Category: Government

SPLC Calls on Court to Hold Alabama Prison System in Contempt

The Southern Poverty Law Center wants the state prison system held in contempt for failing to fill mental health positions. Contempt hearings began Tuesday in U.S. District Court involving the Alabama Department of Corrections and lawyers representing inmates.

The issue comes a year after a judge ruled mental health care in Alabama prisons was “horrendously inadequate.” A federal court ordered the Department of Corrections to have more than 260 mental health workers on staff by July 1. The state failed to meet that and previous deadlines. Read More.

Amazon Breaks Ground Oct. 2, Laying Path for Western-Area Development

The official groundbreaking on the new Amazon development in Bessemer will be Oct. 2, Jefferson County commissioners said Thursday.

“Amazon is a game-changer,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “It’s going to open up the western Jefferson County corridor to much more development and opportunity for our citizens.”

Amazon and other developments in western Jefferson County already are starting to have an effect. West Jefferson Mayor Charles Nix told the commission his town is ready to grow with a new garden home subdivision on more than 23 acres being annexed at 6700 Quinton Road.

“We don’t think there’s a better place than the town of West Jefferson to start that growth,” Nix said while asking for the property to be rezoned for the homes. Commissioners approved his request.
Read more.

County Could Decide on Balanced Budget, Revamped Money for Distressed Cities Thursday

The Jefferson County Commission put a balanced budget on its Thursday agenda as it assembled in committee on Tuesday, putting a framework in place that could result in more road and infrastructure work in distressed cities.

The budget would continue to provide each commissioner with $250,000 in grants to go to their districts. In the new budget, $150,000 would be set aside for each to use on infrastructure and roads within his or her district. A city receiving aid would pay an as yet undetermined percentage of the project; an 80-20 match is among the ideas under consideration.

The remainder of the money, $100,000 per commissioner, would be earmarked for use on 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Read more.

Birmingham Library Board Back in Executive Session Addressing Complaint Against Employee

The Birmingham Public Library board of trustees met in executive session Tuesday evening to address a complaint against an employee governed by the board. No action was taken following the 45-minute executive session, which was called for by the board’s attorney, who said the grievance involved an alleged violation of Alabama ethics law.

Assistant Birmingham city attorney Veronica Merritt said the formal, written complaint discussed in private by the board accused an employee of violating a state law that prohibits public employees from receiving or soliciting anything for the purpose “of corruptly influencing official action.”

Tuesday night’s session is the latest in a series of closed door executive sessions for the library board since April. Earlier executive sessions were held after employee complaints about library Executive Director Floyd Council were made public. Read more.

Ensley Shell Station May Remain Open Despite Killings, Council Decides

After nearly two months of debate, an Ensley gas station where three homicides have taken place will remain open, the Birmingham City Council decided Tuesday.

Antonio Jerrell Taylor was fatally shot at the Shell at 800 Third Ave. W. on June 10. Taylor was the third person to be killed there since 2015, leading the council to consider revoking its business license.

The List Is In: 13 Apply to Fill Roberson’s Seat on the Birmingham Council

Thirteen people have applied to fill the seat of former Birmingham City Councilor Jay Roberson, who announced his resignation last month. The lineup includes a former board of education president, a handful of candidates who previously ran for the District 7 seat, and a current member of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, among others. Read more.

Birmingham Council Delays Selecting New Pro Tem After Roberson’s Departure

The eight members of the Birmingham City Council spent much of Tuesday morning’s meeting focused on the daïs’ sole empty chair, stuck on the question of how to replace former President Pro Tempore Jay Roberson.

Roberson, who had represented District 7 on the council since 2009, announced his resignation last month, citing his wife’s new job with Alabaster City Schools. He officially left office Monday, meaning that Tuesday’s meeting was the first in which the remaining members of the council could vote on his replacement.

They didn’t, though. The deadline for applications to fill Roberson’s seat had been extended to Tuesday afternoon. Council President Valerie Abbott attempted unsuccessfully to hold a vote for Roberson’s replacement as president pro tem. Read more.

Congressional Votes for the Week Ending Sept. 7

WASHINGTON – Alabama’s House delegation voted together, and with the vast majority of other representatives, to pass a bill that would require couseling of parents and students participating in federal student-loan programs. Students receiving loans and Pell grants also would have to go through online counseling on their loan obligations.

The House split, however, on a proposal to expand the bill to offer specialized counseling for veterans. Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s only Democratic representative, also was the only member of the state’s delegation who voted in favor of the proposed provision, which failed.

Here’s how area members of Congress voted on that and other major issues during the week ending Sept. 7. Read more.

A Deadly Week: September Homicides Could Foreshadow Record Year in Birmingham

Six homicides happened in Birmingham during the first week of September, putting the city firmly on track for its most violent year in more than two decades and pressuring city leaders to improve their strategies for responding to such incidents and to focus on preventing them.

The first homicide of the month was the highly publicized death of 16-year-old Woodlawn High School student Will Edwards, who was killed in his North East Lake home just after midnight Sept. 1. The following evening, seven teenagers were shot during a gunfight at the downtown music venue WorkPlay, though none were killed.

Mayor Randall Woodfin described the weekend’s incidents of youth violence as a “devastating blow to our community.”

By the end of the first week, five more homicides had been reported by the Birmingham Police Department, four of which happened within a 24-hour period. Fifty-year-old Antonio Pettaway was stabbed to death in his North Birmingham home Sept. 1 and his girlfriend was taken into custody. The remaining four homicides all took place Sept. 5: 26-year-old Briana Young was shot to death while driving in South Pratt; an unidentified male was found shot to death behind the wheel of a car in Roosevelt; 24-year-old Tarrell Antone Watson was also found dead behind the wheel of a car in North Pratt, ruled a homicide by police; and 30-year-old Preston Lemar Robinson was found shot to death in Green Acres.

Just minutes after the week ended, the city already had logged its first homicide of week two. Marqueze Green, 21, died at UAB Hospital after being shot while sitting in a car on Steiner Court S.W. Another victim also was shot but is expected to recover.

It wasn’t the most homicides that have taken place in a single week this year — that would be an eight-homicide stretch between July 29 and August 4 — but it has placed Birmingham firmly on track to have its deadliest year in recent memory. Read more.

Ainsworth Leads Boyd by Wide Margin in Lt Governor Fundraising

Republican nominee for lieutenant governor Will Ainsworth continues to outpace Democratic rival Will Boyd by a wide margin in fundraising, according to August reports filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s Office.

In August, the Ainsworth campaign raised $144,775, more in a single month than Boyd has raised during the entire 2018 election cycle. Boyd during the month raised $9,286 in cash donations and $32,800 in in-kind contributions. Read more.