State of the State: Prisons, Pre-K and random Olympic tales

February 8, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Did you know that in the 1960 Summer Olympics, an underdog Ethiopian runner named Abebe Bikila overcame the ridicule of his peers for running marathons barefoot to win the 1960 marathon and set a new world record?

Why am I telling you this? No idea.

But using Olympic stories as cheap entry points into a conversation about Alabama’s issues seems to be a thing, so let’s all lift our tattooed hands and remember Abebe as we go through Gov. Robert Bentley’s State of the State address from Tuesday.

With his former inappropriate relationship partner, and her husband, looking on from the balcony, Bentley laid out his accomplishments and hopes for the future.

(Can I just take a moment here to again point out the weirdness of Rebekah Mason continuing to show up around the capitol? And could I also point out that bringing her husband along, as she did Tuesday and for a trip to D.C. for the inauguration, doesn’t make things less weird. It makes it way, way more weird.)

So, let’s run through this thing like a barefoot Abebe.

If you were basing importance of issues on time spent blabbering about them, there’s little doubt that Bentley’s order went:

  1. Prisons
  2. Pre-K courses
  3. Really out of place Olympic tales

Prisons received the full-Jesus treatment, as Bentley pushed his $800 million prison plan to a group of lawmakers who have resisted that plan on numerous occasions.

And to be quite honest, it’s easy to understand why they’ve resisted. A plan to build four “super prisons” sounds like the plot to an action movie in which the prisoners in the “super prisons” later join forces to take over the state and only the wrongfully imprisoned former Navy SEAL can save us from the inside.

And also, they probably hate it because it’s dumb, sure to be filled with corruption and in no way an actual answer to our prison overcrowding issue. But that didn’t stop the governor from rolling out a church sermon and leaning heavily on Christianity to sell lawmakers on the moral value of such a project.

Typically, in this state, if you want to know how bad a lawmaker’s proposal is, consider how much Jesus he or she tries to inject to push it through. With stories of prison ministries, a reformed-by-God ex-con, tattooed hands lifting high in praise and biblical commands to support it all, this one was a full-Jesus push.

A more practical solution might be expanding the methods we use for pre-K – courses in which we apply effective teaching methods, coupled with appropriate resources and well-trained teachers, to adequately prepare 4-year-olds for school – and ensuring that all students in public schools receive such focused instruction.

But then, that’s crazy talk. Instead, we’re just going to allow some of those students to leave and go to a different school, because the real problem is the building itself, obviously.

One answer to those school issues – and by default, the prison issues – is health care. Bentley seemed to recognize for the first time that access to quality care for Alabama’s poorest citizens is a problem. He didn’t have an answer for it, per Republican rules, but he did notice that it’s an issue.

If only someone would have developed a plan to help those poor people. Damn you, Obama.

The evening’s speech mercifully wrapped in slightly less time than it took our dear Abebe to run his 26 miles, and it left us just as breathless. Well, not all of us … one of us.

And it made it perfectly clear, that with this governor and this leadership, we might win the race, but we’re going to have to do this barefoot, from way behind and with everyone else laughing at us.

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