Connect with us

Guest Columnists

If Etowah County Commission won’t step up for The Mega Sport Complex, Legislative Delegation should

Craig Ford



Guest Editorial by Rep. Craig Ford

Every day I run into people who tell me how much they want Etowah County to have its own sports complex. And in almost every single one of these conversations, I always get asked, “But Craig, do you really think we will ever actually get it done?”

I do believe we will get it done. But it will get done a lot quicker and easier if the Etowah County Commission will get on board.

The people of Etowah County and our surrounding communities have made it clear that they want the mega sports complex. And every single one of our local municipal governments have stepped up and worked hard to help make this sports complex a reality. The only holdout has been the Etowah County Commission.


It doesn’t seem to be an issue with spending the money. The Commission has been more than willing to spend millions of dollars on their industrial park mega site, even though it’s really more of a mega swamp than a mega site.

Before the mega swamp can become an industrial park mega site, the county will have to spend – at a minimum – $22 million just to prepare the location for future construction. That $22 million would be used to construct an access road, and doesn’t even include the costs of installing the sewer and water lines, site grading or any environmental mediation (and environmental regulations are always changing, so mediation will be a possibility right up until construction begins).

In addition to the millions the commission wants to spend on construction, they want to waste $60,000 for a part-time consultant to promote the project, since they haven’t actually lined up any businesses to come to the industrial park if it ever gets built. This is a complete waste of money, because the Alabama Department of Commerce already does this and it won’t cost us anything.

So the commission is perfectly fine with spending millions of dollars on a gamble that it might bring business, even though there hasn’t been a single business that has committed to coming or, to my knowledge, even expressed an interest in coming.

But the commission has stonewalled the rest of Etowah County when it comes to making the investments necessary to get a bond issue for a mega sports complex. Apparently, the commissioners are more interested in a mega swamp than a mega sports complex for our children and adults who want to play recreational sports.

If the Etowah County Commission won’t do it’s job, then our legislative delegation needs to step in and secure the funding for the mega sports complex by reallocating the Commission’s portion of the one-percent sales tax.

My father originally passed the one-percent sales tax with the intention that it was supposed to be temporary and used specifically for one project: the construction of a new jail that was desperately needed.

But in the years since the jail was completed, the Commission has kept the sales tax and used it for other projects. If the commission insists on wasting that money on a mega swamp, then our legislative delegation should step and reallocate those funds back to the people by investing in the mega sports complex.

Or, if the delegation would rather keep politics out of the mega sports complex, we should reallocate the funds to other local road and bridge projects. There are far better uses for those millions of dollars than literally throwing them into a swamp.

A better use of that money would be to invest in projects like the Southside bridge, completing the four-laning of Hwy 411 and Hwy 77, or the extension of I-759. We could even split the money between all of these projects, and make real progress that would improve the lives of the people of Etowah County.

But if we don’t fix our roads and bridges, no one will want to bring their business to an industrial park mega site in the first place. And while there are no guarantees that the mega swamp will ever recruit even a single business, we know that the mega sports complex will generate business and tax revenue in Etowah County.

I sincerely hope that the County Commission will step up and do their part to help make the mega sports complex a reality. But if they continue to holdout and put this project at risk, our Legislative Delegation will have no choice but to step in.


Rep. Craig Ford represents Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives. He served as the House Minority Leader from 2010-2016.


Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Checking in on the Alabama Accountability Act

Larry Lee



By and large, the Legislature passes laws and seldom looks back to see what impact they are having.  Which seems a HUGE mistake to me.  The Alabama Accountability Act passed in 2013 being a prime example.

So from time to time I visit the Alabama Department of Revenue web site where they post info about AAA.  It’s always an interesting read.

For instance, you find a list current through Feb. 22, 2018 that shows there are now 204 private schools which have signed up to participate in this program that gives vouchers to students to attend private schools.  (This does not mean 204 schools have gotten scholarships, just that many have said they would take them.)

The state indicates if these schools are accredited or not.  Of the 204, 69 of them are NOT accredited.  That’s 33.8 percent.  AAA started in 2013 and 12 of the non-accredited schools have been that way since 2013.  One has to ask why we allow this to happen?  Why are we diverting money from the Education Trust Fund that may go to a school that has had five years to become accredited, but hasn’t?   Is this really looking out for the best interest of the young folks of this state?


For instance, the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, one of the state’s scholarship granting organizations (SGO), reported that at the end of 2017, they had students at 114 private schools.  By my count, 166 of these scholarships are at 27 non-accredited schools.

The Department of Revenue keeps track of how much money is given to SGOs each year.  From 2013 through 2017, the total amount is $116,617,919.

Remember that each one of these dollars gets a one for one tax credit from the state.  Which means we have now diverted $116 million from the Education Trust Fund for private school scholarships.

Today there are 396,711 elementary students (K-6) in Alabama.  So over the past five years we have diverted $294 from ETF for each one of these students.  That is $7,000 per elementary classroom.

I visit a lot of elementary schools.  I see a lot of classrooms.  I don’t know a single elementary teacher who would not have jumped at the chance to have an extra $7,000 for her classroom since 2013.

In this legislative election year, we need to let every candidate, incumbents and challengers alike, know what is going on.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Protecting our children

Bradley Byrne



For much of the year, the safety of our students rests in the hands of the faculty, staff, and resource officers at our schools.  Without a shadow of a doubt, the people who know best how to protect our schools are the teachers, parents, administrators, police officers, and students in their own communities.

In February, the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida resonated throughout our communities, highlighting a disturbing trend of individuals who clearly show signs of grave mental instability falling through the cracks.

Sadly, this incident likely could have been avoided had there been better oversight at every level of law enforcement.  From the top down, we failed these students by not heeding the warning signs and working together as a team to ensure our students’ safety.

In response to this incident, the House recently passed the Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act, which provides grant funding for evidence-based training for our local law enforcement, school faculty and staff, and students to help identify and prevent school violence before these tragic events occur.


First, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding for training to prevent student violence, including training for local law enforcement officers, school personnel, and students in the event of an emergency.  This training would be designed to give students and school personnel the ability to recognize and respond quickly to warning signs of violent behavior and would include active shooter training.

Second, the bill provides funding for technology and equipment to improve school security.  This includes the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems, as well as the installation of metal detectors, locks, and other preventative technologies to keep schools secure.

The legislation also authorizes funding for school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams for school personnel to respond to threats before they become real-time incidents.  Recognizing the warning signs of violent, threatening behavior and having the proper resources to address it on the front end can prevent these tragedies from ever occurring.

Finally, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding to support law enforcement coordination efforts, particularly the officers who already staff schools.  From the federal level all the way down to our local law enforcement, we need to ensure there is accountability and communication when handling violent behavior.

Many of our local schools are already reevaluating their security measures and taking additional steps to promote a safe learning environment for our students.  Our students’ safety and security should always remain a top priority, and I believe it is imperative that our local schools have the most appropriate resources in place in the event of an emergency.

As we look for ways to prevent these terrible tragedies, I am open to additional solutions to address the underlying issues that cause these events to occur.  That said, I remain steadfastly committed to upholding the individual right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.  Millions of Americans should not have their Second Amendment rights infringed upon due to the bad actions of a few individuals.

Rather, I believe we should focus on addressing mental health issues and combatting the role of violence in our modern culture, such as the prevalence of violent video games that normalize this behavior for our young students, and promoting commonsense solutions that will address the larger issues of mental health so that those with mental illness do not fall through the cracks.

There is still work to be done to ensure each child’s safety and well-being while attending classes. However, I am proud that we have taken this action in the House to promote a safe, secure learning environment for our children.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | When liberals help the poor they do more harm than good

Scott Beason



Stock Photo

On my Scott Beason Radio program this past Monday, a regular contributor mentioned that a bill to eliminate payday lending had passed the Alabama Senate, and I was surprised. Having dealt with the issue back when I was in office, I think payday lending gets a bum rap out in the mainstream media. These short term loans are an important part of the financial lending community and are often the only access to credit that some people have. I also wondered what special interest group is driving an agenda for which the general public nor the so called “poor” is clamoring. The answer is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Republican supermajorities do not – or used to not – kowtow to the SPLC. If there is a more liberal group in the United States, this conservative is not aware of it. Maybe the legislators have bought into the SPLC propaganda that they are protecting the “poor”. … By eliminating the only means for credit the “poor” have? By eliminating the jobs of the 5,000 people in the state who work in the industry? That doesn’t make sense.

“Helping the poor” is a noble cause, in the generic sense of the words, but how does eliminating payday loans actually help the “poor”? How does making it more difficult for someone with limited means and bad credit to get the money they need to make it to the next paycheck help the “poor”? This question is the one that made it difficult for me to legislatively pursue the total destruction of the payday lending industry.

If a “poor” person needs $100 dollars on Wednesday to make it to Friday, where can he get it? The answer is nowhere, if there is no such thing as short term lending. These loans are simply too risky and too small for banks or credit unions to handle. If payday loans were workable at a lower interest rate, then someone would be doing it right now. You don’t have to change the law to do that. Just let capitalism work. I suggest that those who believe they can run a better business model for short term lending get out in the market and do so. Show us how to “help the poor” the “right” way.

What happened to free market Republicans in the Alabama legislature? There used to be enough to make up an entire caucus. Does the term, free market, mean nothing when the Southern Poverty Law Center says jump? In Washington DC Barack Obama tried to crush the payday loan industry, and now Republicans gleefully further Obama’s agenda in Alabama. Regulating a whole sector of the financial services industry out of existence is not the free market.


Another person on the radio show described working at his job and loaning his buddies $20 on Wednesday to help them make it to Friday. On payday they gave him back $25. He called it 20 for 25, and his friends appreciated being able to buy gas and food for those couple of days. 20 for 25 seems reasonable and harmless, but the cost to the borrower is more than is charged in Alabama’s payday lending industry. … I know. … It’s weird. … 20 for 25 did not seem “predatory” at all.

The “working poor” will continue to need small cash loans from time to time. That will not change, but we cannot help people by not allowing them to help themselves. All of our freedoms come with the risk of excess and of getting into trouble. Payday lending is simply another market based, regulated, and lawful financial service that replaced the mob supported loan sharks of days gone by. My friend, Senator Tom Whatley, who was apparently one of the few willing to talk about the free market on the Senate floor made a great point: the people who cannot get short term loans in Alabama will now get them online, or from people who want more than an interest rate. They want an arm or a leg. … Well said Mr. Whatley.

To help the “poor”, the legislature should stop helping. Prior legislation has straightened up the industry, and lawmakers should leave well enough alone. Let the payday lending legislation die a quiet death. It is not needed, and it hurts regular folks who are thankful that they have the option of a short term loan when they need one to make ends meet.

Scott Beason a former State Senator is the host of The Scott Beason Show on WYDE Superstation 101 in Birmingham.


Continue Reading






If Etowah County Commission won’t step up for The Mega Sport Complex, Legislative Delegation should

by Craig Ford Read Time: 4 min