One day after the Senate passed a $1 billion infrastructure bill, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge visited Birmingham Wednesday. Read more.
One day after the Senate passed a $1 billion infrastructure bill, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge visited Birmingham Wednesday. Read more.
As coronavirus reasserts its dominance in the community, officials at UAB are reinstituting its mass drive-through vaccination sites, and the Jefferson County Health Department has set vaccination clinics at all three of its locations. Vaccinations also are available at many drug stores, and many doctors offer the shots. For information on where vaccinations are available, Read more.
Alabama added 3,366 new cases of COVID-19 and 133 deaths from the disease in Thursday’s daily update by the state Department of Public Health.
There have been 13,798 deaths from the coronavirus over the course of the pandemic. The average number of deaths added by the ADPH continued to grow, reaching 134 a day in the update Thursday. That is almost seven times the average on 20 deaths a day at the beginning of September. There is a lag time of about two weeks for reporting and confirming COVID deaths, officials say.
The state has recorded 781,915 COVID cases so far, averaging 2,864 a day over the past week. The average number of new cases per day has fallen from 5,538 on Sept. 1 to 2,864 on Thursday.
Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday approved spending $67,700 for Rock Solid, a program designed to make it easier for residents to report county repair needs such as potholes and drainage issues. Read more.
The construction of the two men’s prison, which the Alabama Legislature will debate and possibly approve next week, will cost an estimated $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion. Improvements at other prisons and a new women’s prison will add to that amount, State House leaders say. Read more.
The prison construction bill the Alabama Legislature will consider in next week’s special session expressly closes five prisons in the state but leaves the futures of others up to decision makers at a later date.
Men’s facilities Hamilton Aged and Infirmed Center, Staton, Elmore and Kilby and the Julia Tutwiler women’s prison would be closed under the bill in its draft form.
The prison plan’s first phase includes two new 4,000-bed prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties and allows the state to borrow up to $785 million for their construction. Phase two includes a new women’s prison, though there’s no dedicated funding for that project in the bill. Read more.
After restricted public access the past two regular legislative sessions, next week’s special session of the Alabama Legislature will largely be free of COVID-19 protocols.
Secretary of the Senate Pat Harris said that people who aren’t vaccinated are asked to wear masks, as is the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but there will be no enforcement of that request.
“We’re asking people to use common sense,” Harris said.
The Senate gallery will again be open to the public, Harris said, but distancing in committee rooms will still be in place.
“We’re not going to pack the hearing rooms,” Harris said.
At the very end of the Alabama Legislature’s 2021 Regular Session in May, a slate of four criminal justice bills died before getting a vote in the Senate.
The bills, sponsored by Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, received bi-partisan support in the House and looked to be a lock to go to the governor’s desk. But things can get testy between the chambers on the final days of session and they never came up for a final vote.
“Sometimes with these things, you just run out of time,” Hill told Alabama Daily News on Monday.
Now, Hill is prepared to file the bills again in the special session on prison construction, should they fit into Gov. Kay Ivey’s special session plan.
The A.G. Gaston Motel restoration project has received a $1.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to go toward restoration of the interior coffee shop and dining room in the 1968 wing of the historic motel. Read more.
For the past 16 years, Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt has represented areas such as Ensley, West End and Five Points West. But Hoyt will leave office next month after choosing not to run for reelection. His last meeting is Oct. 19. Read more.
Alabama college students rank cost of living, job opportunities and salaries as key factors in deciding where they’ll live after graduation, and about 43% of them are undecided about staying in Alabama, according to a recent survey. Read more.
Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson hosted about 75 people at Lawson State Community College Tuesday night to talk about redistricting of legislative and congressional districts and what citizens can do to affect it. “This is not a county initiative,” Tyson said. “This is a people initiative.”
The town hall meeting was done to answer questions about redistricting and to let citizens know what they can do to possibly affect how districts are redrawn to account for population shifts documented in the 2020 Census. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — State Representative Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, who is set to sponsor the new prison building legislation for a likely special session, said he has about 70% of House Republicans responding positively to the bill as of Tuesday afternoon. Read more.
Two Alabama construction companies could be in the best position to get state contracts to build two men’s prisons under a proposal lawmakers are now weighing.
Montgomery-based Caddell and Birmingham-based BL Harbert were both part of teams expected to build prisons under Gov. Kay Ivey’s earlier plan to lease from private developers three new facilities. That plan fell apart in the spring, but some legislative leaders say Caddell and Harbert have been vetted and put in the groundwork to quickly move on construction, if the Legislature can pass a bill that includes borrowing as much as $785 million.
“It would be problematic if we tried to move out and get somebody else,” Sen. Greg Albritton, who has helped lead discussions on new prisons over the summer, said. “(These companies) are in the best position to do this work.”
When Alie Dennis laid her eyes on Copper at the Metro Animal Shelter in Tuscaloosa, it was love at first sight. Dennis, a University of Alabama student, came to the shelter in hopes of adopting a dog before her final year of school. After playing with the 3-month-old German shepherd Labrador mix for about an hour, she knew he was the one — asking for a 24-hour hold on the dog to talk the adoption over with her family.
But for Metro Animal Shelter, even 24 hours can be a long time if people are willing to take home a new pet. Last year, shelters in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi were running out of so-called “pandemic puppies.” Now, they are overflowing with dogs, cats, and even hamsters. Read more.
The state of Alabama has issued recommendations to school districts on how to handle COVID-19 in the classroom. But many of them are just recommendations, giving districts lots of flexibility in setting their own COVID-19 protocols. Read more.
Commissioner Lashunda Scales renewed her campaign for diversity and inclusion as the Jefferson County Commission discussed who will perform auditing duties for the county. Read more.
The Birmingham City Council approved a rezoning request Tuesday to bring a new, private event center to the city’s Kingston neighborhood despite concerns about its lack of compatibility with the city’s long-range land use plan and neighborhood demands that the venue not sell alcohol. Read more.
The Association of County Commissions of Alabama is asking for a $10 million reimbursement from the state for the increased strain on county jails taking care of state inmates.
The association approved a resolution last week requesting Gov. Kay Ivey and the state Legislature to “retroactively reimburse county governments for their extended care of an increased number of State-responsible inmates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a consequence of the Alabama Department of Corrections’ decision to drastically reduce its intake activities in 2020 and 2021.”
The reimbursement amount is for the time from Jan. 1, 2021, to July 31, 2021, and accounts for all counties, Abby Fitzpatrick, director of communication and engagement for the association, told Alabama Daily News.
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Alabama, a state employee group is asking for flexibility for workers who may have to quarantine.
The Alabama State Employees Association is asking state agencies and departments to be “as creative as they can in helping all state employees through this pandemic,” Executive Director Mac McArthur told Alabama Daily News.
“If this goes on for a while or gets worse, I would say this becomes a crisis issue for some of our members,” McArthur said.
If in another month the delta virus is still increasing in case numbers and causing schools to close, “then I think our members will be looking to the administration (for assistance),” he said.
Most Alabama school teachers who are temporarily sent home this school year because they contract COVID-19, are exposed to it or are caring for their own children in quarantine will have to use their personal leave time to do it.
A few weeks into the academic year, some schools have had to move students temporarily to virtual learning as COVID-19 cases prevent in-person learning.
The Alabama Education Association is asking local systems to extend paid emergency leave to staff.
The number of students graduating from Alabama high schools and entering state universities and colleges dipped by 5% in 2020 to 41%.
While that decrease can in part be blamed on COVID-19-caused disruptions, it’s also part of a larger decline that education officials say is a sign of a strong economy. In 2011, 53% of high school graduates went directly to in-state colleges.
“I think it mostly can be attributed since 2011 to an improvement in the economy,” Jim Purcell, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, said. Post-Great Recession, more jobs have been available to people right out of high school.
But as the state works to find more skilled workers, higher education leaders are trying new ways to reach them. Purcell said that as people’s careers advance or manufacturing jobs become more automated, training and courses are available.
Jones, a Birmingham native, is Alabama’s first Black poet laureate and the youngest person to hold the position. Read more.
MONTGOMERY – A new state commission studying how to help released inmates stay out of prison spent much of a meeting Wednesday working on a definition of recidivism that all state agencies can use.
One of the goals of the Joint Commission on Reentry is to create a definition so the state can implement best practices to aid those leaving prisons and create a safer Alabama.
Cam Ward, director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Parole, said during the meeting that since every state agency defines recidivism differently, it is a nearly impossible task to settle on a singular meaning and mission.
Millions of Americans receiving assistance with food and groceries will see an increase of about 25% in their benefits this fall thanks to new legislation approved by the Biden Administration on Monday. Read more.
Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons urged county employees and department heads Tuesday to be careful of excessive spending when traveling on behalf of the county.
“I was just making sure that employees understand that we’re still keeping an eye on travel,” Ammons said following the commission’s committee meeting. “It’s not a vacation.”
Ammons’ eye was drawn to a trip someone from the county compliance office will take Sept. 18-22 to the Compliance & Ethics Institute Conference in Las Vegas. That trip will cost $3,354.55. He said some trips are to places that are expensive, but supervisors should be keeping an eye on expenses.
This summer, passionate voices clashed over a teacher anti-bias training program in Mountain Brook City Schools. But the debate rests on uncomfortable history in this white pocket of racially diverse Jefferson County. Read more.
Approximately 10% of Birmingham’s public works employees have tested positive for COVID-19, causing delays in city services such as trash pickup and grass cutting. Mayor Randall Woodfin, who recently required masks to be worn on city property, urged residents to get the vaccine and asked for patience while public works employees continue to catch up on their work. Read more.
Birmingham police will no longer use no-knock warrants such as the one that led to the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville last year. Mayor Randall L. Woodfin, Police Chief Patrick Smith and Thomas Beavers, senior pastor of The Star Church, announced that and several other revisions to police policies and procedures during an event Tuesday. Read more.
Alabama joins 16 other states and Washington D.C. where third graders must pass a reading test – or risk being held back. That’s why this summer, teachers at Birmingham City Schools began coaching their students on reading skills to get a head start on the new retention policy. Read more.
Gov. Kay Ivey and education leaders are stressing the importance of expanding summer learning throughout the state as educators seek to help students recover from learning loss sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ivey on Wednesday toured a program that is funded by Summer Adventures in Learning and helps pair community organizations with schools to create high-quality summer learning programs.
Jim Wooten, chair of Sail, said Sail aims to reimagine what summer school can look like. He said easily 75% of Alabama students could benefit from summer learning. Read more.
Seats on several Birmingham boards and authorities will be up for grabs next month, including city council-appointed positions on the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority and the Birmingham Land Bank Authority. Read more.
Birmingham has increased its recycling pick-up schedule to twice a month, though Mayor Randall Woodfin says his “full intent” is to eventually return to the program’s pre-COVID weekly schedule. Read more.
Despite several recent shootings, Ensley’s Club Euphoria is staying open — for now. The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to give the venue 13 weeks to institute a safety plan and address neighborhood concerns, after which the council would decide whether to shutter the venue. Read more.
Solomon Crenshaw Jr. recently won two first-place awards and a third-place award from the National Federation of Press Women for stories he wrote for BirminghamWatch in 2020. Read more.
Over Memorial Day weekend, at least 26 shootings were reported in major cities across Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. At least 10 people were killed and 17 others were injured. It was the latest example of rising homicides and gun violence across the Gulf states this year. Read more.
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.
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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