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A Guilty Verdict Offering Hope

Jack Campbell

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By Jack Campbell

An atomic bomb of sorts was dropped on Alabama on June 10th when a jury in Lee County found Mike Hubbard guilty on twelve counts of public corruption. The judge will impose sentencing early next month which could, most likely, include prison time. Finally, it can be said aloud that Mike Hubbard really was a crook after all, even though lone cries from people like Congressman Mike Rogers have been silenced.

Mr. Hubbard’s culture of greed and his penchant for annihilating his detractors at all costs will be felt in Alabama for a long time to come. The citizens of the state will be burdened with the aftermath–paying for the trial, wrestling with how to trust state leaders again and convincing potential investors from outside the state that Alabama has finally take down the “for sale” sign.

We now know Hubbard’s 2010 farce called “Handshake with Alabama” was merely a shakedown of Alabama where he lived two lives. One was the public Mike the Reformer who wrestled control of state government from the Democrats and promised a new day of reform and tougher ethics laws. The second was the real Mike the Knife who spent sleepless nights scheming to secretly get rich from his tenure in the Speaker’s office and how to,punish his dissidents. Sadly, Mike is talented and smart, which made him more dangerous as a public official. That, and cozying up to his mentor and “friend” Bob Riley made for a wicked and toxic elixir of greed.

And now we are faced with the election for a new Speaker of the House. Some lobbyists are scurrying to find someone they can own for the remainder of Hubbard’s term. Some of the lobbyists who weren’t on the “inside” just want a person who will be fair and honest. Many names are floating around, but the people would be better served if the successor promises to have an open door policy that includes Democrats. A super-majority stranglehold by the GOP has invited a lack of accountability and clandestine backroom deals. Most important is that the new Speaker is not a cozy friend of Mike Hubbard or the Bob Riley CABAL.

The on-line news source AL.com recently published its list of winners and losers from the Mike Hubbard verdict. Most of the list was on point, but the choice of “The People” as the number one winner is flawed. We were really the number one loser because Emperor Hubbard was given license by his legislative minions to continue his reign of tyranny and theft long after he was indicted. We lost because the nation chuckled that the chiefs of all three branches of state government were and are under investigation for various and sundry allegations.

Now that Hubbard is gone, perhaps the public may once again be provided with fair, accurate and complete reporting of the news. The mainstream media truly ignored its duty to expose the greed of the Speaker out of fear of reprisal. He denied access to reporters who attempted to cover the news he didn’t like. But those days are gone, and we are better off for it.

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Let’s hope Alabama’s reputation as the “Pay to Play State” can be mitigated. Maybe lobbyists will now fear the repercussions of skirting the ethics laws. Maybe legislators will turn over a new leaf and not sponsor stinky proposals like no-bid prisons and robbing the education trust fund. Maybe the business community will realize the Business Council of Alabama is no longer the preeminent trade association in the state. Maybe small businesses can now submit state bids and have a fair shake at getting the job. Maybe Disingenuous Don Williamson will repent for his false onset of dementia in the courtroom. Maybe Robert Bentley will awaken from his delusional dream (our nightmare) that seductress Rebekah Mason is respected and effective outside of his love chamber. Maybe Bob Riley will now admit he is no longer the beloved Patriarch of Alabama following his ridiculous witness stand theatrics and his unending schemes of personal enrichment.

And maybe those who had the courage to call out Mike Hubbard for what he truly was and is can find solace in the outcome of the trial. Yes, our own version of the Reverend Jim Jones was forced to give up his throne, and the barrels of poison punch have been taken away. For those too young to remember Jonestown, just know it’s safe to sing “Ding dong, the witch is dead.”

If these maybes above become reality, cleaning up from the Lee County atomic bomb will be well worth it. We must begin the process of rebuilding the state on a solid foundation of ethics and trust. Maybe this is written by a hopeless optimist who has confidence we can now address the many inadequacies plaguing our once-great state.

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Opinion | On the Nov. 3 ballot, vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1

Chris Christie

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(STOCK PHOTO)

On Nov. 3, 2020, all Alabama voters should vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1. Vote no on Amendment 1 because it could allow state law changes to disenfranchise citizens whom the Legislature does not want to vote. Because Amendment 1 has no practical purpose and because it opens the door to mischief, all voters are urged to vote no.

Currently, the Alabama Constitution provides that “Every citizen of the United States…” has the right to vote in the county where the voter resides. Amendment 1 would delete the word “every” before citizen and replace it with “only a” citizen.

In Alabama, the only United States citizens who cannot vote today are most citizens who have been convicted of a felony of moral turpitude. These felonies are specifically identified in Ala. Code 17-3-30.1.

Without Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution now says who can vote: every citizen. If voters approve Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution would only identify a group who cannot vote. With Amendment 1, we, the citizens of the United States in Alabama, thus would lose the state constitutional protection of our voting rights.

In Alabama, no individual who is not a United States citizens can vote in a governmental election. So, Amendment 1 has no impact on non-citizens in Alabama.

Perhaps the purpose of Amendment 1 could be to drive voter turnout of those who mistakenly fear non-citizens can vote. The only other purpose for Amendment 1 would be allowing future Alabama state legislation to disenfranchise groups of Alabama citizens whom a majority of the legislature does not want to vote.

In 2020, the ballots in Florida and Colorado have similar amendments on the ballots. As in Alabama, Citizens Voters, Inc., claims it is responsible for putting these amendments on the ballots in those states. While Citizens Voters’ name sounds like it is a good nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), it has secret political donors. One cannot know who funds Citizen Voters and thus who is behind pushing these amendments with more than $8 million in dark money.

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According to Citizen Voter’s website, the stated reason for Amendment 1 is that some cities in several other states allow non-citizens to vote. My understanding is that such measures are rare and only apply to voting for local school boards.

And why would a local government’s deciding that non-citizens can vote for local school boards be a state constitutional problem? Isn’t the good government practice to allow local control of local issues? And again, this issue does not even exist in Alabama.

The bigger question, which makes Amendment 1’s danger plain to see, is why eliminate the language protectingevery citizen’s right to vote? For example, Amendment 1 could have proposed “Every citizen and only a citizen” instead of deleting “every” when adding “only a” citizen. Why not leave the every citizen language in the Alabama Constitution?

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Amendment 1 could allow Alabama new state legislation to disenfranchise some Alabama citizens. Such a change would probably violate federal law. But Alabama has often had voting laws that violated federal law until a lawsuit forced the state of Alabama not to enforce the illegal state voting law.  

The most recent similar law in Alabama might be 2011’s HB56, the anti-immigrant law. Both HB56 and Amendment 1 are Alabama state laws that out-of-state interests pushed on us. And HB56 has been largely blocked by federal courts after expensive lawsuits.

Alabama’s Nov. 3, 2020, ballot will have six constitutional amendments. On almost all ballots, Amendment 1 will be at the bottom right on the first page (front) of the ballot or will be at the top left on the second page (back) of the ballot.

Let’s keep in our state constitution our protection of every voters’ right to vote.

Based on Amendment 1’s having no practical benefit and its opening many opportunities for mischief, all Alabama voters are strongly urged to vote “no” on Amendment 1.

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Opinion | Amendment 4 is an opportunity to clean up the Alabama Constitution

Gerald Johnson and John Cochran

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The 1901 but current Alabama Constitution has been amended about 950 times, making it by far the world’s longest constitution. The amendments have riddled the Constitution with redundancies while maintaining language and provisions — for example, poll taxes — that reflect the racist intent of those who originally wrote it.

A recompilation will bring order to the amendments and remove obsolete language. While much of this language is no longer valid, the language is still in the document and has been noted and used by other states when competing with Alabama for economic growth opportunities.

The need for recompilation and cleaning of Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized.

In 2019, the Legislature unanimously adopted legislation, Amendment 4, to provide for its recompilation. Amendment 4 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot will allow the non-partisan Legislative Reference Service to draft a recompiled and cleaned version of the Constitution for submission to the Legislature.

While Amendment 4 prohibits any substantive changes in the Constitution, the LRS will remove duplication, delete no longer legal provisions and racist language, thereby making our Constitution far more easily understood by all Alabama citizens.

Upon approval by the Legislature, the recompiled Constitution will be presented to Alabama voters in November 2022 for ratification.

Amendment 4 authorizes a non-partisan, broadly supported, non-controversial recompilation and much-needed, overdue cleaning up of our Constitution.

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On Nov. 3, 2020, vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 so the work can begin.

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Opinion | Auburn Student Center named for Harold Melton, first Auburn SGA president of color

Elizabeth Huntley and James Pratt

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Auburn University's Student Center (VIA AUBURN UNIVERSITY)

The year 1987 was a quiet one for elections across America but not at Auburn. That was the year Harold Melton, a student in international studies and Spanish, launched and won a campaign to become the first African American president of the Auburn Student Government Association, winning with more than 65 percent of the vote.

This was just the first of many important roles Harold Melton would play at Auburn and in an extraordinarily successful legal career in his home state of Georgia, where his colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court elected him as chief justice.

Last week, the Auburn Board of Trustees unanimously named the Auburn student center for Justice Melton, the first building on campus that honors a person of color. The decision was reached as part of a larger effort to demonstrate Auburn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In June, Auburn named two task forces to study diversity and inclusion issues. We co-chair the task force for the Auburn Board with our work taking place concurrently with that of a campus-based task force organized by President Jay Gogue. Other members of the Board task force are retired Army general Lloyd Austin, bank president Bob Dumas, former principal and educator Sarah B. Newton and Alabama Power executive Quentin P. Riggins.

These groups are embarking on a process that offers all Auburn stakeholders a voice, seeking input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials and more. It will include a fact-based review of Auburn’s past and present, and we will provide specific recommendations for the future.

We are committed to making real progress based on solid facts. Unlike other universities in the state, Auburn has a presence in all 67 counties through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our review has included not only our campuses in Auburn and Montgomery but all properties across our state. To date, we have found no monuments or statues recognizing the history that has divided our country. We will continue our fact-finding mission with input from the academic and research community.

Our university and leadership are committed to doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. We believe now is the right time, and we are already seeing results.

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In addition to naming the student center for the Honorable Harold Melton, we have taken steps to highlight the significant role played by Harold Franklin, the student who integrated Auburn. We are working to enhance the historical marker that pays tribute to Mr. Franklin, and we are raising its visibility in campus tours as we pay homage to his contributions as our first African American student. Last month, we awarded Mr. Franklin, now 86 and with a Ph.D., a long-overdue master’s degree for the studies he completed at Auburn so many years ago.

We likewise endorsed a student-led initiative creating the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza, which will recognize the contributions of Black Greek organizations and African American culture on our campus.

In the coming months, Auburn men and women will work together to promote inclusion to further enhance our student experience and build on our strength through diversity. The results of this work will be seen and felt throughout the institution in how we recruit our students, provide scholarships and other financial support and ensure a culture of inclusion in all walks of university life.

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Our goal is to identify and implement substantive steps that will make a real difference at Auburn, impact our communities and stand the test of time.

Naming the student center for Justice Melton is but one example. In response to this decision, he said, “Auburn University has already given me everything I ever could have hoped for in a university and more. This honor is beyond my furthest imagination.”

Our job as leaders at Auburn is more than honoring the Harold Meltons and Harold Franklins who played a significant role in the history of our university. It is also to create an inclusive environment that serves our student body and to establish a lasting legacy where all members of the Auburn Family reach their fullest potential in their careers and in life.

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Opinion | Alabama lags behind the nation in Census participation with deadline nearing

Paul DeMarco

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The United States Census is starting to wind down around the country with a Sept. 30 deadline for the national population to be completed. However, a United States District Court has recently ruled that the date may be extended another 30 days to allow more time for the census to take place.

Regardless of the deadline, Alabama has work to do when it comes to the census.

To date, the national average for participation around the country has been almost 65 percent for the census.

Unfortunately, Alabama residents are providing data to the census at a lower percentage, around some 61 percent of the state population.

There is already concern among state leaders that if that number does not reach above 70 percent, then the state will lose a seat in Congress, a vote in the electoral college and millions of federal dollars that come to the state every year.

The percentage of participation has varied widely around the state, from a high of 76 percent in Shelby County to a low of 36 percent in neighboring Coosa County.

State leaders are making a final push to request Alabama residents fill out the census in the last month before it is closed.

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We will find out later this fall if Alabama passes the national average of participation in the census compared to other states to retain both its future representation and share of federal dollars.

In the meantime, Alabamians need to fill out their census forms.

The state is depending on it.

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