A roundup of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
Anniston Star – Alabama and its potholes
If they dare, homeowners can put off maintenance projects as long as they want. They can leave the gutters clogged, the AC on the fritz, the septic tank full and the roofing job ignored. It’s their house, their choice.
But they know how it’ll turn out.
The house will deteriorate. Small ailments will become big problems. And what used to be an attractive, middle-class two-story will become another person’s fixer-upper — or worse.
That’s where Alabama’s infrastructure is today. It’s the house that needs a paint job and a new roof. But that takes money, which is one of the mains reasons why so many of the state’s roads and bridges are in disrepair. The state has put off the inevitable. It’s thrown pennies at transportation repairs that no longer can wait.
Birmingham News – Bunny sex was original March madness
Now that our clocks have sprung forward, the cherries and redbuds are in bloom, and I’m greeted by a melodious chorus of bird song each morning when I take out the dogs, it is unofficially spring.
Official spring arrives at 11:30 tonight (Saturday, March 19th) when the earth’s orbit places the sun directly above the equator.
That is pretty much the only straightforward and rational thing I can think of about this season. Certainly the cardinal that has been flinging himself against my bedroom window every morning for the last couple of weeks isn’t rational.
My guess is that he thinks he is defending his territory by attacking that bold intruder which is actually his reflection in the window. But after a couple of weeks of hitting the same glass many times every day instead of another cardinal, you’d think he would get the message.
Testosterone dementia, I call it.
Decatur Daily – Republicans’ dangerous obstructionism
The stubborn refusal of Senate Republicans to consider any Supreme Court nominee offered by President Barack Obama would be outrageous, regardless of whom the president selected to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia. But Obama’s announcement Wednesday that he will nominate Merrick Garland, a moderate federal appeals court judge who has won bipartisan praise during a long and distinguished legal career, puts the Republicans’ irresponsibility and cheap partisanship in even starker relief.
Garland, 63, is the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on which he served with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who once said that “any time Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.”
Incredibly, Obama and Garland barely had finished a Rose Garden news conference before prominent Republicans reiterated they would refuse to give Garland fair consideration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., dusted off the specious argument that because Obama is in his final year as president, his exercise of his appointment power must be held hostage to the results of the November election. “Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy,” McConnell pleaded.
This is a preposterous argument, and a cynical one to boot. The relevant vote of “the people” in this situation is their decision to support Barack Obama for president in 2008 and again in 2012. Perhaps sensing that his assertion was unconvincing, McConnell also cited a non-existent “Biden Rule,” which supposedly holds the Senate shouldn’t vote on Supreme Court nominations in a presidential election year.
Dothan Eagle – Pay hikes insult voters – again
In 2008, Alabama lawmakers passed a joint House-Senate resolution to increase their pay by a whopping 60 percent, including a provision that provides that their $3,850 monthly expense check be adjusted annually, based on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index..
The move was widely criticized, and rightly so, particularly considering that pay increases for state employees, teachers and school support personnel are often politicized, and that the state is continually fighting budget battles.
This year, the same sort of fast-and-loose salary machinations are taking place in the executive branch, and some lawmakers are having none of it.
Last year, lawmakers passed a measure that abolished outdated salary caps on cabinet member compensation, and Gov. Robert Bentley took advantage of the change to put raises for cabinet members in the budget. Four members of his cabinet – Commissioners of Insurance and Revenue, the director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, and the administrator of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board – would each receive pay increases of about $70,000 per year, from $91.014 to about $164,000 annually.
Enterprise Ledger – Trust me, DO NOT pay attention to this column
Fortunately, I haven’t had my judgment day just yet, because if Saint Peter had seen my tournament brackets of years past, he would just shake his head and send me to the basketball purgatory… you know, right alongside the programs at Alabama and Auburn. While they seem to have the right people leading their respective programs at the moment, the Tide and Tigers have only heard of this March Madness thing for much of the 21st century.
This year will be no different. By the end of this weekend, I will be telling the last soul that will listen to me that I almost took so-and-so in an upset over so-and-so, and had scratched Team A off at the last minute to replace with Team B, only to realize that Team A was playing its non-scholarship water boy in the final minutes of a lopsided victory.
I was 10-6 on Thursday, and that included picking 11th seed Wichita State to beat 6th-seeded Arizona, which it did. Turns out, that was my par for the course as I went 10-6 again on Friday, and it also included picking an 11th seed, Northern Iowa, over Texas.
There must be something about filling out a bracket because even non-sports fans get involved in the tournament and many don’t know the difference between the Green Bay Phoenix, which met Texas A&M in the first round, and the University of Phoenix, which has 112 campuses worldwide but does not field a basketball team at any location.
TimesDaily – Let the Sunshine in, Alabama
I was a 20-year-old cub reporter at The Birmingham News, but I was prepared.
On every assignment I carried in my purse a copy of the state of Alabama open records and meeting laws. It shocked me how often I came across desk clerks who did not know what was public record and what wasn’t. I would explain the law to them and they would usually have to go get a supervisor. I may or may not have left with what I needed. Sometimes, it took weeks to get the information.
Later, when I got kicked out of meetings that shouldn’t have been secret, that piece of paper didn’t help me. It’s that way for many journalists, who, like me, have spent countless hours sitting outside in the hallways, intently listening through closed doors as elected and appointed officials hide truth from reporters, and in doing so, the public.
I would like to say a lot has changed in my beloved home state of Alabama in the almost 25 years since, but it hasn’t. In fact, in many ways it has gotten worse.
Alabama needs help.
Gadsden Times – Bentley’s salary hikes for Cabinet a tone-deaf move
We’ve praised Gov. Robert Bentley when he’s earned it and criticized him when he’s deserved it, but we’ve never commented on his musical skills.
There’s a first time for everything, though, given that Bentley has just proved himself to be as tone deaf as someone trying to play the Z-sharp augmented pentatonic scale on a kazoo. (Hold your fire, music majors, we’re aware there’s no such scale.)
A political blog this week reported that the governor has raised the salaries of his Cabinet members and staff, something the Legislature authorized him to do last year by tossing out existing salary caps in favor of a scale set by the Alabama Department of Personnel.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, authored the bill that was designed to prevent governors from using various contortions to get around the caps that everyone agreed were outdated. He has said the intention was that folks would get some incremental raises at the lower end of the new scale.
My colleague Mike Cason reported earlier this week that four members of Gov. Robert Bentley’s cabinet got annual raises of $73,000 late last year after the Legislature approved a bill to repeal salary caps.
Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Administrator Mac Gipson, Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Jim Byard, Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling all received raises of $73,405. That’s an 80 percent jump in salaries.
Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar received a raise of $64,008, bringing her salary to $205,792, a 45 percent increase.
Columnist John Archibald wasn’t happy:
“One minute the financial sky is falling and the next it’s time to make it rain on your friends and cronies.
“No wonder Alabama doesn’t trust government. From the top to the bottom.”
Press-Register –Mayor William Bell: ‘We are one people’
Understanding the lasting impact of the Civil Rights Movement on the City of Birmingham is a complicated thing.
It is not just the imagery of the black and white footage of the dogs and hoses. It is not just the idea that we are playing catch up as a city and people following years of strife.
It is the deeply embedded scars of mistrust and fear that impacted the mindset of citizens. It is the idea that change is hard and struggles can last generations before advances are noted and felt. It is the anxiety, suspicion and uneasiness that comes when the scars are pricked and reopened.
Birmingham carries the weight of these scars and it impacts decisions and public sentiment even today. Unfortunately, it is an easy thing to prey on those weaknesses and manipulate using fear and misinformation. This week, I attended a public meeting on the proposed changes to the Mayor-Council act. For or against it, the information itself was predictable and in some cases factual. The meeting itself was lengthy and contentious. However, the proposed changes are in the hands of the Alabama State Legislators and it is up to them to provide clarity as to the administrative and legislative roles and the overall function of City government.
Montgomery Advertiser – The myth of political evangelism
In the American political arena, the relationship between “evangelicals” and religion has always been tenuous.
Although they were not called “evangelicals” during the antebellum period, they nevertheless hoisted their philosophical insistence upon the propriety of slavery and the inferiority of Africans on the Bible.
Conveniently omitting to address the morality of human bondage, they relied, for example, upon Paul’s letters to the Ephesians 6:5 (“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling”) and to Titus 2:9 (“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to lease them well in all things”). Changing the word “servants” in the King James Version to “slaves” in more contemporary versions was also convenient, if not intended, to justify the ownership of other people – not that any of the versions contorts the scripture to suggest a biblical mandate to buy and sell flesh.
In any case, so persistent were slave holders in characterizing their enterprise as the will of God that even the enslaved began to believe it. Perhaps the most notorious (and still surviving) claim that Christ himself affirms racial supremacy is the omnipresent cross that periodically burns on the lawns of African American homeowners.
Opelika-Auburn News –Spring Break 2016 may be the year that ushers change to old party habits
Spring break is winding down for many of Alabama’s students, and so is the patience of more coastal towns that host the annual party event.
Officials are correct in repeatedly stating that safety should be the priority, and they warn that traffic issues this weekend could create additional concerns. Thousands of students and vacationers will be making the trek home.
Thus, please consider this a reminder to drive with care this weekend.
Abusing the right to drink alcohol on the beaches and drunk driving remain the traditional nemesis at the root of the worst problems the spring break party creates.
Today’s Page 1 story points out Alabama’s gulf towns such as Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are to the point that they may consider a temporary alcohol ban much like what Panama City Beach, Florida, implemented this spring.
It’s hard to blame them.
Tuscaloosa News –Hoops future looks bright for the Tide
OK, so the Alabama men’s basketball team didn’t end the season with a bang — frankly, it was with a whimper — but we remain hopeful for the future of the program.
Viewed as a snapshot, Alabama’s season under first-year head coach Avery Johnson would not be that impressive. The Crimson Tide wound up with a mediocre overall record of 18-15, placed 10th out of 14 teams in the SEC, with a record of 8-10, and was 5-8 on the road.
But from a broader perspective, the program appears to be headed in the right direction.
Johnson took a team predicted to finish next-to-last in the Southeastern Conference to a post-season berth. Yes, we know it was just the NIT, and, yes, we know UA was on the verge of an NCAA Tournament bid until it faltered down the stretch, losing four of its last five regular-season games before flaming out against Creighton in the NIT on Tuesday.