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4 months ago

Gov. Ivey sets sights on education policy while Maddox focuses on process

With Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox still drumming up the liberal media’s faux outrage about debates, Governor Kay Ivey launched her first television ad ahead of the November 6 general election.

The ad, which is now running statewide, seeks to highlight her success in preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow.

“As a former teacher, I know how vital education is to Alabama’s success,” Ivey says in the ad. “That’s why I launched a new initiative with record funding for Pre-K education.”

Why make education the first issue of the general election? A 2018 report by the Alabama Department of Education shows that Gov. Ivey’s Democratic opponent may have an “education problem.”
Released in January, Alabama’s annual list of failing schools showed that two-thirds of the City of Tuscaloosa’s public high schools are failing. Mayor Walt Maddox has governed the city since 2005.

Before being elected mayor, Maddox worked for the Alabama Education Association from 1996-2001 and served a term on Tuscaloosa’s City Council.

Gov. Ivey’s new ad, which can be viewed below, is titled “Strong Start, Strong Finish,” a nod to her trademark education initiative that was launched to integrate Alabama’s early childhood education, K-12 education and workforce development into a seamless educational experience for students across the state.

Under Gov. Ivey’s brief administration, investment in Alabama’s nationally recognized First Class Pre-K program received its largest single-year increase ever in program funding.  And, as part of the first half of “Strong Start, Strong Finish,” she is working hard to make this program available to all Alabama families who wish to participate.

“Here in Alabama, we are focused on workforce preparedness, because we are creating record jobs,” Ivey explains in the ad, referencing a tenet of the latter half of her initiative. “That means we have to teach students today to be ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Gov. Ivey has branded herself using job growth first and foremost, with her campaign’s tagline of “Alabama is working again” fresh on people’s minds. Now, she is building on this success, showing Alabamians that education, job training, and economic development are all intertwined.

As for Mayor Maddox, his latest campaign commercial is based on his propensity to run.

With Gov. Ivey’s job approval rating soaring, Maddox is firmly behind the eight-ball.

In political campaigns, the battle often is fought over competing answers to the questions of the time; e.g., “how do we create jobs?” However, in reality, campaigns are won and lost on the questions themselves.

This is playing out in front of our eyes in the governor’s race. Mayor Maddox cannot win the answers to key questions people have on their minds. After all, unemployment has been at record lows and jobs are being created left and right under Gov. Ivey’s leadership.

Maddox’s solution? Change the question. Generate process stories about debates. Jog. Because on the issues, he loses every time.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon: A municipal perspective on Alabama’s infrastructure

Alabamians use municipal infrastructure throughout the state to access jobs, schools, grocery stores, hospitals, parks, entertainment venues and church services – making infrastructure a significant and urgent quality of life issue.

The state’s infrastructure needs are at a critical point, especially relative to their impact on our cities.

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Alabaster, a medium-sized municipality, is struggling to provide the road infrastructure to adequately move a population of approximately 34,000 (and growing) in and around our city, as well as accommodate the traffic associated with our economic footprint of over 100,000. Alabaster is not alone in this struggle. Infrastructure challenges will continue to escalate through the trickle-down effect as metro/urban areas understandably remain in the posture of revitalization and attracting additional growth in the surrounding suburb communities. Like many suburbs, Alabaster is appealing to families for the quality of life provided through excellent public safety, great schools, plenty of parks with children’s programs and safe roads to travel.

Motor Fuel Tax Increase – Why this is imperative

The Legislature is considering adopting an additional motor fuel tax to address the rapidly escalating statewide demands of infrastructure maintenance and enhancement. Therefore, it is important for the citizens of Alabaster and our surrounding communities to be knowledgeable about road funding and how it is distributed so they can boldly and confidently express to legislators the need for adequate and equitable funding for all local governments.

Alabama’s demographics have shifted significantly in the last 50 years. Across the state, greater than 4 percent now live in cities or towns. In Shelby County, 148,641 of the total 213,605 population – almost 70 percent of citizens – live in cities and towns, according to the statistical data for 2017. As the largest city in Shelby County, Alabaster encompasses 25.46 square miles, almost 10 percent of the County’s incorporated land area, which includes a combination of state, county and city roadways.

The city currently faces more need in minimum maintenance projects on city streets than the current gas tax allocation supports. For educational purposes, the current annual gasoline tax allocation of approximately $260,000 provides for the resurfacing of three to five residential neighborhood streets each year, depending on distance and the degree of repair necessary. However, when the base of the roadway is severely impaired due to earth movement or sink-hole conditions, repairs must be completed in phases pending availability of funds.

Our city has experienced this multi-phase type project with Alabaster Blvd – approximately one mile of city street repairs (not resurface) with a low bid of more than $600,000 in 2014 to complete all at one time. The total cost of the project increases dramatically when done in phases, due to mobilization and other economic factors. This multi-year project, in progress for the last four years, is still not complete. We are consistently addressing roads in priority order as it relates to safety – and we’re more often reactive instead of preventative.

The major arteries for traffic to move through and around our city belong to either the state or county. In order to address a major congestion issue, the city has to become a willing partner contributing funds in a collaborative effort towards improvements. One example is the widening of State Highway 119, which moves traffic from one end of our city to another into the city of Montevallo. In 2013, Alabaster was awarded a Federal grant of up to $10 million for approximately two miles of roadway widening, with the city participating in a 20 percent match to the 80 percent of federal dollars. Currently, no state funds are allocated to this project. The project was put on hold earlier this year because the estimated cost of $20+ million exceeded the grant funding and ALDOT had no available resources to assist in the completion of the project. After two months of conversations with representatives of the Federal Highway
Administration, we were granted permission to break the project into two phases and move forward utilizing our existing grant funds.

Many times, collaboration between government agencies allows for projects a local government cannot afford to do on its own. However, as it relates to roads, excessive time and additional requirements, as well as other inefficiencies, are the downsides when collaborating with the Federal Highway Administration and the State due to so many other ongoing projects. It is not quite as bad when a municipality partners with a local county government, but the efficiency inhibitors are still present.

Alabama counties and municipalities, as well as the taxpayers statewide, benefit from savings in eliminating red tape and inefficiencies. Future economic and community development projects in the Shelby/Jefferson County areas will be defined by the infrastructure it can offer. The same is true with every region of the state.

Current Motor Fuel Tax Distribution Is Inadequate

The current motor fuel tax distribution formula, which provides 50 percent of funds to the State and 50 percent to local governments with counties receiving 80 percent and municipalities receiving 20 percent, was developed in the 1960s and is no longer equitable to citizens living in municipal jurisdictions to address the growing demands on our municipal infrastructure. Therefore, municipal officials are advocating that the Legislature adopt a 21st Century distribution formula that would provide 50 percent of the funds to the State, 25 percent to counties and 25 percent to municipalities.

Alabaster’s community actively engaged with its legislative delegation on this critical issue as they experienced the dangerous bottleneck contributing to more accidents and lengthy delays on the Shelby County portion of Interstate 65, and even more so after the delay in widening Highway 119 where emergency vehicles can’t get to the scene of an accident due to the congestion. Our delegation listened.

The voices of voters make the difference!

We are proud of the state’s history of fiscally conscientious leaders making Alabama a great and affordable place to live. No one is to blame for the rising cost of goods and services over periods of time; it just costs more to maintain the same in every industry, including government. That being said, Alabama is not the same as it once was – we have grown and developed, shifting from rural areas to bustling suburbs.

I can’t stress enough how important it is for our legislators hear from their constituents about the public safety issues and escalating need in their communities. It would be wonderful if the voice of local government and public safety professionals were enough; however, it is always going to take the voices of the voters to make the difference between crumbling congested roads and safe highways.

State and local leaders cannot afford to sacrifice the public’s safety and quality of life by adhering to inadequate funding formulas of the past. As we have implored people and businesses to invest in our communities and our state for the benefit of our citizens, we owe them the return on their investment of providing the infrastructure needed for safe success in their mobility.

Please contact your legislators and let them know that infrastructure is a priority issue for you as a citizen and for us as a state!

Marty Handlon is a Certified Public Accountant with a Master’s in Business Administration and more than 20 years’ experience in accounting and financial management. She was elected Mayor of Alabaster in October 2012.

3 hours ago

Ben Shapiro to speak at the University of Alabama in the spring

Ben Shapiro, a prominent national conservative commentator and writer, will speak at the University of Alabama during the 2019 spring semester.

In an announcement Tuesday, Young America’s Foundation (YAF) said Shapiro will speak on campus in Tuscaloosa as part of the organization’s Fred Allen Lecture Series. UA will be one of six campuses to host the hot ticket speaker during the spring, on a date yet to be announced.

YAF celebrated a “wildly successful” fall lineup of campuses, adding it was “excited” to unveil the select locations hosting “the #1 requested speaker in the country” this coming spring.

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Formerly an editor-at-large for Breitbart, Shapiro currently serves as the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, which he founded in 2015. He has spoken frequently on college campuses across the country in recent years, meeting with controversy along the way, including especially prominent occasions at the University of California at Berkeley and California State University in Los Angeles.

He also hosts his online political podcast, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” which is broadcast every weekday. At age 34, Shapiro’s podcast is downloaded over 1 million times per episode, with an audience that is reportedly 70 percent under the age of 40. The Daily Wire gets approximately 140 million page views per month.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Alexander Shunnarah gives back to the community with the first annual ‘Shunnarah Seasons of Giving’ initiative

Most people know Alexander Shunnarah for his infamous “Call me Alabama” slogan and the massive trail of billboards commonly spotted by travelers along I-65. However, what many aren’t aware of is Shunnarrah’s heart for giving back to the city he calls home.

To show his love and appreciation for Birmingham, the Alabama lawyer just launched the first ever “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” initiative and is surprising locals in the community with various acts of service throughout the month of December.

Shunnurah described this initiative as a, “…small part in giving back to the community and paying it forward.”

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To begin the month-long program, Shunnarrah stopped by Etheridge Brother and Sister Barber and Beauty Shop in downtown Birmingham last week where he gave locals an opportunity to receive a complimentary haircut.

“It’s been a great initial kickoff in the seasons of giving,” Shunarrah said.

In addition to these pop-up visits, Shunnarah’s law firm is partnering with The Shoe Clinic LLC for the clinic’s third annual ‘Saving One Sole at a Time” Sneaker, Sock and Coat Drive. The drive will take place at The Shoe Clinic LLC on Saturday, December 15th from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Donations are accepted now through December 15th. Both organizations hope to collect 500 sneakers and coats, and 1000 pairs of socks by December 15th.

To donate to the sneaker, sock and coat drive, visit one of the two drop-off locations listed here:

The Shoe Clinic
1801 11th Ave S. Birmingham, AL,

Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm
2900 1st Ave. S. Birmingham, AL.

To see where Alexander Shunurrah visits for the next “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” pop-up, visit his Instagram page at @alexander_shunnarah.

5 hours ago

West Alabama woman points to bullying, race after her nine-year-old daughter’s suicide

A mother in west Alabama is grieving after her nine-year-old daughter, McKenzie Adams, died by suicide.

CBS 42 reported Monday that Jasmine Adams’ daughter was a fourth grader at U.S. Jones elementary school in Demopolis, which is close to the family’s home in Linden.

Following her tragic death on December 3, Adams reportedly advised CBS 42 that McKenzie told her teachers and her assistant principal a number of times that she was being bullied.

“She told me that this one particular child was writing her nasty notes in class. It was just things you wouldn’t think a nine-year-old should know. And my baby, to tell me some of the things they had said to her, I was like where are they learning this from,” Adams shared.

Adams also opined that race played into the bullying, as McKenzie rode to school with a white family friend every day.

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“Part of it could have been because she rode to school with a white family,” Adams outlined. “And a lot of it was race, some of the student bullies would say to her ‘why you riding with white people, you’re black, you’re ugly. You should just die.'”

Alex Brasswell, the Demopolis City Schools attorney, advised that the case is under investigation.

“We are working fully with the Demopolis and Linden police department. They are doing a joint investigation of these allegations. We are cooperating fully and I can’t comment on any of the aspects of the investigation until they conclude it,” Brasswell said.

Adams said that she believes that the school system let her daughter and her family down. She also explained that McKenzie only attended U.S. Jones in Demopolis because she had previously been bullied at the local school in Linden.

“I just felt that our trust was in them that they would do the right thing,” Adams said, “And it feels like to me it wasn’t it wasn’t done.”

“That was my angel, you know. She was a straight ‘A’ student, very smart,” Adams emphasized.

Funeral services for McKenzie are scheduled for Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at U.S. Jones elementary school.

Watch the full report:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

7 Things: Nation of Islam is leading Hoover boycott, gas tax may meet some resistance in Alabama, President Trump seeks a new chief of staff and more …

7. More Americans get news from social media than from newspapers

— Somehow, more Americans get their news from social media (20 percent) than print newspapers (16 percent). This is because of a steady decline in newspapers, but both get crushed by the Internet and television.

— American television consumption of news is still the most popular of all mediums at 49 percent, while 43 percent use “either news sites or social media” according to a Pew Research Center study.

6. Protesters were arrested in Washington D.C. for “protesting” for a “Green New Deal

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— The Democrats’ new face, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has a trillion dollar plan to solve the climate crisis and create “16 million new good-paying jobs.” Ocasio-Cortez supporters in D.C. participated in a “take over”of  the offices of Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA).

— Police arrested protesters for “unlawfully demonstrating in the Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings,” but Democrats showed support for them with Hoyer tweeting, “I welcome visitors from @sunrisemvmt to my office today, and I’m happy to hear from them about one of the most pressing issues of our time. Speaking out is exactly what our democracy is all about, and I appreciate their passion. The new Dem Majority will #ActonClimate.”

5. Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and soon-to-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi may offer up some border funding

— With the December 21 budget deadline nearing, Democrat leaders say they will offer President Donald Trump $1.3 billion in funding for a border wall, but Trump wants $5 billion.

— Trump lacks leverage here, except a government shutdown. He put out a series of tweets including, “I look forward to my meeting with Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi. In 2006, Democrats voted for a Wall, and they were right to do so. Today, they no longer want Border Security. They will fight it at all cost, and Nancy must get votes for Speaker. But the Wall will get built…”

4. The drama over Hillary Clinton’s emails continues as Judicial Watch does the work the FBI/DOJ should

— U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth called it “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency” and ordered the U.S. Departments of State and Justice to determine “(a) whether Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email while Secretary of State was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA; (b) whether the State Department’s attempts to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and (c) whether State has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s requests.”

— While the FBI/DOJ seems to have dropped this case in the Obama-era, one activist group continues to fight for the transparency that the then-secretary of state worked so hard to avoid by creating a homebrew server, bleach bit-ing the hard drives and smashing mobile devices.

3. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could be the next White House chief of staff even after commenting that President Trump could be criminally exposed

— After Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, turned down the White House job, the speculation machine ramped up and came up with new options for the job, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former campaign adviser David Bossi and Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) for White House chief of staff.

— Christie may be a favorite because Trump reportedly wants “a functioning White House,” but he said on ABC’s “This Week” that the President seems to be in some legal trouble because of Michael Cohen’s issues with the Southern District of New York, citing “[t]he language in the sentencing memo is different from what we’ve heard before”

2. Gas tax increase may be hitting a snag; Gas prices in Alabama are below the national average

— All three of Alabama’s biggest dogs support a new gas tax: Governor Kay Ivey, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, but local legislators are finding the issue to be a bit of a harder sell to their constituents given the ALGOP/GOP’s anti-tax positioning.

— Currently, Alabama’s average price of gasoline is $2.08 a gallon, which is far below the national average of $2.42 a gallon. Alabama’s price has decreased seven cents in one week and 36 cents in one month.

1. The Nation of Islam is leading the boycotts in Hoover and sees it as a “war” to separate races

— The Birmingham chapter of the Nation of Islam, which Yellowhammer News notes “is deemed an “extremist,” “deeply racist, antisemitic” “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center” is leading a boycott movement in Hoover that has a goal of moving black-owned businesses out of Hoover and in to majority-black areas of Birmingham.

— As the protesters attempt to make Hoover go “broke,” yet another arrest for blocking freeways in Hoover has taken place, bringing the total to three as the city of Hoover appears to have had enough of the protesters.