BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL
BIRMINGHAM BOARD OF EDUCATION
BIRMINGHAM CITY COUNCIL
BIRMINGHAM BOARD OF EDUCATION
Alabama’s COVID-19 total rose by 1,655 cases on Monday to a total of 99,390. The number of deaths from the disease was up by 26, leaving the total since the pandemic began in mid-March at 1,733.
The Alabama Department of Public Health’s data dashboard on Monday morning showed large numbers of new cases in several counties, including Mobile, Baldwin and Clarke in southwest Alabama. But the agency later said those county breakdowns were misleading, due to technical issues.
A request to rezone parcels in the Rocky Ridge area for a 25-unit condominium and a 10-lot single-family residential subdivision was delayed Thursday for two weeks for the developer and residents to settle on a possible revision.
The Jefferson County Commission met for 2½ hours, with two hours spent on the requested rezoning. Overton Investments LLC asked to rezone property at 2468 and 2466 Rocky Ridge Road.
Donald Trump has presided over multiple crises in America, but don’t forget that Joe Biden has said some stupid things during campaign speeches.
I have just engaged in a prevalent failing of the mainstream political press: false equivalency, which means to give a similar volume of attention to two dissimilar and unequal sets of facts in order to appear fair and balanced. You might recall “But her emails…” from the presidential campaign coverage of 2016.
As we head toward an obviously monumental presidential election on Nov. 3, nonpartisan political reporters are doing their best to avoid their highly consequential mistakes of 2016 and some previous election cycles. With such a stark contrast between the two presumptive nominees – uh oh, I may have just engaged in the also common press failing of tempered euphemism – the stakes couldn’t be higher for the performance of the press over the next three months.
Thanks to the ongoing support of readers and donors, as well as foundations and other partnerships, the Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism continues to report on issues of concern to our community, including the current COVID-19 pandemic.
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GivingTuesdayNow: On May 5, 2020, our donors joined millions of people from 145 countries around the world to support nonprofits facing the special challenges of meeting community needs in a time of pandemic and quarantine. As GivingTuesday CEO Asha Curran said, this special fundraising campaign was a “reminder that we are all connected and we are all generous, even when we are uncertain and afraid.’ A special emphasis on the importance of nonprofit news, called GivingNewsDay, was spearheaded by the Institute for Nonprofit News, of which AIIJ/BirminghamWatch is a member.
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Alabama Humanities Foundation: AIIJ received a CARES relief grant of $2,500 from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, which will be used to focus on reporting, including Voter Guides to upcoming elections. As an AHF spokesperson stated, “The Alabama Humanities Foundation is proud to offer relief grants during these difficult times, and we thank the National Endowment for the Humanities for providing funding.
Google News Initiative: AIIJ was one of more than 12,000 organizations from more than 100 countries submitting requests to the Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. As Google News Initiative stated, the JERF was established “to support the production of original journalism during the existential threat facing many publishers around the world posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic.” AIIJ received $5,000 from the JERF in the first wave of announcements. “The response to this program has been truly overwhelming,” a spokesperson said. “It has been humbling and gratifying to help support local news organizations like you.
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Alabama researchers recently have been acknowledged for their work showing that gains made while children are in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program continue into the students’ elementary years.
Their peer-reviewed article on the topic was published in the July edition of the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy. It was written by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, ThinkData and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.
The paper counters some recent studies of long-term impacts that have shown that advantages from pre-K learning diminish of “fadeout” over time.
But the Alabama researchers found no statistical evidence of fadeout through the 7th grade. Read more.
BirminghamWatch took a deeper look at the pre-K program. You can read it here:
Every sector in Alabama’s economy is shrinking this year because of the pandemic. That’s according to Samuel Addy, senior research economist and associate dean for economic development outreach at the University of Alabama.
During a press conference Thursday, Addy joined Democrat Sen. Doug Jones to talk about Alabama’s economy, which they both agreed is in ‘survival mode.’
“All the help coming from D.C., the bills that the senator and others are working on, are not stimulus bills. They are actions and investments for survival,” Addy said. “We know that we are in a worse situation than a few months ago. We need to invest for survival because if we don’t survive, nothing matters.” Read more.
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve economic incentives for a new student housing development near the UAB campus, and Jefferson County commissioners indicated they would do the same Thursday.
The seven-story development, which is expected to house up to 400 residents, will be built atop a brownfield site bordered by 13th and 14th Streets South and Fourth and Fifth Avenues South. Read more.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has awarded its second round of grants, totaling $402,000, for urgent COVID-19 research. The 10 new pilot projects began Aug. 1 and will last six months. They were selected for their high probability of having an impact on the COVID-19 crisis within weeks or months. Read more.
The interim chair of UAB’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology debunked a number of COVID pregnancy myths. Read more.
Alabama university and health officials are hopeful that a statewide monitoring platform will lower the spread of COVID-19 on campuses this fall. The program, called GuideSafe, officially launched Monday and includes free testing, symptom monitoring and contact tracing via mobile applications. Read more.
WBHM — For teachers and students preparing to enter the classroom next month, masks will now be required for anyone in second grade and above. Governor Kay Ivey issued the new mandate Wednesday as an amendment to the statewide mask ordinance and Safer at Home order. The orders, originally set to expire Friday, have been extended through Aug. 31. Read more.
This past week, 1,700 new individuals per day have been tested for the coronavirus in Jefferson County, with an average of 278 people a day testing positive and two a day dying. Those numbers give the county a positivity rate that tops 15%, the highest of any one week so far during the pandemic, county Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said in a briefing Tuesday.
Hospitals in Jefferson County are caring for 275 patients with the virus; 110 of those are in intensive care units and 52 on ventilators, Wilson said. Read more.
“This article about the coronavirus red zone was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington, D.C.”>
A document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force but not publicized suggests more than a dozen states should revert to more stringent protective measures, limiting social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, closing bars and gyms and asking residents to wear masks at all times.
The document, dated July 14 and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, says 18 states are in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases, meaning they had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week. Eleven states are in the “red zone” for test positivity, meaning more than 10 percent of diagnostic test results came back positive. Alabama is on the list for both red zones. Read more.
Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales said she’s been left in the dark concerning development projects despite being vice chairwoman of the development committee. She knew nothing about a plan that came up before commissioners Tuesday to build more apartments near UAB. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council may soon start making new appointments to city boards and agencies before incumbents’ terms are up, thanks to a newfound power several councilors appear eager to use.
The council previously had waited until after board members’ terms had expired to appoint their successor. In fact, several councilors, including Council President William Parker and District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt, appeared to believe that was the law, only discovering that it wasn’t when Parker attempted to delay two mayoral appointments to the Birmingham Airport Authority. Read more.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will receive $250,000 in emergency funding from the city of Birmingham to continue operating for the next four months. But councilors warned that BCRI needs to find more sources of money, particularly since the city has lost significant revenue during the pandemic. Read more.
Despite delays in the city’s overall operating budget, the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to fund the Birmingham-Jefferson Country Transit Authority through the end of 2020.
The city will pay the BJCTA $5 million dollars, divided into two quarterly installments of $2.5 million, “to make sure there’s no disruption in service at all” as the city enters for its months-long budget negotiations, Mayor Randall Woodfin said.
Councilor Steven Hoyt protested, saying the move was tantamount to cutting BJCTA funding in half, even as other councilors said the allocation was for only part of the year, and the BJCTA also would be included in the final budget when it is passed. Read more.
The Jefferson County Commission took a step toward supporting Medical West hospital’s making its new home in McCalla with the rezoning of four parcels bordering Interstate 459.
Today’s action rezones the property from A-1 agricultural to institutional-2. Medical West is an affiliate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System.
The rezoning came with repeated reference to the hospital having to remain in unincorporated Jefferson County. Read more.
Jefferson County Commissioners today OK’d establishing a dedicated unit to care for nursing home patients who have COVID-19 in one location. The commission authorized an agreement with the UAB board of trustees to establish the unit. The plan calls for Jefferson County to use a portion of its Cares Act funds for this project, which will put patients in a wing of Aspire Physical Recovery Center at Hoover. Read more.
Voterama in Congress
WASHINGTON — The House last week took up three bills that would provide help for child care providers or parents returning to work.
The first, HR 7027, was passed on a vote of 249 for and 163 against. It would appropriate $50 billion to help child care providers stay in business during the pandemic so that parents can return to work. The funding would be used to subsidize in-home services as well as licensed child care operations of all sizes, and it could be used to prop up functioning centers or reopen those forced to close because of the pandemic.
Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., opposed the bill. “Child care is essential as parents begin returning to the workplace; however, this bill spends too much taxpayer money and places an undue and unworkable regulatory burden on facilities, federal agencies and, yes, on families,” he said. Read more.
As Congress debates another stimulus package, many Alabama residents will now see their weekly unemployment checks drop to less than $300. Read more.
A plan to build a FedEx Ground distribution facility on Lakeshore Parkway was unveiled at the Jefferson County Commission committee meeting Tuesday. The plan, previously known as Project Fish, is for an approximately 290,000-square-foot distribution facility that will be constructed on a 46.01-acre site off Lakeshore Parkway. Bradley attorney Trey Hill said that about 70% of the site is in the corporate limits of the city of Birmingham and 30% in the city of Bessemer. Read more.
Segregated lunch counters. Segregated buses and bus terminals. Obstacles to voting. Many people risked and gave their lives to topple these barriers, and one name that will always be prominent in those ranks will be an Alabama sharecropper’s son named John Lewis.
Lewis, a longtime member of Congress representing a district in metro Atlanta since 1987, died Friday of pancreatic cancer, and words of praise from at home and abroad have been flowing ever since.
“John often encouraged getting into a little ‘good trouble for a righteous cause’ and he pursued the cause of racial justice with love, and as a uniter, not a divider,” U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said in a statement released by his office. “He taught me that heroes walk among us, and that true heroes are those that bring us together. We lost a true American hero today.”
Lewis’ 80 years of life began up in rural Pike County, in a house with no plumbing or electricity, where he was the third of 10 children in the family of Eddie and Willie Mae Lewis. As a boy, he preached to chickens. As a teenager, he heard remarks from Martin Luther King Jr., followed the Montgomery bus boycott and later met both King and Rosa Parks. Read more.
Freshman Democrat Doug Jones, widely regarded as the most vulnerable member of the U.S. Senate in the November general election, heads into the race against Republican Tommy Tuberville with a huge cash advantage, according to reports the candidates filed Wednesday with the Federal Elections Commission.
In reports for the second quarter of this year, Jones showed a campaign balance of $8.78 million while Tuberville, who defeated former Sen. Jeff Sessions on Tuesday for the GOP nomination, listed his cash on hand at $551,285. Read more.
Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Tuesday morning that his office’s 30-day internal review of the Birmingham Police Department had been completed. The result? “While we found that we are doing pretty good, there is still room for improvement,” he said.
The internal review focused primarily on criteria promoted by #8CANTWAIT, a national campaign calling for immediate policy changes — such as banning chokeholds and strangleholds and requiring officers to de-escalate situations wherever possible — to police departments throughout the country. The results, Woodfin said, showed that “in spirit, Birmingham is in alignment with the standards of #8CANTWAIT.” Read more.
People of Alabama can slow the spread of COVID-19 if they will wear masks, socially distance and follow other medical advice over the coming days, the head of the Alabama Hospital Association said Tuesday.
Dr. Don Williamson, who previously served as the state health officer, said he is concerned about the way the coronavirus is being transmitted, and he is worried that it has the potential to put a strain on Alabama hospitals. Williamson was the guest of U.S. Sen. Doug Jones on a Facebook Live event Tuesday.
“This is one of those rare diseases where we control our future,” he said. “If we over the next 10 days to two weeks will put on masks, will avoid large group gatherings, will maintain six feet of social distance, will wash our hands and do all the things that we’ve talked about … we will make a meaningful difference in the transmission of this virus,” Williamson said. Read more.
At the end of June, after completing a round of testing for the coronavirus at the state’s four veterans homes, the state Department of Veterans Affairs reported that all of the residents at the homes were “virus free.”
That is no longer the case.
The department reported Monday that after additional testing last week, nine residents and seven employees at the William F. Green State Veterans Home in Bay Minette tested positive for the coronavirus. So have seven employees at the Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home in Pell City, three at the Floyd “Tut” Fann State Veterans Home in Huntsville and four at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City.
Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson wrestles with how the state’s most populous county can decrease the daily number of COVID-19 cases, which has been steadily rising for the past two weeks.
The county inked a record 343 cases from Wednesday, marking a high point in what has been an upward trend for the county. This past week, July 3-10, 10,659 people were tested in the county, with 1,417 of them testing positive for COVID-19. That’s an average of 202 new cases per day and a positive test rate of 13.3%, Wilson said. There also were 19 deaths during the week.
“The situation is horrible,” Wilson said. Read more.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said even though Alabama has seen a rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases since Memorial Day, the state now has “a window of opportunity” to slow the virus outbreak.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday in a press conference with Alabama Sen. Doug Jones that the methods to slow the spread of virus are known: washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing and closing bars.
“Indoor bars are the perfect setup for the virus to spread,” he said.
The reopening of bars and resumption of large events with little social distance has put younger people in the virus’ cross hairs.
Last month, Jones said, the median age of virus victims in the state dropped 15 years. In Alabama, the largest portion of people testing positive for the disease is now those in the 25- to 49-year age range. Read more.
A fire burning underground in the Forestdale area for six weeks is sending noxious smoke into the neighborhood and forcing people to leave their homes.
Jefferson County is sending in employees to assess the fire, which is on property that once was a private, legal dump, and help determine a solution to put it out.
The fire at 532 Timber Ridge Drive started on May 30 and has covered the surrounding area with smoke, forcing people near the fire to seek living arrangements away from their homes. Read more.
Two popular fan choices to replace “Redskins” as the nickname of Washington’s NFL franchise are “Pigskins” and “Red Tails” (in honor of the World War II fighter pilots from Tuskegee, Alabama). I suggest owner Daniel Snyder make everyone happy with a compromise choice of “Pig Tails.” (Please push your automated laugh track button now.)
Sports team nicknames can be funny, but the Washington franchise’s adherence to its 87-year-old name in the face of multiple protests in recent decades is not funny. Native American activists brand the name as racist. The franchise cites tradition and says the name pays tribute to the heritage of American Indians. But on Monday, Snyder, who once vowed he would never change the name, agreed to do so. It’s part of a national awakening about memorials and symbols that demean traditionally oppressed groups, but mostly it’s because some big-time corporations threatened to withdraw sponsorship of the Redskins. Read more.
The “Right to Breathe Caravan” toured several north Birmingham neighborhoods Saturday, calling for environmental and racial justice in communities that have faced decades of industrial pollution. Read more.
President Trump’s reported statement that journalists who publish leaked information should be “executed” is a more explicit and heinous extension of his repeated “enemy of the people” trope. It’s so far beyond the pale that the only necessary reaction is ridicule, then dismissal as nothing more than Trump venting berserkly in private*.
Except for the fact that it has happened.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that in the past 18 months, 14 journalists around the world have been murdered because they were journalists. UNESCO reports some that CPJ does not, including one as recently as this month. Some of the assassinations have suspected ties to government officials, others to political or criminal groups.
It has been three years since former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was released from prison after being convicted of federal corruption charges in 2006. One thing remains unchanged about the case: Siegelman maintains he is innocent.
A jury convicted Siegelman of bribery for soliciting a $500,000 donation from then-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy for a fund to support his education lottery campaign. Prosecutors say in exchange, Siegelman appointed Scrushy to a state hospital regulatory board. Siegelman said the prosecution was politically motivated.
In a new memoir, “Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens our Nation,” Seigelman lays out how he saw the case and trial. But paints himself as a fighter for criminal justice reform after experiencing what he believes was an improper prosecution.
Sen. Doug Jones today led a bipartisan reading of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail on the U.S. Senate floor.This is the second year the Senate has held a reading of the famous letter, which King wrote in 1963 from the cell where he was being held for leading a series of nonviolent protests and boycotts in Birmingham. Read more.
Earlier this month, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin yielded to protestors’ demands to remove the controversial Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument from Linn Park.
The statue was driven to an undisclosed location — for its protection, Woodfin said — and the city was promptly sued by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall for violating the state’s Memorial Preservation Act. Marshall has said he will be seeking a $25,000 penalty.
On Tuesday, the City Council voted to pay a different $25,000 fine associated with the Confederate statue — this one resulting from the actions of former Mayor William Bell, who ordered the statue covered by a black plywood barrier in August 2017. Read more.
Responding to questions this morning on the NBC Today show, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said he received death threats in response to his order to take down a Confederate monument in the wake of destructive protests Sunday night.
“Unfortunately, in the state of Alabama, there’s a lot of people who like to participate in revisionist history,” Woodfin said, speaking with host Al Roker. “They believe it’s American to support the Civil War as relates to these competitive monuments. They’re mad because we took the statue down and, yes, there have been several threats.
A Confederate monument that stood in a downtown Birmingham’s Linn Park for 115 years is now gone. Crews removed the structure following protests over police treatment of black Americans that turned destructive on Sunday, damaging many buildings. This happened in a city that prides itself on its history of nonviolent protest during the civil rights era. Rev. Thomas Wilder leads Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville. It’s the same church Birmingham civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth once led. Wilder spoke with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager. Read more.
The homicide of George Floyd and the subsequent street protests have illuminated failings not only among law enforcement agencies but also among many mainstream news organizations. Along with other issues, the well-documented lack of racial diversity on newsroom staffs has shown itself in harmful and embarrassing ways.
Perhaps a black journalist in The New York Times’ chain of editing, or simply a heightened awareness created by a more diverse department, would have anticipated the valid internal and external criticism that U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s published idea to send the military to “restore order” in American cities posed a safety threat to protesters and journalists, especially black ones. “This puts our Black staff members in danger,” the newsroom union wrote.
The Alabama Department of Corrections faces a Friday deadline to outline a plan to meet court-ordered staffing goals. State Rep. Chris England says the prison system needs new leadership. Read more.
UPDATED — Alabama regulators voted today to give the go-ahead to Alabama Power Company’s request to add almost 2 million megawatts of energy from natural gas sources to its capacity to generate electricity. The plan, proposed last year, would include a new 726-megawatt gas unit at its Plant Barry near Mobile.
The commission also voted to delay consideration of Alabama Power’s additional request to add 400 megawatts in solar-plus-storage generation to its inventory.
Combined, the requests are estimated to cost Alabama Power $1.1 billion, which ultimately would be paid by its customers. Read more.
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