Journalist Eddie Burkhalter’s principles are intact; the Anniston Star’s, not so much

January 1, 2018

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

Journalist Eddie Burkhalter did what few in our business will ever do.

Burkhalter quit his job on at The Anniston Star in November on principle because the newspaper wouldn’t allow him to pursue a story about allegations that former Star Publisher H. Brandt Ayers spanked some of his women employees over the years.

As a former Star reporter myself, I know these are more than allegations. My wife, Veronica, was actually a victim of such an assault.

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Media Silence Is The Key To Hubbard’s Survival

January 27, 2015

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In what universe do we find Liberal Democrats from New York calling for the indicted speaker of the General Assembly to step down from his leadership post and so-called Southern Republican Conservatives doing just the opposite? Welcome to the “Brave New World: Politics of the Absurd.”

Last week, Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly, was indicted on five counts of public corruption. Silver, a democrat, is considered the most power politico in the Empire State. Within days of his indictment he has been forced to step down as the head to the State’s General Assembly.

Here in the Heart of Dixie, the bastion of conservative law and order, they held a pep rally for Speaker Mike Hubbard, after he was charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption.

What do the Northern Democratic elite know that Southern Republican elite do not? Perhaps a better question is, what do New York Democrats fear that Alabama Republicans do not?

New York Democrats fear the press. Alabama politicians fear the press too, but here in Dixie, the press has been practically silent. Within hours of Silver’s arrest, the New York Times called for Silver to resign from the New York Assembly.

(See article here.)

The Times editorial board wrote, “In New York’s sleazy political world, where fairly obvious corruption is not just tolerated but encouraged by ethics laws that barely deserve the name, Mr. Silver does not have to relinquish his power even temporarily. That, in fact, is something he should have done two years ago…”

The Poughkeepsie Journal editorial board shared the same theme, as did the New York Daily News and others. The News board wrote, “They got the bastard. So say the feds. Presumption of innocence granted, it was a pleasure to see Sheldon Silver in handcuffs, for his offenses against New Yorkers have long been criminal. As Assembly speaker, Silver has practiced gangster rule fit for a Mafia social club without the guns and goons. Cross him and you were dead politically. Pay tribute and you prospered—if he felt like it.”

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle editorial board said, “No matter how you regard New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, his arrest Thursday on corruption-related charges is a potential disaster for the smooth functioning of the Legislature.”

The editorial board at syracuse.com opined, “It should go without saying that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver— charged Thursday with taking millions of dollars in graft—must resign from that job. He’s politically crippled, ethically bankrupt and supremely unfit to lead.”

(See article here.)

Please note that these editorial boards did not ask just for Silver to step down temporarily as Speaker, they called for him to resign.

Interestingly, syracuse.com is owned by the same company as al.com, and this may illustrate the problem most clearly.

Here in Alabama, only the Alabama Political Reporter and the Dothan Eagle has called for Hubbard to step down.

(See article here.)

The Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Press Register are all represented by al.com, and their editorial board has been timid when it comes to Hubbard. The Anniston Star: quiet. The Decatur Daily: nothing. The Gadsden Times, well, silent. 

John Archibald and Josh Moon have made some serious jabs at the farce surrounding Hubbard but the full force of their news organizations has been absent. 

In Alabama, the Fourth Estate has been cowed by Hubbard and comprised by his attorney J. Mark White. For over two years, White and Hubbard lied to the media about the State’s investigation into Hubbard’s wrong doing. (Is this not an excellent reason to distrust every word that comes from their mouths?) Yet, reporters still cover their spin as if it were gospel. White even makes sure that certain reporters are given Hubbard’s legal motions even before the State prosecutors see them.

Alabama news outlets are running on a treadmill while the Grim Reaper gains ground, and the very reason is not the decline in readership, per se, but the absence of courage and integrity to stand up and fight. That attracts loyal readers.

In New York, Democrats control the government. They called for the all-powerful Democratic speaker to resign. Add to that, the same call from the press, and Silver had to, at least, relinquish his leadership roll in the Assembly. Here in Alabama, the press is as silent as the grave, and this is why Hubbard remains Speaker.

The editorial boards of Alabama’s leading publicans remain quiet at this time of great political crisis. They are the ones who are supposed to represent the people of our State, calling for justice and pointing a finger at corruption. But, with lips sealed and hands buried deep in their pockets, they let the corrupt run amok without so much as a peep.

The press is what New York Democrats fear, but in Alabama, the Republicans know a majority of them will be as silent as lambs.

 

Two state lawmakers hope one bill can raise revenue, curb smoking

January 30, 2012

Staff Report
Alabama Political Reporter

With a looming budget crisis and a large population of unhealthy smokers, Alabama could find a partial solution to both problems in taxes, some advocates and politicians say.

Alabama has one of the nation’s highest rates of cigarette smoking, known to cause many health problems and raise medical costs in the process. The state is also facing a projected $400 million deficit in its next budget due to the loss of federal stimulus money.
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Anniston Star: The damage of a bad tax policy: State’s low property taxes have helped few and hurt many

December 26, 2011

Earlier this year, a federal judge handed down a ruling in a case brought by parents in two rural Alabama counties. The parents claimed that Alabama’s constitutionally mandated property-tax system, which keeps assessments and revenue down, was created to protect large property holders and limit funding for black schools.

In an 800-page ruling, the judge agreed that the property-tax system set up in the 1901 Constitution was designed to keep taxes low and benefit planters and industrialists with extensive mineral holdings. The judge also agreed that by limiting property taxes, the writers of the Constitution made it difficult, if not impossible, for rural, predominately black schools to receive adequate funding.

However, in what the judge admitted was a disappointing decision to reach, the purpose of the limitation was not to discriminate against black students. The purpose was to protect the pocketbooks of the powerful. What happened to minority children was simply collateral damage.

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Anniston Star: Still harping on earmarking: Don’t hurt public education; instead, seek proper reforms

December 22, 2011

Staff Report

Alabama’s General Fund budget is in sad shape, but not because so much money is earmarked for education. The General Fund is suffering because there is not enough recession-resistant revenue available for the courts, state troopers, prisons, Medicaid and the other non-education services the state provides.

As noted recently, Gov. Robert Bentley is considering asking the state Legislature to un-earmark money designated for education and shift it to the General Fund.
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Anniston Star: Investing in Alabama — still

December 21, 2011

Staff Report

If the Retirement Systems of Alabama does not bring in sufficient income from its investments to pay retirement benefits for public employees, the state is obligated to make up the difference in tax revenue.

In the last decade, RSA investments have not produced as much as hoped. Thus, Gov. Robert Bentley and Republican leaders in the state Legislature are growing concerned that they might have to divert money from their projects into the retirement funds or, heaven forbid, find new sources of revenue.
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