Connect with us

News

Birmingham Mayoral Election on Tuesday

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday Birmingham voters will get their chance to decide who will be the Mayor of the largest City in Alabama.

The Alabama Political Reporter recently covered a Mayoral forum at McElwain Baptist Church in East Birmingham. Most political commentators believe that incumbent Mayor William Bell will cruise through a re-election. But, that has not prevented several challengers from running against Bell, who has been a political force in Birmingham and Jefferson County for decades.

Birmingham area real estate investor Kamau Afrika said he was born and raised in the Smithfield Community of Birmingham and attended Parker High School growing up. Mr. Afrika said he was running because he is concerned by the unconscionable utility rates that Birmingham residents are paying and he believes that he can improve the budget situation and work well with the city council.

Afrika cited a Wall Street Journal article that claimed that Birmingham was the 13th worst managed city in America and an Alabama Policy Institute review, which ranked Birmingham as the worst managed city among Alabama’s 5 largest cities. Afrika promised to bring fiscal responsibility if he is elected.

Pat Bell said that she grew up in Birmingham but was born in rural Dallas County. Ms. Bell said that she attended Kingston Elementary and Hayes High School. Bell said that she had worked in advertising for Yellow Pages and then worked in radio advertising. Ms. Bell said that she had worked in several political campaigns and that she had helped get former Mayor Richard Arrington in office, but was not satisfied with the result so she is running herself. Like both Afrika and Dr. Huey, Ms. Bell has run unsuccessfully on a number of occasions.

Incumbent Mayor William Bell told the estimated 90 people in attendance that it is a great honor to serve as Mayor of Birmingham. Mayor Bell said that when he was first elected, “There was a dark cloud hanging over the city.” Former Mayor Larry Langford had been convicted on federal corruption charges, the city had had two interim Mayors, the city was in a budget crisis, and Bell inherited a $77 million deficit.

Public Service Announcement

Mayor Bell said that if re-elected, “I promise you one thing: that I will be the number one cheerleader” [for the City of Birmingham]. Bell said that he has done things to improve the situation including bringing people back to the city. Mayor Bell said that the downtown community is growing. “Give me another opportunity to bring the city forward.” Bell said that he has the heart to do the right thing and that he knows how to do it in a dignified and positive way. He has gone to Washington to seek funds not only to repair the devastation from the 2011 tornadoes which devastated the Pratt City neighborhood; but also to improve the City as a whole. Mayor Bell said that his efforts have brought in $27 million in federal grant money.

Dr. Stephanie Sigler Huey said that she was born in Birmingham and raised in the Elyton Village neighborhood. Dr. Huey said that she has 20+ years of experience in the business world, before starting a second career in education. Dr. Huey has a Masters degree in Mathematics and teaches in Parker the school where she graduated from. Dr. Huey ran for Mayor in 2003 and 2009 and was contemplating relocating to Washington D.C., but the students in Parker High School said ‘Dr Huey please run for Mayor of Birmingham’ so she is once again running for the office. Dr. Huey said, “I have a vision for the city of Birmingham, but we have got to work together to move the city forward

Adlai Trone said that he is originally from Birmingham and attended Birmingham schools. Trone said that he played football at Auburn University and graduated with a degree in Finance. Trone also played in the last Iron Bowl held in Birmingham and played two years of professional football with the Birmingham Steel Dogs before becoming a full-time financial planner with Ameriprize Financial in Atlanta. Trone moved back to Birmingham as an independent financial planner; but switched careers to education when he learned that things were so bad that the Birmingham City Schools were forced to recruit teachers from the Philippines. Trone taught Math at Carver High School, but has been demoted to tutor after the State took over the City school system.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kamau Afrika vowed to end the gridlock if he is elected. “I have a good relationship with everybody on that council.” Afrika promised to bring: honesty, integrity, and transparency to city government and enforce city regulations if elected, “We got so much on the book that is not being enforced.”

Ms. Pat Bell said that members of the City Council claim that Mr Bell is acting like a dictator. “I don’t want to be a dictator.” Ms. Bell said that if she was elected she would make sure that people are put in positions where they need to be so that the citizens are best served by their city government.

Mayor William Bell said that within the structure of the City government, the Major is the one to lead the city. You can not have ten different individuals making decisions. Where you get into conflict is when the legislators (the City Council) wants to play political games. “I will not let anyone run over me.” Bell said that as Mayor he has brought the Birmingham Barons back to the City of Birmingham and built a new hotel (the Weston) that will bring more conventions to Birmingham. If re-elected, “I will continue to make you proud.”

Dr. Stephanie Sigler Huey said that there is confusion on the city council now. “God is not an author of confusion.” Huey said that the city needed to have the mayor and the council sitting together to work together. “When I am Mayor there is not going to be any bickering or any arguing.”

Adlai Trone said that the the Mayor is the head administrator. The important thing is that a team approach is needed. Currently, budgets haven’t passed and because of that the people have suffered. The neighborhoods and the people are suffering. Trone said that his biggest accomplishments are his masters degree from the University of Alabama in financial planning and that in his second year of teaching his school made AYP in Math. “None of the schools that I taught in are on the failing list.”

Mayor Bell said that he is committed that the City will be the best sports venue that it can possibly be. Bell said that the city currently has the Barbers Indie Racing league and that he will work with Major League Soccer if they approach the city about expansion but to this point the city has not been approached by the MLS.

Ms. Bell said that the 21st century generation has been left out. Ms. Bell said that the Barons are nice but when you are preparing the 21st generation only to go to jail you have accomplished nothing. Ms. Bell said that too many Birmingham youths grow up in fatherless homes and that she wants the youth to learn how to be fathers.

Dr Huey said that the young generation wants an NBA team and she is committed to getting them an NBA team.

Afrika said that children are our future and that education and academics is his priority, Afrika said that Birmingham is the number eight city in America right now for poverty. The lack of education and skills is a problem that needs to be solved.

The mayoral election for the first time is running on the same date as the city council elections so Birmingham residents will also be able to select their city councilperson and their representative on the city’s school board.

The city school system is currently being run by the state of Alabama due to insufficient reserves and no consensus on a plan to save 30 days of reserves. The new school board will be tasked with leading the system out of state management.

The polls open on Tuesday at 7:00 am and will remain open until 7:00 pm.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

Advertisement

Health

CDC confirmed expanded “close contact” definition to Alabama officials in August

It is unclear why the CDC waited until late October to update or clarify its public-facing guidance on its website.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

New federal guidance on how a person is determined to have been in close contact with someone infected by COVID-19 won’t impact how Alabama works to mitigate the disease, said the state’s top health official. That’s because the state was already aware of the expanded definition in August before the change was made public last week.

It is unclear why the CDC waited until late October to update or clarify its public-facing guidance on its website when it was giving more precise definitions to at least one state health department and receiving questions from public health officials about the definition.

The delay in announcing the change is raising questions about how state health officials nationwide have been determining the public’s possible exposure to the deadly disease and if contact tracing and mitigation efforts will be made more time- and resource-intensive with the more inclusive definition in place.

The CDC on Wednesday expanded the definition of “close contact” to mean a person can be at risk of contracting COVID-19 if that person is within six feet of an infected person for a period of at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

The previous definition stated a person should quarantine if they were within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. Alternately, in other areas of the CDC’s website, the language stated “a total of 15 minutes” in the definition of close contact.

“What they changed their definition to is something they had verbally confirmed to us months ago, and we have always been using that definition,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR on Friday.

Harris said a support team from the CDC was in Alabama in July as the Alabama Department of Public Health was preparing plans to reopen schools. Harris said the question was asked of CDC staff because his department was getting questions on the definition of close contact from school officials.

Public Service Announcement

APDH staff took the definition then of “a total of 15 minutes” to mean that there could be several exposures over a period of time equaling that 15 minute threshold, so they asked CDC to clarify that assertion.

“When those folks were here we asked the CDC people directly. Can you confirm for us what that means, and they said, it adds up to a total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period,” Harris said. “And we even got somebody to commit to that in an email somewhere.”

Melissa Morrison, CDC’s career epidemiology field officer working at the ADPH in Montgomery, in an Aug. 13 email to ADPH’s director of the office of governmental affairs, quotes a statement Morrison attributes to her CDC colleague, CDC public health advisor Kelly Bishop. Harris shared the email with APR.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Yes, I did get a response from the contact tracing team. The 15 minutes for a close contact is cumulative, and they said ‘The time period for the cumulative exposure should start from 2 days before the cases’ illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection date) until the time the patient is isolated,” Morrison quotes Bishop in the email.

In the August email, Bishop goes on to say, as attributed by Morrison, that “as of now there is no established upper limit on the time period (i.e. 48, 72 hours etc).”

The CDC’s expanded definition was reflected in an Aug. 20 statement from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“The 15-minute time is a cumulative period of time. For example, a close contact might be within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive person for 5 minutes each at 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. This is a standard based on guidance from the CDC,” the statement reads.

In an email to APR on Friday, Harris said he’d discussed the matter with Morrison on Friday who “emphasized that the guidance this week from CDC was NOT a change but rather a clarification. They simply used the MMWR corrections story as a convenient time to make the point.”

Harris was referring to a CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Wednesday that detailed findings by Vermont health officials showing that a prison worker contracted COVID-19 during an eight-hour shift in which the worker had 22 close contacts with an infected inmate totaling 17 minutes.

The CDC in statements to numerous news outlets, and to APR, cite that Vermont study in connection to Wednesday’s definition change.

“That’s kind of why they said it out loud,” Harris said of the study and the Wednesday announcement. “But I have to say, when I saw that updated guidance I thought, ‘I can’t believe anybody ever thought otherwise.’”

Different pages on the CDC’s website on Saturday defined close contact as both being “a total of 15 minutes or more” and “a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period,” confusing the matter further, and numerous other state health departments had not yet updated their websites Saturday to reflect the CDC’s expanded definition.

A CDC spokesman in an email to APR on Wednesday noted the Vermont study on the prison worker and said “CDC clarified the amount of time it would take for someone to be considered a close contact exposed to a person with COVID-19.”

“The CDC website now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Previous language defined a close contact as someone who spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed case,” CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told APR by email Wednesday.

Pauley didn’t respond to APR’s question on Friday asking why the CDC waited until Wednesday to update its guidance online, given that ADPH had confirmed the definition of close contact in August. He also didn’t respond to a request to verify the statement Morrison attributed to her CDC colleague in the August email.

“To us, we thought if it says a total, that means you must be adding up smaller amounts to get to 15 minutes, or you wouldn’t use the word total,” Harris said. “When they changed it this week, I don’t know the details of why that happened, but I think, obviously, everybody didn’t have the same message everywhere.”

Dr. Bertha Hidalgo, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at UAB’s Department of Epidemiology, told APR on Friday that her understanding prior to Wednesday’s expanded definition was that a contact was defined as someone who was exposed to the COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 min or more at a time and explained that the updated guidance complicates how public health officials will engage in contact tracing.

“This means significant efforts for contact tracing moving forward, in effect needing to identify every person that person came into contact with during the possible exposure timeframe,” she said.

It was unclear Monday how the definition change impacts Alabama’s Guidesafe COVID-19 exposure notification app, which notifies a user if they come into close contact with an infected person. The app was developed by ADPH and University of Alabama at Birmingham, thanks to a partnership between Apple and Google’s combined development of the technology, and alerts users to possible exposure while keeping all users’ identities anonymous.

Sue Feldman, professor of health informatics, UAB School of Health Professions, in a message to APR on Friday said that due to the anonymity of the app, it would be difficult, but not impossible, to update the app to take into consideration the CDC’s expanded guidance.

“We are taking this into consideration for our next update,” Feldman said in the message.

Also unclear is how many other states that have similar exposure notification apps, also using Google and Apple’s technology, aren’t yet using the expanded definition of a “close contact.” Colorado is to roll out that state’s app on Sunday, and according to Colorado Public Radio News the app will notify a user that they’ve been exposed if they come “within six feet of the phone of someone who tested positive for at least ten minutes.”

New York’s exposure notification app also appears to use the old CDC guidance, and will alert users if they come “within 6 feet of your phone for longer than 10 minutes,” according to the state’s website.

The updated definition, which health departments refer to when conducting contact tracing, is likely to have a serious impact on schools, workplaces and other group settings where personal contact may stretch over longer periods of time including multiple interactions.

It greatly expands the pool of people considered at risk of transmission. “It’s easy to accumulate 15 minutes in small increments when you spend all day together — a few minutes at the water cooler, a few minutes in the elevator, and so on,” Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told The Washington Post. “I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts.”

The clarification comes as cases and hospitalizations are rising both in Alabama and nationwide. Alabama’s 14-day average of cases has increased 41.2 percent over the past two weeks. The percentage of tests that are positive has increased from roughly 13 percent to more than 20 percent over the past 14 days. The U.S. average of new daily infections is now at its highest point of the pandemic, with 481,372 cases reported in a week, according to CNN and Johns Hopkins University.

Continue Reading

News

Alabama women to Ivey: Support fair processes

Last week, Ivey co-authored a letter of support for Barrett and released it to media outlets.

Josh Moon

Published

on

Gov. Kay Ivey held a Coronavirus update Press Conference. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

A letter signed by a bipartisan group of about a thousand Alabama women takes issue with Gov. Kay Ivey’s recent support of Republican Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, and it encourages Ivey and other state officials to instead support fair processes.

Last week, Ivey co-authored a letter of support for Barrett and released it to media outlets. In response, the letter from Alabama women calls the process to nominate Barrett, which is occurring after more than 50 million votes have been cast and in a Senate that is predicted to change from Republican to Democratic control, unfair and “anti-democratic.”

The letter, which doesn’t criticize Ivey or request that she rescind her endorsement of Barrett, asks instead that Ivey and other state leaders honor women by implementing and following fair processes that provide women with equal opportunities.

The full letter is below:

Dear Governor Ivey,

We are a group of women. We are current and future mothers, grandmothers, caregivers, leaders and champions of all citizens of our great state. We are moderates, progressives and conservatives. When we agree with our leaders, we say so, as we have in your support for education, workforce development, and sensible mask policies.  

We also speak up when we do not agree. Thus, we want to respond to your letter in support of Amy Coney Barrett because it does not represent our views. 

Like you and Judge Barrett’s father, we want to tell all young girls that they can do anything their male counterparts can do and they can be anything and everything they want to be. We want it to be a truth, not just a signal “that the most qualified individual will get the job”.  In addition to those things, we want them to know and believe that the process will be fair, because no matter the job, the process should be fair. And our children and young people (boys or girls) should be able to trust that democracy works and can be counted on. How can we assure them when this process has been so rushed and undemocratic?

Public Service Announcement

We are women who oppose Judge Barrett’s confirmation, because confirming her at this time, when 50 million Americans have already cast their votes, is anti-democratic. Regardless of what ways she does or does not think or talk like us, what matters is that a confirmation should not take place after the election is underway. 

We do not expect you to rescind your support of Judge Barrett. However, we urge you and the other women leaders who have advanced to top positions in our government to stand with us in asking for a fair process that takes place after the election. A process that helps us to believe that our voices and our votes matter because the American people should have the right to choose who nominates the next Supreme Court Justice.

Respectfully, 

Emily Hess Levine
Lindsey Chitwood
Megan Cheek
Kira Fonteneau
Ronne M. Hess
Cindi Cassis Branham
Anna Brantley Fry
Joellyn M. Beckham
Kristen Berthiaume
Alexandra Ruthann Bullock McElroy
ADVERTISEMENT

The letter is signed by more than 800 women. The full list of signatures was sent to APR with the letter. We have chosen to list only the first 10 for the sake of brevity.

Continue Reading

Health

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.

Micah Danney

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

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.

Public Service Announcement

“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.

Continue Reading

Elections

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.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

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.

Public Service Announcement

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement