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The number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients spiked over the weekend. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 381 inpatients being treated for the virus Sunday. That’s an increase of 51 patients from Saturday’s report and 80 more than the previous Sunday — a rise of 26.6% over the week.
Came across an academic article saying public officials no longer have private lives off limits from prying media and opposing political campaigns — to the detriment of public service. It was published in 1998.
Imagine how things are now with heightened divisive politics, partisan news media, uncontrolled social media and a never-ending list of politicians whose horrifying activities in their private lives demand public scrutiny.
The question of when the private lives of politicians deserve public exposure is a perpetual one for the press. It has arisen lately with the cases of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (OK, actually zero question here) and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who admitted last week to marital infidelity. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall warned local governments Tuesday to use incoming funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act in accordance with state law or be subject to criminal charges. Read more.
After COVID Lockdowns, Growing Calls for Alternatives to Nursing Homes in Alabama (AL.com)
Veo Brings Shared Bikes and Scooters to Downtown Bham (Birmingham Business Journal)
Cash Floods Into Battle for Control of Congress (Politico)
Half of US Adults Have Received at Least One COVID-19 Shot (Associated Press)
It comes with the turf when you live in the South. Tornado season typically begins in March and lasts through May. Maybe you’ve weathered multiple storms or perhaps it’s your first season. Either way, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest on how to prepare. We’ve got you covered with this guide. Read more.
Birmingham will receive just more than $5 million to combat homelessness from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s American Rescue Plan Act, it was announced Thursday. The funding is intended to help cities create affordable and supportive housing and services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Read more.
Even during a pandemic, you can find 90-year-old Fred Gray Sr. at his law office in Tuskegee. He’s been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“He’s still working every day,” Fred Gray Jr. said. “It is not because he has to, but it’s because it’s that fire in his belly and it’s because he still wants to help people.”
Gray Jr. and his dad are partners in their law firm. Gray Jr. said his dad just won’t slow down. In fact he’s currently working on behalf of the Macon County Commission to remove a confederate monument in the heart of downtown Tuskegee.
Gray Jr. said his dad’s drive and tenacity are only part of the reason he should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“His IQ and his work is right up there with men like Thurgood Marshall, Oliver Hill and Wiley Branton,” he said. Read more.
WASHINGTON — Alabama’s senators split votes last week on a bill to extend the paycheck protection program as well as on several of Biden’s nominees to top positions. The House was in recess. Read more.
After a fire destroyed their last apartment in 2019, Kenneth Tyrone King and his family recently saved up enough money to rent a new place in Birmingham.
But the relief was short-lived. Bills, mostly medical, quickly began piling up at the new address.
For King, 57, this was just the latest development in a cycle of debt. He has not had health insurance for years. He lost his most-recent job at a temp agency after having emergency open heart surgery in December. He barely has enough money for the two prescriptions that he needs each month.
“I can afford one of them, but one of them, it’s like a $60 medication,” King said. “Those types of challenges, if I had affordable health care, or a health care plan, it would have at least covered some of it.”
King falls in the coverage gap. He does not qualify for Medicaid and he cannot afford to buy a private insurance plan. If Alabama expanded Medicaid, that would mean opening up eligibility to people like him and other low-income adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which equates to less than $18,000 a year for a single adult. Read more.
Samford University’s board of trustees named a new president Wednesday. Beck A. Taylor, now president of Whitworth University, will succeed Andrew Westmoreland effective July 1. Westmoreland is retiring as president, a post he has held since 2006. Taylor will be the university’s 19th president. Read more.
Birmingham City Council
After multiple delays, demolition of the long-derelict Banks High School is moving forward. The Birmingham City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the one-year extension of a loan agreement with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to tear down the building, which has sat vacant in the city’s South East Lake neighborhood since 2007. Read more.
A proposal before the federal Office of Management and Budget would reduce the number of Metropolitan Statistical Areas in Alabama from 12 to five, a move that is not welcomed by officials of the cities losing the MSA status.
A committee of federal statistical agencies has made the proposal to OMB that would leave intact MSAs with 100,000 populations in their core cities. In Alabama, that’s Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.
The remaining seven MSAs statewide would be reclassified as “micropolitan” statistical areas with core populations of 50,000 to 99,999. Those are Decatur, Dothan, Baldwin County, Auburn-Opelika, Florence-Muscle Shoals, Anniston-Oxford, and Gadsden.
Birmingham City Elections
Updated March 1, 2021 — Months ahead of the July 10 filing deadline, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin already faces five challengers in a growing field of candidates for this year’s mayoral race. Read more.
Updated Feb. 28, 2021 — Six months before Birmingham’s municipal elections, the pool of candidates for City Council is beginning to take shape. Though official qualifying won’t be open until June 25, social media campaigns are underway for several Birmingham residents looking to claim a spot on the nine-member council. For now, some races are looking more crowded than others.
Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens said ‘I told you so’ when it came to a new waste disposal company’s roll out of service to unincorporated Jefferson County.
Since Amwaste took over April 1, customers have complained of missed pickups, undelivered garbage carts, errantly taken carts and confusion about contracting with the new company. Read more.
Nine Birmingham nonprofits will receive funding from the city’s Building Opportunities for Lasting Development grant initiative this year, despite an overall reduction in funding for the program.
The Birmingham Business Alliance, Birmingham Business Resource Center, Bronze Valley, Bush Hills Connections Inc., Community Care Development Network, Create Birmingham, TruFund Financial Services, Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and Workshops Empowerment Inc. were selected from a group of 22 applicants, with award amounts ranging from $20,000 to $90,000.
“The top-line narrative here is us really working to do more with less, to think about how can we leverage city dollars and support in the community to maximize our investment,” Amelia Muller, civic design principal for the city’s department of innovation and economic opportunity, said in a presentation to the Birmingham City Council. Read more.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual population estimate of U.S. residents indicates Alabama could be pitted against New York for the possible loss of a U.S. House of Representatives seat after the decennial census is released. The estimates as they stand now would put Alabama’s population just high enough to keep its present seven representatives, with New York losing a seat, according to an analysis by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. Read more.
Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens closed today’s commission meeting with gratitude for county employees and staff who fought their way through the “wartime” environment of the pandemic.
“It was a wartime atmosphere,” Stephens said. “We were at war with this virus. It actually changed our day-to-day lives and how we conducted business. I wanted to commend and thank our county commission and our county staff for being able to stay on top of this wartime environment and to be able to win as many battles as we have. Read more.
Tony Petelos, the only county manager Jefferson County has had, told county commissioners at their committee meeting today that he will soon retire.
“After 34 years of public service in many different jobs throughout the years and 10 years here at the county, I’m going to announce my retirement this year,” he said from his seat at the end of the board table. “I don’t have a date set, but I just want to give you a heads up that I do plan to retire this year. I’ve got a couple of projects I’m still working on and I want to get those done, but it’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with you.” Read more.
JeffCo Commission Moves Toward Buying Land Next to Shady Grove Fire Station, Selling Old West End Health Center
The Shady Grove Fire Department will benefit from a “fire sale” transaction between the state of Alabama and Jefferson County. During their committee meeting today, commissioners moved a resolution to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting to buy property from the state that is adjacent to the fire department and plan to offer $100. Read more.
The City of Birmingham has received nearly $6.3 million in federal funding to assist residents who are unable to pay rent and utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding comes as part of a $25 billion program from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which began allocating money to states, territories, local governments and Indian tribes last month.
Funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance program was approved by the City Council during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting. It was initially announced last month by Mayor Randall Woodfin, who said his administration had made the funding a “priority.”
Hate in Alabama
The Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual list of hate groups nationwide Feb. 1, and while the number of groups has gone down from last year, there are still 20 Alabama groups that made the cut. Altogether, the SPLC tracked 830 organizations defined as hate groups in 2020. “The number is a barometer, albeit only one, of the level of hate activity in the country,” the website says. Read more.
The Legacy of Race
Vestiges of segregation still thread through the systems and processes with which we engage throughout our lives, influencing Black Alabamians in large and small ways, including economic opportunities and lifetime wealth, relationship with law enforcement, health care and even projected lifespan. BirminghamWatch has an ongoing effort to analyze how these sometimes unrecognized vestiges of segregation are playing out in people’s lives today. Read stories in The Legacy of Race series.
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