Connect with us

News

The APT drama continues

Bill Britt

Published

on

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

BIRMINGHAM— The Alabama Educational Television Commission (AETC),voted 6-0 on Tuesday to hire the Birmingham law firm of Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt to represent it in a lawsuit filed by former Alabama Public Television executive director Allan Pizzato.

In July, Pizatto filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court against AETC and its board members. In the complaint Pizatto seeks:

declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and such further and other relief as the Court deems appropriate
A ruling from the court to declare [Commission Chairman Ferris] Stephens service on the Commission is illegal and to invalidate all actions by the Commission since the time Stephens was appointed, because as assistant attorney general for Alabama, his service on the commission violates the law (no member of the commission may concurrently be a public office holder).
Pizatto and his surrogates have alleged that he was fired because certain AETC commissioners wanted him to air religious programing by minister and conservative activist David Barton.

The board has repeatedly denied that this was the reason for Pizatto and chief financial officer Pauline Howland termination.

The firestorm surrounding the firing was first kindled by a blogger at CurrentPublicMedia.com, which according to its website is “An editorially independent service of the American University school of communication.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Members of the board who voted 5-2 for dismissal of the pair have repeatedly said that the firing was based on the fact that the board wanted a “new direction” and “new leadership.”

Yet, the story of secular liberalism verses conservative Christianity has been the angle reported on blogs and even in the mainstream media.

Again today, Stephens said, “That [the Barton issue] was never considered. I know that keeps getting reported, but it’s not true.”

However, the line first reported by the out of state university blog has ruled on news reports. Currents report said, “[Pauline] Howland, deputy director and chief financial officer, described the firings in an interview with Current and said she was ‘baffled’ by the dismissals. But she also recalled how Pizzato had asked staff in April for advice about a series of videos that AETC commissioners wanted APT to air.” The series according to Current was, “The American Heritage Series,” a 10-part DVD series offered by Barton’s Texas-based organization WallBuilders LLC who claims “presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, emphasizing the moral, religious and constitutional foundation on which America was built.”

Public Service Announcement

AETC commissioner Dr. Rodney Herring does not shy away from the fact that he is a Christian conservative, but adds, “That was not the reason for the dismissals.”

He says that there had been talk about the series and that Allan Pizzato and staff had been asked to review one of the shows in the series, not the whole series.

“Did we talk about the American Heritage Series [with Pizzato]? Yes,” says Herring. “Did he talk about the whole ten hours of programing? No.”

Herring reiterates that the blogs and news media made this the story and that the work of David Barton’s group was not under consideration in the dismissal of Pizzato and Howland.

“I told everyone in the news media who called me what happened but they wrote what they wanted to write and not the facts,” Herring said.

Herring believes that once the story line became sensationalized as “Christian conservative versus the Media” that every news outlet followed that line of reporting and not the facts.

According to Herring, the termination did not have to do with programing but over concerns of “leadership.”

According to the blog report and other media outlets, “…Pizzato [APTV’s director] and his staff had ‘grave concerns’ that the videos were inappropriate for public broadcasting due to their religious nature,” Howland said.

Yet according to the same report, “Pizzato declined to discuss the videos, or how he responded to the commission’s request that APT schedule them for broadcast.”

At the time Pizzato said that the reason for his departure was, “irreconcilable difference” and that he served at “the pleasure of the board,” but has since that statement filed a lawsuit against the very board whose pleasure it was to fire him.

The board’s 5-2 vote was not unanimous only because two members wanted disciplinary actions taken against the two and not firings.

Several members of the fundraising arm of APT resigned after the firings of Pizzato and Howland, Judge Vanzetta McPherson was among them. Judge McPherson, who serves as a sometimes columnist for the Montgomery Advertiser became so embroiled in the controversy that she wrote that Pizzato’s interim replacement Don Boomershine, was at the board meeting about Pizzato when in fact Boomershine did not come to the APT office until the next day. This is also part of the story that has been repeated falsely by the media.

Currently, the AETC is conducting a national search to fill the executive director position.

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.

Advertisement

Health

Alabama’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Alabama’s ongoing increase in new cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations is especially worrisome for public health experts as flu season arrives and several holidays are just around the corner.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

The number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama continues to rise, with 1,789 new cases reported Saturday, despite fewer tests being conducted, and cases are up 55 percent from two weeks ago, based on a 14-day average of daily case increases.

Alabama’s ongoing increase in new cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations is especially worrisome for public health experts as flu season arrives and several holidays are just around the corner.

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 9 million on Thursday, and numerous states were seeing surges in cases and hospitalizations. Nearly 1,000 Americans died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, and the country has reported several days of record-high new cases.

“There’s going to be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus task force adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a CNBC interview Wednesday. “We are on a very difficult trajectory. We are going in the wrong direction.”

There were 960 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama on Friday, and the seven-day average of daily hospitalizations hit 976 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept. 2 and 29 percent higher than a month ago.

ADVERTISEMENT

More than 1,000 hospitalizations were reported in Alabama on Tuesday for the first time since August. Huntsville Hospital was caring for 163 coronavirus patients Friday, the largest number since Aug. 19. UAB on Friday had 58 COVID-19 patients and has been hovering between 60 and 70 patients for the last several weeks.

While the number of new cases is rising, the number of tests being performed has been declining. Over the last two weeks, Alabama reported, on average, 6,961 cases per day, 9 percent fewer cases than a month ago.

The rising cases and declining tests are also reflected in the percentage of tests that are positive, which on Saturday was well above public health experts’ target of 5 percent or below. 

Public Service Announcement

The state’s positivity rate on Saturday was 21 percent, according to APR‘s tracking of new cases and reported tests over the past two weeks. Many other COVID-19 tracking projects calculate the state’s percent positivity by dividing the 7- and 14-day averages of daily case increases by the 7- and 14-day averages of daily test increases.

The Alabama Department of Public Health calculates the positivity rate differently, instead dividing the number of daily cases by the number of individuals who have been tested, rather than the total number of tests done, as some people may have more than one test performed.

There are no federal standards on how states are to report COVID-19 testing data, and a myriad of state health departments calculate positivity rates differently. 

Even so, ADPH’s own calculations show Alabama’s percent positivity is nearly double where public health experts say it needs to be, or else cases are going undetected. According to ADPH’s calculations, the percent positivity on Oct. 24 was 9.6 percent, up 33 percent from the 7.2 percent positivity on Sept. 26. 

As of Saturday, there have been 2,967 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths reported in Alabama, with 427 reported this month, 19 percent more deaths than were reported in September.

On Saturday, ADPH reported 35 confirmed and probable deaths. 

Continue Reading

News

Alabama Democrats launch “biggest” turnout campaign in their history

“Our organizers and volunteers have been working relentlessly to turn out the vote,” the Alabama Democratic Party said.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Democratic Party said Friday that they have launched the biggest get-out-the-vote campaign in their history in a bid to re-elect U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

“We’ve made over 3.5 million voter contacts this election cycle,” the ADP wrote in an email to supporters. “Today, we’ve started the biggest GOTV campaign in our history. We will be contacting voters around the clock from now until Election Day. As it stands, we have enough money to reach about 91 percent of the voters in our GOTV universe.”

“Our organizers and volunteers have been working relentlessly to turn out the vote,” the ADP said. “They are contacting voters in all 67 Alabama counties, making sure every Democrat has a plan to vote on Nov. 3.”

On Saturday, Jones will make several campaign stops throughout the Birmingham area to encourage voters to turn out on Election Day. He will make stops in his hometown of Fairfield as well as in Bessemer, Pratt City and East Lake.

Jefferson County is the Alabama Democratic Party’s main stronghold in the conservative state of Alabama. Mobilizing Democratic voters to come out, especially in Jefferson County, is essential if they are to have any hope of re-electing Jones, who has been trailing in public polling.

Jones’s shocking upset of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in the 2017 special election is the only statewide race that the Alabama Democratic Party has won since 2008.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jones had a decided advantage in money in that contest to saturate the airwaves and fund a GOTV effort to reach Democratic voters in the special election.

The Jones campaign is trying to build upon that success, but it is an uphill battle and he’s widely viewed as the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election in 2020.

This time, Jones’s Republican opponent is not hamstrung by allegations of sexual misconduct and Trump is at the top of this ticket. The president remains popular in Alabama even if his support has waned in some other states.

Jones needs both an unusually strong Democratic turnout and for a large number of Trump voters to split their ticket and vote for Jones instead of his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville.

Public Service Announcement

Roughly half of Alabamians are straight-ticket voters.

Continue Reading

News

Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh won’t seek re-election in 2022

Marsh said it would be up to the Republican caucus to decide whether he’ll remain pro tem for the last two years of his term.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the top Republican member of Alabama’s upper chamber, will not seek re-election in 2022. 

Marsh told The Anniston Star, which first reported the story, that he will also not run for governor or the U.S. Senate in 2022 or in the future.

Marsh’s decision to not run again will bring an end to a 24-year career in state politics. Marsh, 64, made school choice a focus of his legislative work over the years, championing charter schools and wrote the Senate’s version of the 2014 Alabama Accountability Act, which allows for tax credits for those who make donations to scholarships for students at private schools. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Marsh found himself on the other side of public health experts’ understanding of the disease, suggesting to a reporter that he’d actually like to see more people become infected to build the state’s overall immunity to the virus, a theory that public health experts say would lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and many more illnesses. 

Marsh also battled Gov. Kay Ivey over the expenditure of $1.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid over the summer, suggesting early on that the state should spend $200 million of that money on a new Statehouse, which drew widespread public condemnation.

The Alabama Legislature later approved Ivey’s plan to spend the federal aid, which does not include a new Statehouse. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Marsh explained to AL.com on Friday that during his tenure, the Republican-controlled Legislature has put Alabama’s fiscal well-being on solid ground. 

“Fiscally, I think we’re as strong as a state as we’ve ever been. I think this COVID has shown how financially secure the state is through our policies. I feel very good about our accomplishments,” he told the outlet. “But there comes a time for everything and I just want to make it clear that I do not intend to seek election in 2022.”

Marsh said it would be up to the Republican caucus to decide whether he’ll remain pro tem for the last two years of his term.

Continue Reading

News

Alabama Power reports progress on restoring power following Hurricane Zeta

Alabama Power said 131,000 outages remain and that the utility provider expects to have service restored to 95 percent of affected customers by Tuesday.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Crews work to restore power after Hurricane Zeta. (VIA ALABAMA POWER COMPANY)

Alabama Power said Saturday that its crews have restored power to 373,000 customers following Hurricane Zeta, which caused more than 504,000 outages at peak.

As of Saturday at 2:12 p.m., Alabama Power said 131,000 outages remain and that the utility provider expects to have service restored to 95 percent of affected customers by Tuesday.

 

 

Hurricane Zeta hit Louisiana as a category two hurricane on Wednesday before ripping through Mississippi and Alabama. There is an enormous amount of damage across the footprint of the Southern Company, the parent of Alabama Power.

ADVERTISEMENT

Alabama Power has said the impact of the storm is similar to what the company experienced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

Because Zeta was so fast-moving, it did not lose much of its strength as it moved inland. Much of the state experienced tropical-storm-force winds. There is significant, widespread damage throughout the state.

Alabama Power is having to deal with downed poles and trees that knocked out wires. The company’s crews are working with more than 1,700 lineworkers and support personnel from 19 states and Canada.

Alabama Power said that its crews are working quickly and safely to restore power and will continue to work on restoring power over the weekend.

Public Service Announcement

Alabama Power storm team evaluators, line crews and support personnel worked throughout the day Thursday and Friday assessing damage and repairing poles and wires damaged in the storm.

Crews are working diligently and as quickly and safely as possible to restore service, the company said.

Remember that there are line crews working along roadways all across the state. Cities, counties and homeowners are still working on debris removal so drive slowly and give yourself more time to get where you are going while out.

Alabama Power warns everyone to stay away from downed power lines, as well as fallen trees and tree limbs that could be hiding downed lines. Always assume a downed line is still energized and poses a potentially deadly hazard.

If you spot a downed line, call Alabama Power at 1-800-888-2726 or local law enforcement and wait for trained crews to perform the potentially dangerous work of removing the line or any surrounding debris.

Hurricane season lasts until the end of November.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement