By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, September 8, the Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) Future Majority Project and “Right Women, Right Now” initiatives both announced their “14 in ’14 Races to Watch” during the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) Northeast Regional Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.
Although the meeting focused on Republican opportunities to gain ground in the Northeast U.S. in the upcoming midterm elections, two Alabama races were included as targets for the national GOP group. The group is urging that Republicans get behind Darius Foster in the Alabama House District 56 race. The group also list 14 races for Republican women and included: Tijuanna Adetunji’s challenge of long time incumbent Alvin Holmes (D) in Alabama House District 78.
RSLC Board Member, Christine Toretti issued a written statement announcing the “Races to Watch.” Toretti said, “It is critical we ensure our Party reflects the full diversity of America and the RSLC’s Future Majority Project and ‘Right Women, Right Now’ initiative has been instrumental in guaranteeing that female and diverse Republican candidates are a part of the political conversation, both nationwide and at the state level. I applaud the candidates recognized today in these ‘Races to Watch’ and thank them for leading the way to help us grow the Republican Party in their respective states.”
Toretti announced that The Future Majority Project’s “14 in ’14 Races to Watch” are: Darius Foster – Alabama House 56, Anand Dubey – Alaska House 21, Rene Plasencia – Florida House 49, Bob Cortes – Florida House 30, Krishna Bansal – Illinois House 84, Tony Barton – Kansas House 41, Shamed Dogan – Missouri House 98, Victoria Seaman – Nevada Assembly 34, Herman Joubert – North Carolina Senate 22, Ervin Yen – Oklahoma Senate 40, Bryan Terry – Tennessee House 48, Sabi Kumar – Tennessee House 66, Rick Galindo – Texas House 117, and Chris Carmona – Texas House 148.
Toretti announced that the Right Women, Right Now “14 in ’14 Races to Watch” included: Tijuanna Adetunji – Alabama House 78, Michele Reagan – Arizona Secretary of State, Shawnna Bolick – Arizona House 28, Irene Littleton – Arizona Senate 8, Candice Benge – Colorado House 3, Terri Bryant – Illinois House 115, Erin Davis – Kansas House 15, Karyn Polito – Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, Carol Ann Fausone – Michigan House 21, Jill Dickman – Nevada Assembly 31, Sharon Gamba – Rhode Island House 32, Patsy Hazlewood – Tennessee House 27, and Sophia DiCaro – Utah House 31, and Tracie Happel – Wisconsin Assembly 94.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said in a written statement following the announcement: “We are so very proud of Darius and Tijuanna for this special recognition by the RSLC. We have known for some time that both Darius and Tijuanna were very special people and the honor that has been bestowed upon them is well deserved. The Alabama Republican Party is excited that Darius and Tijuanna have been chosen as one of the 14 candidates in each group that are being recognized by the RSLC. Their recognition by the RSLC confirms that they are extremely well qualified to represent their constituents in the Alabama House. We look forward to working alongside of each of them to ensure their victories in November.”
Darius Foster is the Republican nominee for the District 56 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. Darius Foster is a native Alabamian who was raised on the west side of Birmingham. He has a degree from Miles College, is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, is a former member of the Alabama GOP steering committee, and is a former member of the leadership team with the Birmingham Urban League Young Professionals.
Foster, who is African-American, said that people often have trouble hiding their shock when they find out he is also a Republican. Foster said, “I am very excited about the opportunity to earn the vote of the citizens of District 56. I am even more excited about offering voters something different. A new face with new ideas. I believe that the choice will be clear for voters in November.”
Foster said on his website, “It’s simply time for a new direction. Business as usual is no longer acceptable.”
Foster ran unopposed in the June Republican primary for the District 56 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. Foster said that after redistricting, HD56 is arguably one of the most racially, economically, and generationally diverse districts in the State.
The majority minority district is currently represented by Representative Lawrence McAdory (D), but he was narrowly unseated in the low turnout Alabama Democratic Primary by challenger Louise Alexander from Bessemer.
In Alabama House District 78, Tijuanna Adetunji (R) from Montgomery is challenging the longest serving current member of the Alabama legislature. Clearly the incumbent, Alvin Holmes (D) from Montgomery, has the advantage in name recognition after his 40 years of service in the legislature, but during the last year Holmes has made a number of racially insensitive statements that have drawn widespread national criticism and condemnation.
Adetunji wrote, “As Alabamians we have come too far to turn back now to the years of racial divisiveness. Coretta Scott King said, “Segregation was wrong when it was forced by white people,” and that it is “still wrong when it is requested by black people.” I am not surprised that such request are still being made from the Alabama House floor like the one recently by Representative Alvin Holmes (D-78), that the U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas is an ‘Uncle Tom.’”
Adetunji said, “I believe the true Uncle Toms of our day are those that work hard to silence the voices of blacks that refuse to deny their values in the voting booth. These Uncle Toms go to great lengths to make government more appealing than God. They call evil good and good evil. They have cheapened the struggle of “Civil Rights” to include a person’s sexual preference. They have built strong alliances and strongholds as Democrats and any black person who wakes up from the nightmare of their tactics are attacked for doing so. When did being black mean subscribing to their views only?”
Adetunji continued, “Since announcing my candidacy there have been many blacks that wholeheartedly agree with me and say with exasperation, ‘It is time for a change.’ But there are others that also agree but are afraid of the ‘establishment.’ As a Republican for the Alabama House of Representatives District 78, I ask Alabama to wake up, stand up and take courage for the values that once made this country great. These values can be found in the Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…’ It is my duty to make sure that those rights are not forgotten or marred by fear tactics, name-calling and sabotage.”
Tijuanna Adetunji is a native Alabamian born in Birmingham and reared in Montgomery. Her husband Fred Adetunji, is the Director of Missions and Executive Pastor of Fresh Anointing House of Worship (FAHOW) in Montgomery. They have four children and one grandchild. Adetunji owns a business that provides insurance products. She is a proponent of entrepreneurial growth and development through the Small Business Resource Center, where she completed Entrepreneurial University.
Tijuanna is the volunteer Director of Life Outreach at FAHOW, is an inspirational speaker, passionate advocate for the unborn and the author of “Dear Daughter: How To Choose Your Way To A Better Life.” Adetunji is a founding member of the Montgomery County Minority GOP, a member of the Alabama Minority GOP and the Capital City Republican Women. She has a Bachelors degree from Liberty University and is near completing her Masters in Public Policy from Liberty University. Adetunji is a U.S. Army Veteran who served during the first Gulf War where she served with the 1207th Medical Unit. Like Foster, Adetunji is running as an African-American Republican in a majority minority district.
The Alabama Republican Party leads the entire nation in minority candidate recruitment, but at this point it is uncertain if African-American voters will embrace African-American Republican candidates like Foster.
In recent years, ALGOP has had tremendous success at breaking into counties that were long dominated by Democratic Party machines. The party controls both Houses of the State legislature, six of Alabama’s Seven Congressional Districts, and every Statewide elected office despite routinely losing the Alabama African-American vote by 85 to 90+ percent.
If the Alabama Republican Party can make inroads among a new generation of African-American voters, the ALGOP will cement its place as the dominant political party in the State of Alabama.<
Department of Justice sues Ashland Housing Authority alleging racial discrimination
“AHA has engaged in a pattern or practice of race discrimination by steering applicants to housing communities based on race,” the complaint alleges.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a lawsuit alleging that the Housing Authority of Ashland violated the Fair Housing Act by intentionally discriminating against Black people who applied for housing because of their race.
The DOJ in its complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, names as defendants the Housing Authority of Ashland, the Southern Development Company of Ashland Ltd., Southern Development Company of Ashland #2 Ltd. and Southern Development Company LLC, which are the private owners and managing agent of one of those housing complexes.
The department’s complaint alleges that the Ashland Housing Authority denied Black applicants the opportunity to live in overwhelmingly white housing complexes on the city’s East Side, while steering white applicants away from properties whose residents were predominantly Black in the West Side. The AHA operates seven public housing communities spread across both areas, according to the complaint.
“From at least 2012 to the present, AHA has engaged in a pattern or practice of race discrimination by steering applicants to housing communities based on race and by maintaining a racially segregated housing program,” the complaint alleges.
The federal government states in the complaint that as of June 2018, 69 percent of all AHA tenants were white, but 99 percent of tenants at Ashland Heights, on the East Side, were white, 92 percent of tenants at another East Side community were white and 91 percent of tenants at yet another East Side housing development were white.
Similar disparities were seen in public housing communities in the West Side, the complaint states.
AHA kept separate waiting lists for both segregated areas, the complaint alleges and allowed applicants who decline offers of housing “without showing good cause, even when they decline offers for race-based reasons,” to maintain their position on the waiting list, in violation of AHA’s own policies intended to prevent race discrimination.
“On April 11, 1968, one week after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the United States enacted the Fair Housing Act to outlaw race, color and other forms of discrimination in housing. Denying people housing opportunities because of their race or color is a shameful and blatant violation of the Fair Housing Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division in a statement. “The United States has made great strides toward Dr. King’s dream of a nation where we will be judged by content of our character and not by the color of our skin.”
“The dream remains at least partially unfulfilled because we have not completely overcome the scourge of racial bias in housing,” Dreiband continued. “Discrimination by those who receive federal taxpayer dollars to provide housing to lower-income applicants is particularly odious because it comes with the support and authority of government. The United States Department of Justice will not stand for this kind of unlawful and intolerable discrimination. The Justice Department will continue to fight to protect the rights of all Americans to rent and own their homes without regard to their race or color.”
U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama said in a statement that individuals and families should not have their rights affected by their race or national origin. “Our office is committed to defending the civil rights of everyone,” Escalona said.
The lawsuit seeks damages to compensate victims, civil penalties to the government to vindicate the public interest and a court order barring future discrimination and requiring action to correct the effects of the defendants’ discrimination.
The DOJ in a press release encouraged those who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination at the defendants’ properties should contact the department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox 9997, or by email at [email protected] Individuals who have information about this or another matter involving alleged discrimination may submit a report online at civilrights.justice.gov.
The DOJ in August the U.S. Housing and Urban Development determined that the Decatur Housing Authority was disallowing Black people to live in public housing located in riverfront towers while requiring Black people to live in less attractive apartments elsewhere.
Clean water advocates want a comprehensive water plan for Alabama that creates jobs
Under new leadership, a plan for preserving clean water and fair access to it may be within reach in Alabama.
Environmentalists are optimistic about making progress on water resource issues and the state’s climate change preparedness under the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and next Congress, particularly because the president-elect is indicating that economic gains go hand-in-hand with protecting the environment.
“It’s really exciting to see the Biden administration put jobs in the same conversation with their climate and environmental policies, because for too long there has been that false argument that jobs and the environment don’t go together — that you can’t have a regulated business sector and create jobs,” said Cindy Lowry, executive director of Alabama Rivers Alliance.
On a recent post-election call with other advocates, Lowry said that the current policy outlook reinforced the importance of voting. There have been some steps forward for conservation during the presidency of Donald Trump, she said, like the president’s signing of the Great American Outdoors Act in August, but the administration has prioritized industry interests.
Under new leadership, a plan for preserving clean water and fair access to it may be within reach in Alabama.
“We have spent so much time and energy as a movement trying to defend and basically just hold the line against so many of the rollbacks, and now we can focus on moving forward on certain areas,” Lowry said.
Julian Gonzalez, a clean water advocate with the nonprofit Earthjustice in Washington D.C., said on the call that the incoming Congress will be the “most environmentally aware Congress we’ve had.” Still, the real work remains.
“Everything needs to be one conversation, and you should be able to go call your Congressperson and say, ‘How are you going to fix America’s water problem?’ and they should have an answer, but right now that’s not the case,” Gonzalez said.
For Alabama’s water advocates, priorities are what to do with coal ash, how to prepare for droughts and flooding, improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure and providing relief to communities that have been affected by environmental degradation.
While production of coal ash has reduced due mostly to market-driven decreases in the burning of coal, enough facilities still use it that Alabama is developing its own permitting process and regulations for storing it. The Biden administration can provide leadership on the issue, Lowry said.
While many people associate water issues with drought, Lowry said the topic encompasses much more than that. Pipes that contain lead need to be replaced. There’s plenty of water, she said, but the state needs a comprehensive water plan that prepares communities for drought management, especially as more farmers use irrigation, which uses more water.
Her organization has been working toward a state plan that can ensure fair access to water without depleting the environment of what it needs to remain stable.
With the increased frequency and intensity of storms being attributed to climate change, water infrastructure will need to be upgraded, Lowry said. Many communities rely on centralized treatment centers to handle their wastewater, and many of those facilities are overburdened and experience spills. Storms and flash floods push old pipes and at-capacity centers past their breaking points — pipes leak or burst and sewage pits overflow.
Lowry said that there has been some progress in recent years on funding infrastructure upgrades in communities and states. It’s a more bipartisan conversation than other environmental issues, and communities that have been hit hard by multiple storms are starting to have new ideas about how to rebuild themselves to better withstand the effects of climate change.
Still, Alabama’s preparedness efforts are all reactionary, which is why a comprehensive water plan is a priority, she said.
“Policies like that — proactive policies that are really forward-thinking about how we will make decisions if we do run into challenges with our environment — are something that this state has not been very strong on,” she said.
Lowry hopes for more emphasis on environmental justice, with official agencies working more with local municipalities to provide relief to communities hurt by pollution and weather events. Such problems are characteristic of the Birmingham area, where Lowry is based, and the Black Belt.
She wants to see stronger permitting processes for industry projects and easier access to funding for cleanups in communities that need them. North Birmingham activists have been trying for years to get a Superfund site there on the Superfund National Priorities List.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to address these problems, Lowry said. Having multiple avenues for access to funding is important so that all communities have options. Smaller communities can’t always pay back loans, so they need access to grants.
Lowry emphasized that new jobs must be created without exacerbating climate change. Although Alabama tends to look to heavy industry for economic gains, she said she’s hopeful that a different approach by the Biden administration will trickle to the state level.
Lowry also said that conversations about climate change in Alabama have to be put in terms of what is happening in Alabama.
For her and other environmentalists working in the Deep South, it’s all about relationships and establishing trust. The environment becomes a less partisan issue when you focus on the basics, she said, because everyone wants clean water.
“I’ve found it much more easy to have conversations with elected officials at the state level in places like Alabama, where people do kind of grow up a little closer to nature and conservation, and [by] just kind of meeting people where they are,” Lowry said.
Governor issues statement urging school systems to return for in-person learning
The governor urged local school districts to resume in-person instruction.
Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday issued the following statement, urging schools to resume in-person instruction.
“Due to COVID-19, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for everyone, especially for our parents, teachers and students. I’m extremely grateful for the flexibility everyone has shown as they have adapted to virtual instruction,” Ivey said. “However, virtual and remote instruction are stop-gap measures to prevent our students from regressing academically during the pandemic. These practices cannot — and should not — become a permanent part of instructional delivery system in 2021. As we are learning more about COVID-19, we are seeing more and more clear evidence pointing out that our students are safe in the classroom with strong health protocols in place.”
“There are nearly 9,800 fewer students enrolled statewide in this academic year and a five percent reduction in students on the kindergarten level,” Ivey said. “This will not only result in a critical learning loss for our students today but will also likely lead to an equally negative impact on the readiness of our workforce in years to come.”
Additionally, it could have an equally important economic loss that affects funding for classrooms and teacher units, according to the governor.
“As we begin the holiday season and contemplate a return to a normalcy in 2021, I strongly urge our education leadership on both the state and local levels to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible,” she said. “My Administration will work with Dr. Mackey, all of our local superintendents and the Legislature to ensure that our kids are back in the classroom in 2021. Our employers, our families, our communities, Alabama’s taxpayers, and most importantly, our students, deserve nothing less.”
Energy Institute of Alabama names Alabama Transportation Institute’s Parrish as senior policy adviser
Alabama Transportation Institute Executive Director Allen Parrish is the newest senior policy adviser for the organization.
The Energy Institute of Alabama is pleased to welcome Alabama Transportation Institute Executive Director Allen Parrish as the newest senior policy adviser for the organization.
In this role, Parrish will provide expert guidance to EIA to continue serving as the leading voice and advocate for public policies that ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for Alabamians.
“The addition of Dr. Parrish’s experience, expertise and voice as a Senior Policy Advisor will greatly benefit EIA for years to come. His accomplishments speak for themselves, and we are grateful for his vision and ongoing commitment to the people and economy of Alabama,” said EIA Chairman Seth Hammett.
Parrish began his career at the University of Alabama, where he worked for 26 years as a professor of computer science and ultimately served as the founding director of the Center for Advanced Public Safety.
In 2016, Parrish left the university to become the founding chair of the Cyber Security Program at the U.S. Naval Academy. He most recently served as the associate vice president for research at Mississippi State University before coming back to Alabama as ATI executive director in February 2020.
“Here at the Alabama Transportation Institute, we are focused on innovative research solutions to build and maintain a transportation system that propels Alabama forward by increasing safety, furthering economic growth and conserving our energy resources,” Parrish noted. “Whether it’s smart cities, electric vehicles, freight delivery efficiency or simply ensuring quality roads and bridges, we are committed to a 21st Century transportation system that supports our state’s economic vitality.”
Parrish joins an already well-established suite of senior policy advisers that are helping to further EIA’s mission. Additional senior policy advisers include Jim Sullivan of The Sullivan Group, Dr. Steven Taylor of Auburn University’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts and Oliver Kingsley of Auburn’s College of Engineering.
“EIA, ATI and the state of Alabama are lucky to have someone like Dr. Parrish leading the collaborative transportation efforts and policy development that continues to modernize our state’s transportation system,” said Alabama Power Company’s Houston Smith, who serves as the EIA vice chairman. “We fully support these efforts and modern infrastructure initiatives, like electric vehicles, that are major drivers of our state’s economy.”