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Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: very few white Democrats left in Legislature

Steve Flowers

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The Republican tidal wave that swept Alabama’s statewide officeholders to landslide victories filtered down to legislative races.

Even though our legislature really didn’t need to become any more conservative or Republican, it did anyway. We had a super majority Republican State House and Senate. We now have a super, super GOP majority. Republicans picked up five more Alabama House seats and added another state Senate seat. That gives the GOP a 27 to 8 advantage in the Senate and a 77 to 28 edge in the House.

If you make a trip to the Capitol and view the circus-like atmosphere of the January organizational session, you will be as likely to see a dinosaur on display as to spot a white Democratic legislator. There are two in the 140 membership. The two relics are Billy Beasley in the Senate and Neil Rafferty in the House.

Three Democratic House Icons did not run for reelection this year. Retiring House members, James Buskey of Mobile, Marcel Black of Tuscumbia and Richard Lindsey of Centre, were legends and they will be missed. They epitomized the class and quality of individuals who have rendered outstanding leadership and statesmanship to public service for not only their constituents but also to the State of Alabama.

James Buskey is retiring at 81. Mr. Buskey has served 42 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. He first won election to his House Seat in a Special Election in 1976. He subsequently was reelected overwhelmingly to 10 four-year terms. His leadership has made an impact for all of Mobile County. Over his legislative career, he served on Ways and Means and Rules Committees. Over the past decade, he has been the leader and wise shepherd of the Democrats in the House even though he let young members hold the Title.

His professional career was as an educator. He served as a Vice Principal and Principal of several Mobile High Schools. I watched him be pushed to the limit numerous times in his efforts to represent his constituents. I never saw him lose his temper or his dignified yet humorous demeanor.

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As long as I live I will never forget a speech he made on the floor of the House in 1983. George Wallace was in his last term as governor and he was trying to tax everything that wasn’t nailed down. Even though Mobile had always been good to Wallace, he was aiming a good many of his tax initiatives at the Port City. Buskey took to the microphone and an impassioned yet hilarious portrayal of Wallace’s tax men in a flotilla of vessels sailing into Mobile Bay to rob the Mobilians. I will fondly call him Admiral in memory of that speech for the rest of my life.

Representative Marcel Black is retiring at age 67 after 28 years in the Alabama Legislature. Marcel is one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever known. He was born and raised in Tuscumbia and represented his hometown of Tuscumbia and County of Colbert for seven four-year terms. He is a proud graduate of the University of Alabama and Alabama Law School. Besides being an outstanding legislator, he is one of the most prominent lawyers in his part of the state. He was a great friend and admirer of Tuscumbia’s most prominent lawyer and judge and Senator Howell Heflin. Heflin, who served as Alabama’s Chief Justice and our United States Senator for 18 years, however, was not Tuscumbia’s most prominent citizen. That title belongs to one Helen Keller.

Marcel served in a host of legislative posts. He was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and would have probably been elected Speaker of the House had the Democrats retained the majority in 2010.

Representative Richard Lindsey is retiring at the ripe old age of 62. He has served 36 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. If you assume that you are an adult at 21, then that means that Richard has served almost his entire adult life representing his home folks in the Legislature, 36 of his 41 years as an adult has been as a legislator. He was elected in 1982 at age 26.

Even though he has been a State Representative for most of his life, he is first and foremost a farmer. He was born and raised in Centre in Cherokee County and runs the family farm business. He has been a leader in the Alabama Farmers Federation and his Methodist church. Like Marcel Black, Richard Lindsey is one of the finest gentlemen you will ever meet.

James Buskey, Marcel Black and Richard Lindsey exude integrity. Legislators on both sides of the aisle should strive to emulate these three gentlemen.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

 

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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Opinion | New federal judges in Alabama — Future legacy

Steve Flowers

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Regardless of what happens in Donald Trump’s administration over the next two years, he will have a proven record of success as President especially if you are a conservative American.

One of, if not the most important accomplishment of any president is the opportunity to appoint a United States Supreme Court Justice. Folks, Trump has appointed and gotten confirmed two members of the Supreme Court in two years. This is a remarkable achievement. Justices Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will have an immense impact on American laws and values for more than likely over two decades, long after Donald Trump is dead and gone. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are young, in their early 50s and will be a part of many landmark rulings that will profoundly affect American public policy.

Trump’s selection of these two extremely well qualified jurists were wise ones, both are exceptionally groomed and scripted to be outstanding Justices. They are considered mainstream, moderate conservatives with the perfect educational and judicial background and experience.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation was more controversial because his choice is a pivotal swing vote on the Court that tilts the Court to a conservative majority. Gorsuch was an even swap, a conservative for a conservative. He replaced conservative Justice Anton Scalia.

Kavanaugh’s appointment was critical. The liberal Democrats had to go to the wall and declare all out war by whatever means to derail and delay the Kavanaugh confirmation. The Court swung to becoming a conservative tribunal with Kavanaugh. The Court had four liberals and four conservatives. Kavanaugh replaced the swing vote on the Court, Anthony Kennedy. Therefore, the Court is now five conservatives to four liberals. Make no doubt about it, the confirmation of a Supreme Court Judge is very political.

The liberals had to resort to extreme measures to preserve the possibility that the Republicans could lose their control of the U.S. Senate which, gives consent to a President’s SCOTUS appointments.

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In today’s extremely partisan politics, lines are drawn and there are no prisoners kept, both sides go for the jugular vein. Therefore, the only way for Trump to be successful in his garnering the placement of two conservative justices is because he has a Republican majority Senate with some very adroit veteran GOP Senate leaders like Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and Richard Shelby paving the way.

Speaking of our Senior Senator, Richard Shelby, he has masterminded and orchestrated a legendary coup of his own when it comes to our U.S. Federal Judges in Alabama.

In conjunction with the Trump administration, Shelby has placed six new Federal Judges in Alabama, all young and conservative. This Shelby/Trump triumph has secured a two to three decade dominance of conservative federal judges in the Heart of Dixie.

During the Obama years at least six federal judgeships became vacant in Alabama. President Obama appointed replacements but Senator Shelby and our former Senator Jeff Sessions sat on them and refused to allow them to be confirmed. These seats have remained vacant due to partisan gamesmanship. Shelby and Sessions were hoping that a day would come when there would be a Republican President and they could place these lifetime appointments into conservative hands. That day miraculously arrived last January.

Senator Shelby and his former Chief of Staff and now BCA President, Katie Britt, spent the entire year of 2018 interviewing, vetting and selecting these judges to assure that they were young, conservative, qualified, and confirmable.

They have indeed accomplished this lifetime feat for Alabama. Liles Burke and Anne Marie Axom are the two new judges for the Northern District. Emily Marks and Andrew Braden will join conservative Chief Judge William Keith Watkins in the Middle District. The Southern District will have two new Trump-Shelby appointees in Terry Moorer and Jeffrey Beaverstock.

Senator Richard Shelby has further enhanced his legacy for decades to come and has placed an indelible stamp on the federal judiciary in Alabama with these judicial appointees.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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Opinion | Let’s put a wall around petty Donald Trump

Joey Kennedy

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How can one quantify how petty our infant-acting president, Donald J. Trump, really is?

Trump is so dim, he actually may be an unwitting tool of Russia. Hard to believe somebody as thin-skinned and brain-challenged as Trump could be working for the Russians intentionally. Yet, he may be doing that, too. Evidence looks strong.

Trump is way past the simple disgrace to the United States that Richard Nixon was. And his idiocy is dangerous.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Trump to postpone his State of the Union address, for good reasons, until after the partial government shutdown is over, petty Trump retaliated by postponing an international trip Pelosi was going to make, refusing to allow military aircraft to transport her. That trip was being kept on the down-low for security reasons, until petty Trump released the details.

As the now 28-day shutdown has no end in sight, the only reason 800,000 federal employees, thousands of them in Alabama, aren’t getting paid is because of petty Trump.
Trump refuses to budge on his demand for $5.6 billion for a near-useless wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

The president is stubbornly low-information, ignoring facts that show technology and more border agents will better deter undocumented immigrants entering the country than a physical barrier that can be easily defeated.

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People can climb over walls. They can dig under them. And that’s not the only way they can get through.

Perdido Vineyards’ Jim Eddins, 85, a 1957 graduate of the Naval Academy and a retired colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps, has plenty of experience with walls. He was a combat engineer in the Marines, and he established Perdido Vineyards in 1972 and started Alabama’s first farm winery in 1979.

Walls, Eddins says, have “many useful and peaceful purposes.”

“They support roofs, enclose space, help with privacy and secrecy, help with protection and security, define perimeters and boundaries, help with flood control; they work in prisons, make obstacles,” Eddins says.

But will a wall on the southern border do what petty Trump says it will: Keep out immigrants? Stop the drug trade? Keep terrorists out? Keep us free of these terrible “diseases” the president wrongly claims immigrants bring in?

“No,” Eddins says emphatically. “None of the above.” Those dangers cited by petty Trump are wildly exaggerated anyway, Eddins says.

“Disease? Ebola flies in: mosquitos, birds, animals, vehicles. The history of walls is ancient, as failures for the above reasons,” Eddins says. “A determined aggressor is only temporarily impeded. They tunnel under, fly over, go around, destroy, or breach. (Walls) often cause more damage than they prevent.”

The mobility of modern military criminal forces, with aircraft and explosives (and other technologies) – make a wall particularly vulnerable.

“A wall can very quickly cease to be a defense and become a prison or target,” Eddins says. “Hitting a fixed target is easy. Hitting a moving target is not so simple. Ask a deer hunter or bird hunter.”

Yet, petty Trump demands his wall be paid for by U.S. taxpayers – the one he said Mexico would pay for – or else he’ll keep the government shut. Republicans in Congress, and especially in the U.S. Senate and in Alabama, are complicit in the pettiness.

So, 800,000 federal workers are going without their paychecks, for a full month now and counting, the longest shutdown in U.S. history. For a wall that’ll do little to secure the southern border as petty Trump claims.

Tests have already shown that the wall or barrier or fence – whatever somebody wants to call it – is easily breached. Officials discovered a tunnel under an existing section of wall only a short distance from where Trump was visiting when he was at the Texas border last week. Most drugs come to the United States through the air or hidden in ground vehicles that come through existing border entries. A prototype of the wall Trump wants was sawed through by testers.

But Trump wants it his way or the highway. Democrats and a growing number of Republicans are telling Trump that he can’t always get his way.

“The United States has been wracked with the politics of division, religion, and immigration for its entire history,” Eddins says. “And the lessons of this experience are currently being ignored, and the same mistakes are being made for the self-serving purposes of mind control and a dictatorship.”

Walls are not for a democracy, Eddins says. “A wall is a physical object for dictators to impress foolish people,” he says. “Israel has a wall, and the Palestinians shoot missiles over it. Walls did not stop the Crusaders or Muslims.

“Putting a ‘wall’ around propaganda and sick minds is a logical option,” Eddins says, adding we must fight bad ideas with better ideas. And keep in mind, Eddins says, who is pushing “this noise.”

“Someone with corrupted, evil intent,” Eddins points out. “There are better and less expensive alternatives. It will definitely cost more than $5 billion to build and maintain a wall. In short, a political slogan and promise from a pathological liar is no basis for spending billions on this, especially when political ideology is the only purpose.”

Trump is a legend only in his own mind. His pettiness is the real legend, assaulting all of our tired, frustrated minds. His disastrous term is half over. I don’t know if our nation can survive the next 24 months. We don’t need a wall, and we certainly don’t need Donald Trump.

It is, indeed, Mueller time.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

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Opinion | Mayor Woodfin: Tear down that statue

Josh Moon

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Dear Mayor Woodfin,

Tear it down.

Get a few blow torches and axes, maybe a jackhammer or two, and tear down that Confederate monument in Linn Park. If you’d like, to appease the phony historians out there, save a portion to be put in a museum in town.

But tear it down.

A Jefferson County Circuit Court judge ruled Monday night that you have the authority to remove it, and why wouldn’t you? It’s your city. It’s your city park. You maintain it. You should have complete authority over what goes or what stays in it.

As Judge Michael Graffeo wrote in his order, “Just as the state could not force any particular citizen to post a pro-Confederacy sign in his or her front lawn, so too can the state not commandeer the city’s property for the state’s preferred message.”

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It’s the perfect ruling. Because it’s so obviously accurate.

In fact, numerous people who worked in several cities around the state tried to explain to the legislature that this law was ridiculously encroaching — to the point of being counterproductive.

And a number of attorneys tried to explain to state lawmakers that the overreach was troubling and likely illegal.

But as the Legislature usually does, it ignored those cries of rationality. And instead chose the path of pandering.

Pandering to the most awful among us.

Pandering to the racists. Pandering to those who refuse to believe in an accurate history. Pandering to those who don’t care that statues honoring traitors and murderers offend large numbers of citizens in this state.

How couldn’t they offend black citizens?

Imagine learning stories of the horrific ways that your ancestors were treated — beaten, raped, tortured, bought and sold like cattle, and separated from their children — and then being told there was a statue of the men who did those things in the town square.

If this state’s citizenry had half the decency and morals that we proclaim, we’d be ashamed that we ever had the gall to erect these statues, or to honor the dishonorable men who led the fight to preserve slavery.

But instead, our state’s citizens have been brainwashed by decades of an absurdly whitewashed history, and will, in response to fact-based arguments for why the statues should be removed, talk passionately about the southern general’s great strategic mind or explain that this confederate treated his slaves well or tell you with a straight face that the whole damn thing wasn’t and isn’t about race and slavery.

Quite honestly, Mayor Woodfin, I am tired of the stupidity and the phony arguments and the wink-and-nod racism from closeted racists. They don’t really care if the statue is in the park. It’s not like they’re bringing their families by on Saturday afternoons to have picnics in front of the Confederate monuments and soak in the history.

They only want the statues to remain because those statues are one last poke in the eye to the people who say they have to treat black people as equals.

That’s it.

They get a little demented joy out of knowing that that statue is aggravating the blacks and the libs and the yankees.

That’s why they’ve erected a huge confederate flag beside the Interstate north of Montgomery. It’s why three confederate groups attempted a couple of years ago to put up a large confederate flag across the Interstate from Alabama State University, a historically black college.

And it’s why, most of all, they run around waving a flag that was never an official flag of the Confederacy, but was the battle flag of one confederate army and was later adopted by the KKK and other hate groups.

Because the history doesn’t matter to these people. And those who are interested in it would be just as well served visiting the monuments in a museum.

So, Mayor, I’m suggesting you do the right thing and set an example for other cities around the state to follow.

Tear that statue down.

 

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Opinion | What will our Congressional districts look like after the 2020 Census

Steve Flowers

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Preparations are being made to take the 2020 Census. This process is not just a fun game to spell out demographic changes and interesting tidbits about us as Americans. It is a very important mandate dictated by the Constitution. The number of people counted determines how many seats each state has in Congress. Thus, it is taken every 10-years.

The Country has been changing, demographically, over the last decade, as it always has over the course of history. The states of California, Texas and Florida continue to grow exponentially. All Americans, not just older ones, seek the sun. They like a sunny, warm climate. That is why our neighboring state of Florida is and has been for decades America’s growth state.

Last week I visited with you about our 1940’s Congressional Delegation. At that time we had nine seats. We lost one after the 1960’s census. We lost another after 1980. We are projected to lose another one after this upcoming Census of 2020. We now have seven seats. It is predicted that we will only have six after next year. We most certainly will lose one to California if they are allowed to count illegal immigrants.

The State Legislature is constitutionally designated as the drawer of lines of congressional districts for each respective state. Currently, we have six Republican seats and one Democratic seat. If indeed we drop from seven to six Congressional districts, how will it shake out.

The census will reveal that Huntsville and North Alabama have been our growth spots. Alabama’s population continues to move toward the northern tier of the state. Two out of every three Alabamians live in Birmingham, Hoover, and Tuscaloosa north.

The Black Belt continues to lose population. The census will also reveal quite a disparity of financial prosperity. It will show that the same Black Belt counties are some of the poorest areas of the country and conversely Huntsville will be one of the most prosperous.

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So who are the winners and losers under Congressional redistricting? You start with one premise. You have to have one majority minority African American district. The federal courts have mandated this edict. Therefore, Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s district is sacred. It now is very large, geographically. It will become even larger. The district will take in most of the African American population in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, and the entire Black Belt stretching from south of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa all the way to Mobile. It will be a big geographic district and be numbered district six rather than seven.

This leaves us with five Republican districts and six incumbent Republicans. Therefore, who gets the short end of the stick. A cursory look says the odd person out is Martha Roby in the second district.

However, our current delegates have already come up with a plan to save everybody. Mo Brooks, the Congressman from Huntsville, will choose to move up or out in 2022. He is assuming that Senator Richard Shelby retires at age 88. Therefore, Brooks will see his fast-growing Tennessee Valley district divided and delved out to a plan that grows the districts north, which complies with the growth pattern.

Our senior and most seniority laden Congressman, Robert Aderholt, will opt to stay in Congress rather than risk a run for the Senate. This is a very wise and prudent move for him and the state. He has over 24-years in seniority and is in line to be Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He will move north and pick up part of the Huntsville area and he will cut Gadsden loose. Mike Rogers will move north and pick up Gadsden and all of northeast Alabama, which is a more natural fit for him with his native Anniston area.

Rogers’ move north will allow him to abandon Auburn-Opelika, which in turn allows Roby’s district to exist primarily like it is with the population centers of East Montgomery, Elmore, Autauga, and the Wiregrass and Dothan and that district will add Auburn-Opelika.

The current 6th District of Jefferson-Shelby represented by Gary Palmer will remain essentially the same. Its upscale suburbs will make it one of the most Republican in the nation.

The last district seat of Mobile-Baldwin will remain intact and will still be District 1. However, the tremendous growth of Baldwin will require that the district only contain Mobile and Baldwin. The cadre of rural counties north of Mobile that are currently in the District will have to be cut loose to probably go to the Black Belt district.

The current 1st District Congressman, Bradley Bryne, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2020. However, his replacement will be a conservative Republican.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

 

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Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: very few white Democrats left in Legislature

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