The Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution Thursday, by a unanimous vote, urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to take a stand and defend the Confederate monument in Florence.
The monument was erected to Alabamians who fought and died for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. A growing number of people today say that they fought to defend slavery and that Confederate monuments instead are symbols of white oppression over Black Americans and should be removed from public places.
The Lauderdale County Republicans responded to these calls to take down their local monument by passing a resolution urging elected leaders to oppose removing the monument.
The Lauderdale County GOP said in a statement that they are taking “a stand against the ‘cancel culture’ Marxists and passed this resolution.”
“We are urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to honor their oaths of office and follow the law! We are also calling on all of our elected officials to declare their position on the matter,” the statemeant read.
The resolution states that, “The Lauderdale County Monument to the men of the County who served in the Confederate Army in the War between the States 1861-1865 fought against oppressive taxation and for states’ rights in an army that included African-Americans in support and combat roles, was dedicated in 1903 and has stood in front of the county courthouse for 117 years.”
The resolution alleges that: “There is a movement of liberal and radical organizations, not representatives of the majority of citizens of Lauderdale County which currently are attempting to destroy the record of the courage and sacrifice of our ancestors in the United States.”
The cities of Birmingham and Mobile have already taken down their Confederate monuments in open defiance of existing state law in the state’s Memorials Preservation Act.
Opinion | Dallas County water authorities prepare for more growth
Residents of two Dallas County water authorities are seeing the benefits of improvements to their rural water systems, as leaders of those systems prepare for another expansion in one and continued growth in the other.
Torrey Jones, regional manager for the South Dallas and West Dallas Water Authorities, both of which are operated by ClearWater Solutions, said the upcoming expansion in the West Dallas system will extend treated water to about 100 additional customers.
Jones said he and members of the West Dallas Water Authority are optimistic that a significant amount of the $2.7 million cost will come from USDA grants and loans. “The USDA cares very much about expanding and building rural communities,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate to receive funding for our previous projects and are applying for assistance for this new one. Their criteria include income levels, water quality and rural development.”
Both water districts are near Selma and serve people who previously relied on private water wells. In many cases, according to Jones, area residents’ wells had produced a low-quality water that was often discolored.
“We heard a lot of complaints from residents of South Dallas about the color of their water,” he explained. “The problem was manganese, a naturally occurring mineral. ClearWater Solutions solved that problem by building a filtration plant, and now they don’t have that problem anymore.”
Nearly three-fourths of the $4.19–million South Dallas project was paid for with rural development loans, and the remainder with grants. Jones said it also included a 500,000-gallon ground water tank, new water meters and a 12-inch water main to the local industrial park.
Teddy Pouncey, chairman of the South Dallas Water Authority, said the industrial park can play a big role in expanding the number of jobs available in the area.
“Crown Laundry has its plant in the industrial park, and they employ a lot of people,” Pouncey said. “They are by far our biggest water customer. We believe that the more businesses we can help attract to the park, the better it is for us and the rest of our customers.”
The improvements to the system also included generators and solar panels that will sustain power in the event of an electrical outage in the area.
“If we were to have a disaster, we wouldn’t lose power to any of our facilities,” Pouncey said. “That’s very important to the people we serve.”
He said the South Dallas Water Authority’s “biggest financial challenge” is the distance between customers.
“The USDA loans and grants have been a big help for us, and so has ClearWater Solutions,” he added. “Our board sets the policies and ClearWater carries them out. We’ve been really pleased with them.”
Jones said the West Dallas Water Authority has plans on the drawing board that include expansion in the Bogue Chitto community that would provide water service to an additional 100 or so customers.
“That’s a rural area,” he said. “The private well water is low quality and you sometimes have two or three miles between customers, which is a big challenge. Fortunately, USDA cares about expanding and building communities, and they make grants and low-interest loans available to water systems like ours.”
Rosa Honor, chairwoman of the West Dallas Water Authority, said she and other board members are hopeful that the Bogue Chitto project can get under way soon.
“We are looking forward to working with USDA and ClearWater Solutions to bring high-quality water to more residents in the area,” Honor said. “It will greatly improve the quality of life in the community.”
In recent years, the USDA grants and loans have allowed the West Dallas Water Authority to add water mains, a booster pump station and storage tank; to repair and rehabilitate existing tanks and wells; and to extend service to about 400 residents.
In addition to helping the two water authorities develop plans for the future, ClearWater Systems also performs regular infrastructure maintenance and handles billing and customer service for them.
Birmingham building inspector arrested, charged with abusing office for personal gain
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Tuesday announced the arrest of a city of Birmingham building inspector charged in connection with soliciting and accepting a bribe in 2016, to approve a building inspection.
Thomas Edward Stoves surrendered to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on Monday and was released on bond, according to a press release from Marshall’s office.
Stoves, 41, was working as a building inspector for the city’s Planning, Engineering and Permits office when in August 2016, he allegedly solicited and accepted $1,200 in exchange for approving a building inspection, Marshall’s office said in the release.
Stoves is charged with violating the state’s ethics laws by using his public position for personal gain, which is a class B felony and punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Alabama’s spike in daily COVID-19 deaths Tuesday result of process delays
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Tuesday recorded 48 new COVID-19 deaths in the state, bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths over the last two weeks to 335, the third-highest two-week total since the start of the pandemic.
In June, at least 296 Alabamians died from coronavirus, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported, and in July there were 605 COVID-19 deaths, the most recorded in any month since the pandemic began. This summer, Alabama’s death count from the disease skyrocketed after periods of relatively flat daily death counts.
But Tuesday’s jump in single day reported deaths was the result of a delay in the process of collecting and reviewing necessary medical records, laboratory data and other information, and not a reflection of an overall increase in deaths, said Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health, in a message to APR on Tuesday.
The daily number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the state’s seven-and 14-day averages of news cases, have been on the decline since late July, but daily testing numbers have been all over the map from day to day. The state’s seven-day average of new daily tests was at 8,611 on Tuesday, after five straight days in late July when the state was recording seven-day averages of new daily tests of more than 10,000.
ADPH on Monday announced that software vendor problems had thrown off some of the department’s COVID-19 testing numbers, and that the problem had been fixed and some lab data was being inputted into the system.
Meanwhile, ADPH on July 31 said the state was experiencing a rash of problems surrounding COVID-19 testing that was resulting in an average of seven days to get results, which public health experts have said renders the results nearly worthless.
The department said the lengthier turnaround time for test results is due to supply chain problems with test reagents, more demand for coronavirus tests nationwide, “and in some cases, increased numbers of unnecessary tests.”
ADPH spokesman Ryan Easterling, in a response to APR’s questions about the fluctuating daily test numbers, on Tuesday wrote in a message that many factors affect both the reporting and result times for COVID-19 tests, and that multiple entities are conducting coronavirus testing in Alabama, including commercial laboratories, clinical laboratories and ADPH’s one lab. Some doctor’s offices, urgent cares, hospital emergency rooms and Long Term Care facilities are also conducting rapid COVID-19 tests, he said.
“Some new laboratories or entities who have previously not been accustomed to reporting notifiable disease results are having to report, which requires their understanding the requirements and methods of electronic reporting,” Easterling said. “Ongoing supply chain issues, such as reagents and consumables necessary for testing, occur periodically and reduce turn around for testing.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide have remained high since the state hit a record 1,642 hospitalized coronavirus patients on July 30. On Tuesday, there were 1,506 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across Alabama, ADPH reported, and the state’s seven-day average of hospitalizations was at 1,553 which was just slightly below the record high of 1,590 on Aug. 2.
The percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive – a sign that helps determine the current extent of the spread of the disease – began to dip slightly at the start of August, but it remains well above the five percent positivity rate that public health experts say it needs to be to ensure enough testing is being done and cases aren’t going undetected.
Alabama’s 14-day average of percent positivity on Tuesday was 16 percent, down from 18 percent a week before.
Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide mask order on July 15, and it can take weeks before seeing whether such a requirement is having an impact on the spread of the virus, public health officials have said.
There’s concern, however, that as the state’s K-12 schools and universities continue to reopen in the coming days, outbreaks could pop up across the state, sparking another wave of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Jones hosts roundtable with minority business owners, entrepreneurs
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones on Tuesday hosted an online roundtable discussion with minority business owners, entrepreneurs and investors.
“In Alabama, small businesses employ half of all employees, and entrepreneurs account for 25 percent of all new business in the United States,” Jones said at the start of the discussion. “But we also know that in this world we’re living in today, minorities and minority-owned businesses have been affected disproportionately by the COVID crisis, hurt disproportionately from their counterparts.”
Jones, a member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said he sponsored a bill along with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, called the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, which aims to invest $17.9 billion into minority and low-income communities hard-hit by COVID-19.
Jones said the bill would provide eligible community development financial institutions and Minority Depository Institutions with “capital, liquidity, and operational capacity that they need to expand the flow of credit into underserved minority and historically disadvantaged communities.”
“The goal is to help small businesses stay afloat, and expand operations during the economic downturn,” Jones said.
Tiffany Jordan, co-founder and chief development officer at Huntsville’s Acclinate Genetics, which aims to ensure minorities are represented in clinical trials, said during the roundtable that her company has access to capital, but asked “what about other small businesses?”
“Oftentimes we get on the phone and somebody says, ‘I know an investor.’ Well once Alabama brings you here, and they find you that first investor, what are we doing as a state to make sure that we have the resources, the lines, to keep these companies here?” Jordan said.
Alabama needs to do a better job at ensuring start-ups have the resources needed to stay in the state, Jordan said.
Asked by APR whether the COVID-19 crisis has changed the landscape of how business is done, and whether there are opportunities for minority-owned businesses and startups in those changes, Jordan said the pandemic has allowed many the opportunity to work from home.
Jordan said her business partner and her often say that they now have access to people whom they would otherwise have to get on a plane to see in person, because they’re also working from home and have more flexibility.
“So hopefully small business owners utilize this opportunity to really propel themselves forward, to make sure that they are setting these meetings with people that are hard to reach, make sure that you’re taking time to focus on some new time to really think about the solution that you have and who you’re wanting to offer that solution to,” Jordan said. “So I think COVID-19 has allowed us a very unique opportunity to get it going and to propel it faster forward.”
Michelle Parvinrouh, executive director at the Innovation PortAL in Mobile, which is renovating 30,000-square-feet in the city’s St. Louis Street corridor for a business incubator and co-working space, said the ultimate entrepreneur is “just the best problem-solver” and that COVID-19 pandemic has created “a whole new slew of problems that we have not had before and that we did not predict.”
“So that was something really kind of amazing, to see throughout Alabama were all these different startups and companies coming and rising up and developing solutions to problems that were not predicted, and maybe were a little bit outside of their typical range,” Parvinrouh said.