The Wire

  • Black Bear Sightings Continue to Increase in Alabama

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    Add Jackson, Limestone, Marshall, Morgan and St. Clair counties to the growing list of black bear sightings in Alabama in 2018. In recent years, bears have also been recorded in Chambers, Elmore, Jefferson, Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa counties. These recent sightings are more evidence of the state’s expanding black bear population.

    Biologists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say the increase in sightings may be due to a combination of factors including changes in bear distribution, habitat fragmentation, seasonal movement and the summer mating season. However, most spring and summer bear sightings are of juvenile males being pushed out of their previous ranges by their mothers and other adult males.

    Historically, a small population of black bears have remained rooted in Mobile and Washington counties. Baldwin, Covington and Escambia counties on the Florida border host yet another population of bears. In northeast Alabama, bears migrating from northwest Georgia have established a small but viable population.

    “While seeing a black bear in Alabama is uncommon and exciting, it is no cause for alarm,” said Marianne Hudson, Conservation Outreach Specialist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “There has never been a black bear attack on a human in Alabama.”

    Black bears are typically secretive, shy animals that will avoid human interaction. Occasionally, a curious bear will explore a human-populated area in search of food.

    “If you are lucky enough to see a bear, simply leave it alone,” Hudson said.

  • Rep. Byrne Releases Statement on Russia

    From a Bradley Byrne news release:

    Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this morning in Helsinki.

    Congressman Byrne said: “I applaud President Trump’s decision to start a dialogue with President Putin and I’m glad he is making it a priority. However, we must remember that Russia is not an ally – economically or militarily. They are an adversary. The United States should not tolerate actions by the Russians that intervene in our domestic affairs or pose a threat to our national security.”

  • Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Season Closes July 22

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD) announces the closure of Alabama state waters to the harvest of red snapper by private anglers and state-licensed commercial party boats at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 22, 2018. The quota of 984,291 pounds issued under NOAA Fisheries’ Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) is expected to be met by the closure date.

    “Alabama anglers fished extremely hard on the good weather days during the season,” said Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon. “That level of effort, coupled with larger average-sized fish harvested this year as compared to last year, resulted in a daily harvest rate two times higher than 2017, which prompted an earlier than anticipated closure.

    “The purpose of the EFP was to demonstrate Alabama’s ability to establish a season and monitor landings within a fixed quota and I think we have shown we can do that,” said Bannon.

    Anglers are reminded of the following:

    — Possession of red snapper in Alabama waters while state waters are closed is prohibited regardless of where the fish were harvested.
    — Alabama anglers may fish in federal waters off the coast of Alabama (outside of 9 nm) and land in a state that is open to the landing of red snapper, but they must adhere to the open state’s rules and not transit in Alabama state waters with red snapper on board.
    — The season for federally-permitted charter for-hire vessels will close at 12:01 a.m. July 22.

10 months ago

Alabama Senate Race: Voter Registration Extended Through Tomorrow Due to Irma

Governor Kay Ivey issued an Executive Order today giving Alabama citizens a 24-hour extension on registering to vote in the upcoming run-off election for the U.S. Senate between incumbent Luther Strange and Roy Moore.

With state offices closed due to Hurricane Irma, Ivey issued the order, stating:

“With today being the deadline to register to vote in September’s runoff, it only makes sense to extend the deadline to tomorrow because of the current weather situation in our state. Voting is a fundamental right in our democracy, and I’m proud to direct the Secretary of State and local boards of registrars to ensure that Alabamians can register tomorrow and still be eligible to vote September 26th,” Governor Ivey said.

Secretary of State John Merrill Tweeted: We were honored to work with to extend the voter registration deadline an extra day to accommodate those affected by Irma!

Related:  Want To Vote In Alabama’s Senate Runoff? Today’s Your Last Opportunity To Register

 

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1 year ago

Mobile Mayor’s Race Intensifies: Reformist vs the Man He Defeated

(News analysis by Quin Hillyer)

The rest of Alabama may want to watch to the race for mayor in Mobile, where fiscally responsible reformer Sandy Stimpson is trying to ward off a comeback attempt by liberal former mayor Sam Jones.

Stimpson, a leading timber executive with a long and varied record of local and state civic leadership, defeated Jones in a mild upset in 2013. Jones is a former Navy man who served for 16 years as a Mobile County commissioner before his two terms as mayor. Election day is August 22.

As County Commissioner, Jones built an image as a moderate-liberal, at least semi-friendly to business interests, who preferred building coalitions rather than making waves. Jones became Mobile’s first-ever black mayor in 2005 by defeating white Republican former city councilman John Peavy, when black voter registration still was less than 45 percent of the electorate. After a mostly uncontroversial first term, Jones was re-elected without opposition in 2009.

Jones’ second term, though, was marked by reports of sloth, mismanagement, lack of transparency, and some economic stagnation, along with the embarrassment of having lost a cruise-ship contract after the city had spent a fortune building a new ship terminal.

Jones also appointed or re-appointed leaders to the local public housing board who, in the words of publisher Rob Holbert of the moderate Lagniappe Weekly, “allowed this city’s public housing to disintegrate to such a degree that much of it looked like it belonged in the Third World.” The Mobile Housing Board now is under investigation by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – but that didn’t stop Jones from taking a job (after he left office) from longtime board chairman Clarence Ball, who oversaw the whole mess.

By the time Stimpson ran against Jones in 2013, Mobile’s black voter registration had exceeded 50 percent. But Stimpson, who has a winsome manner and exudes goodwill, carefully built a biracial coalition while pushing a unifying motto of “One Mobile.” Stimpson won comfortably, with 53.5 percent of the vote.

Since then, Mobile’s government has improved by almost every metric. Using figures provided by Stimpson’s administration (but not known to be controverted by anybody), the city’s debt (including bonded indebtedness, which most cities usually carry) has been cut by $72 million, after rising by $123 million during Jones’ first six years. (Jones added no bonded debt during his final two years.) Under Jones, Mobile had no reserve/rainy day fund (and indeed posted a $4.3 million operating deficit once bills were paid for 2013), but Stimpson now maintains a reserve fund of more than $20 million (with no new taxes or other new revenue sources).

When Jones left office, there was a backlog of “infrastructure” needs, with no money specifically dedicated to the purpose. Stimpson (and the City Council) now have dedicated $21 million annually for repavings, new sidewalks, and construction.

And both Moody’s and Standard & Poors have given Mobile better credit ratings (Moody’s had previously described a “negative outlook”), due largely to what S&P called “the city’s improved management practices” which (as Moody’s put it) “has improved the budgeting strategy.”

According to Paul Wesch, Stimpson’s budget director and acting chief of staff, the administration (again, sometimes needing the support of the City Council) achieved its tens of millions of dollars of savings, without cutting any services, through a number of means. The mayor used attrition (from retirements and ordinary turnover) to cut city employment from 2,501 to 2,277 by reassigning duties and increasing productivity. He also urged department heads to provide better oversight, so overtime hours (and pay) have been cut substantially.

“The way some of that is being achieved is through technology,” Wesch explained.  “One of [Stimpson’s] first initiatives was to replace aging, unconnected, multiple software systems with a new citywide software system.”

The administration also aggressively managed the city’s “rolling stock” – police, fire, and rescue vehicles. Wesch explained that under Jones, the city’s 500 police cars were being replaced at a pace that each cruiser would need to last an average of 18 years before being replaced. Police would be using old, beat-up cars, hideously expensive to maintain.

Stimpson’s team is now replacing 100 each year (again, using money from its administration-wide management savings), so each car will be expected to last about five years – much more reasonable considering the wear-and-tear endemic to policing. While the front-end outlay is high, almost the whole the cost is recouped on the back end: Instead of replacing transmissions or major parts to keep vehicles moving, mere oil changes suffice. Result: Garage costs are down, Wesch said, from about $10 million annually to about $6 million.

The new cars almost pay for themselves, and the cops are a lot safer.

Among other accomplishments during Stimpson’s first term:

  • • Attraction of a new cruise ship contract; a comprehensive new city land-use plan with copious public input; the start of a new 12-mile parkway/bikeway
  • • Attraction of major distribution centers for Wal-Mart and Amazon; new management for the troubled housing board
  • • An aggressive plan (and implementation thereof) to reduce blight, with blighted properties improved at a rate of about 90 per year instead of the prior 30-40)
  • • Insistence on performance-based contracting
  • • Creation of a new business “tech corridor”
  • • Three pay raises for firefighters and police
  • • A string of awards from various national good-government/good-management outfits

Against all this, Jones argues that the city still hasn’t “united” under Stimpson, and he has blasted the current mayor for spending some $80,000 for police overtime and other costs related to Donald Trump’s two famous visits to Mobile (one as a candidate, one as president-elect). The section of Jones’ website called “Achievements” is heavier on promises than on past accomplishments, but four of the six specific achievements listed harkens back to his time on the county commission rather than as mayor.

Lagniappe Weekly’s coverage of Jones’ candidacy announcement (I was unable to attend) indicated, with plenteous examples, that the event was heavy on appeals to racial solidarity, as it “hammered home to those in attendance the importance of strong voter turnout among the city’s black majority.” The lady who introduced Jones, Jessica Norwood, tying Stimpson to Donald Trump, warned of “a darkness moving around the country… [which] got invited into Mobile, and I’m here to say all we have to do is get it out.”

On the other hand, in tune with Jones’ earlier reputation on the county commission for stressing moderate themes rather than stressing racial differences, his web site has a section saying “government alone can’t teach our kids to learn – they know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

In May, a WALA-TV poll found Stimpson with an overall approval rating of 73 percent, including 60 percent favorability among black voters.

“It would be terribly difficult for Stimpson to mess this up,” said local political consultant and analyst Jon Gray, who oversaw the TV station’s poll. “Can Sam win? Certainly, it is possible. But Sandy’s leadership, plus his having a million dollars in the bank, and the recent polling results, all indicate that would be very unlikely.”

Most local handicappers seem to agree: If he can continue his hard-won image as an inclusive, race-neutral unifier, despite any appeals to the contrary from the Jones camp, Stimpson will enter the home stretch as a somewhat, but not prohibitive, favorite.

Quin Hillyer, a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, lives in Mobile.

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2 years ago

‘Treason!’ Alabama Rep. unloads after court blocks proof-of-citizenship voting requirement

Alabama State Rep. Jim Patterson (R-Meridianville)
Alabama State Rep. Jim Patterson (R-Meridianville)
Alabama State Rep. Jim Patterson (R-Meridianville)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal appeals court has ruled that would-be voters in Alabama will not be required to show proof of U.S. citizenship when using a federal voter registration form. Upon hearing news of the ruling, one state lawmaker had some harsh words for the judges responsible for the decision.

“The two judges that overruled the states should be arrested for treason!” State Rep. Jim Patterson exclaimed in a Facebook post. “They have no clue about the Constitution! This is not about voter rights, it’s about people voting that are not qualified!”

The legal battle over whether would-be voters should be required to show proof of citizenship began when Brian D. Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, granted a request to update the federal voter registration form to include the state’s new photo voter ID requirement.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon denied the first legal challenge to the change, but on Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overruled him, granting a preliminary injunction against the proof-of-citizenship requirement because it could cause “irreparable harm” to some would-be voters trying to register prior to the upcoming presidential election.

The Washington Post called the decision a “victory for civil rights groups, Democratic lawyers and the Obama administration” in “their ongoing battle with conservative lawyers and Republican lawmakers over who will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential contest.”

Rep. Patterson accused opponents of the proof-of-citizenship and voter ID requirements of trying to “steal elections.”

“It’s time for a convention of the states to bring back our Constitution,” he concluded.

RELATED: Scalia’s successor on Supreme Court could decide whether Alabama’s voter ID law survives

In spite of the proof-of-citizenship ruling, Alabama’s photo voter ID law remains in effect, although Democrats across the country continue decrying it as “racist” and “hateful”.

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Since 2008, Republican-controlled legislatures in 17 states have adopted new voting-related laws. Among those are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, which passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote. (h/t The Daily Beast)

Conservatives have long argued it is reasonable to require photo voter ID in order to protect the sanctity of elections, particularly because photo ID is also required for any number of other activities, from buying alcohol and opening a bank account, to getting on an airplane and renting a car.

But several lower courts have in recent months agreed with Democrats’ assertion that such laws are discriminatory.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

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3 years ago

Alabamians celebrate National Voter Registration Day

(Photo: Flickr)
(Photo: Flickr)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill joined members of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Tuesday in declaring September 2015 “National Voter Registration Month” as well as September 22 National Voter Registration Day.

NASS members explained that they established September 22 as National Voter Registration Day as a “non-partisan means of encouraging voter participation and increasing awareness about state requirements and deadlines for voting.”

To “celebrate” National Voter Registration Day, Merrill implores Alabamians to register to vote, ensure their voter registration is up to date, and sign up for election reminders and updates. In addition, Merrill and other members of the NASS encourage participants in National Voter Registration Day to share their experiences online.

“To help promote National Voter Registration Day, Secretaries of State across the nation are challenging Americans to get registered to vote by leveraging the power of social media and viral video,” said Merrill.

National Voter Registration Day is using the hashtag #CelebrateNVRD on social media outlets to help spread the word and get more people to register to vote.

“Our goal is to encourage involvement within the electoral process,” Merrill concluded. “We want every person who is eligible to vote, as a citizen of Alabama, to have the privilege to do so.”

Another recent effort to encourage voter registration in Alabama includes Merrill recruiting the head football coaches of Alabama and Auburn to star in informational videos. The videos will appear on jumbotrons in Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare Stadiums throughout the season to spread the importance of voter registration.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)  also celebrated the day by encouraging younger voters to get registered for the first time.

“Our votes are our voice, and every eligible voter should make his or her voice heard,” said Sewell in a press release Tuesday. “It’s important that we encourage and engage younger voters. Historically, young adults ages 18-24 are less likely to vote as compared to older adults. Voting is one of our most fundamental rights. We cannot take it for granted.

“National Voter Registration Day encourages high school seniors to register to vote, and to become active and engaged citizens within their communities. As a daughter of Selma, I cannot forget the sacrifices that were made by the brave men and women who laid their lives on the line so that all Americans can enjoy their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote.

“We must honor that legacy by voting in each and every election – local, state, and federal. I am calling on our young people to register to vote. You are the future, and we need to hear your voices.”

To learn more about registering to vote or National Voter Registration Day, please visit www.nationalvoterregistrationday.org.


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3 years ago

September named ‘Voter Registration Month’ in Alabama

Voting Booths

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill joined members of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) in declaring September 2015 “National Voter Registration Month” in a press release Tuesday, reminding citizens of the importance of exercising the right to vote.

NASS members explained that they established September as National Voter Registration Month as a “non-partisan means of encouraging voter participation and increasing awareness about state requirements and deadlines for voting.”

“The need for public information and education regarding voter registration and related deadlines is extremely critical as Alabama voters prepare to take part in the 2015 statewide election and the 2016 presidential election cycle,” said Secretary Merrill.

“Registering to vote empowers eligible citizens to exercise their right to vote on Election Day. I am thankful to all the Secretaries of State who are highlighting the importance of National Voter Registration Month and Day.”

NASS has also declared September 22, 2015, as National Voter Registration Day.

To “celebrate” National Voter Registration Month, Merrill implores Alabamians to register to vote, ensure their voter registration is up to date, and sign up for election reminders and updates.

“Our goal is to encourage involvement within the electoral process,” Merrill concluded. “We want every person who is eligible to vote, as a citizen of Alabama, to have the privilege to do so.”

Another recent effort to encourage voter registration in Alabama includes Merrill recruiting head football coaches of Alabama and Auburn to star in informational videos. These videos will appear on jumbotrons in Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare Stadiums during games this season in hopes of spreading the word and importance of voter registration.

Since June 3, 2014, to participate in an election, Alabamians must be registered to vote and present a valid form of photo ID at their polling place.

The relatively new law was rooted in a Republican campaign promise in 2010, the year that the party took control of the State House for the first time Reconstruction. It passed in 2011 and first went into use during 2014’s primary season.

According to the law, any of the following documents qualify as a valid voter ID:

• Driver’s license
• Alabama photo voter ID card
• State issued ID (any state)
• Federal issued ID or US passport
• Employee ID from Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board, or other entity of this state
• Student or employee ID from a public or private college or university in the State of Alabama (including postgraduate technical or professional schools)
• Military ID
• Tribal ID

To receive a free photo I.D. from the state applicants must show they are a registered voter and bring one either a birth certificate, marriage record, Social Security Administration document, hospital or nursing home record, Medicare or Medicaid document, or an official school record or transcript.

To register to vote or find your polling place in Alabama, please visit: http://www.alabamavotes.gov/.


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3 years ago

Alabama and Auburn head football coaches set to kick off state voter registration efforts

Nick Saban informing Alabamians to register to vote (youtube)
Nick Saban urging Alabamians to register to vote
Nick Saban urging Alabamians to register to vote

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has recruited University of Alabama and Auburn University coaches Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn to help kick off voter registration and identification efforts in the state. The two head coaches will appear in videos played on jumbotrons in Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare Stadiums during games this season in hopes of spreading the word and importance of voter registration.

“Our goal is to encourage involvement within the electoral process,” said Secretary Merrill. “We want every person who is eligible to vote, as a citizen of Alabama, to have the privilege to do so.”

Since June 3, 2014, to participate in an election, a citizen must be registered to vote and present a valid form of photo ID at their polling place.

The relatively new law was rooted in a Republican campaign promise in 2010, the year that the party took control of the State House for the first time Reconstruction. It passed in 2011 and first went into use during 2014’s primary season.

According to the law, any of the following documents qualify as a valid voter ID:

• Driver’s license
• Alabama photo voter ID card
• State issued ID (any state)
• Federal issued ID or US passport
• Employee ID from Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board, or other entity of this state
• Student or employee ID from a public or private college or university in the State of Alabama (including postgraduate technical or professional schools)
• Military ID
• Tribal ID

To receive a free photo I.D. from the state applicants must show they are a registered voter and bring one either a birth certificate, marriage record, Social Security Administration document, hospital or nursing home record, Medicare or Medicaid document, or an official school record or transcript.

The Yellowhammer State will join Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia to hold its presidential primary election on March 1st of next year in the so-called “SEC Primary.”

The informational videos encourage citizens to contact their Local Board of Registrars, visit alabamavotes.org, or call 1-800-274-8683 to make sure they’re ready for the next elections

Check out videos set to play in Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare stadiums below.


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