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Rep. Sewell authors op-ed calling for action on wastewater infrastructure

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Selma, has authored an op-ed in The Hill calling for action addressing deteriorating wastewater infrastructure.

“Four years ago today Flint, Mich., changed its municipal water source to the Flint River, moving a city of 100,000 residents towards a crisis that would poison children and impact families with long-term, irreversible health conditions,” Sewell wrote. “As Flint and our country continue to grapple with the realities of widespread lead-poisoning and environmental injustice, another water crisis is simmering in America’s backyard. This time, the health of millions of families may be at stake.”

“Deteriorating infrastructure and a lack of investment has left an untold number of families without access to wastewater treatment, creating a system in which untreated sewage sits in pools in backyards and leaks into local waterways,” Sewell continued. “I have seen this crisis firsthand in rural Alabama. In our state’s rural Black Belt, I have toured rural communities where a home’s only sewage system is a straight pipe that carries untreated waste 30 feet into the woods. I have toured towns where failing water treatment systems spray partially treated sewage into municipal pastures, contaminating family farms, private properties, and waterways accessible to thousands of Alabamians.”

Sewell cited one study by the University of Alabama and the University of South Alabama in 2006 that found that 35 percent of inspected homes in Bibb County had failing septic systems and another 15 percent of homes just ran a straight pipe directly discharging untreated sewage into the surrounding environment.

A 2004 study found that an estimated 60,000 residents in Minnesota used a straight pipe to empty untreated sewage into the environment around their house. The EPA estimated that 32 percent of families in central Kentucky will not be connected to a sewer by 2020.

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“Most rural Americans are not connected to municipal sewer lines, saddling them with the full cost of installation, renovation, and service of household wastewater systems,” Sewell wrote. “In good soil, the installation of a septic tank can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000. In parts of Alabama’s Black Belt, where the soil requires more complex systems, the installation can run upwards of $12,000. In rural America, where 6.9 million residents live in poverty, spending thousands of dollars on a wastewater system is simply not in the budget.”

Sewell wrote that residents in parts of rural Alabama where straight pipes are common, have tested positive for gastrointestinal parasites thought to have been eradicated from the U.S. decades ago.

During passage of this year’s government spending package, Sewell, working with appropriators in Congress, included an additional $1.8 billion in funding for water and wastewater infrastructure through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This month, I will be introducing a new bill in Congress allowing a federal water well program to support the build out of household wastewater systems in areas where a lack of resources and infrastructure has persisted for decades,” Sewell wrote.

Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.

 

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Elections

Judge Roy Moore weighs-in on attorney general’s race

Bill Britt

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Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore believes the state’s Ethics Commission must investigate and rule on a complaint filed against Attorney General Steve Marshall alleging he received illegal campaign contributions. Moore thinks the Ethics Commission should rule on Marshall’s complaint before November’s elections because the voters need to know if he has broken the law.

Marshall, who was appointed attorney general by disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley, is accused of accepting $735,000 in illegal contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). A complaint has been pending before the Ethics Commission for three months, but the commission has failed to act.

Alabama law states explicitly that an out-of-state PAC must register if it plans to donate to a candidate running for state office and that PAC must follow Alabama laws.

RAGA is not registered in Alabama and accepts contributions from other political action committees contrary to state campaign finances law.

“I know of the claims they’ve got on Marshall about PAC-to-PAC transfers, and as a Republican, I oppose PAC-to-PAC transfers,” said Moore. “I oppose anything that violates the law, and the Legislature has made it clear, [that PAC-to-PAC transfers are illegal] and whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican.”

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Moore says it’s not proper for the Ethics Commission to leave the public in doubt about whether Marshall has broken the laws.

“Well they should give you clarity,” said Moore. “They owe it to the political system, and I think that Democrats and Republicans have a right to know.”

But the former chief justice holds out little hope that anyone will act before the election because of the presence of purely political considerations.

“Politics in Alabama, you don’t want to get me started on that——it’s corrupt. And it’s corrupt throughout. But I believe that this is something that should be investigated, and settled whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat.”

Ethics Director Tom Albritton and Secretary of State John Merrill have made it clear in statements and previous writings that others who sought contributions as Marshall accepted were participating in an unlawful act, yet the Ethics Commission refuses to call a special hearing to address the matter before the general election.

“PAC to PAC transfers have been a problem in Alabama for a long time,” said Moore. “The Legislature’s tried to stop it; everybody’s tried to stop it. And when it occurs whether it’s Democrat or Republican, it’s wrong, and in this case, with the attorney general’s race, it should be investigated.”

Moore would not say who he is voting for but said his attorney and his son Caleb are voting for Marshall’s opponent, Democrat Joe Siegelman.

“I don’t speak publicly about who I vote for, but I think everyone’s got a right to vote for who they choose. People will bring up my son supporting Joe Siegelman, that’s fine——he’s got every right to support who he wants,” said Moore. “In fact, my attorney, who is a conservative Christian, a Republican, is voting and supporting Joe Siegleman, and she’s a great attorney.”

Moore felt strongly enough about the Ethics Commission’s failure to speak out to alert the public to the problem, which he believes must be addressed for the good of the state.

Both Siegelman and APR have called for the Commission to rule on Marshall’s violation before the election, but those requests have been ignored.

Opinion | Siegelman wants ruling on Marshall’s campaign finances, and you should too

Opinion | The people have a right to know if their attorney general is a cheat

The Ethics Commission is comprised of Jerry L. Fielding – Chair, Sylacauga; Frank C. “Butch” Ellis, Jr. – Vice Chair, Columbiana; John Plunk, Esquire, Athens; Judge Charles Price, Montgomery and Beverlye Brady, Esquire, Auburn.

These individuals can hold a hearing at any time to rule on the ethics complaint filed against Marshall but have so far failed to act.

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Elections

Opinion | This is why Alabama’s government is broken

Josh Moon

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We don’t deserve nice things.

Not in this state. Not in a state where voters routinely reward the pandering foolishness of conmen.

Conmen like Steve Marshall.

Alabama’s attorney general — the man who appears to be leading in the race to retain that office — provided a master class last week in all that is wrong with Alabama politics.

Early last week, Marshall wrote in a letter to the chairman of the West Morgan East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority promising to look into issues with pollution caused by a 3M plant in nearby Decatur.

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Marshall’s letter came in response to a letter from the WMEL, asking that Marshall, on behalf of the State of Alabama, join a lawsuit against the company. Marshall claimed that it was the first he had heard of the problems, and that the WMEL letter was the first time he had been asked about the pollution problem — a problem so dire that thousands of residents aren’t drinking their tap water.

Now, let us be clear about one thing: That is an absolute lie.

Steve Marshall was told of these problems months ago, and an attorney representing the water authority has the receipts to prove it.

But for a moment, let’s set that aside. I’ll get back to it later.

For now, let’s move on to later in the week.

On Friday, Marshall’s office sent out a press release announcing that Marshall was leading 13 states in filing a brief about a cross being removed from a park in Pensacola, Fla.

The release went into some detail about how this historic cross came to be, and it recounted the numerous events held by townspeople in Pensacola in front of that cross.

And this — this right here — is why we don’t deserve nice things.

Because the Alabama attorney general believes it to be more politically advantageous to educate himself and file briefs about a cross in another damn state than he does to insert himself in a problem that has led to thousands of his constituents being unable to drink their tap water.

How can that be?

How can it be that the majority voters of this state are more concerned about this pandering nonsense in another state than they are about one of this state’s major waterways and thousands of good people dealing with the effects of poison water?

And you know, don’t tell me that’s not true, that voters really do care. Because I know it’s true.

Year after year after year, the Tennessee River and other waters in this state become increasingly more polluted by the industries that dump their waste into them, and this state’s citizens — allegedly filled with avid and serious fishermen — continue to elect politicians who do absolutely nothing to stop it.

And even worse: They elect people who help facilitate the pollution.

Which brings me back to Marshall’s claims of being totally unaware of this problem that has been going on for three-plus years and affecting thousands of people and reported on extensively by pretty much every media outlet in this state.

He seems to be lying.

Carl Cole, an attorney for WMEL, posted on his Facebook page last week details of the ongoing case. In doing so, he revealed two key things: 1. That former AG Luther Strange and attorneys from his office had held numerous meetings with the parties involved and were actively engaged when Strange was appointed to the U.S. Senate, and 2. Cole personally informed Marshall of the case and asked the AG about his plans during one of Marshall’s trips to Decatur several weeks ago.

There is zero chance that no one at the AG’s office mentioned this ongoing case to the incoming AG. And even if that did happen, there was an attorney informing Marshall of the case this past summer.

And still, Marshall did nothing. Until a reporter showed up to ask questions about it, at which time Marshall’s office threatened the reporter and tried to have her removed from the story.  

This is the guy who is the frontrunner in the AG’s race.

And this is why we will never, ever have nice things.  

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Elections

Neither gubernatorial candidate has taken any Soros money so far

Chip Brownlee

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Weekly campaign finance filings submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office Monday show neither gubernatorial candidate, Republican Kay Ivey nor Democrat Walt Maddox, have taken any money from PACs that received contributions from Democratic donor George Soros.

Soros’ contributions to a set of six chain PACs chaired by Tuscaloosa political heavyweight Mike Echols became an issue in the gubernatorial race last week when Ivey’s campaign began criticizing Maddox for taking more than $600,000 in contributions from the PACs.


SEE MORE: Ivey’s weekly campaign finance report.

SEE MORE: Maddox’s weekly campaign finance report.


Ivey has also accepted more than $100,000 in total from the six PACs over the course of the election season — as recently as last week.

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But neither of candidates have taken any contributions from the PACs connected to Soros since Soros made a set of contributions totaling $200,000 on Oct. 15.

Ivey’s campaign has repeatedly criticized Maddox for taking contributions from Soros, though no contributions connected to Soros have been made to Maddox’s campaign. Maddox last received contributions from the PACs on Oct. 12. Ivey last received a contribution from one of the PACs on Oct. 2.

Yellowhammer News, a Birmingham-based conservative media outlet, reported Thursday morning that Soros made the contributions, connecting Maddox to the six PACs. Almost immediately after the story was published, Ivey’s campaign released a statement attacking Maddox.

“George Soros is infamous for funding extreme organizations like Moveon.org, using his fortune to support gun control groups, describing capitalism as more dangerous than communism, and touting his influence over governments,” Ivey’s campaign said in a statement. “Which begs the question: is Walt Maddox working for the people of Alabama or the radical out of state liberals bankrolling his campaign?”

That set of chain PACs — Cash PAC, CMG PAC II, ET PAC, Leadership PAC, Pride PAC II and T-Town PAC II — are known to make contributions to candidates on both sides of the aisle. They’ve made contributions to Former Gov. Robert Bentley during his campaigns, former Republican Alabama Attorney General Troy King during his primary run against Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall, Republican Secretary of State John Merrill and Republican lieutenant governor candidate Twinkle Kavanaugh.

Later in the week, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Will Ainsworth, pounced on the issue, too, writing that Soros was bankrolling Maddox ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

“Billionaire George Soros is flooding Alabama with several hundred thousand dollars in last minute contributions to Walt Maddox and other liberal Democrats on the Nov. 6 ballot,” he posted on Facebook.

The Ivey campaign’s initial criticism of Maddox was followed by fundraising emails that warned of Soros’ involvement in Maddox’s campaign.

Weekly campaign finance reports filed Monday show Ivey maintaining a hefty fundraising lead over the Tuscaloosa mayor. Ivey raised $193,293.14 last week. In contrast, Maddox raised only $105,113.

Although Ivey nearly doubled Maddox’s contributions, Maddox had far more individual donors, continuing a trend among the Democratic candidates for statewide races. His filing reported more than 240 unique contributions, the vast majority of which were from individuals ranging from $4 to $5,000. Ivey reported 80 unique contributions, several of which were from PACs.

Her largest contribution was from Phillip McWane of Birmingham, who gave her campaign $25,000. Maddox’s largest contribution, $15,000, came from Greenetrack in Eutaw, Alabama.

Ivey spent far more than Maddox, too, dolling out $262,058 in expenditures over the course of the last week. Her campaign spent more than $200,000 on advertising last week. Maddox, by contrast, reported spending $152,000 last week.

Maddox ended last week with $167,479.57 in his campaign account. Ivey had $288,586.96 in cash on hand.

Monday was the last day to register to vote with only 14 days remaining until the Nov. 6 general election.

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Elections

Republicans outraise Democrats in every key statewide race

Chip Brownlee

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Republican candidates are outraising their Democratic opponents in every key statewide race, the second weekly filings ahead of the 2018 general election show.

Governor

In the race for governor, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey reported raising $193,293.14 last week, nearly doubling the contributions received by her Democratic challenger Walt Maddox, who raised $105,113 last week.

Ivey has maintained a strong fundraising lead over Maddox, though Maddox has regularly reported more unique contributions than Ivey. This week, Maddox reported more than 240 different contributions, the majority of which were from individuals, while Ivey reported 80 contributions, many of which were from business interests and PACs.

Ivey finished last week with $288,586.96 in her campaign account. Maddox had $167,479.57 in cash on hand.

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Lieutenant Governor

State Rep. Will Ainsworth, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor maintained a hefty lead over his Democratic challenger Will Boyd last week, too.

Ainsworth raised $85,135 between Oct. 15 and Oct. 19. That’s exponentially more than the amount Boyd raised, $660. Ainsworth also outpaced Boyd in the number of unique contributions.

Boyd finished the period with $1,182.96 in cash on hand to Ainsworth’s ending balance of $324,455.29.

Attorney General

In a reversal from the first weekly reports on Oct. 15, Democratic candidate for attorney general, Joe Siegelman, fell behind Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall in fundraising last week.

Marshall reported $58,675.00 in contributions between Oct. 15 and Oct. 19, while Siegelman reported $14,484.20 in contributions last week. Despite the difference, Siegelman still outpaced Marshall in the number of unique contributions to his campaign. Marshall had 25 contributions, while Siegelman had 85 contributions.

Marshall had an ending balance of $260,682.35 to Marshall’s ending balance of $23,194.05.

Chief Justice

In a stark reversal from the previous reporting period, Republican candidate for Supreme Court chief justice, sitting Justice Tom Parker, outraised Democratic Circuit Court Judge Bob Vance.

Parker raised $121,150 last week. Vance, who far outraised Parker during the last reporting period, raised only $51,949 last week.

Parker ended the period with $177,147.54 in cash on hand. Vance had an ending balance of $118,241.

Secretary of State

Republican Secretary of State John Merrill continued a fundraising lead over Democrat Heather Milam. Merrill raised $13,600 last week, outpacing Milam’s reported contributions of $4,490.

Merrill has far more cash on hand, too, reporting an ending balance of $205,422.21. Milam reported only $5,921.14 in cash on hand last week.

State Auditor

In another flip from last week, Republican State Auditor Jim Zeigler outraised Democratic challenger Miranda Joseph.

Zeigler reported $1,000 in contributions last week to Joseph’s reported contributions of $235.

Joseph finished the period with $2,904.95, while Zeigler finished the period with $12,246.28 in cash on hand.

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Rep. Sewell authors op-ed calling for action on wastewater infrastructure

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 2 min
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