1 week ago

7 Things: Hurricane Sally intensifies, coronavirus surges globally as cases drop in U.S., Ivey prepares tourism push and more …

7. Athens returning to school early

  • Athens City Schools have pushed up their date for students to return to in-class learning due to the number of parents requesting that children go back to school to join other students in the classroom.
  • Originally, in-class instruction wasn’t meant to return until October 19, but now, elementary students will go back to class on September 28 and secondary students will return October 6.

6. Just tell us what isn’t racist

  • President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has put out a new ad against former Vice President Joe Biden. At the very end of the ad, Biden can be seen kneeling in front of black churchgoers. The text “stop Joe Biden and his rioters” then appears on the screen.
  • Due to the ending of the ad, it’s been called “overtly racist and offensive” by Reverend Silvester Beaman, who also said that it’s “a racist attack on the African American church,” but also the message “subtly incites white terrorism against people of color and attacks the Black Church and Black people for refusing to bow down to the idol called white supremacy.”

5. Ainsworth joining push for Census participation

  • Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) has joined Governor Kay Ivey in encouraging people in Alabama to fill out the 2020 U.S. Census before the deadline on September 30, reinforcing how important it is for the state.
  • Ainsworth said, “We’re looking at $13 billion [at stake]. We could potentially lose a congressional seat.” He also emphasized that the focus is “education, it’s healthcare, it’s about our road system. It’s a big deal.”

4. Ivey putting money toward tourism

  • Governor Kay Ivey announced $10 million of the CARES Act funding that Alabama received will be used in a new campaign to bring tourism to the state. According to Ivey, this is a way to help out the industry that’s been impacted by the pandemic.
  • Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell explained that the plan is to “generate a marketing campaign aimed at potential guests from outside the state.” Ivey said that she’s “pleased to award these well-deserved dollars to an industry that has been hurting so that people can feel confident that they can be safe when visiting Alabama destinations.”

3. China has a presence in Alabama schools

  • State Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) has already attempted to bar Confucius Institutes from operating on publicly funded college campuses in Alabama. His bill failed, but Hanes is now concerned that the Chinese government-funded “institutes” are now moving from colleges to K-12 schools and wants that forbidden as well.
  • Hanes argues that the goal of this influence is “teach our young people to get them to believe Chinese communism is a different form of communism, and it’s not bad,” and not like the other attempts at communism that have failed under the guise of Chinese cultural enrichment education.

2. Coronavirus surges globally

  • As coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States slow, the rest of the world is seeing a bit of a surge with new record highs of cases in Spain and India, and now Israel, France, UK and Austria have re-imposed restrictions.
  • The United States is not in the clear by any stretch, but recent surges that have been seen on college campuses and elsewhere are starting to taper off.

1. Ivey issues State of Emergency as Hurricane Sally approaches

  • As the path of Hurricane Sally seems to track right over Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey announced a State of Emergency when the tropical storm was upgraded to a hurricane. Ivey closed down the state’s beaches at 3:00 p.m. on Monday.
  • Ivey said in her announcement, “We pray Sally doesn’t do any harm, but we must be prepared just in case.” She added that as the “governor, you have my assurance that every resource will be available if we need it. Be safe, Alabama.”
10 mins ago

New commission tasked with deciding what to do with the state’s soon-to-be-replaced prison facilities

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday created a new commission that will examine how to best utilize the state’s prison facilities, several of which will be emptied in upcoming years as the state constructs three new prisons.

The current plan to build three new men’s prisons was covered by Yellowhammer News in an in-depth report earlier in September.

Officially titled the Alabama Prison Repurposing Commission, the governor’s new group will be chaired by Neal Wade, an economic development official who has worked for the State of Alabama in the past.

“As our Alabama Prison Program moves forward in building three new prisons… we will simultaneously need to smartly and safely repurpose or decommission these outdated, aging prisons,” Ivey said in a statement on Tuesday.

957

The governor further explained that the new commission “will provide recommendations based on in-depth facility analysis considering both the impact on the state and local community as well the financial ramifications to potentially repurpose or decommission some of our current prison infrastructures.”

A release from the governor’s office says that some facilities may find another use within the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), while others may be best suited for a different public entity or the private sector.

Citizens will not see a report from the commission anytime soon. The governor has mandated a report be sent to state leaders by September 1, 2023, or 90 days after the Commissioner certifies to the Commission that construction on the final prison is complete.

The report is to include “recommendations for the future of each existing male prison facility.”

Members of the commission, per the governor’s office, are as follows:

Neal Wade (Chair) is the former director of the Alabama Development Office, the precursor to the Alabama Department of Commerce, and currently serves as the managing partner of Advanced Economic Development Leadership for the National Economic Development Education Program.

Sen. Greg Albritton is chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee and was elected to represent District 22 in the Alabama Senate, which includes Baldwin, Clarke, Escambia, Monroe and Washington Counties.

Ben Baxley currently serves as chief of the Opinions Division in the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. He previously served as the deputy chief of the Criminal Division in the office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.

Ted Clem is the director of Business Development for the Alabama Department of Commerce. Clem joined Commerce in February 2014 as a senior project manager and played a key role in two projects in Opelika that involved $340 million in capital investment and nearly 400 new jobs.

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison was elected to represent District 20 of the Alabama Senate, which includes Jefferson County. She previously served one term in the Alabama House of Representatives and three terms on the Birmingham City Council. She serves as the ranking minority member of both the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund and Governmental Affairs Committees.

Harold Crouch is currently the mayor of Chatom where he has served for 24 years. He was previously on the city council for two terms. He has also taught government, history and economics.

Darius Foster is the CEO and co-founder of H2T Digital. He received a BS in Business Administration from Miles College and a GC in Business Strategies for Social Impact from The Wharton School. He is a current member of the Board of Directors for the Business Council of Alabama as well as a former commissioner of the Alabama Commission of Higher Education.

Annette Funderburk is the President of Ingram State Technical College which serves a 100 percent incarcerated adult population that delivers career technical, GED and job skills training at six locations across Alabama. She previously served nearly 10 years within the Alabama Community College System where her most recent role was director of External Affairs.

Rep. Kelvin Lawrence was elected to represent District 69 of the Alabama House of Representatives which includes Autauga, Lowndes, Montgomery and Wilcox Counties. He serves on the Ways and Means General Fund and State Government Committees in the House of Representatives.

Merceria Ludgood currently serves as a Mobile County commissioner, District One, attorney and civic leader. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alabama, followed by a Master of Arts degree. She earned her law degree from the Antioch School of Law An avid supporter of higher education, Ludgood is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including being selected for Leadership Mobile, Leadership Alabama and the prestigious Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship.

Walter Givhan, Maj. Gen., USAF (Retired) currently serves as senior vice chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development at Troy University. He is also the commander of the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education and vice commander of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base. General Givhan, a native of Safford, Ala., graduated from Morgan Academy in Selma, Ala., and the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was a National Merit Scholar.

Allen G. Peck, Lt Gen., USAF (Retired) is an assistant professor in the Department of Airpower and General George Kenney Chair at the United States Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). He also serves as co-facilitator for the joint Air War College/ Air Command and Staff College Airpower Vistas Research Task Force joint elective. Peck served for 36 years on active duty in the USAF, flying the air-to-air and air-to-surface variants of the F-15.

Rep. Connie Rowe is the vice chair of the Majority Caucus in the House of Representatives. She also serves as vice chair of both the Rules Committee and Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Representative Rowe was elected to represent District 13 of the Alabama House of Representatives, which includes Blount and Walker Counties.

Kyes Stevens is the founder and director of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project at Auburn University.  Starting in 2001, she has worked to design and build an innovative and sustainable outreach program that works with the underserved adult prison population in Alabama.

Willie Williams, Lt. Gen., USMC (Retired) is a senior consultant and owner/president of Williams Consulting, LLC based in Huntsville assisting the Department of Defense-supporting contractors and industries in strategic business development. Williams previously served as the chief of the Marine Corps Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.

“This process will allow both public officials as well as members of the general public to have a meaningful voice in the future of our existing prison infrastructure,” concluded Ivey.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

29 mins ago

This seven-year-old singing sensation from Birmingham is already performing in Nashville

Birmingham’s Evan Riley does not know cursive yet, but people are already lining up to get her autograph.

Riley, 7, is a second grade student at Shelby County’s Mt. Laurel Elementary School.

As reported by the Shelby County Reporter, Riley first found her love for — and natural talent in — music when she saw “The Greatest Showman” at age five. She liked the movie so much that she asked to see it over and over again. During one of these replays, she stopped watching — and began singing. That is when her mom knew Riley possessed a special gift.

“She didn’t really sound like a child,” her mother, Heather Lofthus, told the Shelby County Reporter. “She was standing on the coffee table singing, and I got chills.”

167

Riley subsequently began taking weekly voice lessons at her kindergarten. She would then perform “Never Enough,” the first song she ever sang from “The Greatest Showman,” at her school Christmas recital.

The audience was reportedly blown away, but Riley soon topped that feat with her school-wide performance of LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue” in front of approximately 1,000 people. A video of that cover found its way to local voice coach Steve Pennington, who has now been working with Riley the past six months.

It was Pennington who set up Riley with three separate performances at prominent Nashville venues last weekend: Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk and Steakhouse.

The rising star was a big hit in what was her first times performing with a band. However, while greater successes seem on the horizon, Riley and her family are focused on remaining grounded.

Keep up with Riley and watch videos of her performances here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Black pro-life leaders gather in Montgomery, argue the next step for civil rights is ending abortion

MONTGOMERY — A group of black leaders within the pro-life movement came together in Alabama’s capital city on Tuesday where they highlighted what they believe is racial prejudice among America’s abortion providers.

Speakers included Dr. Alveda King, an outspoken opponent of abortion and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She and the other speakers said their fight to end abortions is the next step in civil rights for African-Americans.

All presenters who were able to make it to Montgomery in person signed the Equality Proclamation, which argues the location of abortion providers and other tactics used by groups like Planned Parenthood are racially discriminatory.

477

The group believes, according to a document they disseminated, that “the targeted practices of Alabama abortion providers are both discriminatory and disproportionately harmful to black mothers and their babies.” The group further believes they have a case based on the 10th Amendment that would force state leaders to take actions against such prejudice.

To that end, the group is filing an emergency petition for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court that seeks to spur action from Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall.

King appeared at the event via a recorded video, explaining that her mother has recently come down with COVID-19, which prevented the pro-life advocate from traveling to Alabama.

She noted that 158 years ago President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Today, 158 years later, history will record that leaders of the Pre-natal nondiscrimination alliance, PRENDA, signed the Equality Proclamation,” King stated.

“My uncle worked for the civil rights of all of God’s children. After all the work he did I think his heart would be broken to see what is happening to unborn children in the United States of America,” she added.

“Denying personhood has always been used to justify killing,” said Walter Hoye II, founder and CEO of Issues4Life Foundation, in an attempt to tie the language of abortion advocates to that of American judges in the 19th century who decided slaves did not count as people.

Amie Beth Shaver spoke on Tuesday and referenced Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, saying Sanger did not believe in the human rights of all people. After defending Sanger for many years, Planned Parenthood has begun to walk back its ties to her after her beliefs in eugenics are getting more publicity.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has thrown abortion access back into the American political spotlight in recent days, with many conservatives hoping President Donald Trump will select a jurist who shares the view of most Republican voters that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

Montgomery attorney Sam McLure is the legal representation in Alabama for the pro-life leaders that assembled on Tuesday, and a staunch opponent of abortion himself. Yellowhammer News asked McLure what he thought of Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Judge Barbara Lagoa — the two candidates who observers say are the front runners to be Trump’s selection for the open SCOTUS seat.

McLure did not comment on Lagoa but said that Coney Barrett “has a track record of reverencing the personhood of humans at all stages of development.”

“I think that conviction is important for our country to be a land of justice, and I think it is long overdue, just like Dred Scott was long overdue to be overturned I think Roe v. Wade is long overdue to be overturned,” McLure stated.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 hours ago

Trump administration invests more than $2 million in rural Alabama water infrastructure projects

The administration of President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $2 million to modernize rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in two rural Alabama communities.

The announcement comes as part of a national $268 million investment across 28 states. USDA is reportedly funding 76 projects total through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. These investments will help to improve rural water infrastructure for 267,000 residents.

“The opportunity to bring water and wastewater funding to Alabama is such an investment because it brings modern, reliable water and wastewater infrastructure to our rural communities. These types of projects without a doubt improve the daily lives of Alabamians,” USDA Rural Development State Director for Alabama Chris Beeker said in a statement.

Investments in Alabama include the following:

225

The Pintlala Water System, Inc., will use a $2,037,000 loan to expand and improve the existing water system. The project will dig a new deep water well capable of producing 300 gallons per minute operated by a new vertical turbine pump and motor, new water well lines, and a new treatment building with SCADA electrical controls. The project will also replace outdated manual read water meters with the installation of a new Automated Water Reader system. The new upgrades will allow rural residents to have access to safe potable water and reduce water loss. It will also reduce meter read time for employees and should increase water revenue for the rural water system.

The town of Kinston will use a $47,000 loan and a $53,000 grant to provide additional funding for an existing water project. The funds will allow final construction of the project to be completed which includes the addition of a third well and will allow Kinston to be solely dependent on its own water supply. This will increase water revenues and allow rural residents continued access to clean water.

This is merely the latest in a string of similar announcements from USDA Rural Development during Trump’s presidency.

RELATED: USDA’s Chris Beeker: ‘When rural America thrives, all of America thrives’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

7 Things: Tuberville up big, high school football takes a few more hits, Democrats powerless to stop Trump’s SCOTUS nominee and more …

7. Debate topics announced

  • Fox News host Chris Wallace will be moderating the upcoming presidential debate in just under one week, and he’s now announced what the topics of the debate will be in six 15-minute segments.
  • The topics will be the Supreme Court, coronavirus pandemic, economy, “race and violence in our cities,” “integrity of the election,” and both former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump’s records.

6. Another push to exclude illegal immigrants from the Census count

690

  • President Donald Trump has been vocal about excluding illegal immigrants from the 2020 U.S. Census count, and now due to a lower court ruling, the Trump administration is asking that the Supreme Court hear arguments before the end of the year over the case.
  • If the Supreme Court agrees and hears oral arguments on the case in December, there’s enough time for a ruling before the January 10 deadline, but this could potentially be enough time for the new Trump Supreme Court nominee to weigh in on the issue.

5. Tests being sent to HBCUs

  • President Donald Trump’s administration has announced that they are sending 250,000 rapid coronavirus tests to 42 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). These are the tests that give results in 15 minutes. This is just the first round of tests being sent out, and Alabama A&M in Huntsville and Alabama State University in Montgomery will be receiving thousands of tests in the first round.
  • A spokesperson for Alabama A&M said that testing has been a big part of returning to school this fall, adding, “This partnership with the federal government, in conjunction with the University’s PCR testing program, will greatly speed up our ability to identify, isolate, and reduce the symptomatic and asymptomatic spread of COVID019 on campus.”

4. Gulf Shores became more popular during the pandemic

  • Recent figures released by Airbnb show that the Gulf Coast in Alabama was a more popular destination than Miami, Florida, from July to August this year. The company has also said that this is a trend being seen around the country, where more people are opting to stay in smaller cities or towns than larger, typical destinations. For example, more people visited Lake Tahoe this year than Las Vegas.
  • Since you can rent up to a whole house, people have also been able to extend their stays in areas, too. The average length of stay has increased by 58%, which could easily be due to the requirement to isolate in many areas upon arrival.

3. Football taking a hit during the pandemic

  • Two Alabama high school football teams have decided to shut down for at least a week due to positive coronavirus cases. Hazel Green is stopping for two weeks with three positive tests, and Wetumpka is stopping football for one week after 12 positive tests. Fifteen players in Hazel Green are quarantined, and aside from the 12 positive cases in Wetumpka, there are eight players quarantining.
  • There are three other high schools that have also canceled football games, with Lee in Huntsville forfeiting their Friday game this week, with only one person associated with the team testing positive and 10 people in quarantine. Jacksonville has had one football player test positive, so they’ve canceled their games for the next two weeks. Mortimer Jordan has also canceled their game this week after at least one positive test.

2. Romney will support voting on a Supreme Court nominee

  • Democrats are now powerless to stop President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee now that U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) has voiced support on moving ahead with whoever President Donald Trump decides to nominate for the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacant seat left by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • Romney said that his decision “is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’” and added that it’s about “fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent.” He went on to say if the nominee eventually “reaches the Senate floor,” he intends “to vote based upon their qualifications.”

1. Tuberville is up in Alabama

  • New polling data released by the Morning Consult, which is from a survey conducted from 9/11-9/20, shows that former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville is leading in Alabama at 52% with U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) trailing at 34%, which is similar data that’s been released previously.
  • In other Senate elections across the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is leading against Amy McGrath 52% to 37%. In Texas, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is leading by six points with 45% against MJ Hegar with 39%.