4 months ago

Roby: ‘I have cast every vote with the guiding principle that Alabama always comes first’

MONTGOMERY — Congresswoman Martha Roby (AL-02) on Wednesday delivered a public speech and spoke to the media for the first time since announcing that she will not seek reelection to a sixth term in 2020.

Appearing before an overflow, hometown crowd at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues Breakfast, Roby seemed at peace with her decision.

However, in a deeply heartfelt speech differing from her normal central focus on policies and the issues of the day, Roby expressed her continued passion for serving the people of Alabama’s Second Congressional District — and emphasized how appreciative she and her family are that she has been able to serve, starting with her time on the Montgomery City Council.

“I’m just so overwhelmed and grateful. … It’s been 16 years since Riley and I prayerfully considered putting my name on the ballot for the very first time,” she said. “Never, never could we have imagined that by doing so, and by serving on Montgomery City Council, would that prelude us [serving] five terms in the United States House of Representatives.”

Holding back tears, Roby added, “I don’t have the words to adequately express how deeply thankful I am for the confidence that the people of Alabama’s second district have placed in me to represent them … since January 5, 2011.”

She said after much prayer and consideration, it was simply the right time for her family “to close this wonderful chapter” in their life.

Roby then reflected on some of the highlights of her time in Congress thus far, including one overarching common thread.

“Throughout my time in Congress, I have cast every vote with the guiding principle that Alabama always comes first,” she stressed. “Alabama’s priorities have been my priorities, and together we have been able to deliver some accomplishments.”

She outlined that some of her proudest achievements include work done to support the military, veterans, the agricultural industry, the unborn and general constituent services.

One of Roby’s legacies in Congress will certainly include helping bring the F-35 to Montgomery. She celebrated this in her remarks, as did Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Willie Durham when introducing her.

“[T]he River Region’s military footprint continues to lead our nation and our dedicated service members into the future,” Roby lauded, before emphasizing confidence that Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass will continue to play an integral national security role for many years to come.

On her pro-life beliefs, a choked-up Roby told the crowd, “By now, I hope it’s no secret to anybody in this room that I am unapologetically pro-life. And I’ve used this platform that’s been given to me in Congress to speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Roby said she will continue fighting tirelessly for these priorities and others until her very last second in Congress and added that America’s immigration system is something she is particularly focused on until the end of her term.

“We face some real challenges in a divided Congress,” Roby acknowledged, before going into a list of current and upcoming priorities.

“For starters, I believe it is absolutely critical that Congress address our nation’s broken immigration system,” she remarked. “And you all know, I’ve said it since 2010 — we absolutely must secure our border.”

She then said continuing to fund the nation’s defense adequately and on-time remains a priority for her. Thanks to the historic leadership of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Congress last year passed the defense appropriations package through regular order and on-time for the first time in a decade. Roby wants to continue this type of important appropriations work, especially for the military, as she serves on the House Appropriations Committee. She also stressed that she wants to avoid any more government shutdowns, as they harm the Department of Defense and federal employees and contractors in her district and throughout the state.

“I believe that our military, our farmers, our veterans and so many others who depend on certainty with government funding deserve nothing less than for us to do our job — and do it on time,” Roby added.

The congresswoman then stated that passing a federal infrastructure plan remains a priority for her, saying she wants to work with the Trump administration and her colleagues in Congress to accomplish this bipartisan goal. Roby said roadway, railway and waterway infrastructure is critical for the economy, including ports such as the Port of Mobile.

“We have not done enough in this country to properly maintain our infrastructure,” she said.

‘There are retirements every cycle’

Following her remarks, Roby spoke at length to members of the press, answering a bevy of questions, including several slightly different variations of why she is not running for reelection. She dismissed speculation from national — and some in-state — commentators that her decision was indicative of the current political climate.

Roby underlined that her relationship with the Trump administration is good and that her decision had nothing to do with being in the minority in the House.

“It wouldn’t matter who was president, who was speaker of the House,” she added of her decision to retire from Congress.

“This happens every election cycle — there are retirements every cycle,” Roby outlined. “I know that the commentators on the news want to make it into something, but I would say for each individual member of Congress, their reason is different [on why they choose to continue serving or not].”

Roby then said that during the 2018 election cycle, she “made it very clear” going into this current term that she was going to be supportive of President Donald Trump and “everything” she could to advance shared priorities.

“When the president is successful, we’re all successful,” she continued. “There are policies that I share, priorities that I share with this administration, and I’ve done everything I can to make sure to get those priorities across the finish line to the president’s desk.”

“I have a good working relationship with the White House. And there are times that I agree, there are times that I disagree. But, again, I want what’s best for the American people,” Roby advised.

Saying she has no specific future political plans, “the one thing” Roby is promising is that her name will not appear on the ballot in 2020.

‘Toxic environment’

One call to action that Roby said applies to elected officials and members of the public alike pertains to the diminished level of civil discourse in the country, particularly through social media.

“The way we communicate with each other now, even as opposed to 10 years ago, has created a toxic environment — one in which our civil discourse is the worst that I have ever seen it,” Roby emphasized.

“You can sit on a phone or a computer and you can type out anything you want to say without consequence,” she explained. “You know, there’s a lot of people that I run into from time-to-time — they think that I don’t read their Twitter, but I do. And the way they act to my face when they’re looking in my eyeballs is completely different than what they’re willing to say on social media. So, I just think we all have a responsibility…”

Roby expressed hope that the “pendulum” can swing back the other way as far as discourse goes. She said this is key “if we hope to accomplish anything.”

“Because if we’re shouting down at every single person that doesn’t agree with our politics or our position, we’re never going to get anything done,” Roby lamented. “I mean, I have strong convictions about the things that I believe in, but I’ve got to be willing to listen — to at least try to understand where my colleagues are coming from.”

Asked by an Alabama Media Group reporter whether “President Trump sets the tone for that (the level of discourse),” Roby said the responsibility is shared across party lines and societal roles.

“Well, I think that there’s [negative] discourse on both sides of the aisle,” she responded. “Oftentimes people want to point the finger at one person or one tweet, but I think that there’s plenty of blame to go around in terms of the way we communicate with each other. As leaders, in office, we have even more of the responsibility to choose our words carefully. But I do think that there’s responsibility on both sides of the aisle, and quite frankly, in every household in America.”

You can view a tweet thread from Roby’s appearance here.

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

7 hours ago

Mayor Randall Woodfin throws down the gauntlet at Birmingham Business Alliance meeting

BIRMINGHAM — Delivering opening remarks at the Birmingham Business Alliance’s (BBA) annual meeting on Wednesday, Magic City Mayor Randall Woodfin challenged the region’s business leaders to stop being so “risk averse.”

Woodfin opened his speech with words of praise for outgoing BBA chairwoman Nancy Goedecke and incoming chairman Jim Gorrie.

He then transitioned into a call-to-action.

“Usually I would get up here and give you all some stats about what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished,” the mayor advised. “I think it is fair to say that 2019 has been a good year for many [in] your organization — individually and collectively for our Birmingham Business Alliance.”

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Woodfin advised that the BBA leadership is pointing the region’s business community in the right direction.

“And the question is: as members of this organization, are we prepared? Are we ready?” he added.

“I don’t have to tell anyone in this room that since the Great Recession… 60% of all jobs have only gone to 25 cities in America,” Woodfin continued. “You need to know that Birmingham is not on that list. So the question becomes, when you walk out of this room, are we prepared to invest in our competitiveness? Do we want to compete? Do we want to set ourselves apart and not be like any other city in America?”

“We don’t have to be like Nashville or Chattanooga or Atlanta or Austin,” he said. “We need to be the best versions of ourselves.”

The mayor outlined the road to getting to that goal.

“That is going to require us to shake off the way we’ve always done things… just based on the sheer nature of what you do, you’re risk averse. But being risk averse in this time as we move into 2020 under Jim’s (Gorrie’s) leadership will not work for us as an organization or as a city. Or for the future and present of what we want our business community to be — to attract, retain, grow and many other things we have to do,” Woodfin stressed.

“As my challenge I leave to the members of this organization in this room, that we are willing to stand behind Jim, just as we did with Nancy (Goedecke), but really be aggressive,” he concluded. “Really be the opposite of risk averse and be hungry enough to do something that’s going to be different to make Birmingham a place that attracts more businesses and for the current businesses in this community to be and remain successful.”

RELATED: Almost two years in, Randall Woodfin reflects on biggest initiatives

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

10 hours ago

Above and beyond: Regions associate honored with Better Life Award after learning sign language to serve deaf customers

Regions Bank on Wednesday honored one of its Alabama associates in a major way for going above and beyond to better the lives of the company’s customers.

In a story posted on Region’s “Doing More Today” website, the company announced Gayla Land was presented with the Better Life Award. This is the top honor bestowed upon Regions associates “for outstanding dedication and job performance, as well as exemplary involvement and commitment to the community.”

For Land, a Regions Bank branch manager in Dothan, the genesis of the award goes back to 2016. She was reportedly serving a deaf customer but wanted to be able to do so better, as communicating properly was a real issue.

“I felt there was something missing. It frustrated me,” Land reminisced. “I could only provide what I could write down. I couldn’t share the information in his approved language.”

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The Regions associate turned that frustration into a solution. Land, on her own time, went out of the way to enroll in American Sign Language classes at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.

However, her dedication did not stop there. She not only learned sign language herself but decided to strike up a partnership with the school.

“I fell in love with the deaf community and the language itself,” Land explained. “Then I told the school, ‘Let’s make a partnership to have them come into the branch for financial education seminars,’ and they agreed.”

The student subsequently became the teacher, as Land began teaching in sign language a series of lessons that cover money management, retirement, identity theft and fraud prevention. Her first group reportedly graduated earlier this year.

This is having a real impact on the lives of Regions customers with hearing impairments.

“They feel more confident in their ability to make financial decisions, and I learn something new every time they are with me.” Land advised.

Her commitment to the hearing impaired continued to be displayed Wednesday when she received the award from Regions. The company donates $1,000 in the honoree’s name to a nonprofit organization of his or her choice, and Land chose the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind to receive the money.

“They do great work providing skills and education to the deaf and blind communities,” she remarked. “I know they will make great use of the money to provide for those families.”

However, her journey is not done yet.

Land is planning to sharpen her sign language fluency by taking advanced classes.

She also used her new platform to urge others to learn the language as well.

“Don’t be fearful or feel judged. Just try to learn. Even if it’s just one new word every day,” Land concluded. “Your eyes will be opened to a new perspective, and you’ll be embraced by the deaf community because you tried.”

You can watch an almost six-minute video on see Land’s work in action below or here.

RELATED: Merry and bright: How Regions’ headquarters building lights became a holiday tradition

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

11 hours ago

Auburn’s Bo Nix named SEC Freshman of the Year, Derrick Brown named best defensive player

The Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) 14 coaches have voted Auburn University quarterback Bo Nix as the SEC Freshman of the Year and defensive tackle Derrick Brown as the Defensive Player of the Year.

The honors were announced Wednesday by the league office. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.

Brown was also named by the Associated Press as the AP’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the week.

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Nix now holds the Auburn Tigers’ freshman record for passing yards (2,366), pass completions (200) and touchdown passes (15) in a season. The Alabama native also rushed for seven scores.

Brown had a monster season on the defensive side of the ball and landed as a finalist for just about every national award possible.

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

11 hours ago

Rogers’ report from Washington: The season of giving across East Alabama

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Each Christmas season, I like to highlight a few of the kind things folks across East Alabama are doing for others.

Below is a small sample of ways our fellow Alabamians have cared for each other over the past year.

In Clay County at Central High School, a teacher, Amanda East, gathered the school supplies that were going to be disposed of from the locker clean out. Those items are now set up to donate to students who need them.

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In Lee County, The Hallmark Channel is coming to Beauregard to present new homes to the 15 families who lost everything when the EF-4 tornado devastated the area.

Hallmark will also serve residents a holiday meal at Providence Baptist Church with Santa and toys for the little ones, too.

In Calhoun County, Dara Murphy of Rosa Lee Boutique organized a White Bag Project for individuals to grab a white bag and fill it up for a child in need. They are also taking clothing and furniture to 20 families.

In Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa Counties, Rep. Peeblin Warren assists 400 seniors with gift baskets.

In Randolph County, the Roanoke Police Department is holding its annual toy drive to ensure local children get a Christmas gift.

In Chambers County, the Christian Service Center collects food and toys to donate to families.

In Montgomery County, Woodland United Methodist Church/Town of Pike Road distribute food. Pike Road and Central Alabama Health Care Systems also distribute hygiene items for local veterans.

Reading these stories makes me proud to be from East Alabama. It is truly heartwarming to see our brothers and sisters across the Third District taking time to take care for someone who needs it most.

May we carry this attitude of service to others all year long.

Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas. Remember the reason for the season.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks. 

12 hours ago

Crimson Tide’s Jaylen Waddle named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year

University of Alabama sophomore wide receiver and returner Jaylen Waddle on Wednesday was announced as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Special Teams Player of the Year.

He is the first Crimson Tide player to be named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year since Christion Jones in 2013. The honor was voted on by the league’s 14 head coaches, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own players.

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Waddle, who was already selected by Pro Football Focus as a first-team All-American at returner, led the nation this season in punt return average at 24.9 yards per return. Waddle had 19 punt returns for 474 yards and a touchdown, including a long of 77 yards.

The playmaker also returned four kickoffs for 152 yards and one touchdown this season, in addition to 553 yards and six touchdowns on 32 catches at wideout.

This comes after Waddle was one of 14 Bama players on Tuesday who were named to the All-SEC Coaches’ Team. He was actually named to both the first and second teams at different positions.

Juniors Jerry Jeudy (WR), Alex Leatherwood (OL) and Jedrick Wills, Jr. (OL) were first-team selections on offense, while redshirt senior Anfernee Jennings (LB) and junior Xavier McKinney (DB) were honored as first-team defense. Waddle was a first-team selection on special teams.

Redshirt junior center Landon Dickerson was named to the second-team offense along with juniors Najee Harris (RB), DeVonta Smith (WR), Tua Tagovailoa (QB) and Waddle (WR). Seniors Raekwon Davis (DL) and Trevon Diggs (DB) and redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Lewis were second-team choices on defense.

Waddle was named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2018.

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