Author: Virginia Martin

Drilling Bans Greet Representatives as They Return From Break

Key Votes Ahead
The House this week will take up a bill to eliminate mandatory arbitration in employment, consumer and civil rights litigation, while the Senate will debate judicial and executive-branch nominations.

WASHINGTON — In the legislative week ending Sept. 13, members of the U.S. House passed a bill (HR 205) that would permanently prohibit the federal government from awarding leases for oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
The bill, which passed 248 for and 180 against, would replace a temporary moratorium slated to expire June 30, 2022. The protected waters extend at least 125 miles from the Florida coastline and include a 122,000-square-mile military testing range stretching from the Florida Panhandle to the Florida Keys. Read more.

Transit Authority Chief Seeks Compromise to Pass Budget

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The Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority recently rejected a proposed budget that would have increased bus fares from $1.25 to $1.50. It would’ve also cut some bus service. Executive Director Frank Martin recently signed a contract to lead the transit authority. Some say he has a tough road ahead. The bus system is plagued with problems around efficiency and revenue. Martin, in part, blames the transit board, saying they’ve been unwilling to compromise. He tells WBHM’s Janae Pierre riders aren’t paying enough into the system, and neither is the city of Birmingham.

Trump Administration Scales Back on Water Protection Rules

The EPA and Department of the Army announced Thursday that the EPA’s proposal to roll back protections under the Waters of the U.S. rule had been finalized.
The change eliminates federal jurisdiction over headwaters, ephemeral and some intermittently flowing streams, and wetlands that do not abut surface water, among other waters.

Environmentalists have warned that more than 80 percent of Alabamians receive their drinking water from such sources. Business owners, farmers and developers have said the change would save them money and allow them to complete projects more quickly.

The rule change has been discussed for months. Read Birmingham Watch’s earlier coverage of the proposal and its potential effects in Alabama:

Local and State Springs, Tributaries, Wetlands May Suffer From Pollution if Proposed Rule Is Finalized

Trump’s EPA Seeks to Remove Much of Nation’s Headwaters and Wetlands From Protection

Return to Muddy Waters? Uncertainty Reigns as EPA Tries to Roll Back Obama Administration Waters of the US Rule

JeffCo Commissioner Wants Stadium Update, Questions Lack of Civil Rights Info in Bicentennial Video

Commissioner Lashunda Scales today asked for an update on Protective Stadium, which is being built near the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

Jefferson County invested $30 million in the project.

Scales said she had been told by someone on the stadium design committee that VIP seats are being added that would lower the total number of seats in the venue.

Also, commissioners saw a presentation from Helen Hays, the county’s director of public information, concerning efforts to promote the 200th anniversary of Jefferson County, including a pair of videos.

While the presentation appeared to be well received from most in the board room, Scales was less than satisfied, saying that the county’s story was not being fully told. She cited a Sloss Furnaces event on Monday that memorialized two men who were lynched in the 1890s. Read more.

City Gives Negro Southern League Museum More Money to Finish Off Construction, Surprising Councilors Who Thought It Was Done

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to allocate an additional $290,274.39 toward construction on the city’s Negro Southern League Museum. But many councilors, including those who voted in favor of the funding, weren’t happy about it.

“There are so many things that I vote on that I have to hold my nose while voting,” said council President Valerie Abbott. “Sometimes you have to vote for things that you don’t really want to vote for, but we need to complete this project.”

The Negro Southern League Museum, which first opened in 2015, is part of a downtown development that includes the adjacent Regions Field. But much of that building has remained unfinished since then, representatives from the city’s planning, engineering and permits (PEP) department told the council. With a new restaurant slated to move into the building, extra funding to complete construction was needed. Read more.

Jefferson County Memorial Project Memorializes Two Lynching Victims at Sloss Furnaces

The Jefferson County Memorial Project dedicated a historical marker in honor of lynching victims Tom Redmond and Jake McKenzie during a ceremony Monday night.

McKenzie was killed June 17, 1890, and Redmond was killed March 22, 1897, at the Brookside Mines, which were part of the Sloss-Sheffield Iron and Steel Co..

This is the first historical marker placed by JCMP, a grassroots coalition that has researched the stories behind 30 people who were lynched in Jefferson County between 1883 and 1940.

The goal of JCMP is to bring awareness of the victims of racial terror and their descendants, advocate for racial injustice reforms and place historical markers at lynching sites throughout Jefferson County. The group’s efforts are inspired by the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in Montgomery in April 2018. The memorial is made up of monuments that represent 800 U.S. counties and are dedicated to African American victims of lynchings. Read more.

Report: Students with Disabilities, Minorities Arrested at Higher Rates in School

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Despite the pressure to provide for more security in schools, there are concerns about the long-term effects on students who are arrested by SROs and sucked into the criminal justice system. A recent report from the advocacy group Alabama Appleseed details one aspect. It found black students and children with disabilities were more likely than others to be arrested in connection with their conduct at school. Read more.