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Patricia Todd: Passionate Advocate, Part 2

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

APR: Let’s talk about Immigration.  My notion is that I don’t think that people in Alabama are racist wanting reform for illegal immigration or illegal workers but I think it gets framed that way. However, I worry that it is more big business that needs cheap labor. There has to be a solution and there has to be a good one and there has to be compassionate one but it also has to be based on law and logic. So where is that line? I am not sure  I have a perfect solution.

TODD: Well, I can’t say I have either but my opinion on this is two fold. One this is a federal issue that the feds need to deal with. I could have told you 20 years ago that this was going to happen because it was so unregulated. And everybody has refused to deal with it including Republicans.

pat-toddThe other part is I don’t think this is  the most important issue facing Alabama. I don’t even think it is in the top five. But the amount of money we have spent now on litigation over this bill that we knew was going to be challenged and we knew parts of it would be deemed unconstitutional. We knew that. But they wanted to make a point. It’s a reactionary response to a very minor problem in Alabama per se. It makes us look like, once again, we are the laughingstock of the country. And it has cost us $8.5 million to date to defend that bill.

Now I don’t know about you but I can think of a million other ways of spending that $8.5 million for the good of this state.

APR: But it polls well among the people.

TODD: Exactly, and I don’t care. I mean the truth is the truth. And I am not even making opinion about immigration one way or another because to me the bottom line is the money we’re having to spend to defend this bill, which was promoted by conservative Republicans, who wanted to cut government. It is so hypocritical that it is laughable to me.

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APR: Boy, I tell you. You are something else. I love it.

TODD: Well, I just tell it like it is. But I am also so concerned about this country and our state and our cities that I want to turn this thing around. I feel like I am one lone voice shouting in the night but I feel like if you do it enough it will stick somewhere and maybe we can begin a revolution of conversation.

APR: Well, you know I think Hillary Clinton was such a polarizing figure during her days but during her time in the Senate she seemed to develop a great skill of getting common ground. I am a fond admirer of women because you seem to be much more patient and able to deal with these things than men.

TODD: I think we are and I think we don’t have as much ego invested. And that we really do want it because I guess that our maternal instinct is to take care of everybody and the planet and the critters and everything else.

APR: What do you think are the top priorities for Alabama?

TODD: Public education has to be improved drastically. I think that what we are doing is clearly failing and we are so far behind other industrialized countries. We need to look at some methods that work.

Whether that means charter schools which I am not necessarily opposed to them if every child had the opportunity to go to a charter school.
My beef is when charter schools can suck all of the good kids out of the system. We all know we get challenged by each other as we are learning especially as children. What’s left is kids not prepared to learn and that don’t have a support system at home, they are doomed. So it’s like we are almost segregating students.

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APR: But public education has by and large been a fairly significant failure in a lot of areas and people are opting for choice just like Henry Mabry (in coming Head of AEA who sends his children to private school). No matter how he spins it he wanted his kids to go to a better school than the schools the teachers he represents teach at.

TODD: I don’t have the answers to this but…because I went to a private school for the exact same reasons other parents send their kids there. So, I mean, I clearly get that. But wouldn’t it be nice if every kid [had that kind of access], and we all have an investment in every child in Alabama, because our future depends on them. And if we do not educate them to the best of our ability then we are all going to suffer and do suffer.

I argue all the time that every child should have the same, quality education no matter the color of skin or where that kid lives. And until we all get on that page and say…You know we see an increase in gang activity, in criminal activity, those kids didn’t go to Mountainbrook or Vestavia but the impact on those schools and those areas is just as great. It’s an increased crime rate.

That is what I get so frustrated with. People who call themselves Christian and Republican because I have had this conversation that “well, no I don’t want my children to go to school with them. My children are going to get the best education.” It is always “Me, me, me.”

Why can’t I get the Republicans over the mountain to care about that and do something.

APR: I think, and I don’t want to harp on this, but and this is just anecdotal from people I know and things I hear. My next door neighbor is a public school principal and a very fine person and is fairly conservative and her goal in life is to educate children. Yet, I think her union has been more concerned about getting her more pay than fighting for better education.

TODD: But that is the thing that people don’t understand that the purpose of AEA and the Federation of Teachers is to protect teachers’ pay and their retirement, their benefits, their jobs. It is not their job to make sure every classroom in Alabama is fully stocked or to make sure that every kid graduates from high school. It’s not their job, it’s not their mission. And people are confused about that.

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APR: I not sure that I am not as confused as you about this but I would go back under your banner of “It can’t just be good for the teacher.”

TODD: And no, I’m not saying that I think that is grand and dandy for either of those organizations, but they have been very successful in making sure that all teachers are treated equally and you and I both know we’ve got some bad teachers and we can’t get rid of them. If I’m not doing my job correctly, I get fired.

APR: That is one of the things that Bradley Byrne who was called a Nazi by good friends of mine was trying to do, to right the system. He paid a big price for that.

TODD: The thing that I think with Bradley is that he did take on the AEA and it was almost all by himself, doing that he was surely going to get backlash and he knew. I think what he did not expect was the ripple effect of that.

I am very, very optimistic and I am very patient and I think I’m here doing God’s work to try to do the best I can and help others and I have a very unique opportunity in the legislature to do that and I take it very seriously.

APR: Well, it is obvious you are very passionate and you’ve thought a lot about it and whatever side of the equation anyone is on as long as they have reasoned arguments and they are passionate I think that is applaudable. I think Lincoln said you should understand your opponents ideas well enough to state them as accurately as they do.

TODD: Well, I have more civil conversations with Republicans like Scott Beason or whomever than I do with some of the Democrats. You go in knowing you are going to disagree but it is about a conversation, it’s not about one-upmanship it’s more about sharing information. And of course being gay,  I don’t want to have people just judge me on that one thing. I am much more than that.

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Representative Todd is certainly a great many things, a fighter, an advocate and a very thoughtful human. We wish her all the best and thank her for sharing with us. As she might say we need more conversation, thank you for having one with us. Godspeed.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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