Category: Government

Local Health Officials Worry CDC Has ‘Lost Its Soul’

As Dr. Mark Wilson prepared to release advice in July that middle schools and high schools in Birmingham should not open for in-person learning this fall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its position and issued the opposite recommendation.

Wilson, health officer for Jefferson County, stuck to his at-home schooling decision, but now without support from what had long been regarded as the nation’s most esteemed public health authority.

Not only that, he said some of the vexed parents even cited the CDC in attacking his stand. It felt like the limb he was out on had been sawed off at the trunk.

“That guidance gave me one of the worst weeks of my life,” Wilson recalled in an interview with Stateline.

The agency’s revised advice came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s vigorous call for a full, face-to-face school reopening. But it conflicted with what Wilson and other public health officials knew were disturbing results from a credible South Korean study, which, contrary to popular belief, found that older children were a greater risk for transmitting the virus than younger children. That made reopening middle and high schools more problematic.

Since the pandemic began, a string of messages from the Trump administration, many lacking scientific evidence, have confounded the work of state and local public health authorities who have the already challenging job of convincing people to abide by restrictions that many find not only onerous but also economically punishing. Read more.

House OK’s Funding to Avoid Government Shutdown, Bill Goes to Senate

Voterama in Congress

WASHINGTON — Most of Alabama’s House delegation voted in favor of a bill to fund the government on a stopgap basis for the first 10 weeks of fiscal 2021, which begins Oct. 1.

The House approved the bill (HR 8337) in a 359-57 vote on Sept. 22, and it is expected to be taken up by the Senate this week. The continuing resolution became necessary because Congress did not pass regular appropriations bills for the new budget year. The measure will fund agencies at 2020 spending levels through Dec. 11. Read more.

Fairfield Gets Grants to Sustain Bus Route, Fund Paving Project

The City of Fairfield benefited from a pair of actions approved Thursday during the Jefferson County Commission meeting.

Commissioner Lashunda Scales provided the city a $29,355 community grant from her discretionary funds to help offset the cost to sustain bus route No. 5 in the city. Commissioners were unable to provide funding for Fairfield in the general fund because of budget shortfalls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the County Commission approved a $250,000 ALDOT infrastructure grant to pave E.J. Oliver Jr. Boulevard.
Read more.

Woodfin Schedules Oct. 1 Hearing on Birmingham Police Reforms

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has set an Oct. 1 hearing to discuss proposed police reforms.

The event is the culmination of a 90-day review by the public safety task force, a seven-member group appointed earlier this year to assess Birmingham Police Department policies. The task force also is requesting public input, inviting interested individuals to submit written or video proposals for new public safety policies.
Read more.

Tyson Will Be Nominated to the UAB Healthcare Authority

A year after she was passed over for a slot on the board of the UAB Healthcare Authority, Commissioner Sheila Tyson has been put on the path to being the commission’s nominee to the board.

It is, she said, about time.

“They know that they should (have) appointed me from the very beginning,” Tyson said after today’s commission committee meeting. “I think that they were scared that I was going to shake the trees, what they call ‘shake the bush.’ That’s what they were afraid of but I’m only one vote. Read more.

Protestors Not Allowed Into Birmingham Council Meeting to Speak on Drastic Cuts to the Library Budget

Protestors gathered outside Birmingham City Hall on Tuesday morning, but they weren’t allowed to speak at the City Council meeting going on three stories above them.

The demonstrators held signs that read “Reject Woodfin’s Budget,” “Furlough Woodfin” and “Fund Books Not Brutality.” One neon-yellow sign read: “Dear Randall Woodfin & City Council: Y’all have got to do a better job pretending to care …”

On Friday, the Birmingham Public Library’s board of trustees made the decision to furlough 157 employees, the result of significant cuts in the budget recommended by Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office. Read more.

House Condemn Racism Against Asian-Americans, Including References to ‘Chinese Virus’

Voterama in Congress

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 243-184 on Sept. 17 to adopt a non-binding resolution (H Res 908) to condemn expressions of racism, discrimination or religious intolerance against Asian-Americans related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes terms such as “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan Virus” and ”Kung-flu.” Read more.

Gov. Kay Ivey Surveys Aftermath of Hurricane Sally

WBHM

Gov. Kay Ivey visited parts of Alabama’s coast Friday to survey damage from Hurricane Sally, which struck the coast on Wednesday as a Category 2 storm.

“What I’ve seen this morning in the fly over – it’s really, really bad,” Ivey said. “I think that I only saw two piers that were still standing. The rest are just sticks in the water.” Read more.

Library Board Furloughs 158 Workers Because of Budget Cuts

In a Friday afternoon emergency meeting, the Birmingham Public Library board of trustees voted unanimously to furlough 158 of the system’s 211 employees. The cutbacks were a response to city budget cuts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to Mayor Randall Woodfin’s recommendation to cut the library’s budget to less than half of last year’s amount.

The furloughs will be effective Sept. 25. Of the 158 furloughed employees, 91 are full-time and 67 are part-time employees.

Most of Friday afternoon’s meeting took place in a 90-minute, private executive session. The board did not reveal which employees would be furloughed or which library branches would be closed as a result. Read more.