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Alabama leaders remember Sept. 11, 2001

Brandon Moseley

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The two beams of the Tribute in Light with skycrapers of Lower Manhattan at night from New York Harbor, Financial District, New York City.

Nineteen years ago today, America was attacked. In many ways, America has never been the same.

“September 11, 2001 will forever be marked as one of our country’s darkest days, as it changed our lives forever,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Almost two decades later, we still grieve the loss of the nearly 3,000 American lives and continue to honor the memory of our friends, loved ones and family who were simply passengers on a flight, folks going to work, and police officers and first responders serving their community.”

“Today reminds us that who we are as people and a nation is much bigger than anything that can divide us,” Ivey continued. “On a day that was meant to break our country, these evil acts only served as a means to unify our country more than ever. My hope and prayer for our country is that we never forget those who were lost and the sacrifices we made in the days that followed. Strangers helping others find safety fleeing danger, first responders literally carrying our nation on their backs, and the grief we collectively shared will inevitably be a part of remembering 9/11.”

“As this great nation continues to forge on, may the loved ones who feel the pain of this day know we have not forgotten our heroes, and we will never forget September 11, 2001,” Ivey concluded. “May God continue to bless those who mourn, the great state of Alabama, and these United States of America!”

“May we never forget the innocent lives lost 19 years ago today,” said Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon. “May we never forget the heroism our first responders displayed amidst the unthinkable. Today, we must find the same American spirit we felt on that day by uniting our common goals for the country we know and love.”

State Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds, said, “The events of 9/11 occurred almost two decades ago, yet the images they produced remain fresh to those of us who witnessed them on television and lived through the days that followed.”

“I encourage all Alabamians to pause today to remember the lost, the injured, and the brave of 9/11,” Drake added. “Recall the strong spirit of patriotism that resulted from those events, and let us each resolve to focus more upon what unites us as Americans rather than what divides us during the turbulent times that currently challenge us.”

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“Police officers and firefighters ran into danger in order to lead others out of it. Passengers on Flight 93 fought evil in the skies so that others might be spared,” Drake said. “And all who lost their lives in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a remote field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania continue to be mourned by those they left behind.”

“Although this day brings about grievous memories, I am reminded today of the well-known photograph of three New York City firefighters raising the American Flag at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center following the attacks,” said Congresswoman Martha Roby. “During the country’s darkest hours, the American Flag served as a symbol of hope for a heartbroken nation. This image still stands as a reminder that our country will always persevere, no matter what may come our way.”

“The victims of that fateful day and the heroes who emerged will live forever in the hearts of the American people,” Roby said. “Today and every day, we remember their brave sacrifice. I hope Alabamians will join me in marking this day by remembering those we lost: the first responders who ran into flaming buildings, the soldiers who volunteered to serve in the aftermath, the bystanders, and many more. My deepest prayers remain with the families of those who lost loved ones.”

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“Our world was forever changed on September 11th, 2001 when our country was attacked, unprovoked, by terrorists,” said Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville. “We will never forget the sacrifice so many made, and the lives lost, on that day.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan is making a pilgrimage to visit ground zero today. “America’s Mayor-2nd to none in leadership,” Lathan said of then NYC Mayor Rudi Giuliani. “Still beloved in NYC. America needs patriots and leaders like Rudy Giuliani. Visiting NYC at the steel beam found standing in the 9/11 rubble shaped in a cross. Run toward the light…Evil failed on 9/11.”

“19 years ago today, the greatest nation in the history of the world was shaken to its core!” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. “Unfortunately for those who wish to do us harm, they awakened a sleeping giant! The resilience, the resourcefulness, the dedication of our people was demonstrated once again! It always will be! #NeverForget911.”

“Everyone has a memory from 9/11,” said State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. “I keep this ticket from my plane flight to Washington, DC that September morning. I keep it to remind me how fast life can take unexpected turn. A lot of things have changed since then, including the fact that I have two daughters who were born after that date, but my memories of that day never fade. May God Bless all of those who lost a loved one on 9/11. I hope that our nation always pays tribute to those heroes.”

“In many ways, our history is now divided into before 9/11 and after 9/11,” State Auditor Jim Zeigler said. “Airport security measures were overhauled, and the Department of Homeland Security was created. A colossal surveillance state has seeped into the lives of ordinary Americans, and generally, Americans have become more aware, even suspicious, of those around us.”

“As we reflect on the tragedy of 9/11 on this nineteenth anniversary of the attacks, we should never forget the horror of that day,” Zeigler continued. “We should never forget the many families who lost loved ones. We should also never forget that although America’s spirit was wounded that sad day, it was not crushed.”

Zeigler concluded: “Following the attacks of 9/11, President George W. Bush remarked, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of America’s resolve.” Perhaps this 19th anniversary is a good time to remind us of the strength of America. Just as we should never forget 9/11, we also should never forget the indomitable American spirit we witnessed after the attacks.”

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Bill Britt

Opinion | In Alabama, the past is prologue

Even after 200 years, Alabama’s political approach hasn’t changed much; the fundamentals established by its founders are still evident in everyday politics.

Bill Britt

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Like people, governments have pasts, and today’s fortunes are either furthered or frustrated by the things that came before. It might be said that even history leaves DNA.

Understanding Alabama’s past is essential to navigating its future because its government’s origins determine that the past is prologue.

Even after 200 years, Alabama’s political approach hasn’t changed much; the fundamentals established by its founders are still evident in everyday politics.

Those who observe Alabama’s governing process closely see the same structural problems impede progress year after year. Resistance to home rule and a regressive tax system are just two of the many roadblocks to a more prosperous state.

Some unresolved issues are due to a lack of leadership, but others are inherent within the state’s original governing procedures. Even the state’s architects’ elitist attitude is still prevalent with near total power given to a Legislature dominated by one-party rule. The earlier settlers’ prejudices are enshrined in every process of governing.

Failure to understand, acknowledge, and change the state’s historical patterns hinders advancement, leaving the state nearly dead last in every metric of success. It doesn’t have to be this way, but the cure is always met with fierce rejection because beyond admitting ingrained inequities, any change would upend 200 years of consolidated power.

When Republicans promised a new day in Alabama politics in 2010, some sincerely believed that change was possible. Still, after nearly a decade of Republican one-party rule, there isn’t a substantial difference in governing practice.

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It’s not because good people haven’t tried to make a difference; it’s that there are systematic flaws that thwart reformers while rewarding the status quo.

A region’s founders and its dominant settlers are the creators of what can be called a state’s DNA. Alabama’s government still reflects the make-up of its original colonizers.

Much of the Deep South was established by slave owners who intended to recreate a society based on the Caribbean colonies of Great Britain.

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In his 2011 non-fiction work American Nations: A history of the eleven rival regional cultures of North America, Colin Woodard shows how Deep South states were “Marked by single-party rule, the domination of a single religious denomination, and the enshrinement of a racial caste system for most of its history.” He also writes that these cultures supported regulation on personal behavior while opposing economic restraint.

Today, Alabama’s governance framework and, to a lesser degree, its society is much like the Deep South characteristics Woodard describes.

One Party rule.

A dominant religion.

A racial caste system.

And a willingness to impose regulations on personal behavior while opposing almost every economic restrictions.

Woodward’s findings mirror Alabama’s state government.

Alabama’s central governing power is based on a top-down fraternity where a privileged few hold the reins of authority with a whip hand ready to strike.

Even before statehood, Alabama was regulated by an upper class who built the territory’s economy slave labor. The same class gained even more control after statehood.

“By the antebellum period, Alabama had evolved into a slave society, which…shaped much of the state’s economy, politics, and culture,” according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Slaves accounted for more than 30 percent of Alabama’s approximately 128,000 population when it was granted statehood in 1819. “When Alabama seceded from the Union in 1861, the state’s 435,080 slaves made up 45 percent of the total population,” writes Keith S. Hebert.

The state is currently home to approximately 4.9 million individuals. If 45 percent were slaves today, that would account for around 2.2 million people in bondage.

After the South lost the Civil War, Reconstruction ushered in an era where “a larger number of freed blacks entered the state’s electorate and began voting for the antislavery Republican Party,” according to Patrick R. Cotter, writing for the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

But the old establishment fought back and instituted the 1901 Constitution, which permanently ended any challenge to one-party rule and restored white supremacy in government.

A major feature of the new constitution was a poll tax and literacy tests and other measures to disenfranchise Black people and poor whites.

As Republicans reminded voters in the 2010 campaign cycle, Democrats controlled Alabama politics for 136 years. But these were not liberals; far from it. Alabama’s old Democratic Party for generations was home to racists, not radicals.

It was only over time that the Democratic Party became the diverse collation it is today.

With Republicans holding every state constitutional office and the Legislature, the one-party rule continues as it has throughout the state’s history; only the name has changed.

Looking back over the founding years of Alabama’s history, barbarity is searing, and the atrocities unimaginable. Yet, the fact remains that these early framers thought nothing of enslaving Blacks or treating poor whites as little more than chattel. It shocks our modern sensibilities as it should. Still today, the state continues in a system of government steeped in framers’ institutionalized prejudices.

Famously 19th-century British politician Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Alabama’s fathers wanted a government that gave absolute power to the few at the expense of the many; that is as true now as it was then.

There is a path to a better government, but as Lord Acton also said, “Great men are almost always bad men.”

History may not repeat itself, but politics does, and that is why Alabama’s history is prologue for today.

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Environment

Opinion | Capping Alabama Power’s ash pond might be the best bad option

When you look at the actual, real-life options for this stuff — and I can’t believe I’m going to say this — but the plan from Alabama Power seems to be a fairly good one. 

Josh Moon

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It would be wonderful if coal ash didn’t exist. Had humans never figured out that you could blast the top off a mountain or send desperate men deep into the earth to find coal to be burned to produce power, I’m not sure we wouldn’t be substantially better off. Just think of the environmental damage and human deaths that we could prevent. 

But that’s not real life. 

In real life, we live by the kilowatt. And as a result, we’re left with tons and tons and tons of coal ash — the leftover, toxic remnants of all that coal we’ve burned to keep all those lights on. And something has to be done with all of it. 

Exactly what we want to do with it is the dilemma facing Alabama Power and state and federal regulators. And there seems to be no answer that doesn’t tick off somebody. 

You can’t just leave it in wet ash ponds anymore, because the EPA has essentially — and very appropriately — made that illegal. 

You can’t cap it in place — a process by which the water is sucked out and cleaned and the remaining coal ash is covered with a synthetic liner and then with synthetic turf — because environmental groups say that still leaves a risk that some contaminants will leach into the groundwater. 

You can’t haul it away to a landfill — where it would be dumped into a lined pit and later covered — because nearby residents hate it and environmental groups say the dumping can lead to airborne contamination that sickens nearby residents. 

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So, what do you do? 

No, really, I’m asking. What should we do with an ash pond like the one at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry? 

Plant Barry has been a major point of contention between the power giant and environmental groups, particularly the Mobile Baykeeper and the Southern Environmental Law Center, for years now. But the conflict, in this particular instance, isn’t quite as simple as the usual cost-v-environment arguments that usually dominate these situations. 

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Barry’s ash pond currently holds 21 million tons of coal ash. That’s a big ash pond. 

It is located just feet from the Mobile River, separated by a 21-foot dike. For years, environmentalists have predicted that the pond is one good hurricane away from a major environmental disaster. (That has proven to be mostly hyperbole. Hurricane Sally pushed the Mobile River level up 3 feet. That’s 18 feet below the top of the existing dike, and the water has never been within 15 feet of the top.)

Alabama Power has maintained that the coal ash is as safe as a big, arsenic-laden baby and that no weather event in 55 years has disturbed the material stored at the site. But the company, after recent EPA law changes, is moving to cap in place the pond — a process it says will virtually eliminate the potential for contamination. 

Not good enough, the environmental groups have said. They want the coal ash moved to some other location. 

What location? The moon, preferably. Or some other place where humans will never come in contact with it.

However, when you look at the actual, real-life options for this stuff — and I can’t believe I’m going to say this — but the plan from Alabama Power seems to be a fairly good one. 

Look, I know that several heads just exploded, but hold off on the emails and angry tweets for a minute or two and let me explain. 

First, coal ash is a problem no matter where it’s stored or how it’s stored. Is placing it in a lined landfill at another location safer than capping it in place at Plant Barry? Possibly, but several people — people who are experts in the field — disagree about the overall danger and about the types of dangers related to each option. 

For example, capping the ash in place poses a higher risk that toxins could, at some point in the future, leach into the groundwater. APCO officials, and their hired engineers and third-party experts, insist that the new engineering improvements made to the site will significantly reduce that likelihood, making it almost equally as safe as a lined site. 

The plan APCO has presented has been approved by the EPA and is being monitored by ADEM.

But let’s say that APCO decided to go with the approach that some environmental groups want — trucking all 21 million tons of coal ash, after it’s been dried out, to a lined landfill site somewhere else. (And no one has a good thought on where that somewhere else is, by the way.)

That would mean, according to APCO’s estimates, more than 30 years of moving this stuff, with semi-trucks leaving out of the site every six minutes and traveling to wherever. Along county and state roads. And then dumping this stuff in another community that I can guarantee you does not want it. 

Pardon me, but sending diesel trucks up and down the roads for three decades (or two decades, if we go by most optimistic projections) doesn’t sound very environmentally friendly either. Nor does it sound like a solution that will prevent complaints. It also sounds like a blown tire or missed turn away from being an environmental disaster somewhere else. 

Capping this ash in place at Barry will move it another 750 yards away from the Mobile River. It will result in the dike being raised another three feet, eliminating the risk of a flood-caused disaster by anything other than a 1,000-year storm. The site will feature new engineering to cut off groundwater leaching and it will be monitored continuously for leaking. 

That all sounds pretty reasonable. 

Look, I’m not recommending that APCO get an environmental award or anything here, but at the same time, I think it’s OK to say that they’ve chosen the best of several bad options.

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Governor

Lieutenant governor calls for end to mask order

“Masks should be voluntary, not mandatory. We have to Make America Great Again,” Ainsworth said.

Brandon Moseley

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Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth speaks during a video message. (LT. GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

During the presidential debate Tuesday, President Donald Trump argued for opening up the economy and a loosening of coronavirus restrictions. His opponent, Vice President Joe Biden, has said that he favors stronger measures to bring the virus under control. Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth seized on the moment to support the president and added that Alabama’s mask mandate should not be extended.

“I agree with President Trump,” Ainsworth said. “Shutdowns don’t work. People want their schools open, their businesses operating, and their jobs protected. Masks should be voluntary, not mandatory. We have to Make America Great Again.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, with the support of Alabama State Health Office Dr. Scott Harris, imposed a statewide mask order on July 15 when the state’s coronavirus cases were peaking, hospitals were reaching a breaking point and COVID-19 deaths were soaring.

The governor has since extended that mandatory mask order. It is currently in place through Friday, Oct. 2,

The mask order is being credited by public health officials with improving the coronavirus situation in the state, allowing the state to open its universities and play both high school and college football seasons.

It is not known, at this point, whether Ivey will further extend the mask order.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Member Dr. Deborah Birx came to Alabama just last week and urged Ivey to extend the mask order. A number of epidemiologists and doctors in the state have come forward to echo that call to extend the mandate.

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Ainsworth was one of the first public officials to call for an economic shutdown to combat the coronavirus. He was also one of the first public officials to call for reopening the economy after the governor actually did order an economic shutdown.

The Alabama Department of Public Health announced 16 more COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday to take the state’s total death toll to 2,517. Alabama currently has 86,854 active cases of the virus.

The state remains under a statewide “safer-at-home” order. Citizens who don’t have to leave their home are urged not to leave their homes and practice social distancing and wear a mask when they do have to go out.

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At least 1,013,469 people worldwide have already died in the COVID-19 pandemic including 210,797 Americans.

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National

Today is the last day to fill out your 2020 Census

“Time is running out,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said on Twitter. “Respond to the 2020 Census today.”

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Sept. 30 is the last day to complete your Census so that you and your family can be counted in the 2020 Census. The Census is used to reapportion both Congress as well as the state Legislature and state school board. It is also important in how federal funds are re-distributed to states, counties and cities.

“Without every Alabamian being counted, Alabama will lose a Congressional seat, an Electoral College elector, and its share of federal funding,” said Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama. “That’s why it’s so important for Alabamians to be counted in 2020.”

Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama, said in an email to constituents, “We are in the final stretch of the self-response phase of the 2020 Census, and it’s critical you participate. … Please be sure to do your part and complete your Census response before the upcoming deadline, and encourage your family and friends to participate as well.”

“Time is running out,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said on Twitter. “Respond to the 2020 Census today.”

There are four ways to complete your 2020 Census:

  • Online at my2020census.gov. (Note: The Census ID number included on your original invitation letter is not required to complete the census online).
  • Call the U.S. Census Bureau toll-free at 844-330-2020. Telephone assistance is also available in multiple languages.
  • By mail: Return the paper form included with your invitation letter.
  • In person with a Census enumerator/representative that visits your home.

Any errors or under counts in this census will not be corrected for ten years. An under count could lead to lost federal funds for the state, towns and counties.

At this point, it appears that Alabama will lose at least one of our seven Congressional districts as well as one of our nine Electoral College votes based on the modest population growth in the last decade in Alabama and the poor census response rate.

The Census is mandated in the U.S. Constitution.

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