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Gubernatorial candidates speak to PARCA Roundtable

Brandon Moseley

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Most of the candidates for Governor were present for the PARCA gubernatorial forum in Birmingham. Each of the six candidates were interviewed by a different member of the PARCA Roundtable.

PARCA, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, was founded by the late Gov. Albert Brewer to provide nonpartisan research into the problems facing Alabama.

Auburn Assistant Professor of political science Bridget also interviewed Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Battle said that he was inspired to get in public service by witnessing Birmingham Mayor George Seibels efforts to solve the city’s problems back when Battle worked as a young man at Britling’s Cafeteria.

Battle said that the state’s challenges turn into opportunities especially when we talk about getting our young people to stay or come back to Alabama.

Battle said that in Huntsville City schools they test the students at the beginning of year as well as the end of the school year to make sure that we get a year’s worth of learning from that year of teaching.

Teachers whose students fail to progress can then receive remediation to improve their teaching skills. His wife Eula is a retired school teacher who founded a foundations that distributes 90,000 books each year are to under privileged children to address the achievement gap between children from non-affluent homes with their peers in affluent homes.

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Battle said that as Governor he would make sure that everybody is at the table when we make decisions so that the outcomes are a win win for everyone involved. “Trust is something that you work on and build upon,” Battle said.

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Sue Bell Cobb, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was interviewed by WBHM radio in Birmingham news director Gigi Douban.

Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Cobb said, “Balancing is what women do best. States that have the highest percentage of women in the legislature are leaving us in the dust policy wise.”

As chief justice, she introduced juvenile justice reform that has resulted in 60 percent less children being locked up.

Cobb said that she retired after 30 years as a judge because her priority then was to be with her Mother who had fallen into ill health. “My Mother is not in heaven. I retired but I did not retire my love for this state’’

Cobb said, “I am firmly convinced that 2018 is the year of the woman.”

“It is excruciatingly difficult to ask people for money,” Cobb said.

Cobb denounced the partisan, political attack pretending to be a news report that was used against her over her then aide. Cobb said that when you commit a crime and serve your time everything should be forgiven.

Little John got two additional college degrees after his incarceration and the attack on her campaign over his hiring was sad. He is “a righteous man.”

Cobb said that she did not know that he was a convicted sex offender when she hired him. “It is not a common practice for campaigns to do background checks. “He was highly recommended” and had worked for two other campaigns. He resigned and forced her to accept his resignation. “He never went to a single home. He managed teams of volunteers.”

“There is a propaganda piece that is being pushed” against me “that has lies and lies” about me,” Cobb said.

Cobb said that every school should have a counselor or behaviorist on staff.

“The teachers will not have to strike when Sue Bell Cobb becomes governor,” Cobb said.

“We have an image problem,” Cobb said. “Some think it is appropriate political ads to talk about mountain oysters. I am surprised that we did not see that on Saturday Night Live,” referring to a recent ad by Gov. Kay Ivey.

“What we have seen from Doug Jones election is that it is important that people become engaged,” Judge Cobb said. “I will promise you right now that if I am elected Governor I will never let you down and I will never embarrass you.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson was interviewed by Victoria Hollis, the strategy director of the Birmingham Educational Foundation.

“For 30 years I have been part of the ministry,” Dawson said. “His ministry is kind of like Billy Graham’s just not as big. Every year we host a student conference in Pigeon Forge and we work with Major League Baseball.

“I have worked with pastors for three decades,” Dawson said. “Please don’t discount pastors they are CEOs of their own organizations.” In his position he has to bring people together. On some things we have to agree to disagree; but we find common ground on those areas where we do agree. “The only thing harder than getting Republicans and Democrats to work together is to get Baptists and Methodists to work together.”

Dawson said that the one of the saddest things he has ever reads is that the prison system determines how many beds they will need by the number of children that don’t know how to read at third grade.

“I grew up in the Birmingham public school system,” Dawson said. “I would not be where I am today without teachers.”

Dawson said that he is concerned that our prisons are becoming generational facilities.

“You can live for days without food but you can’t live for one second without hope,” Dawson said.

Dawson defended his plan to deal with the growing drug addiction problems by mandatory testing of all children involved in extracurricular activities in high school. “We already do random drug tests. My son got tested every time. The kid that had the addiction somehow go missed.”

“You have got to get the legislators who write the laws together with the lawyers, the judges and with law enforcement,” Dawson said.

Former State Representative and Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Fields was interviewed by Kendra Key, an attorney with the law firm Maynard, Cooper & Gale.

“Alabama is moving forward, it just needs a little help,” Fields said. “Alabama has to deal with her infrastructure,” and that includes broadband.

Fields said that we also need “commuter rail that will ship you over to Atlanta and get you on a plane to get where you got to go.”

Fields praised Congressman Robert Aderholt in the 4th district for his work in getting federal assistance to bring broadband to our rural areas and said that we should push other congress members to do more to help there.

“We need to get our people healthy and make sure that our education is fully funded,” Fields said.

Fields said that that he supports the lottery but was skeptical of some other candidates who seem to be suggesting that the lottery “was the answer to all our problems.”

“It is a shame that people are moving out of the Black Belt,” Fields said.

Fields spoke about environmental concerns in rural Alabama.

“We have got to stop the larger cities from shipping their waste there and ruining the environment in the rural areas,” Fields said.

Fields said that he has worked his whole life, “To bring change. positive change.”

Field said that working with the United Methodist Church he worked on bringing kings presidents leaders to come together regards our faith.

Fields said that he has always tried to be a person of integrity and bring people to the table. has overcome obstacles in his life and has met those obstacles head on and defeated them.

“Alabama has had to live with an executive branch that has failed her a judicial branch that has failed her and a legislative branch that has failed her,” Fields said.

“If change is going to take affect we have an opportunity to move Alabama to a level that we have never been,” Field said. “Civil rights began here.” Change can begin here and that change is electing James Fields as Governor.

State Senator Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, was interviewed by Assistant Professor of political science and public administration at UAB Dr. Peter Jones.

Hightower said that while passing legislation is important the kind of things that he wants to accomplish as governor are bigger than what you can accomplish with one piece of legislation.

Hightower said that he wants, “To dissolve the racial tension that we have in the state.” You bridge those gaps by building relationships.

On improving education Hightower said, “First of all you need to listen to the teachers have got to listen to the people on the ground.” We are too administration heavy and our teachers have too much paperwork. “I want to reinvigorate the reading program that Alabama was famous for.” Gov. Riley started that and then it was put aside by Gov. Bentley. “I literally see pockets of brilliance in our schools,” that needs to be built on and expanded statewide.

“There is not enough tax money in the rural areas,” Hightower said. “We need to make sure that broad band goes into the rural areas.” There are some schools now that pump University of Alabama lectures into the schools and the students can interact with the professor. Dual enrollment allowed my daughter to shave a year and a half off the time she spent at UAB.

Hightower defended his flat tax plan. The system we have right now is very punitive. There would be incredible savings. “If you didn’t have tax returns would you need a revenue department.”
On fighting corruption Hightower said, “It is called term limits. Everybody who has been indicted are the ones that have been there a long time. It is the ones that have been down there a long time that listen to the lobbyists instead of listening to the people.”

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox was interviewed by Associate Professor of management at UAB Dr. Anthony Hood.

Maddox said that as Mayors doing what we do each day we see the problems with mental health, opioids, etc.

As Hightower said, “We have pockets of brilliance in Alabama” but as Mayors we see that we have to get it right at the state level.

Maddox said that his plan is to pass the Alabama education lottery. It will include a scholarship program, universal pre-K, address the 75 to 80 failing schools that need wrap around services, takes $16 million and address those funding gaps between rich and poor school systems.

Maddox promised to expand Medicaid and address the health and mental health issues in the state.

“We can certainly debate in a theoretical world if the lottery is the best way to fund education but as a mayor” I want to do what can be accomplished in a practical way.

Maddox claimed that his lottery and a compact with the Poarch Creek band of Indians would bring in $400 million a year.

Maddox said that the Prison are going to be the purview of the federal court.  Judge Myron Thompson could issue a ruling any day.

Maddox praised Birmingham Randall Woodfin for what he has done with the recent stadium announcement and reaching out to the 99 neighborhoods.

On education, Maddox said that the state needs to be leveraging higher education and not just the big state schools but also the HBCUs.

On filling the new jobs at Mercedes and in Huntsville, “Our work force is not of the quality right now to go in on and fill those jobs on day one. Since the Great Recession 95 percent of the new jobs require a four year degree or a certificate from a two year college.”

Solving the problems of today is not accomplished by talking about mountain oysters and Confederate Memorials, Maddox said.

Maddox said that to get through college I played guitar on the Southside and I was pretty good. I played football at UAB.

Cobb emphasized her commitment to her lottery plan.

“We have got to have a governor that will work day in and day out to make sure that the legislature does what the people want and polls show that the people of Alabama think it is idiotic that we do not have a lottery.” I am going to call a special session and if they sine dies without doing it I am going to call it again and if they go home I will call another special session. “I am not giving up six years with my family not to get things done.”

Maddox said that he opposed Ivey’s plan to borrow a billions of dollars to build new prisons.

Cobb said that when she was Chief Justice she made several proposals on sentencing reforms/ The legislature has adopted many of those ideas and the prison population was 27,000 now it is down to 20,000, but sentencing reform is not enough we have got to stop the school to prison pipeline.

Fields said that he works in the prisons as a volunteer and once a prisoner has been in there for 20 years they start losing family members and they start giving up. Instead of spending $800 million to build more prisons we should have a proposal to spend it in the Black Belt replacing crumbling schools and infrastructure and providing clean water.

Fields said, “We have got to be serious about prison reform.”

The major party primaries are on June 5.

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