When the attorney general of Minnesota learned of the years of pollution dumped from a 3M plant into his state’s waterways, he filed a lawsuit demanding the company clean up its mess.
A few years later, on the eve of the trial, 3M settled, agreeing to pay $850 million to make Minnesota’s water clean again.
Michigan has followed suit, with its Republican governor asking his attorney general to also file suit against 3M.
At least three other states have also filed lawsuits against the company, with court records documenting decades of pollution and also concerted efforts by 3M and other polluters to mask the dangers of that pollution.
Alabama isn’t one of those states.
Oh, we have the pollution. Testing near a 3M plant in Decatur has shown high levels of pollutants similar to the ones in Minnesota and Michigan, and it has left residents in Lawrence and Morgan counties afraid to drink their tap water.
But Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall isn’t filing a lawsuit.
Instead, he’s busy threatening reporters and pretending like he has no clue about the three-year-long ordeal.
Multiple sources have confirmed to APR that a spokesperson in Marshall’s office, communications director Mike Lewis, contacted WHNT-TV station, at Marshall’s direction, to complain about reporter Chelsea Brentzel, who is the station’s lead reporter on the ongoing water issues in north Alabama.
Brentzel’s mistake: Accurate reporting.
With residents clamoring about the water situation, she and WHNT have produced multiple stories, asking for comments from multiple state officials. That included Marshall, whose office continually ignored their requests for comment.
The one time Brentzel was able to corner the AG, back in July, to ask if any legal action was planned, he said the Alabama Department of Environmental Management hadn’t told him to file a lawsuit.
But when Brentzel quoted Marshall’s opponent, Joseph Siegelman, in a recent story saying he would take action if elected and questioning Marshall’s lack of action, suddenly the station couldn’t get the AG’s office off the phone.
Sources familiar with the calls said Lewis, at Marshall’s direction, complained about Brentzel’s recent story, calling it “political.” Because making sure the people of the state can drink their damn water is political now.
And then there was the threat.
Lewis informed the WHNT bosses that the AG’s office planned to freeze out Brentzel and would no longer respond to her requests, according to the sources.
When asked, Lewis denied that there was a threat, but he did confirm the call to WHNT. He said it was “professional,” and suggested I call WHNT and ask.
So, I did. The WHNT bosses and Brentzel wouldn’t talk publicly about the situation. But assistant news director Paul Caron made it clear that they stood behind their reporting. The stories are up and will remain up, apparently.
Also, sources close to the news station say that Brentzel received the full support of the station, as she should have. It’s nice to have people in power do their jobs. It would be nice if our elected officials would do the same.
Instead, we’re left with yet another pathetic example of Alabama’s AG toting the dirty water for a polluter.
As if Luther Strange’s $25,000 letters on behalf of Drummond Coal weren’t embarrassing enough, Steve Marshall is going after reporters for accurately reporting on the mess 3M has made of the Tennessee River — a once thriving waterway that is now so dirty you can’t swim in portions.
It’s puzzling, right? Why would an elected official turn away from defending the health of thousands of voters?
When such questions are raised, there is usually one answer: money.
And sure enough, Marshall’s campaign received a $2,000 donation from 3M earlier this month, and a $500 donation in May.
He possibly received more 3M money in the $735,000 that came into his campaign from the Republican Attorneys General Association, but the original contributors to RAGA are masked by layers of PAC-to-PAC transfers. (Those sorts of transfers are illegal under Alabama law for just this reason.)
Marshall isn’t alone in this.
Gov. Kay Ivey, asked by WHNT why she’s not pressing for legal action, told the station it’s something she “might” get involved with “later on down the road.”
Until then, let them drink Dasani, I guess.
This is the perfect encapsulation of Alabama government at work: shirk the responsibility, ignore the victims, take money from the polluters, blame the messengers when you get caught.
And they won’t change until voters make them.
Alabama Education Association, Board of Medical Examiners meet over excuses to break COVID-19 quarantines
Prior to the meeting, the AEA on Nov. 5 threatened legal action against the board over the matter.
Officials with the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners met on Thursday to discuss a concern the association has with doctors who write excuses to allow students to return to school before their mandated COVID-19 quarantine periods expire.
At the meeting between Theron Stokes, associate executive director of the Alabama Education Association, and William Perkins, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners, Stokes learned that the board wasn’t aware of the problem, the AEA said in a press release.
“Both groups agreed to set up a meeting with educational and medical organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alabama,” the AEA said in the release. “A meeting should be held before the end of the year and will allow the AEA and the Board of Medical Examiners, as well as other educational and medical organizations, to review existing guidelines issued by the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and ensure conformity in following those guidelines.”
In a letter to Perkins on Thursday, Stokes wrote that it was AEA’s understanding that the board was aware of the problem, but he wrote that during their meeting he became aware that neither the board nor Perkins was aware of the problem.
“It was not the intent of AEA to cause any unnecessary problems for you, the doctors you represent, or your organization regarding this matter,” Stokes wrote.
Prior to the meeting, the AEA on Nov. 5 threatened legal action against the board over the matter.
“It is our firm belief that there exists no medical scenario under which these students could be written out of quarantine and that to do so is violative of ADPH and CDC quarantine recommendations,” Stokes wrote in the Nov. 5 letter.
Stokes in his recent letter notes that both agreed in the meeting to bring together representatives of the other organizations to come up with a uniform procedure for following state and federal guidelines.
“I agree with your plan to conduct this meeting and finalize our goals before the holidays,” Stokes wrote.
Caravan to honor the life of longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes
The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.
There is a car ride caravan honoring the life and service of Rep. Alvin Holmes in Montgomery at 2 p.m. Monday. The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.
On Saturday, Holmes passed away at age 81. He was born in 1939 into a very segregated Montgomery and spent his life battling in favor of civil rights causes. He was one of the first Black state representatives to serve in the Alabama Legislature after implementation of the Voting Rights Act.
There had been Black legislators during Reconstruction in the 1870s, but Jim Crow segregation during much of the 20th Century had effectively disenfranchised millions of Black Alabamians for generations.
Holmes served in the Alabama House of Representatives, representing House District 78 from 1974 to 2018. Holmes participated in the civil rights movement. He was a professor and a real estate broker.
The chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, released a statement mourning Holmes’s passing.
“Representative Alvin Holmes was a great Democrat and a fighter,” England said. “He stood on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights and was willing to sacrifice everything in his fight for justice for all. He not only had a long and distinguished career as a civil rights leader, but also as a member of the Legislature, serving his constituents faithfully and dutifully for 44 years. Alabama has lost a giant, whose wit, intelligence, fearlessness, selfless determination, and leadership will be sorely missed. My prayers are with his friends, family, and colleagues.”
State Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, fondly remembered Holmes, whom he defeated in the 2018 Democratic primary.
“Today we lost a dedicated warrior for social justice. Representative Alvin Holmes was a true public servant,” Hatcher said. “What an amazing legacy he has left us! He could always be seen waging the good fight for equality in all aspects of state government and beyond. His public service is legendary and without peer.”
“In recent years, I am profoundly grateful for the grace he showed me in his willingness to share with me his blueprint for effectively serving our people—and by extension the larger community,” Hatcher said. “Today, my fervent prayers are with his beloved daughter Veronica, her precious mom (and his best friend), as well as other cherished members of his family and friends as they mourn his passing. I humbly join the many voices who offer a sincere ‘Thank You’ to Mr. Alvin Holmes for his dedicated service to our Montgomery community and our state. ‘May angels sing thee to thy rest.’”
State Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, also fondly remembered Holmes.
“Sending Prayers to The Holmes family,” Morris said. “Alvin Holmes was the epitome of greatness working for his people!! May you Rest Well !!!”
Republican insider and former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. also served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives and the Montgomery legislative delegation.
“I served with Alvin for 20 years in the Alabama Legislature,” Hooper said. “We often disagreed on the issues, but even after a heated floor debate, we could shake hands at the end of the day. I always considered him a friend. He loved Montgomery and he was a great representative of his district and its issues. He was always willing to go the extra mile for one of his constituents. When I served as Chairman of the Contract Review Committee, he was one of the committee’s most conscientious members. He was always questioning contracts so he could be assured that the contract represented a good use of taxpayer’s dollars which as Chairman I greatly appreciated. He was one of a kind pioneer in the Alabama Legislature and will be sorely missed.”
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives prior to his election as secretary of state.
“I just learned that former State Rep. Alvin Holmes passed away today,” Merrill said on social media. “I enjoyed the privilege of serving with him from 2010-14. There was never a dull moment whenever he was in the Chamber. I appreciated him for his candor & for his desire to work on behalf of his constituents!”
Holmes was a member of the Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Montgomery Improvement Association, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Alabama Southern Christian Leadership Conference Board, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He has one daughter, Veronica.
SOS Merrill back in hot water over social media interactions
This is not the first time that Merrill has come under fire for the way he handles his social media accounts.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and his social media accounts are back in the news — this time because of a series of childish arguments and insults that found their way into the public domain.
Over the last two weeks, screenshots of exchanges between Merrill and various Alabama residents have shown Merrill telling people that they are “an embarrassment” and “a disgrace,” and encouraging one man to “get a sex change operation” so he could become who he was “intended to be.”
Merrill told al.com on Sunday that he regretted the exchanges. Speaking specifically about the message in which he encouraged the sex change operation, Merrill said it wasn’t productive and that he should have deleted the original message from the sender and moved on.
The sender was a Huntsville resident named Michael Richard, who admitted to al.com that he was trolling Merrill with his private Facebook messages.
Regardless of trolling, however, Merrill’s recommendation was both offensive and degrading, and it will undoubtedly draw the ire of many civil rights groups around the state and country.
Richard said his initial messages to Merrill were in response to Merrill retweeting a selectively edited video showing a white man being hit in the head during a protest and a message claiming there is a “war on whites.” Merrill also retweeted a message that referenced white people fighting back.
The full video of the incident shared by Merrill shows the white man kicking another person before being hit.
A number of progressive groups around the state took issue with Merrill’s retweet and called on him to apologize and take it down. In response, Merrill went on a mini-media tour, giving a number of interviews about the incident and claiming that his First Amendment rights were being threatened.
Richard admitted that he capitalized on what was clearly a sensitive issue for Merrill, sending him a Facebook private message saying, “You’re an embarrassment to this state.”
Merrill responded by telling Richard that he was a “liberal racist,” and things got way worse from there.
The exchange with Richard, however, was not the only one for Merrill in the last few days. Two other Facebook exchanges were also posted online — one with Michael Ledbetter, who Merrill tells to move and mind his own business, and Amy Styles, who Merrill calls “karen.”
This is also not the first time that Merrill has come under fire for the way he handles his social media accounts. He’s currently being sued in federal court for blocking some citizens.
Sewell votes in favor of National Apprenticeship Act
The bill would invest more than $3.5 billion to create nearly one million new apprenticeship opportunities.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, last week voted in favor of the National Apprenticeship Act, legislation to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act for the first time since its enactment in 1937.
The new National Apprenticeship Act will create one million new apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years. Registered apprenticeships provide workers with paid, on-the-job training, and are the nation’s most successful federal workforce training program.
“As a long-time supporter of expanding registered apprenticeships, I am thrilled to support today’s legislation to provide 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities over five years,” Sewell said. “Our Nation is facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and estimates show that more than 7 million of the pandemic’s job losses will be permanent. We need bold investments like those in the National Apprenticeship Act to accelerate the economy and help get the American people back to work in stable, good-paying jobs of the future.”
The bill invests more than $3.5 billion over the next five years.
The act establishes a $400 million grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship opportunities, including pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, which will increase $100 million annually to reach $800 million by 2025.
The legislation also codifies and streamlines standards for registered apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to make it easier for both apprentices and employers to participate in high-quality apprenticeships and codifies the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.
It directs the office to convene industry leaders, labor organizations, educators and others to expand apprenticeships into new occupations and sectors.
Supporters say the bill could yield $10.6 billion in net benefits to U.S. taxpayers in the form of increased tax revenue and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance, and that nothing is more effective at breaking the cycle of poverty than a well-paying full-time job.
Sewell is about to enter her sixth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.