismukes is on the Panthers’ practice squad.
TimesDaily – Bentley offered no funding plans for grandiose ideas
What has happened to Alabama? Where have we gone wrong?
We live in an incredible state. It has a rich history. It’s natural beauty is remarkable. We are a people of common sense and hard work.
But listening to Gov. Robert Bentley’s State of the State address, one could only conclude we have lost touch with reality. Or that he thinks we have.
A year ago, Bentley proposed $541 million in additional tax revenue. He was not, for the most part, proposing new programs. He was merely proposing a fiscally responsible approach to state government. Bentley correctly pointed out a year ago the state could not maintain its skeletal services without new revenue.
The Legislature shot Bentley down.
In Tuesday’s State of the State address, Bentley made clear that he gets it. He understands poverty is weighing Alabama down.
“While we rank No. 1 in football teams and economic development accolades, our state consistently falls dead last in virtually every quality-of-life ranking from infant mortality to obesity,” Bentley said. “Too many Alabamians are undereducated, undertrained, unhealthy and unable to break the cycle of poverty and the cycle of dependence.”
The Gadsden Times – County’s purchase wise, security concerns valid
Saying “both sides have a point” isn’t always a fence-straddling cop out; it can be completely true. Consider what happened at the Etowah County Commission’s meeting this week.
The commission voted to purchase, for $862,000, a building on Thomas Drive, off Alabama Highway 77 near the headquarters of the county’s Drug Enforcement Unit.
That sounds like a fair price for a large (more than 54,000 square feet) facility with office space and a warehouse, sitting on 5.28 acres.
The county’s reason for buying the building is legitimate. It will be divided, on a 75 percent to 25 percent basis, between the sheriff’s office and the commission. The sheriff’s office, which will be responsible for some needed renovations, now will have a place to house all its equipment (some of which has been kept out in the elements), plus some room for expansion. Right now, the county plans to house voting machines there, and we’re sure it will put the rest of its 25 percent to good use.
The financing plan sounds feasible — a 20-year loan with the building itself as collateral, and $67,000 annual debt service.
There’s the other point, however, and it’s a familiar one.
The Huntsville Times – Darwinian logic can still save us
In one of those historical coincidences about which I used to say things like “That is soooo cosmic, man,” the greatest statesman and greatest scientist of the 19th century were born on the same day of the same year, just hours — and an ocean — apart.
Yes, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were both born on February 12th, 1809.
Despite their very different beginnings – Lincoln, son of a farmer, famously born in a one-room log cabin and Darwin, son of a eminent physician, born into a family of wealthy intellectuals – they had a surprising amount in common in addition to their lasting fame.
Both lost their mothers to illness when they were still children. Both were devastated by the loss of several of their own young children. Both were prone to gloom and depression later in life. And both abominated slavery.
Lincoln without doubt had the greater immediate legacy, having preserved the United States as a single country and officially abolished slavery throughout it. But today he is largely a revered figure of the past.
Press-Register –Hey liberals… stop treating the South like a punchline
Newsflash: the South is not a punchline. To hear others tell it, Southerners are all backwards rednecks who love God, guns and liberty and hate Obama, government and “others.”
Every time something progressive happens in the South, some spokesperson or media personality offers their take on us yokels in Dixie. A pundit inevitably publishes a tortured thinkpiece about how Alabama is stuck in the 1800s. A national progressive organization obnoxiously declares that the South is some kind of “final frontier.”
It’s all so rote and condescending. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. A lot of really racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic people occupy Southern spaces. But bigots live everywhere, including liberal strongholds like California, New York, Illinois, and D.C.
It’s much easier to join the South-bashing bandwagon — pointing and laughing at us — than it is to question whether or not those “takes” are true and, if so, why. I believe that it’s not only distasteful, but it’s also counterproductive to progressive causes. Take LGBT rights as an example.
Montgomery Advertiser – Listening for the sound of progress
In this 90th year since Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week (the precursor to Black History Month), we acknowledge – in homage to James Weldon Johnson – that “we have come over a path that with tears has been watered.” We eagerly anticipate “facing the rising sun of our new day begun.”
But lately, the sun has not been rising in every venue of the African-American cultural landscape, and the new day has been delayed by the vestiges of days past. Nowhere is this impediment to progress more demonstrable than in the way we express ourselves. It is time for us to give ourselves – or reclaim for ourselves – the gift of grammatical and consistently coherent discourse.
There are many reasons why the quality of public expression among Americans in general has plummeted: decline in the quality of elementary and secondary education; technological advancement that facilitates instant “writing” on phones and tablets and encourages expression of complex ideas in 140 characters or less; accepted abandonment of the rules of standard English, including spelling and punctuation; pugnacious speech in the aftermath of reality television; a music industry that promulgates non-standard and often obscene expression and a public that glorifies it; and the decimation of the American middle class.
Against this socio-cultural backdrop (and for other reasons too numerous and/or complex to discuss here), an attitude has re-emerged among African-Americans that redefines blackness as a debased, disheartened and cynical existence. In that universe, black students criticize other black students for “talking white” or “acting white,” and black adults criticize the president or others deemed like him as “not black enough.” The “accusers” expect/insist that all African-Americans worship at the altar of mediocrity, except those in the temples of sports and entertainment, and they regard black achievers in other areas as somehow traitorous to a mythical racial fabric.
Opelika-Auburn News –The tragedy of a murder never stops with a grave
The tragedy of a murder is never simple to grasp.
Too many murders have occurred in our community in recent months, and while answers are hard to find when it comes to halting the alarming trend, perhaps more awareness of the far-reaching effects can be the catalyst of dialogue and hope.
These new-year headlines on Jan. 20 were bad enough:
“Home intruders fatally shoot man”
“85-year-old’s death marks third Lee County homicide of the year”
But then more blood was spilled this week in a shootout that left one 19-year-old dead in the street and another rushed to the hospital.
Before all of this, two men were killed in separate incidents shortly before Christmas.
What kind of statement does it send when an 85-year-old man dies in a gun battle defending his home from armed intruders?
Such was the case in the Lee County community of Cusseta when three intruders broke into the home of Curtis Thornton Rudd. An exchange of gunfire left Rudd dead and sent one of the suspects to the hospital. Rudd’s wife also was at home at the time but was uninjured.
The Tuscaloosa News –Memorable night at the MOMs Ball
Tuesday is Mardi Gras day and it doesn’t look like I’ll be making it to New Orleans again. Or Mobile, Trinidad or Rio, for that matter.
I do, however, have fond memories of Mardi Gras past in the Big Easy. The fondest, perhaps, is of the year we attended the MOMs Ball on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday.
The Krewe of Mystic Orphans and Misfits is one of those informal Mardi Gras outfits whose main purpose seems to be throwing the most decadent, over-the-top party of the year.
To attend the MOMs Ball, you must have a ticket and must wear a costume. And a serious costume at that, as an under-costumed friend of mine discovered when he was turned away at the door by a biker dressed in a tutu.
The party traditionally was held every year at a VFW hall in Arabi, an obscure New Orleans suburb, that had the advantage of being enclosed by a tall fence, the better for keeping the cops at bay and the debauchees enclosed.
We met at Carrollton Station, an uptown bar that had arranged a school bus for transport. As we piled in I had to admire all the creative costumes, the best of which were foam rubber killer whale contraptions worn by a couple: Shamu and Chalmette.
Before departing, the camp counselor-type young woman in charge issued a strict warning. “Thirty minutes after the last song is played,” she said, “you need to be back here and on the bus because we’re leaving. No exceptions!”
Ah, we would have been wise to have heeded her warning…