Author: Virginia Martin

Kids Count: Alabama 46th in Child Well-Being

Alabama leads the nation in graduating high school students on time, but middle school students’ math and reading scores are near last in the country, according to a new report.

Alabama ranked 46th in the nation in overall child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2022 Kids Count Data Book released today. That ranking is up from 47th in 2021.

The annual report looks at 16 indicators of child well-being related to education, health care, economic factors and community and family. Data points come from 2016 through 2020.

Alabama did improve in 10 of the indicators but in four of them the state fell behind the rest of the nation, according to a written statement today. Read more.

City Commits $13 Million to Public Spaces, Road and Drainage Work in Neighborhoods

The Birmingham City Council approved more than $13 million in capital project funding Tuesday, focusing most prominently on streetscaping and improvements on city-owned properties such as Vulcan Park and Rickwood Field.

Several city councilors expressed relief about the funding, saying that it would put to rest major complaints they have received from their constituents.

“Thank you on behalf of the Pine Knoll Vista neighborhood,” District 4 Councilor J.T. Moore told Mayor Randall Woodfin, referencing the $815,000 that will be allocated to drainage improvements in that neighborhood. “That neighborhood has really been on my head about it. I can go to neighborhood association meetings and not sweat because we’re actually making moves on this project.” District 9 Councilor LaTonya Tate echoed that gratitude over $598,615 in funding for drainage improvements in Hooper City, saying she had stepped into a “lion’s den” of complaints upon becoming councilor.

Mayor Randall Woodfin acknowledged that not every district’s needs could be fully met by this round of allocations, but he added that a meeting has been set with the finance team and the city’s bond counsel to “go deep” on potential market-based sources of funding. Read more.

Move to Up Anti-Bingo Efforts in JeffCo Squelched as Questions About Proposal Still Unanswered

Jimmie Stephens had hoped to leave Thursday’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission with the county fully armed in its efforts to squelch illegal bingo in unincorporated Jefferson County.

Instead, the commission president left the meeting disappointed after the resolution failed on a 2-2 vote.

As in Tuesday’s committee meeting of the commission, Stephens would not discuss specifics of how the resolution would help the county crack down on bingo operations.

The resolution states only: “Therefore, be it resolved by the Jefferson County Commission that the resolution directing the County Attorney to pursue and initiate all legal actions.”

Stephens said the resolution called for no new ordinances to have been passed today. “It was the enforcement of the existing ordinances to be uniform and the enforcement of all of our zoning ordinances,” Stephens said after the meeting. Read more.

Jefferson County Proposes to Add Weapon in War on Bingo, but What Is It?

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: Bingo is not legal in unincorporated Jefferson County.

Thursday’s Jefferson County Commission meeting could bring a new weapon in the county’s war against the activity. But Commission President Jimmie Stephens and County Attorney Theo Lawson are keeping their cards close to their vest following today’s commission committee meeting.

While the committee agenda included a proposed resolution regarding illegal bingo in unincorporated Jefferson County, Stephens said the resolution wasn’t precisely about bingo but about zoning enforcement.

However, the two would not tell other commissioners what exactly they’ll be asked to vote on Thursday, much to the chagrin of Commissioner Lashunda Scales, who wanted to know things like how much it would cost and who would be authorized to enforce it. Read more.

Masks Up, Health Department Advises as COVID Continues to Climb Again

It’s time for Alabamians who do not want to catch COVID to put back on their masks.

That was the advice from the Alabama Department of Public Health this week as cases continued to increase across the state.

After the state’s positivity rate dropped to single digits in the spring and hospitals cleared out their overflow patients, people began to think the pandemic was over.

It is not.

Hospitalizations have been rising in recent weeks, and 677 people diagnosed with COVID were in Alabama hospitals Friday, According to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s COVID dashboard.

That’s the highest number since February, but it’s not nearly the almost 3,000 daily average COVID patients in hospitals in January.

The state’s positivity rate, which shows the portion of people who were officially tested for COVID-19 and returned a positive result, has risen to 30.2%. Read more.

Citing Population Loss, Old Facilities, Alabama Counties Continue to Cut Voting Precincts

Decisions about polling places in Alabama are up to county officials. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder, eliminated the requirement for any changes in voting procedures in Alabama and several other states to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. Since 2010, 31 Alabama counties have closed 155 voting precincts. Read more.