By Callie Wallace
The Metro Birmingham Branch NAACP hosted its annual Political Forum on June 15, 2013 at St. Paul United Methodist Church in the heart of downtown Birmingham. The panelists included representatives from both parties. Senator Linda Coleman, Representative Patricia Todd, and Representative Juandalynn Givan spoke on behalf of the Democrats in the Alabama Legislature. Representative Mac Buttram was the sole republican to attend the forum.
Ms. Ronda Robinson, investigative reporter for WBRC 6, moderated the forum and asked controversial questions to the panelists. Topics up for debate were economic development and the Accountability Act.
Ms. Robinson asked each panelist, “What is the Alabama Legislature doing to help create jobs for the citizens of our state? Rep. Buttram had no problem boasting about the success in his district from Cullman County. He was persistent that his constituents were experiencing job creation and an economic boom if you will. However, the Democratic delegation had a much harder time with this question. They responded by pointing to the problem.
The problem is that the Supermajority is cutting off opportunities for the citizens of Jefferson County. The Democratic sponsored Jobs Bill was constantly passed over by the Republican Party. It is hard to bring in new industry when there is such a lack of resources and opportunity at the present time for the greater Birmingham area. This question left the audience heated and asked why is it that one community is excelling economically while communities next door are suffering.
The answer came in the form of education. “Education drives economic development” stated Rep. Givan. The state of Alabama cannot promise an economic rise when it it cutting down public education. Ms. Robinson asked each panelist then to explain the Accountability Act and its true intentions. A question that Rep. Buttram did not want asked.
The women of the Democratic Party answered this question fiercely and pointed out the Republican’s flaws and the real problem regarding public education. Rep. Givan stated that the Alabama Legislature “must stop passing bills that have unintended consequences”. The Accountability Act among those bills. After addressing that most Republicans had no read the bill for themselves, the grueling debate began.
Rep. Buttram remained adamant that the Accountability Act would help the students in Jefferson County. However, it became clear that his words were a hollow promise. Todd explained to the audience that this legislation suppresses public education for their children by not allowing them the full opportunity to leave their failing schools due to the Republican’s “fix” bills.
Rep Todd approached the subject differently and suggested that the Republican party is not attacking the real problems. The problem should not be the Accountability Act is should be why the legislation is needed. According to the Republicans, it is needed because Alabama schools are failing; however, this bill does not fix the problem.
The problem lies in the fact that all public schools should be on a level playing field and in the state of Alabama this is not the case. Todd pointed out that schools in her district did not have money for textbooks and yet students that attend Mountain Brook and select schools are receiving iPads and new computers.
What is the rationale behind this? Why are some schools asking for necessities from parents such as tissue paper and pencils while other schools are producing students with the lasted technology?
The forum concluded with thanks and statements from each panelist. The Democratic representatives pushed the audience to take action and to stay involved in policy making. They stated that the bottom line is that the Republican Supermajority is not seeking answers to the problems of Alabamians. They are finding quick fixes with loopholes that only benefit certain segments of the population.
The NAACP Political Forum’s bottom line is that change is needed and change is sure to come to the Alabama Legislature.