By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Bonnie Sachs from Double Springs and Don Wallace from Tuscaloosa wrote a letter to members of the Republican Executive Committee, which they have shared with the Alabama Political Reporter. (Letter is posted at the bottom of this article.)
In it, the pair, who are the sponsors of the by-law change, which allows steering committee members to be removed, explained why they think changing the Alabama Republican Party by-laws is necessary. They point to the statements by Alabama College Republican Federation Chairwoman, Stephanie Petelos, which they say have led to the controversial by-law change proposal. They say that they are amenable to a compromise by-law revision. The pair wrote,
“We are acceptable to an amendment to proposed by-laws change that only addresses same sex marriage and the right to life.”
Mrs. Sachs and Mr. Wallace wrote, “It is true that the statements of the College Republican Chair praising the DOMA decision and criticizing the party leadership about their comments opposing the DOMA decision, and all of us who support our platform’s stand on traditional marriage had a part in the proposal.”
Sachs and Wallace continued,
“The 21 voting members of the Steering Committee who are charged with executing our platform, our resolutions, and conservative message, that they should not use their official positions to attack the party platform. The proposed by-laws change is only intended to address the leadership privileges and responsibilities of the Steering Committee, not to remove someone from their membership in the party. However, we still trust our party will advocate for traditional marriage, defend the sanctity of life and other moral principles that have defined our party and propelled it to being the majority party in Alabama. We continue to see conservative Democrats join our Republican Party because of how liberal the national Democrat Party has become.”
Sachs and Wallace wrote, “We will continue to stand for our Party’s strong, conservative,and traditional pro-family, pro-life, and fiscal conservative principles. We are acceptable to an amendment to proposed by-laws change that only addresses same sex marriage and the right to life.”
The pair attached a series of press statements where Ms. Petelos made statements on gay marriage that are out-of-step with the Republican official orthodoxy.They also attached an article by the Alabama Political Reporter in which Petelos said she supported the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Ms. Petelos continued,
“In general…the young people coming to the party now are more libertarian-leaning than traditional republicans with conservative ideals. In the last year to 18 months, the tone of the discussions of the young people of the party has changed a lot…[in the past] we would be whispering in the corner hoping no one would hear what we were saying…and stop talking when someone else would enter the conversation…The more I spoke with younger people and especially those under 25….we didn’t want the older members getting angry at us, we didn’t want to stir people up,”
They also attached a statement by Alabama Young Republican Federation Chairman Clayton Mark Turner, where he defended Petelos and accused some people of using Christianity as a weapon.
Don Wallace is a prominent CPA in Tuscaloosa, a former Chairman of the Alabama Republican Assembly, and a former Tuscaloosa County Commissioner. Bonnie Sachs is an educator in Double Springs.
FROM BONNIE SACHS AND DON WALLACE
TO THE ALABAMA REPUBLICAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Dear Republican Leaders,
For those of you that may be wondering what led to our proposed bylaws change, we offer the below attachments for your consideration. While it is true that the statements of the College Republican Chair praising the DOMA decision, and criticizing the party leadership about their comments opposing the DOMA decision, and all of us who support our platform’s stand on traditional marriage had a part in the proposal.
Our position is that for the 21 voting members of the Steering Committee who are charged with executing our platform, our resolutions, and conservative message, that they should not use their official positions to attack the party platform. We believe that any member of the Steering Committee or the full State Committee can discuss items they disagree with, offer resolutions on issues they feel strongly about, or seek changes in our platform. The proposed bylaws change is only intended to address the leadership privileges and responsibilities of the Steering Committee, not to remove someone from their membership in the party.
However, we still trust our party will advocate for traditional marriage, defend the sanctity of life and other moral principles that have defined our party and propelled it to being the majority party in Alabama. We continue to see conservative Democrats join our Republican Party because of how liberal the national Democrat Party has become.
We will continue to stand for our Party’s strong, conservative,and traditional pro family, pro life, and fiscal conservative principles.
We are acceptable to an amendment to proposed bylaws change that only addresses same sex marriage and the right to life.
Don Wallace, Tuscaloosa
Bonnie Sachs, Double Springs
Birmingham approves $1.3 million contract for real-time crime center technology
Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.
The Birmingham City Council approved a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Motorola this week to provide new technology for the police department’s real-time crime center amid unease and public concern over the potential use of facial recognition software within the new systems.
Mayor Randall Woodfin insisted in his remarks made before the council that the new technology is meant to integrate existing hardware and technology inside the real-time crime center. “You’re not buying any additional new equipment,” he said, “You’re buying something to integrate all those systems.”
The software suite includes Motorola Solutions’s CommandCentral Aware, a system that aggregates video, image and other data information into one interface, and BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system that will further integrate and analyze information from Birmingham’s ShotSpotter systems, public cameras and police body cameras.
Briefcam offers facial recognition capabilities, which was the main concern of community members speaking before the council, and the risk that use of the technology could disproportionately affect Black people. Facial recognition technology has a record of racial bias and misidentifies Black people at rates five to 10 times higher than white people.
“Despite assurances that there will not be facial recognition implemented at this phase that does not prevent it from being implemented in the future,” said Joseph Baker, Founder of I Believe in Birmingham and one of the Birmingham residents voicing concern on the proposal. “I believe that this software, if fully implemented, can easily lead to violations of unreasonable searches.”
Another resident who spoke against the resolution was Byron Lagrone, director of engineering at medical software solutions company Abel Healthcare Enterprises. Lagrone pointed to IBM and Amazon as examples of companies that have halted or abandoned facial recognition and object tracking software altogether over racial bias concerns.
“The prevailing attitude, among technical people is this technology is not effective, and it causes high amounts of harm for next to no gain,” Lagrone said.
Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.
“It’s explicit in this contract that facial recognition will not be used,” Woodfin said, “[If] facial recognition wants to be used in the future of this city. It would have to be approved by this body. … The mayor’s office or the police department doesn’t have unilateral power to use facial recognition. That is not part of what our contractual relationship is with Motorola.”
Woodfin also clarified that the total $1.3 million price of the contract will not be paid as a lump sum but spread out over the five-year commitment.
The city council voted 8 to 1 to approve the contract, with District 8 Councilman Steven Hoyt speaking in favor of the use of facial recognition capabilities.
“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to build a house but I’m not going to use the restroom,’” Hoyt said. “If it’s in the house, you’re going to use the restroom. … If it has the capability of facial recognition, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to use it. I’m going to vote for it because I know we’ve got to have every tool we can garner to fight crime, because it’s out of hand.”
Hoyt also suggested a review of the information collected by the new system apparatus.
“I do think, for the public’s sake, we need to have some way we review that and see how it’s being used,” Hoyt said. “We need that to go along with this.”
District 3 Councilwoman Valerie A. Abbott — who said she was the victim of a burglary the day before the vote — echoed the mayor’s insistence that the facial recognition capabilities would not be deployed unless authorized by the city council, reading a letter from Motorola stating “in order to enable facial recognition, Motorola will require an addendum or change order to the contract,” which would have to come before a public meeting of the city council.
“I too would not want facial recognition,” Abbot said, “I’m voting in favor of this because the majority of my constituents are telling me they want more and better policing, capture of criminals, prevention of crime.”
District 5 Councilman Darrell O’Quinn was the lone no vote among the near-unanimous city council, stating that he had “some reservations about how we’re doing this and will vote my conscience.” Later, O’Quinn was quoted in BirminghamWatch, saying his vote reflected his concerns about “taking on a new debt obligation in the midst of a projected $63 million shortfall in revenue.”
Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies
Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C.
Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.
But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump.
“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”
Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”
Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home.
“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat.
“I rest my case.”
You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
New unemployment claims decreased last week
Fewer people joined the unemployment rolls last week compared to the week before.
There were 7,964 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, down from 8,581 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Of the claims filed between Oct. 11 and Oct. 17, there were 4,032 related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s 51 percent, compared to 36 percent the previous week.
Trump to visit Pensacola tonight
Trump is making a push in Florida in the final weeks of the election, and Northwest Florida is part of his strategy.
Neither presidential candidate is likely to visit Alabama before the general election, as both campaigns accept that Alabama will be certainly in President Donald Trump’s camp on election day no matter what else happens. While Alabama is not a swing state, Georgia and Florida are both in play, and both campaigns are devoting enormous resources there.
Trump is making a push in Florida in the final weeks of the election, and Northwest Florida is part of his strategy. Trump will be just across the Florida-Alabama state line visiting Pensacola and is scheduled to address supporters at the ST Engineering hangar beginning at 7 p.m. CT.
The doors open at 4 p.m. and the event begins at 7:00 p.m.
The president’s rally tonight comes right after a visit to Pensacola last week by Second Lady Karen Pence and is one of many Florida campaign events planned for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump arrived in Florida after Thursday’s final presidential debate with Joe Biden. He is scheduled to hold a campaign event in The Villages before traveling to Pensacola. The president will spend the night at his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago and will vote early Saturday.
The vice president will hold rallies in Lakeland and Tallahassee on Saturday. Florida has 27 electoral college votes. It would be very difficult for Trump to get the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win without winning Florida.
Democrats warn that attending a Trump rally could be dangerous due to the coronavirus threat.
“The last thing Floridians need is for Donald Trump to host more potential superspreader rallies across our state,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement on the rally in Pensacola. “What we do need, however, is a president capable of putting Floridians ahead of his own self-interest and get this pandemic under control.”
Most recent polls have Trump trailing Biden in Florida. Tickets are required to attend the rally.