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Opinion | Fatherhood: Three-point job description

John W. Giles

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As we approached the odometer turning over another year in our life, it is a reasonable response to review our notable benchmarks from last year and think about the challenges and summits to conquer in the upcoming year.  While there are innumerable final medals we hope to pin on our chest, when we exchange the temporal life for eternal life, our greatest legacy we leave behind is our children and our children’s children.  If you are not interested in a biblical order, then you will not find this article interesting or helpful, to the contrary this article is designed to inject the biblical role of a father’s job description.   

At the outset, man and woman after their creation in the Garden of Eden, were commanded by God to be fruitful and multiply, having children is obedience to God.  Children are defined in one illustration of scripture as arrows in our quiver.  By the age of eighteen, most children are thinking of higher learning and launching their life.  I have often said, whatever preparations and core values I wanted to impart, needed to be in place by the age of eighteen, even though I would always be a father to my children.  This moment is when the bow is drawn, and thearrows are launched into this world to make their mark.  My father was not a deeply spiritual man, but he was a Christian and like most of us, had his flaws.  By the age of eighteen, heprepared me for life and sealed within me all the ingredients necessary to reach my maximum potential.  As a side note, I was married three days after I turned eighteen and married my first and only wife Deborah of 47 years.  My father effortlessly fulfilled his three-point job description, while many fathers struggle to even know their role.  I recently discovered after taking it for granted observing my son and son in law applying these principles, only to find out that other fine fathers around me did not function in all three.  This discovery served as an inspiration for writing this article.  

In scripture, man was created before woman and so noted as the high priest in the home, not to reign supreme and lord over, but to out serve and bear the heaviest load.  If we all function humbly in our designated role, there is no power struggles or adversely take on what is not divinely designed in God’s structure that applies in the home, church or workplace.  I have always said to men under my watch, you make her queen and you automatically assume the title of king without the recognition, fanfare or the wheelless thrown (litter) designed to carry a king.  To the contrary, man was designed to be on the plow and manning the wheelbarrow load for the family.  Let’sget to the three-point job description, protect, provide and confirm.

Our first job foremost is the protector of the family.  Physically we are stronger, scripture mentions if you can bind the strong man in the house you can conquer that house.  With human trafficking and violent crimes hitting the exponential curve, now more than ever our families need protection.  It is true, never get between a mama bear and her cub, it’s a very dangerous place because she is going to protect with her babies risking her own life.  Men, our women always want and need to feel protected and safe.  Our job is to ascend to the watch tower of our homes protecting our family, looking for those security breaches in the wall, obvious exposures and inoculate these threats in advance.  Protection is job one.

We are designed to be providers for our home. When my son in law asked for my daughters hand in marriage, I vividly recall laying out four prerequisites; divorce is not in your vocabulary, get compressive premarital counseling and go through a vigorous Christian based home budgeting and financial training.  The final note I told him if my daughter wanted to work, that was between them, but if she decided one day to come home, have his financial house in order so she could do so.  By the way, he exceeded well in all these assignments, he makes a sound living, my daughter is at home and they have 9 children. While being a provider is a very high priority, it is a delicate balance to not sacrifice your presence in the home all in the name of being a great provider.  Provider is job two.

As a precursor to confirming our children, let us pause for a minute and look some biblical examples.  Jacob had twelve sons, which became the twelve tribes of Israel.  Each of his sons had their distinct gifts, callings, assignments and were not in competition with each other.  On his deathbed, Jacob raised up in the bed and called his sons together. He blessed each one of them verbally and noted their gifts, strengths and calling.  He also in a fatherly loving manner, warned them of their weaknesses.  He sealed and confirmed them in this final blessing, equipping each one of them for their station in life.  Jacob wanted his sons to far exceed what he had accomplished in life, he was not in competition with his boys, but more of the role of high priest, mentor, coach, expediter, facilitator cheerleader.  One of Jacob’s flaws of fatherhood was having a favorite son, Joseph.  Enraged from jealousy, Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him and ultimately sold him off into slavery to the Egyptians.  One of my father’s flaws was allowing his sons to compete, which even today has consequences of strained relationships.  Having favorites and allowing siblings to compete inside the family will yield life scarring results.  Scripture teaches our posterity will be sevenfold the blessing or sevenfold the curse in the next generation.  Some men however have the notion they need to compete and outperform their sons which negates any confirmation.  We should strive to help our children exceed sevenfold beyond our highest benchmark.  

In a practical sense, our confirmation job as fathers is so simple, yet has far reaching complex outcomes with the blessing in place or with the absence of the blessing.  Depending on your data source, generally 85 percent of those incarcerated were raised in a home without their father.  Many adults in society today, struggle with their identity, wrestle with insecurities and wander around rudderless because of the absence of the blessing or what is labeled in this article as confirmation.    

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On the other hand, be that father that finds their children doing something right and praises them.  Recognizing their gifts, talents and championing the advancement of these God given traits.  Let your children know they are handsome – pretty, they are going to make it and you are okay, even when the world is pounding them with the contrary.  Gently guiding them to overcome their flaws and providing them with caution signs along life’s way neutralizing negative consequences derived from unchecked needed calibrations.   

Scripture tells us that the woman is to guide the house. She is the natural nester, comforter, nurturer, healer and so much more.  Even her physical make up by God’s design of her body allows her to conceive, carry, give birth and nurse her newborn child, man is not designed in this way.  What I do graphically remember though is my father had the final word, I feared him coming home on the day I misbehaved or disobeyed my mother.  While he had the final word in the house on our well-deserveddiscipline, he also had the final words to seal me.  I recall at age twelve on his lap one day telling me how talented I was and that I could accomplish anything in life.  All my life, even after becoming an adult, he was the tireless encourager who gave me his blessings, confirmed and sealed me for life.  

My father even with his flaws, did a masterful job to protect, provide and confirm all of us.  As I watch my son and son in law fulfilling these three job descriptions, it comforts me to know what will be handed down for generations to come.  

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If your children are still at home, it is never too late to prepare them for being launched.  If your children are adults, you will always be their father and your words of blessing, confirmation and sealing them never have an expiration date.

George William Childs once said, “I would rather have a plain coffin without a flower, a funeral without a eulogy, than a life without the sweetness of love and sympathy.  Let us learn to anoint our friends beforehand, before their burial, post-mortem kindness does not cheer the burdened spirit and flowers on a coffin cast no fragrance backward over the weary way.”

I have had friends and acquaintances throughout my life who longed to hear, even up to their father’s deathbed those powerful words of blessing and confirmation.  Let us not be counted among those lowered into the grave with empty children left behind.

Protect, provide and confirm.

 

John W. Giles is former President of the Christian Coalition of Alabama. He served as Small Business Advocate for the State of Alabama during Governor Guy Hunt's Administration. He was also a member of Governor Fob James Cabinet.

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Opinion | Former Sen. Brewbaker supports Montgomery tax referendum 

If we want Montgomery to change for the better, we are all going to have to start living in our community rather than off of it.

Dick L. Brewbaker

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(STOCK PHOTO)

I am in full support of the property tax referendum on the ballot this November. That may surprise some people because I have been critical of the performance of the Montgomery County Public School System in the past.

Until recently, student performance has generally been poor, financial management has been historically problematic, and there have been real and persistent problems with transparency. New Board leadership has worked hard to address these issues in a real way, but there is still work to be done.

However, whether we are talking about cars or public education, there is such a thing as trying to buy too cheap. Montgomery has been paying the legal minimum in property tax support for decades. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone that our schools’ quality reflects our financial commitment to them.

Yes, it’s true that more money isn’t always the answer, but it’s also true that money is part of the answer. Sometimes the bare minimum isn’t enough, and this is one of those times.

Most people who vote on this referendum will not have children currently attending MPS. If you are one of those people, vote yes anyway.

Our public school population is declining because many young couples with children are leaving our city because they know their children can get a better education elsewhere.

This loss of young parents will eventually kill this city. We have got to turn the schools around before Montgomery’s tax base is eroded beyond repair. Whether you have kids in the system or not, if you care about your local tax burden or the value of your property, it’s time to vote ‘yes.’

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Need another reason to vote yes? Ok, here’s one:  Montgomery will eventually lose both our USAF bases if we don’t show the Air Force we are serious about improving our failing schools. Already less than half of the airmen stationed in Montgomery bring their families with them.

Many military families view MPS as so low quality that they won’t subject their children to them. If we don’t fix our schools, sooner or later we will lose Maxwell and Gunter. If you don’t believe that would be an economic nightmare for our city, ask around.

At the end of the day, passing this referendum is not only a vote to help children succeed, but also a vote to save the city in which we all live. It’s ok to be hopeful, it’s ok to be optimistic even about the future of Montgomery and its schools.

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If we want Montgomery to change for the better, we are all going to have to start living in our community rather than off of it.

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Opinion | FEMA’s Hurricane Sally response

So, how has FEMA performed in responding to Hurricane Sally? So far, pretty darn well.

Bradley Byrne

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Most people in Alabama have heard of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Its name is a little misleading because emergencies by their nature aren’t so much managed as responded to, often after the fact. You can’t manage a tornado or an earthquake, for example, but you can and should respond to it.

Hurricanes are facts of life down here and nearly every part of our state, not just the coast, have been affected in some way by at least one. We can prepare for hurricanes and guard against the worst consequences and that starts with each of us as individuals, family members and citizens doing our part to be prepared to protect and take care of ourselves, family members and neighbors. Alabamians are actually pretty good at doing that.

But, there is also a role for governments at all levels. Local governments actually play the most important public role because they are closest to the people of their areas and have the first responders already employed and trained to take care of the needs of local residents during the period running up to, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the storm. State governments manage the preparations before the storm and provide the support local governments need afterward to do their jobs. The federal government supports the state and local efforts, which typically means providing the lion’s share of the money needed, anywhere from 75 percent to 90 percent of the costs. So there’s not one emergency management agency involved in responding to hurricanes but three, corresponding to each level of government.

The day before Hurricane Sally hit, I was individually briefed by the Director of the National Hurricane Center Ken Graham, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor and Coast Guard officials. That same day I went to the White House and made sure we had a good line of communication in case we needed help, which looked likely at the time. I have to say, the White House was immediately responsive and has continued to be so.

How has FEMA handled the federal response to Hurricane Sally? When the state of Alabama requested a pre-storm disaster declaration, which triggers federal financial support for preparations and response during the storm, FEMA and the White House gave the okay in just a few hours. On that day before when I spoke with the White House, I asked them to send FEMA Administrator Gaynor to my district as soon as possible once the storm cleared to see the damage and meet with local officials. He came three days after the storm and spent several hours touring the damage with me and meeting with local leaders. When the state of Alabama requested a post-storm declaration, triggering federal financial support for public and individual assistance, FEMA and the White House responded affirmatively in less than 48 hours – record time.

Public assistance is federal financial support for the costs to state and local governments as a result of a storm. This includes water bottles and meals ready to eat for locally requested points of distribution, debris removal and cleanup costs (think of the large tandem trucks picking up debris piled up on the right of way), as well as the costs to repair damage to public buildings and infrastructure like roads and bridges, and in the case of Sally damage to the Port of Mobile.

Individual assistance, as the label states, goes to individuals affected by the storm. Private assistance won’t pay something you have insurance for, but it does pay for a variety of losses, particularly having to do with an individual’s home. So far 60,000 Alabamans have applied for individual assistance and already FEMA has approved $42 million. If you haven’t applied for individual assistance there’s still time for you to do so online at DisasterAssistance.gov, or if you need help in applying call FEMA’s Helpline at 1-800-621-3362. If you have applied for individual assistance and have been denied, appeal the decision because frequently the denial is simply because the applicant didn’t include all the needed information.

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Many people were flooded by Sally and over 3,000 of them have made claims to the National Flood Insurance Program. Over $16 million has already been paid out on those claims. The Small Business Administration has approved over a thousand home loans to people with storm losses, totaling over $40 million, and many more loan applications are still pending.

So, how has FEMA performed in responding to Hurricane Sally? So far, pretty darn well. I want to thank FEMA Administrator Gaynor for coming down here so quickly after the storm and for FEMA’s quick and positive responses to all our requests. And I want to thank President Trump for his concern and quick response to Alabama’s requests for disaster declarations. Hurricane Sally was a brutal experience for us in Alabama, but FEMA’s response shows that government can do good things, helping people and communities when they really need it.

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Opinion | An inspirational pick

Many progressives, it seems, claim to believe in the power of women, but only for women who think and talk like they do.

Govs. Kay Ivey, Kristi Noem and Kim Reynolds

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President Donald Trump, left, and his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. (WHITE HOUSE PHOTO)

A century ago, the Suffragettes finally succeeded in winning the right to vote for women. They would be thrilled to see the nomination of a woman so uniquely qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court as Judge Amy Coney Barrett, were they alive today. It’s easy to imagine them storming the streets of America and urging that Judge Barrett be confirmed, and by a wide margin.

After all, the four female justices nominated before her were confirmed with lopsided votes by the U.S. Senate: 99-0 for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, 68-31 for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, 63-37 for Justice Elena Kagan and 96-3 for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Sadly, it speaks to the times in which we are living that Judge Barrett’s vote by the Senate will most likely come down to a tight vote, with nearly every Democrat opposing her nomination.

As governors who are either the first or second females to be elected in our respective states, we are rightfully proud to see diversity expand among the highest levels of government. Notably, however, our support for Judge Barrett hinges not on her being a female, but rather her superior intellect, unflappable composure and impeccable integrity, all which combine to make her eminently qualified in every way. 

Regretfully, we know – as do many others – that the climb for women into the upper echelon of American leadership has always been a bit steeper. After all, when was the last time a man’s haircut, the color of his tie or suit or the number of children in his family were scrutinized as part of the public discourse?

It is bittersweet that Judge Barrett followed her father’s advice that she could do anything her male counterparts could do, only better, and yet, sadly, millions of women appear to oppose her nomination simply because she interprets the law as-written, rather than siding with them on every issue. Is this the new standard for qualification?  

Many progressives, it seems, claim to believe in the power of women, but only for women who think and talk like they do.

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We applaud President Trump for choosing Judge Amy Coney Barrett for service on our nation’s highest court; she may well be one of the most qualified, extraordinary picks during the past century, and we urge the United States Senate to confirm her nomination in short order.

We especially like the direct answers Judge Barrett provided to two of the Senate Judiciary Committee members who questioned her last week. 

When Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, suggested that Judge Barrett would vote in the same manner as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative for whom she had clerked earlier in her career, she calmly responded, “I assure you I have my own mind.” 

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And when the Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, asked her whether she believed that Medicare was unconstitutional, she cited the “Ginsburg Rule,” so named for the late justice she will be following, of providing “no hints, no previews, no forecasts.”

Perhaps one of the most powerful witnesses to speak in support of Judge Barrett was her former law student at Notre Dame, Laura Wolk. 

Ms. Wolk is totally blind, but before pursuing the “impossible dream” of becoming the first blind law clerk at the Supreme Court last year, she was struggling with her classwork as a first-year law student, fearful of failing. 

Laura recalled, “Judge Barrett leaned forward and looked at me intently. ‘Laura,’ she said, with the same measured conviction that we have seen displayed throughout her entire nomination process, ‘this is no longer your problem. It’s my problem.’”

Ms. Wolk went on to say that Judge Barrett helped her see a pathway to success.  She said the Judge will “serve this country with distinction not only because of her intellectual prowess, but also because of her compassionate heart and her years of treating others as equals deserving of complete respect.”

When Judge Barrett raises her right hand to take the oath to “administer justice without respect to persons” and to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” it will be a win-win for every female – young and old alike during the past 100 years – who has dreamed of seeing women advance to the top positions of our government. 

Moreover, it will be a signal to every little girl – and boy – that the most qualified individual will get the job.

Governors Kay Ivey of Alabama, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Kim Reynolds of Iowa authored this column.

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Opinion | Hearings give public opportunity to weigh in on coal ash plans

ADEM will make sure the closure and cleanup of the coal ash sites will be done in a way that will protect the state’s land and water resources now and in the future.

Lance LeFleur

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The mission of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is to ensure for all Alabamians “a safe, healthful and productive environment.” It’s a mission that ADEM and its nearly 600 employees take very seriously.

Ensuring a safe, healthful and productive environment means more than simply being the environmental cop, though that certainly is part of ADEM’s job. When the Alabama Legislature passed legislation in 1982 that led to the creation of ADEM, lawmakers’ intent was for the agency to promote public health and well-being.

The term “healthful” in ADEM’s mission statement speaks directly to that. ADEM’s work is to contribute to the health of Alabama’s environment and the health of all Alabamians.

An example of that work is managing the process that will determine how coal combustion residuals (CCR) – or coal ash – are dealt with in a safe and effective manner. Managing CCR promotes a healthful environment by protecting our land and water.

On Oct. 20, ADEM will hold the first of a series of public hearings on permits drafted by ADEM to require electric utilities to safely close unlined coal ash ponds at their power plants and remediate any contaminated groundwater. The hearings, and the comment periods leading up to them, give the public the chance to provide ADEM input on the requirements in the draft permits.

To understand how we got to this point today, let’s go back to Dec. 22, 2008, in Kingston, Tenn. On that frigid night, the containment dike surrounding massive ponds holding decades worth of CCR produced by the coal-burning TVA power plant collapsed, spilling more than a billion gallons of coal ash sludge into the Emory River and onto 300 acres of land.

That spill drew the attention of regulators and the nation to the issue of coal ash storage, for which there was little regulation at the time. It also started the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the road to adopting a federal CCR rule, which took effect in 2015. The Alabama Environmental Management Commission approved a state CCR rule in 2018, patterned after the EPA rule.

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The rules address two primary issues: closing coal ash ponds to avoid threats of spills into waterways or onto land, and preventing and cleaning up groundwater contamination from arsenic, mercury, lead and other hazardous elements that may leach from the coal ash.

Both the EPA and state rules give the electric utility operators two options in closing the ash ponds. One allowable method is to excavate the millions of tons of coal ash and either move the coal ash to a lined landfill or find an approved beneficial use for the ash. The other is to cap in place, where an impervious cover, or cap, is placed over the ash impoundment. Both methods have been used successfully for decades to close some of the most contaminated sites in the nation.

It must be emphasized that the closure method selection is made by the utilities, as allowed by both federal and state rules. Alabama Power, TVA and PowerSouth all elected to utilize the cap-in-place option.

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The permits will also set out the steps to be taken to clean up contaminated groundwater caused by the coal ash ponds. ADEM’s job, in its environmental oversight role, is to ensure the closure and groundwater remediation plans proposed by the utilities and included in the permits meet federal and state standards and protect both waterways and groundwater. The permits provide for regular monitoring to confirm the closure and cleanup plans are being implemented as required. If necessary, the plans will be adjusted to ensure the intended results are being achieved.

Currently, ADEM has scheduled public hearings on the permits for three Alabama Power plants. The first is Oct. 20 for Plant Miller in Jefferson County, followed by Oct. 22 for Plant Greene County and Oct. 29 for Plant Gadsden in Etowah County. Permits for the other five sites in Alabama are in development, and hearings will be scheduled when they are complete.

The purpose of these hearings is to allow the public, including nearby residents, environmental groups and others, opportunities to weigh in on the proposed permits. This past summer, Alabama Power, TVA and PowerSouth held informational meetings in the communities where their affected plants are located to explain their proposed groundwater cleanup plans(including the CCR unit closure component) and answer residents’ questions.

The draft permits, the hearings’ dates, locations and times and other information are available on ADEM’s website, www.adem.alabama.gov. The public can also mail or email comments related to the permits, including the closure plans and groundwater remediation plans, directly to ADEM during the proposed permits’ 35-day minimum comment periods, which will run one week past the date of the public hearings. Those comments will be considered in the decisions to issue the permits, and ADEM will provide a response to each issue raised.

For maximum protection of the environment, ADEM encouraged the power companies to go beyond the minimum requirements of the state and federal CCR rules. ADEM’s scientists and engineers who analyzed the plans through an exhaustive review and revision process determined the final plans provide the environmental protections Alabamians expect and deserve. But we want to hear from the public.

Certainly, there are pros and cons of each option in closing the coal ash ponds. The daunting task of cleaning up contaminated groundwater will be undertaken regardless of which closure method is utilized. As one opinion writer recently said, there is no easy answer to the coal ash problem. But this is a matter we cannot duck. We must deal with our coal combustion residuals – by EPA requirement and for the sake of our environment.

Here’s what you can count on from your state agency charged with protecting your environment. ADEM will make sure the closure and cleanup of the coal ash sites will be done in a way that will protect the state’s land and water resources now and in the future.

Ensuring that is our mission.

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