By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, the Leeds Chamber of Commerce held a Political Forum at the Leeds First United Methodist Church. Leeds Mayor Eric Patterson is seeking a second term as Mayor in the August 28th municipal election. He is being challenged by Leeds City Councilman Johnny R. Kile, former Homewood Mayor James “Jim” Atkinson, and former Leeds City Councilman David Miller. ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ was in attendance at the forum.
Leeds Mayoral candidate James “Jim” Atkinson said, “My wife and I moved to Leeds nearly 15 years ago to be with family and my family is here.” “I worked for 25 years with the Homewood Police Department, retired and ran for Mayor.” Atkinson said he was a former DARE officer in Homewood City School System and later became the Chief Deputy for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. “I had 536 deputies under my command.” “I know about finance.” “I know about budgets.” “We have a lot of problems in Leeds that I intend to address as your Mayor.”
Leeds Mayoral candidate and current District 5 City Councilman Johnnie Kile also had a career in law enforcement, “I was happy being a Policeman.” “Four years ago, I was asked to become a Leeds City Councilman.” Kile said he gave up a 36 year career to help the city of Leeds. Kile said that he was helping people (as a policeman) for 36 years. Kile grew up in Leeds. Kile has four children and six grand children. “We need to put the city government back in your hands.” Kile said that on the council these last four years he “was treated like a red headed step child” by the current Mayor and the majority of the Leeds City Council. Kile says he was left out in a lot of negotiations on this council.
Leeds mayoral candidate, David Miller said, “I have a vested interest in seeing Leeds succeed.” Miller has a BS degree in finance, is a Vietnam Veteran where he commanded boats in the Mekong Delta, left the Navy to work at Hayes Aircraft where he climbed up from sales to President. Mr. Miller was also school superintendent for 3 years. “Education is at the top of my priority list.”
Leeds incumbent Mayor Eric Patterson said that when he was elected Mayor four years ago he pledged that he would be a Mayor that was honest, ethical, fair, transparent, and open. He said that he has strived to be a Mayor who does what he says he will do. Mayor Eric Patterson is an attorney and also operates his family’s business, Patterson Pharmacy, in Leeds.
Atkinson said that ten years from now the bonds that Leeds used to fund improvements that were used for the Bass Pro Shoppe will be paid off and the City of Leeds will have more revenue. “We are going to be alright folks.” “I love Leeds and I will be a good Mayor.
Councilman Kile said, “You have got to have somebody who can take this job and run with it.” Kile said that the city of Leeds has ordinances that are strangling businesses. “Four years from now it will be too late.”
Councilman Johnny Kile is a lifelong resident of Leeds and is the retired Moody Police Chief. Kile is a career police officer and is presently the City Council man for Leeds District 5. Kile said that revenues from Bass Pro and Grand River will pay the school bonds off. Kile said that there is land on Highway 78 that could be annexed and “would be a good place to get a lite industrial park to bring jobs back into our city.” Kile said that the City has lost a lot of jobs over the years.
Miller said, “We have got to change the culture of city government from a culture of arrogance.” Miller said that the City of Leeds had to reach out to neighboring citys, developers, and large land owners and needed to find ways to say yes to their projects rather than killing their projects.
Mayor Patterson said that the city has come a long way in four years: the City has improved its “park and recreation facilities to where they are second to no one”, roads and drainage have been fixed, the city’s debt has been reduced by 70%, tax revenues are up 11%, retail business is up, the city of Leeds has an A+ credit rating from S&P, 60 pieces of blight have been removed, the city is building a new city hall and a new fire station. “Leeds has become a place that people want to make their home.”
Mr. Atkinson said that a mayor has to be friendly. Atkinson said that the current city administration had too many regulations and restrictions and a bad attitude. Atkinson said the Leeds City Inspector, “Walks into businesses like a storm trooper. He wears a badge. He is not a police officer. If I am Mayor I am going to take that badge off of him.”
Johnnie Kile said the first thing he would do as Mayor of Leeds to make the City more business friendly is, “To hire some young lady to answer the telephone.” Kile said that the Mayor needs to “at least act like he is friendly. You can’t go around town like you are angry with everybody.”
Miller said that the zoning and sign ordinances passed by the current administration are big impediments to growth and development. Miller said, “Leeds is probably the only city in American where the Chamber of Commerce has to buy a business licence.” “Our first reaction needs to be negotiate not to litigate.”
Patterson objected to his opponents’ charge that the City of Leeds under his administration has been anti-business. “Leeds is pro business. This rhetoric about Leeds being anti-business comes from people who were allowed to do whatever they wanted to do,” under the previous administration. Patterson said that he has fought against “food wagons”, has passed strict itinerant vender ordinances, has passed tough regulations against yard sales in commercial districts, and a banner ordinance. Patterson said, “Strong cities do not allow things like that.” Patterson said that retail business in the City of Leeds is up 26% under his administration and it is up 12% not including Grand River. Patterson said that the two things holding Leeds back are the occupation tax which they can’t get rid of and the national economy which they don’t control.
Mr. Atkinson worked for 35 years in law enforcement. Atkinson has been a Homewood police officer, has worked with the U.S. Marshall’s Court Security, was the Chief Deputy for the Jefferson County Sheriffs Department for 7 years, and was the Mayor of Homewood from 1992-1996.
Kile said that the City of Leeds needed more rooftops. Kile said he supported allowing the developers at Grand River to build both new homes and nice new apartments “like Homewood.” Kile was concerned that if the City was not willing to work with developers then future development would go to the neighboring City of Moody instead.
Miller holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from the University of Alabama, a Master’s Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from Auburn University and an EdS Degree in Educational Leadership and School Administration from Mississippi State University.
Miller said in his press release, “I mention my education because each of those degrees is relevant to accomplishing the tasks I see as needed to put Leeds on track to realize the great potential I visualize for our city. I am pro- business and want to establish a working relationship with the citizens of Leeds and incorporate input from every sector into a plan to get our city moving forward. Degrees are great, but hands on, successful involvement in local business, government, community service, church and numerous leadership roles are the attributes I will bring to the Mayor’s job; these and the most important attribute, that of COMMON SENSE.
Mayor Patterson said that his administration has already addressed the city’s school bonds. “We have already fixed this. The school bond is secure now. It has been fixed for 3 years. I keep hearing that we are spending the school money and that is completely untrue.” Patterson said that a 4 cent sales tax at Grand River goes to service those bonds. Patterson also said that the city can not abolish it’s occupation tax because it has been written into the bond documents. “We are stuck with the occupation tax. It is with us for at least 30 years.”
Mayor Patterson said that the city has tried to talk the Bass Pro Shoppes into renegotiating their agreement so that Pass Pro will give up 1% or 2% of sales taxes from the ancillary district, but, “so far to no avail.” Patterson warned that the city had, “To be careful what we provide resources for,” referring to future development.
The City of Leeds is divided into city council districts. Four of the five city council incumbents are running for reelection. All four incumbents have at least one challenger. The District five councilor Kile is leaving the Council to run for Mayor. Four persons: Gerald Clayton, former Mayor Jack Courson, David Crabb, Devoris Ragland, and Dallas White are seeking that seat. The Leeds Muncipal Election like many local elections throughout Alabama is on Tuesday, August 28, 2012.
Study: COVID-19 infection rates more than double without lockdowns
Infection and fatality rates would have been higher without stay-at-home orders, a new UAB study found.
New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that if there had been no stay-at-home orders issued in the U.S. in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the country would have experienced a 220 percent higher rate of infection and a 22 percent higher fatality rate than if such orders were implemented nationwide.
Seven states never imposed stay-at-home orders, or SAHOs. The study analyzed daily positive case rates by state against the presence or absence of statewide SAHOs between March 1 and May 4, the period when such orders began to be implemented. Twelve states lifted their SAHOs before May 4.
The researchers defined SAHOs as being in effect when a state’s governor issued an order for residents of the entire state to leave home only for essential activities and when schools and nonessential businesses were closed.
“During March and April, most states in the United States imposed shutdowns and enacted SAHOs in an effort to control the disease,” said Bisakha Sen, the study’s senior author. “However, mixed messages from political authorities on the usefulness of SAHOs, popular pressure and concerns about the economic fallout led some states to lift the restrictions before public health experts considered it advisable.”
The research also sought to determine if the proportion of a state’s Black residents was associated with its number of positive cases. It found that there was.
“This finding adds to evidence from existing studies using county-level data on racial disparities in COVID-19 infection rates and underlines the urgency of better understanding and addressing these disparities,” said study co-author Vidya Sagar Hanumanthu.
The research can help advance a greater understanding of racial disparities in the health care system as a whole, and help leaders make future decisions about shutdowns as the virus continues to spread, Sen said.
“While the high economic cost makes SAHOs unsustainable as a long-term policy, our findings could help inform federal, state and local policymakers in weighing the costs and benefits of different short-term options to combat the pandemic,” she said.
The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open.
Jones to attend Auburn student forum, Tuberville hasn’t yet responded to invitation
Jones has agreed to attend the forum, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend.
The College Democrats at Auburn University and the College Republicans at Auburn University have asked U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville, to attend a student forum on Wednesday.
“We are excited to invite the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat and provide this opportunity for any Auburn student to hear directly from them, and we hope it will inform our student bodies’ decisions with the November 3rd election only days away,” said Carsten Grove, president of the College Democrats at Auburn University, in a statement.
Jones has agreed to attend the forum, Auburn University College Democrats confirmed for APR on Sunday, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend. The student organization was still awaiting a response from Tuberville’s campaign.
Jones has for months requested Tuberville join him in a debate, but Tuberville has declined.
“AUCR takes great pleasure in coming together with AUCD to co-host the Alabama Senate candidates in this forum. We are looking forward to a very informative and constructive event,” said Lydia Maxwell, president of the College Republicans at Auburn University.
Dr. Ryan Williamson, assistant professor of political science, is to emcee the forum, which will be open to all Auburn University students in the Mell Classroom Building at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the College Democrats at Auburn University.
Students will be permitted 30 seconds to ask a question of either candidate, and each candidate will have two minutes to answer, according to the release.
Capacity at the forum will be limited and precautions taken due to COVID-19. Any student with an Auburn ID is welcome and attendance will be first come, first served.
122,000 Alabamians could lose health coverage if ACA is overturned, study finds
President Donald Trump’s administration and 18 states, including Alabama, are asking the country’s highest court to strike down the law.
At least 122,000 Alabamians and 21.1 million in the U.S. overall would lose health coverage if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent study.
The Washington D.C.-based think tank Urban Institute’s analysis found that Alabama’s uninsured rate would increase by 25 percent if the court strikes down the Affordable Care Act. Oral arguments in a case against the landmark health care law are to begin on Nov. 10.
President Donald Trump’s administration and 18 states, including Alabama, are asking the country’s highest court to strike down the entire ACA.
Trump, speaking to CBS News’s Lesley Stahl in a recent interview, said he would like the Supreme Court to end the ACA. There’s concern among many that Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court, conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, could be a deciding factor in the repeal of the ACA when the Supreme Court hears the case just after the Nov. 3 election.
“I hope that they end it. It’ll be so good if they end it,” Trump told Stahl.
“Repealing the ACA would throw our health care system into chaos in the middle of a pandemic and a deep recession,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said in a statement. “Tens of thousands of Alabamians would lose health coverage when they need it most. And hundreds of thousands would pay more for coverage or lose protections for their preexisting conditions.”
Health care coverage losses could be even larger next year, as the COVID-19 pandemic and recession likely still will be ongoing, according to the study.
“The ACA has been a health lifeline for many Alabamians during the pandemic,” Hyden said. “It provides coverage options for people who have lost their jobs or seen sharp reductions in their income. And it ensures people aren’t denied insurance just because they got sick.”
Ending the ACA would also reverse gains made in reducing racial disparities in health care coverage, researchers in the study found, noting that overturning the ACA would strip health coverage from nearly one in 10 Black and Latino Americans under age 65, and more than one in 10 Native Americans nationwide would lose health insurance.
People with pre-existing conditions would be charged higher insurance rates, or have their coverage dropped altogether, if the ACA is struck down, according to the study, which also found that the law’s repeal would harm people who have health insurance through their jobs.
Those who have health insurance from an employer could see their plans reintroduce annual and lifetime coverage limits, and requirements for plans to cover essential benefits and provide free preventive services would disappear, according to the study, as would the requirement for insurers to allow young adults to be covered through their parents’ plans.
While millions would lose health care if the law is repealed, the country’s top earners would receive tax cuts, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which found that the highest-income 0.1 percent of households, which earn more than $3 million annually, would receive tax cuts averaging about $198,000 per year.
“A portion of these tax cuts — about $10 billion per year — would come at the direct expense of the Medicare Trust Fund, since the additional Medicare tax the ACA instituted for couples with earnings over $250,000 flows to the fund,” the Center of Budget and Policy Priority study reads.
Pharmaceutical companies would pay $2.8 billion less in taxes each year, according to the study, while millions of seniors would pay billions more for prescription drugs due to the gap in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit if the ACA is repealed.
“The ACA has left Alabama better equipped to fight COVID-19 and rebuild our economy after the recession,” Hyden said. “And those benefits would be even greater if Alabama would adopt Medicaid expansion.
“Striking down the ACA would harm the Alabamians who have suffered the most during the pandemic and the recession. It would deprive our state of the opportunity to save lives and strengthen our health care system by expanding Medicaid,” Hyden continued. “And it would shower huge tax cuts on rich people while making life harder for everyone else. Alabama officials should stop seeking to undermine the ACA and start investing in a healthier future for our entire state.”
Two military pilots killed in plane crash in Foley
The plane crashed around 5 p.m. A house and two cars on the ground were hit in the crash.
A Navy pilot and a Coast Guard student pilot were killed on Friday when their Navy T-6B Texan II training airplane crashed into a home in Foley. No one in the house was killed.
Commander Zach Harrell, a public affairs officer with Naval Air Forces, said that the plane crashed around 5 p.m. A house and two cars on the ground were hit in the crash.
“It is with a heavy heart that we mourn two of our pilots who lost their lives during an aircraft crash in Alabama today,” the chief of naval air training said in a Twitter post. “Our deepest sympathy goes to their family and friends at this difficult time. Rest in peace, Shipmates. We have the watch.”
Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, age 30, of Wixom, Michigan, died when her T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft crashed. She was a Navy instructor pilot, officials announced on Sunday. Also killed was Coast Guard Ensign Morgan Garrett, a 24-year-old student aviator.
Ross earned her commission in April 2012. Before joining the Florida-based Training Squadron Two in February 2018, she served three years with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 out of Norfolk, Virginia.
Garrett was from Weddington, North Carolina, and was a 2019 Coast Guard Academy graduate.
“Their spirit, friendship, and devotion to their country will not be forgotten,” Navy officials said in a Sunday news release.
Ross was a member of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps, according to her Navy career bio. Her personal awards include a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
Friday’s accident marked the Navy’s first aviation-related fatality in more than a year.
“The incident is currently under investigation,” Harrell said. “The Navy is cooperating fully with local authorities.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said on Twitter, “Very sad to hear about the Navy trainer aircraft that crashed in Foley. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two service members who lost their live.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, said, “As we await additional information, I hope you will join me in praying for the victims and their families. According to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s office, the plane was a US Navy aircraft.”
A home caught fire after the plane crashed but the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office also said no one on the ground was injured.
The T-6B Texan II is a tandem-seat, turboprop aircraft primarily used to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots, according to the Navy.
There are 245 T-6Bs based at the Navy’s two aviation training bases, Naval Air Station Whiting Field, outside of Pensacola and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. The airfield is about 45 miles from the crash site.