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Opinion | Gov. Ivey has earned our support

Glenn Henry

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Gov. Kay Ivey has earned an A+ on her Rebuild Alabama’s Infrastructure Plan. She has outstandingly accomplished her homework and her research. I want to respectfully ask all Alabamians to support the plan.

I voted for Ivey so that she would have the opportunity to tackle the state’s toughest issues. Shortly after Ivey made history, becoming the first Republican woman elected governor, she directed her staff to begin working on plans for the infrastructure, roads, bridges, ports and state docks.

She made her directive very clear to all, concerning the importance and the urgency of these issues and her state’s top mission. Most importantly, she advised her strongest supporters that her plan will be anchored by core values, honesty, integrity, trust, accountability and responsibility to which will allow her to make prudent decisions. But most paramount, she stated that her ultimate goal is to do what is best for the state of Alabama.

Ivey set the bar at the highest levels. For example, to garner trust from the public, she stated that she will utilize multiple most reliable sources of information, including statistical data, correct facts and truthful supporting documentation, graphs and charts from the subject matter experts. She just released data from structural engineers from all of Alabama’s 67 counties.

Ivey had previously asked to be briefed on the positive and negative impact statements concerning the infrastructure. From the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, “The Cost of Doing Nothing,” is an outstanding report that provides transparency and clarity for the citizenry to review.

Ivey asked and received from her staff, the most reliable data from top economists, issue metrics, financial estimates and statistical analyses, process measurement baselines, along with sliding scales to phase in her plan.

She has also directed the Alabama Department of Revenue to stand ready to compare the National Highway Construction Cost Index for tentative adjustments.

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According to the Alabama Transportation Institute, the Ivey plan increase will cost the average driver, per year, only an additional $55 or an additional $4.58 per month.

The governor — as a fiduciary, fiscal steward and as the state’s chief executive — has committed to and directed staff and legislative leaders to ensure that financial accountability safeguards will be put in place. All legislation bills and language will lock in dollars upon receipt and will be utilized and disbursed only to the agency or agencies that have ultimate responsibility for the infrastructure, roads, bridges, ports and state docks.

Further, dollars will be audited and reported annually with mandatory itemization of specific projects through the Joint Transportation Committee.

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Ivey is going to end the annual diversions of money from infrastructure funds to pay for financial shortfalls in the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

Leading the charge within the Legislature are Speaker Mac McCutcheon, Senate President Pro Tempore Dell Marsh, State Rep. Bill Poole, who will file the Infrastructure Bill in the House, and my good friend Sen. Clyde Chambliss will provide leadership for the Infrastructure Plan within in the Senate.

At this juncture, Ivey has gained the support from mayors of five of the largest cities in Alabama. Along with the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama League of Municipalities and the Alabama Farmers Federation and the list is growing daily.

I want to respectfully ask and encourage some of the detractors to Ivey’s Infrastructure Plan, to join us in supporting the plan. We still love you. Let’s get the legislation passed. We can go to lunch and dinner later.

Our governor has been working on this constantly since the day after her gubernatorial election victory. She directed her staff and others to carry out of her plan of action to meet the ultimate goal and mission of doing what best for the state of Alabama.

Every day, she continues to make us proud and she has and she continues to listen to the public, to which has allowed her to produce an outstanding and awesome Rebuilding Alabama’s Infrastructure Plan.

What we are witnessing from Ivey is outstanding leadership and highly exceptional management. We elected her to handle the most difficult tasks facing our state. By the way, we must face the facts. We trust no one else but her to be in charge of leading our state.

We want the ball in her hands during the basketball game, to take the last shot with two seconds remaining on the clock. Ultimately, we want her to win the game for the state of Alabama.

Let’s all stand firmly behind her to gain passage of her infrastructure plan. Remember, there are other tough issues on her plate that must gain passage in the Legislature. Ask yourselves, do you love your country and your state? If your answer is yes, then it is very easy to support our governor.

Remember that Ivey’s plan is also tied monetary-wise to the National and Federal Plan. President Donald Trump has announced that our country’s infrastructure is a top priority. Sen. Richard Shelby is keeping a watchful eye on the infrastructure issue, and he is ensuring that our state receives its fair share of dollars.

I spoke to Trump’s Alabama Campaign Chairman, Perry Hopper, Jr. on the radio this week, and he has advised that our president is very much interested in Alabama’s infrastructure. According to Hopper, we are talking about millions of tentative matching dollars that we must capture before they go to other southern states. Hopper advised the listening audience that we can’t leave money on the table for others to scoop up.

In closing, I believe that there may be some other little girls or little boys over in Camden or other Alabama towns that may have the same core values and the beliefs of God, Country and Family, as Ivey does. Just think how great and how easy life would be if we had more people like her.

Glenn Henry is retired from the U.S. Air Force. He has been a high school teacher and university adjunct professor. He has earned numerous Cisco IT certifications. He is a Certified Professional Ethical Hacker. He lives in Montgomery with his wife Teresa.

 

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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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(STOCK PHOTO)

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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Opinion | This Labor Day let’s honor Alabama’s workers

Bren Riley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

In July, the Southwest Alabama Labor Council made the tough decision to cancel what was going to be our 75th annual Labor Day Parade in Mobile in order to ensure the safety of our affiliates, members, and the general public.

Needless to say, I’m crushed. Each year, there’s nothing I look forward to more than gathering with union members far and wide to celebrate Alabama’s union members. After all we have been through in 2020, no one deserves a day of love and celebration more than our workers.

For many of us, Labor Day represents a day off to enjoy our last day of summer. But Labor Labor Day is so much more than just picnics and gearing up to go back to school—it is a day to honor America’s working people. In the face of this unprecedented pandemic, it’s important now more than ever to support Alabama’s workers first.

Unfortunately, Alabama was ranked the worst state in the country to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. When I first read this, I was heartbroken. Then I got angry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted challenges that have always faced Alabama’s working people. Inequality. Poor working conditions. No mandated sick or family leave. For decades, Alabama’s labor movement has fought tooth and nail for these sorts of protections, only to be pushed back by members in Congress who want nothing more than to destroy unions at the expense of our working people.

In Steve Flowers’ Sept. 3 column, Flowers points out how different things were in Alabama not too long ago. From 1946-66, “Alabama was the most unionized state in the South by far. In fact, every major employer in the State of Alabama was a union shop.”

Ordinarily, I’d feel crushed reading such a statement. But like my anger mentioned earlier, this time around, I’m determined.

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This Labor Day, we have a chance to build back the power of the labor movement in our state by gearing up for what could be the most important elections in Alabama’s modern history.

At the forefront, we have the opportunity to elect Joe Biden as the President of the United States, thereby ending the most virulently anti-labor administration we have seen in the last century.

And here in Alabama, we all-in for the fight to re-elect Senator Doug Jones. Sen. Jones has been nothing but an ally to our working people, especially in pushing his Senate colleagues to take up HEROES Act — a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill currently sitting untouched in Mitch McConnell’s lap.

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In total, the Alabama AFL-CIO has endorsed ten candidates running for office in 2020. By electing politicians who will fight for America’s working class and uplift the labor movement, we can keep making real progress in the fight for a fair economy and a just society.

This Labor Day, whether it’s time to head in after a socially-distanced gathering with loved ones or a Zoom call with friends, take the time to reflect on why we get to celebrate this holiday.  Labor unions bring the freedom to balance life and work — the freedom in knowing that one job is enough, that you can be with a sick child or parent without losing your job, that you can report hazards without being fired. This Labor Day, let’s get fired up for a better Alabama.

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